REASON AS SOCIAL UNDERSTANDING
John Watson--Part I
WHEN JOHN WATSON came to Queen's in 1872, he was twenty- five years old. Queen's (only six years older than Watson) was a clearing in the woods by the lake. Watson remarked that its builders had taken seriously Aristotle's definition of a building--four walls and a roof. But Queen's had already had one remarkable philosopher, John Clark Murray, on its staff and a number of highly entertaining ones as well.
The fulsome praise which Edward Caird had lavished on the young Watson in his letters of recommendation must have aroused a certain amount of scepticism in Kingston. But Caird's estimates turned out to be true. Watson was to go on to become a Gifford lecturer (even now, the highest honour which can befall a philosopher in the English-speaking world) and was eventually to be matched against Josiah Royce in a famous series of lectures at Berkeley. Caird never changed his mind either. " Watson," he wrote later "is perhaps a man of the 'driest light' that I know. I do not know anyone who sees his way more clearly through any philosophical entanglements."1
Canada, in its contemporary form, was, of course, still younger than Watson and Queen's. Watson was to exercise an important influence on the country. Young men went out from Queen's to man the growing civil service, Presbyterian churches across the country, and the newer universities in the west. For more than fifty years, Watson was a dominant--sometimes the dominant influence--at Queen's. He played a significant role in the intellectual background and even in some of the practical negotiations which led to the United Church of Canada. His pupils seem to have carried with them an echo of that dry voice and its persistent demand for reasonableness and it often stayed with them for life.____________________