return to religion-online

Thomas Aquinas and Three Poets Who Do Not Agree with Him

by Charles Hartshorne

Charles Hartshorne taught at the University of Texas where he was Ashbel Smith Professor of Philosophy. He had a distinguished career at several other universities, particularly the University of Chicago and Emory University. His most recent book, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method, was published by Open Court. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 261-275, Vol. 30, Number 2 , Fall-Winter, 2001. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


[Editor’s note: Late in 1991 Hartshorne sent two articles to me for submission to The Midwest Quarterly, a journal on whose editorial board I serve. One of the articles was accepted for publication; the other, published here, was considered by the editor-in-chief to be too long. Hartshorne apparently guessed that the article might be too long, for he attached a note to it that says, "How do you like this? If too long, take out something, but preserve the intelligibility." I decided against shortening the paper; it remained unpublished, until now.

Besides what is published here, there are four manuscript versions of varying lengths and with slightly different titles among the Hartshorne papers (now housed at the Center for Process Studies). In the interest of preserving the integrity of Hartshorne’s thought, I have decided, rather than shortening the article, to expand it with Hartshorne’s own variations, which I include in the endnotes. The abbreviations A, B, C, D in the endnotes refer to the four manuscript versions, which are titled as follows: A "Saint Thomas Aquinas and Three Poets Who Did Not Agree With Him" (20 pages, concluding paragraphs missing); B "Thomas Aquinas, Philosophical Theologian, and Some Poets Who Do Not Agree With Him: An Imagined Confrontation" (33 pages); C = untitled manuscript (23 pages); D=Thomas Aquinas, Theologian, and Some Poets Who Do Not Agree With Him: An Imagined Confrontation" (22 pages, page 21 missing).

Although the paper presented here is the one Hartshorne intended for publication, internal evidence suggests that it is the earliest of all the manuscripts -- see endnotes [10] and [16]. Hartshorne had the habit of revising his writings, even those he had already published. Thus, it is possible that he conceived a lengthier version. In the annotations I make no use of the concluding twelve pages of B, which make no mention of Aquinas or the three poets who disagree with him, and which are entirely missing from the other versions -- see endnote [21]. Because I ignore these pages, I make no pretense of offering a complete comparison of the extant manuscripts. I have striven, however, to honor Hartshorne’s wish to preserve the paper’s intelligibility. -- Donald Wayne Viney]

For twenty-five centuries of Western philosophy and theology, apart from Judaism, only two forms of philosophical theism were widely known: what I call classical theism and classical pantheism, the latter best known as Stoicism (until Spinoza); the former was chiefly Islamic or Christian, except for some among the Jews. Two traits of classical theism were that it either (like Stoicism and Spinozism) clearly and consistently denied human freedom (in the straightforward sense of actions being not wholly determined by their causal conditions) or else ambiguously or contradictorily affirmed and denied causal determinism -- truly classically in Aquinas’s statement that God strictly causes our actions but in such fashion that we were also free to act otherwise. The contradiction was, in my judgement, and that of a multitude of other philosophers (including Spinoza), left standing. Long before the blessed Thomas, the blessed Augustine made even less pretension of avoiding unqualified theological determinism. I am familiar with the efforts made to show there is no contradiction but will omit the reasons that for many of us refute these attempts.

It is true that Descartes, a classical theist, did unequivocally affirm human freedom, as did Arminius, but neither of them removed the contradiction between this freedom and the timeless perfection of the deity which knows the free act. Aristotle, inventor of the concept of God as unmoved mover, correctly drew from it the conclusion, therefore God does not know or care about us. No Christian, or religious Jew either, could take this way of removing the contradiction that in the long run ruined the intercultural reputation of classical theism, Christian or Islamic (as in Al Gazalli).

There was another basic flaw which made classical theism vulnerable to rejection not just by atheists but by convinced theists. This was its linking belief in God with belief in posthumous careers for human persons, in spite of the fact that, in the Book of Job for instance, although the divine existence is there taken for granted, there is not a whisper about Heaven or Hell, or about posthumous rewards or punishments, or any other prolongations of a person’s experiencing after death.

