A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University Part 1

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A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University.

by Francis Ellingwood Abbot.



_Gentlemen_,--Believing it to be a necessary part of good citizenship to defend one's reputation against unjustifiable attacks, and believing you to have been unwarrantably, but not remotely, implicated in an unjustifiable attack upon my own reputation by a.s.sistant Professor Josiah Royce, since his attack is made publicly, explicitly, and emphatically on the authority of his "professional" position as one of your agents and appointees, I respectfully apply to you for redress of the wrong, leaving it wholly to your own wisdom and sense of justice to decide what form such redress should take. If Dr. Royce had not, by clear and undeniable implication, appealed to your high sanction to sustain him in his attack,--if he had not undeniably sought to create a widespread but false public impression that, in making this attack, he spoke, and had a right to speak, with all the prestige and authority of Harvard University itself,--I should not have deemed it either necessary or becoming to appeal to you in self-defence, or, indeed, to take any public notice whatever of an attack otherwise unworthy of it. But under the circ.u.mstances I am confident that you will at once recognize the inevitableness and unquestionable propriety of my appeal from the employee to the employer, from the agent to the princ.i.p.al; and it would be disrespectful to you to doubt for a moment that, disapproving of an attack made impliedly and yet unwarrantably in your name, you will express your disapprobation in some just and appropriate manner. My action in thus laying the matter publicly before you can inflict no possible injury upon our honored and revered Alma Mater: injury to her is not even conceivable, except on the wildly improbable supposition of your being indifferent to a scandalous abuse of his position by one of your a.s.sistant professors, who, with no imaginable motive other than mere professional jealousy or rivalry of authorship, has gone to the unheard-of length of "professionally warning the public" against a peaceable and inoffensive private scholar, whose published arguments he has twice tried, but twice signally failed, to meet in an intellectual way. If the public at large should have reason to believe that conduct so scandalous as this in a Harvard professor will not be condemned by you, as incompatible with the dignity and the decencies of his office and with the rights of private citizens in general, Harvard University would indeed suffer, and ought to suffer; but it is wholly within your power to prevent the growth of so injurious a belief. I beg leave, therefore, to submit to you the following statement, and to solicit for it the patient and impartial consideration which the gravity of the case requires.


The first number of a new quarterly periodical, the "International Journal of Ethics," published at Philadelphia in October, 1890, contained an ostensible review by Dr. Royce of my last book, "The Way out of Agnosticism." I advisedly use the word "ostensible," because the main purport and intention of the article were not at all to criticise a philosophy, but to sully the reputation of the philosopher, deprive him of public confidence, ridicule and misrepresent his labors, hold him up by name to public obloquy and contempt, destroy or lessen the circulation of his books, and, in general, to blacken and break down his literary reputation by any and every means, even to the extent of aspersing his personal reputation, although there had never been the slightest personal collision. Its bitter and invidious spirit was not in the least disguised by a few exaggerated compliments adroitly inserted here and there: these merely furnish the foil needed to give greater potency and efficiency to the personal insinuations, and, like Mark Antony's compliments to Caesar's a.s.sa.s.sins, subserved quite too many politic purposes to be accepted as sincere. Only a native of Boeotia could be imposed upon by them, when the actual character of the book in question was carefully misrepresented, and when the self-evident trend, tenor, and aim of the ostensible review were to excite public prejudice against the author on grounds wholly irrespective of the truth or untruth of his expressed opinions.

Of course, the very largest liberty must be and should be conceded to legitimate criticism. From this, as is well known, I never shrank in the least; on the contrary, I court it, and desire nothing better for my books, provided only that the criticism be pertinent, intelligent, and fair. But misrepresentation for the purpose of detraction is not criticism at all; and (notwithstanding numerous quotations perverted by unfair and misleading glosses, including two misquotations quite too useful to be accidental) this ostensible review is, from beginning to end, nothing but misrepresentation for the purpose of detraction.

Pa.s.sing over numerous minor instances, permit me to invite your attention to three gross instances of such misrepresentation.


