George Sylvester Morris
George S. Morris was born November 15, 1840, at Norwich, Vermont. After pursuing the courses in the district schools and village academy, usual to the New Englanders of that period, he entered Dartmouth College. He was graduated, with high standing in his class, as Bachelor of Arts in 1861. Three years afterwards, he received the degree of Master of Arts in course from the same institution. The same year he entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Here he studied for two years. Doctor H. B. Smith, whose own philosophical ability placed him high among the theologians of our country, discerned the unusual strain of Mr. Morris's mind, and advised him to continue his studies in Germany. This he did, carrying on, as is usual, his studies at more than one University, but chiefly with Friedrich Adolf Trendelenburg in Berlin, and Erdmann and Ulrici in Halle. In 1868, he returned to the United States, having acquired a command of the German and French languages, and considerable acquaintance with Italian. He then spent some time teaching in a private family in New York City.
Mr. Morris accepted the position. For eleven years the department of modern languages had the benefit of his wide learning, his native love of thoroughness, his culture of mind. During these years, however, he continued to cherish above his other intellectual interests, the study of philosophy, and when in 1878 the opportunity opened for him to give instruction as a lecturer in philosophy in the recently opened Johns Hopkins University, at Baltimore, he gladly responded. For three years he joined this lectureship to his teaching in Ann Arbor. In 1881 the scope of his lectureship in Baltimore was broadened, and he resigned his chair in Michigan University. Only for a year, however, was the University deprived of his inspiring service. Arrangements were made, whereby, as the colleague of Doctor Cocker, he gave one-half of each year to instruction in philosophy in this institution. In 1883, upon the death of Doctor Cocker, Mr. Morris was made professor of philosophy, retaining this position up to the time of his untimely death, upon the 23rd of March, 1889.
Professor Morris was married at Ann Arbor, June 29, 1876, to Miss Victoria Celle.
Although Trendelenburg had incorporated within his own teaching the substantial achievements of that great philosophical movement which began with Kant and closed with Hegel—the ideas, for example, of the correlation of thought and being, the idea of man as a self-realizing personality, the notion of organized society as the objective reality of man—he had taken a hostile attitude to these positions as stated by Hegel and to the method by which they were taught. While Professor Morris was never simply an adherent of Trendelenburg, he probably followed him also in this respect. At least, he used sometimes in later years to point out pages in his copy of Hegel which were marked "nonsense," etc., remarks made while he was a student in Germany. It thus was not any discipleship which finally led Mr. Morris to find in Hegel (in his own words) "the most profound and comprehensive of modern thinkers." He found in a better and fuller statement of what he had already accepted as true, a more ample and far-reaching method, a goal of his studies in the history of thought.
It was because he found in Hegel not merely the general recognition of this idea, but the attempt to work it out in its bearings upon concrete fact, that he was in later life so attracted to Hegel.
- Friedrich Adolf Trendelenburg, (1874)
- The Final Cause as Principle of Cognition and Principle in Nature, (1875)
- The Theory of Unconscious Intelligence as Opposed to Theism, (1878)
- British Thought and Thinkers: Introductory Studies, Critical, Biographical and Philosophical, (1880)
- Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: A Critical Exposition, (1882)
- Philosophy and Christianity: A Series of Lectures, (1883)
- Hegel's Philosophy of the State and of History, (1887)