The Approach to Philosophy
by Ralph Barton Perry
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Transcriber's Notes: Some typographical errors have been corrected. A complete list follows the text. Words in Greek in the original are transliterated and placed between plus signs. In the transliterations e: and o: represent the vowel with a circumflex. Words italicized in the original are surrounded by underscores.










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In an essay on "The Problem of Philosophy at the Present Time," Professor Edward Caird says that "philosophy is not a first venture into a new field of thought, but the rethinking of a secular and religious consciousness which has been developed, in the main, independently of philosophy."[vii:A] If there be any inspiration and originality in this book, they are due to my great desire that philosophy should appear in its vital relations to more familiar experiences. If philosophy is, as is commonly assumed, appropriate to a phase in the development of every individual, it should grow out of interests to which he is already alive. And if the great philosophers are indeed never dead, this fact should manifest itself in their classic or historical representation of a perennial outlook upon the world. I am not seeking to attach to philosophy a fictitious liveliness, wherewith to insinuate it into the good graces of the student. I hope rather to be true to the meaning of philosophy. For there is that in its stand-point and its problem which makes it universally significant entirely apart from dialectic and erudition. These are derived interests, indispensable to the scholar, but quite separable from that modicum of philosophy which helps to make the man. The present book is written for the sake of elucidating the inevitable philosophy. It seeks to make the reader more solicitously aware of the philosophy that is in him, or to provoke him to philosophy in his own interests. To this end I have sacrificed all else to the task of mediating between the tradition and technicalities of the academic discipline and the more common terms of life.

The purpose of the book will in part account for those shortcomings that immediately reveal themselves to the eye of the scholar. In Part I various great human interests have been selected as points of departure. I have sought to introduce the general stand-point and problem of philosophy through its implication in practical life, poetry, religion, and science. But in so doing it has been necessary for me to deal shortly with topics of great independent importance, and so risk the disfavor of those better skilled in these several matters. This is evidently true of the chapter which deals with natural science. But the problem which I there faced differed radically from those of the foregoing chapters, and the method of treatment is correspondingly different. In the case of natural science one has to deal with a body of knowledge which is frequently regarded as the only knowledge. To write a chapter about science from a philosophical stand-point is, in the present state of opinion, to undertake a polemic against exclusive naturalism, an attitude which is itself philosophical, and as such is well known in the history of philosophy as positivism or agnosticism. I have avoided the polemical spirit and method so far as possible, but have, nevertheless, here taken sides against a definite philosophical position. This chapter, together with the Conclusion, is therefore an exception to the purely introductory and expository representation which I have, on the whole, sought to give. The relatively great space accorded to the discussion of religion is, in my own belief, fair to the general interest in this topic, and to the intrinsic significance of its relation to philosophy.

I have in Part II undertaken to furnish the reader with a map of the country to which he has been led. To this end I have attempted a brief survey of the entire programme of philosophy. An accurate and full account of philosophical terms can be found in such books as Kuelpe's "Introduction to Philosophy" and Baldwin's "Dictionary of Philosophy," and an attempt to emulate their thoroughness would be superfluous, even if it were conformable to the general spirit of this book. The scope of Part II is due in part to a desire for brevity, but chiefly to the hope of furnishing an epitome that shall follow the course of the natural and historical differentiation of the general philosophical problem.

Finally, I have in Part III sought to present the tradition of philosophy in the form of general types. My purpose in undertaking so difficult a task is to acquaint the reader with philosophy in the concrete; to show how certain underlying principles may determine the whole circle of philosophical ideas, and give them unity and distinctive flavor. Part II offers a general classification of philosophical problems and conceptions independently of any special point of view. But I have in Part III sought to emphasize the point of view, or the internal consistency that makes a system of philosophy out of certain answers to the special problems of philosophy. In such a division into types, lines are of necessity drawn too sharply. There will be many historical philosophies that refuse to fit, and many possibilities unprovided for. I must leave it to the individual reader to overcome this abstractness through his own reflection upon the intermediate and variant stand-points.

Although the order is on the whole that of progressive complexity, I have sought to treat each chapter with independence enough to make it possible for it to be read separately; and I have provided a carefully selected bibliography in the hope that this book may serve as a stimulus and guide to the reading of other books.

The earlier chapters have already appeared as articles: Chapter I in the International Journal of Ethics, Vol. XIII, No. 4; Chapter II in the Philosophical Review, Vol. XI, No. 6; Chapter III in the Monist, Vol. XIV, No. 5; Chapter IV in the International Journal of Ethics, Vol. XV, No. 1; and some paragraphs of Chapter V in the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, Vol. I, No. 7. I am indebted to the editors of these periodicals for permission to reprint with minor changes.