Now I come close to the theme of this article: one writer, and I have found no other, in the early Middle Ages attacked classical theism head-on precisely on its two most vulnerable points -- its affirmation of, or failure definitely to reject, unqualified theological determinism, and its commitment to endless posthumous careers for human persons, making them in that respect rivals to God. Dying was not to be the last of our sequence of experiences, but the beginning of a new and endless series. This isolated individual (there may, among Jews, possibly also in Islam, have been others) was Omar Khayyám, a Persian (Iranian). He was a mathematician and astronomer who wrote some prose writings in religion showing that he did not reject the idea of God but that he was very cautious about philosophical or theological definitions or explications of the idea. He also wrote poetry, not for publication or for money, but for distribution among friends; in these he emphatically rejected or made fun of two ideas: that of endless careers for human beings involving rewards or punishments for our behavior on earth, combined (absurdly, as he felt) with the view that divine power fully decides our behavior, no matter how wicked or good. The combination of absolute divine power, zero human freedom, and supernatural Heaven and Hell he robustly repudiated. And, so say many of us today, why not? What else does it deserve?

Most of us would probably never have heard of Omar had not another poem, miscalled a translation of Omar’s, been published in England; it was by Edward Fitzgerald, and came out in 1859. It is one of the glories of English literature, who can deny it? I seriously wonder if Omar himself was quite as good a poet; his profession was in mathematics, and, in the entire history of the mathematical scientists, I doubt that one can find a single poet comparable to Fitzgerald. The only one that occurs to me is Lucretius (if he was a mathematician) with his Latin poems. It is good, but as richly beautiful as Fitzgerald’s? What he wrote was both less and much more than a mere translation. However, the basic double attack, in my view wholly justified, on classical theism, whether Islamic or Christian, was in both original and paraphrase essentially the same. (Ali Dashti has shown that.) Only the poetic vividness and beauty was, I cannot but believe, considerably enhanced in Fitzgerald’s poem.

The fundamental silliness of a God who predestines us to be wicked and then punishes or rewards us everlastingly for doing what it has always been settled that we do is wonderfully set forth. If it does not refute the doctrine, what view that has ever been held has been refuted?

I have only one quarrel with Omar. He seems to think our mortality is objectionable simply as such, and not merely because of our lack of freedom and the injustice of posthumous punishments or rewards where there is no real responsibility on our part. It does not seem to occur to him that if God fully knows our experiences, most of which we ourselves cannot remember, surely God does not forget them when we die, as we mostly do when our friends die. In this Omar seems only too much like those he is attacking, who cannot bear to accept mortality and want to be as temporally enduring as deity.

I am amazed how feebly multitudes of persons have imagined what it means for God to be ideally perceptive and retentive of worldly happenings, as by most definitions God is said to be! How could they fail to see that the idea of social immortality acquires new dimensions through belief in God? This is Whitehead’s thesis of objective immortality in God as consequent upon the world, sympathetically attentive to all that happens in it, "the fellow-sufferer who understands." At my first reading of this idea in Whitehead I felt, "there’s the truth itself on this topic," and I am still exactly of that opinion. Why so many multitudes of people cannot get the point is rather more than I can understand.1 It seems so simple and clear. Surely social immortality is the principle to start with in reflections on death. Surely also we live for others as well as for ourselves; even the other animals (especially animal mothers and sometimes fathers) do that. Also Christians say the words, "Love God with all your being" They show how little they mean to do what these words say when they insist that we should not have to accept our mortality and should, like God, have an infinite future.2

This brings out another defect in classical theism, according to which God does not in truth have an endless future, but is strictly timeless, pure actuality, being without becoming. God is then not in space or time but "in eternity" -- as though eternity were a special place outside of space-time in a super container for which we really have no words at all. What kind of a word game is this? I hold it is "language idling," to adapt Wittgenstein. We do have words for "unborn and undying," a phrase attributed to Buddha, but it is entirely compatible with Plato’s admirable but badly neglected idea of the divine life as having both being and becoming, to which duality (apparently without fully realizing it) Whitehead returns with his thesis of primordial and consequent divine natures. I further generalize it with my doctrine of dual transcendence. In Omar’s society Plato’s name meant primarily neoplatonism, which I see as a sad regression from Plato’s Timaeus, Phaedrus, Sophist, and Laws, Book 10.

