Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Things which the human mind cannot conceive

"Things which the human mind cannot conceive" is what a young student wrote in the back of this textbook, English Literature: A Guide to the Best Reading, by Edwin L. Miller, A.M. (J.B. Lippincott, 1917). He or she then provides a numbered list of such weighty matters:

1. Absolute
2. God
3. Time
4. Space
5. Mind
6. Force
7. Matter
8. Life

The writer of this list started to add a ninth item, but "the mind could not conceive" it to even list it, perhaps. This list sounds more appropriate for Philosophy 101, but it must have factored into one author's work and, therefore, a lesson that prompted this note taking. And underlining. And margin notes. The book is full of blue ink all the way through. Very studious this young person from around 1917.

The textbook's author was a high school principal in Detroit, so this was likely a high school textbook. The handwritten list at the back of the book, whether conceived by the student or dictated by a teacher, contains those inconceivable items that philosphers throughout the ages have tried to conceive. Did a high school student in Detroit in 1917 stand a chance?

For more on this book and its author: Archaeolibris

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