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Professor uncovers manuscript for philosopher's book

November 03, 2011 12:00AM

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Don Viney

Don Viney considers himself fortunate.

A philosophy professor and member of the faculty in the Department of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences at Pittsburg State University, Viney not only discovered, but ultimately edited an unpublished book by prominent American philosopher Charles Hartshorne. It was a labor of love, Viney said, because Hartshorne was not only a major figure in his academic research, but also a mentor who helped shape his career.

"I agreed to edit the book with the explicit understanding that I be paid no royalties," Viney said, noting that Hartshorne's books are among the few books written by philosophers that actually make more money than they cost. "Somehow, it seemed inappropriate to be paid for something I regarded as a privilege."

The road that led to the discovery of the manuscript began in the summer of 2001 with a call to Viney from Hartshorne's daughter, Emily Schwartz. Charles Hartshorne had died in 2000 and Schwartz wanted to know if Viney would be willing to come to Austin, Texas, to help prepare her father's papers to be sent to the archives at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, Calif.

"Of course, I jumped at the chance," Viney said. "Emily paid for my travel expenses and lodging, but truth be known, I'd have done it for free."

As Viney sifted through the prolific writer's work, he came across the manuscript for "Creative Experiencing," which Hartshorne compiled and wrote in the mid 1980s.

"In all likelihood, he failed to shepherd the book to publication because his wife, Dorothy, was struggling with Alzheimer's disease during this period and because he was very busy with numerous other projects," Viney said. "In the 1980s four of his books were published, he was working on several articles and forwards to other books, and he was contributing to four major anthologies devoted exclusively to the analysis and critique of his philosophy. It is no wonder that 'Creative Experiencing' got lost in the mix."

Viney flagged the manuscript and included it with the other papers on their way to Claremont.

Sometime later, Viney got a call from officials at Claremont who invited him to serve as chief editor for the book. Hartshorne's daughter also called to make sure it was Viney who would edit her father's book.

"I reassured her that I had been invited to be the editor and that I would see to it that the project was handled as Hartshorne would have wanted," Viney said.

Viney worked with a graduate student to clean up the manuscript in various ways such as "making sure that the logical symbolism was consistent and in making the corrections and changes to formerly published articles that Hartshorne had indicated." They documented Hartshorne's citations from other philosophers. Viney got permissions for previously published articles that were incorporated into the book and found a publisher, State University of New York Press (SUNY).

The book, "Creative Experiencing: a Philosophy of Freedom," was published earlier this year. It will stand as the last book published by an influential and prolific American thinker.

"I consider my work on this book as the only way I can repay Hartshorne for the tremendous difference he made in my career," Viney said. "I never planned to become known as a Hartshorne scholar, but I guess that's one of the things I am."

Charles Hartshorne, American philosopher, (1897-2000)

The son of a Pennsylvania minister, Charles Hartshorne earned a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D., all from Harvard and all within three years. He is most known for his work on the philosophy of religion and metaphysics. Hartshorne was a leader in the development of what is known as "process theology." Over his long career, Hartshorne wrote more than a dozen books and many articles and essays. In addition to his work on theology, he was also a recognized ornithologist.

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