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May 2015

Wordsworth & Whitehead

Earlier this year I was at a party of the theology and philosophy departments and was talking to a theologian about Alfred North Whitehead.  At some point in the conversation, David Hume came up, and I mentioned Hume was part of the trinity of Hume, James, and Whitehead.  This theologian was shocked that I'd include Hume.  What I forgot was the fourth figure--the Romantic poet William Wordsworth.  Wordsworth's view of experience was deeply influential on Alfred North Whitehead.

This week I began reading The Prelude and immediately began to see the sorts of statements that must have enticed Whitehead and sent him into deep philosophical speculation about the nature of reality and experience.  Here are a few examples:

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society.


How Nature by extrinsic passion first
Peopled the mind with forms sublime or fair,
And made me love them


To those first-born affinities that fit
Our new existence to existing things


I held unconscious intercourse with beauty


even then I felt
Gleams like the fleshing of a shield;--the earth
And common face of Nature spake to me
Rememberable things.

"The Civil War Isn't Over"

Finally caught up reading this essay, "The Civil War Isn't Over," at The Atlantic.  Though some of it is familiar, I commend it to you.  Here's an excerpt:

Modern-day states’ rightists and sometimes nullifiers embrace versions of federalism that might once have been thought all but buried in the mass slaughter of the Civil War, or in the imperatives of the New Deal’s response to the Great Depression, or in the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts, or in the battle over the Environmental Protection Agency. But history does not end; it keeps happening. The radical wing of the conservative movement in America, still ascendant in Congress and dominant in most of the South, seems determined to repeal much of the twentieth-century social legislation, and even tear up its constitutional and social roots in the transformations of the 1860s. As Americans disturbingly learn, generation after generation, many have never fully accepted the verdicts of Appomattox.