The International Conference of Arts and Science
R. S. Woodward
To THE EDITOR Of SCIENCE: I have read with much interest the letter of Professor Dewey with respect to Professor Munsterberg classification of the sciences. Several months ago there fell into my hands the enclosed copy of a. Preliminary Program for the Official Addresses at the International Congress of Arts and Science' of the forthcoming exposition at St. Louis in 1904. Since this remark-able document is marked Confidenfial, Proof under Revision,' it has been so treated by me up to the present date.
In the meantime, Professor Munsterberg, in an article on The St. Louis Congress of Arts and Sciences,' published in the Atlantic Monthly for May, 1903, has acknowledged himself as the author of the classification of the sciences set forth in the Program' and has led his readers to infer that this classification has been provisionally if not definitely accepted by the congress. He writes as a member of the 'Committee on Plan and Scope' of the congress and as the special representative of the philosophical sciences.' To quote his own words, he steps up to the honored platform of Park Street,' wherever that may be, and tells a wider circle what those plans are, and why they ask for interest and favor.'
We may perhaps doubt whether Professor Munsterberg speaks for the entire committee referred to, but since his explanation and defense of the Program' has been thus before the public for upwards of three months, it seems proper to assume that he invites criticism of his scheme of classification of the sciences from a larger circle of thinkers than that which centers in Park Street. I beg, therefore, to second Professor Dewey's invitation of the attention of the readers of SCIENCE to this matter and to submit a few brief remarks thereon.
The criticism which Professor Munsterberg's classification of the sciences seems to require is aimed not so much at the scheme itself as at the extraordinary claims he makes
( 303) for it. Any scheme that is workable may do well enough for the mere purposes of an international congress. But he would have us or, at any rate, the literary audience to which he addresses his exposition, believe that he has at last solved one of the great philosophical riddles. " The real interest," he says, " lies in the logic of the arrangement. The logical problem how to bring order into the wilderness of scientific efforts has fascinated philosophers from Aristotle and Bacon to Comte and Spencer. The way in which a time groups its efforts toward truth becomes, therefore, also a most significant expression of the deeper energies of its civilization, and not the least claim which our coming congress will make is that the program of its work stands out as a realization of principles which characterize the deepest strivings and the inmost energies of our own time as over against the popular classifications of the nineteenth century." Thus does the new scheme triumph over all difficulties !
If this were true, or even in part true, the scheme would he very important to men of science. Unfortunately, however, a glance at the divisions and subdivisions of the scheme seems to reveal only another of the numerous systems of a priori philosophy carried to the extremes which border on absurdity.
It is needless to discuss in detail a scheme at once so pretentious and so vulnerable. One should see a copy of the Program,' or read the exposition of it in the Atlantic Monthly. I will only add, Mr. Editor, that while we may not go out of our way to oppose philosophers and literary folks who indulge in such extravagances, it is our duty to repudiate them when they appear in the public press in the guise of science; for they tend only to make science and scientific men ridiculous.
R. S. WOODWARD.