The Revolt against Dualism: An Inquiry concerning the Existence of Ideas

By Arthur O. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The principal purpose of this volume is not to present a private and original speculation, but to show, through a critical survey of the reflection of the greater part of a generation of philosophers in America and Great Britain upon two important philosophical issues, that certain conclusions with respect to those issues have thereby been definitely established. The practise of philosophizing in vacuo I have always regarded with a distaste and suspicion. Philosophy seems to me essentially a collective and coöperative business. Effective coöperation among philosophers consists, it is true, primarily in disagreement. For, given a sufficiently well defined problem, philosophy can really get forward with it only by bringing together in their logical interconnection all the considerations which have occurred, or are likely to occur, to acute and philosophically initiated minds as significantly pertinent to that problem. These considerations will always be numerous, they will always, during the progress of any philosophical inquiry, be conflicting, and they must be contributed by many minds of diverse types and different training and preconceptions. But no typical and, so to say, normal consideration can with safety be left unconsidered, if the philosopher's distinctive but difficult duty of logical circumspection is to be observed, and if the joint inquiry is to be brought to a critically reasoned and convincing result--a result which may fairly objectively be said to be more probable than any alternative, at least in the light of the existing state of empirical knowledge, and of the relevant reflections which have thus far presented themselves to the human mind. The true procedure of philosophy as a science--as distinct from the philosophic idiosyncrasies of individuals--is thus that of a Platonic dialogue on a grand scale, in which the theses, proposed proofs, objections, rejoinders, of numerous interlocutors are focused upon a given question, and the argument gradually shapes itself, through its own immanent dialectic, to a conclusion.

It is this conception of the method in which fruitful philosophical inquiry is to be conducted that has determined the procedure followed in the greater part of the following lectures. I have tried to review what seem the main "points" that have been brought forward in the debate upon the two questions here chiefly dealt with; and, in so far as is consistent with brevity, I have for the most part

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