Historical and philosophical analysis of the new England (America) settlement’s worldview

piligrimYa. Sobolevsky, PhD, Associate Professor Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

Annotation. The formation and development of the basic philosophical ideas of the first colonists on the basis of historical, literary texts have been studied. The historical conditions of formation of religious movement in Christianity – Protestantism, his basic ideas that influenced the origin of Puritan’s providential motives are studied. Political, social and cultural conditions and religious beliefs did not leave to intellectuals a lot of
ideas for speculative research. This was the era of the Puritan ideals, pious patriarchal customs, so early American philosophy manifested itself mainly in theological works and church hymns and, later, in the works of historical and political subjects.

Historical and philosophical studies of American philosophy should be started with searching for the first philosophical thoughts, such as nature of the self, God, what is community and what relationships should be between two and more persons, and of course – their origins, legacy and destiny, especially from the time of the Puritans in New England According to this theses religious, political, economic and socio-cultural background of these ideas are discovered. Also, Puritan axiology denies luxury, however does not deny success. The belief in feature and calling the whole nation make first colonists feel like the biblical peoples. However, these ideas and the providential motives were forming the outlook of the Puritans, religion and economy identified the first American in the New World.

Problem definition. For better understanding the origin of American philosophy we should mention that fact, that history of American Culture, Literature, and Philosophy begun with founding first colonies in the New World. Interest in the earliest period of the history of American philosophy grows together with interest in early American culture especially in the second half of the 20th century. It is connected with the anniversary of the US education system and the widespread interest of historical, political, cultural and philosophical sciences. In the context of westernization of science, culture and philosophy of interest in the origins of American thought is especially relevant.

Literature review. In the United States philosophical ideas of the colonial period of American philosophy is discovered by Barbara MacKinnon, Harvey G. Townsend, David J. Hoeveler, Perry G. E. Miller, Vernon L. Parrington, Woodbridge I. Riley, Herbert W. Schneider and other native historians and philosophers Alex Bogomolov, Nikita Pokrovsky, Elena Starovyerova. Nevertheless, the total number of studies of early American philosophy is still sparse.

This article contains the following aims: At first, carry out reconstruction of historical and philosophical worldview of the first Pilgrims in the New World; secondly, analyze religious and socio-political conditions in Europe and America in the 17th century; in Third, explore sources texts and commentary literature on electronic archives. Also, identify major historical events and circumstances that shaped the outlook of American Puritans, reveal the origins and meaning of providential motives in the philosophical views of American thinkers of the colonial period. Study on the history of American philosophy was seen the need to study the history of philosophy Early American period.

A characteristic feature of early American philosophy is the fact that the actual term “philosophy” was almost not used by the thinkers. Also, at different times that term was understood in different ways. For example, term “philosophy” the first colonists of the New World understood as a group of “liberal arts” (artēs līberālēs) (theology, rhetoric, mathematics, physics, etc.). Later, during the American Revolutionary War, American War of Independence, philosophy began partially identified with moral philosophy, common sense philosophy, economics and politics. From the 19th century idealism and pragmatism began to dominate in American philosophy, and in the 20th century, philosophy approaches to psychology, because philosophers began to be interested mainly consciousness, mind, logic, language and its use.

Professor Francis Bowen (1811–1890), Boston, Massachusetts, in “Modern philosophy from Descartes to Schopenhauer and Hartmann”, 1877, after the Auguste Comte (1798–1857) classifies periods of the history of philosophy in three stages “First is the theological stage, in which all events, all causation, are referred to the action of super-human being. Second is the Metaphysical period, in which causative power is ascribed is ascribed to metaphysical entities or abstractions, regarded as the occult sources or principles of phenomena, such as Substantial forms and Quiddities.

Nature’s horror of a vacuum, and even the modern doctrines of the attraction of gravitation, chemical affinity, and the like, when delusively considered as denoting real forces or powers, and not as a mere classification of results produced by these fictitious causes. The third stage is that of Positive Science, so called, in which these names are recognized as mere abstractions or fictions, and both science and philosophy are restricted to the observation, classification, and prevision of phenomena” [2, p. 264]. Puritanism explained all phenomena as the manifestation of supernatural forces; the American idealism and deism matched metaphysical stage; materialism and realism correspond to the positive stage, which reduces all to the concepts of metaphysics.

