Letter to Schiller, April 8, 1903
Asheville, April 8, 1903
Dear Schiller, —
I believe that I am indebted to you for two good letters, for which this languid scrawl will hardly be a meet reply. Your strictures on my poor syllabus, docked and clipped as it was, were characteristically energetic and definite, but many of them would have proved to have had no application had my hand been more fully shown. That is, I should myself have been on their side. As for the infinite, I don't think we should quarrel about that either. There was something you said about "God" which I thought disclosed a somewhat deeper divergence, but as I have not your letters with me, I had better let that drop.
Has one A. W. Moore of Chicago sent you a paper of his? It tickled me hugely, and I wrote urging him to send it to you and to Sturt. It seems to me a masterly pragmatic production, and it appears now that, under Dewey's inspiration, they have at Chicago a flourishing school of radical empiricism of which I for one have been entirely ignorant, having been led to neglect its utterances by their lack of "terseness," "crispness," "raciness" and other "newspaporial" virtues, though I could discern that Dewey himself was laboring with a big freight, towards the light. They have started from Hegelianism, and they have that temperament (that is, such men as Mead and Lloyd have it strongly) which makes one still suspect that if they do strike Truth eventually, they will mean some mischief to it after all; but still the fact remains that from such opposite poles minds are moving towards a common centre, that old compartments and divisions are breaking down, and that a very inclusive new school may be formed. Once admit that experience is a river which made the channel that now, in part, but only in part, confines it, and it seems to me that all sorts of realities and completenesses are possible in philosophy, hitherto stiffened and cramped by the silly littlenesses of the upper and lower dogmatisms, alternating their petty rationalistic and naturalistic idols of the shop. . . .
Charles Peirce is now giving six public lectures on "pragmatism" at Harvard, which I managed to get up for his benefit, pecuniary and professional. He is a hopeless crank and failure in many ways, but a really extraordinary intellect. I never knew a mind of so many different kinds of spotty intensity or vigor. Miller's health is keeping good, and, although there is a strong basis of old-fashioned rationalism in his mind, which won't give way, I think it is dissolving in spots, and that he will erelong be a full-fledged child of the light.
I am forgetting in all this to notice your review of my "Vagaries" in the Proceedings, and that (I now perceive) is what I meant by this second "letter" of yours which I had not acknowledged. It was as usual ultra-generous, and I thank you for it. The energy
( 376) and literary ease you show fills me more and more with admiration. You ought to get less teaching work, and do more writing. As regards the matter of mysticism, I should like to talk it over with you. I doubt whether you do full justice to its strength. . . . I shall go up to Chocorua on May 1st, and doubt not that I shall recuperate and on the whole be as much better next year than this, as I have been this year than last. But lord! how I do want to read as well as write, and with so much left undone, I am getting really anxious lest I be cut off in the bud. Another pathetic Keats case !
I have just composed the first sentence of my forthcoming book — the only one yet written : "Philosophy is a queer thing — at once the most sublime and the most contemptible of human occupations." There is nothing like having made your start ! I should n't be surprised if the rest were like rolling down hill. I am sure that a book of the systematic sort can be written — a philosophy of pure experience, which will immediately prove a centre of crystallization and a new rallying-point of opinion in philosophy. The times are fairly crying aloud for it. I have been extraordinarily pleased at the easy way in which my students this year assimilated the attitude, and reproduced the living pulse of it in their examination and other writ-ten work. It is the first time I ever tried to set it forth ex cathedra. My success makes me feel very sanguine.
We are about to have a philosophy building, "Emerson Hall," so-called. I learn here by the papers that the subscription is secure, and work will probably commence speedily. I don't care a great deal for it myself, but it will please Palmer egregiously, as well as Münsterberg, whose laboratory is now in very bad quarters. I wrote a review of Myers's book for the Proceedings just before leaving home. I was dog tired and it went with difficulty. I wish you had done it. I could n't go into criticism of detail, so I simply skeletonized the argument, which was very likely a useful service. My opinion of the man is raised by reading the volumes, but not of the solidity of the system. The piles driven into the quicksand are too few for such a structure. But it is essential as a preliminary attempt at methodizing, and will doubtless keep a very honorable place in history. . . . Yours ever fondly,