I now introduce our third poet, another superb one, the American, Sidney Lanier, whose premature death is partial explanation for his not having been adequately appreciated. Like the other two, and with equal definiteness and eloquence, he rejected classical theism (without so naming it)3 because of its failure to protect freedom in our relation to God. The poem is called Individuality, and the title is significant as it shows how philosophical the poet was in this poem. Without knowing it, probably, he was repeating a doctrine of Epicurus: to be individual is to act individually, freely, not entirely determined by any condition or cause.

The poem is addressed to a cloud, from which have come thunder and lightning with disastrous human results that seem undeserved by the victims. We seem to be confronted with a problem of evil. Is the cloud wicked to produce these uncalled-for damages? No, for the cloud has no freedom, no will or sensibility of its own; it is not in any significant sense an individual. "There is no thee." The cloud is not acting wickedly for it is not acting at all; it is not an agent (or what I like to call an active singular).

In the eleventh verse the poet turns from the cloud to a quite different topic, an artist, for example a poet who has written a poem in praise of God. In him we do have an individual, an agent or active singular. Who then has made the poem, God who "makes" all things, or the one who writes the poem? (This is Lanier himself -- a musician in two senses, playing a flute superbly in the Baltimore orchestra, and writing some of the most beautifully musical verses ever written -- though Individuality is scarcely an example of that.) The poem leaves no doubt as to the answer: the poet, not God, has made the poem. (In all literature, in English or other languages, I know of no other poem comparable to this in its unambiguity on the freedom side of the topic. On the other side Robinson Jeffers was equally definite. So Ambrose Bierce, but in prose.) In this poem Lanier meant to be definite and, being a master of language, he succeeded. Here is the relevant part of the poem.

What the cloud doeth
The Lord knoweth,
The cloud knoweth not.
What the artist doeth,
The Lord knoweth;
Knoweth the artist not?

Well-answered! -- O dear artists, ye
Whether in forms of curve or hue
Or tone your gospels be –
Say wrong This work is not of me,
But
God: it is not true, it is not true.

Awful is Art because ‘tis free.
The artist trembles o’er his plan
Where men his Self must see.
Who made a song or picture, he
Did it, and not another, God nor man.
My Lord is large, my Lord is strong:
Giving, He gave: my me is mine.
How poor, how strange, how wrong,
To dream He wrote the little song

I made to him with love’s unforced design!
Oh, not as clouds dim laws have plann’d
To strike down Good and fight for Ill, --
Oh, not as harps that stand
In the wind and sound the wind’s command:
Each artist -- gift of terror! -- owns his will.

[The poet then returns to the cloud, and adds two verses, toying with the paradox that the cloud can and cannot be addressed as a fellow creature (kinsman), and concludes, addressing the cloud:]

Discharge the will that’s not thine own.
I work in freedom wild,
But work, as plays a little child,
Sure of the Father, Self, and Love, alone.

[I add a version from another manuscript.]

For if, O Lord, they rob me of my songs
What can I give thee? Piteous farce
To think Thee giving to Thyself through me

Lanier sees with devastating clarity the ghastly absurdity of the unmoved mover being taken as the model of deity in a religion of which the principle of principles is love (deus est cantas). Piteous farce indeed, how better can one describe it? And why talk about "serving" a God in whom our greatest joys and worst sufferings can awaken no sympathetic response, who gives all and receives nothing? Two thousand years of that should be sufficient. Even a century was pretty long, for that matter.

Lamer does not solve the problem of evil the poem seems to begin with, but then who did at that time? Science was still in the trap of Newtonian determinism and materialism, except in a few choice spirits here and there in the world. Then too in the old South (outside of Virginia) there was much more understanding of art than of science. The Georgian-Maryland poet has a few epigrams on the subject, none of which is a pearl of wisdom I fear: "Science that cannot prove proof is," "o’er-bright, smit with desire to see and not to see," "the sense making love to the all," this last being what he wants from science. He names no scientists, does not mention evolution, names no branch of science, does not seem to have any realistic idea of what scientists have been trying to do or why.4 In dealing with the arts, especially the two kinds of music I have mentioned, he is much more knowledgeable; he also knows quite a little about the religions of mankind, is perceptive about Buddhism (see his poem Nirvana) , and, to my surprise, is aware of Omar Khayyám!

