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there has been an increase in the profundity of the conviction of the
spiritual unity of the race. In the consideration of all of its problems
in the immediate future and in the coming century — so far as we can
see forward into this century — philosophy will have to reckon with
certain marked characteristics of the human spirit which form at the
same time inspiring stimuli and limiting conditions of its endeavors
and achievements. Chief among these are the greater and more
firmly established principles of the positive sciences, and the pre-
valence of the historical spirit and method in the investigation of all
manner of problems. These influences have given shape to the con-
ception which, although it is as yet by no means in its final or even
in thoroughly self-consistent form, is destined powerfully to affect
our philosophical as well as our scientific theories. This conception is
that of Development. But philosophy, considered as the product of
critical and reflective thinking over the more ultimate problems of
nature and of human life, is itself a development. And it is now, more
than ever before, a development interdependently connected with all
the other great developments.

Philosophy, in order to adapt itself to the spirit of the age, must
welcome and cultivate the freest critical inquiry into its own methods
and results, and must cheerfully submit itself to the demand for
evidences which has its roots in the common and essential experience
of the race. Moreover, the growth of the spirit of democracy, which,
on the one hand, is distinctly unfavorable to any system of philosophy
whose tenets and formulas seem to have only an academic validity
or a merely esoteric value, and which, on the other hand, requires
for its satisfaction a more tenable, helpful, and universally appli-
cable theory of life and reality, cannot fail, in my judgment, to influ-
ence favorably the development of philosophy. In the union of the
speculative and the practical; in the harmonizing of the interests of
the positive sciences, with their judgments of fact and law, and the
interests of art, morality, and religion, with their value-judgments
and ideals; in the synthesis of the truths of Realism and Idealism, as
they have existed hitherto and now exist in separateness or antago-
nism; in a union that is not accomplished by a shallow eclecticism, but
by a sincere attempt to base philosophy upon the totality of human
experience; — in such a union as this must we look for the real pro-
gress of philosophy in the coming century.

Just now there seem to be two somewhat heterogeneous and not
altogether well-defined tendencies toward the reconstruction of sys-
tematic philosophy, both of which are powerful and represent real
truths conquered by ages of intellectual industry and conflict. These
two, however, need to be internally harmonized, in order to obtain a
satisfactory statement of the development of the last century. They
may be called the evolutionary and the idealistic. The one tendency


lays emphasis on mechanism, the other on spirit. Yet it is most
interesting to notice how many of the early workmen in the investi-
gation of the principle of the conservation and correlation of energy
took their point of departure from distinctly teleological and spiritual
conceptions. " I was led," said Colding, — to take an extreme case, —
at the Natural Science Congress at Innsbruck, 1869, " to the idea of
the constancy of national forces by the religious conception of life."
And even Moleschott, in his Autobiography, posthumously published,
declares : " 1 myself was well aware that the whole conception might
be converted; for since all matter is a bearer of force, endowed with
force or penetrated with spirit, it would be just as correct to call it
a spiritualistic conception." On the other hand, the modern, better
instructed Idealism is much inclined, both from the psychological and
from the more purely philosophical points of view, to regard with
duly profound respect all the facts and laws of that mechanism of
Reality, which certainly is not merely the dependent construction
of the human mind functioning according to a constitution that
excludes it from Reality, but is rather the ever increasingly more
trustworthy revealer of Reality. This tendency to a union of the
claims of both Realism and Idealism is profoundly influencing the
solution of each one of these problems which the Kantian criticism
left to the philosophy of the nineteenth century. In respect of the
epistemological problem, philosophy — as I have already said —
is not likely again to repeat the mistakes either of Kant or of the
dogmatism which his criticism so effectually overthrew. It was a
wise remark of the physician Johann Benjamin Erhard, in a letter
dated May 19, 1794, a propos of Fichte: "The philosophy which
proceeds from a single fundamental principle, and pretends to deduce
everything from it, is and always will remain a piece of artificial
sophistry: only that philosophy which ascends to the highest prin-
ciple and exhibits everything else in perfect harmony with it, is the
true one." This at least ought — one would say — to have been
made clear by the century of discussion over the epistemological
problem, since Kant. You cannot deduce the Idea from the Reality,
or the Reality from the Idea. The problem of knowledge is not, as
Fichte held in the form of a fundamental assumption, an alternative
of this sort. The Idea and Reality are, the rather already there,
and to be recognized as in a living unity, in every cognitive experi-
ence. Psychology is constantly adding something toward the pro-
blem of cognition as a problem in synthesis; and is then in a way
contributing to the better scientific understanding of the philo-
sophical postulate which is the confidence of human reason in its
ability, by the harmonious use of all its powers, progressively to
reach a better and fuller knowledge of Reality.

