The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XVII. Later Philosophy

§ 7. John Fiske

This absorption of the evolutionary philosophy by theology is clearly brought out in the works of John Fiske (1842–1901). In his main philosophic work, the Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, which he delivered as lectures in Harvard in 1869–71, he followed Spencer so closely in his agnosticism and opposition to anthropomorphic theism that he brought down the wrath of the orthodox and made a permanent position for himself in the department of philosophy at Harvard impossible. Yet his own cosmic theism and his attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a benevolent, omnipotent, quasi-psychical Power should have shown discerning theologians that here was a precious ally. In his later writings Fiske, though never expressly withdrawing his earlier argument that the ideas of personality and infinity are incompatible, did emphasize more and more the personality of God; and his original contrast between cosmic and anthropomorphic theism reduced itself to a contrast between the immanent theology of Athanasius and the transcendent theology of St. Augustine. By making man’s spiritual development the goal of the whole evolutionary process, Fiske replaced man in his old position as head of the universe even as in the days of Dante and Aquinas.