In the writing of this, my first book, I have been often reminded that a higher critic, skilled in the study of internal evidence, could probably trace all of its ideas to suggestions that have come to me from my teachers and colleagues of the Department of Philosophy in Harvard University. I have unscrupulously forgotten what of their definite ideas I have adapted to my own use, but not that I received from them the major portion of my original philosophical capital. I am especially indebted to Professor William James for the inspiration and resources which I have received from his instruction and personal friendship.


CAMBRIDGE, March, 1905.


[vii:A] Edw. Caird: Literature and Philosophy, Vol. I, p. 207.





Sect. 1. Is Philosophy a Merely Academic Interest? 3 Sect. 2. Life as a Starting-point for Thought 4 Sect. 3. The Practical Knowledge of Means 8 Sect. 4. The Practical Knowledge of the End or Purpose 10 Sect. 5. The Philosophy of the Devotee, the Man of Affairs, and the Voluptuary 12 Sect. 6. The Adoption of Purposes and the Philosophy of Life 17


Sect. 7. Who is the Philosopher-Poet? 24 Sect. 8. Poetry as Appreciation 25 Sect. 9. Sincerity in Poetry. Whitman 27 Sect. 10. Constructive Knowledge in Poetry. Shakespeare 30 Sect. 11. Philosophy in Poetry. The World-view. Omar Khayyam 36 Sect. 12. Wordsworth 38 Sect. 13. Dante 42 Sect. 14. The Difference between Poetry and Philosophy 48


Sect. 15. The Possibility of Defining Religion 53 Sect. 16. The Profitableness of Defining Religion 54 Sect. 17. The True Method of Defining Religion 56 Sect. 18. Religion as Belief 59 Sect. 19. Religion as Belief in a Disposition or Attitude 62 Sect. 20. Religion as Belief in the Disposition of the Residual Environment, or Universe 64 Sect. 21. Examples of Religious Belief 66 Sect. 22. Typical Religious Phenomena. Conversion 69 Sect. 23. Piety 72 Sect. 24. Religious Instruments, Symbolism, and Modes of Conveyance 74 Sect. 25. Historical Types of Religion. Primitive Religions 77 Sect. 26. Buddhism 78 Sect. 27. Critical Religion 79


Sect. 28. Resume of Psychology of Religion 82 Sect. 29. Religion Means to be True 82 Sect. 30. Religion Means to be Practically True. God is a Disposition from which Consequences May Rationally be Expected 85 Sect. 31. Historical Examples of Religious Truth and Error. The Religion of Baal 88 Sect. 32. Greek Religion 89 Sect. 33. Judaism and Christianity 92 Sect. 34. The Cognitive Factor in Religion 96 Sect. 35. The Place of Imagination in Religion 97 Sect. 36. The Special Functions of the Religious Imagination 101 Sect. 37. The Relation between Imagination and Truth in Religion 105 Sect. 38. The Philosophy Implied in Religion and in Religions 108


Sect. 39. The True Relations of Philosophy and Science. Misconceptions and Antagonisms 114 Sect. 40. The Spheres of Philosophy and Science 117 Sect. 41. The Procedure of a Philosophy of Science 120 Sect. 42. The Origin of the Scientific Interest 123 Sect. 43. Skill as Free 123 Sect. 44. Skill as Social 126 Sect. 45. Science for Accommodation and Construction 127 Sect. 46. Method and Fundamental Conceptions of Natural Science. The Descriptive Method 128 Sect. 47. Space, Time, and Prediction 130 Sect. 48. The Quantitative Method 132 Sect. 49. The General Development of Science 134 Sect. 50. The Determination of the Limits of Natural Science 135 Sect. 51. Natural Science is Abstract 136 Sect. 52. The Meaning of Abstractness in Truth 139 Sect. 53. But Scientific Truth is Valid for Reality 142 Sect. 54. Relative Practical Value of Science and Philosophy 143




