Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why did Indian philosophy disappear from Mind for about 50 years?

In the late 1800s and the early years of the 20th Century, Mind published several items on Indian philosophy.

Examples:

In 1915, the journal included a paper by P. Narasimham called 'Vedantic Good' (24 [93]). There was an item in 1912 by Homo Leone called 'The Vendantic Absolute' (21 [81]).

There were several pieces by S. Radhakrishnan in WWI and just afterwards (26 [103], 28 [109 and 111]). In 1926 (35 [138]), Mind devoted about 25 pages to Radhakrishnan's review of criticisms of his book on Indian philosophy.

H. N. Randle published pieces on Indian logic in 1924 (33 [132]) and 1926 (35 [137]).

In 1932 (41 [164]), there was a 7-page review (by J. S. Mackenzie) of a book by Radhakrishnan, and in 1937 (46 [183]) a 4-page review by A. T. Shillinglaw of an anthology on Indian philosophy.

After that, as far as I can tell there's nothing very substantive until 1988, when Mind published 'The Context Principle and Some Indian Controversies over Meaning' by B. K. Matilal and  P. K. Sen (97 [385]). In the interval, there are only very brief items on Indian philosophy (e.g., in the book notes that appear in the sections on 'New Books'). (Please let me know if I've missed some lengthier items on Indian philosophy between 1937 and 1988.)

So, Mind's coverage of Indian philosophy trailed off in the 1930s (when G. E. Moore was editor) and didn't really resume until the late 1980s.

What accounts for the roughly 50-year absence? Is it that the earlier coverage was due to some individuals who exercised some influence on Mind but who died in the '30s? My conjecture is that Indian philosophy was associated with British idealism, and that after the analysts had completed their purge of idealism from the journal (mainly by the 1920s), Indian philosophy, too, largely disappeared from Mind.

The journal has recently announced that it is broadening its scope.

Monday, April 11, 2016

French and central European philosophers in WWI

This war has indeed wrought great havoc in scholarship. (Edward P. Buffet, Monist 26, no. 2 [April, 1916], 'Karl Eugen Neumann', p. 319)
In addition to Étienne Gilson and Pierre Rousselot, another French philosopher who served in WWI is Émile Bréhier. Although he was 40 years old in 1916, he was at the Battle of Verdun, as a result of which his left arm was amputated (in October, 1916). Martial Gueroult also was in the army, as was the historian Marc Bloch.

On the German side, in addition to Emil Lask and Adolf Reinach (noted in an earlier post), there is Heinrich Friedemann, who had studied philosophy at Marburg with Paul Natorp and belonged to one of Stefan George's circles. Friedemann had published a book on Plato (Platon; seine Gestalt, 1914) and was, when the War began, habilitating at Heidelberg with Friedrich Gundolf. On Feb. 22, 1915, Friedemann was killed in action.

Another member of George's circle who was killed in the War is Norbert von Hellingrath. He was a Munich philologist who is known for having re-discovered Hölderlin's poetry.

From Ernst Robert Curtius's letter to Friedrich Gundolf (November, 1914):
What is horrifying about modern war is that human beings do not fight against other human beings, but against gruesome impersonal machines. Land mines, machine guns, artillery fire: that is the anonymous horror on which every idealistic perception of the war must founder. (quoted from Robert E. Norton, Secret Germany: Stefan George and His Circle, [Cornell University Press, 2002], p. 530)
Otto Dix - Stormtroopers advancing under a gas attack (1924)
There was also Wilhelm Metzger, who taught at Leipzig. He was a prominent Schelling scholar and had published Die Epochen der Schellingschen Philosophie von 1795 bis 1802, Ein problemgeschichtlicher Versuch. He was drafted into the army and sent to the western front. You will have to excuse my extremely weak German-language abilities, but if I interpret correctly a passage from Peter Hoerres' book (Krieg der Philosophen: die deutsche und britische Philosophie im Ersten Weltkrieg, 2004), Metzger died in 1916 of cancer.

Outside of philosophy but doing work of interest in the philosophy of art, there was Fritz Burger, an art history professor in Munich who was killed on May 22, 1916. Born in 1877, Burger was almost as old as Bréhier.

Robert Staiger, a privatdozent in art history at Göttingen and Felix Klein's son-in-law, was killed in action in August, 1914. Another Göttingen privatdozent who was killed in the War, and who was close to Klein, was the mathematician Wilhelm Behrens.

