Mo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint Louis.

Congress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 online

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over the more ultimate problems of Nature and of human life, in
the Western World during the last hundred years, and from the
standpoint of the conclusions, both negative and positive, which
are best embodied in the works of the philosopher of Konigsberg.
This purpose we shall try to fulfill in these four divisions of our theme :
(1) A statement of the problems of philosophy as they were given over
to the nineteenth century by the Kantian Critique; (2) a brief
description of the lines of movement along which the attempts at
the improved solution of these problems have proceeded, and of the
principal influences contributing to these attempts; (3) a sum-
mary of the principal results of these movements — the items, so to
say, of progress in philosophy which may be credited to the last cen-
tury; and finally, (4) a survey of the present state of these pro-
blems as they are now to be handed down by the nineteenth to the
twentieth century. Truly an immensely difficult, if not an impos-
sible task, is involved in this purpose!

I. The problems which the critical philosophy undertook defini-
tively to solve may be divided into three classes. The first is the
epistemological problem, or the problem offered by human know-
ledge — its essential nature, its fixed limitations, if such there be,
and its ontological validity. It was this problem which Kant brought
to the front in such a manner that certain subsequent writers on
philosophy have claimed it to be, not only the primary and most
important branch of philosophical discipline, but to comprise the
sum-total of what human reflection and critical thought can suc-
cessfully compass. "We call philosophy self-knowledge," says one
of these writers. "The theory of knowledge is the true prima philo-
sophia," says another. Kant himself regarded it as the most im-
perative demand of reason to establish a science that shall "deter-
mine a priori the possibility, the principles, and the extent of all
cognitions." The burden of the epistemological problem has pressed
heavily upon the thought of the nineteenth century; the different
attitudes toward this problem, and its different alleged solutions,
have been most influential factors in determining the philosophical
discussions, divisions, schools, and permanent or transitory achieve-
ments of the centurv.


In the epistemological problem as offered by the Kantian philo-
sophy of cognition there is involved the subordinate but highly
important question as to the proper method of philosophy. Is the
method of criticism, as that method was employed in the three
Critiques of Kant, the exclusive, the sole appropriate and product-
ive way of advancing human philosophical thought? I do not
think that the experience of the nineteenth century warrants an
affirmative answer to this question of method. This experience has
certainly, however, resulted in demonstrating the need of a more
thorough, consistent, and fundamental use of the critical method
than that in which it was employed by Kant. And this improved use
of the critical method has induced a more profound study of the
psychology of cognition, and of the historical development of philo-
sophy in the branch of epistemology. More especially, however, it
has led to the reinstatement of the value-judgments, as means of
cognition, in their right relations of harmony with the judgments
of fact and of law.

The second of the greater problems which the critical philosophy
of the eighteenth handed on to the nineteenth century is the onto-
logical problem. This problem, even far more than the epistemo-
logical, has excited the intensest interest, and called for the pro-
foundest thought, of reflective minds during the last hundred years.
This problem engages in the inquiry as to what Reality is; for to
define philosophy from the ontological point of view renders it
"the rational science of reality;" or, at least, "the science of the
supreme and most important realities." In spite of the fact that
the period immediately following the conclusion of the Kantian
criticism was the age when the people were singing

"Da die Metaphysik vor Kurzem unheerht abging,
Werden die Dinge an sich jetzo sub hasta verkauft/'

the cultivation of the ontological problem, and the growth of sys-
tematic metaphysics in the nineteenth century, had never pre-
viously been surpassed. In spite of, or rather because of, the fact
that Kant left the ancient body of metaphysics so dismembered and
discredited, and his own ontological structure in such hopeless con-
fusion, all the several buildings both of Idealism and of Realism
either rose quickly or were erected upon the foundations made bare
by the critical philosophy.

But especially unsatisfactory to the thought of the first quarter
of the nineteenth century was the Kantian position with reference
to the problem in which, after all, both the few who cultivate philo-
sophy and the multitude who share in its fruits are always most
truly interested; and this is the ethico-religious problem. In the
judgment of the generation which followed him, Kant had achieved


for those who accepted his points of view, his method of philo-
sophizing, and his results, much greater success in ''removing know-
ledge" than in "finding room for faith." For he seemed to have
left the positive truths of Ethics so involved in the negative posi-
tions of his critique of knowledge as greatly to endanger them; and
to have entangled the conceptions of religion with those of morality
in a manner to throw doubt upon them both.