On July 24, 1883 American transtsendentalist Franklin Benjamin Sanborn (1831–1917) gave a lecture at The Concord School of Philosophy in which he expressed his views on the history of American philosophy: “In speaking of philosophy in America, I should hardly be called on to present any “History of Philosophy” at all, since there is nothing that can be distinctively recognized from the intellectual side as American philosophy – using the term as we do when we speak of the Indian, the Greek, the German, or the English philosophy. Our countrymen have been the followers of many systems, the inventors of none; for not even the transcendentalism of New England can be considered as a distinct American philosophy, though it comes nearer to that designation than any other.

Nevertheless, I find it convenient, and even, in a high sense, very appropriate, to speak of philosophy in America as passing through certain unique and varied historical phases; only I use the broad and noble term Philosophy as indicating the guide of life, the exponent and directress of national existence, rather than a certain metaphysical insight, fruitful of speculation even when barren of results; such as was censured of old in the Athenians, later in the Schoolmen, and, less than a hundred years ago, in the Germans” [7, p. 401– 402].

As the result of this speculation he made the conclusion that America, without such schools, as Europe did, has gone forward, ever since the landing of first Pilgrim Fathers, to make by practical illustration significant certain phases of speculative thought, ethical purpose, political views. He described three phases, roughly stated, are: the first one is the Puritanic Philosophy in 17th–18th century, culminating in Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758); the second one is the Philanthropic Philosophy in 18th–19th century, with Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) as its type; the third one is the Negation of Philosophy in 19th century; the fourth one is the Ideal or Vital Philosophy, from second half of 19th century, with Ralph Emerson (1803–1882) as its best representative.

As mentioned above, this lecture was read at The Concord School of Philosophy which was looked like a wooden building in the forest. Similar classifications only emphasize the importance of early American philosophy in the history of American philosophical thought as the basis for its further development.

Going back to the colonial period, it should be noted, that political, social and cultural conditions and religious beliefs did not leave to intellectuals a lot of ideas for speculative research. This was the era of the Puritan ideals, pious patriarchal customs, so early American philosophy manifested itself mainly in theological works and church hymns and, later, in the works of historical and political subjects.

Puritanism emerged as a trend in Calvinism, largely defined the outlook of the first settlers. Worldview first colonists of New England determined mainly Protestant ideas of deep inner faith, the ratio of man and society, and the problems of understanding the relation of man and God. These were the Congregationalists, who were forced to leave England because of religious persecution. The first passengers who arrived to the new colonies were Congregationalists; many of them were theologians, preachers, lawyers and political activists, also writers and others.

The sources for the historical and philosophical analysis of the early period of American philosophy are mostly legends, letters, and personal stories. There are various community organizations in the United States today, such as, “Winthrop Society”, “National Society Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims”, “Partnership of the Historic Bostons (USA)”, which preserve the memory of the life and fate the first settlers who develop the first colony in the new continent. One of the goals of such partnerships is to work to create opportunities to freely distribute the text of original documents of the period by which researchers can learn about the religious, ethical, political views of first settlers, analyze their content and explore philosophy of colonial of thinkers.

Not only similar companies stores such works, but also universities, libraries, collectors help to contribute to the history of the colonial era America, meet the ideals, dreams, motives, fears of people who decide to travel in one direction, and containing priceless historical and genealogical information. But above all, we have to analyze what made religious refugees seek refuge in other parts of the world, knowing all the risks of such travel. Despite the fact that North America was discovered by Christopher Columbus (1451– 506) in 1492, it took more than a century before hundreds of passengers sailing “Meyflover” were the first inhabitants of New England. Over a century in the Old World, significant religious, political, cultural and scientific changes pilgrims approached their “holy mission”.

In the 16th century Reformation gave rise to the religious and political movement in Western and Central Europe. This movement criticized the Catholic Church and papal authority, and sought a return to biblical sources of Christianity. This religious struggle touched the ideas of church, faith, free will and determinism. The controversy between Desiderius Erasmus (1469–1536) and Martin Luther (1483–1546) demonstrates the rivalry views of Catholics and Protestants, since it is known that Erasmus did not accept the Reformation and the end of his life keenly argued with Luther regarding the doctrine of free will, which many Protestants questioned. Martin Luther called freedom using Latin word figmentum, which translates as fudge, thus stressing its character and nature [8, p. 59].

