Studies in the Philosophy of Creation, with Especial Reference to Bergson and Whitehead: With Especial Reference to Bergson and Whitehead

Studies in the Philosophy of Creation, with Especial Reference to Bergson and Whitehead: With Especial Reference to Bergson and Whitehead

Studies in the Philosophy of Creation, with Especial Reference to Bergson and Whitehead: With Especial Reference to Bergson and Whitehead

Studies in the Philosophy of Creation, with Especial Reference to Bergson and Whitehead: With Especial Reference to Bergson and Whitehead

Excerpt

That the past hundred years have revolutionized much of our culture and our science goes nowadays without saying. The theories of organic evolution, of the subatomic structure of matter and of the nature of gravitation and space, to say nothing of the work done in psychology and elsewhere, have quite transformed our map of knowledge. We may occasionally hear it said that philosophy has not advanced during this period and that it has not kept apace of the growth of our culture. We need not argue this point here: we answer only by turning to the subject of our essay. This is the study of a new idea which has pretty well transformed the structure of modern thought and now occupies a central position in the writings of the most outstanding thinkers. Although the origins of this idea lie well in the past in the works of Emmanuel Kant and in some of the utterances of the romantic poets, it is only among contemporary thinkers that it has found full expression.

Such conservative development is peculiar to philosophy. The student of the subject will soon learn that speculation is an agile thing and often very prolific. But when he has become critically minded, he discovers that philosophy is rarely original. The history of ideas often seems to the trained student little more than restatement of old thoughts in which the emphasis is constantly shifted from one distinction to another to fit the cultural needs of different epochs. A genuinely new idea whose novelty is deep-rooted and undeniable is always amazingly rare. Thus even the most opposed schools have more in common than is usually admitted. This is evident once a really new idea appears. The schools either ignore it completely for want of understanding or unite against it in wondering indignation. Perhaps, if the idea withhold their onslaught, the opposed thinkers will adopt something of its structure, but even so they often pass quite over its essential contribution, damning what they cannot understand with a faint-hearted agreement.

Thus the emergence of a new idea in philosophy is a slow and a precarious process. To desert old ways of thinking about art or about morals is not easy, but to embrace a new notion in metaphysics requires the most uncomfortable transformation that a keen mind may undergo. The philosophy of creation has accomplished such a transformation in the minds of many contemporary thinkers. Those of us who have ever come, if . . .

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