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The question is sometimes asked: What is the subjectmatter of philosophy? Astronomy investigates the phenomena of the heavens; Geology, the structure and physical history of the globe ; Physiology, the organs of plants and animals and their functions ; Psychology, the phenomena of mind. Sociology treats of human society ; History, of past events and the progress of the race; Ethics, of duty; Theology, of God. What then is left for philosophy?

The answer to this question is not difficult to find. Every science has for its field a particular species of reality and deals with a special class of phenomena, but none of these sciences inquires into the nature of that reality in general which is common to many or to all. The business of philosophy, therefore, is to investigate the nature of those realities and relations which the various sciences assume to be true.

1. The three realities of philosophical inquiry. What then are the realities with which philosophy deals? They are three in number-Man, Nature, and God. To state the same in technical language, the realities whose nature philosophy attempts to investigate are the Mind, the Cosmos, and the Absolute.

(a) Man, the finite Mind.Whatever view one may hold of the existence of external objects and of God, no one deny or doubt that he himself exists. For it is impossible to doubt one's own existence without being involved in a selfcontradiction. Doubt implies the subject which doubts. Descartes began his philosophical speculation with universal doubt. But he quickly came to the conclusion that he could not doubt his own existence. Accordingly he says: “While we reject all of which we can entertain the smallest doubt, and even imagine that it is false, we easily indeed suppose that there is neither

* Read before the Philosophical Society of Yale University.


God, nor sky, nor bodies, and that we ourselves even have neither hands nor feet, nor finally, a body; but we cannot in the same way suppose that we are not, while we doubt of the truth of these things ; for there is a repugnance in conceiving that what thinks does not exist at the very time when it thinks. Accordingly the knowledge, I think, therefore I am, is the first and most certain that occurs to one who philosophizes orderly.” (Principles of Philosophy, Part I., vii., p. 195. Dr. Veitch's translation.)

(b) Nature, the Universe.—The characteristic tendency of modern philosophy is idealistic. The characteristic tendency of modern physical science, on the other hand, is realistic. Modern physical science assumes not only that the universe exists but also that it is intelligible to us; that the phenomena of Nature can be explained by the laws of matter and motion. Prof. Huxley summarizes the modern scientific conception of Nature when he says: “If there is one thing clear about the progress of modern science, it is the tendency to reduce all scientific problems, except those which are purely mathematical, to questions of molecular physics ; that is to say, to the attractions, repulsions, motions and coördinations of the ultimate particles of matter.

“ The phenomena of biology and of chemistry are, in their ultimate analysis, questions of molecular physics. Indeed, the fact is acknowledged by all chemists and biologists who look beyond their immediate occupations.” (The Scientific Aspects of Positivism—in Lay Sermons, p. 183.)

() God, the Absolute.The postulate that the Absolute exists is a necessity of thought. The Absolute is the unconditioned and is the necessary correlate of the conditioned. Therefore, no system of philosophy can consistently deny its existence. The only point of disagreement among different systems of thought is in regard to the nature of the Absolute. That the Absolute exists is admitted on all hands; what the Absolute is, is the only point of dispute. To Materialists the Absolute is matter; to Spinoza, substance with two attributesthought and extension; to the Theist, the Absolute is a conscious personality.

Mr. Spencer says: “ Though the Absolute cannot in any

manner or degree be known, in the strict sense of knowing, yet we find that its positive existence is a necessary doctrine of consciousness; that so long as consciousness continues, we cannot for an instant rid it of this doctrine; and that thus the belief which this doctrine constitutes, has a higher warrant than any other whatever.” (First Principles, $ 27.)

The Universe, the Soul, and the Absolute—these three then are the realities, whose nature philosophy seeks to interpret. They are not the creations of our imagination, nor the illusions of our fancy. They are the real objects of our knowledge. Philosophy does not create them but aims to understand them. In the words of Prof. Harris: “They do not exist because we know them ; we know them because they exist.”

II. The problem of philosophy.

Accordingly the problem of philosophy is simply to find the most rational and harmonious conceptions of these realitiesNature, Man, and God. In other words, the problem of philosophy in its last analysis is nothing else than the attempt to discover the most reasonable and consistent conceptions of the Universe, the Mind, and the Absolute. Therefore the questions which philosophy seeks to answer are :

(1.) What is Man, and what are his relations to Nature and to the Absolute ?