I learned of Behrens from this incredible source: Placing World War I in the History of Mathematics, by David Aubin and Catherine Goldstein (2013). See also the collection edited by Aubin and Goldstein: The War of Guns and Mathematics, ed. David Aubin and Catherine Goldstein (American Mathematical Society, 2014)

Here's a quotation from Arthur Bauer's piece in the July, 1916 issue of Revue Philosophiques de la France et de l'Étranger. Treat my following attempt at translation more as a paraphrase. According to Bauer, in extended periods of peace, for philosophers who do not attend sufficiently to history,
Humanity is in a state of constant progress and moves ... towards the ultimate end of its evolution: an altruism so natural and so powerful that everyone, forgetting his own interests, would serve his neighbor from inexhaustible reserves of charity. ... The terrible shock of current events wakes from their dream the most obstinate sleepers. By the light of howitzers that ... destroy whole battalions, illusions vanish, and reality appears in a relief so striking that no one can mistake it. (Bauer, 'Le role de la Fôrce' Revue Philosophiques de la France et de l'Étranger 82 [1916], p. 44)
In the Austro-Hungarian forces, in addition to Wittgenstein, philosopher Ernst Mally was in the front lines. Vienna-Circle mathematician Hans Hahn was wounded in the Isonzo region.

There was also a philosophy student and poet, Franz Janowitz, who was killed in 1917 in the Isonzo area. Janowitz, a friend of Franz Werfel's, was from Prague. His poetry was admired by Max Brod and Karl Kraus. He was studying philosophy in Vienna when the War began. One of his older brothers, Hans Janowitz (also a war vet), co-wrote the script for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Jerzy Żuławski
Photo source.

Jerzy Żuławski joined the Polish forces that fought on the Austro-Hungarian side. Żuławski had studied philosophy with Richard Avenarius in Switzerland. The product of that work was a dissertation called The Problem of Causality in Spinoza, which was the basis for a popular-philosophy book on Spinoza that Żuławski later published in Polish (Benedykt Spinoza: człowiek i dzieło, 1902). Żuławski translated several works of German philosophy into Polish. He is now known chiefly for his science-fiction books, especially his Lunar Trilogy (or Moon Trilogy). Stanisław Lem read these books when he was young and continued to admire the first book of the trilogy (The Silver Globe) later in life. Here's a 1985 item that Lem wrote about Żuławski's work. A film version of The Silver Globe was made by Żuławski's grand-nephew Andrzej Żuławski in 1976. The Lunar Trilogy sounds interesting. One of its themes was the transposition of events from the remote past into the language of mythology; the distant historical events in the novels concern the formation of a colony on the moon. While it has been translated into several languages, The Silver Globe hasn't been rendered in English. In WWI, Jerzy Żuławski worked mainly behind the battle front. He died in 1915 from an illness that he caught while visiting the front line.

From F. C. S. Schiller's review of John Dewey's book German Philosophy and Politics:
[The War] revealed that the actual world was a very different thing from the cosmic order they [philosophers] had constructed in their minds....Even though the rational order of human affairs was shattered before their eyes and the belief that thought controls man's feelings and determines his acts should have been among the first of the illusions swept away in the wreckage of the war, they insisted on finding ideal reasons to which to attribute the catastrophe.' (Schiller, Mind 25, no. 98 (Apr., 1916): 250)
Other philosophy students who served in the War and who achieved some distinction as novelists or poets include:
Miloš Crnjanski -- a Serb in the Austro-Hungarian army who wrote the The Journal of Carnojevic, which was recently produced as a play in Belgrade;
Camil Petrescu -- a Romanian who was wounded and taken prisoner by the Austro-Hungarians;
Milutin Bojić -- a poet in the Serbian army who died in May, 1917;
Sima Pandurović -- another poet in the Serbian army, Pandurović was taken prisoner by the Austro-Hungarians and survived the War.
Upddate (April 12): Slobodan Perovic has brought to my attention the Serbian philosopher Branislav Petronijević, who was a friend of Bertrand Russell's. (Thanks to Slobodan for those two links.)

Finally, here's an article by Nil Santiáñez (of St. Louis University) comparing Ernst Jünger's WWI writing with that of communist author Adam Scharrer; the article is called 'Ernst Jünger and Adam Scharrer: Two Global Views of the Great War'.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Some events and quotes from early 1916

February 6: Jan Smuts (future Prime Minister of South Africa) accepts command of a British force, which includes African and Indian soldiers, that is to capture German East Africa. One of Alfred North Whitehead's sons, Thomas North Whitehead (later a professor at Harvard Business School), serves in the east Africa campaign.

February 12: From a letter by Arthur Graeme West:
I got a "Spenser" from T....., and am now travelling through "The Faerie Queen" with the chaste Britomart. Yes, by all means send me "Tom Jones": those long things I can manage very well here, when we are back from the hellish trenches, where I find it hard to read, though I can manage to write letters, more or less.....How bloody people seem to be in England about peace and peace meetings. I suppose they are getting rather Prussian in the country, but are all peace meetings always broken up by soldiers (who've probably never been here at all)? (West, Diary of a Dead Officer, p. 12)
February 23: Étienne Gilson is taken prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of Verdun.
Indian troops at Kut Al Amara
Source of above image.

