​​David Sprintzen

Chapter 5: Philosophy and the Future

As I reflect upon the historical course of philosophy I am unable to find its course marked by notable successes in the matter of conclusions attained. I yield to none, however, in admiring appreciation of the liberating work it has accomplished in opening new perspectives of vision through its sensitivity to problems it has laid hold of in ways which, over and over again, have loosened the hold upon us exerted by predispositions that owe their strength to conformities which become so habitual as not to be questioned, and which in all probability would still be unquestioned were it not for the debt we owe to philosophers.
John Dewey, In Defense of the Theory of Inquiry

... philosophy must in time become a method of locating and interpreting the more serious of the conflicts that occur in life, and a method of projecting ways for dealing with them: a method of moral and political diagnosis and prognosis.
John Dewey, The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy

Any proposition that serves the purpose for which it is made is logically adequate.

John Dewey, Qualitative Thought 

Philosophy is vision, imagination, reflection -- and these functions, apart from action, modify nothing and hence resolve nothing. But in a complicated and perverse world, action which is not informed with vision, imagination, and reflection, is more likely to increase confusion and conflict than to straighten things out.
John Dewey, The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy

1. The Tasks of Philosophy

We have discussed the nature of ideas as conceptual tools, and the specific problems that attach to our conceptual mapping of the Real. We have further considered the nature of philosophy as an "industry" for making, appraising, and creatively redesigning conceptual tools. And we have briefly discussed the particular problems that relate to the unique self-reflective nature of philosophical investigation. In all of this it has been our concern to locate reflection within the drama of cultures and the ongoing movement of our personal experience. From these discussions it should have become quite clear that we do not see the task of philosophy to be primarily retrospective in nature. Rather, the essential point of the reflective analysis of mindscapes is the illumination of encased substantive and methodological assumptions in order to contribute to the enlightened reconstruction of human experience. The clear purpose of such enlightenment, as already noted, was "the liberation and expansion of the meanings of which experience is capable." The central focus of the philosophical enterprise therefore must be upon a critical evaluation of the tendencies encased within the present which point toward possibilities for the future. The concern of philosophy should be with the direction which human experience is taking as well as with its possibilities for enhanced meaning. With this in mind, we can briefly sketch in this chapter our overall vision of the nature of philosophy. We may then add a few concluding remarks on the relation of philosophy to the concrete development of human ideals. 

2. The Cultural Scene

In the simplest sense philosophy is concerned with the meanings of human existence. This concern with meaning, often parodied in non-philosophical circles, is really a pervasive trait of human experience. The human being is a meaning-seeking animal. We do not live by bread alone. Meaning is the stuff of which life is made. Many recent theorists in psychology, sociology, and anthropology have suggested that psychic disorders such as depression may really have their roots in personal or cultural meaning-loss. This is clearly the point of Durkheim's discussions of suicide and anomie, as well as of Szasz's discussions of mental illness. In fact, that unfortunately neglected thinker Ernest Becker* has observed most suggestively that human striving is probably best understood as an individual's attempt to constitute himself a locus of value in a significant cultural drama. We must feel that we are an important participant in a worthwhile endeavor or suffer the depressive pains of a meaningless life. It is not my concern here to pursue this question of the centrality of the concept of meaning for an understanding of human activity. Having already underscored its importance, we do not need to pin down its exact nature and function. Rather we must ask ourselves what is the relation of philosophy to the problem of meaning.

The problem of meaning refers to the specific contours which our encounter with existence takes in our lives. It refers to the symbolic-linguistic and behavioral recasting which our acculturation works on our impulsive nature. Whatever be the organism's inherited endowment, it becomes human character only after passing through the crucible, as it were, of "socialization." We are shaped in and through our responses to the demands and expectations of those significant others with whom we enter into intimate contact in our early years. Growth is the process of continual elaboration and development of such character within the structured interpersonal situations which make up the institutions of our culture. To be human means primarily and for the most part to be an active participant in a cultural drama, not only behaving, but feeling, thinking, and valuing, along lines laid out in general ways by the culture. The existent natural world becomes part of a socialized meaning-world for us, and we become beings whose nature is pre-reflectively understood within such contours. All this has been said before, but bears repeating if we are to locate the enterprise of philosophy