The breach between the human cognitive faculties and the onto-
logical doctrines and conceptions on which morality and religion
had been supposed to rest firmly, the elaborately argued distrust
and skepticism which had been aimed against the ability of human
reason to reach reality, and the consequent danger which threatened
the most precious judgments of worth and the ontological value
of ethical and sesthetical sentiments, could not remain unnoticed,
or fail to promote oeaseless and earnest efforts to heal it. The hitherto
accepted solutions of the problems of cognition, of being, and of
man's ethico-religious experience, could not survive the critical
philosophy. But the solutions which the critical philosophy itself
offered could not fail to excite opposition and to stimulate further
criticism. Moreover, certain factors in human nature, certain inter-
ests in human social life, and certain needs of humanity, not fully
recognized and indeed scarcely noticed by criticism, could not
fail to revive and to enforce their ancient, perennial, and valid

In a word, Kant left the main problems of philosophy involved
in numerous contradictions. The result of his penetrating but ex-
cessive analysis was unwarrantably to contrast sense with under-
standing; to divide reason as constitutive from reason as regulative;
to divorce the moral law from our concrete experience of the results
of good and bad conduct, true morality from many of the noblest
desires and sentiments, and to set in opposition phenomena and
noumena, order and freedom, knowledge and faith, science and
religion. Now the highest aim of philosophy is reconciliation. What
wonder, then, that the beginning of the last century felt the stimu-
lus of the unreconciled condition of the problems of philosophy at
the end of the preceding century! The greatest, most stimulating
inheritance of the philosophy of the nineteenth century from the
philosophy of the eighteenth century was the "post-Kantian pro-

II. The lines of the movement of philosophical thought and the
principal contributory influences which belong to the nineteenth
century may be roughly divided into two classes; namely, (1)
those which tended in the direction of carrying to the utmost ex-
treme the negative and destructive criticism of Kant, and (2) those
which, either mainly favoring or mainly antagonizing the con-


elusions of the Kantian criticism, endeavored to place the positive
answer to all three of these great problems of philosophy upon
more comprehensive, scientifically defensible, and permanently
sure foundations. The one class so far completed the attempt to
remove the knowledge at which philosophy aims as, by the end of
the first half of the century, to have left no rational ground for
any kind of faith. The other class had not, even by the end of the
second half of the century, as yet agreed upon any one scheme for
harmonizing the various theories of knowledge, of reality, and of
the ground of morality and religion. There appeared, however, —
especially during the last two decades of the century, — certain
signs of convergence upon positions, to occupy which is favorable
for agreement upon such a scheme, and which now promise a new
constructive era for philosophy. The terminus of the destructive
movement has been reached in our present-day positivism and philo-
sophical skepticism. For this movement there would appear to be
no more beyond in the same direction. The terminus of the other
movement can only be somewhat dimly descried. It may perhaps
be predicted with a reasonable degree of confidence as some form
of ontological Idealism (if we may use such a phrase) that shall be
at once more thoroughly grounded in man's total experience, as
interpreted by modern science, and also more satisfactory to human
ethical, sesthetical, and religious ideals, than any form of system-
atic philosophy has hitherto been. But to say even this much is
perhaps unduly to anticipate.

If we attempt to fathom and estimate the force of the various
streams of influence which have shaped the history of the philo-
sophical development of the nineteenth century, I think there can
be no doubt that the profoundest and the most powerful is the one
influence which must be recognized and reckoned with in all the
centuries. This influence is humanity's undying interest in its
moral, civil, and religious ideals, and in the civil and religious in-
stitutions which give a faithful but temporary expression to these
ideals. In the long run, every fragmentary or systematic attempt
at the solution of the problem of philosophy must sustain the test
of an ability to contribute something of value to the realization of
these ideals. The test which the past century has proposed for its
own thinkers, and for its various schools of philosophy, is by far the
severest which has ever been proposed. For the most part unosten-
tatiously and in large measure silently, the thoughtful few and
the comparatively thoughtless multitude have been contributing,
either destructively or constructively, to the effort at satisfaction
for the rising spiritual life of man. And if in some vague but
impressive manner we speak of this thirst for spiritual satisfac-
tion as characteristic of any period of human history, we may say,


I believe, that it has been peculiarly characteristic and especially
powerful as an influence during the last hundred years. The opin-
ions, sentiments, and ideals which shape the development of the
institutions of the church and state, and the freer activities of the
same opinions, sentiments, and ideals, have been in this century,
as they have been in every century, the principal factors in deter-
mining the character of its philosophical development.

But a more definite and visible kind of influence has constantly
proceeded from the centres of the higher education. The univers-
ities — especially of Germany, next, perhaps of Scotland, but
also of England and the United States, and even in less degree of
France and Italy — have both fostered and shaped the evolution
of critical and reflective thought, and of its product as philosophy.
In Germany during the eighteenth century the greater universities
had been emancipating themselves from the stricter forms of polit-
ical and court favoritism and of ecclesiastical protection and con-
trol. This emancipation had already operated at the beginning of
the nineteenth century, and it continued more and more to operate
throughout this century, for participation in that free thought
whose spirit is absolutely essential to the flourishing of true philo-
sophy. All the other colleges and universities can scarcely repay
the debt which modern philosophy owes to the universities of Ger-
many. The institutions of the higher education which are moulded
after this spirit, and which have a generous share of this spirit,
have everywhere been schools of thought as well as schools of learn-
ing and research. Without the increasing numbers and growing
encouragement of such centres for the cultivation of the discipline
of critical and reflective thinking, it is difficult to conjecture how
much the philosophical development of the nineteenth century would
have lost. Lihertas docendi and Academische Freiheit — without these
philosophy has one of its wings fatally wounded or severely clipped.

