An internet resource developed by
Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario
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Jacob Gould Schurman (1892)
First published in Philosophical Review, 1, 1-8.
Posted September 2000
There is scarcely a province of the entire realm of science and scholarship which is now without an official organ in America. New journals of Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, Philology, Archæology, etc., have within the last decade or two succeeded one another with astounding rapidity. But whether it is that Philosophy is the late product of a nation's maturity, or that the example of the sporadic and incidental efforts to which the British people are mainly indebted for their systems of thought has infected the habits of the American branch of the Anglo-Saxon race, the fact certainly is that there does not exist amongst us any periodical organ which concerns itself exclusively with Philosophy in general, or even an academy or a society which, in the absence of such an organ, might bring the philosophical minds of the nation into fruitful co-operation for the promotion of their common object. There is neither an organ nor an organization of Philosophical activity in America.
If, however, we reflect a little upon the conditions, we shall have to acknowledge that, whatever be the pre-conceptions of supercilious critics, America is a land of great promise for Philosophy. Why did the Greeks excel all peoples of antiquity [p. 2] in their efforts at philosophical inquiry? In the first place, as Zeller assures us, they were favored by the character of their abode, which afforded stimulus and resources of the most diverse kinds along with rewards for those who earned them, and by its situation between Europe and Asia whereby the inhabitants were marked out for the liveliest intercourse with each other and with their neighbors. When we remember that the distance between America and Europe has now been reduced to a fraction over five days, and the distance between America and Asia to less than twice that time, we shall see that Zeller's conception of the Hellenic world as a "bridge connecting Europe and Asia" is especially applicable to America, though Americans scarcely need to leave their own country for the boon of intercourse with foreign races, European or Asiatic. The other topographical features of the home of the Hellenes are also characteristic of America if only they be raised to a higher power; that is, if only we imagine the area of their country indefinitely expanded, its resources indefinitely multiplied, and its facilities for intercommunication and intercourse indefinitely increased. In the second place, Zeller finds the originating ground of Greek Philosophy in the numerous and happily combined endowments of the people: in their practical address and active power, in their æsthetic feeling and thirst for knowledge, in the equipoise of their realism and idealism, in their acute perception of individuality and their harmonious conception of a totality, and in their openness to foreign influences along with the self-poised independence that enabled them to assimilate what they received. If this picture of natural endowment, to which might be added a unique vein of humor, be not the counterfeit presentment of the American temperament, there is certainly [p. 3] no other people of whom so many of the features are accurately descriptive. Even our critics would probably concede us everything except the idealistic mood and perhaps (though Edwards would be the refutation) the speculative grasp. What is wanting, however, to the original Saxon stock in these respects is being developed, so observation would seem to show, from the German and other foreign grafts now happily incorporated with it. As the mixing-place of the Same and the Other (to apply the striking terminology of Plato), there is every reason to believe that America will be the scene on which that mater-demiurgus, the human spirit, will manifest its next world-phase of philosophical discovery, interpretation, and construction. And this confidence is further justified by Zeller's account of the third and last condition of the origin of Greek philosophy. This he finds in the condition of Hellenic civilization, more particularly, in the course and actual attainment of the religious, moral, political, and artistic development of the Hellenes. On the one hand, Greek culture was characterized by freedom, -- freedom of government for the city-states, freedom of action for the individual, and freedom of thought in religion (which possessed no uniform system of doctrine and no regularly organized priesthood endowed with external power). On the other hand, Greek culture was characterized by respect for custom and law and by subordination of the individual to the whole. These opposite features attained to a full harmony of development about the time of the origin of Greek Philosophy. To them it owes, on the one hand, its originality and independence; on the other, its orderliness, its system, its constructive tendencies. If these favoring aspects of Greek civilization are not to-day reproduced in the American love of independence and the American respect [p. 4] for law, in the American union of half a hundred "sovereign " commonwealths with all their county and town governments under one federal head, in the American churches with their democratic organization and their multifarious and plastic creeds, in American freedom of thought and speech which has always tended to build and not merely to destroy; then one can scarcely imagine where they are to be found, even in approximation, among the peoples of the earth.
