Rupert Lodge’s 1934 ‘Philosophy and Education’1 gave McLuhan a series of deep ideas which he took with him to Cambridge. All would remain with him his whole life, but it would take him decades to understand their implications. Better, since understanding is not a momentary individual event, but an ongoing collective enterprise, it would take him decades to perceive how it might be possible to ignite such investigation of their implications.
On the plurality of truth and its practical effects:
Our conclusion then is that realism, idealism, and pragmatism remain fundamentally distinct [approaches to experience]2, and that the positions constructed by philosophers [reflecting and analyzing these distinctions] are of direct concern to educationists in the pursuit of their profession [along with everybody else in pursuit of their professions].3
On the object of philosophy:
[Philosophical] “speculations” seem remote, but are merely technical formulations of those backgrounds which affect our outlook in every detail of class-room and laboratory procedure [in education — and similarly in every other field]. Philosophers merely try to bring these [backgrounds] out into the open, so as to focus attention upon them. It is surely better to realize how they affect our thoughts and actions, than to leave them to work obscurely in the background.
On the spectrum of the forms of experience as defined by its extreme ends and middle:
when the realist sets up Einstein’s position in place of Newton’s, he shows how and why Einstein’s is better as a picture of the physical world. With the idealist, what looks at first like realist logic and objective information becomes transformed into (…) dialectic and (…) the transcendental realms of the spirit (…) The pragmatist avoids both extremes [of “the physical world” vs “the transcendental realms of the spirit”]
On the community as the multitude of these forms and their permutations:
The community (…) is never wholly realist, idealist, or pragmatist in type (…) the community [includes] all differences of background and outlook (…) all powers of insight and initiative (…) every alternative4
- Dalhousie Review, 14:3, 1934, 281-290. The citations below are taken from this essay. ↩
- It is impossible to formulate what “realism, idealism, and pragmatism” are without deploying one of them in doing so. Hence they may variously be termed ‘approaches to experience’, ‘forms of reality’, ‘kinds of truth’, ‘sorts of hypotheses’, etc. This self-referential circularity is an essential aspect of the problem complex at stake here. ↩
- Lodge wrote books on The Philosophy of Education (1937), The Philosophy of Business (1945) and Applying Philosophy (1951). ↩
- Decades later McLuhan would come to call this the “emotion of multitude” after Yeats’ 1903 little essay of this title. See Lévi-Strauss on method in anthropology for citation and discussion. ↩