For this enterprise takes its origin from the meanings in which we are pre-reflectively immersed. The central drive of philosophy is thus the reflective critical articulation of the contours of the mindscape; of the meaning-world in which we find ourselves. This is its fundamental challenge. This critical investigation of the structure of meanings in terms of which we live requires the clarification of fundamental human categories, such as those concerning the nature of reality, time, history, space, nature, the self, society, the past, the present, and the future. Whether there is any trans-cultural meaning possible for these categories, whether there is a REAL essence to which they refer, or whether there are simply differing cultural variants, this question itself constitutes a highly significant concern of philosophy. But it is clear that any attempt to articulate the meanings of human living will involve, of necessity, an attempt to clarify these categories. There can be little question that different cultures have addressed these thematic human concerns quite differently. To be human IS to live in terms of a specific set of (pre-reflectively assumed) ways of addressing these concerns. These "life-answers" constitute the essential core of any cultural drama. And it is part of the essential task of philosophy to reflectively lay bare for critical scrutiny the embedded mindscapes, both cultural and personal: to engage in the crucial process of collective cultural self-clarification.

In seeking to articulate the essential structure of our world, one must also grapple with the set of priorities by which a culture lives. For cultures are not simply passive observers of the existent scene; they are organized, active participants in the ongoing processes of living. Their action is selective and purposeful. They value, choose, and act. They organize not only in terms of the Real and the Apparent, but in terms of the Good and the Bad. In fact, judgments about the Real are almost invariably influenced by attitudes and beliefs about the Good. Questions about the nature of the self and about the kind of self it is good to be and to become are never far apart. To understand a culture is to appreciate the dynamic forces working behind its appraisals and choices. It is to understand the structure of its values: its pre-reflective ethics and aesthetics.

Philosophy thus inescapably must become a self-critical cultural activity if it is to stay true to its essential calling. It must stand in a tension that is both critical and creative with the culture in which it is immersed. And it must struggle to emerge with that intellectual distance which is the necessary condition of any adequate analysis. It is this dialogue between immersion and emergence which sets the inescapable problematic for the best of philosophical inquiry. 

3. The Critical Appraisal of Conceptual Tools

It is only in the context of this constant critical appraisal of cultural dramas that the relation of philosophy to other activities and disciplines can be adequately understood. For all human activities in their specifically human character take their meaning and direction from the ideas by which they are shaped. As we have noted, ideas function as conceptual tools in the context of human concerns. Ideas both shape the concerns, and give direction to their active implementation. This is as true for the practical non-reflective concerns of daily living as it is for flights of fancy or for the refined and sophisticated concerns of the intellectual disciplines of the arts and sciences. The cultural and professional heritage of ideas structures those activities, determines the basic nature of their problems, and sets the essential outlines of their conceivable solutions. Usually, however, such activity does not reflect upon the essential conceptual limitations which pre-define their meaning-possibilities. When such reflective concerns do arise, they are usually faced without the theoretical sophistication which philosophy can bring. The results thus tend to be less than systematically adequate. 

A critical task of philosophy is, therefore, to serve as an aid to the more practical disciplines: to articulate, to clarify, and to re-evaluate underlying assumptions that are encased within the conceptual tools by which these disciplines carry on their systematic explorations. This was the task referred to when philosophy was said to be an "industry" for the appraisal and imaginative reconstruction of our conceptual tools. The philosophy of science constitutes one of the clearest examples of this attempt. Here the principal philosophical task has been to critically analyze the nature of scientific methodology in order to ascertain the kind of claims which can legitimately be made in the light of the available evidence. Further, philosophers of science have sought to suggest: how the procedures of science may be improved; what is the nature of the relation between theory and fact; what it means to "explain" anything; what is the nature and role of "causality"; what is the logical status of "unobserved entities" in scientific theory construction; what unexamined theoretical assumptions are being made about the nature of the REAL world; and what are the essential differences and similarities among the sciences. By critically appraising the theoretical assumptions and practical methods of the sciences, philosophers of science have sought to aid scientists to become clearer about what they are doing, and can reasonably expect to be doing, as well as to suggest what might be possible areas or modalities of future investigation.

