Time and Reality in American Philosophy

Time and Reality in American Philosophy

Time and Reality in American Philosophy

Time and Reality in American Philosophy

Excerpt

American intellectual history plainly shows that there is neither a continuing persistence of received ideas nor an unfailing loyalty to a single cluster of themes. Not only does American thought display a gradual expansion of the fundamental beliefs laid down during the colonial period, but it also reveals some radical discontinuities in its basic philosophical assumptions. These were due to variations in the national patterns of social life, to the incorporation of philosophical novelties imported from abroad, and to developments in the natural sciences which seemed to shake the very foundations of the more traditional habitations of the mind.

Relatively mild changes in American thought were registered in such movements as New England Transcendentalism, which was more of a literary enterprise for responding to the initial influx of German idealism, and in the Scottish common-sense realism, which was more of a curricular philosophy for bridging the gap between Christian apologetics and the molding of sturdy characters. But more dramatic variations in thought patterns accumulated across the middle decades of the nineteenth century until they were set loose with unexpected power in the last decades of that century. The impact of these departures from the past was only heightened by their almost simultaneous occurrence in several different areas of experience.

1. SOME BACKGROUND THEMES

The existing complex of ideas and institutions challenged by new forces in the 1870s and 1880s included the following staple elements:

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