That a combination of endowments, culture, and circumstances, so favorable to the development of Philosophy, should exist in a nation numbering between sixty and seventy millions, is a most hopeful augury for the future of human civilization. We are not required, however, to nourish our spirits on expectation merely. The signs and omens already move towards their fulfilment. What is prefigured in the conditions is even now becoming the hatch and brood of time. Never before in our history has there been so deep and so widely diffused an interest in philosophical subjects. The light, unreflective, optimistic mood of earlier days may not have deserted us, but we cannot conceal the fact that the nation enters upon the second century of its career with a new feeling of unrest and a temper of greater seriousness and reflection. We see old things pass away; and we are not yet adjusted to the new things of theory and practice, of science and scholarship, of social, moral, and religious life. With characteristic quickness and intensity, we have set our faces towards first principles, if so be we may gain a new understanding of men's relations to one another and to God, of the nature of the soul and of the world, of all that is and of man's knowledge of what is. The more obvious symptoms of this philosophical renascence, apart from the general [p. 5] interest already mentioned, are the establishment of new philosophical professorships and schools with a corresponding increase of material equipment, the continuous enlargement of the body of advanced students who avail themselves of these privileges, the progress in the number of philosophical writers, and in the quality of their productions, and the multiplication of special investigations and publications in Psychology and other branches of Philosophy. If it were safe to prophesy from the "seeds and weak beginnings" of things "as yet not come to life," one might venture to forecast from this vigorous philosophical activity, taken in conjunction with the parity of conditions, a harvest of thought like that gathered in Greece in the fourth century before Christ, or that which came to maturity in Germany scarce three generations ago. But in one respect there will be an important difference. The new birth of Philosophy amongst ourselves will be the final outcome of devotion to special philosophical interests and of cultivation of special philosophical domains. Our classic systems, if ever we form them, will rest on a much wider induction of facts than any preceding philosophical systems. It is fortunate, indeed, that the spirit of specialization has taken possession of Philosophy, and we may congratulate ourselves on the special investigations and special publications conducted by Americans. But division of labor is profitless without co-operation. There exists, however, no journal which appeals to an audience composed of all those engaged or interested in Philosophy. With the ever-increasing specialization of studies, the need of such a common medium becomes every day more evident.
To meet this need THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW has been established. It will aim at the organization, the diffusion, and [p. 6] the increase of philosophical knowledge and activity in America. It will reflect, in properly classified summaries, the light now scattered throughout the philosophical periodicals of the world; it will present full and critical notices, by recognized experts, of all new books as they appear; it will furnish an arena for the free discussion of philosophical topics or writings; and it will be an organ through which investigators may make known to their fellow-laborers the results of their researches and reflections. The philosophical genius of the nation will, it is expected, find in the new periodical a medium of free expression, an aid to full and harmonious development, and an instrument for ministering to its needs.
The scope of the REVIEW will be as wide as Philosophy, in its broadest sense. It will range over the field of Psychology, Logic, Ethics, Æsthetics, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Religion, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Nature, and Epistemology. This is not the place to justify the inclusion of these different subjects under one generic title. It must suffice to observe that, historically, they have all been regarded as branches of Philosophy; and that, as a matter of fact, they run into one another in such a way that speculation (which is as essential to science as observation) cannot be carried on in any one of them without ultimately involving most, if not all, the others. This is, presumably, what is meant by those who speak of Philosophy as a unity, or a circle returning into itself. The perennial fascination of Philosophy for the best minds of the race is due to the fact that, setting out with consciousness, it is and must be directed upon nothing short of the whole of existence. But such a grasp of the whole is attained only in and through a mastery of the parts. In this connection it is impossible to overestimate the service recently [p. 7] rendered by Psychology which, by enlarging its field of observation and improving its methods of investigation, has within the last decade probably outstripped every other province of human knowledge in the rate of its growth. A somewhat similar advance may be expected for Logic, Ethics, etc. But even if each of these subjects had a specialized organ, there would still be need of a general philosophical magazine to bring to a focus the light generated in the several provincial centres and to reflect it upon the wider undertakings of the federal executive. It may not always be easy in practice to draw the line between what belongs to general Philosophy and what should more properly appear in a specialized journal. Nothing remains but for an editor, with due regard for the work of others, to keep always in mind the best interests of Philosophy. To this high trust THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW would be recreant did it not, for every branch of the Philosophy of Mind and the Philosophy of Nature, equally encourage the accumulation and interpretation of facts and the criticism and construction of systems. Its domain is as broad as mind and what mind knows. And it will be an open forum alike for those who increase the stock of positive data and for those who strive to see new facts in their bearings and relations and to trace them up to their ultimate speculative implications. It has no dread either of "positivism" or of "metaphysics"; for, in the phrase of Kant, facts without theory are blind, and theory without facts is empty.
With the generality of its scope, the REVIEW will combine an impartiality and catholicity of tone and spirit. It will not be the organ of any institution, or of any sect, or of any interest. Though receiving support from private endowments, so that its financial basis is sound and durable, it must be [p. 8] and remain, according to the terms of the subsidy, an absolutely free organ, national and international, of general Philosophy. An equal hearing will be given to both sides of every unsettled question. Too much light cannot be thrown on obscure subjects, provided only it be "dry" light. Writers alone will be responsible for their articles, which in all cases will be signed. The periodical itself will maintain the same objectivity of judgment as a journal of Mathematics or Philology.
The character and methods of a new periodical will, after all, be most fully revealed by the contents of its successive issues. The first number of THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW, which is to be a bimensal publication, is herewith presented to the public. As the quest of philosophic truth, to which it is dedicated, has been despairingly compared to sailing blindly over a stormy and boundless ocean, we may auspicate the new venture by reflecting that the date of its origin coincides with the quadri-centennial anniversary of the triumphant voyage of Columbus. But our hope of success is not without a more solid foundation. The co-operation of most of the foremost philosophical teachers and writers of America and of many of those of Great Britain and the European Continent has already been secured; and others, it is expected, will soon be added to the list. But universality is a note of the REVIEW. In conclusion, therefore, contributions are invited from all philosophical experts, and support solicited from all who are interested in Philosophy.