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"He 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
Anthony Flood 

I am a philosopher.  That 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).

I am 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.

As 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.  

That 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.  

Neither 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.  

That 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.

The one 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 ever could.  

They 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.

Such is my credo.  If it be “rationalism,” liberal-ism, or modernism, let my critics make the most of it.

On 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.

I must 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 overlap.  

The [site's former] 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.

Many 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.

 February 2004  

1 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." On Liberty, II.

2 “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.