March 1: An excerpt from Abhi Le Baghdad by Sisir Sarbadhikari, who served with the British Indian forces that were trapped in the Siege of Kut Al Amara (about 100 miles south of Baghdad):
A bombardment started on the morning of March 1....A Gurkha was standing outside his tent, smoking, and the bomb fell near him. For a while there was only smoke and dust. When it cleared we saw only chunks of flesh and bone; the earth around there had turned into blood-soaked mud. (Sisir Sarbadhikari, Abhi Le Baghdad, trans. Amitav Ghosh [Calcutta, 1958], p. 80)
On April 27, three British intelligence agents, including Captain Thomas Edward Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), offered the Ottoman commanders a million pounds' worth of gold in exchange for release of the troops at Kut. The offer was refused. The British Indian forces surrendered to the Ottoman forces on April 29, 1916. At the time, it was the largest surrender of troops that the British had made.

March 1: Benito Mussolini promoted to rank of Corporal. From his recommendation:
For his exemplary activity, high Bersaglieresque spirit and calmness. Always first in every enterprise of work or daring. Heedless of discomforts, zealous and scrupulous in the carrying out of his duties.
March 2: Charles de Gaulle is wounded and captured by the Germans at the Battle of Verdun.

Franz Marc, 'Dreaming Horse' - Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

March 4: Artist Franz Marc is killed at the Battle of Verdun. 'In one day at Verdun...7,000 horses were killed by German and French shelling....In one of his last letters before his death, the German painter Franz Marc exclaimed: "The poor horses!"' Shortly after his death, Marc's 1914 paper ('Im Fegefeuer des Krieges') is published with the epigraph 'Im Anfang war die Tat'.

March 8Edmund Husserl's son Wolfgang Husserl is killed at the Battle of Verdun. In a letter to Hugo Münsterberg, Husserl writes, 'In this conflict, they [young Germans] went to fight in a Fichtean spirit, considering it a holy war, and to offer themselves wholeheartedly in sacrifice to the homeland'. (trans. by me from a French translation of the original German in Marc de Launay's 'Professorenkriegsliteratur' Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, no. 3 [2001]: 83-100 [at 96, n. 47])

March 17: Apollinaire receives a head wound from shrapnel, from which he never recovered. He died in 1918.

Apollinaire
 March 20: From Siegfried Sassoon's letter to Edward Dent:
On 18 March 1916 David Thomas was wounded in the jaw and died the same evening, aged 20: ‘an artery went, & he was choked,—drowned in his own blood....When the parson had finished (& the machine-guns kept making his words inaudible) a big thing fell about 150 yds away & burst with a final smash. And so my Tommy went away, happy and stainless.
-Shortly afterwards, Sassoon writes the poem 'Golgotha'.
March 23: Wittgenstein receives orders that transfer him to the eastern front; he takes with him a copy of the Brothers Karamazov. His diary entry for April 6 is 'Life is one'.

March 24: Spanish composer Enrique Granados Campiña is killed when his ship is sunk by a U-boat.

Late MarchEugene Bullard is seriously injured at the Battle of Verdun. Though American, he had joined the French forces. He was the first African-American military pilot, and he later worked as a club owner and as Louis Armstrong's French interpreter.

Christopher Eccleston reading Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce Et Decorum Est':


Also in March: Arthur Graham West writes a poem called 'Night Patrol'.

April 3Ernst Toller suffers from shell-shock and is removed from the front at the Battle of Verdun. On April 29, at a hospital near Strasbourg, he is diagnosed as having suffered a complete nervous collapse and is removed from active service. (F. S. L. Schouten, Ernst Toller: an intellectual youth biography, 1893-1918, Ph.D. dissertation, 2007, pp. 108-110)

April 10: After meeting with David Lloyd-George (then Minister of Munitions), Bertrand Russell writes (in a letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell) that Lloyd-George 'was very unsatisfactory & I think only wanted to exercise his skill in trying to start a process of bargaining.' On April 25, Russell reports to Morrell that
I got the impression that Ll. George expects the war to go on for a long time yet; also that he thinks the whole situation very black. He seemed quite heartless. 
Lloyd George had invited Russell and other members of the No-Conscription Fellowship to meet and discuss the situation of conscientious objectors, some of whom were in a legal position no different from that of deserters (who could be shot).



April 22: Siegfried Sassoon writes a poem called 'Stand-to: Good-Friday morning'.

April 24-30: Lenin attends a conference of the International Socialist Commission in Kienthal, Switzerland.

April 28: In a performance at the Bürgertheater in Vienna, Austrian troops on leave re-enact the March 21st Battle of Uscieczko, which they lost to the Russians. Karl Kraus pillories the event in Die Fackel:
As those up there knelt down to pray before the audience, and as those up there saluted, and the vermin down below cheered them and sang patriotic songs, and stood there side by side in their top hats and tails, it struck him as the most terrible of all contrasts, like an infernal battle between the glory of God and the arguments of the devil, and the anguish for a delirious humanity, mocking its own sacrifice.
Audio of Kraus reading from 'Die letzten Tage der Menschheit'; and of Kraus reading a passage about Verdun.

