Too Literal, not Literal Enough

  • Kurt H. Wolff
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 51)


Here and now, today, the issue is — and feels as if it has always been, even if our ancestors have not always been aware - to avoid two dangers: taking too literally, and not taking literally enough. What is to be taken literally; what must not be taken too literally; what is not taken literally enough differ with place and time, change historically, perhaps develop historically. Today — say, since the advent of the atom bomb — most people, among them most politicians and ‘opinion makers,’ take the ‘contemporary Situation’ too literally, but ‘historical development,’ or ‘history,’ not literally enough; too literally (for instance), China’s military strength, the tensions between Israel and the Arab states or between the U.S.S.R. and China, apartheid, the relation between the U.S.A. and Latin America, the race problem in the U.S.A.; not literally enough, historical developments that lie behind these and other aspects of the ‘contemporary Situation’ and have produced them so that these aspects strike us as simply given, to be taken ‘at face value.’ Among these developments are the discrepancy between the social, political, psychic State of the world and its economic, scientific, technological, industrial State: not taken literally enough is the necessity to decrease this discrepancy and thus the explosive danger to mankind, that is to say, to all of us, of the contemporary Situation.


Historical Development Publishing Company Crucial Point Industrial Development Industrial State 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurt H. Wolff
    • 1
  1. 1.Brandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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