Freedom and History: The Semantics of Philosophical Controversies and Ideological Conflicts

Freedom and History: The Semantics of Philosophical Controversies and Ideological Conflicts

Freedom and History: The Semantics of Philosophical Controversies and Ideological Conflicts

Freedom and History: The Semantics of Philosophical Controversies and Ideological Conflicts

Excerpt

The discussion of basic theory and philosophic principles in different times and places shows the marks of changing modes and fashions. Changes in the matter or manner of analysis are advanced and advertised by their proponents as revolutions of perspective based on newly acquired knowledge and calculated to avoid the confusions and unreal problems of preceding modes. Fashions in thought and presuppositions make their appearance as the tenets of a school, the attitude of a sect, or a party, or a people, and the characteristics of an age; yet, like other fashions, those of the mind do not await justification from examination of theoretic or practical consequences. We abandon philosophies as we abandon styles of dress, and conceptions of truth and right seem false and wrong when they are outmoded. The spread of fashions in doctrine, however, has consequences in thought and action, and its effect may be deleterious or disastrous if statements of difference and claims of superiority have no more relation to what is said and done than is found normally in philosophic disputes or in ideological conflicts. Doctrinal fashions have consequences in theory which affect even what is accepted as science. They have consequences in practice which affect statements of purpose and communication among people situated in common conditions and faced by common problems. Even the analysis of these fashions and their consequences, to be effective in thought or action, must be conducted within the accredited fashion.

The dominant intellectual tendencies of our times turn discussion of basic questions to considerations of action or of language. In the United States this tendency takes form in a variety of operational analyses and a variety of semantic systems. Action and language have been associated as sources of principles whenever basic principles have been derived from practical effects or symbolic relations to resolve . . .

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