William Ellery Channing

WILLIAM CHANNING was born in Newport, Rhode Island, on April 7, 1780. His personality was a happy combination of his parents' traits, including his father's pleasant and calm disposition and his mother's somewhat stern sense of honesty and justice. He grew up to be a serious but observant young man, small in stature, with big eyes gazing steadily, and speaking in a clear and persuasive voice.

After graduating from the Harvard College ( 1798), he accepted an offer to tutor in the family of Randolphs in Richmond, Virginia, but became seriously ill and returned to New England, practically an invalid, to study theology. In 1803 he was ordained pastor of a Congregational church and remained in Boston for the rest of his days, except for several trips, abroad and at home.

He died in Bennington, Vermont, on October 2, 1842.

Channing was the first outstanding thinker of the post-revolutionary period. As a minister, he fought some of the religious traditions brought from Europe, among them the Calvinist dogma that human nature is essentially depraved as also the conservative belief that faith excludes the right to doubt and question, thus condemning both destructive and constructive thinking as sinful. The essence of religion, he contended, was to serve human beings on earth, and to help them organize moral and happy communities. In his capacity of a reformer, or "apostle" of Unitarianism, he incorporated some of the 18th-century deistic ideas into Christianity of the 19th century, for example, the doctrine that religion is determined by the reasoning power and conscience of mankind. When his influence spread, he became the founder of the American Unitarian Association ( 1825).

As a liberal and humanitarian, Channing was unconditionally opposed to every sort of oppression and injustice, particularly to slavery, on the ground that all men at all times are by nature and by right free; consequently, he declared in his book on Slavery ( 1835), no human being can be justly held and used as property. Another traditional injustice is denial of education to large num-

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American Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Introduction - Orientation of Thought xi
  • Suggested Readings xviii
  • Part I - Fields and Problems of American Philosophy 1
  • The Philosophy of Science: The Problem of Factual Truth 3
  • Suggested Readings 19
  • Axiology: the Problem Of Human Values 21
  • Suggested Readings 33
  • Aesthetics: the Problem of Art And Beauty 34
  • Suggested Readings 47
  • Ethics: the Problem of Morality 49
  • Suggested Readings 63
  • Semantics: the Problem Of Meaning 64
  • Suggested Readings 82
  • Logic: the Problem of Reasoning 84
  • Suggested Readings 97
  • Metaphysics: the Problems Of Knowledge and Existence 98
  • Suggested Readings 113
  • Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Faith 114
  • Suggested Readings 127
  • Part II - Sources and Choices of Philosophy 129
  • Transcendentalism 131
  • Suggested Readings 137
  • Idealism 138
  • Suggested Readings 146
  • Thomism 147
  • Suggested Readings 154
  • Personalism 155
  • Suggested Readings 161
  • Pragmatism 162
  • Suggested Readings 171
  • Humanism 172
  • Suggested Readings 182
  • Logical Positivism 183
  • Suggested Readings 191
  • Realism 193
  • Suggested Readings 202
  • Naturalism 203
  • Suggested Readings 210
  • Oriental Philosophy in America 211
  • Part III - American Thinkers 221
  • American Thought: A Chart 223
  • William Penn 227
  • Samuel Johnson 230
  • Jonathan Edwards 233
  • Benjamin Franklin 235
  • Thomas Paine 238
  • Thomas Jefferson 241
  • Benjamin Rush 244
  • William Ellery Channing 247
  • John Caldwell Calhoun 250
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson 253
  • Abraham Lincoln 256
  • Henry David Thoreau 259
  • Walt Whitman 262
  • Robert Green Ingersoll 265
  • Charles Sanders Peirce 268
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 271
  • John Fiske 274
  • William James 277
  • Ambrose Bierce 280
  • Borden Parker Bowne 283
  • Josiah Royce 285
  • John Dewey 288
  • George Santayana 291
  • Morris Raphael Cohen 294
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt 297
  • Suggested Readings 300
  • Conclusion 303
  • Index 311
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