Sadly ironical is the fact that it seems entirely foreign to Lanier’s view of science that one of its values has always been supposed to be its capacity to help prevent or cure diseases. The tuberculosis which haunted his adult life and killed him when he was thirty-nine years old would, in a few decades, become only a very minor problem in his part of the world thanks to Pasteur and bacteriology.5

I am somewhat discomforted by the male chauvinism of Lanier’s language. God as Father, man as the same as person. Of course in this he was like nearly everyone of his time.6 He was no Emerson, cordially favoring women’s rights, but then he was not in New England. (He was, however, well aware of and rather perceptive about Emerson.)7 It is enough that he was perfect on the necessity of genuine freedom in philosophy of religion. Indeed, who else is as good, apart from a few theologians and philosophers scattered through intellectual history, among hosts of the wont-sees and the shant-sees, to borrow the language of a superb but neglected satirical English novelist who was partly contemporary with, but earlier and longer-lived than Lanier, and who wittily made fun of theories of human behavior conceived in terms of causal necessity. If the reader doesn’t know his name then he has missed a lot of fun on a high level. He has lots of company in this misfortune, so he can probably bear it. Only by having a learned and himself witty father-in-law; did I come to know and read this and some other enjoyable English writers of the nineteenth and the present century.8

Lanier implicitly did give a clue to the problem of evil. A cloud is not a thou, an active singular. But the fallacy of distribution, in any good book of elementary logic, is to apply terms, especially negative ones, appropriate to a whole (or totality) inappropriately to all its parts (or members) as well. Large wholes can have small parts, inactive wholes can have active parts, insentient wholes can have sentient parts, unfree wholes can have free parts. Epicurus (and Lucretius, to whom Lanier refers with some appreciation) knew this with reference to freedom, but the great Plato and Aristotle did not. Epicurus (and Lucretius) did not know it with reference to sentience, but I hold that Plato would have, had he agreed with Epicurus about freedom -- which Plato called self-motion or self-activity. Not just human freedom explains conflict and evil in the world but also the humbler forms of freedom that no portions of nature are wholly without. Nothing that happens is in detail simply what God has decided. Always non-divine freedoms are involved. The combinations of free agents’ actions come about by chance. X does al and Y does a2, the combination al.a2 neither X nor Y has decided, it just happens; bring in God as Z, and the logic still holds, chance is still there. So when Lanier writes "miscalled chance" of happenings he is making a mistake, a very common one to be sure. He is stating an "opinion" not a truth, and he has declared his dislike of opinions. (However, he does well to object to violence being used for or against opinions, as in the burning of Servetus at the stake by Calvin, a deed not to be humanly forgiven.)9

The question sufferers often ask, "Why has God done this to me?" is always a wrong question. (My father, a pious Episcopal clergyman, knew this before I was born ninety-four years ago.)10 By the same logic it is always wrong to think that if we do something as a service to God it is really God who has seen to it that this deed shall be done. The deed is ours, not God’s or any one else’s. The same is true of the actions of other animals, such as the rail or marsh wren Lanier writes about. It is also true of what bacteria do. Our chief difference from these other active singulars is that we can know; in our verbal ways and in terms of universals, principles, what is going on. We can think as well as merely feel situations. We are sentient plus. But, as Peirce saw; before Whitehead gave technical expression to it with his concept of "prehension," the merest feeling implies "spontaneity," a degree above the zero of freedom.

All feeling, for Whitehead, and, though less clearly, for Peirce and Bergson, is social, feeling of others’ feeling; this is the kernel of love, which for Lanier also was the principle of principles. This is what I mean by "neo-classical metaphysics," analogously to what is or may be neo-classical physics -- if and when physicists find out how to unite relativity and quantum physics in a unitary theory, and how to relate the many kinds of particles and waves (or strings) and the four (or three) forces. The metaphysical aspect is not wholly finished either. Science and metaphysics, as practiced, are not simply and mutually independent; if, for example, Aristotle’s zoology was not clearly evolutionary it was also insofar not good metaphysics.11 No empirical observation could show that something, say a species, never changes, or that nature makes no leaps. In principle something like quantum physics could have been vaguely predicted. Peirce made the contrary prediction and should not have.12

