A History of American Philosophy

A History of American Philosophy

A History of American Philosophy

A History of American Philosophy

Excerpt

Part IX of this work is entitled New Realism and New Naturalism," but I shall not live to write it. I could, if there were need for it, expound the chief contemporary systems current in America, but their history cannot yet be written. Of their origins this work gives an account, for the reader will find here how and when realistic and naturalistic ideas emerged from evolutionism, idealism, and empiricism. But the careers of these ideas are still too young to merit biography, and their significance is still veiled in the future. The historian must therefore be content to end his story where his own reflections begin. It may be permitted, however, that in this preface the historian turn prophet and attempt to discern the perspectives from which a later generation may view the thought of his own time. It seems highly probable, though it cannot yet be regarded as historical truth, that something genuinely new is brewing. One should not be misled by all the talk and hope about new realisms, new naturalisms, new logics, new republics, and new deals, for such preoccupation with novelties is itself an old story. There may be nothing new under our patient sun except new names for old ways of thinking and new ways of arriving at old discoveries. But even this much novelty is worth noting. There are good reasons, however, for suspecting that we stand at the beginning as well as at the ending of a cultural epoch. The times have been too eventful not to be creative of new ideas, especially among men who for at least a generation have focussed their attentions on events. We ought to be prepared intellectually for understanding changes even though it is most difficult to understand historically the changes with which we are most familiar.

The fact which above all others should make us aware of a new epoch is the impact of recent importations on American ideas. The reader of the story that follows will note that American philosophy has continually been given new life and new directions by waves of immigration. In America, at least, it is useless to seek a "native" tradition, for even our most genteel traditions are saturated with foreign inspirations. Spanish Franciscans, French Jesuits, English Puritans, Dutch . . .

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