Philosophical Ideas in the United States

Philosophical Ideas in the United States

Philosophical Ideas in the United States

Philosophical Ideas in the United States

Excerpt

"A simple-minded interest in ideas," says Whitehead, "is the main source from which mankind acquires novelty of outlook." (Adventures of Ideas, 1933, p. 10.) But in the contemplation of ideas a selection is necessary. Something must stand out from its background of things and events as the object of our interest.

The reader, no less than the writer of books, is the agent of selection. In my exposition of philosophical ideas in America, the selection made is plainly my own and directly reflects my interest and knowledge; yet it does not stop there. It is offered in the conviction that its objective significance will appear in the perspectives of other minds. Thinking is not really a psycho-physical event in the history of one man's life; it is a social enterprise, a shared adventure. The conclusions of any man are chiefly important as starting points for new explorations and new perspectives.

I have deliberately chosen to study the smallness of the past rather than the sprawling largeness of present philosophical discussions. Readers who seek the strictly contemporary must look beyond this book. I have stopped at the margin of the present because it seems too early to interpret the present and too late to interrupt it. The "new" and "critical" realists have not finished their remarks. Of living writers I have, therefore, mentioned only the very few who have already achieved a kind of historical position because of the great distinction and maturity of their philosophical work. Studies of the past must to some extent uncover the origins of the present and lay the basis for an interpretation of the future.

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