Baltimore Evening Sun (24 January 1913): 6.
The letters of the Hon. Messrs. Janvier and Stone, in today’s Letter Column, give unexpected but impressive support to my late argument that philosophy and matrimony are incompatible. The Hon. Mr. Janvier, his cupidity aroused by my offer of a prize of $10,000 for the name of one married philosopher of the first rank, comes forward with “Old Uncle Ned, the cornfield nigger,” a sage entirely unknown to Wildenband and Falckenberg. And the Hon. Mr. Stone, his passions excited by the same offer, proposes Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Father of the New Thought! It would be impossible to imagine more striking self-refutations.
Not that I deny, of course, all philosophical dignity and consideration to MM. Ned and Emerson. Far from it, indeed. I am perfectly willing to admit that there is such a thing as hog-and-hominy philosophy, just as there is such a thing as hog-and-hominy medicine, and even such a thing as hog-and-hominy literature. The common people, like the castes above them, feel the need of ready-made wisdom, just as they feel the need of ready-made tonics and romance. The result, on the one hand, is Peruna, and, on the other hand, it is the New York Evening Journal, and on the third hand, as it were, it is popular philosophy. But it would be just as absurd to call a popular soothsayer a first-rate philosopher as it would be to compare the inventor of Peruna to Jenner and Metchnikoff, or the editor of the Evening Journal to Addison and Walter Pater.
No, dear friends, Emerson was not a first-rate philosopher, nor even a second-rate one. He was merely a man who put windy nonsense into vague and romantic form, and thereby convinced the vulgar that he was wise. The business of a philosopher is to find out the truth; the business of Emerson was to say something sonorous and agreeable. His methods and his matter have been borrowed by countless successors, and the result, as I have hinted, is the so-called New Thought of today, that delight of the incurably ignorant. The New Thought does not pretend to solve the bitter and complex problems of life: it merely argues that no such problems exist. In brief, it reduces the whole of philosophy to a few perfumed platitudes and comforting denials, comprehensible even to the ladies who read essays before women’s clubs.
Its branches and offshoots pursue the same course in more restricted fields. For example, psychotherapy, which commonly takes visible embodiment as Christlan Science or the Emmanuel Movement. The essential doctrine of Christian Science in that Dr. Welch and his followers waste their time when they go vivisecting patients and gaping into microscopes. The problem they regard as enormously complex, and which they try to unravel by laborious and endless effort, is really as simple as A B C. Any half-intelligent old maid, by the formulæ of Christian Science, can learn more about it in two hours than Dr. Welch has learned in 60 years. Such is the Emersonian philosophy as applied to the mysteries of the human body; its one effort is to sweep those mysteries away, as bogus and imaginary.
In exactly the same way it has been applied to the intricate problems of civilized government--always to the end of reducing those problems to elemental equations. Thus the vice crusaders believe and argue that they can eradicate one of the most ancient weaknesses of man by the simple process of enforcing a law. And thus the so-called progressives oropose to eradicate a whole regimen of human weaknesses by the simple process of putting everything to a vote. Here, as in the more obvious case of Christian Science, the fundamental doctrine is that the laws of nature can be changed by human volition--that as a man thinks, so he is.
No such doctrine, unluckily for the New Thoughters, is supported by the known facts. Human experience, intelligently interpreted, teaches a doctrine that is exactly the contrary. That is to say, it makes us think it highly probable that thought is not the cause of physical states, but their effect. As a man is, so he thinks--this is vastly more accurate than its opposite. And the more we study those underlying physical states the more we are impressed by their complexity. All progress in science leads to the breaking down of apparent of apparent entities. The more we learn about the universe the more we see that it is not to be mastered in a day.
Here, however, I wander off into interstellar spaces. All I set out to do was to argue that Emerson was not a philosopher of the first rank. He left his followers, not nearer the truth, but further from the truth. The great majority of them, indeed, were led so far astray that they have never come back. We Americans of today, as a nation, are distinguished by anything but clarity of thought. We jump incessantly from fallacy to fallacy; we are bitterly hostile to the cold and flabbergasting facts of life. The one philosopher produced by this country since Emerson’s day was William James, a man who gave ready credence to ghost stories and whose philosophy, stated briefly, was an argument in favor of judging ideas, not by their truth, but by their mere agreeableness.
Emerson was a married man; James was a married man. But Nicolas Acusa, Hobbes, Berkeley, Smith, Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were bachelors. So were Xenophon, Plato and Aristotle, the great successors of Socrates. As for Socrates himself, he was the husband of Xanthippe.
From the London Daily Express of a late date:
In Elizabeth’s time punishments were very severe. The naval regulations, for example, provided that a sailor who offered violence to an officer was to “be hanged to the balspite, with a can of beere, and a biscote of breade, aud a sharpe knife, and so to hang and choose whether he woulde cutte himselfe down and falle into the sea or hang still and starve.”
All of which seems to prove that the suffragettes are not nearly so advanced as they think they are.
Boil your drinking water! Cover your garbage can! Swat the last fly of summer left blooming alone!
The proposal to flatten out the slight angle in East Baltimore street, at a cost of $1,000,000, is once more before the Job Hounds. Before proceeding further with this project, which would waste a lot of money at no benefit whatever to the persons who use the street, it might be well to get a full list of the property owners who would receive indemnities from the city for property destroyed, and look into the actual assessed value of that property on the one hand, and the political affiliations of the owners on the other.