Nature and Natural Science: The Philosophy of Frederick J.E. Woodbridge

Nature and Natural Science: The Philosophy of Frederick J.E. Woodbridge

Nature and Natural Science: The Philosophy of Frederick J.E. Woodbridge

Nature and Natural Science: The Philosophy of Frederick J.E. Woodbridge

Excerpt

Frederick J. E. Woodbridge should be much more widely known among contemporary philosophers; and it is regrettable that he is not, for he was most influential in determining the general intellectual commitments of contemporary naturalists and realists. In his "Epilogue" to Naturalism and the Human Spirit -- a cooperative effort by fifteen of the leading spokesmen of naturalism -- John Herman Randall, Jr., had this to say about the profound influence of his late teacher and colleague:

This realistic emphasis of Woodbridge appears in a number of the essays here; for over half the contributors were students of his -- he was a consummate teacher -- and reveal the strong impress of his powerful intellectual personality. Much as they have learned from Dewey, it is clear to the discerning reader that most of them owe their fundamental naturalism to Woodbridge. (p. 366)

Unlike Dewey, Woodbridge was not a prolific author. Rather, his influence was exerted primarily through his gifted students at Columbia and his friends and acquaintances. Through them he influenced naturalism and realism, especially with regard to philosophical method, metaphysics, and the importance of an adequate appreciation of history, particularly the history of philosophy.

Largely because of his "realistic emphasis," for example, the methodologies of contemporary naturalists are, in their own eyes, decidedly antireductionist. His criticisms of the genetic method contributed considerably to the development of a functional or operational analysis. One of his most notable intellectual contributions, however, was his effort to revive among philosophers a concern for metaphysics and his ability to channel this concern . . .

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