Page images
PDF
EPUB

lectual endeavor; a perpetual inquiring, “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The whole significance of life comes to be expressed in an interrogation point. Sterling and James Blanco White were examples ; seeking a faith and never finding it; passing from one faith to another in perpetual unrest, like a man lost in a Dismal Swamp, leaping from one quaking turf to another till he sinks in the suffocating quagmire—a life of intense activity but of no achievement—the whole energy spent in seeking a place to stand. Another result is indifference to truth both in itself and in its bearing on human welfare. Underlying this false conception of the love of the truth is the assumption that truth cannot be known; that all opinions must be held as doubtful; that the scientific spirit requires that we must be indifferent to what we hold as truth and always ready to receive its contrary. This precludes the conception of any principle believed, to which the will consents in allegiance, by which the man regulates his life, and for which he would willingly die. Paul must meet the Athenians on Mars' Hill as ready to believe in Jupiter as in Christ. One writer has taught that the existence of a revelation from God of principles true for all time would be incompatible with human progress. Another has expressed doubts whether ever a martyr for truth acted wisely. All such representations imply that truth cannot be known; that the deepest principles on which human knowledge depends may in the future be found false; that everything is uncertain. Thus this theory of the love of the truth is in its essence agnosticism.

While this theory reveals its insufficiency and erroneousness in its practical development, it is disproved also by the fact that all great epochs of human progress have been characterized and carried forward by the presentation of truth in its practical bearing on life, and with glowing feeling and steadfast purpose on the part of those who have been agents in the progress. Their love to the truth has not been defecated from all feeling nor sublimated into indifference. They have loved the truth in the sense that with all the powers of their being they lived for it and if necessary were ready to die for it. Freedom of inquiry is a condition of progress; but it is only a condition, never the power by which the progress is effected. Noble characters are formed and great deeds done, not by inquiring after truth, but by believing it and acting on it.

The great change wrought by Lord Bacon in physical science itself was not effected by his teaching men to reason by induction. Men have always reasoned by induction as well as by deduction. But Lord Bacon wrought the great reformation in science by calling men off from merely speculative inquiries, such as occupied the mediæval schol. astics, to investigations bearing directly on the welfare of man.

3. A right moral character and a devout and reverential spirit, instead of being hindrances to the investigation of truth, are essential to the condition of mind most favorable to such investigation. They are component elements of a true scientific spirit. This is so because they are essential to the wholeness and harmony of man's development. These are helpful in the study of physical science. They are indispensable in the investigation of moral and religious truth. The greater the purity, delicacy and earnestness of the moral and religious life, the greater the fitness to appreciate moral and religious truth. A cleanly person is a better judge of what cleanliness is than a savage in the filth of his wigwam or an old monk who has always religiously abstained from washing. A pure woman is a better judge of moral purity than a rotten debauchee. A mean man is a poor judge of what is honorable and a swindler of what is honest. It is the same in religion. Paul and John are better judges of religious truth and its evidence than Simon Magus or Pontius Pilate. This is the philosophy of the New Testament: "The pure in heart see God;” “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Pride, selfishness, sensuality, the heart of sin blind the mind to religious truth. To such a man religious truth is foolishness, and the whole Christian life unintelligible. But as Schelling truly says: “To remain unintelligible to such an one is glory and honor before God and man. Barbarus huic ego sim nec tali intelligar ulli.”*

4. The doctrine which I have been presenting is accordant with the familiar fact that knowledge and culture are advanced indirectly by the growth and development of the man, quite as much as by direct study, argument and examination of evidence. Obscurities which by dint of thought we once could not make clear, difficulties and objections which we could not argue down, we find, in later years, to be obscurities, difficulties and objections no longer. It has come to pass as the result of growth. If all knowledge must come by direct intellectual effort, isolated from feeling and willing, this result would be impossible. But because knowing, feeling and willing are inseparable in the unity of the person, the growth and development of the person insure an advance in knowledge and intellectual insight.

* Idealismus der Wissenschaftslehre; Sämmtliche Werke, I. 433.

CHAPTER III.

THE ACTS AND PROCESSES OF KNOWING.

89. Classification. The powers of the mind are commonly considered in three general classes : Intellect, the mind considered as intelligent or capable of knowing; Sensibility or Feeling, the mind considered as susceptible of motives and emotions; Will, the mind considered as self-determining.

The acts and processes of knowing may be considered in three classes :Intuition, Representation, and Reflection or Thought. All knowledge arises in Intuition, or in Representation, or in a process of Thought.

