|My interest in philosophy came relatively early, actually at the age of 14. I know the time with certainty as it was then that I was given a book by my uncle, John Gabriel, that launched (or at least gripped) my interest in matters philosophical. I know I was 14 because the date stamp in the book, from the Mason City Public Library, indicates that my uncle checked the book out of the library on February 19, 1955. I only saw my Uncle twice in my life, I think, for brief periods of but hours and this was one of them.
I was allowed to lounge in my uncle's new car, and on the back seat was a book. Later, when he came out and saw me reading he asked what it was. I showed him that it was his book. He asked if I was interested in subjects like that and I said I was. “You keep the book, then, it’s yours.” It wasn’t till many decades later I was aware he gave me a library book, as the stamps and date-card at the end testifies.
The title of the book, which I have to this day, was Space and Time: An Experimental Physicists Conception Of These Ideas And Of Their Alteration, by Carl Benedicks (1927). Indeed, the Preface indicates that the purpose of the book (which has an introduction by Sir Oliver Lodge) was “to deal with a subject to some extent neglected—namely, the elucidation of the foundations, the starting-points, of the new theories, whether admirable or offensive in themselves. The purpose was not to understand them (i.e., the theories of Special Relativity), but to understand to what extent they may be necessary or otherwise from the standpoint of science in general.”
The idea contained and stated in Benedick’s book—the search for and elucidation of foundations and starting-points of new theories—fascinated me then when I was 14 and continues to fascinate me to this day many decades later. Indeed, it is quite possible that the germination of my own personal philosophical search for new “foundations” and new “starting points” first stirred within me upon reading Space and Time. Otherwise, how am I to explain that I am every bit as eager today to learn more about these matters as I was then when I was 14? Even so, it has been, and continues to be, a life-long journey to attempt to understand and clarify foundation concepts of ancient and modern philosophy and science (East and West)—whatever their cultural roots. Certainly new roots of global understanding must needs prosper and flourish in our time, if any of us are to survive—as a people, as a culture or cultures and, perhaps, even as a human race.