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The argument of this lecture can be summed up in four simple propositions:
First, we are all ultimately the creatures of our philosophies. We dance in patterns determined by our pasts, to tunes we hardly know we know. Our acts are governed by an anthology of principles, myths, illusions and memories which jostle together in our heads, and in our hearts. Sometimes, at rare moments in the history of civilization, if good philosophers ever actually did become Kings, the dominant working rules of a culture might be dignified as rational and consistent systems of ideas. Normally, they represent a far more human mixture of the sensible and the absurd. From time to time, as we have bitter reason to know, the springs of action have been demonic creeds of hatred and conquest, based on driving beliefs about the supremacy of race, or faith, or class, or nation. Whatever their philosophical quality, however comfortable or uncomfortable they make us, or others, we are possessed by our ideas. They determine how we see and respond to the circumstances of our lives. And through our responses, the notions in our minds in their turn help to shape the world in which we have our being.
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