Not all the philosophy of the last century, however, was born
and developed in academical centres and under academical in-
fluences. In Germany, Great Britain, and France, the various
so-called "Academies" or other unacademical associations of men
of scientific interests and attainments — notably, the Berlin Acad-
emy, which has been called "the seat of an anti-scholastic popular
philosophy" — were during the first half of the nineteenth century
contributing by their conspicuous failures as well as by their less
conspicuous successes, important factors to the constructive new
thought of the latter half of the nineteenth century. In general,
although these men decried system and were themselves inade-
quately prepared to treat the problems of philosophy, whether
from the historical or the speculative and critical point of view, they
cannot be wholly neglected in estimating its development. Clever


reasoning, and witty and epigrammatic writing on scientific or
other allied subjects, cannot indeed be called philosophy in the
stricter meaning of the word. But this so-called "popular philo-
sophy " has greatly helped in a way to free thought from its too close
bondage to scholastic tradition. And even the despite of philosoph)?^
and sneering references to its "barrenness," which formerly charac-
terized the meetings and the writings of this class of its critics, but
which now are happily much less frequent, have been on the whole
both a valuable check and a stimulus to her devotees. He would be
too narrow and sour a disciple of scholastic metaphysics and sys-
tematic philosophy, who, because of the levity or scorning of " out-
siders," should refuse them all credit. Indeed, the lesson of the close
of the nineteenth century may well enough be the motto for the
beginning of the twentieth century: In philosophy — since to philo-
sophize is natural and inevitable for all rational beings — there really
are no outsiders.

In this connection it is most interesting to notice how men of the
type just referred to, were at the end of the eighteenth century
found grouped around such thinkers as Mendelssohn, Lessing,
F. Nicolai, — representing a somewhat decided reaction from the
French realism to the German idealism. The work of the Academ-
icians in the criticism of Kant was carried forward by Jacobi,
who, at the time of his death, was the pensioned president of the
Academy at Munich. Some of these same critics of the Kantian
philosophy showed a rather decided preference for the "common-
sense" philosophy of the Scottish School.

But both inside and outside of the Universities and Academies
the scientific spirit and acquisitions of the nineteenth century have
most profoundly, and on the whole favorably, affected the develop-
ment of its philosophy. In the wider meaning of the word, " science, "
— the meaning, namely, in which science = Wissenschaft, — philo-
sophy aims to be scientific; and science can never be indifferent
to philosophy. In their common aim at a rational and unitary sys-
tem of principles, which shall explain and give its due significance to
the totality of human experience, science and philosophy can never
remain long in antagonism; they ought never even temporarily to
be divided in interests, or in the spirit which leads each generously
to recognize the importance of the other. The early part of the last
century was, indeed, too much under the influence of that almost
exclusively speculative Natur-philosophie, of which Schelling and
Hegel were the most prominent exponents. On the other hand, the
conception of nature as a vast interconnected and unitary system
of a rational order, unfolding itself in accordance with teleological
principles, — however manifold and obscure, — is a noble concep-
tion and not destined to pass away.


On the continent — at least in France, where it had attained
its highest development — the scientific spirit was, at the close
of the eighteenth century, on the whole opposed to systematization.
The impulse to both science and philosophy during both the eight-
eenth and the nineteenth centuries, over the entire continent of
Europe, was chiefl}^ due to the epoch-making work of that greatest
of all titles in the modern scientific development of the Western
World, the Principia of Newton. In mathematics and the phys-
ical sciences, during the early third or half of the last century, Great
Britain also has a roll of distinguished names which compares most
favorably with that of either France or Germany. But in England,
France, and the United States, during the whole century, science has
lacked the breadth and philosophic spirit which it had in Germany
during the first three quarters of this period. During all that time
the German man of science was, as a rule, a scholar, an investi-
gator, a teacher, and a philosopher. Science and philosophy thrived
better, however, in Scotland than elsewhere outside of Germany, so
far as their relations in interdependence were concerned. Into the
Scottish universities Playfair introduced some of the continental
suggestions toward the end of the eighteenth century, so that there
was less of exclusiveness and unfriendly rivalry between science and
philosophy; and both profited thereby. In the United States, during
the first half or more of the century, so dominant were the theo-
logical and practical interests and influences that there was little
free development of either science or philosophy, • — if we interpret
the one as the equivalent of Wissenschaft and understand the other
in the stricter meaning of the word.