The big changes in science correct previous positions that never were justified, except at most as a program of research. As Bergson said, years before it collapsed, classical physics simply could not be literally true. Nor could the theology that mostly went with it, in Newton’s mind as in many others. Omar’s eloquent, and Fitzgerald’s probably even more eloquent, rejection of the medieval form of theism was in the long run deadly. Lanier’s equally emphatic negation was long over-due; something happened when he wrote that poem. But who, for a hundred years, saw this? Similarly, when Socinus and his followers gave their defense of human freedom, even in relation to divine power, and rejected the timelessness of deity to make room for human freedom, who took them seriously? Again, when Kierkegaard defended freedom in the same human-divine context (but did not alter the immutability of deity and thus fell behind the Socinians) how long was it before anyone saw what was wrong and that the job had been better done long before?

I add Freud’s remark that, though the power of reason in human life is weak it is in the long run our best hope. And life is hope or nothing much. In this I appeal to Albert Schweitzer, also to Peirce, who sometimes despaired but knew that this was a weakness, and that extreme pessimism is as false as extreme or foolish optimism. And even the psychologist Skinner, who is myopic about freedom, does say that positive is better than negative reinforcement. He votes on the side of hope and love, not fear, hate, or despair. So should we all.

This essay has not so far been kind to a writer who has meant a great deal to many. Someone, with I think a Catholic background, has called me an anti-Thomistic Thomist. I do take the sainted Thomas seriously enough to attack him definitely and, in some ways I agree with him, even against some of his disciples. Thus I agree with him that if God is entirely immutable, then God is also without potentiality and vice versa. In pure eternity there is no contingency; however, I add, with full support from Aristotle, there is also in it no knowledge of definite contingent things or worlds. The choice between non-dual and dual transcendence is rigorous: either God is (in diverse respects, to avoid formal contradiction) both absolute and relative, necessary and contingent, immutable and mutable, infinite and finite, or only absolute, necessary, immutable, or infinite. The famous theologica negativa, so far as it was or is merely negative, was wrong all through, or not wrong at all.13 Thomas says it is not wrong at all; I say this is a more nearly logical position than that it is wrong here and there. I take Plato as on my side in this when he says that in God is both being and becoming, both permanence and novelty, a closed past and an open future, also that God cares about the creatures, thus siding in advance against Aristotle’s unmoved mover, taken as the God of religion.14 What moves things is at least "self-moved," and is soul, including the supreme and cosmic soul, God, whose body is all else than cosmic soul and other than forms. Did Aristotle or his followers refute Plato’s doctrine? No, they ignored it. What causes motion and change, for Plato, was soul, which by definition is self-moved and can also move whatever is movable. The eternal form of Good is envisaged by God in producing or changing the world but, apart from soul, forms are powerless. As Burnet, the great British scholar in ancient Greek thought, said, "Plato’s great discovery was not the forms but soul." Sad to say, most of the learned world still does not seem to know this. Even Whitehead partly missed it.15

Another remark about Thomas, the "great arranger of ideas:" I recall having read somewhere that, late in his rather short life, he expressed discontent with his writings as not really up to their exalted subjects. I do not take this confession as mere or false modesty. I suspect it was an honest confession. Often in reading the Summas I have felt how much stronger some of the objections he formulates to the conclusions he knows all along he must reach than are his rebuttals of the objections. Who knows but he began to see through his own devices for reaching these preordained conclusions?

With Plato I strongly believe that philosophy, of all subjects, requires maturity. One of my advantages over most of my contemporary rivals is that, decade after decade, in eighty or so years I have gone on gaining additional clarity on a number of topics which interested me from the start. I am now close to forty-five years older than Thomas when he died.16 And even he spent his last months, or was it years, writing hymns. Adding this to his final apology, what do we have? I think we have a learned world that for centuries overrated a person who himself did not agree with the rating! Long before Thomas was born the "medieval synthesis" was already set almost in concrete. He had a poor chance of considering its foundations on their merits. His tradition was a mixture of second-rate Greek philosophy and second-rate biblical scholarship, going back to Philo and Augustine. Shakespeare’s tide "comedy of errors" comes to me as all too fitting for this story.17