The book under review had taken the utmost pains (pages 16-39, especially page 39) to distinguish "realism" from "idealism," and to argue for the former in opposition to the latter, on the ground of the absolute incompatibility of the latter with the scientific method of investigation. It had taken the utmost pains to make the contrast broad and deep, and to point out its far-reaching consequences by explicitly opposing (1) scientific realism to philosophical idealism in general, and in particular (2) constructive realism to constructive idealism, (3) critical realism to critical idealism, (4) ethical realism to ethical idealism, and (5) religious realism to religious idealism. Any fair or honorable critic would recognize this contrast and opposition between realism and idealism as the very foundation of the work he was criticising, and would at least state it candidly, as the foundation of his own favorable or unfavorable comments. How did Dr. Royce treat it? He not only absolutely ignored it, not only said nothing whatever about it, but actually took pains to put the reader on a false scent at the start, by a.s.suring him (without the least discussion of this all-important point) that my philosophical conclusions are "essentially idealistic"!

So gross a misrepresentation as this might be charitably attributed to critical incapacity of some sort, if it did not so very conveniently pave the way for the second gross misrepresentation which was to follow: namely, that the theory actually propounded in my book had been, in fact, "_appropriated" and "borrowed" from an idealist_! The immense utility of misrepresenting my system at the start as "essentially idealistic" lay in the fact that, by adopting this stratagem, Dr. Royce could escape altogether the formidable necessity of _first arguing the main question of idealism versus realism_.

Secretly conscious of his own inability to handle that question, to refute my "Soliloquy of the Self-Consistent Idealist," or to overthrow my demonstration that consistent idealism leads logically to hopeless absurdity at last, Dr. Royce found it infinitely easier to deceive his uninformed readers by a bold a.s.sertion that I myself am an idealist at bottom. This a.s.sertion, swallowed without suspicion of its absolute untruth, would render it plausible and quite credible to a.s.sert, next, that I had actually "appropriated" my philosophy from a greater idealist than myself.

For the only substantial criticism of the book made by Dr. Royce is that I "borrowed" my whole theory of universals from Hegel--"unconsciously," he has the caution to say; but that qualification does not in the least mitigate the mischievous intention and effect of his accusation as a glaring falsification of fact and artful misdescription of my work. It would be inopportune and discourteous to weary you with philosophical discussions. I exposed the amazing absurdity of Dr. Royce's accusation of plagiarism in the reply to his article which, as appears below, Dr. Royce himself anxiously suppressed, and which I should now submit to you, if he had not at last taken fright and served upon me a legal protest against its circulation. But, to any well-educated man, such an accusation as this refutes itself. It would be just as reasonable, just as plausible, to accuse Darwin of having borrowed his theory of natural selection from Aga.s.siz, or Daniel Webster of having borrowed his theory of the inseparable Union from John C. Calhoun, or ex-President Cleveland of having borrowed his message on tariff reform from the Home Market Club, as to accuse me of having borrowed my theory of universals from Hegel. Hegel's theory of universals is divided from mine by the whole vast chasm between realism and idealism. The two theories contradict each other absolutely, uncompromisingly, irreconcilably: Hegel's is a theory of "absolute idealism" or "pure thought" (_reines Denken_), that is, of _thought absolutely independent of experience_, while mine is a theory of "scientific realism," that is, of _thought absolutely dependent upon experience._ It is quite immaterial here which theory is the true one; the only point involved at present is that the two theories flatly contradict each other, and that it is self-evidently impossible that either _could_ be "borrowed," consciously or unconsciously, from the other.

