Excerpt from The Book of Masks
To take critical questions seriously, even passionately, is one of the marks of a genuinely civilized society. It points to both personal disinterestedness and to an imaginative absorption in fundamentals. The American who watches eagerly some tilt in that great critical battle which has gone on for ages and has now reached our shores, is released from his slavery to the immediate and the parochial; he has ceased to flinch at the free exercise of thought; he has begun to examine his mind as his fathers examined only their conscience; he is a little less concerned for speed and a little more for direction; he is almost a philosopher and has risen from mere heated gregariousness to voluntary co-operation in a spiritual order. His equipment is, as a rule, still meagre, and so his partisanship is not always an instructed one. He may be overwhelmed by the formidable philosophical apparatus of one critic or merely irritated by the political whims of another.
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Ludwig Lewisohn (1883-1955) was an outstanding twentieth-century American Jewish writer.
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