The Path to Public Service at SEAS


Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum


Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President


Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study


Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum



THE last Advocate contained a plea for an elective in cosmic philosophy. This plea was based upon the importance of this philosophy, evidenced in the fact that so many eminent scholars and philosophers support it, and in its evident comprehensibility.

I have nothing to say about the importance of cosmic philosophy, or about its truths or errors: I only wish to suggest very briefly some general reasons for forming an elective in it.

Philosophy, it has been said, is not so much truth as a search after truth. When philosophy has found out a truth, philosophy has done with that truth. Philosophy is not a cabinet for receiving labelled specimens, but a laboratory where new compounds and new analyses are constantly made.

Now cosmic philosophy is primarily a search after truth. Unlike the founder of modern philosophy, it accepts some of the philosophy of the past; and also, unlike him, it does not believe it has left no truth to be discovered. It is not a full-grown, but a growing philosophy. It is therefore, under a competent teacher, peculiarly fitted to be an object of study. In studying most subjects the student uses the method of "instruction"; in studying cosmic philosophy he must also use the method of "discovery." In studying the ordinary philosophy the student must be content with doing what thousands have done before him; in studying cosmic philosophy. he is doing in a large measure new work. Cosmic philosophy itself could not fail to be helped by being thus taught; its excellences would be made more excellent, and its errors corrected.

There is no more certain mark of a narrow mind than either a willingness or an inability to look at a question from only one point of view. The ordinary philosophy has been speculating for centuries on Causation, the existence of a God, the existence of an Ego, the existence of an external world. It has viewed these subjects from a single point of view, namely, the present existence of the objects involved. The cosmical philosophy examines these subjects from another point of view, namely, law. To be sure, an Ego exists now, but may not this Ego be the result of other Egos evolved for ages in accordance with law? It is in the light of law that cosmic philosophy examines every question. It is in the light of the present existence of objects that the ordinary philosophy examines every question. Every question should be examined in the two lights; but at present we examine most philosophic questions in only one of those lights.

It is easy to see the enthusiasm with which an elective in this philosophy would be studied. The philosophy now so ably taught in the college would be benefited rather than harmed by the forming of this elective. If I believed that the good that the present philosophical courses are so evidently doing the students would be at all lessened, without a corresponding increase of good in another direction, by forming this elective, I should be utterly opposed to forming it. But it would not be so. The cosmic philosophy and the ordinary philosophy, though in some respects contradictory, and in many dissimilar, could be so taught in the College that each would help the other.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.