If Dr. Royce had ever done any hard thinking on the theory of universals, or if he had the slightest comprehension of the problems it involves, he would never have been so rash as to charge me with "borrowing" my theory from Hegel, and thus to commit himself irrevocably to a defence of the absurd; but eagerness to accuse another has betrayed him into a position whence it is impossible for him to escape with honor. Solely by misdescribing my philosophy as "essentially idealistic" when it openly and constantly and emphatically avows itself to be essentially realistic, could Dr. Royce give the faintest color of plausibility to his monstrous and supremely ridiculous accusation of plagiarism; solely by presuming upon the public ignorance both of Hegel and of my own work could he dare to publish such an accusation to the world. These gross misrepresentations, however, he did not hesitate to make, since they were necessary in order to pave the way to a third and still grosser misrepresentation on which he apparently had set his heart: namely, that, after borrowing the whole substance of my philosophy from Hegel, I have been guilty of making "vast and extravagant pretensions" as to my own "novelty," "originality," and "profundity," not only with regard to my published books, but also with regard to my "still unpublished system of philosophy." His words are these:--

"Of novelty, good or bad, the book contains, indeed, despite its vast pretensions, hardly a sign."

"It is due also to the extravagant pretensions which he frequently makes of late as to the originality and profundity of his still unpublished system of philosophy, to give the reader some hint of what so far appears to be the nature of our author's contributions to philosophical reflection."

Precisely what have been these alleged "pretensions"? Dr. Royce cites only three instances.

I. He first garbles a sentence in the prefatory Note to "The Way out of Agnosticism," by quoting only one phrase from it. The sentence in full is this: "By a wholly new line of reasoning, drawn exclusively from those sources [science and philosophy], this book aims to show that, in order to refute agnosticism and establish enlightened theism, nothing is now necessary but to philosophize that very scientific method which agnosticism barbarously misunderstands and misuses."

There is no "pretension" whatever in these words, except that the general "line of reasoning" set forth in the book is, _as a whole_, different from that of other books. If not, why publish it? Or, without the same cause, why publish any book? I see no reason to recall or to modify this perfectly true statement; Dr. Royce, at least, has shown none. The "novelty" of the book lies in its very attempt to evolve philosophy as a whole out of the scientific method itself, as "observation, hypothesis, and experimental verification,"

by developing the theory of universals which is implicit in that purely experiential method; and Dr. Royce does not even try to prove that Hegel, or anybody else, has ever made just such an attempt as that. Unless there can be shown somewhere a _parallel attempt_, the statement is as undeniably true as it is certainly unpretentious.

II. Next, Dr. Royce extracts these sentences from the body of the book (I supply in brackets words which he omitted): "The first great task of philosophy is to lay deep and solid foundations for the expansion [and ideal perfection] of human knowledge in a bold, new, and true theory of universals. For so-called modern philosophy rests complacently in a theory of universals which is thoroughly mediaeval or antiquated." What personal pretension, even of the mildest sort, can be conceived to lurk in these innocent words? I did not say that I have succeeded in performing that "task"; I repeat now what I have often said and what I meant then; namely, that modern science has unawares performed it already, that I have faithfully tried to formulate and further apply what science has done, and that I respectfully submit the result (so far as already published), not to such critics as Dr. Royce, but to able, learned, and magnanimous students of philosophy everywhere.

III. Lastly, though employing quotation marks so as to evade a charge of formal misquotation, he perverts and effectually misquotes a sentence of the book in a way which makes it appear exactly what it is not,--"pretentious." I had said at the end of my own book (page 75): "_Its aim has been to show_ the way out of agnosticism into the sunlight of the predestined philosophy of science." This expression is perfectly in harmony with the prefatory Note, which says that "_this book aims to show_ that, in order to refute agnosticism and establish enlightened theism, nothing is now necessary but to philosophize that very scientific method which agnosticism barbarously misunderstands and misuses," and which immediately adds: "_Of the success of the perhaps unwise attempt to show this in so small a compa.s.s, the educated public must be the judge._" Most certainly, there is no "pretension" in this modest and carefully guarded avowal of the simple aim of my book. But Dr. Royce twists this modest avowal into a barefaced boast, and injuriously misquotes me to his own readers thus: "At the conclusion of the book, we learn that _we have been shown_ 'the way out of agnosticism into the sunlight of the predestined philosophy of science.'" Gentlemen, I request you to compare thoughtfully the expressions which I have here italicized, and then decide for yourselves whether this injurious misquotation is purely accidental, or, in view of Dr. Royce's purpose of proving me guilty of "vast pretensions," quite too useful to be purely accidental.