Another area of similar philosophical investigation has been in aesthetics or philosophy of art. Although the nature and purpose of artistic activity is significantly different from that in the sciences, the role of philosophy has been, in a similar manner, to clarify the possibilities and limits of such activity by subjecting to critical appraisal the ideas which underlie and give direction to the artistic endeavor. While artists have sought to produce works of art and to add to the aesthetic dimensions of experience, philosophers have been at pains to clarify the nature and role of art; the meaning(s) of aesthetic experience; the relation of art to culture; the role of the physical medium in works of art; the expressive possibilities of different mediums; the relationships between form and content; the meaning of beauty; and the social and political significance of art. They have sought to locate the place of art in human experience, with the aim of aiding both artist and audience in the realization of the fullest possible significance in the project of art.

In sum, with respect to both science and art, to take but two of the more significant disciplined activities of our culture, the best of philosophers have been at pains to critically evaluate the ideas in terms of which the initiates ply their trades. Ideally the goal has been to aid those initiates, as well as those responding to their work, in better appreciating the scope, potentialities, and limits of that activity. In no sense does philosophical concern here, even when fruitful, replace or reduplicate the work of scientists and artists. It is rather a kind of second-order activity -- a reflection upon that first-order involvement, the role of which is to clarify and perhaps aid in the creative reconstruction of that primary activity. The same might also be said of the role of philosophy with respect to other such primary human activities as Religion, Politics and Government, Economics, Law, and Education.

4. The Ethics of Logic

In critically appraising the conceptual tools in use in different disciplines it becomes clear that there are general problems which pertain to the nature and use of conceptual tools, and are not specifically limited to one or several disciplines. Clearly there are pervasive traits of all conceptual tools; patterns which obtain in the elaboration of meanings regardless of the context in which that occurs. These patterns can be investigated without regard to the concrete conditions of their application. We are speaking simply of the general structure of intelligent thought itself. While it is true that such thought always expresses itself with respect to specific problematic concerns, both disciplinary and practical, it can be, and in fact often is, best studied in abstraction from such particular problems. 

There is surely a sense in which it is the task of the science of psychology (and perhaps of social psychology) to investigate the concrete dynamics of thinking itself. Psychology, in its various forms, will seek to report facts and develop theories to explain the processes involved in thinking. Phenomenological psychology may seek patiently to describe that process in concrete detail. The primary concern of both of these areas will be with the question of how in fact people do think. Such investigations are subject to all of the strictures already mentioned about the nature of scientific reasoning. Of course, they can be aided by that second-order reflection which is such an important function of philosophy.

There is, however, the possibility of a reflection upon the ways in which people did and do think, the primary concern of which does not lie in describing and explaining. This type of investigation seeks rather to appraise critically acts of thinking within the problematic context in which they arose. Its aim is the evaluation of modes of thinking in order to determine which ones have tended to prove successful in the past. It is concerned to develop an empirical analysis of the nature of past instances of successful thinking in order to formulate guidelines as to the kind of thinking, the kind of methodological and conceptual procedures, which are most likely to prove fruitful in the future. The concern here is more with how people OUGHT to think, if they wish fruitfully to address the problems which concern them, than with an investigation into how IN FACT they do think. It is beyond the scope of the present inquiry to proceed with the point further. A general outline of such an inquiry has been suggested above (cf. Chapter I, Section 5 and Chapter II, Section 1.) Very similar in many ways to the concerns of the philosophy of science, we might call it the logic of investigation, inductive logic, or, in the language of John Dewey, logic as a general theory of inquiry.

