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Nov. 10, 1940
To the Editor of the CRIMSON:
Some of us like to hope that a university might be a place where there would be cultivation of an ability to look at events sub specie eternitatis and where fear, anger and hatred would be avoided as shortsighted, destructive of clear thinking, and too closely skin to the animal realm.
Those who have such hopes are troubled when, for example, they see what is now happening at Harvard and pick up by chance the 25th Anniversary Report of the Harvard Class of 1914 and at page 165 find the following autobiographic statement by President Conant.
Those who were in Cambridge in the spring of 1917 will recall the scene of an academic community rapidly but confusedly becoming war conscious. Neither at that time nor in retrospect did it seem to me an edifying spectacle. The professors acted as recruiting officers and students marched off to war; for the most part their erstwhile instructors were not able either to lead or to follow them into the combat area. The cheering, however, was vociferous."
Someone has said that the only thing man learns from history is that man never learns anything from history. Yet man has made great advances. The advances have come when he has invented a new tool, or a new discipline, or discovered and stated a law of Nature or of spirit, or when he has made improvements in nay of these tools, disciplines, or statements. Many of his tools are material, such as the wheel or the telephone, enabling him to use more effectively the external forces of Nature. Some of the tools are intangible, such as intellectual concepts; or partly intangible and partly tangible, such as symbols, enabling him to use more effectively his inner forces of mind and emotion. Indeed, disciplines and statements of the laws of Nature or of spirit are also in the nature of tools. So we may say that man has progressed by inventing tools, external or internal.
Two Tools Needed
In the matter of the relation of universities to war, such reversals of opinion as noted above will, I believe, continue until the universities develop and use tow such tools. These tow tools, I think, would be the study of metaphysics and the education and discipline of the emotions, both to be required of all students and all the faculty.
By metaphysics I mean analysis leading to full, clear recognition of the unprovable ultimate assumptions which underly all questions. A misplacement of scientific method has made people forget that there are some truths which, like geometrical axioms, are presuppositions and cannot be proved by logic, such as the assumption by every person that "I exist," or the assumption of scientists that there is a fundamental unity underlying all the sciences and all the forces of Nature, or the assumption that underlying all the diversities between tribes, races and nations of men there is a more enduring and more important unity, and the still more inclusive assumption that there is a unity which underlies not only all Nature but also all human values and all possibilities as well as all actualities, the entire past, present, and future, indeed, eternity.
In regard to the other tool, we recognize that the sources of energy for our actions are emotions and sentiments; but the universities, though professing to prepare for leadership, seem unwilling to select important attitudes and deliberately train them. We learn how to develop technical skills; why not skill or inner attitude? Yours truly, RICHARD B. CREGG '07
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