An interesting common trait of the poets referred to in the title of this essay is that they seem (it is hard to be sure about this) to believe in God but not in metaphysics, not in the then available theoretical explications of the idea of deity They knew the dangers of religious intolerance and felt that truths of the intellect must take second place compared to truths of the heart. The latter formula is usually attributed to Pascal, and it is possible that Lanier knew that, though there seems no evidence to support this. However that may be, he does speak of knowing with the heart, also his scorn of "opinions," and reference to Servetus as having died because of his opinion is close to what Omar faced in his time and place. I take the present century to contrast with all its predecessors in the way in which it is now possible for educated people -- alas many of our population are but little educated scientifically or philosophically -- still, for those who are it is now possible to be religious intellectually without ceasing to be lovingly so, and without threatening anyone.18

I have studied forms of theism as they have been for three millennia around the world, and have talked to philosophers and theologians in many countries. No one threatened me except two fundamentalists (with letters about my future residence in Hell) in the part of the world where I now live. I think I know the arguments for the various positions about theism almost as well as any one person could know them. I claim no infallible wisdom in my choice of doctrines or arguments, but I use rigorous logic in showing that certain ways of classifying possible ways of thinking positively or negatively about God do exhaust the possibilities. In all there are sixteen such ways, and each has two subdivisions, making thirty-two in all. Nothing like this analysis seems to have been proposed by others but intellectual history exhibits examples of most of them, so that what I am talking about is definitely relevant. What follows is that theological or atheistic disputes in the past committed the "fallacy of many questions." They never realized anything like the complexity of the problem they were trying to solve.19 This was true no matter what position they were taking. From now on only the illiterate in the topic can go on making this mistake.

The rigorous logic referred to does not dictate the choice among the thirty-two, but it throws a lot of light on what it means to make a choice, and does this for the first time in all those thirty centuries. Always there was gross underestimation of the size of the problem. It just is that complicated. But sixteen or even thirty-two are not hopelessly many possibilities. Also the subdivisions all depend on a single principle, Plato’s mind-body analogy for the God-Cosmos relation, so that the choice among the sixteen is the basic one.20 It makes a square of four columns and four rows; thus we have four times four. Each row has a single principle and so does each column, and one of the two diagonals also has a single principle.21, 22 All this shows how right Omar, Fitzgerald, and Lanier were to shy away from reasoning about just how God was to be conceived. No one really knew then what the problem was, but they felt they loved God, that only superhuman love could merit our loving it with all our being, and that doing so helps us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, in both cases as valuable to the all-loving One.

Poor Pascal, he was a determinist, denying freedom.23 That was an intellectual mistake as well as a mistake of feeling. God, like a good not a tyrannical parent, wants children to make their own decisions. Being parent is clearly female more than male. If Lanier missed that it was partly at least because he loved Jesus, the "crystal Christ," who was male and who called God "Father." Of all the tributes to Jesus I have read, I find Lanier’s the most eloquent. I still cannot quite go with him. Jesus I have not seen the face or heard the voice of, though I revere most of the words and deeds attributed to him. My own Christian mother was reliably wise and loving, selfish or unkind never, and she treated everyone she encountered as a neighbor, regardless of race, or whatever.24

For me, and Lanier does not seem very different in this, women are not persons minus something, they are persons plus something. What men can do (other than fertilize female egg cells) women can do, provided they are not too occupied with doing what only they can do. More and more clear does this become. Any human skill or intellectual operation can be managed by the brains and muscles of either sex unless it requires more crude muscular strength and height than most women have. Technology has made that difference less and less relevant. So also have better medicine and hygiene, lengthening life spans far beyond the child-bearing age, thereby diminished the male advantage or female disadvantage. In music this potential equality is especially obvious. I agree with Ashley Montague, the English sociologist: women not men are in principle the more complete persons. (Lanier’s Two Springs can perhaps, with parts of his Symphony, be taken to support this.) One must know some micro-physiology to see this completeness fully, but the facts are there. Montague knew what he was talking about. So, without all the scientific facts, did Emerson by trusting his intuitions, though some of his readers miss this. It is his diary one must read to be sure of finding it. In my book on American philosophy give the data. 25