Within the context of this concern for evaluating the type of thinking which experience has proved to be most successful, that is, which reflection upon reflection has shown OUGHT to be employed if one is concerned with successfully resolving emergent problems in living, a specific type of reflective analysis has had a special status. We are speaking of the field of reflection to which the name Logic is most usually applied and which might more properly be called deductive logic: the investigation of the ideal formal structures of deductive inference. The concern of deductive logic is simply the elaboration of the purely formal conditions of strictly valid reasoning. As such it is not directly concerned with the question of truth. Truth refers to the adequacy of a claim with respect to its relation to the "objective world." Validity, as a purely formal property of an argument, pays no regard to whether the conclusions reached do adequate justice to "objective reality." An argument is strictly valid whenever the formal structure of its developmental elaboration of involved meanings is such as to ensure that the conclusions MUST be true IF the premises are true. In a strictly valid argument, say the logicians, a statement which conjoins the negation of the conclusion with the premises is a contradiction. That is to say that such a statement can NEVER be true. Deductive logic is thus the "science" of the structure of strictly valid arguments, in their manifold variety. As such, it is a universal guide to strictly valid reasoning. It says that IF you want to be assured of deducing true conclusions from the premises or evidence which you believe to be true, THEN you SHOULD follow the principles laid out by deductive logic. Such a logic as a reflective guide to the development of valid, and hopefully sound, arguments, is thus a powerful reflective tool which may be useful wherever conceptual tools are employed. Its practical contribution to actual inquiries, however, tends to be much overrated by professional philosophers! Within the wider frame of the logic of inquiry, however, it may aid in the determination of the occurrences to be expected in the light of the hypotheses which the inquirer is currently entertaining. Thus it may serve to outline the conditions in which those hypotheses may be "put to the test." Here deductions may serve as a guide to legitimate expectations.

A further quite significant point ought at least to be touched upon here. Beyond the "ethical" requirements which are placed upon inquiry by the demands of objective adequacy, there are demands placed upon inquiry by the requirements of interpersonal communication. If one is concerned to speak with others, to engage them upon a level and within a context of mutual respect for their persons -- their rights and their beliefs -- then one is OBLIGED to speak to them in a way which respects those rights. This means that one must not seek to manipulate, deceive, dominate, or oppress. One must present views and arguments which are respectful both of the "facts" of the case and of the person of the other. In short, to dialogue with another calls for the presentation of facts and arguments in a manner which seeks to communicate our views and to CONVINCE the other of their correctness. We must ever hold open the possibility that the other may respond with views or arguments which call for significant modifications in our position. This openness to the position of the other, involving as it does a willingness to actively listen to the speech of the other, is a precondition for the experience of dialogue. Ultimately it calls for a procedure by which disagreements can be mediated in a way which both sustains mutual respect and remains responsive to the claims of the REAL. The logic of inquiry as that mediating instrument ultimately roots empirical inquiry therefore in the ethical demands of dialogic human encounters.**

5. The Logic of Ethics 

There is, therefore, an ethical dimension central to logic. As an investigation and elaboration of the structural conditions which must be met if thinking is to be generally valid and thus such as generally to yield empirically sound conclusions, the logic of inquiry is offered to those who seek to bring reason to bear in their search for solutions, to practical and theoretical problems. It is an almost indispensable guide to the amelioration of human living. In a sense, it may be said of such a logic that it is the tool of conceptual tools. It is one of the most basic assumptions of the enterprise of philosophy itself that reason is both an indispensable tool and an essential ingredient in the "good life." It is for this reason that (deductive) logic in particular, and methodology or the logic of inquiry in general, have never been far from the center of the concern of all great philosophers. Let us look briefly at the two sides of this basic philosophical commitment.

