On The Education of Henry Adams:
[Adams’] method, in general, is to leap nervously into the midst of a science of which he has no particular knowledge and worry a few details with a kind of irritated persistence…. His procedure is to be witty rather than intelligent, and, having established a state of confusion for the sake of the wit, to deduce his spiritual suffering from it…. The result is a certain iridescence of emotional surface but precisely nothing of sanity. The bewilderment is imposed on the experience, arbitrarily and at every point. What we get is not a philosophical experience, but an emotional experience: a vision of chaos which is cosmological, chronological, and theological. He draws from this experience the only moral possible to a man in such a condition, the moral that truth is indecipherable…. Adams is not content, even provisionally, to study his world as it is, in the hope of arriving at a working knowledge of it; there is no knowledge, for Adams, unless it is a part of a complete system, deriving from an acceptable definition of the Absolute….This neurotic and childish impatience, amounting almost to indolence, is the final fruit of the Christian doctrine in New England; the patience and humility of an Aristotle or a Newton are incomprehensible….
I should therefore like to add my belief that a balance which is artificial, or which is, in my terms, a habit formed by willed perseverance deriving from rational understanding of the need for it, and which preserves one from madness, is in its own nature a good; for madness is in its own nature and quite obviously an evil. A morality which preserves one from this loss of balance is defensible beyond argument by virtue simply of the fact that it so preserves one; and a morality such as that of Adams is evil, simply by virtue of the fact that it aims at loss of balance. One does not need Divine Revelation to know this; a single look at a psychopathic ward is sufficient. And once one has admitted the initial advantage of being sane, one will be forced to admit the additional advantages of being as sane, or as intelligent as possible; and a good deal of careful scrutiny may enable us to refine a very little upon the rough scheme of our initial morality….
[For Adams, by contrast,] [n]othing was comprehensible; each event and fact was unique and impenetrable; the universe was a chaos of meaningless and unrelated data, equivalent to each other in value because there was no way of evaluating anything. Comprehension, judgment, and choice being nullified, there was no reason for action, physical or spiritual, and life was mere stagnation.
—Yvor Winters, In Defense of Reason 374-430 (3d ed. 1947)