THE RELATION OF PHILOSOPHY TO GENERAL EDUCATION
C. J. Ducasse
Brown University, Providence, R. I
July 1, 1932
Forword PART I
HIGHER EDUCATION: AIMS, INSTRUMENTS, AND IMPROVEMENTS
Chapter I. Aims of College Education
- The Need to Reflect upon Them
- Three Main Classes of Students
- Students with extra-cultural aims
- Students with technical aims
- Students with liberal aims
Chapter II. A Suggested Curriculum and Methods for a Liberal Education
- Surface Knowledge of Many Subjects
- Deeper Knowledge of Some One Subject
- The Development of Intellectual Independence and Initiative
Chapter III. The Functions of the Graduate School
- The Training of Experts
- The Relation of the Graduate School to the Improvement of Undergraduate Education
PHILOSOPHY AND CIVILIZATION
Chapter IV. The Relation of Philosophy to Other Subjects
- Philosophy and the Layman
- Philosophy, Theology, and Religion
- Philosophy and Literature
- Philosophy and Science
Chapter V. The Subject-Matter Distinctive of Philosophy Chapter VI. The Role of Philosophy in Civilization
- Civilization and the Need for Progress
- The Conditions of Planned Progress
- A knowledge of existing facts
- A genuine altruism
- Power over nature
- Wisdom in the use of power
- The Contribution of Philosophy to Hunan Progress
- Specific Ways in Which Philosophy Discharges Its Functions
- Philosophy provides certain needed knowledge
- Philosophy provides a unique intellectual discipline
- Philosophy provides a certain direct satisfaction
PHILOSOPHY 1H HIGHER EDUCATIOH
Chapter VII. The Place of Philosophy In College and Graduate Education
- Unique Position of Philosophy in the Curriculum
- Classes of Students of Philosophy
- First group -- students who take only one year of philosophy
- Second group -- students concentrating in other subjects who come to philosophy for
illumination of the foundations and the human significance of their own subject
- Students of the Social Sciences
- Students of the Natural Sciences
- Students of Literature
- Students of Theology and Religion
- Students of Art
- Third group -- students who have chosen philosophy as their major subject, or as a minor
- Fourth group -- graduate students in philosophy
- Necessary and Dispensable Courses
Chapter VIII. Suggestions for the Improvement of Education in Philosophy
- Directing to Philosophy Undergraduates Who Should Study It
- The Historical and the Systematic Point of View In Philosophical Studies
- Teaching Methods and Devices
- Requirements for Graduate Degrees
- Physical Equipment
- Scholarships and Fellowships
- The Staff of the Department
No statement concerning the relation of philosophy to higher education is likely to be useful unless the premises that it assumes are first made explicit. Those premises consist, on the one hand, of a conception of the ends which higher education may aim to realize and of the instruments available to those ends, and on the other hand, of a conception of the nature of philosophy and of its role in human life.
Such conceptions, however, can hardly avoid being to some extent controversial, for they constitute respectively a philosophy of higher education and a philosophy of philosophy. And the estimates of specialists concerning the soundness of the views of these two subjects to be outlined in the sequel would probably differ. The writer will not attempt to defend those views against the objections that might occur to specialists in these two fields. He conceives himself called upon here only to formulate as clearly as he can the premises in the light of which are to be interpreted the conclusions that he will submit concerning the proper place of philosophy in higher education.
HIGHER EDUCATION: AIMS, INSTRUMENTS, AND IMPROVEMENTS
AIMS OF COLLEGE EDUCATION
1. The Need to Reflect upon Them.
There is no problem of more fundamental importance to a college or university than that of the ends that it shall aim to realize through the education it offers. That problem is to those arising in connection with the curriculum and the methods of instruction very much as are the problems of the pilot of a ship to those of the ship's engineer. No amount of thought and skill given to the latter will of itself furnish a solution of the former. And the question of the aims of higher education is not one the answer to which may be taken as already well understood. Rather it is a question that needs to be deliberately inquired into.
2. Three Main Classes of Students.
A discussion of the ends at which higher education ought to aim should begin with a consideration of the variety of interests and purposes of the students. If we limit ourselves for the present to undergraduate education, students in the main fall into three classes, namely, those with primarily liberal aims, those with primarily technical aims, and those with primarily extra-cultural aims. These will be considered in the reverse order.
a) Students with extra-cultural aims. A large proportion, -- perhaps a majority, -- of undergraduates, when faced with the question and speaking freely, will admit that they have not come to college primarily to study. For them studies are, if not exactly an unavoidable evil, at all events an object of particular interest only occasionally. Commonly they purpose to give to study only enough time and effort to make it possible to graduate. These students come to college to acquire the status of "college graduates," to make friends that may be useful later, to acquire smooth manners, social tact, and the capacity for establishing easy and pleasant contact with others. But they do not have or wish to develop much in the way of intellectual or cultural interests nor do they perceive any future need of solid scientific or scholarly knowledge. They are therefore satisfied with the thinnest of veneers, and the greater part of their time and energy is absorbed by sports, social life, campus politics, and miscellaneous "student activities."
The presence in colleges of large numbers of students of this class is deplored by many, and from the standpoint of higher education properly so called, it is probably rather deplorable. But it constitutes a fact very characteristic of the present state of our American civilization. And the things these students seek from the colleges are things worth having, even if they are things many of which could be obtained elsewhere than in college. Moreover, the financial support of colleges, especially of endowed colleges, is largely derived from alumni who belonged to that class. Without being cynical, therefore, one may say that students of this type have an important function in colleges, namely, to make possible both by their numbers and by their support the educational facilities of which only a relatively small proportion of students really avail themselves. On the other hand, these educational facilities are of real value to students of the type under consideration, not only because exposure to the educational process does give them the cultural veneer that they truly want, but also because, were not a genuine education available in the college, its Bachelor's degree would lose the prestige which makes them desirous of acquiring it. Moreover, a certain proportion of such students is capable of truly intellectual interest, and not infrequently that interest becomes aroused by one or another of the studies required of them.
If the picture that has just been drawn of this class of students is reasonably correct, the sort of academic work they shall be required to do is not the most acutely pressing of educational problems. It may be said, however, that for them the course of studies devised for students with primarily liberal aims will usually be both more profitable and more acceptable than any of those devised for students whose aims are primarily technical. The liberal arts curriculum is the sort of thing which, although in lighter doses, is appropriate to their ends, and it will therefore be discussed not here but in its own place.
b) Students with technical aims. Under the heading of students with primarily technical aims are to be included those who at the time of admission to college already have an aim which calls for the acquisition, curing their four undergraduate years, of an extensive and pretty specific equipment.
An example would be that of students who intend to enter the medical school. Another, and one in which a still smaller proportion of the courses taken are left open to free election, is that of students who are preparing themselves to become chemists or physicists, whether in industry or with the idea of teaching these subjects in colleges and universities. The fact that they need for this to be able to read both French and German, to carry on their work in mathematics year after year, and to take a number of closely supporting courses in physics, chemistry, and perhaps biology, leaves them very little.time for courses outside the field of the natural sciences. In proportion as this is the case, their education fails to be liberal. It fails to be liberal not because the natural sciences cannot be part of a liberal education, but because of the narrowness of the outlook on life which an almost exclusively technical scientific education begets. For a similar reason, a program of courses lying almost wholly in the field of the social sciences, or in that of the humanities, could not be called liberal.
The college program of students whose ultimate aim dictates specifically nearly all of the courses they are to have constitutes no problem because it takes care of itself. That it does not leave room for the acquisition of breadth of outlook upon the world and human affairs is unfortunate, but it cannot be helped in fields where the degree of competency aimed at requires such extensive technical preparation. One thing only needs to be added. It is that students who desire a liberal education, but whose interest centers in the natural sciences, should be especially guarded from the danger of being caught unawares in the curriculum machinery devised for those whose aims call for an almost wholly scientific education. Inasmuch as the faculty advisers who will supervise the drawing up of their concentration programs are likely to.be themselves men whose education has been of the latter sort, the danger is very real.
o) Students with liberal aims. It is the college course of students who seek what is called a general or liberal education that demands the most careful inquiry into the aims and instruments of such an education. The aim of it is sometimes said to be the preparation of the student for life, but this statement is too vague to indicate what should be the content and method of a liberal education. What is meant by it is probably that the end aimed at is to fit the student to assume responsibility and exercise intelligent initiative in the organization or direction of any of the varied tasks with which he will be confronted when he takes part in human affairs; and also to prepare him to understand and appreciate the nature of those affairs, the inter-relations, and the diverse values inherent in them. This, at all events, is the kind of equipment that should be possessed by men in executive positions or positions of leadership such as many of the students who seek a liberal education aspire eventually to hold; and also by men who desire only to make rich and humanly fruitful their hours of their years of leisure.
For the accomplishment of the aims just characterized the academic training most appropriate would seem to be one so devised as to have three principal results. In the first place, it should equip the student with such a diversity of surface information as will constitute a general map of the institutions, knowledge, interests, and activities of mankind in the world of today. For lacking this, a man cannot but remain insular in his outlook, and therefore, -- outside a narrow sphere of his own, -- align himself unconsciously with the forces of obscurantism and intolerance.
In the second place, the right college training should give to the student whose needs we are examining a considerable amount of firm knowledge of some subject or field, for without this his outlook might have breadth but would not at any point have depth. And he would therefore lack all understanding of what it means to know something thoroughly.
Lastly, the student's training should teach him to work effectively and independently, for without intellectual initiative and resourcefulness, critical independence, and command of efficient methods of work, he might be both widely informed and learned in some particular field, but he would still lack the powers and habits that are necessary to get things done in any line of endeavor. He would be to some extent fitted, perhaps, to become an interested passive spectator of the world, but not to appreciate how its problems get solved or to participate actively in their solution. So important, indeed, is this third element of a good education that one occasionally hears people say today that, if only a student learns how to work, it does not matter much whether he learns anything else, or what he studies. But this view represents only an extreme reaction against the purely passive type of education, of which the defects are becoming more and more widely recognized.
The following chapter will consider the manner in which it would be proposed to make the work of the four college years yield in practice the three desiderata of a liberal education that have just been mentioned.
A SUGGESTED CURRICULUM AND METHODS FOR A LIBERAL EDUCATION
1. Surface Knowledge of Many Subjects.
The Importance of furnishing the student with a considerable variety of information has already been recognized by more than one college, where so-called orientation courses have been instituted with that very end in view. That the courses so described fall in many cases to achieve their object is perhaps true, but even this would not impair the validity of that object itself. Nor would its validity be impaired by the undeniable fact that that object is attainable only in proportion as the information imparted is superficial. Superficiality constitutes a defect only when depth is what one's purposes require; and the relative narrowness which likewise unavoidably goes with increasing depth would of course be no less grave a defect in cases where what is primarily needed is breadth of view. The word superficial has unfortunately acquired a censorious connotation because of its having often been used to indicate lack of depth where depth was in order. Hence to avoid being misled by that word, it will be better to speak instead of "surface" information when, as now, one wishes to emphasize the fact that for many important purposes just such information is what one must have.
When, for example, one is touring the country by automobile, no amount of geological information can be a good substitute for a road map, although the latter deals only with the surface. Again, for a person who goes to a book for a reference, detailed knowledge of one chapter of it is no substitute for a table of contents and an index. Or again, to the director of a complex enterprise, an exhaustive knowledge of some one aspect of it, -- useful though it may be, -- cannot serve as a substitute for the breadth of much thinner information about all aspects of the enterprise, which enables him to call in the right expert at the right time, and to coordinate the activities of the latter with those of specialists occupied with other departments of the enterprise. Knowledge of such facts as that there is some one who knows or that a book exists about a given subject, or that a certain thing has been attempted before, or that a cure for a certain disease has been discovered, and so forth, is surface knowledge indeed, but in many cases it is of the utmost value and without a possible substitute. For the aspects of life and the world with which a man may deal, or of which he may avail himself, are only those of which he happens to know at least the existence and general nature. Inceed, men possess freedom only in so far as they are aware of the presence of alternatives open to them; and their outlook is liberal only in so far as it embraces and regards other kinds of value than those towards which they may by temperament be inclined.
Because of these reason,, a good education for one who is not planning to become a specialist, requires, as one of its most important constituents, some personal and real, even if limited, acquaintance with each of the principal aspects of the world, and of human activity and experience, This should include the main facts known today concerning the physical world and the character of the methods through which they have been ascertained; the general nature of the mathematical tools used in scientific investigations; the structure, development, and laws of behavior of living organisms; the psychological principles governing the thinking and emotional processes of conscious beings; the factors which determine economic phenomena; the variety of possible forms of government and social institutions; the history of one's own and other civilizations; the beliefs of other religions than one's own; at least the outstanding achievements in the fields of the various fine arts and literatures; the great types of philosophical thought; and possibly still other things.
The list is long indeed, and the educational program it suggests could easily be so conceived as to require much more time than would be available in the two years more or less here proposed to devote to it. But once more, the only knowledge which these two years would be intended to provide would be surface or map-knowledge such as already described, -- worthless, truly, for ends that demand thorough grasp of specialised information, but no more truly so than is the latter worthless or often worse than worthless, for purposes of orientation. Moreover, the rather large portion of the first two college years that is usually given to such things as English composition and the acquisition of a reading knowledge of a modern language, could be freed by relegating these things to the high school, which is their proper place.
To the end here in view, a one-year course in each of the various subjects mentioned, or, in the case of some of them, a half-year course, should in most instances be adequate if the courses be properly devised. The elementary courses given by the various departments of instruction as introductory to their respective subjects should serve the purpose very well whenever they avoid equally the two typical defects of being mere sight-seeing affairs, which do not give even the intended surface knowledge, and of being mere foundations for more advanced work in the subject. The latter is a very common defect, owing to the fact that the men who give the elementary courses, being themselves specialists, naturally view their subject as an end to be pursued for itself, rather than as the means of contributing one of the perspectives of a broad outlook.
