The Philosophy Of Charles Woodruff Shields -- By: Henry William Rankin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 063:250 (Apr 1906)
Article: The Philosophy Of Charles Woodruff Shields
Author: Henry William Rankin

The Philosophy Of Charles Woodruff Shields1

Henry William Rankin


A third volume of “Philosophia Ultima,” by the late Dr. Shields, of Princeton University, concludes, without completing, an undertaking of exceptional magnitude in the philosophical literature of this country. It is true that this work does not seem to be widely known even to those teachers in philosophy and theology whose professional interests it most concerns. Perhaps this can be explained without any large subtraction from its claims to serious attention. The new, posthumous volume has intrinsic merits of its own, but is the least finished portion of the whole. It is a reissue, with rearrangement of chapters, and some fresh material, of the author’s Paddock Lectures, which were given out first in 1900. It is edited with a very attractive memoir of Dr. Shields by Professor William M. Sloane, of Columbia University, who also prepared the biography of Dr. McCosh. The memoir is a valuable addition to the academic annals of this country,

and shows all too briefly the engaging personality and extraordinary learning of its subject, who died at Newport, R. I., in his eightieth year, in August, 1904.

The biographer tells us that with this new volume the work “is for the first time before the public in its entirety.” Unhappily this is evidently a mistake. The title-page, the author’s own Preface, and the entire plan of the previous discussion, require at least three, and probably more, chapters to complete the book. The missing part should traverse the three sciences of psychology, sociology, and theology, after the treatment given to astronomy, geology, and anthropology; and then should at least be followed by one chapter, summing up. Moreover, the new chapter on Theism stops in the middle, and shows the marks of a first draft. After dealing with the three classes of a priori proofs, it should take up the three proofs a posteriori mentioned on page 50 of Volume III., and page 420 of Volume II.; and this should also be followed by a summing-up. But, besides all this, the entire treatise lacks the final revision and large improvements which the author designed, and for which he long collected material. Some of this material was ready for use whenever a new edition of the earlier volumes should be made; particularly a much-needed revision of the introductory chapter in Volume 1. This chapter, as it stands, was never suitable to its present use, but only to its original purpose, as an inaugural address to college students. It conveys a somewhat wrong impression of the actual character and plan of the succeeding work, w...

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