The history of the development of the scientific spirit and of the
achievements of the particular sciences is not the theme of this
paper. To trace in detail, or even in its large outlines, the reciprocal
influence of science and philosophy during the past hundred years,
would itself require far more than the space allotted to me. It must
suffice to say that the various advances in the efforts of the par-
ticular sciences to enlarge and to define the conceptions and prin-
ciples employed to portray the Being of the World in its totality,
have somewhat steadily grown more and more completely meta-
physical, and more and more of positive importance for the recon-
struction of systematic philosophy. The latter has not simply been
disciplined by science, compelled to improve its method, and to ex-
amine all its previous claims. But philosophy has also been greatly
enriched by science with respect to its material awaiting synthesis,
and it has been not a little profited by the unsuccessful attempts of
the current scientific theories to give themselves a truly satisfactory
account of that Ultimate Reality which, to understand the better,
is no unworthy aim of their combined efforts.


During the nineteenth century science has seen many important
additions to that Ideal of Nature and her processes, to form which
in a unitary and harmonizing but comprehensive way is the philo-
sophical goal of science. The gross mechanical conception of nature
which prevailed in the earlier part of the eighteenth century has long
since been abandoned, as quite inadequate to our experience with
her facts, forces, and laws. The kinetic view, which began with
Huygens, Euler, and Ampere, and which was so amplified by Lord
Kelvin and Clerk-Maxwell in England, and by Helmholtz and others
in Germany, on account of its success in explaining the phenomena
of light, of gases, etc., very naturally led to the attempt to develop
a kinetic theory, a doctrine of energetics, which should explain all
phenomena. But the conception of "that which moves," the ex-
perience of important and persistent qualitative differentiae, and
the need of assuming ends and purposes served by the movement,
are troublesome obstacles in the way of giving such a completeness
to this theory of the Being of the World. Yet again the amazing
success which the theory of evolution has shown in explaining the
phenomena with which the various biological sciences concern
themselves, has lent favor during the latter half of the century to
the vitalistic and genetic view of nature. For all our most elaborate
and advanced kinetic theories seem utterly to fail us as explanatory
when we, through the higher powers of the microscope, stand won-
dering and face to face with the evolution of a single living cell.
But from such a view of the essential Being of the World as evolu-
tion suggests to the psycho-physical theory of nature is not an
impassable gulf. And thus, under its growing wealth of knowledge,
science may be leading up to an Ideal of the Ultimate Reality, in
which philosophy will gratefully and gladly coincide. At any rate,
the modern conception of nature and the modern conception of
God are not so far apart from each other, as either of these con-
ceptions is now removed from the conceptions covered by the same
terms, some centuries gone by.

There is one of the positive sciences, however, with which the
development of philosophy during the last century has been par-
ticularly allied. This science is psychology. To speak of its history
is not the theme of this paper. But it should be noted in passing
how the development of psychology has brought into connection
with the physical and biological sciences the development of philo-
sophy. This union, whether it be for better or for worse, — and,
on the whole, I believe it to be for better rather than for worse, —
has been in a very special way the result of the last century. In
tracing its details we should have to speak of the dependence of
certain branches of psychology on physiology, and upon Sir Charles
Bell's discovery of the difference between the sensory and the motor


nerves. This discovery was the contribution of the beginning of
the century to an entire hne of discoveries, which have ended at the
close of the century with putting the locahzation of cerebral func-
tion upon a firm experimental basis. Of scarcely less importance
has been the cellular theory as applied (1838) by Matthias Schleiden,
a pupil of Fries in philosophy, to plants, and by Theodor Schwann
about the same time to animal organisms. To these must be added
the researches of Johannes Miiller (1801-1858), the great biologist,
a listener to Hegel's lectures, whose law of specific energies brings
him into connection with psychology and, through psychology, to
philosophy. Even more true is this of Helmholtz, whose Lehre von
den Tonempfindungen (1862) and Physiologische Optik (1867) placed
him in even closer, though still mediate, relations to philosophy.
But perhaps especially Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887), whose
researches in psycho-physics laid the foundations of whatever, either
as psychology or as philosophy, goes under this name; and whether
the doctrine have reference to the relation of man's mind and body,
or to the wider relations of spirit and matter.

In my judgment it cannot be affirmed that the attempts of the
latter half of the nineteenth century to develop an experimental
science of psychology in independence of philosophical criticism and
metaphysical assumption, or the claims of this science to have
thrown any wholly new light upon the statement, or upon the
solution of philosophical problems, have been largely successful.
But certain more definitely psychological questions have been to
a commendable degree better analyzed and elucidated; the new
experimental methods, where confined within their legitimate

Online LibraryMo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint LouisCongress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 → online text (page 22 of 68)