Within its limits, the knowledge imparted should be real knowledge, and should at least at certain points give to the student some first hand experience of the methods and sources upon which it depends. But it should at the same time give him some conception of the subject as a whole, sufficient to enable him to appreciate its significance in present-day civilization. In an introductory course in literature, for example, the student should read as many as possible of such works as Homer's Iliad, Goethe's Faust, Dante's Divine Comedy, Cervantes' Don Quixote, Shakespeare's and Moliere's plays, and so forth; but perhaps only one or two of them in the original language, or with the minuteness of dissection which is usual in literature courses and which promotes interest in scholarship rather than in the reading of literature itself. The cultural and historical background of great works of literature is, of course, important for the full appreciation of them, and it is something that takes much time and specialized reading to acquire for oneself. But a teacher who has himself so acquired it can in far less time communicate enough of it to the student to vitalize his reading of such literary classics, and to exhibit them in a perspective some of the vistas of which the student may then feel tempted to explore indepedently.
A program of studies an approximate half of which is devoted to the acquisition of surface knowledge, systematically diversified over the principal fields of human inquiry and culture, will, among other things, tend to correct in some degree two typically defective types of college eduction, which every one has had occasion to observe. One of them is illustrated by the man who is well-trained in the sciences, but has remained a completely uneducated barbarian in such other realms of culture as literature, fine art, religion, philosophy. The other is represented by the man whose training has been good in the humanities, but who has remained crassly ignorant of the nature of the world and man as disclosed by the progress of science. His notions of the subject then consist only of such fossils of the science of generations gone by as have happened to become embedded and preserved in literary works.
2. Deeper Knowledge of Some One Subject.
A second essential part of a liberal education, It was asserted earlier, must consist of a much deeper and more thorough knowledge of some one subject or field. Diversity of surface information, however necessary to orient the student and to give him a sane perspective on human affaire and interests, will not reveal to him the exhilarating power given a man by precise, detailed knowledge of the facts of a subject and a firm grasp of its principles; nor will diversity of surface information give him the kind of development that comes only with actual practice of the methods of scientific, scholarly, or creative work.
To acquisition of this more substantial knowledge of some one subject, and to exercise in the use of the methods characteristic of it, the student should devote approximately one half of his college course. It is work of this sort that should constitute the principal part of his studies during his second two years, although there is no reason for drawing a sharp limit in time between the periods given to diversification and to specialization. That the first two years should be devoted mainly to diversification, however, will have as one advantage among others that of making possible a more enlightened choice of a field for specialized study during the second two years.
5. The Development of Intellectural Independence and Initiative.
The third of the three essential constituents of a general college education enumerated above had to do with the development in the student of powers of independent work and intellectual initiative. This development is not, however, something that can form a separate portion of his college course as could the other two constituents already discussed. Rather, the powers here under consideration can result only from the manner in which his work is conducted throughout. And without special and intelligent attention to this question of educational method, no particular arrangement of studies that might be devised will avail much.
Attention to it should begin on the very day the student enters college, if not sooner. Every college should have, ready to put into the hands of the incoming student, a clear and specific statement of what it conceives to be the objectives, the content, and the appropriate methods of the education it is prepared to offer. And the student should not only be invited to read this statement but should also be formally quizzed on it often enough to make sure that he has at all times a definite idea of the purpose for which he is supposed to be in college. Lacking such a statement and procedure on the part of the college, the student who wishes to use his time to the best advantage could do no better than to draw up for himself an account of what he expects to achieve in the four years of his stay. Such an account could profitably be discussed by him with congenial advisers, and he will doubtless want to revise it from time to time as his experience and his vision enlarge. But the mere act of drawing it up in advance and of guiding his decision day by day in the light of it will of itself serve to give him a footing in the small and elect class of those who know what they are doing.
As concerns method on the part of his studies intended for the acquisition of diversified information, the lectures, assigned readings and reports in the classes that he attends will usually minister to the aim of these studies more quickly and effectively than could the method of reading on his own initiative. For in many subjects independent reading is rather discouraging and of little profit until one has gained a certain framework of information about which to organize further acquisitions. In this part of his program, therefore, intellectual resourcefulness and. independence will find their most profitable exercise in an endeavor by the student to explore further for himself some of the avenues of thought or of information to which he is introduced by the regular work of his courses.
If he early acquires such a habit of independent exploration, he will find it of much service in the later part of his college course devoted to the more exhaustive and technical study of a special subject. It is there that he should have the fullest opportunity for the development of the intellectual powers which can result only from vigorous independent exercise of his critical and constructive faculties.
On the critical side, such exercise means that the student should establish the habit of questioning as many as possible of the assertions of all kinds that he meets, and learn to find out for himself on what evidence they rest and whether it is adequate to support them. That is, he must become increasingly conscious in concrete cases of the distinction between knowledge based on evidence and mere unsupported opinion. But critical power means not only the ability to get at the facts for oneself, but also that of bringing to bear such firm and precise knowledge as already has been won upon the variety of issues which it can illuminate. The student should therefore become accustomed to ask himself what difference this or that fact newly discovered by him makes in questions to which it has a relation.
Originative and constructive powers, on the other hand, are exercised in ways that are somewhat different from those just mentioned, but also various. They are exercised, for instance, in the process of discovering or demonstrating facts previously unknown; or of devising and testing hypotheses to explain facts known but not understood; or of establishing laws and empirical generalizations; or, in more general terms, in the process of having an idea about something, and carrying it through to the point where it either is exploded if unsound, or, if sound, then realised or demonstrated. As the student's knowledge of his special subject increases in extent and in precision, it will in certain cases be possible for him to engaged in constructive enterprises of some one or other of the above types, which, however modest in scope, will none the less be invaluable in developing his latent intellectual resourcefulness and giving him a command of methods of effective work.
But when, as usually will be the case, the possibility of attempting even a very humble contribution to human knowledge is beyond his equipment, an excellent substitute may be found in a certain form of what is sometimes called the problem method of study. When a student has already done a good deal of work in his special field, there are few devices which, in certain subjects at least, are as stimulating as that of defining for him the scope of a given course by means of a set of comprehensive and rather taxing examination questions placed in his hands at the beginning of the term instead of at the end. The work of the course for him will then consist in doing by himself whatever reading and thinking he finds necessary in order to write full and discriminating answers to all the questions. If the questions are drawn up with care and are sufficiently numerous, they may be made to cover all the topics and literature that the course to which they relate would normally have embrace; and this method of approaching them will he found far more vitalizing than the usual one, as well as more interesting to those students who have a capacity for initiative and a taste for intellectual adventure. The element of uncertainty as to what questions will be asked, which is characteristic of the ordinary type of examinations, is valuable, not in itself, but only as a means of inducing a careful study of the whole of a given body of knowledge. But other means to that end, -- such as those just described, -- are sometimes not only possible but also possessed of great advantages of other sorts. It will generally be found that when students approach books with some definite problem in mind, on which they are seeking light, their reading is far more intelligently done, better remembered and better integrated with the rest of their mental life than when it is undertaken only with the dutiful idea that the book ought to be read, and the unexciting abstract purpose of remembering as much as possible about it.
The ways of higher education which have here been suggested involve no radical changes in the external form of typical college organizations. Yet they are ways along which lies the possibility of obtaining from these organizations the valuable results which they are capable of producing, but which unfortunately often remain largely unachieved. What is needed to make the four years' course in the college of liberal arts yield a genuine and eminently worth-while education is primarily a more intelligent, less passive and lees mechanical use by students and teachers of the educational facilities and instruments already in existence. Spectacularly novel educational experiments, on the other hand, are usually expensive, and, whatever their intrinsic merits, must in almost all cases labor under the well-nigh fatal handicap of having to be carried out by college staffs already on the ground, who for the most part have little faith in utopic schemes, and whose life-long professional habits, however easily disregarded in theory, have to be reckoned with in practice. Any improvement in college education, to have a chance of succeeding, must therefore not only respect their teaching experience, as radical proposals generally do not, but also really stir their imagination. For passive resistance on their part can unobtrusively upset alike the best and the worst-laid academic plans.
THE FUNCTIONS OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
Many persons who clearly perceive the great importance of the role that the colleges can play in the life of the nation evince little interest in the graduate schools of our universities. Probably their conviction of the value of a college education is due to the realization of what it has meant to them individually, or, if they have not themselves had the benefit of it, to their perception of the advantages that it gave to others whom they had occasion to observe.
But the importance of the functions of our institutions of higher learning may be measured in terms somewhat less personal and therefore more significant. We may place ourselves at the standpoint of the interest of modern society as a whole, and ask what these institutions are capable of doing for its welfare. In the light of this question it is possible to show that great as is the importance of the colleges, that of the graduate schools is today even greater.
1. The Training of Experts.
In attempting to make this evident, attention may first be called to the fact that our age, which is so often referred to as a machine age, can be such only because it began as a scientific age. It exhibits now the application to all departments of life of the vast amount of knowledge that has in the last fifty years been won through the swift progress of the natural sciences. But in an age thus dependent in such large and ever-growing measure upon natural science and technology, it is obvious that better trained and more numerous scientific and technological experts are needed. And it is in the graduate schools that these experts must to a considerable extent be trained. For as the frontiers of knowledge are extended, a corresponding increase becomes unavoidable in the length and rigor of the training needed by those who are to apply that knowledge to the solution of practical problems. The four years of a college education are far from being enough for this.
But if the present age is rooted in the natural sciences, there is good reason to believe that the next will be rooted, in similar fashion, in the social sciences. The day is approaching when the knowledge that the latter are winning will be applied to the improvement of our economic, social, and political institutions with results as far-reaching as have been those of the application of natural science to the improvement of our material condition. And this means that also in the field of the social sciences and their technologies the day of the highly trained expert is increasingly upon us. Indeed, the need for the true expert is in the way of becoming evident in yet another direction. The prophecy may be hazarded with some confidence that with the growth of the power of man to mold not only the physical and biological worlds, but also that of human relations, he will come to feel more and more keenly the necessity for expert advice in deciding upon the ends to the attainment of which he will apply that power. So long as man lacks the power to do his will, he entertains little suspicion of the wisdom of that will, for his thought is then given only to the search for power. But with the finding of it, there comes at once the weight of responsibility for the use he shall make of it, and responsibility forces upon him the necessity of reflection concerning the ends and values of human life. It is at that point that man comes to perceive the need for true wisdom, and such wisdom, as distinguished from the home-grown wisdom that is adequate only for dealing with homely affairs, has its necessary roots in the results of philosophical studies, as modern engineering, medicine, sanitation, etc., have theirs in the findings of the natural sciences. And with only the rarest' exceptions, the philosophical sciences can today develop and flourish only in the graduate schools of our universities.
2. The Relation of the Graduate School to the Improvement of Undergraduate Education.
The cardinal importance of the graduate school, however, becomes apparent in another way also, if we consider its possible relation to the profound change in the character of American college education which has for some time been in process. The large increase in the numbers of students in colleges which took place after the war now seems to have come to a stop, while at the same time the realization is rapidly growing that what is at present needed in the colleges is a better quality of education rather than larger numbers of students.
The reasons for that need are not far to seek. One of them is that college education such as for the most part it has hitherto been does not turn out the experts for whom the demand is constantly growing. Indeed that education, except in the case of the better students in the better colleges, cannot even be said to constitute an adequate preparation for entrance upon the training of an expert.
But the relatively low quality of the education possessed by average college graduates is a matter of concern not merely to those among them who go on to seek expert training in a graduate school, but also to the many who do not enter the professions or other occupations calling for highly technical knowledge. They find themselves confronted by the fact that low standards have made the number of "college graduates" turned loose upon the country every year by its myriad colleges so large that a Bachelor's degree is no longer today any great asset to them. Like promissory notes of other kinds, its negotiable value now depends not merely upon its face value, but upon the credit of the institution that issued it. And the prestige that formerly belonged to the Bachelor's degree can be restored only if colleges in general so raise their standards as to make it the mark of an education more extensive, more thorough, better conceived, and more effective than that now possessed by the large majority of college graduates.
It is without doubt the realization of these facts that is mainly responsible for the changes which at the present time are taking place in the leading colleges of the country, and will eventually affect the others. That is to say, these changes originate in the perception of an unsatisfactory state of affairs, rather than in any vividly clear conception of what would constitute an ideal one. Hence the many educational experiments, some of them spectacular and most of them expensive, of which we hear today. They represent gropings, if not in the dark, at least in a rather dim twilight, after improvement.
The twilight might have been considerably brighter, however, had there been more adequate recognition of the fact that in the graduate school we have already in existence a type of education that in some of its aspects may well serve to suggest the kind of changes that are needed in college education. Indeed, in such institutions as have the great good fortune of possessing a graduate school as well as a college, the graduate school can serve in addition as a powerful influence to bring about these changes.
That the graduate schools should be in position to render this most valuable double service to the colleges is due to the fact that after all the graduate schools are almost the one place in American education where the average student makes full use of the opportunities offered him, and really gets the education for the sake of which the institution that he attends exists. In the colleges and secondary schools, on the other hand, there is considerable waste of opportunity, for there the average student's attitude is very much that of a spoiled child, who has to be either coerced or tempted into availing himself of the precious advantages provided for him by fond parents and generous donors. The average college undergraduate, it may safely be asserted, is not working at even fifty per cent of his capacity; whereas the average graduate student very generally works at nearly his full capacity; and he may even greatly overwork
The reasons for the difference in the efficiency of graduate and undergraduate education are various. The greater maturity of graduate students is of course one of them, but there is also the fact that undergraduates must on the whole be handled with gloves, since the tuition fees they pay are an indispensable source of revenue to the institution they attend. With graduate students, on the contrary, who are in a large proportion of cases subsidized to a greater or less extent by the university at which they study, the university is pretty free to get down strictly to business and to make them either toe the intellectual mark or yield their place to others who will. Operating to the same effect is also the fact that most graduate students are preparing to enter professions in which they have little prospect of becoming wealthy enough ever to contribute any large sums to the endowment of their university; whereas in the case of undergraduates the situation is not infrequently different, and it is therefor not expedient to put on them more academic pressure than they can easily stand. And even in state-supported institutions, where tuition fees and prospective endowments are less important than in private institutions, the fact remains that appropriations from legislatures are needed, and are dependent on the good will of the tax payers. But the good will is likely to be greatly impaired if the university attempts to set an education pace too fast to be comfortable for any large proportion of the students who are the sons and daughters of the taxpayers. In the face of these conditions it is of course difficult to raise educational standards in the colleges, but the growing dissatisfaction on all hands with the final product of the coddling process which has been more or less forced upon the colleges, is already acting to strengthen their hands in attempts to substitute for it something healthier and less wasteful. Alumni are no longer so prone to resent what one of them once described as "the attempt to turn dear old Alma Mater into a damned educational institution."
