The Inquiring Mind

The Inquiring Mind

The Inquiring Mind

The Inquiring Mind

Excerpt

It may seem strange to find an historian of philosophy turning at the end of his career to systematic philosophy. But the very fact that philosophic ideas have a history is of philosophic interest. And since the invitation to give the Carus Lectures contains no restrictions upon subject-matter, I have felt free to put down on paper what I have learned from my historical studies about the way in which ideas are formed and developed. Hence these lectures are based upon history, though they do not trace the history of any one set of ideas.

The technique of thinking has always seemed of as much interest to me as the subject-matter of thinking. The criteria of intellectual satisfaction, the perception of problems, the basic metaphors which men have used in organizing their thoughts, their deafness to the voice of certain of their predecessors and contemporaries, the obsolescence of certain ideas and the rise of others, these incidents in history have perhaps occupied my attention more than dates, places, influences, and sources. It is useless to attempt to excuse this weakness, if it is a weakness, but it is just as well to confess to it.

It is also just as well to confess to other weaknesses of this book. I have always had a sceptical turn of mind which my colleagues have found distressing. An old man is more aware of his ignorance than a young one. He is more given to qualifying his assertions with such words as "perhaps," "on the whole," "for the most part," "as far as I can see." This is a dangerous practice, for sometimes one wriggles out of a difficulty in this way instead of meeting it head on. But I think my argument will show on what my scepticism rests and why my conclusions are phrased in a tentative manner. That, however, remains for the critics to decide. I am . . .

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