a. The Methodological Concern

That a concern for methodology can prove an indispensable guide to human inquiry and problem solving has already been. noted on several occasions. it is difficult offhand to think of a more fruitful way to address encountered difficulties. The American philosopher, C. S. Peirce, in his now famous essay The Fixation of Belief, observes that belief is a relatively tranquil and settled state of mind which does not occasion reflection. The latter begins when one suffers from "the irritation of doubt," an irritation which is unsettling by nature and demands appeasement. Inquiry is the procedure by which the irritation is to be removed and the tranquil state o-k- belief restored. There are, he continues, essentially three contrasting modes of "fixing belief," thus appeasing the irritation of doubt and hopefully resolving the problems in living. Peirce calls the first the "method of tenacity," the second the "method of authority," and the third, the "scientific method," the method of empirical inquiry. By the first he has in mind the decision of an individual to stick by the habits of thinking to which he is accustomed, regardless of the evidence or consequences. He notes that many people do act in this manner, and that such a procedure has the admirable property of freeing such individuals from nagging doubts as to the proper course of action. They simply "stick to their guns" and go "full speed ahead." But, comments Pierce, one must contrast the psychological security thus achieved with its social and natural limitations. Socially it tends to isolate individuals from one another, impeding joint labors and making dialogue difficult if not impossible. It is a purely individualistic mode of operation unsuited to the practical demands of social living. With regard to the natural world the method of tenacity tends to work well so long as the environment remains stable, problems remain capable of individualistic solution, and the individual's choices, whether randomly arrived at or "inherited" through culture and tradition like instincts, remain suited to that environment. Should change bring about any significant dislocations between the individual's established habits of thought and action and his material and social environment, however, he will find himself unequipped to respond. The consequent price of adhering to such a method is likely to be disastrous.

As for the "method of authority" -- the appeal to custom, social habits, the laws, others, the powers that be, or God, -- this method of fixing belief does admirably take into consideration the needs of our 4 social nature. Furthermore, it does offer the security of the method of tenacity, so long, that is, as the social community remains homogeneous with respect to its basic habits of thought and action. But this method, too, completely fails to be creatively responsive to novelty. It is a recipe for repetition. When confronted by the novel it really is no different from the method of tenacity as far as the authorities are concerned -- unless they go beyond the limits of that method and seek an experimental response. It is important to note here, as Peirce does, that the classical philosophical appeal to "intuition," to "clear and distinct ideas," to "innate ideas," the so-called "a priori" method, is nothing else than a concealed version of the method of authority. It is, therefore, subject to the same limitations. One is prey to the past, to the source from which the "truths" come, without having any clear way to interrogate those “truths,” or to extract guidelines for response to novel circumstances. These novel circumstances can come from the confrontation of one unitary social group or individual with another (as often happened during the religious conflicts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), as well as from upsetting changes working within the social infrastructure of the purported unitary group itself. They can also come from an encounter with new natural circumstances, as with the appearance of the famous comets in the sixteenth century. In any case, the method of authority is either as inflexible as the method of tenacity or as randomly variable. In no case does it, or can it, offer intelligent guidance in the investigation of novel situations in the search for new solutions. It should be pointed out here that the same is true of mystical appeals to "higher" authorities as is true of intuitive appeals to the (rationally) self-evident unless, that is, the authority to whom that appeal is made has itself another and better method of "fixing" its belief. If that authoritative source KNOWS ALL, appeal to its authoritative revelations WOULD of course be an adequate guide. But what kind of proof is needed to justify belief in such an authority? What kind of relationship would we have with it? And with what kind of responsibility for, and quality in, our life would that leave us? We will return to the qualitative question shortly. 

With what, then, is one left that can serve as an intelligent and reasonably reliable guide to the cultural and personal confrontations with novel situations which seem to be of the very essence of human living? Peirce's answer, his third method of "fixing belief," must remain ours, that is, what John Dewey later called the "method of intelligence." We are speaking of the progressive and open-ended empirical investigation of problematic situations in accordance with the development of hypothetical solutions. These are then experimentally or imaginatively tried out be-fore being experientially tested through action. Our best resource in a world of mixed precariousness and stability is this "hypothetico-deductive" method of intelligence -- that ideal method of the sciences functioning in accordance with the procedures which the logic of inquiry reveal to be most reliable.

b. The Substantive Concern

In short, we are claiming that it is not so much an assumption of philosophy as a result of a philosophical investigation into diverse methods of fixing belief which reveals that the method of intelligence is that procedure which inquiry into inquiry reveals to be the most reliable available guide for the satisfactory resolution of problematic situations. The "method of intelligence" is revealed by inquiry to be the "tool of tools" in the search for human wellbeing. Beyond that clearly instrumental function, however, philosophical reflection plays a role more intrinsic to the constitution of the good life. it is, no doubt, toward this intrinsic value that Socrates means to point us when he observes that the unexamined life is not WORTH living. What is at stake here, as was suggested in Section a. above and in Chapter IV, is the claim that philosophical reflection is also a qualitatively essential ingredient in the good life.

