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Position your mouse over the line to see the transliteration. In an essay on "The Problem of Philosophy at the Present Time," Professor Edward Caird says that "philosophy is not a first venture into a new field of thought, but the rethinking of a secular and religious consciousness which has been developed, in the main, independently of philosophy.

If philosophy is, as is commonly assumed, appropriate to a phase in the development of every individual, it should grow out of interests to which he is already alive. And if the great philosophers are indeed never dead, this fact should manifest itself in their classic or historical representation of a perennial outlook upon the world. I am not seeking to attach to philosophy a fictitious liveliness, wherewith to insinuate it into the good graces of the student.

I hope [ viii ] rather to be true to the meaning of philosophy. For there is that in its stand-point and its problem which makes it universally significant entirely apart from dialectic and erudition. These are derived interests, indispensable to the scholar, but quite separable from that modicum of philosophy which helps to make the man.

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The present book is written for the sake of elucidating the inevitable philosophy. It seeks to make the reader more solicitously aware of the philosophy that is in him, or to provoke him to philosophy in his own interests. To this end I have sacrificed all else to the task of mediating between the tradition and technicalities of the academic discipline and the more common terms of life. The purpose of the book will in part account for those shortcomings that immediately reveal themselves to the eye of the scholar.

In Part I various great human interests have been selected as points of departure. I have sought to introduce the general stand-point and problem of philosophy through its implication in practical life, poetry, religion, and science.

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But in so doing it has been necessary for me to deal shortly with topics of great independent importance, and so risk the disfavor of those better skilled in these several [ ix ] matters. This is evidently true of the chapter which deals with natural science. But the problem which I there faced differed radically from those of the foregoing chapters, and the method of treatment is correspondingly different.

In the case of natural science one has to deal with a body of knowledge which is frequently regarded as the only knowledge. To write a chapter about science from a philosophical stand-point is, in the present state of opinion, to undertake a polemic against exclusive naturalism, an attitude which is itself philosophical, and as such is well known in the history of philosophy as positivism or agnosticism.

I have avoided the polemical spirit and method so far as possible, but have, nevertheless, here taken sides against a definite philosophical position.


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This chapter, together with the Conclusion, is therefore an exception to the purely introductory and expository representation which I have, on the whole, sought to give. The relatively great space accorded to the discussion of religion is, in my own belief, fair to the general interest in this topic, and to the intrinsic significance of its relation to philosophy.

I have in Part II undertaken to furnish the reader with a map of the country to which he has [ x ] been led. To this end I have attempted a brief survey of the entire programme of philosophy. The scope of Part II is due in part to a desire for brevity, but chiefly to the hope of furnishing an epitome that shall follow the course of the natural and historical differentiation of the general philosophical problem.

Finally, I have in Part III sought to present the tradition of philosophy in the form of general types. My purpose in undertaking so difficult a task is to acquaint the reader with philosophy in the concrete; to show how certain underlying principles may determine the whole circle of philosophical ideas, and give them unity and distinctive flavor. Part II offers a general classification of philosophical problems and conceptions independently of any special point of view.

Individual contributions

But I have in Part III sought to emphasize the point of view, or the internal consistency that makes a system of philosophy out of certain answers to the special [ xi ] problems of philosophy. In such a division into types, lines are of necessity drawn too sharply.


  • 1. Introduction.
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  • There will be many historical philosophies that refuse to fit, and many possibilities unprovided for. I must leave it to the individual reader to overcome this abstractness through his own reflection upon the intermediate and variant stand-points. Although the order is on the whole that of progressive complexity, I have sought to treat each chapter with independence enough to make it possible for it to be read separately; and I have provided a carefully selected bibliography in the hope that this book may serve as a stimulus and guide to the reading of other books.

    XIII, No. XI, No. XIV, No. XV, No. I, No. I am indebted to the editors of these periodicals for permission to reprint with minor changes. I have unscrupulously forgotten what of their definite ideas I have adapted to my own use, but not that I received from them the major portion of my original philosophical capital. I am especially indebted to Professor William James for the inspiration and resources which I have received from his instruction and personal friendship. Caird: Literature and Philosophy , Vol. Philosophy suffers the distinction of being regarded as essentially an academic pursuit.

