Tuesday, March 1, 2016


     In the midst of this mutilation and mayhem, Holmes (Oliver Wendell Jr.)  did an extraordinary thing:  he road tested his beliefs.  Lying in a hospital on Harrison's Island, watching his comrades dying around him and listening to rumors that the building was about to be shelled, he interrogated his philosophical convictions in order to discover whether there were any he now might want to revise.  He was undergoing an experience of terror that nothing in his life had prepared him for, and he decided to solicit his own reactions to it...He found he did not require a religious faith.  Uncertainty - "I am to take a leap in the dark" - turned out to be all the certainty he needed.  The assurance that he had done his duty was a wholly adequate consolation.

-Louis Menand,  The Metaphysical Club:  A Story of Ideas in America

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