John Stuart Mill sought to capture this sense when he observed that "the human faculties of perception, judgment, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making choices. He who does anything because it is the custom makes no choice." (Mill, p. 84). In the making of intelligent choices, the human being takes responsibility for his destiny in the light of his understanding of his ownmost possibilities. He seeks to come to grips with what is given with respect to where it may lead. And he seeks to relate this given, in its leadings, back to his personal capacities for growth and qualitative enrichment. Intelligence thus involves a deepened appreciation of the qualitatively complex relational field, with its leadings into the future, in which the human being is immersed and which constitutes its encompassing world. In the words of Mill again, "Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides according to the tending of the inward forces which make it a living thing" (p. 86). The only addition required here is the clear recognition that these "inward forces" are reconstituted by the self-transcending activity of human (self-) conscious freedom.

In sum, the full development of the meanings potential in human living are not to be realized apart from a full expansion of the capacities of the human being. Such capacities will neither achieve their full development nor realize their adequate appreciation without the cultivated emergence of that sensitivity to meanings, both actual and potential, of which reflection is the source. It is in the progressive and expansive reconstitution of this primary qualitative dimension of pre-reflective experience that the thinking of philosophy may make its most essential contribution. A life which has not undergone such a transformation is a life which is clearly the less for it; so much the less that Socrates may well be partially supported in his belief that it is "not worth living!

6. The Dialectic of Real and Ideal 

Our discussion so far has clearly brought to the fore the central philosophical concern, as we see it, namely the search for the good life. In the classic tradition this has been philosophy's major concern. Philosophers have tended to believe that that search cannot be carried to anything like fruition apart from the fullest development of human potential -- especially, rational potential. The centrality of this concern for philosophy is underlined by noting the central place that wisdom has taken in that tradition. By wisdom is not meant abstract or pure knowledge for its own sake. It is rather knowledge as a guide to living well that is in question. The Greeks called this search for the good life through the development of wisdom philosophy -- that is "the love of wisdom." To be a philosopher was not to - claim to be wise: it was to claim to love wisdom and to be ever searching for the good life, for oneself and for one's fellow human beings.

It is no wonder, then, that conjoined with a concern for logic, and with the concern of metaphysics for the structure of that Reality which logic as a method of inquiry has ever sought to reveal, has always gone a deep concern for ethics. That may be called the essential philosophical trinity: Logic, Metaphysics, and Ethics ' . For while Logic is the indispensable tool, Metaphysics and Ethics are the essential conditions for the application of this tool. It is really impossible to separate, except conceptually (and even then not without difficulty), these dual aspects of the philosophical quest. For what is the point of human living if it is not a striving after the good life, the life that is worth living? And how can one strive intelligently to live that life if one is devoid of any adequate understanding of what is actual and what is possible? And further, how can one achieve any adequate understanding of what is actual and possible, an understanding upon which one can place any warranted faith, unless one has employed the best means available in its investigation?

The ethical concern with how one can and ought to live, therefore, must be predicated upon an intelligent appreciation of that objective structure of actualities and possibilities which it is the concern of logical investigation to map out. Metaphysics, which is the mapping of those objective structures, thus outlines the experiential terrain upon which human strivings emerge and gain direction.

