Skip to main content

The Revolt Against Dualism (1930)

Image result for arthur lovejoy

I'm thinking just now, for no good reason, of the book Arthur Lovejoy wrote, published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. back in 1930, The Revolt Against Dualism. 

Although written as a historical inquiry, the point of the book is to lead us to a substantive philosophical conclusion: revolts against dualism have failed because they must fail, because dualism is an enduring fact about the world and our place therein. Efforts to deny that fact collapse. 

The book is, then, analogous to Lovejoy's better known work, The Great Chain of Being. In both cases, Lovejoy treats us to a chronological discussion of an idea that, in his view, has failed in fact because it of necessity must fail, and thus an idea we as a species would be wise to abandon.

Chain discussed an idea in macro-chronological terms, as millennia passed. But Revolt was a very micro-chronological history. It focused on the 30 year period prior to publication. Anyway:  if you're still reading at all, dear readers, you are surely asking yourselves, What does the necessary dualism in question mean exactly?

It is two fold. On the one hand, Lovejoy has in mind here representative realism. I have an idea about a tomato, which we may formulate as "that thing on that shelf is a tomato!" It is possible I am wrong -- that I am, for example, looking at a red ball on a shelf, NOT a tomato. But the point is that the idea through which I know the object (and am right or wrong about it) is not the same as the object itself. The knowing and the known are distinct: hence, dualism.

The other, related but distinct, dualism involved is a deeper matter of metaphysics. It is the view that empirical reality is itself split "into a world of mind and a world of matter mutually exclusive and utterly antithetic." It is this idea that came so seem in Lovejoy's words "repellent and incredible" to many subtle thinkers around the year 1900, and this idea that (through a double negative, the failure of the revolt) Lovejoy intends to defend.

Actually, he defends both the targeted dualisms, the epistemological as well as the metaphysical.

Almost 90 years later, the revolt continues, on both fronts, and I have to say I think the proper resolution -- insofar as any resolution is attainable -- is a good deal more complicated than Lovejoy found it to be.


Popular posts from this blog

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…