Published Humanitas, Volume XIII, No. 1, 2000

Professor Roberts is correct about our having a great deal in common. Indeed, certain philosophical prejudices and reflexes lead him to exaggerate our disagreement. I do differ with some of what he writes in defense of his interpretation of Croce and in criticism of my value-centered historicism, but for the most part I nod in assent wondering why Roberts thinks he is arguing against me. He repeatedly puts his shoulder to wide-open doors. It is puzzling that he should attribute to me some views that are clearly contradicted by my own explicit published arguments and that he, the intellectual historian, should leave his assertions largely without textual support. Although he consistently qualifies or dilutes his interpretations of my thinking by saying that I “seem” to hold the view to which he is taking exception, the combined effect of these unsupported speculations is to turn me into something rather different from what I am. Not surprisingly, the imaginary Ryn presents less of a philosophical challenge to Roberts than the real one.

Professor Roberts’s general intuition about the difference between us is not without foundation, but his attempt to pinpoint and articulate the disagreement does, in my view, miss the crux of the matter and significantly misrepresent my position. Instead of indicating every specific point of disagreement or every instance of Roberts getting me wrong I shall try to formulate in general terms where I think that he and I, despite our broad agreement, actually differ. I shall concentrate on the issue of how the inescapable historicity of human existence is compatible with recognition of enduring order. Professor Roberts and I may have not so much a fundamental philosophical disagreement as a difference of philosophical nomenclature and emphasis. Ideas in Roberts’s thinking that are still only tentatively stated could well evolve in ways that will reveal further consonance between us.

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