38 Chapters
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The Problem of Truth (1911)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

To the lay mind it is a perplexing thing that the nature of truth should be a vexed problem. That such is the case seems another illustration of Berkeley’s remark about the proneness of philosophers to throw dust in their own eyes and then complain that they cannot see. It is evident enough to the plain man that it takes character to tell the truth habitually; and he has learned, through hard discipline, that it is no easy matter to discover what the truth is in special instances. But such difficulties assume that the nature of truth is perfectly well understood. To be truthful is to make our statements conform to our sincere beliefs, and our beliefs to the facts. Only, so it would seem, some zeal for sophistication can make a topic for philosophic dispute out of such a straightaway situation as this. Whence and why the pother? Before our inquiry ends we may find reason for thinking that some of the difficulties attending the debate are gratuitous. But we must begin by indicating that the conditions which make the nature of truth a problem are found in everyday life, in common sense, so that if to take truth as a problem be a crime, common sense is accessory before the act.

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The Ethics of Animal Experimentation (1926)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

Different moralists give different reasons as to why cruelty to animals is wrong. But about the fact of its immorality there is no question, and hence no need for argument. Whether the reason is some inherent right of the animal, or a reflex bad effect upon the character of the human being, or whatever it be, cruelty, the wanton and needless infliction of suffering upon any sentient creature, is unquestionably wrong. There is, however, no ethical justification for the assumption that experimentation upon animals, even when it involves some pain or entails, as is more common, death without pain,—since the animals are still under the influence of anaesthetics,—is a species of cruelty. Nor is there moral justification for the statement that the relations of scientific men to animals should be under any laws or restrictions save those general ones which regulate the behavior of all men so as to protect animals from cruelty. Neither of these propositions conveys, however, the full truth, for they are couched negatively, while the truth is positive. Stated positively, the moral principles relating to animal experimentation would read as follows:—

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Whitehead’s Philosophy (1937) (on Alfred North Whitehead)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

Mr. Whitehead’s philosophy is so comprehensive that it invites discussion from a number of points of view. One may consider one of the many special topics he has treated with so much illumination or one may choose for discussion his basic method. Since the latter point is basic and since it seems to me to present his enduring contribution to philosophy, I shall confine myself to it.

Mr. Whitehead says that the task of philosophy is to frame “descriptive generalizations of experience.” In this, an empiricist should agree without reservation. Descriptive generalization of experience is the goal of any intelligent empiricism. Agreement upon this special point is the more emphatic because Mr. Whitehead is not afraid to use the term “immediate experience.” Although he calls the method of philosophy that of Rationalism, this term need not give the empiricist pause. For the historic school that goes by the name of Rationalism (with which empiricism is at odds) is concerned not with descriptive generalization, but ultimately with a priori generalities from which the matter of experience can itself be derived. The contrast between this position and Mr. Whitehead’s stands out conspicuously in his emphasis upon immediately existent actual entities. “These actual entities,” he says, “are the final real things of which the world is made up. There is no going behind actual entities. They are the only reasons for anything.” The divergence is further emphasized in the fact that Whitehead holds that there is in every real occasion a demonstrative or denotative element that can only be pointed to: namely, the element referred to in such words as ‘this, here, now, that, there, then’; elements that cannot be derived from anything more general and that form, indeed, the subject-matter of one of the main generalizations, that of real occasions itself.2

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Mathematical Discourse from Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

The ability of any logical theory to account for the distinguishing logical characteristics of mathematical conceptions and relations is a stringent test of its claims. A theory such as the one presented in this treatise is especially bound to meet and pass this test. For it has the twofold task of doing justice to the formal character of the certification of mathematical propositions and of showing not merely the consistency of this formal character with the comprehensive pattern of inquiry, but also that mathematical subject-matter is an outcome of intrinsic developments within that pattern. For reasons suggested in the closing sentence of the last chapter, the interpretation of the logical conditions of mathematical conceptions and relations must be such as to account for the form of discourse which is intrinsically free from the necessity of existential reference while at the same time it provides the possibility of indefinitely extensive existential reference—such as is exemplified in mathematical physics.

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The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology (1896)

LARRY A HICKMAN Indiana University Press ePub

That the greater demand for a unifying principle and controlling working hypothesis in psychology should come at just the time when all generalizations and classifications are most questioned and questionable is natural enough. It is the very cumulation of discrete facts creating the demand for unification that also breaks down previous lines of classification. The material is too great in mass and too varied in style to fit into existing pigeon-holes, and the cabinets of science break of their own dead weight. The idea of the reflex arc has upon the whole come nearer to meeting this demand for a general working hypothesis than any other single concept. It being admitted that the sensori-motor apparatus represents both the unit of nerve structure and the type of nerve function, the image of this relationship passed over into psychology, and became an organizing principle to hold together the multiplicity of fact.

In criticizing this conception it is not intended to make a plea for the principles of explanation and classification which the reflex arc idea has replaced; but, on the contrary, to urge that they are not sufficiently displaced, and that in the idea of the sensori-motor circuit, conceptions of the nature of sensation and of action derived from the nominally displaced psychology are still in control.

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