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The Revolt Against Dualism (1930)

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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.


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