On the Horizon: The Professors Cling to Their Faith
IT SEEMS a long time now since the first “Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life,” in which Mortimer Adler lashed out at the “positivistic” professors as being more dangerous than Hitler, and Sidney Hook hit Mr. Adler over the head with the Renaissance, the Reformation, the French Revolution, and the rules of scientific evidence.
As a matter of fact, 1940 was a long time ago. Ten of these conferences have now passed over the bridge of professorial “positivism” without-in the eyes of its builders at least-either damaging its structure or finding it shaken by the political and philosophical storms which have assailed it during the most ambiguous decade of this century. But oh-the landscape and seascape around this bridge! The “positivist” bridge is still intact, no doubt, but where, exactly, is it? On the allegorical map, should we place it somewhere between everything of value in our past cultural heritage and the secular city of love of the future? Or is it simply a bridge from the atom bomb “know-how” world of the moment to fascism, or to an Orwellian totalitarianism, or to some dreadful bog of unresolved tensions that will endure for centuries? Can “positivism,” or “pragmatism,” or “scientism,” or whatever we wish to call it, lead us to a solution of our present inter- national crisis and still keep us free of the “garrison-prison state”?
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