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William Ernest Hocking Collection and Related Resources

Ernest Willam Hocking (1873 -1966) interviewed in 1958 by Huston Smith (1919-2016)

While at Washington University, Huston Smith was the host of two television series, the Religions of Man* and Search for America. Ernest William Hocking appears in Part 15 of Search for America, entitled "Man’s Cosmic Status."

From the Vedanta Video Search for America abstract:

"Huston Smith interviews William Ernest Hocking professor emeritus of philosophy at Harvard University and Paul Tillich university professor at Harvard on man’s place in the universe. Is man the highest spirit the universe contains? Is the universe hostile, friendly, or neutral to man’s deepest aspirations? Is this the best of all possible worlds?"

Huston's interview with Hocking begins at 13:26: "Man’s Cosmic Status with William Ernest Hocking and Paul Tillich." 

title page of Search for America

Search for America was produced for National Educational Television, NET, the forerunner of Public Broadcasting Service, PBS. 


Hocking's estate in Madison New Hampshire called west Wind

West Wind, Hocking's retreat in Madison, NH. Smith: "Several hundred miles north of Boston...on the top of a New Hampshire mountain...My car was stalled by the last lusty squalls of the dying New England winter, the perfect setting for dealing with the ultimate questions of man's existence."

Smith: "Do our lives contribute to God?" Hocking: “Yes, it is not only the case that God knows and follows our own experience but it is the case that our life can contribute to the life of God something which otherwise the life of God would not contain. Take for example the sixth Symphony of Tchaikovsky..."

Hocking: “Human creativity is creativity in the real sense. It adds something to the universe and not simply to the human process itself."

Smith: “Is it inconceivable that the world just is unjust?” Hocking: “It is not inconceivable, it is contrary to fact. The aspect of justice in the relationship to the world belongs to the infant, it belongs to the earliest and most constant experiences of human nature..."


Hocking: "The impulse to become what it is humanly capable of becoming is a response to an expectation that is felt from the beginning.”

Smith: "'Philosophy,' said Plato, 'begins in wonder' and Whitehead has added, 'After philosophy has done its best, the wonder still remains'"

From the abstract for the Search for America Television series from the Huston Smith Archives:

In this series, the inquiry turns from descriptive to normative values, from the 'is' to the ‘ought'. Focusing on fifteen crucial problems confronting the American people, from foreign policy decisions to matters of personal faith, it asks: What values should guide us toward the solution of these problems? Featured Personality: Huston Smith, a pioneer in Educational Television, Huston Smith is known to the television public for his two previous series: The Religions of Man and Science and Human Responsibility. For eleven years Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, he moved in 1959 to become the first Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, since the early days of that institution. An authority in comparative philosophy, Dr. Smith is the author of The Religions of Man and The Purposes of Higher Education."  

Huston Smith also edited a book version of Search for America for Prentice-Hall in 1958 with Richard T. Heffron and Eleanor Wieman Smith which includes Hocking's essay, "Man's Cosmic Status." 

*The Religions of Man first appeared in book form in 1958. Revised as the World's Religions it became one of the most widely used college textbooks on comparative religion and has been translated into twelve languages.