Saturday, January 25, 2014

James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy


Opening Passage:

It was near the close of the year 1780 that a solitary traveler was seen pursuing his way through one of the numerous little valleys of Westchester.The easterly wind, with its chilling dampness and increasing violence, gave unerring notice of the approach of a storm, which, as usual, might be expected to continue for several days; and the experienced eye of the traveler was turned in vain, through the darkness of the evening, in quest of some convenient shelter, in which, for the term of his confinement by the rain that already began to mix with the atmosphere in a thick mist, he might obtain such accommodations as his purposes required. Nothing whatever offered but the small and inconvenient tenements of the lower order of the inhabitants, with whom, in that immediate neighborhood, he did not think it either safe or politic to trust himself.

Summary: It is the American Revolution and a significant portion of New York is a 'neutral ground', not clearly controlled by either the British or the Americans. Much of The Spy is taken up with examining the lives of people who are trying to get along with their lives despite the divisions caused by the Revolution in families and between lifelong friends, and trying to negotiate this neutral ground where one day you may be dealing with Americans and the next you may be dealing with the British or,even more likely, with a gang, the Skinners or the Cowboys, looting and bullying in the name of one side or the other.

As the title suggests, it is a novel of espionage. I was interested to see Cooper's technique in handling it, which is quite skillful. Harvey Birch, the spy in question, is known by almost everyone to be a spy, probably although not certainly for the British; he makes use of clever disguises and cunning means of escape. The novel does not follow Birch, though; he is woven throughout the story, but there's a fairly straightforward sense in which the main action of the novel is simply a love story, if you can believe it, between Frances Wharton and Major Dunwoodie, complicated by the fact that Frances's brother is in the British army. This way of handling the 'spy stuff' shows something of the author's skill, since I think history shows that it is usually the best way to handle it -- as in Marquand's Mr. Moto books, in which Mr. Moto is always a secondary character because a good spy would be. Birch is a bit more in the foreground than Mr. Moto, but he is also a more ambiguous figure, since no one knows entirely what to make of him.

This book is, I think, a bit more readable than his more famous Leatherstocking Tales. In part this is because the humor is, not better, but more obvious. James Fenimore Cooper's humor is never entirely given the credit it deserves, but it is true that you have to be in the right frame of mind to catch it when reading some of his other works. We get it a bit more thickly here, and the story allows him to play to his strengths. One thing he is very good at it is depicting plausibly obsessive characters; David Gamut in The Last of the Mohicans is a quite hilarious character, with his completely incongruous faith in the absolute importance of singing while he goes around in the middle of the wilderness baffling Mohawks, Mohicans, and white men alike. We have another finely drawn obsessive here, in Dr.Sitgreaves, the surgeon, who often seems unable to think of anything except insofar as it is somehow related to scientific advances in surgery. Cooper also does some excellent comic work with juxtaposition, both of characters and scenes. It's not uproarious, but there is undeniably humor throughout.

The love story is not, I think, just a frame for the Harvey Birch tale; it does, rather, real work. In his old age Harvey Birch learns of Frances and Dunwoodie and what happened to them, and his response is, "'Tis like our native land! improving with time; God has blessed both." Birch's actions don't make sense as taking place for a certain territory; America is a people as much as, or even more than, a land. Its bounty is not a mere bounty of resources; it lies as much, or more, in the bounty of its people, young Frances and young Dunwoodie getting together despite the odds, getting married despite the uncertainties of the future, and having children that carry on the traditions in such a way that they and the world around them are improving with time. One of the sacrifices Birch has to make to serve his country is to forego family; that he helped make other families possible is a fitting compensation. It has always been a peculiarity of American patriotism that its primary expression is never in terms of ideology or territory, like most other patriotisms; American patriots are patriots for American sons and daughters. A spy story depicting American patriotism would be incomplete without marriage and children; marriage and children are part of what American patriotism has always been.

Favorite Passage:

"Pray, Colonel Wellmere," said Frances, recovering her good humor, and raising her joyous eyes once more to the face of the gentleman, "was the Lord Percy of Lexington a kinsman of him who fought at Chevy Chase?"

"Why, Miss Fanny, you are becoming a rebel," said the colonel, endeavoring to laugh away the anger he felt; "what you are pleased to insinuate was a chase at Lexington, was nothing more than a judicious retreat—a—kind of—"

"Running fight," interrupted the good-humored girl, laying a great emphasis on the first word.