IV. But Dr. Royce does not content himself with quoting or misquoting what I have published, for the self-evident reason that what I have published is not sufficiently "pretentious" for his purpose.

Disinterested anxiety for the public welfare, and tender sorrow over the "harm to careful inquiry" which my book is doing by "getting influence over immature or imperfectly trained minds," constrain him to accuse me of "frequently making of late extravagant pretensions as to the originality and profundity" of my "still unpublished system of philosophy."

Precisely what have been these "extravagant pretensions"? Simply these:--

In the preface to "Scientific Theism," I said of that book: "It is a mere _resume_ of a small portion of a comprehensive philosophical system, so far as I have been able to work it out under most distracting, discouraging, and unpropitious circ.u.mstances of many years; and for this reason I must beg some indulgence for the unavoidable incompleteness of my work."

Enumerating some reasons why I hesitated to begin the series of papers afterwards published as "The Way out of Agnosticism," I said, in the first of these papers: "First and foremost, perhaps, is the fact that, although the ground-plan of this theory is already thoroughly matured, the literary execution of it is as yet scarcely even begun, and from want of opportunity may never be completed; and it seems almost absurd to present the abridgment of a work which does not yet exist to be abridged."

Finally, in an address printed in the "Unitarian Review" for December, 1889, I said: "Without advancing any personal claim whatever, permit me to take advantage of your indulgent kindness, and to make here the first public confession of certain painfully matured results of thirty years' thinking, which, in the momentous and arduous enterprise of developing a scientific theology out of the scientific method itself, appear to be principles of cosmical import.... Perhaps I can make them intelligible, as a contribution to that 'Unitary Science' which the great Aga.s.siz foresaw and foretold." In a postscript to this address I added: "For fuller support of the position taken above, I am constrained to refer ... to a large treatise, now in process of preparation, which aims to rethink philosophy as a whole in the light of modern science and under the form of a natural development of the scientific method itself."

What remotest allusion to my own "originality" is contained in these pa.s.sages, or what remotest allusion to my own "profundity"? What "pretension" of any sort is here made, whether "extravagant" or moderate? Yet this is the only actual evidence, _and the whole of it_, on which Dr. Royce dares to accuse me of "frequently making of late extravagant pretensions as to the originality and profundity of my still unpublished system of philosophy"! The pure absurdity of such an accusation reveals itself in the very statement of it. Dr. Royce is referring here, be it understood, not to my published books, but to my "unpublished system of philosophy." _How does he know anything about it?_ I certainly have never shown him my unpublished ma.n.u.script, and beyond those published allusions to it he possesses absolutely no means whatever of knowing anything about its contents. Nothing, surely, except full and exact knowledge, derived from careful and patient personal examination of that ma.n.u.script, could possibly be a ground of just judgment of its character. How, then, in absolute ignorance of its character and contents, could any fair man hazard any public verdict upon it? Yet Dr. Royce not only accuses me of making "pretensions" about it which I never made, but dares to characterize them as "extravagant," when, _for all he knows_, they might (if made) fall far short of the truth. Whether in this case the evidence supports the accusation, and whether the conscience which permits the making of such an accusation on such evidence is itself such a conscience as you expect to find in your appointees,--these, gentlemen, are questions for you yourselves to decide.


These three connected and logically affiliated _misstatements of fact_--namely, (1) that my philosophy is "essentially idealistic," (2) that it has been "appropriated" and "unconsciously borrowed" from the idealist Hegel, and (3) that I have frequently made "extravagant pretensions as to the originality and profundity" of this merely "borrowed" and "appropriated" philosophy--const.i.tute in their totality a regular system of gross and studied misrepresentation, as methodical and coherent as it is unscrupulous. It is not "fair criticism"; it is not "criticism" at all; and I do not hesitate to characterize it deliberately as a disgrace both to Harvard University and to American scholarship.