    The term philosophy , to be sure, is used in common speech to denote a stoical manner of accepting the vicissitudes of life; but this conception sheds little or no light upon the meaning of philosophy as a branch of scholarship. The men who write the books on "Epistemology" or "Ontology," are regarded by the average man of affairs, even though he may have enjoyed a "higher education," with little sympathy and less intelligence.

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    Not even philology seems less concerned with the real business of life. The pursuit of philosophy appears to be a phenomenon of extreme and somewhat effete culture, with its own peculiar traditions, problems, and aims, and with little or nothing to contribute to the real enterprises of society. It is easy to prove to the satisfaction of the philosopher that such a view is radically [ 4 ] mistaken. But it is another and more serious matter to bridge over the very real gap that separates philosophy and common-sense. Such an aim is realized only when philosophy is seen to issue from some special interest that is humanly important; or when, after starting in thought at a point where one deals with ideas and interests common to all, one is led by the inevitableness of consistent thinking into the sphere of philosophy.

    There is but one starting-point for reflection when all men are invited to share in it. Though there be a great many special platforms where special groups of men may take their stand together, there is only one platform broad enough for all. This universal stand-point, or common platform, is life. It is our more definite thesis, then, that philosophy, even to its most abstruse technicality, is rooted in life; and that it is inseparably bound up with the satisfaction of practical needs, and the solution of practical problems.

    Every man knows what it is to live, and his immediate experience will verify those features of the adventure that stand out conspicuously. To begin with, life is our birthright. We did not ask for it, but when we grew old enough to be [ 5 ] self-conscious we found ourselves in possession of it. Nor is it a gift to be neglected, even if we had the will. As is true of no other gift of nature, we must use it, or cease to be. There is a unique urgency about life. But we have already implied more, in so far as we have said that it must be used , and have thereby referred to some form of movement or activity as its inseparable attribute.

    To live is to find one's self compelled to do something. To do something —there is another implication of life: some outer expression, some medium in which to register the degree and form of its activity. Such we recognize as the environment of life, the real objects among which it is placed; which it may change, or from which it may suffer change. Not only do we find our lives as unsolicited active powers, but find, as well, an arena prescribed for their exercise.

    That we shall act, and in a certain time and place, and with reference to certain other realities, this is the general condition of things that is encountered when each one of us discovers life. In short, to live means to be compelled to do something under certain circumstances.

    There is another very common aspect of life that would not at first glance seem worthy of [ 6 ] mention.

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    Not only does life, as we have just described it, mean opportunity, but it means self-conscious opportunity. The facts are such as we have found them to be, and as each one of us has previously found them for himself. But when we discover life for ourselves, we who make the discovery, and we who live, are identical. From that moment we both live, and know that we live. Moreover, such is the essential unity of our natures that our living must now express our knowing, and our knowing guide and illuminate our living. Consider the allegory of the centipede.

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    From the beginning of time he had manipulated his countless legs with exquisite precision. Men had regarded him with wonder and amazement. But he was innocent of his own art, being a contrivance of nature, perfectly constructed to do her bidding. One day the centipede discovered life. He discovered himself as one who walks, and the newly awakened intelligence, first observing, then foreseeing, at length began to direct the process. And from that moment the centipede, because he could not remember the proper order of his going, lost all his former skill, and became the poor clumsy victim of his own self-consciousness.

    This same self-consciousness is the inconvenience and the [ 7 ] great glory of human life. We must stumble along as best we can, guided by the feeble light of our own little intelligence. If nature starts us on our way, she soon hands over the torch, and bids us find the trail for ourselves.


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    • Most men are brave enough to regard this as the best thing of all; some despair on account of it. In either case it is admittedly the true story of human life. We must live as separate selves, observing, foreseeing, and planning.