Certainly those papers which have assumed to condemn the establishment of a chair of positive philosophy at Harvard, and the publication of lectures of Professor John Fiske, the rble expounder of "positivism" in that institution, by the New York lVorld, have greatly mistaken the spirit of the age. The thinkers of the period are struggling by every possible means to arrive at truth. 'I'hey have disembarrassed themselves of all superstitious reverence for old doctrines and old beliefs, and have entered into their work with the determination to recognize nothing as true merely because it has long been accepted as such. They are obeying the injunction of St. Paul : "Prove all things." The clamor of bigots against free thought and free discus-cussion avails no more to stem the current of thought, than the howling of the wind below Niagara to stay the mighty cataract. If some—if all the men who are molding the thought of the age, are wrong in their conclusions, the prohibition of discuion in our publie institutions is the very best way to perpetuate their errors. It has been in all ages by prohibiting discussion that falsehood and quackery have flourished. And no essentially false theory can ultimately outlast the scrutiny which is brought to bear upon it by free discussion. Therefore, if positivism is a false philosophy, it has been brought to execution in its introduction to the thought which pervades our universities, and its enemies should ask no greater advantage than is given through its public exposWon by one of its acknowledged champions, in the columns of a widely circulated journal. It thus offers itself to general attack, and its defeat is morally certain if it has not truth for its basis. Those who refuse to confront it are moral cowards, who do so only in the fear that their favorite creeds will suffer in the conflict.
This article was originally published with the title "The Spirit of the Age" in Scientific American 21, 24, 378 (December 1869)