Aside from the factors that have just been mentioned, however, the superior efficiency of graduate education is undoubtedly due in considerable measure also to the different manner in which graduate work is conducted. How significant this factor is appears further from the fact that in those institutions where the work of the first year in the graduate school, leading to the Master's degree, is not fundamentally different in character from that of the Junior and Senior years in college, that first year of graduate work produces results little or no better than did the undergraduate years that preceded it. Hence the slight regard in which the Master's degree from such institutions is held by those who know the situation.
Graduate work properly so called does not in many places begin until the second year in the graduate school, and it is therefore to work of that character alone that we referred when speaking above of the suggestions that the colleges might obtain from the nature of the work done in the graduate schools for the improvement of their own. These suggestions may be summarily embodied in the brief statement that the most obvious and promising way to vitalize college education is to bring down into the Senior and Junior years the kind of educational methods and the spirit characteristic of graduate education.
The contrast between the ways of graduate education and those that chiefly prevail in the undergraduate years is perhaps best described as one between instruction and education. Instruction, necessary as it is in its place, is primarily a process in which the student is passive and docile. It is largely the type of process to which he has been subjected through the grade and high schools; and by the time he enters college it is no wonder that he should be rather tired of this business of just learning one thing after another. The restlessness of college students is probably due in no small measure to the fact that, at their age, they are becoming aware of the existence of a real world which they will have to face before long, and in which they will have to live their lives and make their way by their own powers. An instinctive need to exercise those powers is perhaps what tends to rob of interest any mere continuation of the process of passive learning, and to lend on the contrary a glamor to social life, college activities, and sports, which imitate real life at least to the extent of confronting the individual with a competitive situation or a demand for results that puts him on his mettle.
But whereas instruction is a building in from without of information that was absent within, education, as contrasted with it, consists rather in a drawing out of interests and a quickening of powers that were latent within. What it demands from the student is not receptiveness and docility, but much rather intellectual initiative, independence, and resourcefulness. For the only road along which education worthy of the name truly lies is that of intellectual adventure, -- in pursuit of which new and fascinating realms are explored, difficulties confronted, expedients devised, and enemies or bad servants of the truth combated and exposed.
Education in this sense is exactly what both the students and teachers in the graduate school, who are devotedly absorbed in the pursuit of scholarship and the solving of problems, are engaged in together. And it does not in its typical form consist in the hearing of lectures, or the reading of assignments for recitations, or the writing of reports for teachers, but first, in the acquisition by the student, largely on his own initiative, of the intellectual tools and other equipment which he himself perceives he will need in order to deal effectively with the problems of a certain field; and second, in the thoroughgoing investigation, by his own powers, of one or more real problems in that field, perhaps pointed out to him by his teachers, but often and preferably, discovered by himself. From work of this kind, the deadening flavor of artificiality and arbitrariness is altogether lacking. It is as real and stimulating as would be the building of a bridge, the arguing of a case in court, or the organizing of a business enterprise.
To day that the best prospect for the improvement of undergraduate education lies in the introduction into the Junior and Senior years of the type of educational methods and spirit characteristic of graduate work, means then essentially that the improvement sought demands the placing upon the student an increased measure of responsibility for his own education, by presenting it to him less as a process to be gone through than as a certain set of results to be achieved. The acquisition of the powers and equipment needed for the attainment of those results is then perceived by the student himself to be something demanded by his own aim, rather than arbitrarily imposed upon him by the requirements of the curriculum or the fiat of his teacher. And the process accordingly becomes self-directed and intelligent, instead of blindly complied with and wearisome.
Between undergraduate education as so conceived, and graduate work, there does of course remain the difference that the aim of the graduate student is to fit himself to contribute new knowledge to his field, and indeed to prove that he has fitted himself to do this by actually making such a contribution; whereas undergraduate work does not usually have this reference to the enlargement of human knowledge. But for several reasons this difference need not affect the spirit of the work. One of them is that the knowledge which the undergraduate aims to gain is, to him at least, new. Another is that if this knowledge is defined for him in terms of certain questions to which he is to find the answers, -- rather than in terms of certain books to be read or courses to be attended, -- his psychological approach to his work is then of exactly the same sort as that of the graduate student. And a third reason is that the field in which he is to do his major work can be and often is one which interests him, either in itself, or in its bearings upon his prospective life work or upon other of his interests. This means that investigation of questions regarding that field then is linked with the world which he regards as real, and is therefore felt as important instead of more or less idle, as when it appears detached from that world.
But beside suggesting the nature of the transformation needed in college, the graduate school may in addition greatly help to effect that transformation in institutions so fortunates as to have a graduate school. Through contact with graduate students in advanced classes and departmental clubs, and with teachers themselves actively engaged in research, -- such as a graduate school attracts, -- the undergraduate has forced upon his attention in the most effective manner possible the fact that work, thought, and study need be nothing hard or dreary. On the contrary these intellectual activities can, and in the graduate school do, constitute an avenue of truly passionate self-expression, along which one can find all the emotional excitement that gives to sport its tang and makes possible its feats. Close contact with the students and staff of the graduate school provides a social situation that can lend to the work of undergraduates a powerful emotional drive.
Graduate schools are of importance to our civilization in a third and perhaps still more vital way. For in addition to training the experts and the teachers that society needs, and helping to bring about the urgently necessary improvement in undergraduate education, the graduate schools are the source of a constant stream of contributions to the advancement of human knowledge, culture, and thought.
It is sometimes said that unless a teacher carries on some research, his value as a teacher is bound to diminish as time passes, and this is urged as a reason for encouraging research and other creative work by university professors. There is little doubt that the premise is in most cases true, and that the reason is therefore a good one. But to regard it as the sole or even the most important reason is to overlook the contribution universities should make, and alone can make, to the progress of human knowledge and culture. If universities did nothing but pass on to the next generation the knowledge already won in the past, they would be serving to maintain our civilization at the level it has already reached but would be contributing nothing whatever to its further advance. Even the training of graduate students in methods of research would not help that advance if these students did not eventually themselves engage in research.
The fact is worth stressing that there is nothing to be taught to the students of today, except the results of researches carried on yesterday. Vitally important as it is to pass on these results to each succeeding generation, it is even more important to push farther and farther back in each generation the high wall of ignorance which hems in mankind on all sides, and which together with the curse of selfishness, is a principal cause of the appalling amount of suffering that even in this twentieth century humanity still has to undergo.
But of the task of pushing back that wall of ignorance, the larger and most difficult part devolves upon the universities. They alone have the equipment indispensable for it, and they alone can give to the men capable of performing it the economic opportunity to do so. It is through the universities that the civilization of today makes, not its most spectacular, but its basic and far reaching contribution to the civilization of tomorrow. For the transformstions that have been wrought in the life of man ultimately traceable to the results of pure research far exceed in importance and in extent those due to any other causes. Research, then, is not something that needs to be justified in universities by the relation that it undoubtedly has to effective teaching. Rather, its paramount importance, and that of the graduate schools where it flourishes, lies in the fact that the progress of mankind so largely depends upon the research and creative work of its original thinkers and investigators.
PHILOSOPHY AND CIVILIZATION
THE RELATION OF PHILOSOPHY TO OTHER SUBJECTS
1. Philosophy and the Layman.
Many of the problems which form part of the subject-matter of philosophy are often not recognized as belonging to that technical field, although they are already familiar and interesting to most thoughtful persons. Indeed, practically every intelligent adult has some philosophical opinions, however fragmentary, unsystematic, or inadequately founded. Illustrations suggest themselves most readily from the field of ethics, -- opinions, for instance, as to what is meant by speaking of conduct as right or wrong, or of an act as constituting a duty, or of someone as being morally responsible. But the large number of persons who have more or less definite opinions also as to what is meant by calling an assertion true, or an inference fallacious, or painting an art, or dreams unreal, etc., shows that it interest in the problems of the theory of knowledge, of aesthetics, and of metaphysics, is hardly less widespread.
But it does not generally occur to those who have reached opinions on questions of this kind that these questions, to which they have given only casual thought, are capable of being investigated in the same sort of careful, systematic, and impartial fashion as are questions in mathematics, biology, or economics; and that when the investigation of them is thus pursued in a scientific manner, it is capable of yielding sooner or later results genuinely entitled to the name of knowledge, as distinguished from uncritical opinion. To investigate them with that scientific care, and to attain such knowledge, may be said to constitute the task of philosophy, described in terms of its relation to the interest that the layman has in questions of the type illustrated.
That in spite of his interest in philosophical problems the layman should usually give but scant attention to philosophers or to their writings is a result of two facts. One of them is that, since his own reflection on philosophical problems is only casual and untrained, It hardly results in anything that amounts to more that mere opinion. He therefore easily drifts into the belief that in regard to problems of this sort only opinions are attainable, and that one man's opinion is as good as another's. And this ill disposes him to give adequate hearing to men who have made of philosophy a life-study, since, -- unless they express themselves in language too technical to be intelligible to him, -- they seem to him merely to be assuming airs of authority in speaking of matters that cannot be settled, and as to which he is therefore entitled to hold a dogmatic opinion of his own.
The other fact which explains the layman's usual neglect of philosophy is that, at many points, philosophy is still in the making, and that at those points it is therefore not yet in position to return the decisive answers which alone would impress him with its significance. Philosophy, of course, is an ancient subject, but in any field of human inquiry, centuries of seemingly impractical and groping research are necessary before a firm grasp is acquired of the methods of investigation that are fruitful and before a theoretical structure is developed sufficiently sound to speed up discovery and produce in any abundance results directly capable of practical applications. This has been true of the natural sciences, which only in relatively recent times have become practically useful, and it is true in a yet greater degree of philosophy, dealing, as it does, with problems still more difficult than those of the natural sciences. Although philosophy is already able to shed useful light on many issues, there is no doubt that much remains for it to accomplish. The vital nature of the questions with which it deals is the true measure of the need for quickening its development.
2. Philosophy, Theology, and Religion.
There are a few questions, such as those of the nature and existence of God, the freedom of the will, the constitution of the human soul, the nature of evil, etc., which both philosophy and theology study, each in its own way. In its way of study, however, theology differs alike from philosophy and from science in that theology rests itself ultimately upon a revelation of some sort, -- either a public one as recorded in some sacred book, or a private one such as the individual mystic, devotee, or prophet, may claim to have received.
It is true that what is called natural theology professes to reach its conclusion independently of revelation, and solely by rational inference from observable facts. But if it really did this, natural theology would then be only a branch either of natural science, or of philosophy; for an essential characteristic of philosophy and of science is that they consider themselves in no way bound by any book or set of dogmas. Philosophy, like science insists that, for its purposes, the only relevant authorities are facts verifiable by man, and such inferences as can be drawn from those facts by processes by strict logical reasoning. Both philosophy and science hew to the line of verifiable truth and let the chips fall where they may, for neither of them has for its business either to uphold or to undermine the scriptures or the doctrines of any religion.
To indicate, on the other hand, the relation of philosophy to religion in general, it is necessary first to characterize religion in terms that are objective in the sense of having meaning independently of the truth of the beliefs of any religion. Viewed in such terms, religion consists essentially of any attempt by man to effect an adjustment between himself and whatever happens to be to him both mysterious and awesome. That adjustment has intellectual, emotional, and active aspects. It involves, that is to say, the forming of some ideas as to the nature of the mysterious and awesome power, object, or situation, -- ideas, indeed, which are often very confused, but which nevertheless must satisfy the demands of the individual's intellect. And the adjustment involves also the cultivation of feelings and the adoption of practices considered appropriate to the relation between man and the realm of the mysterious as he has conceived it. Of these three aspects of religion, however, the one directly relevant here is that in which it involves a set of ideas, for that is the aspect in which it may be compared and contrasted with philosophy.
Because the realm to which religion endeavors to adjust man is that of the as yet mysterious, any ideas of its nature that religion forms can at the same time have the status only of articles of faith, and not of objectively verified knowledge. It is therefore always possible that such ideas are not literally and objectively true, and that the emotional and practical adjustments based on them are not objectively effective.
But for the discharging of the functions that religion verifiably performs it is not indispensable that its ideas concerning the nature of the mysterious should be literally and objectively true. It is only necessary that they should be believed, they will constitute an intellectual adjustment to bring about emotional and practical adjustments to the mysterious and awesome which will be subjectively effective. They will, that is to say, give to the believer courage, fortitude, and a sense of peace and security. These are what he craves in the momentous contingencies which his objective knowledge and powers do not enable him to control, and in which the fate of all that he values therefore rests upon combinations of factors mysteriously unpredictable by him. And it is the bringing about of such a subjectively effective adjustment to the mysterious and awesome, that constitutes the verifiable function and service of religion in the life of man, as distinguished from the functions which it may claim but its performance of which is not verifiable, as, e. g., the winning of an after-death paradise for its devotees.
In the light of this account of the essential nature and function of religion, it is now possible to point out the respects in which philosophy and religion are different. For one thing, the ideas that philosophy frames are, as in the sciences, framed essentially for their objectively cognitive value, not, like those of religion, essentially for their subjectively adjusting value. This means that what both philosophy and science require of the ideas they frame is that they should be objectively and independently verifiable, instead of as in the case of religion verifiable only in the sense of constituting and leading to an adjustment which (because believed objectively adequate) is subjectively effective. And it means further that both philosophy and science, unlike religion, are under the necessity of defining their ideas as clearly and sharply as possible, and of subjecting them to the most thoroughgoing logical criticism.
