Philosophy, then, can afford to accept the unfavorable opinion of common sense, and may even boast of it. Philosophy is unpractical, too general, and intangible. If the condemnation implied in these terms were decisive and final, then philosophy would be compelled to give up. But philosophy is not merely contrary to common sense, for it emancipates the mind from common sense and establishes the more authoritative standards by which it is itself justified.

Though I should have persuaded you that philosophy is a strange thing which you must visit abroad in its own home, nevertheless I now hope to persuade you that you once entertained it unawares. Though, if philosophy is now to enter, you must expel from your mind the ideas that make themselves most at home there, this same philosophy was once a favorite inmate. Only you were too young, and your elders had too much common sense, to know that it was philosophy. Unless you were an extraordinary child you were very curious about what you called the world; curious as to who or what made it, why it was made, how it was made, why it was made as it is, and what it is like in those remote and dim regions beyond the range of your senses. Then you grew up, and having grown up, you acquired common sense, or rather common sense acquired you. It descended like a curtain, shutting out the twilight, and enabling you to see more clearly, but just as certainly making your view more circumscribed.〖Cf. Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” in Harvard Classics, xli, 595.〗 Since then you have come to feel that the questions of your childhood were foolish questions, or extravagant questions that no busy man can afford to indulge in. Philosophy, then, is more naïve than common sense; it is a more spontaneous expression of the mind. And when one recovers this first untrammeled curiosity about things, common sense appears not as the illumination of mature years, but rather as a hardening of the mind, the worldliness and complacency of a life immersed in affairs. It would not be unfair to say that the philosophical interest is the more liberal, common sense having about it something of the quality of professionalism.

But there is another and a more important sense in which philosophy is entertained unawares. It underlies various mature activities and interests whose standing is regarded as unquestionable. When these activities or interests are reflected upon, as sooner or later they are sure to be, it appears that they require the support of philosophy. This is most evident in the case of religion. We all of us participate in a certain religious tradition, and with most of us the principal elements of that tradition are taken for granted. We assume that there is a certain kind of life, a life of unselfishness, honesty, fortitude and love, let us say, that is highest and best. We assume that the worth of such a life is superior to worldly success; that it betokens a state of spiritual well-being to which every man should aspire, and for which he should be willing to sacrifice everything else. We assume, furthermore, that this type of life is the most important thing in the world at large. Thus we may suppose that the world was created, and that its affairs are controlled, by a being in whom this type of life is perfectly exemplified. God would then mean to us the cosmic supremacy of unselfishness, love, and the like. Or we may suppose that God is one who guarantees that those who are unselfish and scrupulous shall inherit the earth, and experience eternal happiness.

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