a sort of secret and tacit compact: a long view

"Whoever is acquainted with the history of philosophy during the two or three last centuries, cannot but admit, that there appears to have existed a sort of secret and tacit compact among the learned, not to pass beyond a certain limit in speculative science. The privilege of free thought, so highly extolled, has at no time been held valid in actual practice, except within this limit; and yet not a single stride beyond it has ever been ventured without bringing obloquy on the transgressor. The few men of genius among the learned class, who actually did overstep this boundary, anxiously avoided the appearance of having so done."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1840-----------------------   

 Coleridge, without naming him, acknowledges that his own thoughts on this are by coincidence substantially the same as a contemporary continental writer whose words he has translated here. Knights (2010) credits Fruman that Coleridge lifted the passage from Schelling's Natur-Philosophie.

Eiseley (1960), recalling Coleridge's words, tells the beginning of the modern story of seemingly intelligent people openly contradicting what their own eyes profess to see. The intellectual context then was our understanding of the natural history of the earth. In the post modern stage of the Machine Age, questions, denial, and delusion, about the causes of why the human-apes' intellectual powers are endangering more than civilization, echo across the planet. Now the intellectual context is our understanding of who we are, really; what we are doing to life on this planet, actually; and why we are so paradoxically helpless in the face of our corrupted powers.


Editor's Note: clarifications to the above were culled www-Ex-Machina.



Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 1840. The Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Prose and Verse, Complete in One Volume. Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwait, and Co.

Eiseley, Loren 1960. The Firmament of Time. New York: Atheneum.

Knights, Ben 2010. The Idea of the Clerisy in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.