The foregoing may be summarized by saying that philosophy is a species of knowledge, whereas religion is a species of faith, -- that is, of belief extending beyond the limits of objective verification possible at the time. But to point out this difference is not to say that there need be a clash between philosophy and any religion that does not mistake its own nature and function. Nor is it to say that there is not room in the life of a rational man for religion as well as philosophy. For however wide at any time the domain of verifiable knowledge conquered by philosophy and the sciences may be, that domain nevertheless always has boundaries. At these boundaries begins the realm of the as yet mysterious, which is awesome in proportion as the fate of whatever man holds dear still depends upon it. In that proportion, then, the need always remains for an adjustment adequate to yield the measure of courage and equanimity without which many of the trials of life would be crushing and life itself often unendurable. To effect this adjustment is a problem with which even the most rational among men are confronted, so long as human knowledge and power have not passed all limits. And to deal with that problem is the task of religion.
The need for the peace and serenity which a religious faith brings does not, of course, in itself suffice to induce that faith. But such religious faith as men may already happen to possess, or such as they may somehow come to acquire, finds there a legitimate and most important function, the discharge of which need never fetter the exercise of the rationally critical faculties because that faith needs to concern itself only with whatever as yet remains beyond the reach of those faculties. The nature of the faith possible for a given man will of course vary with the range and nature of his knowledge, and with the direction and results of his critical reflections. The only form of religious faith possible to some men may, indeed, be one which to most persons would seem far too tenuous and abstract. It may consist, perhaps, only of the conviction that in some way not always apparent things unfailingly work out for good, or that all the good and evil deeds of men ultimately bring their just deserts. But even such abstract faiths would be truly religious.
3. Philosophy and Literature.
To make clear the respects in which philosophy and literature are alike, and those in which they are distinct, it is necessary first to distinguish between three main types of literature. For it is only with one of these that philosophy has much in common.
The fact which most basically characterizes literature is that it causes ideas to arise in the minds of its readers. These ideas, however, may have primarily any one of three functions. They may serve principally either to induce certain feelings, emotions, moods, or sentiments; or to induce real or imaginary action of certain sorts; or to provoke certain reflections or impart certain facts. It is probable that no one of these three effects ever results to the complete exclusion of the other two; but in most cases it is possible to say that some one of the three constitutes the effect essentially intended by the writer or sought by the reader, whereas the other two are in the given case merely accessories or by-products.
Where the principal function of the ideas imparted is to induce feelings, moods, emotions, or sentiments, literature may be termed aesthetic or poetic. And in literature of this type the musical elements of language, such as rhythm, assonance, etc., play a larger part than in the other two types.
Where, on the other hand, the characteristic function of the ideas imparted is to induce action of some sort, literature is then propaganda if the action suggested, e.g., voting, buying, fighting, etc., is to be actually performed; but if on the contrary it is to be performed only in imagination, then we have the literature of adventure or experience of all kinds, which, through the self-identification of the reader with one or more of the characters in the story, novel, or play enables him to live vicariously many kinds of lives, and thereby to undergo experiences, perform deeds, and acquire points of view for which his actual life may give him no opportunity.
Where, lately, the essential effect of literature is to impart certain facts or to provoke certain reflections, we than have didactic literature; and it is literature of this type which by comparison with philosophy most sheds light on the nature of the latter.
It is to be noted first that philosophical and scientific treatises themselves constitute one species of didactic literature, characterized in general by the attempt at literalness and objectivity of statement, and often by the more or less technical, or abstract, nature of many of the terms employed. To this general category would belong also such informative documents as catalogues, reports, directories, etc.
But there is another type of didactic literature which on contrary avoids technicality and abstractness, avails itself freely of metaphors, and enlists the emotions in such manner as to make vivid, and force reflection upon some theoretical issue or other. And that issue is invariably one that belongs to social or political philosophy, or to the philosophy of religion, or to some other division of the field of philosophy. What didactic literature of this type does is to select some idea or contention of an essentially philosophical nature, and present it in more or less dramatic form. It translates into imaginative and emotional terms some of the questions which philosophy considers in the abstract conceptual terms indispensable for the generality of result at which it aims.
Problem plays and problem novels, as well as many essays would be examples of didactic literature of this sort, but most novels which are not purely of the adventure, mystery, or detective type would to a varying extent come under this head. Even biography, ostensibly primarily informative in its aim, may be so written as to force upon the reader's attention various issues of theory.
Literature of this kind, at once dramatic in treatment and thought-provoking, might perhaps be said to constitute a philosophical microscope, rendering certain philosophical problems so definite and vivid as to make attention to them easy and fertile, while at the same time narrowing the philosophical field of view as a result of having tied so intimately the problem presented to the circumstances of a particular case. Philosophy, on the other hand, might, in terms of its relation to literature of this type, be characterized as an instrument for obtaining a wider intellectual perspective upon the issue presented by the vivid depiction of a particular case. Philosophy would have in relation to the ideas thus focussed in literature the same function that a geographical map has in relation to the topographical features perceived by the eye of the traveller.
4. Philosophy and Science.
The nature of the relation between philosophy and science may be summarily stated by saying that the method of philosophical investigation must be the same as that used in the sciences, but that the subject-matter investigated by philosophy is different from that of the sciences.
To say that the method of philosophy must be scientific is to say that philosophy, like science, is an attempt to reach conclusions more objective and more dependable than is possible by hasty judgment or casual investigation, -- conclusions, that is to say, that will be not mere opinions but knowledge in the sense of belief logically warranted by available evidence. And no matter what the subject, conclusions of this sort are susceptible of being attained by man only through the use of that combination of careful observation of facts, disciplined hypothesis, rigorous inference, and wholly impartial verification, which constitutes the essence of scientific method itself as distinguished from the special forms that it assumes in investigations such as those of physicists, of biologists, or of economists, etc.
However, to avoid misunderstanding of the assertion that the proper method of philosophy is scientific, it is necessary to guard against the illusion, -- which affects more than one scientist, -- that it is only in laboratories, or to things susceptible of being measured or counted, that scientific method is applicable. That such is not the case is shown by the fact that much of the knowledge that man possesses in such fields as history, philology, or anatomy, is not quantitative in nature, but is yet knowledge properly so called, that is to say, belief adequately grounded in evidence.
Again, when it is asserted that the proper method of philosophy is scientific, it must be fully admitted that the actual procedure of philosophers in their investigations has often greatly sinned against the requirements of scientific method. But then, so has the procedure of scientists many times in the past, to say nothing of instances that might not be far to seek in the present. Before the nature of scientific procedure in general, or especially the particular manner of applying it to a given subject, becomes fully clear, a long period of groping is unavoidable, whatever the field. Yet the method truly characteristic of any given subject is the method that was being groped for, and not the methodological blunders that were part of the groping.
It thus cannot be its method that distinguishes philosophy from the sciences, but its subject-matter. And philosophy does have a subject-matter of its own, distinct from that of any of the sciences.
It is true that the assertion is occasionally made that philosophy is only, as it were, the mother of the sciences, whose bosom they leave to lead their independent existences as soon as they are sufficiently developed. When that process is completed, it is said, philosophy will automatically vanish for lack of a subject-matter distinct from that of the sciences. This conclusion, however, is but an illogical inference rashly drawn from the historical fact that in early times there were no clear divisions between the various fields of knowledge, and that any one who sought knowledge for its own sake was called a philosopher. Obviously, even the mother-metaphor implies, not that a mother consists of the children growing in her womb, but only that her own individual nature is such as to enable her to nourish them. And the literal fact that the sciences, as they developed, divorced themselves one after another from what was then called philosophy does not in the least imply that philosophy has no subject-matter of its own distinct from theirs. This mistaken supposition, as well as the historical association of philosophy and youthful science, is due only to the fact that philosophy and the sciences alike are attempts to obtain knowledge.
THE SUBJECT-MATTER DISTINCTIVE OF PHILOSOPHY
If philosophy is like science in the method that it must use, what then is the subject-matter which philosophy, but not of the sciences, scientifically investigates?
To answer this question satisfactorily, it is necessary first to call attention to a fact as important as it is commonly overlooked. This fact is that all the achievements of man, which together constitute civilization, represent two things. On the one hand, they represent the nature of the world which made them possible. But on the other hand, they represent no less the human will-to-values which demanded them. Thus the knowledge possessed by man represents indeed facts which were there to be known, but it also represents, and just as truly, the interests which caused man to notice some facts and neglect others, to ask this question rather than that, to seek the explanations that he desired but did not at first perceive. The tools and other material artifacts of man represent properties which the substance employed possessed, but they equally represent human ends, the means to which he wanted to command. Similarly, the social institutions that man has brought into being represent capacities of behavior possessed by those who live under them; but they no less represent modes of living that once did not exist, but which man desired to establish. And the works of art that he has created represent qualities which belonged to the materials used and forms which they were capable of assuming, but they represent fully as much feelings and ideas that man wanted to express, and experiences of soul and mind that he wished to be able to reproduce at will.
It is, then, of the essence of knowledge, to constitute nature's answer to man's question; of the essence of instruments, to constitute nature's means to man's ends; of the essence of works of art, to constitute the embodiment in nature of man's emotional and intellectual intent. Schopenhauer believed the active essence of man to be the will-to-live, and Nietzsche declared it to be the will-to-power; but both of these characterizations are too narrow. The active essence of man is rather the will-to-values, and the whole of the civilisation that man has created constitutes in its various aspects an objectification of his will to manifold values, no less than an exhibition of the nature and potentialities of the world which confronted that will.
In the light of this distinction between Man as will-to-values, and Nature as that which at any time confronts that will and constitutes that with which it has to deal, it is now possible to define clearly the subject-matter of philosophy as contrasted with that of the sciences.
The subject-matter of the sciences is Nature as it has just been defined, -- physical, biological, psychological, social. And it should be noted that Nature as so defined includes certain aspects of man. His body, for instance, is a physical object, and obeys the law of gravitation and other physical laws just as does a stone. That body, in addition, is a living thing, and therefore obeys the natural laws of biology as do all other living things. Man is moreover a conscious being, and in so far is subject also to psychological laws.
Indeed, Nature includes not only those realms of being that would exist even if man did not, but also all the artifacts of man, -- his physical artifacts; his botanical and zoological artifacts; the political, economic, educational, and other institutions which we may call his social artifacts; and lastly what may be termed his spiritual artifacts: art, literature, science, religion, philosophy. All these things are to be considered parts of Nature in so far as, once made, they have laws and characters of their own, according to which they behave apart from the further intervention of man's will-to-values. And the fact that these things, although brought into existence by the will-to-values, have laws of their own, means that they are a part of the world that confronts any further exercise of this will, they are things with which this will must henceforth reckon, exactly as it must with, those other parts of Nature which man did not make. A house that he has built, for instance, is a result of the interference of his will-to-values with what would otherwise have been the course of Nature. But once built, the house is as genuine a part as any of the total situation which he faces and which his further will-to-values must then take into account, -- tearing it down, preserving it, or altering it, as the satisfaction of that will may at the time require.
With these considerations in mind, it is evident that the fact of man's being a part of Nature in the respects first indicated, and of Nature's being partly man-made, leaves quite untouched the sharp antithesis between Nature and Man as will-to-values. The will-to-values can be no part of Nature since by Nature is meant the total situation which at any time confronts man's will.
If Nature as now characterized is the subject-matter of the sciences, what then is that of philosophy? On the basis of the antithesis described above between Nature and the human will-to-values, it is now possible to answer that the subject-matter distinctive of philosophy consists of the demands of the human will-to-values. The typical varieties of those demands, their essential natures, their mutual relations, the sorts of objective conditions which the satisfaction of them populates, are the questions which philosophy, and philosophy alone, sets itself to investigate with scientific care. The results of such investigations it attempts to formulate in classifications, definitions, postulates, and theorems, which together constitute the philosophy of the particular subject to which they relate. And the knowledge which they embody is knowledge not of Nature but of what is a priori to Nature, for it is knowledge of what man intends, demands, values, or means, as distinguished from what he simply confronts.
It is to be noted, however, that just as the demands of the human will-to-values are of various sorts and of all degrees of generality, so likewise are the philosophies relative to those demands. There are, thus, philosophies of particular subjects, for instance, of shoe-making. The philosophy of shoe-making deals, not with the technical processes that are involved in the making of shoes, but with the ends to be realized by those processes, that is, with the characters which man demand in a pair of shoes, and the values which constitute the reasons for them. If from the realm of practical arts we turn to that of knowledge, we find there also specialized philosophies, as well of general. Whenever in that realm man asks himself, not what has been, is, or will be, but what he himself means by a given assertion, denial, or question, he is then dealing with a problem belonging to the philosophy of knowledge. If that problem is one that arises only in connection with the attempt to obtain knowledge in a particular field, such as that of physics, or biology, then the philosophy, -- of which the answer to the question forms a part, -- is a special philosophy: a philosophy of physics, or of biology, or, it may be, only of some particular branch of these, such as optics or genetics. But if the problem is on the contrary one which arises in connection with the attempt to obtain knowledge in any field whatever, then the answer to the problem forms part of a philosophy of knowledge in general. To a general philosophy of knowledge would then belong inquiries into the meaning of such concepts as Truth, Probability, Knowledge, Explanation, Verification, Implication, Inference, etc,
When Philosophy, as a branch of learning, is referred to, it is philosophy which is general in the sense just indicated, that is commonly meant. The philosophy of knowledge, -- or Epistemology, -- is only one of its branches. The chief other branches readily come to mind: the philosophy of Religion; Ethics or the philosophy of conduct; Aesthetics or the philosophy of art and beauty; Metaphysics or the philosophy of reality. Indeed, there is even what can only be called the philosophy of Philosophy. To it belongs the present inquiry into the proper method, subject-matter, functions, and relations of philosophy.