May11: Physicist Karl Schwarzschild dies from an illness that he caught while serving on the Russian front. Albert Einstein is critical of Schwarzschild for having joined the war effort. In a letter to Michele Besso (on May 14), Einstein writes: 'Schwarzchild ... is a real loss. He would have been a gem, had he been as decent as he was clever.' (quoted from Thomas Levenson, Einstein in Berlin [Bantam Books, 2003], p. 130)

May 12: After meeting with Prime Minister Asquith (on May 11), Bertrand Russell reports to Ottoline Morrell that he is 'immensely encouraged'. Asquith was 'very sympathetic' and seemed 'prepared to exert himself to prevent C. O.'s being shot'. On May 12, Asquith sends a note to General Haig, instructing him not to have conscientious objectors shot for disobeying orders.

May 16: Karl Planck (son of Max Planck) is killed at the Battle of Verdun.

May: Edmund Blunden arrives in France as part of the 11th Royal Sussex Battalion.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A no foolin' philosophy link list (now with more videos)

A New Yorker article in which Jill Lepore applies some of the insights of Michael Lynch and Barbara Shapiro.

Joe Gelonesi interviews Noam Chomsky on Aussie radio.

Viggo Mortensen will read Albert Camus' 'The Human Crisis' (part of the festivities commemorating the 70th anniversary of Camus' visit to New York). Robert Zaretsky on NY's Camus festival.

Zadie Smith on Schopenhauer. I've heard that Tolstoy was into Schopenhauer while writing Anna Karenina. Here's a Schopenhauerian passage from that novel (Rosamund Bartlett's translation):
[Vronsky] soon began to feel that the fulfilment of his desires had given him no more than a grain of sand from the mountain of happiness he had been expecting. This fulfilment had shown him the error people invariably make when they imagine happiness to be the fulfilment of desires. In the initial period after joining his life to hers and putting on civilian clothes, he experienced the full delights of freedom in general, which he had not known before, and also the freedom of love, and he was content, but not for long. He soon felt desires for desires, and tedium arising in his soul. Independent of his will, he began grasping at every passing whim, perceiving it as a desire and a purpose. (Oxford University Press, trans. Rosamund Bartlett [2014], p. 467)
Christopher Donohue: 'Herbert Spencer on Instinct and Intelligence: The Background of the “Cambridge Mind”'.

Dwight Garner reviews a new English translation of Carlo Rovelli's physics book. Rovelli was interviewed at Philosophy Bites last November. Rovelli's conversation with Lee Smolin in 2012. And here's Rovelli in 2014 on philosophy's relevance (ht Wayne Myrvold).

At the Edge, Janna Levin on gravitational waves. Also at the Edge, Rebecca Goldstein on 'pursuing a coherent human life' and an entry on the late Verena Huber-Dyson.

At the LARB, Matthew Stanley reviews Marcelo Gleiser's The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning; Daniel Hirschman reviews Harry Frankfurt's On Inequality; and Robert L. Kehoe III reviews Edward Mendelson's Moral Agents: Eight Twentieth-Century American Writers. Finally, Aurelian Craiutu on Michael Oakeshott's Notebooks, 1922-1986.

A translation of a 1969 conversation with Adorno from Der Spiegel.


A bio of Angela Davis by Miranda Bain at The Heroine Collective.

'Lev Shestov.: Russia's answer to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche' by Sergei Tseytlin.

Mike Rottmann: 'Reestablishing Philosophy in a Destroyed Country: Karl Löwith’s Return to Germany'.

Stephen Cowley summarizes the introduction to Pierre Osmo's French translation of Rudolf Haym's Hegel and his Time. (German bio for Haym) Here's a blurb on Haym's book from an 1857 issue of The Christian Examiner.

Interesting site on Caroline Schelling. The project was NEH-funded and seems to have run approx. from 2005 till 2007.

'Kant gives love advice to a heartbroken young woman (1791)'.

Cambridge University Press has released a collection of Onora O'Neill's essays on Kant.

In the latest issue of Philosophy and Literature, Theodore Ziolkowski has a brief item called 'Philosophers into Fiction', in which he documents fictional treatments of philosophers (esp. Heidegger and Wittgenstein). Both Pea Soup and (more recently) Daily Nous have threads on philosophers in fiction (to which I contributed under my tag 'praymont'). Here's another instance: Andre Malraux's novel Man's Fate includes a character based on Bernard Groethuysen (according to p. 292 of a piece by Daniel Gordon in History & Theory 36 [1997]).

From Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein (1993), with Karl Johnson as Ludwig and Tilda Swinton as Lady Ottoline Morrell: 


Lady Constance Malleson (Colette), an actress and writer who was romantically involved with Bertrand Russell, wrote a roman à clef which featured Russell, Joad, Lady Ottolline Morrell and others. Here's a decoder key for the novel from John Slater's biographical article (in Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies [1975]): 'In fact the book is a very thinly disguised account of her relationship with Russell. He appears as Don Gregorio del Orellano,a Cambridge astronomer;... Lady Ottoline is Magdalena, the Marquesa de Santa Segunda; C.E.M. Joad is Owen West; Dora Black, Russell's second wife, is Gertrude West; T. S. Eliot is T. C. Maynard; Clifford Allen is Jevons; and Maurice Elvey, a director of silent pictures in whose [film] Hindle Wakes Colette starred, ... is Marcus Beazely.'

Julie Crawford reviews Danielle Dutton's novel Margaret the First, which is based on the life of Margaret Cavendish; Dutton's novel is also reviewed by Sian Norris and by Natalie Helberg. Dutton interviewed.

More about Cavendish: Lara Dodds on Virginia Woolf's criticism of Cavendish's style; Woolf wrote about Cavendish in A Room of One's Own and in The Common Reader; and Lisa Sarasohn's review (pdf) of Anna Battigelli's 1998 book, Margaret Cavendish and the Exiles of the Mind (also reviewed here).

Interview with Luc Foisneau, who directed the publication of the Dictionnaire des philosophes français du XVIIe siècle.

Gary Wills reviews Robin Lane Fox's Augustine: Conversions to Confessions. Fox replies, and so does Wills.

Paul E. Meehl's videos on philosophical psychology.

'Kenneth Garden, Associate Professor at Tufts University, reexamines al-Ghazali’s work from an historical hermeneutical [stance] in The First Islamic Reviver: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and his Revival of the Religious Sciences (Oxford University Press, 2014)'.

Last 12 minutes of Jarman's Tempest (1979), with a performance by Elisabeth Welch:


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

More about French philosophy's reception of German philosophy after WWI

After WWI, British and French students were awash in the anti-German sentiments of their respective cultures. But French philosophy students were exposed to the corrective influence of the two-Germanies model. Even if that influence was diminished in the post-War years, French students (and established philosophers) were subjected to another corrective influence. To wit, in the 1920s the French professorate was more diverse than that of the UK in at least one crucial respect: it included a number of very able philosophers who had been educated by German philosophy professors shortly before the War, and the former philosophers maintained their engagement with the latter group after the War. Some of the professors in the former group were from Alsace-Lorraine, a territory that belonged to Germany before the War and to France afterwards. Most of them, though, were refugees who had fled the 1917 revolution in Russia. The influence of these figures is particularly striking when one examines how Husserl re-surfaced in French philosophy after WWI.

While there had been some French publications about Husserl before the War, there wasn't much about him in the post-War French literature until 1926, when a French translation of Lev Shestov's 'Memento Mori' appeared in Révue Philosophique. This critique of Husserl drew a reply from Jean Héring, an Alsatian professor in the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Strasbourg.

Héring received most of his education when his Alsatian homeland was part of Germany. He had studied with Husserl in Göttingen (in 1909). With the shift of borders at the end of the War, he became a French citizen. Shestov was born, raised, and educated in Tsarist Russia and fled to France in 1920. He later became a professor of Russian at the University of Paris. Shestov is said to have initiated the invitation for Husserl to lecture in Paris in 1929.

Another influential Russian figure is Alexandre Koyré, a historian and philosopher of science. He, too, had studied with Husserl before the War. After Husserl disapproved of Koyré's research direction, Koyré moved to Paris to continue his education. Koyré fought in the Russian army during the War and then returned to Paris, where he completed his education and taught in the Department of Religious Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. Koyré helped with the translation into French of Husserl's 1929 Paris lectures. (Along with a younger Russian, Alexandre Kojève, Koyré would also help French philosophers to improve their understanding of Hegel.)

There was a third Russian emigré who helped to raise Husserl's profile in France between the wars: the sociologist Georges Gurvitch, who (like Koyré) had received part of his education in German universities. At the Sorbonne between 1928 and 1930, Gurvitch lectured on recent German philosophy, focusing on phenomenology (esp. that of Max Scheler). (Ethan Kleinberg, Generation Existential: Heidegger's Philosophy in France, 1927–1961 [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007], pp. 27-28) These lectures formed the basis of his book Les tendances actuelles de la philosophie allemande, (Paris: Vrin, 1930) which presented the ideas of Husserl, Lask, Scheler, and Heidegger.

Another figure who helped to disseminate knowledge of Husserl in France between the wars was Bernard Groethuysen, a German author who, both before and after the War, divided his time between Germany and France. In Germany, he taught philosophy and history courses. In France, he worked as an editor and essayist.