One last remark about this wonderful poet of Georgia. He is upset about trade, commerce. He seems almost to want only art, religion, plus gardening, carpentering, local house-building, without much division of labor interregionally. Or, is his discontent not rather with what we now call capitalism, and the habit of measuring values by money, and of making individual or family self-interest rather than brotherly-sisterly love the motive. I suggest he is raising the democratic-socialist ideal, and if so I think he has a point. The Old South was not just more pro-slavery, it was also less crassly commercial than the North. The issue is still genuine.26 In the South I find more feeling for the art of conversation and for life itself as the art. Lanier embodies that. Two recent presidencies, making the rich richer and the poor poorer are dismal signs of our country taking a wrong turn. Even in this way Lanier is still relevant. He proclaimed a glorious ideal of love of nature, love of persons, of all the arts, and of the cosmic all-encompassing love. Let us add for him science, philosophy, and an economic and political theory that is environmentally, democratically, and internationally sound -- --but that last is for another occasion. Lanier had enough to do to relate to his country, or a small part of it. In this too he was like Omar. I accept the testimony of All Dashti in his book (translated into English) that Omar’s talk about wine did not mean alcoholism, but was symbolic of his repudiation of doctrinaire theology.27 His reputation was that of a well-behaved person, moderate in all things.28

Properly interpreted all four of the persons this article is about can help us to live better than we might live without them. They did what they could with what they had. It is for us, mutatis mutandis, to do the same.

Notes

1. B reads: Why so many multitudes of people cannot get the point is almost more than I can understand. Note the almost, I can verbalize explanations, but they seem so uncomplimentary!

2. B adds this to the end of the paragraph: I call this trying to make bargains with God. From the book of Job, I learn that we are in a poor position to judge so easily how cosmic creating can be possible at all, let alone be such that our human ideas of rewards and punishments can be met. How well do our prison systems work?

3. In B (and nearly identical wording in D) the words in parentheses are. (or something like it, his father was a strict Calvinist)

4. In C the following is added: He names almost no scientists (Huxley being the only one I find), mentions evolution but dismisses it as hostile to freedom. In truth Huxley and even Darwin are not on the side of freedom though Darwin’s letters show how hard he tried to find a way to admit it. He did not know that his theory made no definite use of strict determinism. He did not know that Peirce, Willard Gibbs, and Clerk Maxwell were, at about that time, coming to the conviction that strict determinism was not necessary, even to classical physics. The time was not ripe for general recognition of this. The Bishop [Wilberforce] who opposed evolution would not have satisfied Lanier any more than Huxley did. Of course Lanier knew far too little of science to decide between evolution and no evolution in biology. In dealing with the arts . . .

5. C adds this to the end of the paragraph: Indeed the first vaccination for tuberculosis control took place in the 1880s, the decade in which the dear poet died.

6. B inserts this remark, the comment in parentheses is written in my hand: Indeed during much of my career I have used male words -- though never I think Father -- for God. (Wrong, I have found one case even of that.)

7. A and B have different variations after the parentheses. A reads: Even Emerson was, in some passages, a determinist -- "there is no chance, no anarchy, every god is sitting in his sphere." The B variant is: Deeply discomforting and to me, puzzling, is his total silence about the wickedness of slavery, even in his novel, where he might have discussed it. The nearest he comes to that is to exhibit Southern African Americans (in some of their ancestors, who knows how many?) as at worst harmless, and Northern African Americans as wanton marauders. (As Grant said about General Lee, how was it possible to be so enthusiastic about so bad a cause as maintaining and extending slavery?)

8. Hartshorne is referring to Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866). Shantsee and Wontsee are characters in Peacock’s novel, Crotchet Castle. See The Darkness and the Light 254.

9. B concludes the paragraph thus: If it was not unbearably wicked then it was dismally stupid, a horrifying example of human weakness.

10. A, B, C, and D read: 95 years ago.

11. I have followed the B manuscript by inserting "as practiced" and "clearly" in this sentence.

12. A and B conclude the paragraph differently A’s conclusion: He predicted the freedom, but not the discreteness. B ‘s conclusion: It was his worst mistake.

13. In the preceding four sentences I follow the Variants of A and B by inserting the words and phrases. "entirely," "definite," "(in diverse respects, to avoid formal contradiction)," and "so far as it was or is merely negative."

14. In this sentence I follow A by inserting the following: both permanence and novelty, a closed past and an open future.