THE ROLE OF PHILOSOPHY IN CIVILIZATION
1. Civilization and the Need for Progress.
Civilization is but an inclusive name for the manner, the conditions, and the content of life which best satisfy man's many-sided will-to-values, the material, artistic, intellectual, political, and other creations of man do not therefore in themselves constitute civilization, but are entitled to the name only in so far as they actually function as means to the greater material and spiritual welfare of mankind.
The advancement of that welfare is the great task that men, whether unconsciously or consciously, have confronted in all ages. Progress in the performance of it has for the most part taken place slowly and at great cost, as an evolutionary result of an unsystematic procedure according to which each man strove for the accomplishment of whatever seemed good to him. But here as elsewhere progress can be made far more rapidly and economically if knowledge and purposive intelligence are definitely brought to bear on the task. And things are to-day at a pass where the application of intelligence and devotion to the improvement of human affairs as a whole has become imperative. For whereas in the last hundred years the natural sciences, have made more progress than in the preceding thousand, human nature has during that time not undergone any great change. Some customs and institutions have altered, but the mainsprings of human conduct have remained much the same. Men are to-day better informed but probably not much more intelligent than before; their economic standard of living has risen, but when occasion offers they exhibit a nature hardly less selfish or brutal or greedy than of old. They are not fundamentally much more self-disciplined, honest, truthful, kindly, or wise, than in earlier ages. Measured in terms of spiritual maturity, the average man of to-day is still a child. And it is in the hands of this child that the natural sciences, almost overnight, have placed powers which in their magnitude and possibilities for evil are as dynamite is to a popgun. Great nations in the past have risen only to fall victims to destructive forces within. To-day, however, with our improved means of communication and transportation, all the nations of the earth are so closely linked that whatever vitally threatens any one of them threatens civilization itself. To save it, society must give up the attempt to muddle through in the old blind and callous ways, and address itself deliberately and intelligently to the improvement of the material and spiritual conditions under which mankind now lives.
To this task, philosophy has a contribution specifically its own to make, the nature of it will become clear if a brief review is made of the several factors upon which depends the success of any deliberate attempt to advance civilization.
2. The Conditions of Planned Progress.
Intelligent action deliberately aiming at the advancement of civilization is at any time possible only in so far as four essential conditions are present. A brief consideration of them and of the agencies whose especial function it is to provide them will furnish the perspective necessary to make clear the nature and importance of the role of philosophy in civilisation.
a) A knowledge of existing facts. The first of these four conditions is a clear awareness of the true facts concerning the state of the existing civilization, on the part of the many who are to cooperate in the attempt to raise it to a higher level. The nature and extent of the material and.spiritual evils that civilization contains, and of the dangers that threaten it, especially need to be exhibited and kept in the fullest view, for it is they and not the already successful features of civilization that constitute problems. To cover up such evils and disregard the dangers of which they are signals is a policy most inevitably leading to disaster. It is that of the mythical ostrich, which in time of danger buries its head in the sand in order to preserve intact the pleasant but fatal illusion that all is well and that nothing needs to be done.
The task of dispelling: that illusion from the social mind, and of focussing its attention upon the true facts rests upon the agencies whose business it is to inform that mind and to stimulate it to think. In our age, these agencies are the press, literature, the drama, the radio, the screen, the pulpit, and the lecture platform whether in or out of educational institutions. Unfortunately, however, some of these agencies are to-day oblivious of that high function, and give themselves instead so exclusively to commercial purposes as greatly to restrict the contribution to progress which they could otherwise make.
b) A genuine altruism. This remark suggests the nature of the second condition referred to. It consists in the spirit of genuine altruism which alone can lend interest to the task of lifting civilization higher, and alone can infuse the individual with the enthusiasm that the attempt calls for. There is a widespread opinion that altruism is right and proper in private life, but that in practical affaire, relentless pursuit of personal interest is the law of nature. But, at all events in the present epoch, there is no more vitally practical affair confronting mankind than that of turning the vast powers so recently won by science to the enrichment, instead of to the impoverishment, of human life. And this requires that each man should inject into his daily practical dealings with his fellows a measure of genuine concern for their welfare, such as he already feels for that of his family and friends.
Altruism in practical affairs is not a vain dream, for personal advantage is not the only motive which brings out the powers latent in man. A large part of the significant and painstaking work done in the world has in fact been the fruit not of that motive, but of absorbed interest in the work itself, or of a sincere conviction that it was of a kind needed and essentially worth doing. Indeed, at the stage of development that many men have reached to-day, they will do their best work only in the service of some cause that they recognize as of wider moment than their own private advantage. And the cynicism, weariness, and dissipation met with in so many persons to-day are undoubtedly due in large measure to a haunting consciousness of the human futility of the work which they find themselves forced to do, -- to the fact that they get from it only their living, but not the self-respect and spiritual stimulation that comes only from work devotedly done for an end felt to be humanly worthwhile.
But to put the work of the world upon a basis consistent with the impulse of those who do it to contribute something to the greater welfare of man is an undertaking which, like that of improving our civilization in other ways, itself requires such an altruistic impulse in everyone with whom lies responsibility for determining the work of others, or for directing and organizing their activities.
It is to spiritual leaders, or to their own spiritual insight, that men must look for such an impulse. The Golden Rule preached by Jesus has been one powerful force acting to awaken in each man interest in the lot of his fellows. And the churches are an agency that can do much in this direction if only they make of their activities a never failing source of stimulation to this impulse, and not merely an emotional substitute for concrete expressions of altruism in practical affairs outside their walls. Literature also, the press, and the other agencies for the dissemination of information and the quickening of reflection already mentioned, can be immensely effective in spreading a spirit of rugged altruism, if only they have themselves already been touched by it.
c) Power over Nature. The third of the four conditions requisite to the task of deliberately raising society to a more genuinely human level, consists in knowledge of the laws according to which causes bring about effects in nature and in society. For even with the most generous intentions, man can do nothing to ameliorate his own lot or that of his fellows unless he has the power to shape events in accordance with his purposes. This power is given him only by scientific knowledge, and it is therefore to the sciences, natural and social, and to the universities and institutes where alone exist the facilities for their freest development, that he must look for the additions to this power still needed.
The social sciences, however, are to-day those of which it is most important to accelerate the development, for the natural sciences are already thriving and have even now placed at the disposal of man greater powers than he can be trusted to use intelligently. In spite of the work that has already been done in economics, political science, psychology, sociology, and history, we know far too little about the manner in which in societies of given types the actions of men affect other individuals or groups, or are determined by given sorts of conditions. And it is to be remembered that even with considerable additions to such knowledge something else is also needed in this field. For between theoretical knowledge and the practical application of it there is always a gap that is to be bridged only by the development of an adequate technology. The natural sciences, without the corresponding branches of engineering, including medicine, would be of little service to man; and the social sciences, to be of practical service must be supplemented by technologies of their own, concerned with the ways in which the knowledge won can, in the concretely existing conditions, be brought to bear effectively on the problems that present themselves in society, the taking of actual steps to deal with concrete problems of social engineering has hitherto been left to the reformer, the politician, the business man. As measured in terms of enhancement of the values of human life, however, the success of these men in dealing with such problems has been relatively small. This has been due in part, of course, to ignorance, and to the bigoted, or partisan, or selfish character of the motives that have often actuated them. But it has been due also to the fact that their practical methods have been purely empiric, whereas no branch of engineering can be really efficient until it becomes scientific, i.e., until adequate theoretical knowledge is brought to bear on practice. It is here then, that psychology will play its most significant role in the advancement of civilization. For sociological, political, and economic engineering, in so far as it becomes scientific and therefore powerful, is nothing whatever but applied psychology.
d) Wisdom In the use of power. A readiness to do something to make human life happier and more fruitful, a knowledge of the actual facts of our civilization, and the knowledge that gives power to effect the changes upon which one may resolve, are three indispensable conditions of the application of purposive intelligence to the advancement of civilization. There is yet a fourth, however, which consists in an adequate apprehension of the variety and interconnections of the values that enter into human life. Such an apprehension constitutes what is called wisdom. The need of wisdom in the shaping of human affairs is always present, but is seldom consciously felt until power is possessed. Until then men are almost always under the illusion that if only they had the power to work their will upon nature and society they would know well enough what to do with that power.
But wisdom is something for which good intentions and even a knowledge of science are no substitutes. All that the sciences do, beside satisfying man's disinterested curiosity concerning the laws of nature and of social phenomena, is to place in his hands the power to work his will upon nature and upon human affairs. It is that power which has made possible the prevention of yellow fever, typhoid, diphtheria, and other ills. It has provided man with new and efficient methods of communication and transportation and with all the convenient devices upon which his life to-day is so dependent. But at the same time it has complicated his life, robbed it in large measure of the job of craftsmanship, multiplied its needs, brought it new diseases, and innumerable perils. It has made possible the unprecedented butchery and devastation of the World War. It has given man poison gas as well as anaesthetics, and the torpedoes that sink ships as well as the wireless which brings help to the survivors. It thus knows nothing of good or evil, but only makes possible the more efficient realization both of worthy and of vicious aims.
But if knowledge of the sciences does not automatically make man good, neither do good intentions automatically make of him a wiser critic of existing facts or a more competent judge of what would constitute a better state of affairs. Beside the knowledge that gives him means to his aims, there is needed also knowledge of a kind that will enlighten him as to the actual human worth of his methods, of the aims that he finds himself pursuing so hotly, and of the existing conditions to which, as the case may be, he is so passionately attached or hostile.
3. The Contribution of Philosophy to Human Progress.
But the only sort of knowledge capable of thus enlightening judgments of worth is philosophical knowledge. A concrete illustration will make this more evident. Suppose, for instance, that a university faculty turns its attention to the curriculum of prescribed studies and that one of the members of the faculty evaluates as bad a certain feature of this curriculum. Let us suppose also that another member of the faculty disputes this evaluation. It may be that the diversity of their appraisals turns purely upon some matter of observable fact, and, if so, observation will quickly settle the issue. This would be the case if, for instance, the assertion made had been that a certain required course is bad because it fails to give the student the knowledge he needs in order to take another course for which the first is intended to prepare him.
But it may be, on the other hand, that the diversity of their appraisals of this particular required course turns, not on a matter of the means to an end already agreed upon, but on a matter of the end at which to aim. This would be the case if the reason for declaring the course in question a bad one to include in the requirements was the fact that what is learned in it has no bearing upon the profession the student expects to enter. Obviously, that fact might well be admitted, and yet be declared irrelevant. And such a contention of irrelevance unavoidably brings up the question of the aims which a college education, if it is to have the greatest value, should, for a given type of student, be designed to realize. But any answer to this question that is not arbitrary or doctrinaire but responsible and wise evidently has to be rooted in some philosophy of higher education. That is to say, it is only in the light of some philosophy of education that we can intelligently decide whether the fact that a given course has no bearing upon a student's intended profession is a good reason for pronouncing the course a bad one to require.
This concretely illustrates the meaning of the statement that assurance as to the wisdom of our evaluations is made possible only by a knowledge of the philosophy of the subject to which they pertain. Thus, appraisals that are well-grounded and wise may be described as applied philosophy; and, conversely, philosophy is the sort of knowledge upon which one has to fall back whenever the wisdom of an appraisal is to be defended or attacked.
The fund of knowledge of this sort possessed may be a small one, such as may be accumulated by occasional reflection upon experiences of one's own life. It will then produce the personal wisdom that ordinarily thoughtful men and women tend to develop as the years bring to them perspective upon their own lives and affairs. But such wisdom will have only a narrow range of validity. Wisdom of wider range must have its roots in a fund of philosophical knowledge correspondingly more extensive and thorough, such, as only the systematic and prolonged research of men especially trained for it can yield. It is here as in engineering: common sense and personal experience make possible the successful performance of certain tasks, relatively simple; but all the more complex feats of engineering are possible only on the basis of the results of scientific research.
This comparison also explains why it is that philosophers do not themselves always live or judge more wisely than other men. For a competent physicist or mathematician obviously might be a very incompetent engineer; and the case of the philosopher is analogous. He, like the physicist or the mathematician, is a seeker of new, basic, and highly abstract technical information. And to discover that information is a task quite other than that of applying it to the solution of concrete problems. The latter task is not usually also his, but belongs to those who give direction to the various activities of men. The philosopher's own task is only to seek out and pass to others the knowledge which will make it possible for their direction to be a wise one. If the men who direct human affairs are compared to the pilot of a ship, the philosophers then correspond to the men who equip the pilot with maps, compass, and sextant.
4. Specific Ways in Which Philosophy Discharges Its Function.
In the last section the general function of philosophy in civilisation was discussed. In the present section, certain specific ways in which it discharges that function will be considered.
a) Philosophy provides certain needed knowledge. One of the ways in which philosophy contributes to human progress is through its conclusions. In the manner already described, they enlighten our appraisals of existing facts and of contemplated changes.
But when mention is made of the conclusions of philosophy, two things must be kept in mind. One is that its conclusions, like those of all scientific theorizing, are essentially provisional. For theories, whether in the realm of philosophy or of the sciences, are essentially instruments for explaining facts known and for inferring facts as yet unknown. What is required of theories, then, is serviceability to these ends, not finality. And a theory which is discarded for another more serviceable is not thereby shown to have been false or worthless. For it still retains all the utility that it ever did have. From the standpoint of action to be taken, the function of theories is simply to illumine the way; and to do this adequately they need not be the last word on the subject with which they deal. Even an hypothesis, which is all that a theory is until its serviceability has been demonstrated, is useful in that it suggests experiments or specific observations to be made, which will either explode it or establish its utility.
The provisional character of philosophical theories or hypotheses, then, does not deprive them of the capacity to enlighten our judgments of value. Implicit in every such judgment lies a philosophy of the subject to which it belongs; but so long as that philosophy remains only implicit there are bound to be hidden inconsistencies in the judgments of value made, which cause them to stultify one another. On the other hand, in proportion as a philosophy of the subject to which they pertain is explicitly formulated, they become consistent and lead to action that is intelligent and systematic, instead of chaotic. One may thus be said to "know what one is doing" just to the extent that one has clearly in mind a philosophy of the subject with which one happens to be dealing.