The logic of ethical reflection thus emerges out of the needs of the processes of reflective evaluation. Here, the individual's purposes are continually tested by an analysis of the possibilities of that reality to yield the sought-for consummations. These purposes, which become formulated as "ends-in-view," become the means to the organism's present action as it seeks to realize human values. "Ends-in-view," however, which emerge in the context of a reflective appreciation of the potentialities of reality, must yet be essentially conditioned by that reality if they are to serve as intelligent goals of action -.- and not simply vain wishes. There is thus a dialectic involved in the reflective articulation of valued ends similar to that of problem-solution. Valued ends emerge out of an appreciation of the possibilities encased in the activities of the real in order to serve as means to such a realization. As the articulated ideals direct action they continually reveal more and newer dimensions of reality. The new sense of reality which emerges consequent upon such action will no doubt require renewed reflection upon the possibilities and desirabilities of the entertained goals. Thus the Real and the Ideal are the essential poles of a dialogue through which the "good life" may be capable of progressive realization.

In this dialogue, the imaginative projection of potentialities encased in the actual world is the framework for the purposeful selection of those possibilities whose realization is desired. The formulation of desired possibilities into "ends-in-view," ideals to serve as means to present action, becomes the guide to lead us into intelligently directed action in the wilderness of human experience. As the latter moves us in the direction of human enrichment it reveals new conditions of the actual world, thus calling forth renewed reflection upon the nature of that world in which we are so totally implicated. This is simply the ethical dimension of that dialectic which was the essence of the drama of philosophy, as discussed in Section 5 of Chapter IV. This dialectic is inescapable, constituting the philosophical core of the human drama.

7. The Programmatic Future

Only when the dialogue between Real and Ideal, between Metaphysics and Ethics, is placed at the center of the philosophical enterprise can we finally obtain a proper sense of the place philosophy should hold in human experience. Philosophy may then be seen to be the reflective attempt to clarify the essential assumptions of that cultural drama in which it is implicated in order to reveal its possibilities for human enrichment, for that "liberation and expansion of the meanings of which experience is capable." As sophisticated self-critical activity, its concern would be with the reconstruction of meanings and doings. Both its analytical and its imaginative moments clearly have a place in that enterprise -- so long, that is, as they remain bound to one another. Analysis devoid of the imaginatively programmatic reduces itself to a sterile logic-chopping scholasticism: the multiplication of conceptual tools without conceivable application. On the other hand, imagination without analytical clarification tends to reduce itself to flights of fancy, wish-fulfillments, and self-indulgence. These may prove to be aesthetically satisfying and suggestive, at best; at worst, they are a confused diversion, befuddling human beings in their search for the life worth living. Dialogically joined, however, analysis and imagination can be the beacon lights offered to a culture adrift in the windswept and turbulent sea of human experience. Analysis can thus serve to reveal the actual conditions to which our journey is subject while imagination can suggest the ideal possibilities toward whose realization we may reasonably strive.

A philosophy which thus reflectively locates itself within the dramatic journey that is the experience of a culture will not become bogged down in the useless and debilitating "quest for certainty," in the search for the Holy Grail of a life seen "under the aspect of eternity." It will recognize that security is to be found in the consolidation of a cultural drama whose enriching possibilities call for the fullest possible liberation of creative human energies in concrete activities. Such a philosophy will recognize that its task is never to be completed -- not until that is, in the words of William James, the last man has lived his life and had his say. Until then, philosophy must continually be done again, by each individual for himself (or herself), and for their culture. It should build upon its heritage; it should employ the developed conceptual (and practical) tools of its civilization, as it reinterprets its past and its present in the light of that future which is ever opening up before it. The projected possibilities of that future shed light on the meaning of the past and present, just as that past and present structure the projected possibilities of the future. The ever-present dialogue between Real and Ideal is essentially a dialogue between Present and Future. It is the locus of the philosophical enterprise because it is the stuff of dramatic human living.


*Even Becker's posthumous reception of the Pulitzer Prize has not brought forth a serious study of the body of his work, other than that begun in my articles, jointly with Alan Rosenberg, in Main Currents in Modern Thought (1973) and Crosscurrents (l974).

** My work on Albert Camus discusses this point at much greater length. cf. Revolt, Dialogue and Community: An Interpretive and Critical Study Of the Thought of Albert Camus -- drawn from my dissertation (1967) with a similar title -- and soon to be published.