"Positively, young lady"—Colonel Wellmere was interrupted by a laugh from a person who had hitherto been unnoticed.

Recommendation: Highly recommended; but for Americans it is really a must-read, part of the American heritage, capturing a strand of the American spirit.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Prayers Written by Philosophers V

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) is best known for his work in the philosophy of religion, but a good argument can also be made that he is the most important nineteenth-century philosopher of language after Herder and Schlegel. He has certainly been a major influence on hermeneutics and philosophy of translation. A Lutheran, he was widely regarded as excellent at both sermon and lecture, and because of this he arguably had a wider influence in his day than most of his contemporaries. His most important work is The Christian Faith, one of the classics of liberal theology, but his most read work is probably On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, which is a critical adaptation of some of Spinoza's ideas in light of the German debates about Spinoza that had been started by Jacobi. He was a close friend of a number of Romantic philosophers, especially the Schlegels, with whom he collaborated on a number of projects.

Because Schleiermacher not uncommonly ended his sermons with a prayer, his works are full of prayers. The following is from an Easter sermon:

Oh, for this end, Thou exalted Saviour, help us more and more by the contemplation of Thy glory! As Thou art exalted from the earth, draw us more and more towards Thee! As Thou didst walk in the days of Thy resurrection, so let us more and more live and walk in the bond of love and faith which Thou didst form among Thy people, and be ever receiving more abundantly from Thee nourishment and strength for our spiritual life! And as Thy resurrection was blessed to Thy disciples for the establishing of Thy kingdom on earth, for the encouraging of the faint-hearted, for banishing despondency from men’s hearts, and for making known the deepest mysteries of the Scriptures; oh, thus may our new life be more and more, through the power of Thy Spirit, a proclamation of Thy word and of all the mysteries of Thy grace, a loving support to all that is weak, an effectual call to life for all that is still dead, a quiet, undisturbed enjoyment of Thy love and of the blessed fellowship with Thee in which Thy people stand. Amen.

Shared Emotion

The most frequent examples in Austen of shared emotion involve the depiction of siblings, another affirmation of Hume's contention that we are naturally inclined to sympathize most with those to whom we are closest. She stresses the importance of fraternal ties, even over conjugal ties: "children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power which no subsequent connexions can supply (MP 235). A brother or sister is someone with whom "every former united pain and pleasure [can be] retraced" (MP 234). Such a unity of past experience and recollection facilitates a continuing unity of feeling. In Sense and Sensibility, even the usually restrained Elinor shares Marianne's distress about Willoughby's desertion and gives way to a burst of tears, which at first was scarcely less violent than Marianne's" (SS 182). Catherine Morland weeps in sympathy with her brother's disappointment as she reads his account of Isabella Thorpe's perfidy (NA 203). Fanny Price's sister Susan "was always ready to hear [Fanny] and to sympathize" (MP 428). It is said of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice that "each felt for the other" (PP 334).

E. M. Dadlez, Mirrors to One Another, pp. 82-83. Austen herself was on excellent terms with her siblings, which probably accounts for the prominence of sibling relationships in her work. She spent an immense portion of her life with her sister Cassandra, and after the death of her father, she, Cassandra, and her mother lived for several years with her brother Francis, then afterward moved to a cottage on the estate of her brother Edward. Her relations with most of her other brothers -- Henry (who seems to have been her favorite brother), James, and Charles -- seem to have been fairly close, as well. (She had another brother, George, but we know very little about him, beyond the fact that there was something wrong with him, and it has been thought, based on a few scattered evidences, that he might not have been able to speak, so that he was sent away at a young age to be cared for. We know the family paid for his upkeep until his death in his seventies , but we have no indication of any other connections. He certainly would not have had "the same first associations and habits".)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back I Return to the World

IV. The Return Home
by William Whewell

Once has the pallid Moon replenisht her shadowy circle
Since the Belov'd in my arms breath’d her pure spirit away:
Moon of desolate thoughts and tears unceasingly springing
E'en at the welcome of friends, e'en at the smiling of love.
For how could I forget for whose sake that love was first giv’n me ;
Hers, the magnet of love, pole of affection to all.
Now perforce driv'n forth from companionship dear and consoling
Back I return to the World, back to the turmoil of life.
Yea once more I seek the haunts of men and their bus'ness,
And before me the face stands of my desolate home.
Lo! placed high on the wall, vain pomp! the Badge of the Herald
Tells of a funeral train recently sent from that door.
Ah! and back to my thoughts that dreary morn is recalled,
Morn of the open grave, morn of the funeral voice.
Sadly we follow’d the form which once contained the Lov'd One;
Brothers and sisters in heart, brothers and sisters in woe.
Woe! for to give that much-lov'd form to the grave and its darkness
Seem'd the abyss of grief, seem'd as a parting for aye.
Nay, but recall,’ O soul! the voices that broke on thy hearing,
Voices of faith and of hope, soothing the depth of thy woe:
Voices as if some Comforting Angel had sounded his trumpet,
Piercing the ether above, raising our thoughts from the earth.