(2.) What is Nature, and what are its relations to Man and to the Absolute ?

(3.) What is the Absolute, and what are its relations to Man and to Nature ?

III. The methods of philosophy.

to us;

There are several philosophical methods more or less familiar

for instance, the dialectic method, the dogmatic method, the empirical, the sceptical, the critical, and the mystical, etc. All these methods in their last analysis, however, resolve themselves into the following four :

(1.) That which makes the explanation of Nature the starting point of philosophical inquiry—the Cosmological Method.


(2.) That which begins with some conception of the Absolute and attempts to explain man and the world by the analysis of that conception—the Absolute Method.

(3.) That which starts with the historical and critical study of man's cognitive faculty—the Noetic Method.

(4.) That which proceeds at once with the every day conceptions of Nature, Man, and God, and works them over to make them philosophically consistent—the Elaborative Method.

In brief, (1) that which starts with Nature; (2) that which starts with the Absolute; (3) that which starts with Man; (4) that which starts with all three-Nature, Man, and God.

(1) The Cosmological Method.Whatever may have been the origin of philosophy, this is historically certain, that what first aroused the Greek mind to inquiry and speculation was the phenomena of Nature. The aim in general of the pre-Socratic philosophy was the explanation of Nature. What is the first and fundamental principle which lies back of and beneath all changes in Nature? This was the first problem which the Greeks attempted to solve. Therefore the pre-Socratic philosophy may be characterized as cosmo-philosophical speculation.

But the pre-Socratic cosmological inquiry did not stop with Nature. It attempted to apply to the phenomena of consciousness the same method and principle which it employed in explaining the phenomena of Nature. Hence its strong tendency towards Materialism. This materialistic tendency is always a characteristic of that philosophical method which makes the investigation of Nature its starting point. A perfect illustration of this fact is found in the ancient Atomism. The founders of this school were Leucippus and Democritus, though the latter is better known to us as the real founder of Greek Materialism. His doctrine resembles in many respects the Materialism of the present day. This is doubtless the reason why certain recent German materialistic writers estimate his genius so highly. Some of these writers regard him as one of the most profound thinkers of Greece; as fully equal, if not superior, to Plato and Aristotle.

This school flourished in the fifth century before Christ. It claimed to explain the universe by positing space and atoms. In other words, the atomists undertook to account for the phe

nomena of consciousness as well as for those of Nature by the principle of the Plenum and the Vacuum. The plenum is described by them as consisting of atoms, infinite in number, moving in the vacuum of space. These atoms are unlimitable and eternal; they are also indivisible and imperishable. They differ from one another in size, weight, and position, but not in quality. The soul was regarded as something corporeal, made up of “fine smooth and round atoms."

In modern times, this same method of philosophical inquiry is adopted by the materialistic scientists. These men start with Nature and attempt to carry the same principle and method of explanation which they have used with success in their study of Nature, into the sphere of psychical phenomena. Their conclusions, as might be expected, take the form of Materialism. Physical Science deals with matter and force; hence a physical explanation of psychical phenomena must be in terms of matter and force. This is exactly what Prof. Huxley asserts when he declares : “ Thought is as much a function of matter as motion.” (Macmillan's Magazine, May, 1870. Herbert's Modern Realism Examined,p. 411.) Elsewhere he writes again : “There is every reason to believe that consciousness is a function of nervous matter, when that nervous matter has attained a certain degree of organization, just as we know the other actions to which the nervous system ministers, such as reflex action, and the like, to be.(Mr. Darwin and his Critics : Contemporary Review, Nov., 1871.)

Büchner makes the same claim to explain the phenomena of consciousness in terms of matter and force. “Thought, spirit, soul are not material, not a substance, but the effect of the conjoined action of many materials endowed with forces or qualities.

The steam engine is, in a certain sense, endowed with life, and produces, as the result of a peculiar combination of force-endowed materials, a united effect, which we use for our purposes, without, however, being able to see, smell, or touch the effect itself. The steam expelled by the engine is a secondary thing; it has nothing to do with the object of the machine, so does the organic complication of forceendowed materials produce in the animal body a sum of effects, so interwoven as to become a unit, and is then by us called

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