Fads And Fancies Of Philosophy -- By: Herbert William Magoun

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 085:340 (Oct 1928)
Article: Fads And Fancies Of Philosophy
Author: Herbert William Magoun

Fads And Fancies Of Philosophy

H. W. Magoun, Ph.D.

“A scientist is a man who finds a prehistoric monster’s toenail and then describes the man whose skull it was.” This choice bit of sarcasm appeared recently in a little sheet called “Ten Point,” and it is significant. It illustrates admirably the reaction of the “man on the street” to much of the present speculation of self-constituted authorities on the origin of things.

His practical common-sense rebels at the cock-sure dictum of such men, and he occasionally betrays his real feelings about the matter. Not possessing the requisite knowledge of details, he feels himself helpless in an attempt to debate the question with the “authorities”; but he still has an innate conviction that much, if not most, of their teachings is both profitless and misleading.

The truth seems to be something like this: A one-track mind is a prerequisite to eminence in the field of speculative philosophy, and the successful “man on the street” usually has more than one track to his mind for the simple reason that he has been compelled to look at things from more than one angle. He realizes that no decision can be final so long as a single possibility remains that some other explanation may be the true one. The man with the one-track mind has no such limitations. From his standpoint, the thing that he sees is all there is or can be in the question, and he is not open to conviction for that reason.

Much that passes for science is nothing of the sort. Often it is pure unadulterated speculation. Whenever scientists begin to try to account for anything, they at once leave the realm of science and enter that of philosophy, although most of them appear to be utterly oblivious of that fact. For some strange reason they seem to be unable to distinguish between presumptive evidence and proof. Indeed, some of their “proofs” are little more than mere speculation, and their system of logic can be characterized as largely fallacy.

Reasoning in a circle is a favorite pastime with them. It goes something like this: “This thing is round, because it is a circle.” Having laid that down as the first proposition, they proceed not long after to conclude that something else is a circle, because it is round. It is much like a dog chasing his tail. It never gets anywhere.

If a thing is a circle, it is so because it is round; for the roundness is the thing that makes it a circle. Logic imperatively—and rightly—forbids any reversal of the statement. Shakespeare’s, “I think him so, because I think him so,” illustrates the point. The reasoner goes straight back to the place from which he started...

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