Yet, gross and studied and systematic as this misrepresentation is, I should have pa.s.sed it over in silence, precisely as I did pa.s.s over a similar attack by Dr. Royce on my earlier book in "Science" for April 9, 1886, were it not that, perhaps emboldened by former impunity, he now makes his misrepresentations culminate in the perpetration of a literary outrage, to which, I am persuaded, no parallel can be found in the history of polite literature. It is clear that forbearance must have somewhere its limit. The commands of self-respect and of civic conscience, the duty which every citizen owes to his fellow-citizens not to permit the fundamental rights of all to be unlimitedly violated in his own person, must at last set a bound to forbearance itself, and compel to self-defence. These are the reasons which, after patient exhaustion of every milder means of redress, have moved me to this public appeal.

Dr. Royce's misstatements of fact, so elaborately fashioned and so ingeniously mortised together, were merely his foundation for a deliberate and formal "professional warning to the liberal-minded public" against my alleged "philosophical pretensions." The device of attributing to me extravagant but groundless "pretensions" to "originality" and "profundity"--since he is unable to cite a single pa.s.sage in which I ever used such expressions of myself--was probably suggested to him by the "Press Notices of 'Scientific Theism,'"

printed as a publishers' advertis.e.m.e.nt of my former book at the end of the book which lay before him. These "Press Notices," as usual, contain numerous extracts from eulogistic reviews, in which, curiously enough, these very words, "original" and "profound," or their equivalents, occur with sufficient frequency to explain Dr. Royce's choleric unhappiness. For instance, Dr. James Freeman Clarke wrote in the "Unitarian Review": "If every position taken by Dr. Abbot cannot be maintained, his book remains an original contribution to philosophy of a high order and of great value"; M. Renouvier, in "La Critique Philosophique," cla.s.sed the book among "de remarquables efforts de construction metaphysique et morale dus a des penseurs independants et profonds"; and M. Carrau, in explaining why he added to his critical history of "Religious Philosophy in England" a chapter of twenty pages on my own system, actually introduced both of the words which, when thus applied, jar so painfully on Dr. Royce's nerves: "La pensee de M.

Abbot m'a paru a.s.sez profonde et a.s.sez originale pour meriter d'etre reproduite litteralement." (La Philosophie Religieuse en Angleterre.

Par Ludovic Carrau, Directeur des Conferences de philosophie a la Faculte des lettres de Paris. Paris, 1888.) These extracts, be it remembered, were all printed at the end of the book which Dr. Royce was reviewing. Now he had an undoubted right to think and to say that such encomiums as these on my work were silly, extravagant, preposterous, and totally undeserved; but _to take them out of the mouth of others and put them into mine was wilful and deliberate calumny_. Systematic and calumnious misrepresentation is the sole foundation of the "professional warning" in which Dr. Royce's ostensible review culminates, and which is too extraordinary not to be quoted here in full:--

"And so, finally, after this somewhat detailed study of Dr. Abbot's little book, I feel constrained to repeat my judgment as above.

Results in philosophy are one thing; a careful way of thinking is another. Babes and sucklings often get very magnificent results. It is not the office of philosophy to outdo the babes and sucklings at their own business of receiving revelations. It is the office of philosophy to undertake a serious scrutiny of the presuppositions of human belief. Hence the importance of the careful way of thinking in philosophy. But Dr. Abbot's way is not careful, is not novel, and, when thus set forth to the people as new and bold and American, it is likely to do precisely as much harm to careful inquiry as it gets influence over immature or imperfectly trained minds. I venture, therefore, to speak plainly, by way of a professional warning to the liberal-minded public concerning Dr. Abbot's philosophical pretensions. And my warning takes the form of saying that, if people are to think in this confused way, unconsciously borrowing from a great speculator like Hegel, and then depriving the borrowed conception of the peculiar subtlety of statement that made it useful in its place,--and if we readers are for our part to accept such scholasticism as is found in Dr. Abbot's concluding sections as at all resembling philosophy,--then it were far better for the world that no reflective thinking whatever should be done. If we can't improve on what G.o.d has already put into the mouth of the babes and sucklings, let us at all events make some other use of our wisdom and prudence than in setting forth the American theory of what has been in large part hidden from us."