The ontological problem will necessarily always remain the un-


solved, in the sense of the very incompletely solved problem of
philosophy. But as long as human experience develops, and as long
as philosophy bestows upon experience the earnest and candid
efforts of reflecting minds, the solution of the ontological problem
will be approached, but never fully reached. That Being of the
World which Kant, in the negative and critical part of his work,
left as an X, unknown and unknowable, the last century has filled
with a new and far richer content than it ever had before. Especially
has this century changed the conception of the Unity of the Uni-
verse in such manner that it can never return again to its ancient
form. On the one hand, this Unity cannot be made comprehensible
in terms of any one scientific or philosophical principle or law.
Science and philosophy are both moving farther and farther away
from the hope of comprehending the variety and infinite manifold-
ness of the Absolute in terms of any one side or aspect of man's
complex experience. But, on the other hand, the confidence in this
essential Unity is not diminished, but is the rather confirmed. As
humanity itself develops, as the Selfhood of man grows in the
experience of the world which is its own environment, and of the
world within which it is its own true Self, humanity may reasonably
hope to win an increased, and increasingly valid, cognition of the
Being of the World as the Absolute Self.

Closely connected, and in a way essentially identical with the
ontological problem, is that of the origin, validity, and rational
value of the ideas of humanity. May it not be said that the nine-
teenth century transfers to the twentieth an increased interest in
and a heightened appreciation of the so-called practical problems
©f philosophy. Science and philosophy certainly ought to combine
— and are they not ready to combine? — in the effort to secure
a more nearly satisfactory understanding and solution of the pro-
blems afforded by the sesthetical, ethical, and religious sentiments
and ideals of the race. To philosophy this combination means that
it shall be more fruitful than ever before in promoting the uplift and
betterment of mankind. The fulfillment of the practical mission of
philosophy involves the application of its conceptions and prin-
ciples to education, politics, morals, as a matter of law and of cus-
tom, and to religion as matter both of rational faith and of the con-
duct of life.

How, then, can this brief and imperfect sketch of the outline of the
development of philosophy in the nineteenth century better come to
a close than by words of encouragement and of exhortation as well.
There are, in my judgment, the plainest signs that the somewhat
too destructive and even nihilistic tendencies of the second and
third quarters of the nineteenth century have reached their limit;
that the strife of science and philosophy, and of both with religion,


is lessening, and is being rapidly displaced by the spirit of mutual
fairness and reciprocal helpfulness; and that reasonable hopes of
a new and a splendid era of reconstruction in philosophy may be
entertained. For I cannot agree with the dictum of a recent writer
on the subject, that " the sciences are coming less and less to admit
of a synthesis, and not at all of a synthetic philosopher."

On the contrary, I hold that, with an increased confidence in the
capacity of human reason to discover and validate the most secret
and profound, as well as the most comprehensive, of truths, philo-
sophy may well put aside some of its shyness and hesitancy, and may
resume more of that audacity of imagination, sustained by ontological
convictions, which characterized its work during the first half of the
nineteenth century. And if the latter half of the twentieth century
does for the constructions of the first half of the same century, what
the latter half of the nineteenth century did for the first half of that
century, this new criticism will only be to illustrate the way in which
the human spirit makes every form of its progress.

Therefore, a summons of all helpers, in critical but fraternal spirit,
to this work of reconstruction, for which two generations of enormous
advance in the positive sciences has gathered new material, and for
the better accomplishment of which both the successes and the
failures of the philosophy of the nineteenth century have prepared
the men of the twentieth century, is the winsome and imperative
voice of the hour.



{Hall 6, September 21, 10 a. m.)

Chairman: Professor A. C. Armstrong, Wesleyan University.
Speakers: Professor A. E. Taylor, McGill University, Montreal.

Professor Alexander T. Ormond, Princeton University.
Secretary: Professor A. O. Love joy, Washington University.

The Chairman of the Section, Professor A. C. Armstrong, of Wes-
leyan University, in opening the meeting referred to the contin-
ued vitahty of metaphysics as shown by its repeated revivals after
the many destructive attacks upon it in the later modern times:
he congratulated the Section on the fact that the principal speakers
were scholars who had made notable contributions to metaphysical



[Alfred Edward Taylor, Frothingham Professor of Philosophy, McGill Uni-
versity, Montreal, Canada, b. Oundle, England, December 22, 1869. M.A.
Oxford. Fellow, Merton College, Oxford, 1891-98, 1902-; Lecturer in
Greek and Philosophy, Owens College, Manchester, 1896-1903; Assistant
Examiner to University of Wales, 1899-1903; Green Moral Philosophy Prize-
man, Oxford, 1899; Frothingham Professor of Philosophy, McGill Uni-
versity, 1903- ; Member Philosophical Society, Owens College, American
Philosophical Association. Author of The Problem of Conduct; Elements of