Sect. 55. The Impossibility of an Absolute Division of the Problem of Philosophy 149 Sect. 56. The Dependence of the Order of Philosophical Problems upon the Initial Interest 152 Sect. 57. Philosophy as the Interpretation of Life 152 Sect. 58. Philosophy as the Extension of Science 154 Sect. 59. The Historical Differentiation of the Philosophical Problem 155 Sect. 60. Metaphysics Seeks a Most Fundamental Conception 157 Sect. 61. Monism and Pluralism 159 Sect. 62. Ontology and Cosmology Concern Being and Process 159 Sect. 63. Mechanical and Teleological Cosmologies 160 Sect. 64. Dualism 162 Sect. 65. The New Meaning of Monism and Pluralism 163 Sect. 66. Epistemology Seeks to Understand the Possibility of Knowledge 164 Sect. 67. Scepticism, Dogmatism, and Agnosticism 166 Sect. 68. The Source and Criterion of Knowledge according to Empiricism and Rationalism. Mysticism 168 Sect. 69. The Relation of Knowledge to its Object according to Realism, and the Representative Theory 172 Sect. 70. The Relation of Knowledge to its Object according to Idealism 175 Sect. 71. Phenomenalism, Spiritualism, and Panpsychism 176 Sect. 72. Transcendentalism, or Absolute Idealism 177


Sect. 73. The Normative Sciences 180 Sect. 74. The Affiliations of Logic 182 Sect. 75. Logic Deals with the Most General Conditions of Truth in Belief 183 Sect. 76. The Parts of Formal Logic. Definition, Self-evidence, Inference, and Observation 184 Sect. 77. Present Tendencies. Theory of the Judgment 187 Sect. 78. Priority of Concepts 188 Sect. 79. Aesthetics Deals with the Most General Conditions of Beauty. Subjectivistic and Formalistic Tendencies 189 Sect. 80. Ethics Deals with the Most General Conditions of Moral Goodness 191 Sect. 81. Conceptions of the Good. Hedonism 191 Sect. 82. Rationalism 193 Sect. 83. Eudaemonism and Pietism. Rigorism and Intuitionism 194 Sect. 84. Duty and Freedom. Ethics and Metaphysics 196 Sect. 85. The Virtues, Customs, and Institutions 198 Sect. 86. The Problems of Religion. The Special Interests of Faith 199 Sect. 87. Theology Deals with the Nature and Proof of God 200 Sect. 88. The Ontological Proof of God 200 Sect. 89. The Cosmological Proof of God 203 Sect. 90. The Teleological Proof of God 204 Sect. 91. God and the World. Theism and Pantheism 205 Sect. 92. Deism 206 Sect. 93. Metaphysics and Theology 207 Sect. 94. Psychology is the Theory of the Soul 208 Sect. 95. Spiritual Substance 209 Sect. 96. Intellectualism and Voluntarism 210 Sect. 97. Freedom of the Will. Necessitarianism, Determinism, and Indeterminism 211 Sect. 98. Immortality. Survival and Eternalism 212 Sect. 99. The Natural Science of Psychology. Its Problems and Method 213 Sect. 100. Psychology and Philosophy 216 Sect. 101. Transition from Classification by Problems to Classification by Doctrines. Naturalism. Subjectivism. Absolute Idealism. Absolute Realism 217




Sect. 102. The General Meaning of Materialism 223 Sect. 103. Corporeal Being 224 Sect. 104. Corporeal Processes. Hylozoism and Mechanism 225 Sect. 105. Materialism and Physical Science 228 Sect. 106. The Development of the Conceptions of Physical Science. Space and Matter 228 Sect. 107. Motion and its Cause. Development and Extension of the Conception of Force 231 Sect. 108. The Development and Extension of the Conception of Energy 236 Sect. 109. The Claims of Naturalism 239 Sect. 110. The Task of Naturalism 241 Sect. 111. The Origin of the Cosmos 242 Sect. 112. Life. Natural Selection 244 Sect. 113. Mechanical Physiology 246 Sect. 114. Mind. The Reduction to Sensation 247 Sect. 115. Automatism 248 Sect. 116. Radical Materialism. Mind as an Epiphenomenon 250 Sect. 117. Knowledge. Positivism and Agnosticism 252 Sect. 118. Experimentalism 255 Sect. 119. Naturalistic Epistemology not Systematic 256 Sect. 120. General Ethical Stand-point 258 Sect. 121. Cynicism and Cyrenaicism 259 Sect. 122. Development of Utilitarianism. Evolutionary Conception of Social Relations 260 Sect. 123. Naturalistic Ethics not Systematic 262 Sect. 124. Naturalism as Antagonistic to Religion 263 Sect. 125. Naturalism as the Basis for a Religion of Service, Wonder, and Renunciation 265