In the 1920s, Paris had one of the largest populations of Russian refugees. Many of these Russians had received at least part of their post-secondary education in Germany. While few (perhaps none) of the above-named Russian philosophers were employed by French philosophy departments, they were employed by other academic departments in French universities. I don't know of any comparable minority group in the British universities of the day that had both the ability and opportunity to counteract biases against contemporary German academic philosophy. (Isaiah Berlin received his education in the UK, and Wittgenstein had relatively little acquaintance with the German philosophy professors of his time.) It is especially instructive to compare the French engagement with Husserl in the '20s with the chilly reception of Husserl's 1922 lectures in London.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Why French philosophy wasn't as anti-German as British philosophy

After World War I, British philosophy, and not French philosophy, followed a trend of diminished engagement with its German counterpart. What accounts for this difference between the British and French philosophers?

First, note that by the early years of the 20th Century, France had already experienced extreme antipathy towards the Kaiserreich in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War. Following that war, academic philosophers in France arrived at a framework that warranted continued engagement with some German philosophy.

In developing a clearer sense of the relations between French and German philosophy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I have found very helpful Martha Hanna's book, The Mobilization of Intellect (Harvard University Press, 1996). According to Hanna, French intellectuals developed a 'two-Germanies' hypothesis after the Franco-Prussian War. They distinguished between the good, high-culture Germany (which ended roughly with Kant) and the bad, militaristic Germany (which began with Hegel).(Hanna, Mobilization of the Intellect, p. 9) In the 1870s, French scholars began to devote more time to studying Kant. In fact, French neo-Kantianism began to grow shortly after France's loss to Prussia and reached its height in the 1890s.(Hanna, Mobilization of the Intellect, p. 35)

In France, neo-Kantianism was one strand in French philosophy's turn from scientism.(Ibid.) Another strand, which came to prominence in French right-wing, Roman Catholic circles during the early years of the 20th Century, was stridently anti-German and regarded German scholars as uncreative technicians who were embroiled in scientism. Hanna describes the activities of this French, conservative school of thought during the War, including the work of Jacques Maritain and Victor Giraud.(Hanna, Mobilization of the Intellect, pp. 184-9) In an essay that Giraud published in 1917, he characterizes 'scientisme' as 'that gross doctrine held by half-scientists or half-philosophers which has come to us from Germany and which consists in making positive science the only type of knowledge and the only rule of action.' (Giraud, 'French Civilisation', in The French Miracle and French Civilisation: Two Essays, trans. H. P. Thieme and W. A. McLaughlin [Ann Arbor, MI: The Ann Arbor Press, 1917], p. 71; first published in French in 1917)

So, in French academic circles during the early years of the 20th Century, any general bias against German philosophy was associated with a conservative, religious orientation, one which had already been disavowed by many secular philosophers. In contrast to the French right, these secular French philosophers (esp. the neo-Kantians) had endorsed a two-Germanies model in the decades before WWI, and this model encouraged the continuing engagement with some German philosophers, especially those who worked in a Kantian vein and who repudiated what the French called 'scientisme'. This might help to explain why Husserl, for instance, enjoyed a favorable reception in post-War Paris. (Husserl lectured in Paris on Feb. 23 and 25, 1929. His lectures in London in 1922 were not so well received.)

British Germanophiles could only dream of inhabiting such a congenial environment. Some of them (e.g., John Muirhead) propounded their own 'two-Germanies' doctrine during the War and its immediate aftermath. Their approach placed Hegel on the safe, good-German side of the boundary and may have been undermined by the fact that its French counterpart had positioned Hegel as a villain.(Hanna, Mobilization of the Intellect, p. 9, p. 23)

Such differences might explain why, as Stuart Wallace says, the post-War years saw 'nothing in Britain to compare with Julien Benda's scathing postwar critique, La Trahison des Clercs (1927)'. (Wallace, War and the Image of Germany: British Academics, 1914-1918 [Edinburgh: John Donald, 1988], p. v) The target of Benda's critique was the anti-German propaganda that French professors had produced during the War. Wallace adds that while similar reckonings with 'the national chauvinism of professors' appeared in Germany (Hans Wehburg's Wider den Anruf der 93! [1920]) and in the USA (H. L. Mencken's articles), no British authors produced a similar repudiation of their own nation's professorial propaganda.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Philosophers reading (and being read in) WWI lit

Here's another philosopher who was a soldier in WWI: Etienne Gilson, who was taken prisoner early in the Battle of Verdun (in February, 1916). Earlier, while on leave from the front, Gilson managed to put together a journal publication.

It's interesting to see how many veterans were critical of the war memoirs and novels that started appearing in the 1920s (esp. in 1929). I've noted Luce's public criticism in a Belfast sermon, which seems to have been aimed chiefly at Robert Graves' Goodbye To All That. Graves' book also drew the ire of Siegfried Sassoon and Edmund Blunden, who meticulously documented the book's inaccuracies in Sassoon's copy of it. 

