Bowne’s Idealistic Personalism, 1


Some reviewers and other readers of my book The Worldview of Personalism: Origins and Early Development (2006) expressed the view that I should have added sections on Borden Parker Bowne to each of the three thematic chapters, ‘Personal “reason” and impersonal “understanding”‘, ‘The personal absolute’, and ‘Personal unity-in-diversity’, instead of just providing a summary of his philosophy in chapter 1, ‘The current view of personalism and its origins’.

The reason why I did not do so was that I found it was not needed for the historical argument I set forth in the book. According to my thesis, Bowne represents a relatively late form of personalism; and this thesis of course required that the emphasis be placed on the earlier development which it claims is the early development precisely of personalism.

For the purpose of this argument, for the purpuse of demonstrating the continuity of Bowne’s personalism with the personalism I traced from the late eighteenth century and through the nineteenth, I found the summary, in combination with the presentation of other, more general accounts of American personalism (as well as of American accounts of personalism in general) to be quite sufficient.

Moreover, it was evident that if I included sections of Bowne in the thematic chapters, the book would have become not only too long (this was, in particular, the view expressed by the publisher), but also too repetitive. Bowne’s formulations of the themes of the earlier philosophers I deal with, while certainly contributing some developments of his own, also often use almost precisely the same Words.

But in fact, I did consider adding such sections, and wrote drafts of them. They were never fully developed in terms of my own comments and analyses in the way I would have liked to develop them had they been included; I left them at the stage where they are primarily mere compilations of some relevant formulations and passages from Bowne and one or two later American personalists of his school (the sections, following those called ‘British personal idealism’ in each of the mentioned chapters, would probably have been called ‘American personalism’). These are, however, tied together by a minimal narrative which does explain further and emphasize the mentioned continuity, and thus continues to make the various points of the book’s general historical argument.

It must be kept in mind that these drafts, like the book as a whole, only set forth this historical argument, a thesis in the history of philosophy. Various positions are described, explained and analysed only to the extent that it is necessary for this thesis. Although in the fifth chapter of the book, I indicate briefly and in general terms the lasting relevance of “early personalism”, I am not at all, in the book or in these as yet unpublished drafts, making the case for idealistic personalism in strict philosophical terms. (I do make that case elsewhere.)

The drafts, taken together, are too long to be reworked into an article or even a book chapter. But they are also too short to be reworked into a new and separate book. They could be published in a collection of articles and/or book chapters, but at the moment I do not plan to publish any such book. Awaiting a suitable occasion for such publication, I therefore now publish them here, beginning with the section belonging to the first thematic chapter, chapter 2, ‘Personal “reason” and impersonal “understanding”‘.

Hopefully, this could be of use to scholars who want further exemplification and corroboration of my thesis with regard to Bowne – although all who have read the book will, I think, easily see the redundance of the sections that these drafts could have been developed into.

The drafts, as they exist now, are written as direct continuations of the respective chapters in the book and thus make frequent reference to it. The book is also where the publication details for all cited works are found.

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