who tells me only what I already know, what I already believe, and what I
like to hear, may please me, but he does not contribute to my grasp of the
subject. Whereas, he who compels me to face aspects of the matter which I
would like to avoid really does something for me."
George Andrew Lundberg1
Elements of a Credo
I am a
is, I seek to “frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general
ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be
interpreted.” (Alfred North
Whitehead, Process and Reality).
also a commentator on the passing scene. Apart
from any degree of success I may enjoy as a philosopher, I feel compelled
to venture provisional, qualified judgments in advance of the completion
of my speculative philosophy.
philosopher and commentator, I seek the truth. To do that, I need the
cooperation of some and, more importantly, the noninterference of all.
Some may not refrain from interfering. They would even coerce my
cooperators into shunning me. For the unfettered seeking of truth
invariably leads to the expression of particular truths, or just the
exposure of falsehood, which threatens to harm the (at least short-term)
interests of the coercers.
has ever been the nature of the truth-seeking business. It has never been
merely about straight-ening out someone else's muddled thinking within the
ambit of a journal article and then repairing to one’s study for a cigar
and a glass of sherry. Socrates made that clear. Nothing has changed
since his day.
I am a
seeker,2 not a seer. I seek what I largely (but not
absolutely) do not have. When one interpre-tation of experience seems
right to me, but does not cohere with one being delivered to me, I may
note the discrepancy and strive to resolve it. What I may not do is
pretend that there is no discrepancy. In the eyes of some, that inability
to pretend is a symptom of a criminal mind.
illuminated nor divinely inspired, I am one who weighs evidence and judges
that “A exists,” or “B does not exist,” or “C occurred,” or “D did not
occur,” or "E is better" or "F is worse." We all do that every day. My
interest in and stamina for doing it, however, exceeds the norm.
doesn’t make me a better or worse person. Even if any of my affirmations
or denials are wrong, my fidelity to the pure desire to know, the beating
heart of truth-seeking, is more important than achieving correctness on
particular issues. I am eager to have someone else demonstrate my
fallibility by overturning my judgments. But I wish others to judge me
more by that willingness than by the content of my judgments.
who inhibits and suppresses the expression of truth-seeking and
falsehood-exposing, even should the would-be suppressor be right in a
given instance, is a malefactor. In dishonoring truth and persecuting the
allegedly erroneous one, he does more harm than the propagation of error
will, of course, claim that they are preventing greater harm. The world
is divided over just how that is properly done. The history of philosophy
shows one way. The history of power shows the other.
my credo. If it be “rationalism,”
“modernism,” let my
critics make the most of it.
these pages a philosophy for addressing the problems of our age is
emerging. It will ever be a work in progress. Ideas and arguments,
elements of a concrescing edifice, will pass in review before the reader
whose criticism, humbly solicited and grate-fully received, will influence
future versions of my presentations or inspire new ones. I will esteem
those who express their disagreement with me as collaborators, for they
will, in effect, forge that philosophy with me.
clear away the brush of thoughts that have held me fast for many years,
but not without giving others a chance to show me the errors of my ways,
especially if they repute the clearing to be my worst. But they must
show me, for I will not trim my sails to court their company. I hope
that, in exchange for their attention, they will enjoy the discovery of
and engagement with lines of thinking that may not otherwise have occurred
to them, even if they do not find those avenues congenial. Of course, I
look forward to hearing from anyone who finds that his inquiries and mine
subtitle is “Where one man sorts out his thoughts in public,” but I am
happy to publish essays by and at the request of friends who have helped
with the sorting.
thinkers have inspired me, but I am responsible for any abuse their
learning has suffered at my hands, as they are due any credit for the
interest my poor renditions may stimulate in my visitors. Only the
synthesis attempted herein is unavoidably original. Its value lies,
however, not in its originality, but in any coherence and experiential
adequacy it may possess, which each reader must judge for himself.
Remarks in tribute to
Harry Elmer Barnes, February 9, 1955, which Lundberg cites in his foreword
to Harry Elmer Barnes:
Learned Crusader. The New History in Action. Colorado Springs: Ralph
Myles, 1968, xxxix.
This complements what John Stuart Mill wrote
almost a century earlier: "He who knows only his own side of the case,
knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been
able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on
the opposite side; if he does not so much know what they are, he has no
ground for preferring either opinion."
“Tony, you’re a great fellow, but there are two
kinds of intellectuals in this world, the Seekers and the Finders, and I
am afraid that you are an unregener-ate Seeker.” Murray Rothbard,
letter to author,
August 11, 1984.