According to Martin Luther person dose exactly what directs God or devil. All regulations and laws are given to us for absolute performance. Such determinist is John Calvin (1509– 1564), who argues that God’s will is necessity of things. In the “Institutio Christianae religionis”, 1536), he wonders what was “the freedom… of man…” [3]. Only those who have true faith in the heart, according to John Calvin are God’s chosen for special sacramental mission.

Discovering this ideas, we can look for sources of providential views of Protestants. This problem is evident that if God knows what Christian will make tomorrow, it is not a justification of sin, because sin will be committed in the future relative to humans. Freedom for Protestant becomes problematic illusory, because if “all of God”, the Protestant has completely surrender to the will of God and immerse themselves in mystical contact with him. This internalization generates faith in personal vocation.

Thus formed on the ideas of Calvinism and Lutheranism first colonists outlook incorporates the following reasons: firstly, this earthly existence due to the constant hard work, there is no place for mortal sin – laziness, because it leads lose God’s blessing. For the German Protestant Reformation occupation is not only job, but the way of life called in German – beruf (profession). It’s interesting, that in German language this noun formed the verb – berufen what means “to call” and the adjective berufen – “called.” Thus the term “work” demonstrates its ambiguity for Protestant.

Secondly, on the one hand work is life, hard work, vocation, profession useful. On the other hand work is determinism, he has created a kind of fatalism – and if there is no free will, it is all in God’s hands, but the idea remains the unknowable.

Thirdly, Puritan special aesthetics was cleared of unnecessary, because of hard work, humility and deep inner experience has left no place for luxury, but also art and science. The Bible was an example of the life and virtues; she determined all spheres of life. Fourthly, each member of the community had the right to participate in the management of the community, and as each community, like everyone in it are independent, it leads to the definition of personal historical significance of each.

Every action, every deed, Puritan regarded as a historical fact, and so he completely responsible for everything. Fifthly, in matters of faith there is no authority, like the guidelines of Francis Bacon, the Puritans got rid of the last idol (idolum) who distortive their minds. The only semblance of authority remaining for Puritan is a view of the community.

This means that the community is endowed with the authority and it needs more autonomy, what lids to manifestation of congregations. Congregations wanted absolute autonomy, it manifested in the form of separatism – independence from the state, including even the physical separation. This radical movement named after its ideological mastermind Robert Brown (1550–1633), whose followers were called Brownists.

This characteristic was given by the British historian Daniel Neal (1678–1743) in his work the “History of the Puritans or Protestant non-conformists from the Reformation to the death of Queen Elizabeth”, 1732, noting that the name of Robert Brown gave the name of a particular denomination disagree “Browne being domestic chaplain to the duke of Norfolk, his patron undertook to screen him; but the archbishop sent him word, that no place within her majesty’s dominions was exempt from the jurisdiction of the commissioners, and therefore if his grace did not forthwith send up his chaplain, they should be forced to use other methods.

This was that Robert Browne who afterwards gave name to that denomination of dissenters called Brownists; but his family and relations covered him for the present. Johnson was domestic chaplain to the lord keeper Bacon, at Goramhury, where he used to preach and administer the sacrament in his family: he had also some place at St. Albans and was fellow of King’s college Cambridge” [5, p. 296]. In 1720, Daniel Neal published a paper entitled “History of New England”, 1720, for which received an honorary M.A. from Harvard College.

Although it is believed that the first concept “denomination” introduced American theologian Helmut Richard Niebuhr (1894–1962) in his book “The social sources of denominationalism”, 1929, but the term was used by the Anglo-American historians long before. Indeed, the specific characteristic of the denomination (Brownists) is special intermediate state between sect and church. Puritans Denominations were in good relationships with other religions and beliefs.

However, any non-conformism eventually generates new conformism, and in this case undeniable belief in God forms the congregation as some kind of conformism. Congregationalism came about in 1580 as a result of division of the Presbyterian Church, and being a radical branch of English Calvinism, proclaimed the independence of each local community, that is – congregation.

