Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Hocking on the Value of the Individual

William Ernest Hocking (1873-1966) had his day in the philosophical sun, but is no longer much read – except by those contrarians who take being unread by contemporaries as a possible mark of distinction. This morning I came across this magnificent passage:

Life itself is individual, and the most significant things in the world – perhaps in the end the only significant things – are individual souls. Each one of these must work its own way to salvation, win its own experience, suffer from its own mistakes: "through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui," yes, and through crime and retribution, "what you are picks its way." Any rule which by running human conduct into approved grooves saves men from this salutary Odyssey thwarts the first meaning of human life. ("The Philosophical Anarchist" in R. Hoffman, ed. Anarchism, New York: Lieber-Atherton, 1973, pp. 120-121.)

The quotation within this quotation is from the last stanza of Walt Whitman's "To You" from Leaves of Grass. See here.