Lodge and Wright in Faces of Reason

In The Faces of Reason, their 1981 history of philosophy in Canada, Leslie Armour and Elizabeth Trott include a chapter on ‘The Fragmentation of Reason: Rupert Lodge and Henry Wright’.1 They begin:

Lodge and Wright arrived at the University of Manitoba in the same year, 1920, and served as joint heads of the Manitoba philosophy department for fourteen years. Both spent their whole careers there, though after 1934 Lodge became sole head of the philosophy department while Wright went to the [newly established] psychology department.
Lodge had come to Manitoba from England [graduating from Oxford], by way of Germany, [the University of] Minnesota, and [the University of] Alberta. He had already distinguished himself as the author of a work on modern logic 2, was an expert on Locke3, and the translator of the now largely forgotten Italian Bernardino Varisco. Despite this array of interests, he continued to be a proponent of the Oxford idealism.
Wright had been educated at Cornell, taught there briefly, and then became professor of philosophy [and acting president] at Lake Forest College in Illinois where he had written books on ethics and religion and distinguished himself as an expert on self-realization theories.4 He, too, had been reared on the moderate kind of idealism, sustained at Cornell by Jacob Gould Schurman.5 

Armour and Trott comment in regard to Wright’s move from the Chicago to Winnipeg: “in a way, Schurman’s idealism had come home” (405) to Canada from Cornell. Jacob Gould Schurman was born in PEI and, after studying in England and Europe, taught at Acadia and Dalhousie before becoming the chair of philosophy at Cornell, the founding editor of Philosophical Review there and eventually the longtime Cornell University president.6 To compare, Wright was born in Michigan on the Canada/US border and reversed Schurman’s itinerary by studying at Cornell7, teaching in the US, and ultimately becoming acting president at Lake Forest University in Chicago — before ending up in Winnipeg. 

Armour and Trott remark further:

Both [Lodge and Wright] wrote continuously and extensively and remained amongst the most productive philosophers in Canada for nearly thirty years. (405)

McLuhan took courses from both Lodge and Wright at the University of Manitoba and, in fact, his whole career may well be seen as a combination of the work of the two of them. From Wright he took the notion that modes of “intercommunication” — aka media — are decisive across the spectrum of human activity from psychology to sociology, politics and religion. Further, that the mechanical media of communication necessarily build on the foundation of the complex human psyche.8 From Lodge he took the notion that the forms of human experience are fundamentally plural and that it is the business of the humanities and social sciences to probe that plurality.9 Arising from both Wright and Lodge are the great questions: if experience is irreducibly plural, what experience is fitted to study it? how arrive at this enabling experience?  how demonstrate its suitability to the task? how communicate its findings? and what do these questions have to do with the media deployed by humans, from oral language to electronic devices?

Both Lodge and Wright emphasized the practicality of these questions for non-academic life. This is particularly to be seen in what Armour and Trott call Lodge’s “practical philosophy books”: The Philosophy of Education (1937), The Philosophy of Business (1945) and Applying Philosophy (1951). McLuhan, too, would come to see practical problems in education and business as keys to his enterprise. Unlike the academy, especially business had no incentive to leave problems unsolved. Furthermore and all importantly, solving actual problems there could serve to establish the study of communication beyond mere argumentation. And this, in turn, might solve the world-historical problem of how to communicate about communication.

  1.  It might well be asked what sort of genitive is in play in the phrase ‘the fragmentation of reason’. Is this a fragmentation affecting reason as an object? Fragmentation of what? Or is fragmentation in some sense fundamental to reason itself as a subject? Fragmentation belonging to whom? While both Lodge and Wright were hardly oblivious to historical and sociological effects on human experience, both treated the types of reason as inherently plural and hence as fundamentally fragmented in this subjective way. But this was a fragmentation for both that did not contradict communication across its divide (or divides). Further, given that analysis (to break down) and synthesis (to bring together) are central to the deployment of reason, fragmentation might be thought to be inherent to reason in other senses as well, both methodological and creative.
  2.  An Introduction to Modern Logic, 1920.
  3. Lodge published The Meaning and Function of Simple Modes in the Philosophy of John Locke in 1918. Meanwhile Wright’s 1899 BPh thesis at Cornell was on Locke’s Theory of Knowledge.
  4. Henry Wilkes Wright, Self-Realization: An Outline of Ethics (1913).
  5. A preview of The Faces of Reason is available in googlebooks. This passage is from p 405 there.
  6. Cf, ‘Hegel in Canada’ by John Burbidge in Hegel and Canada: Unity of Opposites? (2017): “There is some evidence, indeed, that this Canadian tradition (of Scottish Hegelianism) spilled over into the United States. Jacob Gould Schurman, born in Prince Edward Island and educated in Nova Scotia and London, England, was offered the chair of philosophy at the recently founded Cornell University in 1885 on the strength of his Kantian Ethics and the Ethics of Evolution: A Critical Study (1882). A comment in his Belief in God: Its Origin, Nature, and Basis (1890 as cited by Armour and Trott) noted that Hegel was right to insist ‘that identity and difference are both necessary to the being of the infinite spirit’. In 1892 Schurman became president of Cornell, and, in due course, American ambassador to (in succession) Greece-Macedonia,  China, and Germany. One of his graduate students, James Edwin Creighton from Nova Scotia, became first co-editor with him, and then editor of the Philosophical Review, which provided a forum for a number of Canadian authors.” (52)
  7. One of Wright’s teachers at Cornell was James Edwin Creighton, who was born in Pictou NS and was was the founding president of the American Philosophical Association. The 1917 Festschrift for Creighton, Philosophical Essays in Honor of James Edwin Creighton, has an introduction by Schurman and an essay by Wright: ‘Is the Dualism of Mind and Matter Final?’.
  8. For citations and discussion, see Henry Wilkes Wright and Henry Wilkes Wright 2.
  9. For citations and discussion, see The Comparative Method of Rupert Lodge and Rupert Lodge: Synthesis or Comparison?