Sect. 126. Subjectivism Originally Associated with Relativism and Scepticism 267 Sect. 127. Phenomenalism and Spiritualism 271 Sect. 128. Phenomenalism as Maintained by Berkeley. The Problem Inherited from Descartes and Locke 272 Sect. 129. The Refutation of Material Substance 275 Sect. 130. The Application of the Epistemological Principle 277 Sect. 131. The Refutation of a Conceived Corporeal World 278 Sect. 132. The Transition to Spiritualism 280 Sect. 133. Further Attempts to Maintain Phenomenalism 281 Sect. 134. Berkeley's Spiritualism. Immediate Knowledge of the Perceiver 284 Sect. 135. Schopenhauer's Spiritualism, or Voluntarism. Immediate Knowledge of the Will 285 Sect. 136. Panpsychism 287 Sect. 137. The Inherent Difficulty in Spiritualism. No Provision for Objective Knowledge 288 Sect. 138. Schopenhauer's Attempt to Universalize Subjectivism. Mysticism 290 Sect. 139. Objective Spiritualism 292 Sect. 140. Berkeley's Conception of God as Cause, Goodness, and Order 293 Sect. 141. The General Tendency of Subjectivism to Transcend Itself 297 Sect. 142. Ethical Theories. Relativism 298 Sect. 143. Pessimism and Self-denial 299 Sect. 144. The Ethics of Welfare 300 Sect. 145. The Ethical Community 302 Sect. 146. The Religion of Mysticism 303 Sect. 147. The Religion of Individual Cooperation with God 304


Sect. 148. The Philosopher's Task, and the Philosopher's Object, or the Absolute 306 Sect. 149. The Eleatic Conception of Being 309 Sect. 150. Spinoza's Conception of Substance 311 Sect. 151. Spinoza's Proof of God, the Infinite Substance. The Modes and the Attributes 312 Sect. 152. The Limits of Spinoza's Argument for God 315 Sect. 153. Spinoza's Provision for the Finite 317 Sect. 154. Transition to Teleological Conceptions 317 Sect. 155. Early Greek Philosophers not Self-critical 319 Sect. 156. Curtailment of Philosophy in the Age of the Sophists 319 Sect. 157. Socrates and the Self-criticism of the Philosopher 321 Sect. 158. Socrates's Self-criticism a Prophecy of Truth 323 Sect. 159. The Historical Preparation for Plato 324 Sect. 160. Platonism: Reality as the Absolute Ideal or Good 326 Sect. 161. The Progression of Experience toward God 329 Sect. 162. Aristotle's Hierarchy of Substances in Relation to Platonism 332 Sect. 163. The Aristotelian Philosophy as a Reconciliation of Platonism and Spinozism 335 Sect. 164. Leibniz's Application of the Conception of Development to the Problem of Imperfection 336 Sect. 165. The Problem of Imperfection Remains Unsolved 338 Sect. 166. Absolute Realism in Epistemology. Rationalism 339 Sect. 167. The Relation of Thought and its Object in Absolute Realism 340 Sect. 168. The Stoic and Spinozistic Ethics of Necessity 342 Sect. 169. The Platonic Ethics of Perfection 344 Sect. 170. The Religion of Fulfilment and the Religion of Renunciation 346


Sect. 171. General Constructive Character of Absolute Idealism 349 Sect. 172. The Great Outstanding Problems of Absolutism 351 Sect. 173. The Greek Philosophers and the Problem of Evil. The Task of the New Absolutism 352 Sect. 174. The Beginning of Absolute Idealism in Kant's Analysis of Experience 354 Sect. 175. Kant's Principles Restricted to the Experiences which they Set in Order 356 Sect. 176. The Post-Kantian Metaphysics is a Generalization of the Cognitive and Moral Consciousness as Analyzed by Kant. The Absolute Spirit 358 Sect. 177. Fichteanism, or the Absolute Spirit as Moral Activity 360 Sect. 178. Romanticism, or the Absolute Spirit as Sentiment 361 Sect. 179. Hegelianism, or the Absolute Spirit as Dialectic 361 Sect. 180. The Hegelian Philosophy of Nature and History 363 Sect. 181. Resume. Failure of Absolute Idealism to Solve the Problem of Evil 365 Sect. 182. The Constructive Argument for Absolute Idealism is Based upon the Subjectivistic Theory of Knowledge 368 Sect. 183. The Principle of Subjectivism Extended to Reason 371 Sect. 184. Emphasis on Self-consciousness in Early Christian Philosophy 372 Sect. 185. Descartes's Argument for the Independence of the Thinking Self 374 Sect. 186. Empirical Reaction of the English Philosophers 376 Sect. 187. To Save Exact Science Kant Makes it Dependent on Mind 377 Sect. 188. The Post-Kantians Transform Kant's Mind-in-general into an Absolute Mind 380 Sect. 189. The Direct Argument. The Inference from the Finite Mind to the Infinite Mind 382 Sect. 190. The Realistic Tendency in Absolute Idealism 385 Sect. 191. The Conception of Self-consciousness Central in the Ethics of Absolute Idealism. Kant 386 Sect. 192. Kantian Ethics Supplemented through the Conceptions of Universal and Objective Spirit 388 Sect. 193. The Peculiar Pantheism and Mysticism of Absolute Idealism 390 Sect. 194. The Religion of Exuberant Spirituality 393