The main idea pursued by Congregationalists, was a radical rejection of the universal church as the fight against church bureaucracy. Heavenly ideal does not deny personal well-being. In 1662, colonist Phineas Pratt described in his memoirs a story like he applied to the General Court to facilitate its difficult financial situation. Phineas Pratt clearly describes the religious situation at that time like “times of spiritual darkness”. Holland, in his opinion, was the state that provided the greatest freedom of religion than any other. The biographies of European philosophers (Descartes, Spinoza, etc.) confirm that fact, just because they moved to Holland searching of freedom of deprivation and oppression.

Searching of wealth Protestants moved from the Netherlands to Great Britain, and later went to the New World. The intellectual level of the first settlers was high, due to the fact that almost all people read and commented Bible. That is why, in spite of optional education, every town in New England was obliged to hold church school. The population of New England in 1640 was about 20,000 people, four years before it was opened Harvard College, and in 1701 – a collegiate school, now a Yale University.

Puritans organized a religious college (College of Rhode Island, now Brown University) in 1764, and Congregationalists – Dartmouth College in 1769. College of William and Mary in Virginia was founded in 1693, it was considered Anglican. In the 18th century lots of magazines, pamphlets, books and collections of religious hymns were published in the New England. In 1702 famous American thinker, preacher Cotton Moser (1669–1728) wrote the book “Magnalia Christi Americana”, 1702, this multi-volume work is the history of settlement in the New England, included biographies of “American Saints” – civic and church leaders of the New England in 17th century.

This work reveals the holy mission of the Puritans, who went into the desert to establish the kingdom of God. He writes in the preface to his book that God was so kind and pleased that has inspired thousands of people to achieve “…seeking first the Kingdom of God” [4, p. 9].

Conclusions. Firstly, congregation sought to the full independence in matters of faith and in the political, social and cultural issues. To ensure these needs there had to be not just to negotiate with European monarchs, but to seek an entirely new land for a new state. Secondly, Puritan axiology denies luxury, however does not deny success.

Communities can have and use their funds to meet the needs of the community, for example to pay expensive transatlantic travel for hundreds of religious refugees. Thirdly, the belief in feature and calling the whole nation make first colonists feel like the biblical peoples. However, these ideas and the providential motives were forming the outlook of the Puritans. Religion and economy identified the first American in the New World.

1. Покровский Н. Е. Ранняя американская философия. Пуританизм : учеб. пособ. для гу. фак-тов ун-тов / Н. Е. Покровский. – М.: Высш. шк., 1989. – 246 с. 2. Bowen F. Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Schopenhauer and Hartmann / F. Bowen. – Charleston : Nabu Press, 2010. – 514 p. 3. Calvin J. Christian Denominations Protestantism Post-Reformation Other Protestant denominations Reformed or Calvinistic Churches / J. Calvin. – Grand Rapids : Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1845. – 2690 p. 4. Cotton M. Magnalia Christi Americana: or, The ecclesiastical history of New-England, from its first planting in the year 1620. unto the year of Our Lord, 1698 / M. Cotton. – London : Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, at the Bible and three crowns in Cheapside, 1702. – 816 p. 5. Neal D. The History of the Puritans, or Protestant Nonconformists from the Reformation to the Death of Queen Elizabeth / D. Neal. – London : Printed for R. Hett, 1732. – Vol. 1. – 592 р. 6. Niebuhr H. R. The Social Sources of Denominationalism / H. R. Niebuhr. – Whitefish : Kessinger Publishing, 2004. – 316 p. 7. Sanborn B. F. The Puritanic Philosophy and Jonathan Edwards / B. F. Sanborn // Journal of Speculative Philosophy. – 1883. – № 17. – P. 401–422. 8. Woodhead A. Considerations Concerning the Spirit of Martin Luther, and the Original of the Reformation / A. Woodhead. – London : Oxford, 1687. – 104 p.

Original article: Ya. Sobolevsky. Historical and philosophical analysis of the new England (America) settlement’s worldview. Bulletin of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Philosophy. №1 2017. P.22-24.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *