John Watson.

Christianity and idealism : the Christian ideal of life in its relations to the Greek and Jewish ideals and to modern philosophy online

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CHRISTIANITY AND IDEALISM



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Christianity and Idealism



The Christian Ideal of Life in its Relations

to the Greek and Jewish Ideals and

to Modern Philosophy






BJT



JOHN WATSON, LL.D.

PROFESSOR 07 MORAL PHILOSOPHy IN QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY
KINGSTON. CANADA



NEW EDITION, WITH ADDITIONS



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
1897

All rights reserved



THE NEW YORK
PUBLIC LIBRARY

741.178

ASTOR, LENOX AND
TILDEN FOUNDATIONS

=* 1916 L



Copyright, 1896,
By THE MACMIj ,LAN COM PAN t.

CoPVftlGIjT, 1-397, .

By THE MACM1I-. I.-4 IS .COMPANY.



Set up and electrotyped December. 18^6. Rip.iuted, with additions,
August, 1897.



NortoooU $regs

J. S. Cuihing & Co. — Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.



CONTENTS



PAGE

Preface to the Second Edition vii

Introductory Preface xxi

Part I

THE CHRISTIAN IDEAL OF LIFE IN RELATION TO
THE GREEK AND JE WISH IDEALS

CHAPTER I
Historical Connexion of Morality and Religion . . i

CHAPTER II
The Greek Ideal 23

CHAPTER III
The Jewish Ideal . 45

CHAPTER IV
The Christian Ideal 60

CHAPTER V

Medieval Christianity no

v



VI CONTENTS



Part II



MODERN IDEALISM IN ITS RELATION TO THE
CHRISTIAN IDEAL OF LIFE



CHAPTER VI

PAGE

General Statement and Defence of Idealism . . .121



CHAPTER VII

Idealism in relation to Agnosticism and the Special

Sciences 153

CHAPTER VIII
The Failure of Materialism 192

CHAPTER IX
The Idealistic Interpretation of Natural Evolution . 216

CHAPTER X
Idealism and Human Progress 237

CHAPTER XI
Idealism and Christianity 256



— CO
CO



$



PREFACE TO THE SECOND
EDITION

In the present edition of this little work,
while the first part has been left unchanged,
the second part has been enlarged by the addi-
tion of three new chapters (the eighth, ninth,
and tenth) and the intercalation of a dozen
pages (pp. 268-280) in the last chapter of the
book. The eighth chapter seeks to exhibit the
inadequacy of Materialism, by showing that
the Atomism upon which it rests is inconsis-
tent both with science and with philosophy, and
that in its struggle to reach consistency it ac-
complishes its own euthanasia. It is from no
desire to gain an easy victory over the crudest
of all philosophical theories that space has
been occupied in discussing its pretensions,
but simply as a step in the orderly advance to
a more adequate theory, and as an illustration
of the double function which philosophy dis-
charges : firstly, in freeing the fundamental

™ v\s\o



viii PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION'

ideas of science from inconsistency, and, sec- -
ondly, in re-interpreting them from the point
of view of the whole. In the chapter which
follows, the same method is employed in the
estimate of the evolutionary account of the
world. In the tenth chapter an attempt is
made to distinguish human progress from the
prior stages of evolution, and to show that
it presupposes the existence of a self-conscious
or self-determining Principle as the ultimate
source and explanation of reality in all its
forms. The incidental discussion in this con-
nexion of the main thesis of Mr. Kidd's Social
Evolution — a thesis which I regard as demon-
strably false — will, I hope, help to throw into
relief the idealistic conception of human life
as the progressive evolution of self-conscious
reason. In the passage added to the last chap-
ter I have tried to explain why I cannot accept
the view that the Absolute may be super-
rational, and to indicate, more clearly than was
done in the former edition, what I regard as
the true relation of the human to the divine
spirit. I am only sorry that the plan of the
work does not allow me to enter more thor-



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION i x

oughly into the discussion of the last question,
which is perhaps the most pressing metaphysi-
cal problem of the present day.

The additional matter contained in this
edition will help to fill out the somewhat
meagre outline of Idealism given in the for-
mer edition. But I am still only too con-
scious of the inadequacy of the discussion.
The present work is merely the preparation
for a system of philosophy, and cannot but
share in the inevitable defects of every attempt
to present the results of philosophical reflec-
tion in a general form. At every step in its
onward march philosophy sets its foot upon
ashes beneath which fierce fires glow. Our
age, as Kant said of his own, is an " age of
criticism," when even the most cherished con-
victions must submit to the "free and open
scrutiny of reason"; and therefore any one who
apparently ignores or makes light of difficulties
which to some of his contemporaries seem of
a formidable character is apt to be charged
with superficiality, indifference, or dogmatism.
I do not deny that many of the objections
which have been urged against Idealism seem



x PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION'

to me to be due mainly to misunderstanding,
but I think I may claim that I have in no
case been untrue to the free but austere spirit
of philosophy, — a spirit which is hostile to all
dogmatic utterances and acknowledges no
authority but reason. If Idealism is to become
but a new form of dogmatism, the life will go
out of it, and only an empty husk will be left
behind. We cannot even find an authoritative
basis for truth in what Mr. Balfour calls our
"ethical needs"; for these "needs" themselves
require justification. Nor can I believe that
any fruitful results can be reached by seeking
to reinstate the "primacy of practical reason,"
or by falling back upon the vague formula
that "life is more than thought." Reason
cannot be divided against itself without self-
contradiction, and the "life" which excludes
" thought " is so much the poorer for its ex-
clusiveness. Those who are fond of quoting
Goethe's

" Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie,
Und grim des Leben's goldner Baum,"

should remember that the words are put into
the mouth of Mephistopheles, "der Geist der



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION x i

stets verneint," when he is in a mocking
humour. To those who imagine, as Mr. Bal-
four in his Foundations of Belief seems to
do, that faith can be based upon a suicidal dis-
trust of reason, I would commend the words
of a great master in speculation, who is more
frequently decried than read.

"There is at present," says Hegel, "a strenu-
ous and almost impassioned effort to rescue
men, collectively and individually, from their
immersion in the life of sense, and to turn
their eyes to the stars; as if they were entirely
forgetful of the divine, and were about to con-
tent themselves, like the worm, with dust and
water. Once they had a heaven, furnished
with a rich store of thoughts and images.
The significance of the actual lay in the thread
of light by which it was attached to heaven;
guided by this thread, the eye, instead of
dwelling upon what was immediately before it,
sped onward to the divine Reality, — to what
might be called the present yonder. The
eye of the soul had to be forced to look
towards the earth, and much time and effort
were needed to impart the clearness of heaven



xii PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

to the darkness and confusion in which the
sensible was enveloped. What seems to be
needed now is just the opposite : so firmly is
the soul attached to the earth, that an equal
force is required to lift it to the things above.
The spirit is so poor, that, like the traveller
in the desert, who thirsts for a simple draught
of water, it seems to long but for the bare
feeling of the divine to refresh it. When the
spirit can be satisfied with so little, we can
easily estimate how great has been its loss.
. . . But, in truth, spiritual force is to be
measured by its expression : its depth is only
so deep as it dares to expand and to lose
itself in its manifestations. When those who
claim that truth is revealed in an immediate
intuition pretend that they have penetrated
to the very heart of reality, and that they
alone are the exponents of a true and pious
philosophy, they are unaware that, instead of
offering up their desires to God, by their con-
tempt for precise and definite ideas they are
in reality the victim of their own arbitrary
conceits. Because they envelope their self-
consciousness in mist, and forego the use of



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION



xni



their intellect, they fondly imagine that they
are ' the beloved ' to whom God ' giveth wis-
dom in sleep.' It hardly needs to be said
that what comes to them in sleep are merely
dreams." *

Philosophy, as I understand it, must refuse
all weak compromises. It is not a thing of
the chair, or even an instrument for preserving
the threatened interests of civilisation, but a
resolute and independent effort to grasp the
true nature of the real ; and no one can
live in its spirit who is not willing to follow
the lead of ideas with docility and singleness
of purpose. This, however, does not mean
that it moves in a region of abstractions; on
the contrary, it can be successful in its quest
for truth, only as it follows the maxim, "im Gan-
zen, Guten, Schonen resolut zu leben." In this
effort after comprehensiveness lies the special
difficulty of its problem. None of the phases
of human life can be ignored ; yet each is so
complex in itself, while all are so intimately
related to one another, that it is hard to main-
tain the proper perspective and assign to each

* Hegel's Phanomenologic des Geistes, pp. 8, 9.



x iv PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

its due importance. The task would, indeed,
be impracticable, were it not that the essence
of the past has been gathered up by succes-
sive philosophies and presented in the clear
medium of thought. At the present day, as
it seems to me, the main problem is to inter-
pret anew, by the aid of existing philosophies,
the purified results of science, the highest
intuitions of art, and the matured religious
consciousness in a comprehensive and self-
consistent way. The present volume is a
small contribution to the solution of that
problem.

To prevent misunderstanding, it may be as
well to add a few words as to the relation of
the first part of the work to the second.
The Christian ideal of life, as expressed by its
Founder, seems to me to require no adven-
titious support, being in itself intrinsically
rational; but we cannot say the same thing
of every system of doctrine which claims to
be the sole representative of Christianity.
The precise degree of truth which is con-
tained in any given theological creed is a
matter to be determined by careful investiga-



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION xv

tion, and would require rigorous and extended
treatment. In the last chapter and in various
passages throughout the work, I have indi-
cated, I hope with sufficient clearness, that in
my opinion the form in which the fundamental
ideas of Christianity are present in the popu-
lar consciousness is not adequate to the liv-
ing truth as it was expressed by the Master;
and one object which I had in view in writ-
ing the work was to disengage the essence of
Christianity from elements which for histori-
cal reasons have come to be regarded as in-
separable from it, though they are in reality
antagonistic to its spirit. On the other hand,
I do not sympathise with those who speak
of the development of Christian doctrine as
if it were nothing but an obscuration of primi-
tive Christianity ; much less with those who
strangely hold that Christianity received its
ultimate formulation in the Nicene creed.
These views logically lead to the acceptance
of the ideas of its Founder, or of the church,
on mere authority, and therefore contradict
the spirit and even the words of the Master.
The ideas of Jesus seem to me, I confess, so



X vi PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDIT/OAT

penetrative and profound that I am unable
to conceive of anything higher in principle ;
but, like all fruitful ideas, their full meaning
can be grasped only when they are viewed in
the light of the whole development of human-
ity in all its phases. I cannot believe that
the Christian conception of life will ever be
transcended; but I should have to shut my
eyes to obvious facts, were I to deny that it
has undergone development and must undergo
further development as time goes on. For
development is not mere change, but the liv-
ing process by which a fruitful principle
reveals the breadth and depth of its power.
In this process the speculations of Christian
thinkers, from St. Paul downwards, have had
their place, and no mean or unimportant place;
and I do not think that a time will ever come
when philosophical reflection upon these high
themes shall have said its last word. Such
reflection must be free and untrammelled, or
it is almost worthless. Philosophy, it is true,
is somewhat slow-footed, and to certain minds
its method is cold and distasteful, especially
when it is predominantly analytic, as Goethe



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION xv ii

complained that it is apt to be. I confess to
a certain sympathy with those who take this
view ; but I think that what offends them is
not so much philosophy itself, as certain phi-
losophies which, from various causes, fall into
abstraction, and not least those which live in
the atmosphere of common sense or the rarer
atmosphere of the special sciences. It is be-
cause Idealism, as here set forth, seems to
me to express in terms of thought what in
religion and in the highest art is expressed
in terms of feeling and imagination, that I
venture to commend it to those who feel the
need, in an age of reflection, of being true to
the intellect as well as the heart. Surely it
is almost a truism that the only convincing
Apologia which in these days can be made
for a religion is to give adequate grounds for
holding it to be fundamentally rational. If
this thesis were really indefensible, there can
be little doubt that Christianity must some
day be added to the list of " creeds outworn."
The additional matter contained in this vol-
ume was recently given as part of a course
of lectures, delivered before the Theological



xviii PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

Alumni Association of the university with
which I have the honour to be connected.
For the last few years it has been my duty
to give a short course of lectures on some
topic bearing upon the relations of philosophy
and theology. This lectureship was instituted
by Sir Sandford Fleming, C.M.G., the Chan-
cellor of Queen's University, and it is with
special pleasure that I take this public oppor-
tunity of thanking him for the stimulus which
it has given to my own studies. It is proper
to add that, as I am allowed perfect free-
dom in the choice of a subject, the lectures of
this session were written with a view to their
subsequent publication as part of this book,
should a second edition be called for. In their
preparation I have been indebted to Stallo's
Concepts and Theories of Modem Physics,
Herbert's Realistic Assumptions of Modern
Science, Paulsen's Introduction to Philosophy,
and one or two recent articles of Dr. Le
Conte. In a more indirect way I have re-
ceived great aid from Mr. Bradley's Appear-
ance and Reality, which seems to me the most
suggestive and original metaphysical work of



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION xix

our day. While I agree with many of the criti-
cisms of defective theories made by these writers,
I am unable to accept their positive philosophy
as a whole, though I regard them as each in his
own way contributing to that general idealistic
view of the world, which, as I believe, is cer-
tain to survive by its intrinsic reasonableness.

I am happy to be able to supplement the
criticism of Transcendental Geometry con-
tained in Chapter VII by one or two passages
from ,a paper read before the Royal Society of
Canada by a distinguished mathematician. " It
is argued," says Professor N. F. Dupuis, " that
a four-dimensional space may possibly be pro-
jective into a figure of three dimensions." This

analogy " proves nothing whatever A plane

can be projected into a line only when the plane
to be projected is normal to the plane of pro-
jection. But it is impossible to know, from
anything in the nature of the projection itself,
whether the original was higher or of the same
dimensions as the projection. . . . Reasoning
from analogy, all that we are justified in saying
is, that, if there be such a thing as a four-
dimensional space, our solid figures may possi-
bly be projections from figures in that space,



XX PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

although we fail to conceive how such a projec-
tion could be effected. But we are certainly
not justified in assuming that there is a four-
dimensional space, unless we can first know
something about the nature of a figure in such
space. ... It is said that the mathematician
frequently works upon the assumption of a four-
dimensional space, as when he employs four
co-ordinates for the sake of homogeneity, and
in many similar operations. Now, in the oper-
ations here referred to, the mathematician is
employing the symbolic language of algebra, in
which the symbols stand for and denote quan-
tities or magnitudes and operations, which by
a circumlocution can always be expressed in
words. . . . To say that, because x 2 denotes
the square on the line-segment x, and x* denotes
the cube on the same, therefore x A must denote
a four-dimensional figure of equal dimensions
on the line-segment, is no proof of anything,
unless we assume, to begin with, that every
homogeneous algebraic expression must have
an interpretation in real geometry, which is a
glaring example of petitio principii"

Queen's University, Kingston, Canada,
26th July, 1897.



INTRODUCTORY PREFACE

The present work has grown out of lect-
ures recently delivered before the Philosophi-
cal Union of the University of California.
What is called Part I. is the expansion of a
lecture on " The Greek and Christian Ideals
of Life," and the remainder contains the sub-
stance of two lectures in defence of Idealism,
with a good deal of additional matter.

The historical matter of the first part does
not pretend to be a complete presentation of
the development of religion. It was my first
intention to attempt such a presentation, but
I soon found that it was impossible to com-
press so abundant a material within the limits
assigned to me, and I have therefore con-
fined myself to a statement of the general
course of religious development, with a more
particular consideration of the Greek and
Jewish ideals of life, as compared with the



xxii INTRODUCTORY PREFACE

Christian. In treating of these topics, I have
avoided all polemical discussion, aiming rather
to give the results of many years of reading
and reflection, than to occupy space with a
consideration of conflicting views. The chap-
ter on the Christian Ideal is based upon a
study of the synoptic gospels, as read in the
light of modern historical and philosophical
criticism. Here, above all, it seemed advisable
to avoid as far as possible all purely doc-
trinal topics, concentrating attention entirely
upon the conception of life which may be, as
I think, constructed from the sayings of Jesus
himself. I am by no means indifferent to the
development by theologians of the fundamental
ideas of the Founder of Christianity, but it
seems to me that the wonderful power and
persuasiveness of those ideas is most apparent
when they are exhibited in their naked purity.
It seems almost necessary to say a word
or two upon the use of the term " Idealism."
The objection has been raised that no school
of thought has an exclusive right to the title.
In answer to this objection perhaps I can-
not do better than try to explain why I



INTRODUCTORY PREFACE xxiii

think the term " Idealism " may be fairly
employed to designate the general theory
which is here advocated.

I presume it will be admitted that the
originator of the philosophical doctrine of
Idealism was Plato, and that Plato conceived
of the first principle of all things as reason
(Nous), also maintaining that it is in virtue of
reason, as distinguished from sensible percep-
tion, that man obtains a knowledge of that
principle. Now, modern Idealism, as I under-
stand it, agrees with Plato on these two
points, and therefore its claim to the name
does not seem either arrogant or unreason-
able. No system has a right to call itself
" idealistic," in the Platonic sense, which does
not in some form accept the doctrine of
the rationality and knowability of the real.
Applying this test, we must exclude Agnosti-
cism, which denies that we can know the
real as it is in itself; Scepticism, which re-
fuses to admit that we can make any abso-
lute affirmation whatever, either positive or
negative ; and Sensationalism or Empiricism,
which finds in the sensible and its custom-



xxiv INTRODUCTORY PREFACE

ary modes of conjunction the only knowable
world. To call by the name of Idealism, as
is sometimes done, a doctrine which reduces
all knowable reality to individual states or
feelings, is surely an unwarrantable use of
the term.

If it is said that, interpreted in the wide
sense here given to it, Idealism must include
systems differing so greatly as those of Des-
cartes and Hegel, or of Spinoza and Lotze,
I entirely agree. The systems of Descartes,
Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant, Fichte, Schelling,
Hegel, and Lotze all seem to me to be forms
of Idealism, and the only question is how
far any of them can claim to be true to the
principle that " the real is rational." The
test, therefore, of an idealistic philosophy is
its ability to provide a system of ideas which
shall best harmonise with the principle upon
which Idealism is based ; or, rather, the suc-
cess of an idealistic philosophy must consist
in its ability to prove that " the real is
rational," and that man is capable of knowing
it to be rational. I am very far from affirm-
ing that the hurried sketch of an idealistic



INTRODUCTORY PREFACE xxv

philosophy here presented fulfils that demand :
all that is attempted is to expose the irrele-
vancy of certain objections which have been
made from a misunderstanding of what Ideal-
ism affirms, and to indicate the main line of
thought which it must follow, and the main
conclusions to which it leads.

It may help to indicate the points in which
Idealism, as here presented, differs from some
of the great historical forms which it has
assumed, if I state wherein these seem to be
defective. In doing so, it will not be possi-
ble to enter into detail, or to support by rea-
soned proof the conclusions to which I have
been led. I shall therefore have to assume
a general acquaintance with the history of
philosophy on the part of the reader, and I
beg him to take the criticisms which I shall
make simply as results, the evidence for which
I hope to give in detail on another occasion.

Plato may be called the Father of Idealism,
though, no doubt, his doctrine was a develop-
ment from the Idealism implied in the Nous
of Anaxagoras, and still more clearly in the
Socratic view of universals. How far, then,



xxvi INTRODUCTORY PREFACE

may it be said that Plato was untrue to his
central idea of the rationality and knowability
of the real ? His main defect, as it seems
to me, was in virtually opposing the real to
the actual or so-called " sensible." This
defect is obvious in his theory, or one of his
theories, that Art consists in the " imitation "
of ordinary "sensible" actuality. The simi-
lar defect in his Philosophy of Religion it
will not be necessary to exhibit here, as I
have dealt with it in the body of the work;
but a word may be said in regard to his
defective Theory of Knowledge. Just as
Plato at last rejects Art on the ground that
it only represents or imitates the " sensible,"
so he shows a decided tendency to separate
the universal from the particular. He does,
indeed, maintain that whatever is real must
be self-active ; but in separating reason, as
it exists in us, from sensible perception, he
virtually empties reason of all content, and
makes its objects pure abstractions.

The philosophy of Aristotle is beset by
similar defects, though in him the contrast
of the real or ideal and the actual is less



INTRODUCTORY PREFACE xxvii

rigid and is more obviously in process of


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Online LibraryJohn WatsonChristianity and idealism : the Christian ideal of life in its relations to the Greek and Jewish ideals and to modern philosophy → online text (page 1 of 15)