Another thing to be kept in mind concerning the conclusions of philosophy is the fact that at many points they are as diverse as are the schools of thought that voice them. This is ascribable, on the one hand, to the fact already mentioned that philosophy has not yet fully grasped the meaning of scientific method as applied to its problems. But, partly as a result of the remarkable development that has occurred in recent years in one of its fields -- that of logic, -- there are signs that philosophical thought in general is acquiring greater precision, and is therefore getting better able to disprove its hypotheses if unsound, and to verify them if sound.
On the other hand, there is reason to believe that certain differences between the conclusions of various philosophers are similar to those which would appear between the accounts of two persons describing the same object, seen from different spatial points of observation. Those accounts, although diverse, would not constitute incompatible, but rather mutually complementary, descriptions of the object. That such is also the relation between some of the present diverse philosophical accounts of certain matters is believed by the writer to be the actual fact, and one which will become increasingly clear if the stricter sort of philosophical thinking that has been developing of late continues.
Philosophy, it must be fully admitted, is to-day to a large extent still in the making. But precisely because the function of it when made is so important for the progress of civilization, it is in the same measure important to hasten that making.
b) Philosophy provides a unique intellectual discipline. Without waiting, however, for the winning of firmer and more extensive philosophical knowledge than is already available, there are valuable services which the particular intellectual discipline furnished by training in philosophy is immediately able to render. And these services are of a nature which makes them of especial value to educated men who may in a fairly large proportion of cases be expected to become leaders in human affairs.
To make clear the character and the importance of the intellectual discipline given by training in philosophy, it is necessary first to recall the fact, already mentioned, that in the normal course of the life of any thoughtful person many philosophical problems arise without being recognized as such. These problems will belong perhaps to the philosophy of religion, or to the philosophy of art, of knowledge, or of conduct. The following would be pertinent examples: Has faith unsupported by evidence any place in the life of a rational man? Is beauty something existing in the objects called beautiful, or is its existence dependent upon the presence of an appreciative observer of the objects? May something be truly a work of art, and yet have no beauty? Does the frequent discarding of one theory for another by the sciences, mean that they possess no real knowledge? Can circumstantial evidence ever really prove anything? Has the reading of novels any useful function? Is conscience an infallible guide to right conduct? Is it ever right to lie? to withhold a part of the truth? to kill? Is the will of the majority necessarily right or binding? Should each man try to obey every law on the statute books, or is the common American practice of nullification by non-observance justified in the cage of laws that clash with public sentiment?
The answers an individual gives to questions of this type often have momentous bearing upon the subsequent course of his life; and it is therefore most important that he should be in position to apply intelligence and information to the resolution of such questions, instead, of deciding them as commonly is done in a more or less blind manner. But training in philosophical thinking is, for several reasons, that which best puts him in such position. How it does so will be indicated briefly.
It may first be noted that one of the greatest obstacles to an intelligent consideration of problems of the kind now in view is the strongly emotional attitude which they tend to arouse. The opinions held concerning them are usually due to early monitions, or to the suggestions of the environment, or to some other mode of psychological contagion; and opinions so acquired constitute prejudices, -- judgments in advance of examination of the evidence. Such opinions have causes, not reasons; and the "reasons" which one finds oneself advancing for them when challenged are not truly reasons at all, but pretexts. This marshalling of pretexts for adhering to an opinion or to a course of action is what psychologists call rationalization. It constitutes the very inverse of reasoning, in which the conclusion is determined by the reasons adduced. And in proportion as the pretexts advanced are felt at bottom to be only pretexts, and real reasons weak or lacking, emotion is aroused.
But the study of philosophy is particularly effective in developing the capacity to consider in a non-emotional manner, and on the basis of the objective evidence available, questions that are normally charged with emotion. For it involves the systematic exhibition and discussion of the most diverse opinions that have been held on questions of precisely that sort. And practice in doing this tends to make the mind calm and open to new ideas; while at the same time furnishing it with many of the new ideas and perspectives it needs in order to deal understandingly with such questions.
Again, proper training in logic and in other branches of philosophy develops what may be called intellectual honesty, that is, at once a genuine interest in objective considerations and a capacity to distinguish them from considerations of a subjective nature, such as personal tastes, inclinations, wishes, or advantage. By thus acting to rid us of the unconscious tyranny of our purely personal point of view, training in philosophy tends to make our minds freer and more resourceful, -- better able to enter into other points of view and more fertile in ideas.
But, in the third place, the habit of submitting to searching and impartial scrutiny the pros and cons of the questions that present themselves means that an intelligently critical spirit has been established. Such a spirit is the best safeguard against that sheeplike suggestibility which makes men so easily the victims of slogans, catchwords, and resounding phrases; and this habit of looking any gift-idea in the mouth is also the best safeguard against the lazy cynicism that would rather sneer than investigate, as well as against the spurious individualism which, because of its intentness on being different at any cost, never walks a way of its own and succeeds only in resembling a sheep walking backwards.
Beside making thought on questions of the kind indicated unemotional, objective, informed, honest, free, and critical, training in philosophy also develops in those who undergo it the intellectual apparatus indispensable to make thought on such questions really effective. For whether abstract thought be about questions which, like those here in view, are of universal interest, or about questions which, as in mathematics, occur only to technicians, -- such thought can be effective only in proportion to the rigor of its logical procedure. And the proper presentation or discussion of philosophical ideas requires those who engage in it to specify precisely the meaning of their terms, to adhere consistently to the meaning specified, to develop trains of abstract thought systematically, and to set them forth in an orderly manner. It makes them sensitive to those often fine distinctions without which confusion of thought cannot be avoided, and puts them on their guard against the ambiguities of language and the fallacies to which the processes of reasoning are exposed.
It is not asserted here that some of the benefits of training in philosophy which have just been reviewed may not be obtained from studies of a different sort. It is contended only that, for dealing with problems of the type under consideration, philosophical trailing is by far the most effective, and is the only kind of training which is adapted to bring about all the results described. For example, the study of mathematics indeed provides discipline in rigorous logical thought, but only where the entities reasoned about are such as lend themselves to mathematical symbolization. These entities, moreover, are freest of all from emotional entanglements and reasoning about them furnishes no practice in thinking unemotionally about emotion-laden subjects, which most require it. This remark would apply also to most of the things investigated by the natural sciences. These sciences, however, do provide training in the discernment of objective considerations where their own special subject-matter is concerned. Thus in the study of biology, which touches certain questions charged with emotion, -- such as that of evolution, -- some practice in unemotional thinking is obtained, but not the discipline in precise abstract thinking, nor the catholicity of outlook that result from philosophical studies. The same thing is true of psychology, although the study of it is a valuable means of immunization to rhetoric, propaganda, advertisements, etc.
c) Philosophy provides a certain direct satisfaction. There is yet another kind of value to be obtained from the study of philosophy which might easily be overlooked when attention is concentrated on the contribution of philosophy to human progress. For progress is a notion which, involves reference to the future, and the value that anything has in so far as it contributes to progress is therefore instrumental value. But not all values are instrumental, -- not all things that are good are only "good for," i.e., good only as means to something other than themselves. There are also direct, immediate satisfactions. And whatever yields them is in so far itself good, whether or not it be also good for, i.e., useful to, something else. The experience of beauty would be an example. A beautiful sunset is a good to the beholder of it even if the perception of it does not also serve as a means to other goods. And it is indeed to the obtaining of these direct and immediate satisfactions that the things which have instrumental value are means. Without these direct satisfactions, the things which we call useful would ultimately be useful for nothing, or at least nothing good.
Now philosophical reflection, apart from its utility as already set forth, is often itself a source of direct satisfaction. The impulse to reflect on questions such as those exemplified above is deeply rooted in many persons, and in those persons the exercise of that impulse, aside from the results of it, is itself a source of deep immediate satisfaction. Such persons, in various degrees, feel with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living. Philosophical reflection is for them an indispensable constituent of happiness. It is a good in its own right, just as are play, beauty, adventure, etc.
PHILOSOPHY IN HIGHER EDUCATION
THE PLACE OF PHILOSOPHY IN COLLEGE AND GRADUATE EDUCATIO
1. Unique Position of Philosophy in the Curriculum.
Among the subjects taught in a university, philosophy has a position unique in kind. Whereas the other subjects in the curriculum naturally fall into the three groups of natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts and literatures, philosophy does not properly fit in any of them. If arbitrarily forced into one, it does not constitute an election alternative to the other subjects with which it is grouped, in the sense in which they can fairly be considered alternative one to another, the only subject with which philosophy could be grouped in any rational way would be mathematics, which is also an abstract science and which modern researches have exhibited as really continuous with one branch of philosophy, namely logic.
But although mathematics and modern logic could, not as tool subjects but as intellectual disciplines, be considered as fair alternatives, there are no substitutes for the sort of knowledge with which the other branches of philosophy are concerned. It is only in so far as the other subjects taught turn from their normal courses and begin to reflect critically upon their own foundations, -- that is to say, become philosophical, -- that they may be thought of as in any way substitutes for a study of philosophy. But even then they are not adequate substitutes, for the reflection that they themselves may undertake concerning their own foundations is always more or less ad hoc, i.e., due to some specific difficulty arising within their field, and perceived to be insoluble on the old foundations and therefore to call for the construction of others new at least in part. Examples of this have in recent years occurred in the realm of physics, but these very examples have shown that when the philosophical reflection of physicists abandons its strictly ad hoc character, and attempts to give birth to a metaphysics, the result, although it nay impress the general reader because of the great names attached to it, has all the naivete that is to be expected when men venture into a technical field where they are but untrained amateurs.
The position of philosophy is unique in kind because philosophy studies a type of subject-matter different from that of either the natural or social sciences, or the arts and literatures. But it may also be asserted that, in an education which attempts to be liberal, the study of philosophy is unique in importance as well as in kind. This is so because the freedom of thought, the versatility of outlook, and the catholicity of appreciation, which philosophy alone deliberately and systematically cultivates as an end constitute the very essence of what is called liberal attitude.
If these contentions are correct, there are then good objective grounds, -- and not merely the natural but subjective bias for his own subject on the part of the writer of this report, -- for giving philosophy a unique place in the liberal arts curriculum. This will mean, not placing it with other subjects in a group from which election of one is required of the student, but rather frankly recognizing the fact that philosophy constitutes a distinct group, of which it is the only member, and indeed one which, because of its nature, forms the very foundation of a liberal attitude. And this entails that the study of philosophy should be required of every student seeking a liberal education, and required in greater amount than that of the other subjects outside his field of concentration. It entails also that philosophy is the naturally indicated field of concentration for students who desire a liberal education, but who have no antecedent special interest that would lead them to concentrate in one rather than another subject. For no special reason, many such students concentrate in English, but discover later that the ideas is which they are interested, and which appear more or less casually in literature, are systematically discussed only in courses in philosophy.
2. Classes of Students of Philosophy.
The students who come to a department of philosophy for instruction may be divided into three or four main groups, the character and special needs of which, the department should carefully consider in planning its work, fhese groups are as follows:
- Students who take only one year of philosophy, to satisfy the usual requirement for graduation.
- Students who concentrate in some field other than philosophy, but realize that some of the branches of philosophy have an important bearing upon the foundations of their own subject, and desire to study that bearing.
- Students who choose philosophy as their concentration subject, or who become sufficiently interested in philosophy to desire to make a more advanced study of some of its problems.
- Graduate students in the field of philosophy.
The special needs of the students in each of these groups will now be considered briefly.
a) First Group. The group of students who take a one-year course in philosophy to satisfy the customary requirement for graduation is generally the largest with which the department has to deal. Most of these students will usually be Sophomores; a smaller number, Juniors; and a few, Seniors. Only a small proportion of them are likely to take any work in philosophy additional to the required one-year course; and one of the most difficult practical problems the department has to face is how to conduct that course.
It is easier to point out two typical ways of conducting it that are unsatisfactory than to describe one that is wholly satisfactory. One of these unsatisfactory ways consists of making the course a survey of the history of philosophy from the Greeks to modern times. A purely historical study of philosophical problems is likely to be found very dry by the beginning student. Moreover, because the assumptions of philosophical thinkers who lived in other ages and other intellectual environments, in the terms of which they formulated their problems, were often very different from those current to-day, a historical first approach to those problems is likely to make philosophy appear concerned only with the study of the quaint, but seemingly very dead and useless specimens in a museum of intellectual antiquities. That large numbers of students should carry away with them such an impression would be exceedingly unfortunate.
The other typical but also unsatisfactory way of conducting the course attempts to present and discuss the main problems of philosophy purely on their own merits. But because the time is much too short, the students immature and unprepared, and the problems difficult, only the most superficial examination of these problems is possible. And such an examination is likely to leave with the student only an indefinite recollection of a lot of contending "isms," without any appreciation of the real significance of the issues involved or any conclusions that he can use. The final impression on the student is here again likely to be that philosophy is a rather futile subject.
It is indeed a question how far by any method it is possible in a one-year course to give to the average sophomore a living insight into the nature and basic importance of the problems that philosophy studies. But if one year only is available, it seems to the writer that the most profitable way of conducting the general introductory course in philosophy is a compromise between the two unsatisfactory ways just described. That compromise would present some of the main problems of philosophy as they were treated by the great philosophers, but without any particular insistence upon purely historical considerations. Rather, the effort in each case would be to exhibit as truly living the issues involved, by translating them freely into the terms in which they are likely to confront any reflective individual in the present day. The introductory course as so conducted can, if the instructor has sufficient skill, make the student realize in some measure that the problems discussed, however abstract, are not divorced from life but rather connected with its very roots; it may arouse in him some curiosity to read for himself what contemporary writers have to say about those problems; and it can at the same time give him enough acquaintance with a number of the greatest figures in the history of philosophical thought to enable him to understand most of the allusions to their doctrines that he is likely to meet in his general reading. This introductory course, being the most difficult to teach successfully, should be taught by a member of the staff who has a keen interest in it and is a skilful and stimulating teacher.
b) Second Group. A very important group of students, composed both of graduates and undergraduates, consists of those who come to the department of philosophy because of the light which they believe some of the branches of philosophy can throw on the foundations and the human significance of their own concentration subject, or of other subjects in which they happen to be especially interested.