Gentlemen, I deny sweepingly the whole groundwork of cunning and amazing misrepresentation on which this unparalleled tirade is founded.

I. I deny that my philosophy is "essentially idealistic," or that any "careful" or conscientious scholar could possibly affirm it to be such.

II. I deny that I "borrowed" my realistic theory of universals from the idealist, Hegel, whether consciously or unconsciously. The charge is unspeakably silly. Realism and idealism contradict each other more absolutely than protectionism and free-trade.

III. I deny that I ever made the "philosophical pretensions" which Dr.

Royce calumniously imputes to me. But, if I had made pretensions as high as the Himalayas, I deny his authority to post me publicly--to act as policeman in the republic of letters and to collar me on that account. A college professor who thus mistakes his academic gown for the policeman's uniform, and dares to use his private walking-stick for the policeman's bludgeon, is likely to find himself suddenly prostrated by a return blow, arrested for a.s.sault and battery, and unceremoniously hustled off into a cell, by the officer whose function he has injudiciously aped without waiting for the tiresome but quite indispensable little preliminary of first securing a regular commission.

IV. Most of all, I deny Dr. Royce's self-a.s.sumed right to club every philosopher whose reasoning he can neither refute nor understand. I deny, in general, that any Harvard professor has the right to fulminate a "professional warning" _against anybody_; and, in particular, that you, gentlemen, ever voted or intended to invest Dr.

Royce with that right. He himself now publicly puts forth a worse than "extravagant pretension" when he arrogates to himself this right of literary outrage. He was not appointed professor by you for any such unseemly purpose. To arrogate to himself a senseless "professional"

superiority over all non-"professional" authors, to the insufferable extent of publicly posting and placarding them for a mere difference of opinion, is, from a moral point of view, scandalously to abuse his academical position, to compromise the dignity of Harvard University, to draw down universal contempt upon the "profession" which he prost.i.tutes to the uses of mere professional jealousy or literary rivalry, and to degrade the honorable office of professor in the eyes of all who understand that a weak argument is not strengthened, and a false accusation is not justified, by throwing "professional warnings"

as a make-weight into the scales of reason. I affirm emphatically that no professor has a moral right to treat anybody with this undisguised "insolence of office," or to use any weapon but reason in order to put down what he conceives to be errors in philosophy. In the present case, I deny that Dr. Royce has any better or stronger claim than myself to speak "professionally" on philosophical questions. The very book against which he presumes to warn the public "professionally" is founded upon lectures which I myself "professionally" delivered, not only from Dr. Royce's own desk and to Dr. Royce's own college cla.s.s, but as a subst.i.tute for Dr. Royce himself, at the request and by the appointment of his own superiors, the Corporation and Overseers of his own University; and the singular impropriety (to use no stronger word) of his "professional warning" will be apparent to every one in the light of that fact.


So far I have treated Dr. Royce's attack solely from the literary and ethical points of view. The legal point of view must now be considered.

Plagiarism, conscious or unconscious, is a very grave and serious charge to bring against an author, and one which may entail upon him, not only great damage to his literary reputation, but also social disgrace and pecuniary loss. If proved, or even if widely believed without proof, it cannot but ruin his literary career and destroy the marketable value of his books; and it matters little, so far as these practical results are concerned, whether the plagiarism attributed to him is conscious or unconscious. In an able editorial article on "Law and Theft," published in the New York "Nation" of Feb. 12, 1891, it is forcibly said: "Authors or writers who do this [borrowing other men's ideas] a good deal, undoubtedly incur discredit by it with their fellows and the general public. It greatly damages a writer's fame to be rightfully accused of want of originality, or of imitation, or of getting materials at second hand. But no one has ever proposed to punish or restrain this sort of misappropriation by law. No one has ever contended for the infliction on the purloiners of other men's ideas of any penalty but ridicule or disgrace." Whoever _wrongfully_ accuses an author of plagiarism, then, holds him up _undeservedly_ to "discredit, ridicule, or disgrace," and "slanders his t.i.tle" to the product of his own brain. This is contrary to the law. Yet this is precisely what Dr. Royce has done in accusing me _falsely_, and as a _"certain" matter of fact_, of borrowing my theory of universals from Hegel. His accusation is made with as many sneers and as much insult as could well be compressed into the s.p.a.ce:--