William Whewell, Master of Trinity, is one of the great historians and philosophers of science. It was famously joked of him that "science was his forte and omniscience was his foible" -- he was very much an overachiever, writing a major history of science, developing a new approach to the philosophy of science, giving lectures in moral philosophy (in which he held a chair), helping George Airy with his scientific experiments, contributing to the Gothic revival with notes on Gothic architecture, translating poems from the German, writing science fiction before there was a definite science fiction genre (alas, his story about a visitor from another world was never finished, although what we have of it can be found in Todhunter's biography), reforming the university system, and writing some of the most popular physics textbooks in nineteenth-century England on a wide variety of physical topics. This poem, however, is Whewell in a different light, after the death of his first wife. He wrote a cycle of poems, of which this is the fourth, about dealing with her death and learning how to hold on to hope in the face of it, and distributed it among friends. There are more polished poems on the theme, but it would probably be difficult to find more heartfelt ones. You can find the full cycle of poems in the Appendix of Janet Stair Douglas's The Life and Selections from the Correspondence of William Whewell, D.D.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Prayers Written by Philosophers IV

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) had an active political career under Elizabeth I and James; the former seems not to have liked him, leading to struggles both political and financial, but under the latter he rose to be Lord Chancellor. He spent the last five years of his life trying to complete a philosophical project of extraordinarily sweeping ambition: the Instauratio Magna Scientiarum, the Great Restoration of Sciences, reconceiving the entire field of human knowledge on inductive and experimental terms. It was too ambitious; despite swift work it was left unfinished. His work would be highly lauded in Britain, and, in its more empiricist days, France, over the next several centuries, and although in many ways this was more a matter of people picking and choosing parts of Bacon they liked, and on the part of the British national pride, it meant that for a significant portion of the scientific world for most of the early modern period, Bacon was regarded as the philosopher who had laid out the scientific method. While 'Baconian' would be used to cover some rather different views, it was only in the nineteenth century, when the new philosophies of science rose in the works of John Herschel, John Stuart Mill, and especially William Whewell, that things changed. Until that point he was, for British philosophers, at least, the name that summed up the modern age.

The following prayer is occasionally listed as 'The Writer's Prayer' and was included in the Preface to the Instauratio. William Whewell seems to have been much taken with it, and highlights it and another of Bacon's prayers in his discussion of Bacon in the Philosophy of Discovery portion of his Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences.

Thou, O Father, who gavest the visible light as the first—born of thy creatures, and didst pour into man the intellectual light as the top and consummation of thy workmanship, be pleased to protect and govern this work, which coming from thy goodness, returneth to thy glory. Thou, after thou hadst reviewed the works which thy hands had made, beheldest that everything was very good, and thou didst rest with complacency in them. But man, reflecting on the works which he had made, saw that all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and could by no means acquiesce in them. Wherefore, if we labour in thy works with the sweat of our brows, thou wilt make us partakers of thy vision and thy Sabbath. We humbly beg that this mind may be steadfastly in us; and that thou, by our hands, and also by the hands of others on whom thou shalt bestow the same spirit, wilt please to convey a largess of new alms to thy family of mankind. These things we commend to thy everlasting love, by our Jesus, thy Christ, God with us. Amen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Two Poem Drafts

A good feast of St. Agnes to you.

Melancholy Strain

I love the melancholy strain,
amidst the sunlight falling rain,
the fair remembrance of the slain,
and hope against all hope.

I love the darkness of the cloud;
its rumbling thunder mocks the proud,
it graces earth with tear and shroud,
reminds us of our place.

On roads of dreams we journey long,
with many missteps, choices wrong,
and failures; yet -- the joy of song
is fairer for it all.

As when, at night, some quiet star
looks down on where the dark things are,
and yet its light they cannot mar --
let you and I thus shine.

