Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, June 19, 2017

Week two essay June 19, 2017

                When William James died in 1910, he had read, studied, and reflected on the major philosophers who had preceded him or were his contemporaries. He added to their foundation of thoughts expressed as best they could in their words and synthesized them into his own thoughts and words. Over one hundred years later with today’s knowledge and experience, how would his thoughts have evolved?
                Consider what he knew that Plato and Aristotle did not -- Newton’s law of universal gravitation, Roemer’s estimate of the speed of light, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and what he did not know -- the age of the universe, black holes, subatomic particles, and innumerable galaxies and solar systems. He was unable to listen to or read about the research and reports of Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson as they explained the latest images and findings on the Cosmos.
                James knew of the discovery of Neanderthal fossils in Germany and dinosaur bones in the Rocky Mountain region, but he would not have learned about Lucy’s remains in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania which further challenged the biblical, six thousand years since creation, theory. But he would have understood human nature’s desire to hold onto that old belief as well as others, even today and to try to deny or modify new knowledge, rather than discard the old knowledge because its origin is based on the “common sense” that existed from the earliest humans’s thoughts on their origin.
                 James acknowledged that the “pluralistic view, of a world of additive constitution, is one that pragmatism is unable to rule out from serious consideration. But this view leads one to the farther hypothesis that the actual world, instead of being complete ‘eternally,’ as the monists assure us, may be eternally incomplete, and at all time subject to addition or liable to loss.”[1] Would he consider that one day we will discover that the universe will cease to expand and will begin to contract and that all matter will coalesce into one gigantic black hole and once everything is located at a central point, it will explode into the nth “Big Bang” and a new cycle of universal expansion will begin again? Perhaps!

[1] William James, Pragmatism (New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1995), 63.

1 comment:

  1. "James acknowledged that the “pluralistic view, of a world of additive constitution, is one that pragmatism is unable to rule out from serious consideration." And indeed, he celebrates the pluralistic and additive nature of existence as the only known sort of world in which human contributions count, make a difference, in a significant way. And he both celebrates and challenges "common sense" as the tendency to resist the full extent of our possible contributions.

    He'd be a Sagan/Tyson fan, for sure!