15. A adds: He was misled by A. E. Taylor, who was closer to orthodox Christianity than Whitehead was.

16. B, C, and D agree with this version. A, however, says: I am now close to fifty years older than Thomas when he died.

17. A’s final lines of the paragraph: Long before Thomas was born the "medieval synthesis," Harry Wolfson’s phrase, was already set almost in concrete. I think, with Wolfson, that the basic error of classical theism was already there in Philo’s non-dual transcendence, his utterly negative view of God, with the (inconsistent) qualification that Philo did believe in human freedom. Thomas had a poor chance of considering classical theism on its merits. It was a mixture of second-rate Greek philosophy and second-rate biblical scholarship, going back via Philo and Augustine to Aristotle hut without his superb logic of modality or possibility. Shakespeare’s title, "comedy of errors" comes to me as all too fitting for this story. No wonder that poor Wolfson, whom I knew well, became a complete skeptic in religion.

18. 1 follow the A, B, and D manuscripts, where the qualification "scientifically and philosophically" is inserted

19. B concludes the paragraph with these lines: Those who came nearest to doing this were, I think, theists, but they were not widely noticed or appreciated for this achievement; one sect of Hindus founded by Sri Jiva Goswami, Plato in his mature dialogues, the Socinians, Gustav Fechner the German psychologist (for his time in some ways the best of all), and Whitehead (ditto). Peirce hesitatingly and inconclusively gave hints in the right direction, as did some of my teachers at Harvard, so that when I came to know Whitehead and his metaphysical writings I was ready to utilize the advances he had made in this tradition, with some of which he was not himself familiar. He was both more traditional than he knew and even more revolutionary than he or most of his contemporaries knew.

20. 1 follow At variation b’ inserting: Plato’s mind-body analogy for the God-Cosmos relation. Hartshorne added a paragraph in A, expanding on the reference: Plato’s mind-body analogy, accepted by a number of modern theists before I came to my view has not, so far as I know; been carefully criticized. Whitehead’s argument against it depends on the assumption that Plato was no wiser in his use of this analogy than Plotinus and the other neo-platoni5ts. Even Philo was closer to the central message of Jesus than those people were. Indeed so was the author of Job.

21. A and B have different variations inserted here. A says: I am not the only one who has proposed the principles, and none of the three seems to beg the question of theism. One of them was advocated by Morris Cohen, who impressed me as an atheist. The three "lines," row, column, diagonal intersect uniquely in a single one of the 16 options. B says the following, and from this point on it differs from all the others. I am probably not the first to propose any of the three principles, but the other proponents may not have seen their application to the theistic problem. One of the principles was advocated by Morris Cohen, who impressed me as an atheist. The three principles intersect in a single one, the all-positive one, of the sixteen or thirty-two options. This constitutes a really new theistic argument which I see as by far the strongest there is or is likely to be. Its conclusion is not just theism of some kind but a fairly definite kind of theism. By some criteria there are six kinds, by others nine.

22. For an explanation of the four times four diagram see editor’s introduction to this focus.

23. Both A and D add this: So, let it not be forgotten, was the great God-denier, Neitzsche. In both writers this was an intellectual mistake as well as a mistake of feeling.

24. D adds: With people like her one has the basic clue, with or without Jesus.

25. Creativity in American Philosophy 36-37.

26. Manuscript A ends here, but appends the manuscript with the four times four diagram.

27. Ali Dashti. In Search of Omar Khayyám.

28. C inserts this penultimate paragraph: So far, in dealing with Lanier’s religious views I have neglected his attitude toward death and our mortality. In Resurrection he does seem to imply that we can "pass the grave," mentioning Christ. On the other hand his vivid interest seems to be essentially in life in this world of people and nature that we know and love. He is definitely a poet of nature in the concrete along with Wordsworth and Shelley. I am inclined to think it possible he could have accepted the objective immortality of the past if he had read about it. I feel the same about my pious patents. Relevant here is Reinhold Niebuhr’s remark to me that he was not prepared to say a Christian could not accept this Whiteheadian doctrine as sufficient, adding, however, that he preferred to leave the matter as open mystery, without any pretense of having a definite theory.

Works Cited

Dashti, All. In Search of Omar Khayyám. Trans. L. P. Elwell-Sutton. Columbia UP, 1971.

Hartshorne, Charles. The Darkness and the Light. Albany: State U of New York P.1990.

Creativity in American Philosophy. Albany: State U of New York P, 1984.


Viewed 8276 times.