When we seek to determine the place of metaphysics in the gen-
eral scheme of human knowledge, we are at once confronted by an
initial difficulty of some magnitude. There seems, in fact, to be no
one universally accepted definition of our study, and even no very
general consensus among its votaries as to the problems with which
the metaphysician ought to concern himself. This difficulty, serious
as it is, does not, however, justify the suspicion that our science is,
like alchemy or astrology, an illusion, and its high-sounding title
a mere "idol of the market-place," one of those nomina rerum quae
non sunt against which the Chancellor Bacon has so eloquently
warned mankind. If it is hard to determine precisely the scope of


metaphysics, it is no less diflficult to do the same thing for the un-
doubtedly legitimate sciences of logic and mathematics. And in all
three cases the absence of definition merely shows that we are deal-
ing with branches of knowledge which are, so to say, still in the
making. It is not until the first principles of science are already
firmly laid beyond the possibility of cavil that we must look for
general agreement as to its boundary lines, though excellent work
may be done, long before this point has been reached, in the estab-
lishment of individual principles and deduction of consequences
from them. To revert to the parallel cases I have just cited, many
mathematical principles of the highest importance are formulated in
the Elements of Euclid, and many logical principles in the Organon
of Aristotle; yet it is only in our own time that it has become possible
to offer, a general definition either of logic or of mathematics, and
even now it would probably be true to say that the majority of
logicians and mathematicians trouble themselves very little about
the precise definition of their respective studies.

The state of our science then compels me to begin this address
with a more or less arbitrary, because provisional, definition of the
term metaphysics, for which I claim no more than that it may serve
to indicate with approximate accuracy the class of problems which
I shall have in view in my subsequent use of the word. By meta-
physics, then, I propose to understand the inquiry which used
formerly to be known as ontology, that is, the investigation into the
general character which belongs to real Being as such, the science, in
Aristotelian phraseology, of oVra y ovra. Or, if the term " real " be
objected against as ambiguous, I would suggest as an alternative
account the statement that metaphysics is the inquiry into the general
character by which the content of true assertions is distinguished
from that of false assertions. The two definitions here offered will,
I think, be found equivalent when it is borne in mind that what the
second of them speaks of is exclusively the content which is asserted
as true in a true proposition, not the process of true assertion, which,
like all other processes in the highest cerebral centres, falls under
the consideration of the vastly different sciences of psychology and
cerebral physiology. Of the two equivalent forms of statement, the
former has perhaps the advantage of making it most clear that it
is ultimately upon the objective distinction between the reality and
the unreality of that which is asserted for truth, and not upon any
psychological peculiarity in the process of assertion itself that the
distinction between true and untrue rests, while the second may be
useful in guarding against misconceptions that might be suggested
by too narrow an interpretation of the term '^ reality," such as, e. g.,
the identification of the " real" with what is revealed by sensuous


From the acceptance of such a definition two important conse-
quences would follow. (1) The first is that metaphysics is at once
sharply discriminated from any study of the psychical process of
knowledge, if indeed, there can be any such study distinct from the
psychology of conception and belief, which is clearly not itself the
science we have in view. For the psychological laws of the formation
of concepts and beliefs are exemplified equally in the discover}^ and
propagation of truth and of error. And thus it is in vain to look to
them for any explanation of the difference between the two. Nor
does the otherwise promising extension of Darwinian conceptions
of the "struggle for existence" and the ''survival of the fittest"
to the field of opinions and convictions appear to affect this con-
clusion. Such considerations may indeed assist us to understand
how true convictions in virtue of their " usefulness" gradually come
to be established and extended, but they require to presume the
truth of these convictions as an antecedent condition of their "use-
fulness" and consequent establishment. I should infer, then, that
it is a mistake in principle to seek to replace ontology by a " theory
of knowledge," and should even be inclined to question the very
possibility of such a theory as distinct from metaphysics on the one
hand and empirical psychology on the other. (2) The second con-
sequence is of even greater importance. The inquiry into the gen-
eral character by which the contents of true assertions are discrim-
inated from the contents of false assertions must be carefully dis-
tinguished from any investigation into the truth or falsehood of
special assertions. To ask how in the end truth differs from falsehood
is to raise an entirely different problem from that created by asking
whether a given statement is to be regarded as true or false. The dis-
tinction becomes particularly important when we have to deal with
what Locke would call assertions of "real existence," i. e., assertions
as to the occurrence of particular events in the temporal order. All
such assertions depend, in part at least, upon the admission of what
we may style "empirical" evidence, the immediate unanalyzed
witness of simple apprehension to the occurrence of an alleged
matter of fact. Thus it would follow from our proposed conception
of metaphysics that metaphysics is in principle incapable either of
establishing or refuting any assertion as to the details of our immedi-
ate experience of empirical fact, though it may have important bear-
ings upon any theory of the general nature of true Being which we
may seek to found upon our alleged experiences. In a word, if our
conception be the correct one, the functions of a science of meta-
physics in respect of our knowledge of the temporal sequence of
events psychical and physical must be purely critical, never con-
structive, — a point to which I shall presently have to recur.