A Poem of St. Agnes

The little lambs on heaven's field
remind me of a girl who fought
against the darkness, for the fair,
whose heart was free from trembling fear,
who did not falter, did not fail,
but held her ground against the foe.
"I faithful stay to Spouse and Friend,
my Jesus; I am truly free
with him," she said, her voice not faint.
And then she bent her head, with faith
exposed her neck. The death-stroke fell.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Prayers Written by Philosophers III

John Norris (1657-1711) was one of the most important rationalists in an increasingly empiricist England. He had gone some way to building the basic outlines of a rationalist approach to the theory of knowledge when he happened to pick up a book by Malebranche in which he found some of the same ideas already argued for in an extended and sophisticated way. Thus Norris became the foremost British Malebranchean. His use of Malebranche is quite independent, however; he feels free to criticize, adapt, and extend Malebranche, arguably seeing him more as a more experienced fellow traveler than a master. Norris early on was a close friend of John Locke and Damaris Masham; it was because of this friendship that Norris became rector of Bemerton, since Locke pulled a string or two for him. When Locke published his Essay, Norris reviewed it quite critically; for the second edition, Locke modified a section or two to take into account Norris's criticism. The two eventually had a spectacular falling-out, involving all sorts of weird miscommunications and accusations. The circumstances are somewhat murky, but in 1692 Lady Masham had given a letter to Norris to give to Locke and Locke for whatever reason became convinced that Norris had opened it and read it. Locke has a few minor works criticizing Malebranche; these were all written after the blow-up and Locke almost certainly is attacking Malebranche as a way of undermining Norris's approach.

One of Norris's attractive qualities, which is arguably tied to his rationalist views, is a graciousness and openness to anyone interested in philosophical ideas. He gave a considerable amount of time to the needs and interests of others and had active philosophical correspondences with several women, including Damaris Masham and, most importantly, Mary Astell. Norris published the correspondence with Mary Astell under the title, Letters concerning the Love of God, and it is probably the work of his that is the most read today. His major work is An Essay Towards the Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World. In his own time he was a very popular and widely read author.

The following is from Norris's The Theory and Regulation of Love, one of his earlier works; I have very slightly updated the punctuation and spelling:

O God of Order and Beauty, who sweetly disposest all things, and hast established a Regular course in the visible World, who hast appointed the Moon for certain Seasons, and by whose decree the Sun knoweth his going down, let the Moral world be as Regular and Harmonious as the Natural, and both conspire to the declaration of thy Glory. And to this End grant that the Motion of our Minds may be as orderly as the Motion of Bodies, and that we may move as regularly by Choice and free Election, as they do by Natural instinct and Necessity.

O God of Light and Love, warm and invigorate my Light, and direct and regulate my Love. In thy Light let me see Light, and in thy Love let me ever Love. Lord I am more apt to err in my Love than in my understanding, and one Errour in Love is of worse Consequence than a thousand in Judgment, O do thou therefore watch over the Motions of my Love with a peculiar governance, and grant that I myself may keep this Part with all diligence, seeing hence are the issues of Life and Death.

O Spirit of Love, who art the very Essence, Fountain and Perfection of Love, be thou also its Object, Rule, and Guide. Grant I may Love thee, and what thou lovest, and as thou lovest. O Clarify and refine, enlighten and actuate my Love, that it may mount upward to the Center and Element of Love, with a Steady, Chaste, and unsullied Flame; make it unselfish, universal, liberal, generous and Divine, that loving as I ought I may contribute to the Order of thy Creation here, and be perfectly Happy in loving thee, and in being loved by thee Eternally hereafter. Amen.

Berkeley and the Adventures of Gaudentio

In 1737 a work was published in London, Memoirs of Sgr. Gaudentio di Lucca (in later editions it was sometimes published as The Adventures of Sgr. Gaudentio di Lucca). It was a runaway bestseller; it would be reprinted many times and translated into many languages. Since it was published in the eighteenth century when subtitles do the work of blurbs, you can get some idea of the substance of the work from its subtitle (the humor of its length is probably deliberate): taken from his confession and examination before the fathers of the Inquisition at Bologna in Italy. Making a discovery of an unknown country in the midst of the vast deserts of Africa, as ancient, populous, and civilized, as the Chinese ... Copied from the original manuscript kept in St. Mark's library at Venice; with critical notes of the learned Signor Rhedi, late library-keeper of the said library. To which is prefix'd, a letter of the secretary of the Inquisition, to the same Signor Rhedi, giving an account of the manner and causes of his being seized. Faithfully translated from the Italian by E. T. Gent.. It is a work of fiction originally written in English, and telegraphs that fact fairly clearly. It's quite a good book, relatively fast-moving and surprisingly funny, using intricate layers of narration in a highly effective way despite not being all that long; it's not surprising that it became so popular. Historically, it's of significance in part for being a major part of the transition between Utopia novels and Lost World/Dark Continent adventure stories, a precursor of H. Rider Haggard, and one of the works that, because of its popularity, established some of the genre conventions and possibilities for it.