These students represent one of the most effective avenues through which the fruits of work in pure philosophy can be brought into living contact with related problems in other fields. What may be called contact -- or liaison-courses should be devised especially for such students. And it may be said parenthetically that courses of this general type, wherever they can be introduced in the university, are in the writer's opinion the most natural and promising remedy for the mutual insulation of subjects in departments, about which complaint is often made. The proposal to remedy that insulation by abolishing the identity of departments and fusing them into more inclusive wholes, on the other hand, is likely to impress anyone having first hand knowledge of the concrete tasks of a scholar and teacher as foredoomed to failure. By such means, these more inclusive wholes can probably be brought into existence only on paper in offices of administration. The only place where two subjects can be brought into organic contact and fertilize each other is not a building but a head, -- the head of a man who is a specialist in one of them and who has at the same time an interest in, and substantial knowledge of the other.
Students of other subjects who come to philosophy out of a conscious need for the light that it may throw on their own fall into the following main sub-classes:
- Students of the Social Sciences
- Students of the Natural Sciences
- Students of Literature
- Students of Theology and Religion
- Students of Art.
These students would normally already have taken the general introductory course, which ought to be regarded as prerequisite to any of the courses devised especially for their needs.
(i) For students of the Social Sciences, a course in Social Ethics should be arranged, dealing with the applications of ethical principles to problems arising in the fields of government, law, international relations, economics, social welfare, education, art, the family, religion. Such a course should not attempt to give the students ready-made answers to questions as to what kind of government, of education, of economic system, etc. is best; but rather should aim to make evident to them the fact that only on the basis of appeal to fundamental ethical principles can any rationally defensible answers be given to such questions. These principles should be examined, and, in the light of them, a variety of proposed answers critically discussed. A course of this kind would have as a natural prerequisite also the introductory Ethics course; although by incorporating a portion of the latter within itself, it might be made self-contained.
(ii) Primarily for students of the Natural Sciences, but of interest also to students of the Social Sciences, would be a course in the Philosophy of Science. Such a course should aim to make clear the essential characters of scientific method, as distinguished from the special characters that it assumes in its application to the problems of particular sciences. It should inquire into the nature of the knowledge that science seeks, and examine the notions of Truth, Probability, Evidence, Measurement, Accuracy, Scientific Law, Explanation; the function of theories; and the basic assumptions underlying scientific investigations. In the light of the results of that inquiry, the issues in the theory of knowledge which arise in connection with mathematics, physics, biology, psychology, and the social sciences, should be discussed. A course in logic could, in addition to the general introduction, profitably precede this course.
(iii) For students of literature a special course would be most valuable that should deal with the typical varieties and essential aims or functions of literary art, the principal theories of literary criticism, and the philosophical traditions, systems, and problems that have been of greatest influence in literature. Numerous references to exemplifications in literature, of the matters discussed, should be given. A course of this kind might well be preceded by a general course in the Philosophy of Art, but could, by incorporating portions of the latter, be made independent of it.
Other courses in philosophy which, although not devised especially for students of literature, can be of considerable value to them are those in the Philosophy of Art, Social Ethics, the History of Philosophy, and on occasion, courses dealing with single philosophers or philosophical movements. Indeed, it could well be maintained that a strong minor in philosophy should be the rule for students of literature. As pointed out in an earlier chapter, the connection between philosophy and a large proportion of literature is very close; and students of literature who give to philosophy a substantial amount of time almost always find that it results in a notable sharpening of their critical powers.
(iv) For students preparing for the ministry, or otherwise interested in theology and the study of religion, a course in the Philosophy of Religion would obviously be indicated. It should discuss the constituents which appear essential to religion in its main historical and psychological aspects, and consider the relevance of Religion to contemporary issues and problems. It should include an examination of the chief types of religion, both primitive and advanced; of the variety of conceptions of the divine, the classical arguments for the existence of God, the nature of evil, the concept of sin, the nature of conscience, etc. Such a course could profitably be followed by one in Metaphysics, the latter subject being in some cases indistinguishable from Natural Theology.
For students in this group, courses in the History of Philosophy, in Logic, and in the Philosophy of Science, should be of great value. The ignorance, inadequate intellectual training, and resulting obscurantism of vast numbers of ministers in this country have done more real harm to the churches than attacks upon them from outside. And species of religion that can flourish only in intellectual darkness are doomed in this age. Several of the better theological seminaries already advise their prospective students to choose philosophy as their major subject in college.
(v) For students of the history of the various arts, and for those who are fitting themselves to become practitioners or critics of some one of them, a course in the Philosophy of Art is distinctly appropriate. Extemporized or half-baked philosophies of art infest the air of every studio, to say nothing of the pages of books on art-criticism and art-appreciation. A systematic inquiry into such questions as that of the nature of the aesthetic experience, the functions of form, content, and expression in a work of art, the problem of standards of criticism, and the general relation of art to human life, is well-nigh indispensable to enable the student to recognize the countless dogmatic assertions on these subjects for what they really are, and to give him a degree of immunity to the extravagances alike of conservative and of radical doctrinaires in the realm of art.
c) Third Group. For students who choose philosophy as their concentration subject, a pretty thorough course of at least one year in the history of occidental philosophy is a most desirable foundation, and may by them be taken instead of the general introductory course. Without an acquaintance with the more important doctrines of all the more eminent ancient, medieval, and modern philosophers, the student taking advanced work in philosophy will find himself often puzzled to understand the meaning of references to them made in the works of contemporary philosophical writers. One course in Ethics, one in Logic, and one in General Psychology, should normally be included in a program of undergraduate concentration in philosophy, the rest of the program may then be made up on the basis of the individual student's special interest among the branches of philosophy. To such interest also should be left the selection of courses by students who do not concentrate in philosophy, but who, having taken the general introductory course, decide to do additional work in pure philosophy.
d) Fourth Group. The work of graduate students in philosophy, if they have been well prepared, should, especially as they advance, be less and less a matter of taking set courses, and more and more one of working on their own initiative. Candidates for the Doctor's degree, and also in the writer's opinion candidates for the Master's degree, should be given to understand at the outset that their task is essentially to write their thesis and to prepare themselves for their degree examinations. The nature and the scope of those examinations, and the degree of mastery expected in them should be defined for the student as clearly as possible at the beginning, and in writing. Courses should be regarded by him only in the light of possible helps in preparing himself, to be supplemented at all needed points by his own independent work. In this independent work, indeed, he should have the benefit of guidance by an experienced scholar. But it is not necessary that set courses in a great variety of subjects be scheduled. Aside from seminars the guidance of graduate students should be mostly a matter of individual conferences, during which the instructor discusses with the student questions that have arisen in his mind, tests his grasp of the reading that he has done, indicates to him numbers of comprehensive questions which he should be prepared to answer, and offers suggestions that may help him to develop in a fruitful manner ideas that have occurred to him.
This is to say that, at all events in the field of philosophy, graduate training should be carried on under conditions which make possible abundant individual contact between students and teachers. And this will almost necessarily mean that the number of students in a given graduate department must not be large relatively to the number of instructors on the staff. An important service that instructors of graduate students can render then is to insist from the outset on their being business-like in the manner in which they investigate their problems and write up their results. It should be impressed upon them that the advancement of knowledge in the field of philosophy will eventually rest upon them, and that they should not be satisfied merely to play with the ideas that occur to them, but should probe them thoroughly enough to explode them if unsound, or, if they appear sound, to publish their results for the scrutiny of others.
3. Necessary and Dispensable Courses.
Of the courses in philosophy available in colleges and universities, some may reasonably be characterized as standard courses, and others as dispensable. By standard courses are meant here the basic courses in the principal branches of philosophy, and the courses devised to establish an effective contact between philosophy and the problems which arise in the minds of students concentrating in subjects other than philosophy. By dispensable courses, on the other hand, are meant courses which, however worthwhile, come into neither of these two classes.
An attempt is made below to list the courses which would constitute a standard offering for the undergraduate work of a department of philosophy aiming to take adequate care of the needs of students falling into the first, second, and third groups described in the preceding section, -- it being assumed that of those who choose philosophy as major, some will desire to prepare themselves for graduate work in the subject.
1. General course: Introduction to Philosophy (one or two semesters) 2. Fundamental courses: Ethics (one semester)
Logic (one semester)
History of Philosophy (Ancient, Mediaeval, Modern, and Recent, three semesters)
Theory of Knowledge (one semester)
Metaphysics (one semester)
3. Contact courses. Social Ethics (one semester)
Philosophy of Science (one semester)
Philosophy of Religion (one semester)
Aesthetics (one semester)
Philosophy in Relation to Literature (one semester)
4. Advanced courses: - A course with variable topic, in which more intensive study of the works of individual philosophers, or of certain philosophical problems, is undertaken.
- Advanced one-semester courses in Logic and Ethics if and when the number of students interested in them warrants it.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF EDUCATION IN PHILOSOPHY
1. Directing to Philosophy Undergraduates Who Should Study It.
The undergraduate who has not yet had any work in philosophy usually has not the least notion of what philosophy is, or of its functions. His ignorance in regard to this is far more complete and harder to remedy in a few words than in the case of any other subject in the curriculum.
For this reason, it is very desirable that the Department of Philosophy should prepare and distribute freely among undergraduates a booklet describing, -- largely in terms of lists of typical questions discussed in each, -- the courses that it offers; and explaining in the briefest and clearest manner possible the nature and value of philosophical studies. Undergraduates who happen not to have come in contact with philosophy until their senior year frequently remark that they wish they had known earlier that such a subject existed, for it is what they were interested in, without knowing that it was being taught in college. The free distribution of such a pamphlet, especially among freshmen and sophomores, would enable them to determine more intelligently the place that philosophy should occupy in their program of studies.
2. The Historical and the Systematic Points of View in Philosophical Studies.
Something should be said in the present chapter concerning two contrasted defects from one or the other of which instruction in philosophy often suffers. They are, on the one hand, an almost exclusively historical treatment of its problems, and on the other, too great a neglect of their history. The first defect is probably the more common, perhaps owing to the fact that the majority of persons who teach philosophy to-day are none too well equipped for original creative or critical work. Faithful, painstaking study and presentation of the works of others is easier for them, and a department of philosophy composed entirely of men with this type of interest will almost make it appear that philosophy has no subject-matter but its own history! Under such conditions research in philosophy tends to be conceived only as consisting of the exhumation and dissection of obscure and unimportant philosophers who would have better remained decently burled.
The writer is strongly of the opinion that philosophy is a living and important, although a relatively undeveloped subject. A knowledge of what earlier investigators of its problems have thought is of moment indeed, but primarily as a basis for constructive work towards the solution of those problems. It is with philosophy as with the natural sciences, which could not have advanced as they have, had they conceived their essential task to be the painstakingly faithful study of the opinions of earlier writers in their fields. They progressed, rather, from the moment when they addressed themselves directly to their subject-matter. And a direct attack upon its own subject-matter is likewise the essential business of philosophy, as well as the real source of vitality for it. Such direct attack, indeed, has always been that of the philosophers who in the past have made the history which others now would be content only to review.
It must be freely acknowledged that progress in the discovery of philosophical truth is a very difficult task, and one calling for distinctly superior endowments and training on the part of those who would attempt it. But this situation should not be met by giving up the attempt and taking refuge in purely historical studies, for this would amount to a declaration that philosophy is a finished subject, and finished not in the sense of perfected, but of dead. Rather, the difficulties should be met by selecting more rigidly the students admitted to advanced work in philosophy; by so shaping their training that, in addition to making of them well equipped scholars, it will stimulate their powers for original creative work; and by encouraging in every possible way work of this kind, in preference to the historical studies which, because so much more clear cut, amenable to plan, and certain of success, are likely to be selected as recipients of grants in aid. What philosophy most needs is the work of brilliant, well-trained minds, original enough to think of new methods and of new angles of attack upon the old problems; for further progress in the solution of them is not likely so long as they continue to be conceived in the same old loose terms and dealt with in the same old loose ways. The writer has already indicated his conviction that philosophical thinking, though still in considerable measure literary, is susceptible of being made exact, -- indeed, as exact, ultimately, as mathematical thinking, -- and the most significant work in the field of philosophy to-day, in his opinion, is that which aims at the discovery of ways of applying more logically rigorous modes of thinking to philosophical questions.
These remarks are not to be interpreted as denying importance or interest to the study of the works of earlier philosophers, but only as emphasizing the fact that such study is no substitute for the original creative work urgently needed in the field of philosophy. Rightly used historical studies are a precious help in such work, and guard it from the naiveness and irresponsibility that would otherwise doom to futility the attempt to make progress.
3. Teaching Methods and Devices.
The lecture method of teaching is out of favor with those disposed to stress almost to the disregard of everything else the importance of training the student to work independently and develop intellectual resourcefulness. But although the importance of such training would be difficult to exaggerate, it has been contended earlier in this report that the acquisition of a certain fund of knowledge, -- both a surface knowledge of many things and a deeper knowledge of some one thing, -- is also an essential part of a good liberal education. And for the acquisition of knowledge the lecture method is in many cases a very efficient time and labor-saving instrument. In no other way can so much ground be covered in such a short time, and in a manner making possible to the same degree the wise selection of material, its orderly presentation, the accentuation of essentials, and the adequate illustration of principles. A good introductory lecture course in a given subject can and should provide a solid framework upon which to hang later acquisitions of knowledge and developing ideas. And this need not imply acceptance by the student of the views of the subject presented by the lecturer. The firm grasp of a definite, connected view with which to disagree is an excellent foundation for significant disagreement and fruitful constructive work. And, at least in philosophy, independent reading and reflection are for all but a negligibly small minority of students exceedingly difficult and unrewarding until a certain amount of knowledge of the subject has been acquired, and a familiarity obtained with the thought processes characteristic of it.