One more general reflection, and we may pass to the consideration


of the relation of metaphysics to the various already organzied
branches of human knowledge more in detail. The admission that
there is, or may be, such a study as we have described, seems of itself
to involve the recognition that definite knowledge about the character
of what really " is, " is attainable, and thus to commit us to a position
of sharp opposition both to consistent and thorough-going agnos-
ticism and also to the latent agnosticism of Kantian and neo-Kant-
ian "critical philosophy." In recognizing ontology as a legitimate
investigation, we revert in principle to the "dogmatist" position
common, e. g., to Plato, to Spinoza and to Leibniz, that there is genu-
ine truth which can be known, and that this genuine truth is not
confined to statements about the process of knowing itself. In
fact, the "critical" view that the only certain truth is truth about
the process of knowing seems to be inherently self-contradictory.
For the knowledge that such a proposition as, e. g., "1 know only
the laws of my own apprehending activity, " is true, would itself be
knowledge not about the process of knowing but about the content
known. Thus metaphysics, conceived as the science of the general
character which distinguishes truth from falsehood, presupposes
throughout all knowledge the presence of what we may call a " tran-
scendent object," that is, a content which is never identical with
the process by which it is apprehended, though it may no doubt be
maintained that the two, the process and its content, if distinct, are
yet not ultimately separable. That they are in point of fact not
ultimately separable would seem to be the doctrine which, under
various forms of statement, is common to and characteristic of all the
"idealistic" systems of metaphysics. So much then in defense of a
metaphysical point of view which seems to be closely akin to that
of Mr. Bradley and of Professor Royce, to mention only two names
of contemporary philosophers, and which might, I think, for the
purpose of putting it in sharp opposition to the " neo-Kantian "
view, not unfairly be called, if it is held to need a name, "neo-

In passing on to discuss in brief the nature of the boundary lines
which divide metaphysics from other branches of study, it seems
necessary to start with a clear distinction between the "pure" or
"formal" and the "applied" or "empirical" sciences, the more so
as in the loose current employment of language the name "science"
is frequently given exclusively to the latter. In every-day life, when
we are told that a certain person is a "man of science," or as the
detestable jargon of our time likes to say, a "scientist, " we expect to
find that he is, e.g.,Si geologist, a chemist, a biologist, or an electrician.
We should be a little surprised to find on inquiry that our "man of
science " was a pure mathematician, and probably more than a little
to learn that he was a formal logician. The distinction between the


pure and the empirical sciences may be roughly indicated by saying
that the latter class comprises all those sciences which yield infor-
mation about the particular details of the temporal order of events
physical and psychical, whereas the pure sciences deal solely with the
general characteristics either of all truths, or of all truths of some
well-defined class. More exactly we may say that the marks by
which an empirical is distinguished from a pure science are two.
(1) The empirical sciences one and all imply the presence among
their premises of empirical propositions, that is, propositions which
assert the actual occurrence of some temporal fact, and depend upon
the witness of immediate apprehension, either in the form of sense-
perception or in that of what is commonly called self-consciousness.
In the vague language made current by Kant, they involve an appeal
to some form of unanalyzed "intuition." The pure sciences, on the
other hand, contain no empirical propositions either among their pre-
mises or their conclusions. The principles which form their premises
are self-evidently true propositions, containing no reference to the
actual occurrence of any event in the temporal order, and thus in-
volving no appeal to any form of "intuition." And the conclusions
established in a pure science are all rigidly logical deductions from
such self-evident premises. That the universality of this distinction
is still often overlooked even by professed writers on scientific method
seems explicable by two simple considerations. On the one hand, it
is easy to overlook the important distinction between a principle
which is self-evident, that is, which cannot be denied without explicit
falsehood, and a proposition affirmed on the warrant of the senses,
because, though its denial cannot be seen to be obviously false,
the senses appear on each fresh appeal to substantiate the asser-
tion. Thus the Euclidean postulate about parallels was long falsely
supposed to possess exactly the same kind of self-evidence as
the dictum de omni and the principle of identity which are part
of the foundations of all logic. And further Kant, writing under
the infiuence of this very confusion, has given wide popularity to
the view that the best known of the pure sciences, that of mathe-
matics, depends upon the admission of empirical premises in the
form of an appeal to intuition of the kind just described. Fortunately
the recent developments of arithmetic at the hands of such men
as Weierstrass, Cantor, and Dedekind seem to have definitely refuted
the Kantian view as far as general arithmetic, the pure science of
number, is concerned, by proving that one and all of its propositions
are analytic in the strict sense of the word, that is, that they are

Online LibraryMo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint LouisCongress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 → online text (page 25 of 68)