Modes of Being
Modes of Being
This is a book in philosophy. As a philosophic work should, it attempts to articulate a vision of the whole of things. This means that it must run counter to the temper not only of critics of philosophy but of many contemporary philosophers as well. Every one of us, in these last decades, has often heard the complaint that the world of knowledge has grown enormously and that it is now too big for anyone to envisage. Too many of us have too quickly said that it is futile to hope that the meaning of the whole, or even of man's place within it, can be grasped by anyone. A man must be content, it has been supposed, to master limited branches of knowledge, to try to learn exactly what is the case here or there; he should give up the attempt to say something more. No one seemed to have a real fear that such self-restraint might turn him into a partial man. Encyclopedias and staff conferences, surveys and texts, it was felt, could bring him and all the rest together and in harmony. Co-operation, interchange, and communication would produce well-made parts, and interrelate them, to give a clearer, more lasting, a better articulated account of whatever fraction of the totality of things was available for knowledge. As a consequence, many today are somewhat content to be community thinkers, union men, who know how to work together.
It seems safe to say that the intellectual advances made in recent years over a wide range of disciplines are in good part traceable to the fact that we have specialized together. But it is equally safe to say that these achievements depended in part on our refusal to use our rational powers to the full. A world of experts, each concerned with asserting only what he himself really knows, is a world of men who must accept without cavil what the other experts offer to them as data, method, and outcome -- or it is a world of separated items, cut off from all else. Such experts practice what none is willing to preach. On the one side they accept nothing but what they can themselves . . .