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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/209

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A DEFENCE OF PRAGMATISM

the picture I have given is, however coarse and sketchy, literally true. Temperaments with their cravings and refusals do determine men in their philosophies, and always will determine them. The details of systems may be reasoned out piecemeal, and when the student is working at a system, he may often forget the forest for the single tree. But when the labor is accomplished, the mind performs its big summarizing act, and the system stands over against one like a living thing, with that strange simple note of individuality which haunts our memory, like the wrath of the man, when a friend or enemy of ours is dead.

Not only Walt Whitman could write 'who touches this book touches a man' The books of all the great philosophers are like so many men. Our sense of an essential personal flavor in each one of them, typical but indescribable, is the finest fruit of our own accomplished philosophic education. What the system pretends to be is a picture of the great universe of God. What it is,—and oh so flagrantly!—is the revelation of how intensely odd the personal flavor of some fellow creature is. Once reduced to these terms (and all our philosophies get reduced to them in minds made critical by learning) our commerce with the systems reverts to the informal, to the instinctive human reaction of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. We grow as peremptory in our rejection or admission, as when a person presents himself as a candidate for our favor. Our verdicts are couched in as simple adjectives of praise or dispraise. We measure the total character of the universe as we feel it, against the flavor of the philosophy proffered us, and one word is enough.

'Statt der lebendigen Natur,' we say, 'Da Gott die Menschen schuf hinein,'—that nebulous concoction, that wooden, that straight-laced thing, that crabbed artificiality, that musty school-room product, that sick man's dream! Away with it. Away with all of them! Impossible! Impossible!

Our work over the details of his system is indeed what gives us our resultant impression of the philosopher, but it is on the resultant impression itself that we react. Expertness in philosophy is measured by the definiteness of one's summarizing reactions, by the immediate perceptive epithet with which the expert hits such complex objects off. But great expertness is not necessary, for the epithet to come. Few people have definitely articulated philosophies of their own. But almost everyone has his own peculiar sense of a certain total character in the universe, and of the inadequacy fully to match it of the particular systems that he knows. They don't just cover his world. One will be too dapper, another too pedantic, a third too much of a job-lot of opinions, a fourth too morbid, and a fifth too cloistered, or what not. At any rate he, and we, know off-hand that such philosophies are out of plumb and out of key and out of 'whack,' and have