As the work was published pseudonymously, speculation about its author sprang up immediately, and one name seems to have spread most widely: George Berkeley, the philosopher and Bishop of Cloyne. For most of the late eighteenth century most people regarded it as Berkeley's work. I first came across the name of the novel when reading Sir William Forbes's An Account of the Life and Writing of James Beattie; in a letter to the Duchess of Gordon in 1780, Beattie mentions (toward the end) that he is sending her a parcel of books, one of which is Gaudentio; he praises the description of the African deserts, and says, "The author is no less a person than the famous Bishop Berkeley."

Alas, the work is almost certainly not by Berkeley. Indeed, it's difficult to say why it would have been attributed to Berkeley in the first place. It likely lies in a complex set of associations. The humor is (very) broadly of the sort that would have been associated with Jonathan Swift -- Gulliver's Travels had been published a few years before it, and is probably an influence, although Gaudentio is much subtler and strives to be more realistic than Gulliver (not that that is difficult). The earliest attribution I've been able to trace was a review in Gentleman's Magazine not long after it came out; it's vague, but the sense of it seems to be that the reviewer thought that it was by Swift. However, at some point it became associated with Berkeley. And it is true that if you assume that the work originated in Swift's circle, Berkeley is actually the best candidate, particularly give the relative popularity of Alciphron. He was a close friend of Swift and all his circle, and we know from some of his essays and occasional touches in his published works, especially Alciphron, that he is capable of writing broadly Swiftian humor; Berkeley was a Platonist, so might be thought attracted to the idea of writing a Utopia (this was explicitly given as a reason for attributing the work to him in at least one case); he had considerable erudition, including some knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians, which plays a role here; and perhaps more obviously, Gaudentio has a satirical portrait of a freethinker that would likely remind people of the satirical portrait of freethinkers in Alciphron. In addition, Berkeley was known to have traveled in Europe, particularly Italy, and he was famous for his idealistic plan for a school in Bermuda, giving him an association with exotic travel, even though he never visited Africa or even made it to Bermuda. And it has to be admitted that Berkeley has the writing ability for it; he has a knack for description of scenery and can easily blend philosophical and narrative elements.

On the opposing side, however, is the fact that Berkeley's son denied that Berkeley wrote it, or even read it, and if you don't assume that it originated in Swift's circle, there's not much reason to attribute it to Berkeley. It was hardly the first Utopian novel; it was a genre that sold very well at the time. The humor is perhaps harsher and, occasionally, edges up to risqué (an occasional joke is that the narrator pretends that pages got lost right at the moment the narrative gets into discussion of some sexual topic) a bit more than you might expect of Berkeley beforehand. If there's any connection between the satire on freethinkers in Alciphron and the satire on them in Gaudentio, the former had been published in 1735, so it could easily have been an influence on the latter in just the ordinary way. The question was investigated quite well in Notes and Queries, and the argument against Berkeley's authorship seems fairly probable. After the Berkeley attribution began to collapse, people looked around for whomever could be a possible alternative candidate. One suggestion, derived from a later close investigation published in Notes and Queries, was a certain Simon Berington, about whom we know relatively little, but who was probably a Catholic priest, and certainly from an old Catholic family. Later investigation did seem to show that it was a local family tradition that Berington had written the work. And if we compare Gaudentio to other things we're fairly sure Berington wrote, such as A Popish Pagan, a biting and thorough satire of the controversial work of Conyers Middleton, or the work that James Crossley, the second Notes and Queries researcher, used, Dissertations on the Mosaical Creation, there does seem to be some at least broad kinship of humor ideas between the works, and Crossley points out that when one compares the authors quoted or alluded to in the works, there is a fair amount of overlap. It does seem fairly certain, then.

