Philosophy In America: Its Character And Mission -- By: G. Campbell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 042:167 (Jul 1885)
Article: Philosophy In America: Its Character And Mission
Author: G. Campbell


Philosophy In America: Its Character And Mission

Rev. G. Campbell

Philosophy, it may be rightly claimed, constitutes the chief glory of a nation’s civilization. And accordant with the fact that genuine national progress springs from enlightenment, the philosophy of a people will be commensurate with its true greatness. The distinctive philosophy of nations will not, of course, appear in early stages of their advancement; it will the rather be a consummation. Aristotle, Porphyry, and Leibnitz do not stand before us as men suddenly and casually endowed to create philosophic thought, to construct systems at will. They are more clearly men upon whom a necessity is laid, in whom the aggregate intellectuality of the time seems to centralize, and who are therein capacitated to discern and construe the principles under the power of which their fellows had unconsciously (at least unintelligently) reached their deepest convictions, or even, in practical regime, seated themselves on thrones.

It is remarkable to how great extent man is guided by uncomprehended motives. He worships he knows not what. He leaves battle-field after battle-field crimsoned with his blood, in his struggle for liberty—felt to be his inalienable prerogative; finally victorious, he swings his colors to the breeze in a land surnamed the “free,” —all this, before he is able to make out that he is capable of unrestricted choosing, to demonstrate that he is possessor of a will so profoundly furnished as to afford secure foun-

dation for the prerogative he has so proudly vindicated. Man, then, may achieve his rights before he comprehends them, and take possession of his free country before he is prepared to prove possession of his free will. It is a suggestive coincidence, that a far-off German philosopher was just elucidating the philosophical validity of human responsibility and freedom when, along the sun-rising of this great western continent, our patriots were framing their independence declaration and proving by achievement their title thereto. Naturally enough, at the opening of their second century, having closed the first by a remarkable verification of capacity for self-rule, the American people are just beginning to ask, What did Kant say?

If, however, philosophy follows in the wake of achievement so vast, is she not a non-essential, or, at least, an impractical? Some reply may be gathered from the statement of an eminent French writer who confidently ascribes the defeat of his countrymen at Sedan to Germany’s universities. More conclusive still, in regard to Germany, is the fact that she finally rose to a successful resistance of Napoleon himself, notably through the inspiring efforts of her great ph...

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