The type of lecture the value of which is here maintained as a means of instruction is not the oratorical kind, which, however interesting and provocative of enthusiasm it may be, usually provides but the thinnest of intellectual nourishment. And it is very desirable that when the number of students is such as not to admit of questions being asked and discussed at the time, the lectures should be supplemented by discussion sections numbering not more than from 15 to 20 students each.
For the majority of courses in philosophy, other than relatively large introductory ones, the method of informal lecture mixed with discussion of questions as they arise, or criticism of reports presented to the class by the students, is the most appropriate. For the best results the number of students in such courses should generally remain below fifteen.
The preparation of written reports by students on work assigned to them is, in the field of philosophy, one of the best available means of getting the students to work and to do some thinking. To assign reading without requiring a written report is often of little avail. The requirement of numerous written reports, however, involves a need for the services of competent assistants to read the bulk of them, for otherwise the teacher is entirely swamped by them, and his efficiency impaired.
To stimulate and develop the student's latent powers of independent work is the chief aim of what are called honors courses, and of other facilities offered to students accepted as candidates for final honors. In the field of philosophy, the more advanced courses open to undergraduates have in most institutions only a small number of students, and can be conducted more or less in the manner of good conferences. Hence they offer without additional provisions such opportunities for better, more responsible, and more individual work, as are sought by the more earnest or gifted students. The writer believes, however, that the effectiveness of the training given by a department of philosophy to its better students can be greatly increased by the introduction, at least in the senior year, of a special course of Independent Stuoy by the Problem Method.
In such a course, the student is required to report in writing upon questions or problems assigned to him from time to time during the year. These questions are far more searching than final examination questions could be; and they are so framed as to make them comprehensive of his various fields of philosophical study, of their interrelations, and of their relations to other subjects. The questions are such that the preparation of answers to them calls for the exercise of intellectual initiative, for the use of independent critical judgment, and for considerable well-coordinated reading. The course aims to deal with each student individually, and taking as a starting point the philosophical equipment which he has already acquired, assigns to him problems in the direction of his special interests, such as will force him to put this equipment to use instead of merely keeping it in his memory as something learned.
A course of this kind is capable of discharging the following functions:
It constitutes in effect a Comprehensive Examination lasting throughout the year and far more searching than could be given at the end of the year.
In effect, it is equivalent to the preparation of a number of limited Senior Theses, any one of which can be permitted to develop beyond its initial limits if that seems desirable.
It constitutes a Course of Independent Reading, but one more valuable than if it had been pursued with the artificial aim of passing an examination. For in the field of philosophy, independent reading by students not very far advanced tends to be profitable and interesting in proportion as it is done with definite questions in mind, the solution of which is being sought. It provides for the students the advantages of tutorial sessions.
4. Requirements for Graduate Degrees.
The writer believes that the work leading to the degree of Master of Arts in philosophy should be of truly graduate character, and not, as is often the case, represent only one more year spent in work of much the same kind as that of the last two college years. This means that the A.M. degree should not be obtainable in one year except by students whose undergraduate preparation in philosophy has been good in both quality and quantity. The degree should be conferred only upon the satisfactory completion of a thesis, and the passing of an examination of which the program has been drawn up with the student at the beginning of the year. He should be given to understand at the outset that his task for the year is to prepare himself to pass this examination, and that courses are to be viewed by him only as a possible source of help to that end. A reading knowledge of at least one foreign language should be demanded. A reasonable set of requirements might read as follows:
At the beginning of the year, the student will be required to select four subjects, including the History of Philosophy, for the Master's examination. This selection, which must be submitted in writing and approved by the Department, shall be made from the following list: History of Philosophy, Logic, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Aesthetics, Philosophy of Religion, Ethics, Psychology. In each subject selected, the scope and nature of the examination for which the candidate is to prepare himself will be indicated to him at the time he makes his selection. The degree of mastery of the ground then indicated, which the examination will be expected to demonstrate, shall be not inferior to that required for a grade of B in graduate courses to which upperclassmen are admitted. The candidate must in addition be prepared to undergo a more searching examination on the topic of his thesis. The candidate, unless excused on the basis of previous preparation, must take the language examination at least six months before the Master's Examinations. The thesis need not necessarily constitute a contribution to knowledge, but it must demonstrate the candidate's ability to investigate a topic in a scholarly manner, to exercise critical judgment as to the issues involved, and to organize his material and present his results effectively.
The graduate student's performance in the Master's thesis and examinations, when they are conceived as above, may well be used to determine whether he should be allowed to proceed further towards the Doctor's degree. With the scarcity of teaching positions in philosophy available to-day and the need in this field for men of higher intellectual endowments and more thorough training, there is no excuse for admitting any but individuals of truly outstanding gifts to candidacy for the Doctorate. At the same time more exacting standards than have often obtained in the past should be maintained in the conferring of the degree. Not less than two, and preferably three or more years of work beyond the A.M. degree should be devoted by the student to his preparation for the Ph.D. degree. Graduate schools in institutions of high rank vary in their methods of examination leading to the degree; but an adequate scheme might consist of a set of searching examinations comprehensive of the entire range of the candidate's philosophical studies, to be taken a year more or less before he receives the degree; and of a final examination, mainly on the field of his thesis. The last year of work should be devoted to the writing of the thesis. In such a scheme the Master's examinations and thesis should serve as "preliminary" in the sense of determining the student's admission or non-admission to candidacy for the Doctor's degree. A reasonable definition of the nature and scope of the doctoral examinations might be as follows:
The Comprehensive Examinations must be passed in time to leave the last year of the candidate's time free for work on his thesis. These examinations will be written, but may, if the Department desires, be supplemented by an oral examination, they cannot be divided but must be passed as a whole, and if not passed may be attempted again only once, with the consent of the Department. The examinations in French and German must have been passed by the candidate before he presents himself for the Comprehensive Examinations . The latter will cover five subjects, including the History of Philosophy. The selection of these subjects is to be made by the student and approved by the Department at least a year in advance, from the following list: History of Philosophy, Logic, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Aesthetics, Philosophy of Religion, Ethics. The examination in the History of Philosophy will consist of two parts: one a general examination on the history of occidental philosophy (ancient, mediaeval, modern, and contemporary); and the other a special examination on two philosophical authors selected in advance by the student with the approval of the Department. At the time the selection of subjects is made, the ground to be covered by the examination in each will be indicated to the student, the degree of mastery of the ground then indicated shall correspond to that required for a grade of A in courses primarily for graduates, the candidate may also be asked to prepare and deliver a lecture on some topic assigned to him at short notice from the subjects in which he has offered himself for examination. In the Final Examination, which will be mainly on the field of the thesis, considerable importance will be attached to the candidate's ability to present and defend the results of his investigation in clear and resourceful manner.
It is very desirable that candidates for the Ph.D. degree in philosophy who expect to become teachers of the subject should for a year or two have devoted a portion of their time to the rendering of assistance in the undergraduate courses in the department. This assistance should include the reading and grading of test papers and reports, the preparation of test questions or exercises to be given to the class, the conducting of quiz or discussion sections, and the giving of occasional lectures, -- all of such work to be done under the close supervision of experienced members of the staff,
5. Physical Equipment.
The writer believes that luxurious quarters for a university department are quite unnecessary, but there are some provisions, requiring forethought rather than any large expenditure, which can add a great deal to the efficiency of the work done by a Department of Philosophy.
One of them is that of some small, quiet classrooms equipped with a long table around which about 12 persons can sit, with another row of chairs behind them for as many more. For classes in which discussion is an essential element, a circular or elliptical seating arrangement is of the utmost importance, for only by means of it can students clearly hear one another's remarks, and thus maintain their interest in the proceedings. The writer has seen the work of a class radically transformed in character and quality when the class was moved to a quiet room with such a seating arrangement from one where all the seats faced the desk and where street noises were audible.
A second important physical provision is that of what may be called a departmental home, comprising the offices of the members of the staff, the departmental library, and a philosophy club room where the graduate and undergraduate students in the department may conveniently meet and converse together when the spirit moves them. These rooms should be grouped closely together. Such a departmental home constitutes a most effective instrument for the maintenance of contacts by members of the staff, both with one another and with graduate and undergraduate students working in the department. It is a powerful factor in giving coherence and momentum to the work of the department.
This does not mean, however, that the department staff should be at the beck and call of students at all times, -- a state of affairs sometimes urged as desirable by persons who are afflicted by the strange delusion that the most valuable contacts of students with teachers are those which occur outside of classes. It should indeed be possible for students to see the members of the staff either at specified hours or by appointment. Meetings of the Philosophy Club, informal departmental teas in the club room, etc., should provide opportunities of a more social nature for personal acquaintance. But the place where a scholar (whether teacher or student) does his work is his study, -- a place where he is alone and undisturbed, and where he ought to be most of the time when he is not in the classroom.
6. Scholarships and Fellowships.
The writer believes that financial assistance to students in the form of scholarships or fellowships should be given only on the basis jointly of demonstrated superior ability and earnestness, and of financial need. Such funds as may be intended by their donors for the advancement of education should, not be used to help through college students belonging to the class whose aims are primarily extra-cultural, since, with them, education in confessedly a side-issue. It was granted above that the aims of such students in coming to college are legitimate enough and that their four years in college are of undoubted value to them. But financial help, when they need it, should either be provided by loans to be repaid later, or be derived from funds provided by donors specially interested in helping students of this type. Funds intended for the advancement of education should be used for scholarships and fellowships to be awarded only to students whose aims are primarily technical, or primarily liberal, -- and then only in the case of students who, in addition to being in need of help, have given clear evidence of superior intelligence, earnestness and promise. For students of this description, the necessity of working their way through college by outside employment is to be deplored because, despite such positive values as it may have, it seriously interferes with the possibility of their taking the fullest advantage of the educational opportunities that college offers.
It seems to the writer that a scheme of very great educational value would consist in the establishment of a fairly large number of substantial scholarships, to be competed for by students of the type described from all parts of the country. These scholarships should begin with the Junior year, and carry the expectation of their being continued in the Graduate School if the student desires to work for a graduate degree and the quality of his work continues outstanding. The student should be allowed to go to any university approved for the subject in which he desires to specialize, -- this, incidentally, having the result of putting the universities, as well as the students, in mutual competition.
Of these scholarships, some might be open for study of any subject, and others designated for specified subjects. In this suggestion the writer has philosophy particularly in mind. If, as he has contended, philosophy is, other things being equal, the most natural foundation for a liberal education; is moreover a subject the cultivation of which is of vital importance to the advancement of civilization; and is withal that of which the nature and value are most unknown to the average underclassman in college; then the designating of a number of those scholarships specifically for philosophy would be an excellent means of directing to it the attention of the students to whom it should be of particular interest or advantage.
The writer has already indicated his belief that, at the present time, graduate education is of still greater significance to society than undergraduate education; and he is therefore of the opinion that a set of graduate Fellowships, to be administered on the same sort of basis as the Scholarships just described, should be instituted in addition to the scholarships, or, indeed, in preference to them should a choice between the two have to be made.
7. The Staff of the Department.
As to new appointments to the staff, little can be said that could have practical value. Since the recommendation of the men already on the staff largely determines who shall be called to fill a vacancy, their own quality, whether mediocre or excellent, will have a tendency to perpetuate itself; and even when the appointing officer of an institution has good reasons to doubt the wisdom of their judgment, it is seldom practically expedient for him to make an appointment in conflict with it.
The appointment to the staff of a department of men who received their graduate training there may be occasionally wise. It has the advantage that the prospective appointee's capacities and personal characteristics are likely to be pretty definitely known at the time and that the appointment is therefore less of a gamble than otherwise would be the case. And if the departmental staff is one on which radically different points of view are represented, and the appointee is himself a man of pronounced intellectual independence, the danger of inbreeding is then not great.
But a staff consisting mostly of men who were trained on the spot, -- especially if the department is one that has been largely dominated by one man or characterized by one point of view, --constitutes a very unfortunate situation. The men in it, naturally not meeting there with any sharp challenge of their views, are likely to develop an exaggerated idea of one another's merits, or of the importance of the tradition which they more or less automatically carry on. Such a department is likely to live an insulated intellectual life, laden with unconscious prejudices and self-approval which make it ignore as heresies or dismiss with contempt ideas or movements that conflict with the orthodoxy of its tradition.
The best principle of selection of new appointees is rather that of selecting only men of the highest intellectual capacities and standards, who can then entertain towards one another the respect and confidence necessary for the smooth running of the department, but whose fundamental views and special interests are as diverse as possible.
The general question of the relation between good teaching and the carrying on of research by members of the staff need not be taken up here. But the writer is of the opinion that in the field of philosophy more perhaps than in any other, really significant teaching can be done only by men whose minds are rigorously and independently active, and growing; and this is almost equivalent to saying that they are men regularly carrying on research or creative work in their field. No amount of teaching experience, or of attention to teaching technique, -- important as these are, -- can take the place of this in making the student realize that philosophy is not the merely quaint but futile branch of polite learning which otherwise it say easily seem to be, but a living and momentous subject.
The writer is strongly of the opinion that a teaching load of nine hours is the maximum consistent with the continued intellectual growth and achievement that should be insisted upon in a teacher of philosophy. And although the younger men in a department may have sufficient physical vitality to carry a heavier load, it must be remembered that these younger men are also the very ones whose lesser experience and maturity make necessary extra reading and extra work in the preparation of their courses. Their teaching load should therefore not be made heavier than that of the man of higher academic rank.
The writer believes that ample secretarial and paper-reading assistance should be provided in a department of philosophy composed of men of the type described. It is not economy, but on the contrary wanton extravagance, to let such men do work that a secretary or a competent graduate student can do equally well.