The Uses of Reason

The Uses of Reason

The Uses of Reason

The Uses of Reason

Excerpt

Our Contemporary Situation. In Saroyan play The Time of Your Life, a somewhat somber character, identified by the author as "The Arab, an Eastern philosopher and harmonica player," wanders in and out, observing the proceedings and remarking, at approximate intervals, "No foundation. All the way down the line." The remark is directed, I take it, not merely at the behavior of the other characters of the play, to which it has an undeniable pertinence, but at "life" as the Arab and Saroyan observed it in prewar America. The sentiment it voices with commendable brevity is widespread and significant. It is a sense of mental and moral instability arising from the fact that we have largely lost our confidence in the ideas and principles to which we should once have appealed to interpret and justify our conduct, and have so far found no others fit to take their place. In such a situation we no longer know, from any long-run point of view, what we are doing, and those sensitive enough to be disturbed by this are likely to take refuge in a calculated superficiality--a refusal to look beyond quite tangible interests and short-run satisfaction for a securer basis for their lives, not because they do not want one, but because they think they know in advance that none is to be found. One need be neither an Eastern philosopher nor a harmonica player to diagnose the insecurity of such a way of life and to pass an appropriate judgment upon it.

Yet men will not long be content with mere absence of . . .

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