In any case, if you've never read it, it is worth reading, and it is a book that is good enough that it probably should not be allowed to fall into oblivion. As I mentioned before, for a Utopia novel, it is fast-paced, in an H. Rider Haggard sort of way. There is a lot of humor in the work, ranging from the subtle to the blatantly sarcastic. And Berington's use of narrative layering borders on genius -- reading the story, we are reading a supposed translation and edition of a supposed commentary by an Italian scholar of an account by Gaudentio of his adventures, including stories told to him by natives, as recorded in the transcript of an Inquisition investigation, and each layer gets some good use in the story. We travel with Gaudentio to Egypt, where he meets a man called the Pophar, who takes him to his homeland, the forgotten but mighty, wise, and prosperous civilization of Mezzorania, deep in the heart of Africa, and its glorious capital city of Phor, also called No-om or No-Ammon, in which the long-lost civilization of the Ancient Egyptians has had its greatest flowering.

A. D. Harvey and Jean-Michel Racault have an interesting article discussing the work in its literary context (PDF).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Notable Links And Notes

* The 100th edition of Carnivalesque, the ancient/medieval/early modern history blog carnival. Having seen it in its origins in 2004 when it was formed as an early modernist carnival, and having been one of its earliest supporters (I hosted the second, fifteenth, and twenty-sixth editions), I find its longevity most impressive and gratifying. The credit for that certainly goes to Sharon Howard, whose ability to organize (and, more than that, keep things organized) in the digital world always amazes me.

This is a great edition, too, with everything from the legal and judicial role of the midwife, to early modern patronage networks, to seventeenth century methods of making fake bacon, to prostitution in medieval Ireland.

* An interesting post on Catholic Integralism at "sancrucensis"

* Tom Angier, Alasdair MacIntyre's Analysis of Tradition

* Benjamin Morison has an article on Sextus Empiricus at the SEP. I found the discussion of the Five Modes particularly interesting, since if Morison's summation of the scholarship is right, then scholars studying Ancient Skepticism are consistently failing to treat the Five Modes as what they explicitly are, means or methods for producing suspension of judgment. Morison correctly identifies some of the problems with this, and gives what I think is the right answer, although in this context he is obviously hampered by the limitations of an encyclopedia article. When we look at one of the Modes, like that of infinite regress or circularity or hypothesis, we should think of it not as an analysis of objects but as a kind of action you can perform on dogmatic arguments to balance, or re-balance, the situation by showing one sort of arbitrariness in the dogmatists's arguing. If you can argue that the dogmatist is not even getting the argument off the ground except by mere force of will, because the argument does begin with a straight stipulation, or somehow assumes what it proves, or would require an infinite prior argument that the dogmatist does not give, then you can take the obvious next step and point out that someone could formulate an argument for the opposing conclusion in exactly the same way.

* I recently quoted from John Watson, so I thought I'd say something about him. Watson was born in Glasgow and studied at Edinburgh under the Caird brothers, who were arguable the major Idealist philosophers of the day, Idealisms of various sorts being the dominant philosophical positions at that time. Watson himself developed a variety of Idealism that he called Speculative Idealism. In 1872 he was appointed to the Chair of Logic, Metaphysics, and Ethics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and in that position he became perhaps the single most important Canadian philosopher of his day. I would be inclined to say that, despite being relatively rarely read anymore, he is still worthy of the distinction; I think, given the quality of his work, that it is inevitable that he will someday be more widely read. He has a truly remarkable ability to take difficult subjects and discuss them clearly. He has a number of books on Kant (The Philosophy of Kant Explained is an excellent introduction to Kant's thought), several books on philosophy of religion, including his Gifford Lectures, The Interpretation of Religious Experience, and his book on Schelling, Schelling's Transcendental Idealism: A Critical Exposition is the single best book on Schelling's philosophy that I've ever read. He's definitely worthy of study. Fortunately a lot of his otherwise difficult to find books are online; unfortunately, he also wrote a large number of journal articles, many of which are not online. You can some of find his articles in JSTOR; a small number of them, like "The Critical Philosophy and Idealism", are available free even without a JSTOr subscription.

* Christopher Humphrey argues that John Watson is a much greater influence on the Canadian worldview than usually appreciated in John Watson: The Philosopher of Canadian Identity? (PDF)


* Due to the first week of class and fighting a small illness, the 'fortnight' of the Fortnightly Book will be three weeks this time around. I could have pushed it and hurried through, but it just seems better to take the extra week.