Peace Without Victory—in Philosophy

Professor Ralph Barton Perry

That European and American philosophy at the opening of the twentieth century should have been sharply controversial was not an accident of politics, any more than it was accidental that persecutions and inquisitions should have attended the history of Christianity. The jealous God of Christianity was by definition an only god whose claims implies the rejection or subordination of every other god. Those who were not exclusively with him were counted against him. “ Christian “ and “ anti-Christian “ constituted a complete disjunction. Similarly, the effect of the philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was to define sharp and conflicting antitheses. Its gods were jealous gods. Differences were irreconcilable oppositions, which could be overcome only through the conquest of one by another, or through their joint abdication in favour of a third party. But there are many signs of a changed temper of mind. The most recent philosophy seeks to escape such hostilities by avoiding the initial antitheses, or by bringing to light original communities and identities which have been lost sight of in the excessive sharpening of distinctions.