I. I speak of powers or faculties merely as a matter of convenience, to denote the mind itself considered as capable of various acts or states. This is well put by Lotze, who says, in substance, that for the whole of every circle of similar phenomena we ascribe to the soul a peculiar faculty or capacity to act in a way which proves it competent to the action in each circle of phenomena. As many as are the distinct groups of acts which come under our observation, so many distinct faculties for the soul must we assume—but not a distinct number of qualities laid out adjacent to one another and imprinted on its nature, but so in affinity with each other that they all concur, as distinct expressions of one and the same being, in the wholeness of its rational development.*

II. The mind is active in knowing, not passive. The object known does not imprint itself on the mind in a state of passivity as tracks are imprinted in mud. Knowledge is an action of the mind. All knowledge consists in knowing.

III. In all knowledge the element of intelligence is contributed by the mind itself. In perception there must be the object perceived, the subject perceiving, and the perception. The perception is the act of the mind; it is its primitive intelligence; it is the intellectual equivalent of the object known in the act of perceiving. Every inference is an act of the intellect; and the intellect can draw an inference only because, by virtue of the constituent elements of its own rationality, it knows principles regulative of all thought, which make an inference from reasoning possible. Knowledge without any element of intelligence contributed by the mind itself, is inconceivable and unthinkable; the words are without meaning.

* Mikrokosnus; vol. i. pp. 183, 184; Book II. chap. 2.

It is objected that because in all knowledge the element of intelligence is contributed by the mind itself, therefore all knowledge is subjective and unreal and our intellectual faculties untrustworthy. This objection is mere nonsense. It is the objection that knowledge is impossible because there is a mind that knows; or that knowledge is impossible because it is knowledge. In other words it demands that the definition of knowledge must include the denial of all the conditions which make knowledge possible.

IV. Knowledge cannot be distinguished from knowledge as different in kind, but only as differing in the conditions under which it arises and in the character of its objects. A geometrical demonstration is a process of thought; but the process consists merely in bringing the different elements of the figure successively into juxtaposition before the mind, so that it sees the relations between them. When thus brought before the mind, the knowledge of the relations springs up clear in its own self-evidence. The process is a passing successively from knowledge to knowledge. Reasoning could never establish its conclusion, were it not for this always inexplicable act of knowing, in which, at each successive step, the mind knows the relations of things brought together before it.

& 10. Intuition or Primitive Knowledge. I. Intuition or primitive knowledge is knowledge which is immediate and self-evident.

It is immediate in the sense that it is not attained through the medium either of a representation, or of any process of thought. It is face-to-face knowledge.

It is self-evident; it needs no proof; it cannot be proved, because nothing can be adduced in proof more evident than the intuition itself.

II. Intuition is distinguished as presentative or perceptive, and rational.

1. Presentative or perceptive intuition is immediate and self-evident knowledge of some particular reality in some particular mode of existence present to the consciousness.

This includes sense-perception and self-consciousness. Sense-perception is intuitive knowledge of external objects through the senses; it is man's intuitive knowledge of his environment.

It has been objected that sense perception is not immediate knowledge, because it is through the senses. It may be replied that the

outros.

objection is equally valid against all intuition, since all mental operations involve the action of the brain and nerve. It may be replied, further, that while these physical changes are important facts of physiology and must be taken into account in any complete investigation of mental phenomena, yet man has no consciousness of them whatever, they do not explain the facts of consciousness nor make a bridge for thought from the motions of matter to conscious knowledge, feeling and determination. On the other hand, these states of consciousness are real and well-known facts, distinct from the physiological processes. They are themselves the mental phenomena which we are seeking to understand. They are distinctively psychological facts and must be defined and discriminated as such. Sense-perception is immediate knowledge, in the sense that it does not arise through the medium of any other psychological act or process; it is not attained through the medium of representation or of a process of thought.

Self-consciousness is the intuitive knowledge which the mind has of itself in its own operations. Sense-perception and self-consciousness are sometimes designated as external and internal perception.

2. Rational intuition is the immediate and self-evident knowledge of a universal truth or principle.

It is not asserted that the truth or principle is universally believed, but that it is universally true; not that all men believe it everywhere and always, but that it is true everywhere and always. And as such it asserts itself in the consciousness; it must be so, and under no circumstances or conditions can it be thought contrary wise.

3. Intuition is the original primitive knowledge, which gives the objects about which we think and the principles which regulate all thinking.

Presentative intuition gives the particular realities about which we think. They may be called objects, or material or data of thought.

Rational intuition gives the principles which regulate all thinking and which make reasoning and inference possible. It also gives, in the knowledge of universal truths, material or data for thought transcending the particular realities given in presentative intuition and so opens to our knowledge the supersensible, the personal and the divine.

4. The name intuition has often been restricted to rational intuition. It is more properly applied both to this and to the presentative intuition. Both are alike primitive, immediate and self-evident knowledge, and therefore ought to be designated by the same name. The designation of all primitive knowledge as intuition is also accordant with the etymology of the word and with the usage of philosophical writers of the highest authority. When thus designated the name expresses the common quality of all primitive knowledge and emphasizes the truth

« PreviousContinue »