Comte and Hegel

“Comte and Hegel.” Measure 2 (Chicago, July 1951).


“The discussions of every age are filled with the issues on which its leading schools of thought differ. But the general intellectual atmosphere of the time is always determined by the views on which the opposing schools agree. They become the unspoken presuppositions of all thought, the common and unquestioningly accepted foundations on which all discussion proceeds.

When we no longer share these implicit assumptions of ages long past, it is comparatively easy to recognize them. But it is different with regard to the ideas underlying the thoughts of more recent times. Here are we are frequently not yet aware of the common features which the opposing systems of thought shared, ideas that for that very reason often have crept in almost unnoticed and have achieved their dominance without serious examination. This can be very important because extremes of thought may meet in error as well as in truth. Such errors sometimes become dogmas merely because they were accepted by the different groups who quarreled on all the live issues, and may even continue to provide the tested foundations of thought when most of the theories are forgotten which divided thinkers to whom we owe that legacy.”

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