Tag Archives: a faux philosopher (Theodore Dreiser)

a faux philosopher

 

I have no theories about life, or the solution of economic and political problems. Life, as I see it, is an organized process about which we can do nothing in the final analysis. Of course, science, art, commercial progress, all go to alleviate and improve and ease the material existence of humanity, and that for the great mass, is something. But there is no plan, as I believe, from Christianity down, that can be more than a theory. And dealing with man is a practical thing—not a theoretical one. Nothing can alter his emotions, his primitive and animal reactions to life. Greed, selfishness, vanity, hate, passion, love, are all inherent in the least of us, and until such are eradicated, there can be no Utopia. Each new generation, new century brings new customs, new ideas, new theories, but misery, weakness, incapacities, poverty, side by side with happiness, strength, power, wealth, always have, and no doubt, always will exist. And until that intelligence which runs this show sees fit to remould the nature of man, I think it always will be the survival of the fittest, whether in the monarchies of England, the democracies of America, or the Soviets of Russia.

— Dreiser to Sergei Dinamov, Letters of Theodore Dreiser: A Selection, Volume Two, edited by Robert H. Elias (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1959), pg. 449-450

 

This is “vintage” Dreiser qua philosopher. This is “vintage” Dreiser qua philosopher. Prolix, “muddy,” pompous, pseudo profound.

But at least expressing core beliefs that made him a bona fide naturalist. Grounded in Herbert Spencer’s (a great influence on Dreiser) adapting and popularizing of Darwin. “Survival of the fittest” was Spencer’s term..

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022