Wittgenstein was mildly critical of R. C. Sherriff's play Journey's End (1928). According to M. O'C. Drury, Wittgenstein read the play in 1936. Drury quotes Wittgenstein as follows:
Nowadays it is the fashion to emphasize the horrors of the last war. I didn't find it so horrible. There are just as horrible things happening all round us today, if only we had eyes to see them. I couldn't understand the humour in Journey's End. But I wouldn't want to joke about a situation like that. (M. O'C. Drury, 'Conversations with Wittgenstein', Ch. VI in Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections, ed. Rush Rhees [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981], p. 144)
An early WWI text (1919) was Arthur Graeme West's Diary of a Dead Officer. West was killed on the front in 1917. His diary was edited for publication by his friend, the pacifist and philosopher C. E. M. Joad. There are references to Bertrand Russell in West's Diary (pp. 50-57) . West had been reading Russell's 'A Free Man's Worship' and Justice in War Time. In West, one sees the full disenchantment that is dramatized in many WWI books -- initially a religious patriot who wanted to serve King and country, West became an atheist and seemed on the point of refusing to fight any longer when he was killed by a sniper.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Luce on the War

In the Irish Times newspaper,(Nov. 11, 1929, p. 4) there's a report by an anonymous journalist about a sermon given by A. A. Luce in Belfast Cathedral (on the occasion of the dedication of a war memorial lectern). Luce is there said to have criticized  recent war novels, and 'one in particular', on the grounds that they 'made two grave errors -- they overstated the physical horrors of war, and they did less than justice to the morale of the soldier'. Luce chides one author (unnamed) for having 'compressed the suffering of the Army into the imaginary experience of his hero'. There follows this quotation from Luce's sermon:
In my judgment, to depict the soldier's life as intolerable horror is a propagandist attempt to intimidate the soldier's son. Another and more serious blot upon recent fiction is the attempt to blacken the soldier. To say that war does, and must, develop all the animal in man and leave other qualities undeveloped is a libel on the dead and the living. Could the golden record of 50 000 Irishmen dedicated that day speak with tongues, the war novel of 1929 would hide its head for shame. Men would say that their comrades fought a clean fight and fell honourably dead in honour's cause. War fiction would be soon forgotten, but war facts would speak to generations yet unborn.(Irish Times, Nov. 11, 1929, p. 4)
No authors or novels are named in the report, but Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That was published in 1929, as was Richard Aldington's Death of a Hero. Outside the UK, both Hemingway's Farewell to Arms and Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front appeared in 1929.

The claim that the novels overstated the physical horrors of the War reminds me of Wittgenstein's offhand remark to the effect that the War wasn't really as bad as people thought it was. (I can't locate a source that gives Wittgenstein's exact words.)

Update (Feb. 23): Shortly after Luce's death, there appeared in the Irish Times an item called 'Some Recollections of Arthur Luce'. (July 2, 1977, p. 13) The author, identified only by the initials T. C. K. M., attended some of Luce's classes before WWI and maintained an acquaintance with Luce throughout his long life. T. C. K. M. observes that when Luce returned to Dublin from the battle front for a week-long leave in 1916, it was apparent that 'the shock to all his cherished ideals was shattering'. The author does not elaborate on these ideals but had earlier characterized Luce as a conservative Victorian 'and a believer in the Empire'.

Based on this description, one would expect Luce to have shared (or at least been sympathetic to) the bitter disenchantment of Graves and the other novelists and poets whose youthful patriotism had been shattered by the War. However, T. C. K. M. says that after returning to the front, Luce suffered from shell-shock, which was followed by 'a period of over-tension, withdrawal, a hardening of his ideas and a tendency to push them to a logical but impractical extreme'. Again, T. C. K. M. does not say which ideas hardened, but the implication seems to be that Luce doubled down on his old, conservative ideals.

So, on the one hand, some veterans (like Graves) were led by their war experiences to abandon in disgust their earlier, more patriotic ideals while, on the other hand, some veterans (like Luce) became even more committed to those ideals. I wonder if, in addition to the consciously followed reasons for their ideals, veterans in this second group were influenced by a psychological tendency to cling more fervently to beliefs for which they felt they had paid a price. More generally, the more one has invested in something, the more reluctant one is to abandon it; and this remains the case when the 'something' consists of ideals and the 'investment' involves risking one's life.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Outline of the impact of WWI on British philosophy

My current hypotheses about the War's impact (asserted but not here defended): 

The War's influence on British philosophy was primarily negative -- it turned philosophers away from idealism. The negative impact was effected primarily in the generation of philosophers who came to maturity in the 1920s and '30s, and not so much in those who already held academic positions when the War began or who fought in the War.

One part of the War's negative impact was to challenge idealism's optimism about history. In this case, the War posed a challenge specifically to one of idealism's tenets.

For the most part, though, the War's negative impact was rooted a broader, cultural factor, namely, post-War Britain's antipathy towards Germany. It might seem insulting to claim that philosophers were strongly influenced in their philosophical thinking by such extra-philosophical factors; and, certainly, it would be insulting to claim that British philosophy changed direction because philosophers thought, 'Idealism? But that's positively Teutonic! Ick!'

The negative influence of anti-German sentiment in British philosophical circles was more subtle. It was more pronounced in those British philosophers who were too young to have known much (if anything) about idealism before the War. Thus, the negative impact was achieved not by prompting anyone to abandon a philosophical position but, instead, by means of (perhaps unconscious) biases that conditioned post-War British students' study of philosophy.

These biases affected students' tendencies to be more charitable to some authors than to others, to devote more time and care to the interpretation of some texts than to others, and so on. Such tendencies rely on something like good will towards (or trust in) the author, and these attitudes were in short supply when it came to German authors after the War.

Among the relevant biases was a patriotic proclivity for views that appeared to be more in line with British philosophical traditions (e.g., empiricism). Also, the animosity to all things German was, if anything, even more pronounced in relation to German academics, since so many thousands of German professors (inc. many philosophers) had signed proclamations defending Germany's cause and strategies in the early stages of the War. These proclamations made it easier for post-War British academics to regard their German counterparts as bombastic and confused (rather than simulating and profound). Indeed, the whole German tradition was impugned, and it became more plausible to suppose that the tangled thickets of Hegel and others (even Kant) were a mere tangle that was not worth the exploratory effort.

German idealism is more difficult to understand and appreciate than many other modern philosophies, and learning from it requires more patience and trust. After the War, British students no longer had this trust. As a result, there were prone to see little more than pretentiousness and obfuscation in the central texts of German idealism. The texts of British idealism (esp. those of Bradley) suffered a similar fate partly due to their association with the German idealists.

Update (Feb. 23): The anti-German bias was focused on philosophers who held positions in the German universities. They were more likely to have signed proclamations in defense of the German war effort, and their positions linked them more closely to the belligerent, enemy state. Central European outsiders (relative to the German university system) were less likely to suffer from this bias, especially if they were themselves critical of German academic philosophers.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fragments on WWI and philosophers

1. In an earlier post, I mentioned a paper by Jack Reynolds about the impact on philosophy of WWI. It turns out that Reynolds' paper is on-line at Academia.

2. Among philosophical schools of thought, perhaps neo-Kantianism suffered the most as a result of WWI. Prominent neo-Kantians, such as Alois Riehl and Wilhelm Windelband, signed the infamous 'Manifesto of the Ninety-Three' (1914), in which professors defended Germany's war effort (inc. the invasion of Belgium). Eventually, approximately four thousand German academics endorsed the claims of the manifesto, including many more philosophers. I'm not aware of any neo-Kantians who opposed the War. This might be one reason why the neo-Kantians didn't appear in histories of analytic philosophy until recently: after the War, anglo-philosophers didn't want to read them.

3. To get a sense of how philosophers (and some religious thinkers) in the UK and its allied nations viewed the War during its early stages, look at volume 13 (Oct. 1914-July 1915) of the Hibbert Journal, which includes papers by Norman Kemp Smith, G. Dawes Hicks ('German Philosophy and the Present Crisis'), Henri BergsonEvelyn UnderhillCount Hermann Keyserling, and E. F. Carritt. Nietzsche -- er, straw-Nietzsche -- takes a beating.

4. One of the most Hegelian British philosophers of that era was Sir James Black Baillie, who translated Hegel's Phenomenology. In A Hundred Years of British Philosophy (1938, pp. 317-8), Rudolf Metz wrote that the War prompted Baillie to abandon idealism. Metz based this claim largely on Baillie's Studies in Human Nature. Recently, Peter Hoerres has repeated Metz's claim. (Hoerres, 'Idealism as Transnational War Philosophy, 1914-1918', in Anglo-German Scholarly Networks in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Ellis and Kirchberger [Brill, 2014]) However, Metz's claim is disputed on p. 51 of the Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Philosophers.

More about Baillie: Too old to join the army in WWI, Baillie served in the Admiralty's Intelligence Division for a couple of years and also was on a London conscientious objector tribunal. After the War, Baillie held several administrative positions. He was a labour arbitrator and lawyer and was knighted in 1931. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds. According to his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 'Baillie is presented as Sir John Evans in Michael Innes's novel The Weight of the Evidence (1944).' For more about Baillie, see David Charlston's dissertation, Hegel's Phenomenology in Translation: A comparative analysis of translatorial hexis. (2012, University of Manchester)

5. In response to the vilification of German philosophy, J. H. Muirhead defended some German philosophers (esp. Hegel) in German Philosophy in Relation to the War.

6. Outside the UK, other philosophers who served on the WWI front lines include: Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Franz Rosenzweig, Paul Tillich, Ludwig WittgensteinKarl Löwith, Rudolf Carnap, Hans Reichenbach, Alfred Schutz, Michael Polanyi, Gaston Bachelard, André Maurois, Alexander Koyré, Alain.