"Dr. Abbot is hopelessly unhistorical in his consciousness. His 'American theory of universals' is so far from being either his own or a product of America that in this book he continually has to use, in expounding it, one of the most characteristic and familiar of Hegel's technical terms, namely, 'concrete,' in that sense in which it is applied to the objective and universal 'genus.' Dr. Abbot's appropriation of Hegel's peculiar terminology comes ill indeed from one who talks," _etc._ "This I say not to defend Hegel, for whose elaborate theory of universals I hold in no wise a brief, but simply in the cause of literary property-rights. When we plough with another man's heifer, however unconscious we are of our appropriation, however sincerely we seem to remember that we alone raised her from her earliest calfhood, it is yet in vain, after all, that we put our brand on her, or call her 'American.'... Now Hegel's whole theory may be false; but what is certain is that Dr. Abbot, who has all his life been working in an atmosphere where Hegelian ideas were more or less infectious, has derived his whole theory of universals, so far as he has yet revealed it with any coherency, from Hegelian sources, and even now cannot suggest any better terminology than Hegel's for an important portion of the doctrine. Yet in the volume before us we find all this pretentious speech of an 'American' theory, and discover our author wholly unaware that he is sinning against the most obvious demands of literary property-rights."

Pa.s.sing over the self-evident point that whoever is "_unaware_ that he is sinning" cannot be "sinning" at all, since "sinning" consists in _being aware_ of the wrong we do,--and, consequently, that Dr. Royce comes here as near as he dares to a direct insinuation that my plagiarism is conscious, and not "unconscious,"--let me call your attention to the more important point, that Dr. Royce affirms my conscious or unconscious theft from Hegel as a matter of _"certain"

fact_, not merely as a matter of _probable inference_. Yet the only evidence he has to offer in support of this "certainty" is (1) that I use the word "concrete" in the same sense as Hegel, and (2) that I have worked all my life in a Hegelian "atmosphere." These two points cover all the grounds of his accusation. Permit me very briefly to examine them.

(1) The word "concrete" is not in the least a technical term copyrighted by Hegel, nor is it his trademark. It is one of the commonest of words, and free to all. But what sort of a reasoner is he who infers the ident.i.ty of two whole complex theories from their coincidence in the use of only a single word? Even this poor and solitary little premise slips out of Dr. Royce's clutch, for Hegel's use of the word is _contradictory to mine_! Hegel has to put upon the word "concrete" a very unusual, strained, and artificial sense, in order to cover up the weakest point of his idealistic system. He explains it, however, frankly, clearly, and unambiguously: "The Concept or Notion (_Begriff_) may be always called 'abstract,' if the term 'concrete' must be limited to the mere concrete of sensation and immediate perception; the Notion as such cannot be grasped by the hands, and, when we deal with it, eyes and ears are out of the question. Yet, as was said before, the Notion is the only true concrete." (_Encyklopadie, Werke_, VI. 316.) Again: "Just as little is the sensuous-concrete of Intuition a rational-concrete of the Idea."

(_Ibid., Werke_, VI. 404.) A score of similar pa.s.sages can easily be cited. That is to say, Hegel avowedly excludes from his _idealistic_ theory of universals the "concrete" of sensation, perception, intuition, or _real experience_, and admits into it only the "concrete" of _pure or non-empirical thought_; while I avowedly exclude from my _realistic_ theory of universals the "concrete" of _pure thought_, and admit into it only the "concrete" of _real experience_. Hegel's "concrete" cannot be seen, heard, or touched; while to me nothing which cannot be seen, heard, or touched is "concrete" at all. A mere common school education is quite sufficient for comprehension of the contradictoriness of these two uses of the word. Yet, in order to found a malicious charge of plagiarism, Dr.

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A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University Part 1 summary

You're reading A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Francis Ellingwood Abbot. Already has 675 views.

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