Sect. 195. Liability of Philosophy to Revision Due to its Systematic Character 395 Sect. 196. The One Science and the Many Philosophies 396 Sect. 197. Progress in Philosophy. The Sophistication or Eclecticism of the Present Age 398 Sect. 198. Metaphysics. The Antagonistic Doctrines of Naturalism and Absolutism 399 Sect. 199. Concessions from the Side of Absolutism. Recognition of Nature. The Neo-Fichteans 401 Sect. 200. The Neo-Kantians 403 Sect. 201. Recognition of the Individual. Personal Idealism 404 Sect. 202. Concessions from the Side of Naturalism. Recognition of Fundamental Principles 405 Sect. 203. Recognition of the Will. Pragmatism 407 Sect. 204. Summary and Transition to Epistemology 408 Sect. 205. The Antagonistic Doctrines of Realism and Idealism. Realistic Tendency in Empirical Idealism 409 Sect. 206. Realistic Tendency in Absolute Idealism. The Conception of Experience 410 Sect. 207. Idealistic Tendencies in Realism. The Immanence Philosophy 412 Sect. 208. The Interpretation of Tradition as the Basis for a New Construction 413 Sect. 209. The Truth of the Physical System, but Failure of Attempt to Reduce all Experience to it 414 Sect. 210. Truth of Psychical Relations but Impossibility of General Reduction to them 415 Sect. 211. Truth of Logical and Ethical Principles. Validity of Ideal of Perfection, but Impossibility of Deducing the Whole of Experience from it 415 Sect. 212. Error and Evil cannot be Reduced to the Ideal 417 Sect. 213. Collective Character of the Universe as a Whole 419 Sect. 214. Moral Implications of Such Pluralistic Philosophy. Purity of the Good 420 Sect. 215. The Incentive to Goodness 422 Sect. 216. The Justification of Faith 423 Sect. 217. The Worship and Service of God 425 Sect. 218. The Philosopher and the Standards of the Market-Place 425 Sect. 219. The Secularism of the Present Age 427 Sect. 220. The Value of Contemplation for Life 428







[Sidenote: Is Philosophy a Merely Academic Interest?]

Sect. 1. Philosophy suffers the distinction of being regarded as essentially an academic pursuit. The term philosophy, to be sure, is used in common speech to denote a stoical manner of accepting the vicissitudes of life; but this conception sheds little or no light upon the meaning of philosophy as a branch of scholarship. The men who write the books on "Epistemology" or "Ontology," are regarded by the average man of affairs, even though he may have enjoyed a "higher education," with little sympathy and less intelligence. Not even philology seems less concerned with the real business of life. The pursuit of philosophy appears to be a phenomenon of extreme and somewhat effete culture, with its own peculiar traditions, problems, and aims, and with little or nothing to contribute to the real enterprises of society. It is easy to prove to the satisfaction of the philosopher that such a view is radically mistaken. But it is another and more serious matter to bridge over the very real gap that separates philosophy and common-sense. Such an aim is realized only when philosophy is seen to issue from some special interest that is humanly important; or when, after starting in thought at a point where one deals with ideas and interests common to all, one is led by the inevitableness of consistent thinking into the sphere of philosophy.

[Sidenote: Life as a Starting-point for Thought.]

Sect. 2. There is but one starting-point for reflection when all men are invited to share in it. Though there be a great many special platforms where special groups of men may take their stand together, there is only one platform broad enough for all. This universal stand-point, or common platform, is life. It is our more definite thesis, then, that philosophy, even to its most abstruse technicality, is rooted in life; and that it is inseparably bound up with the satisfaction of practical needs, and the solution of practical problems.

Every man knows what it is to live, and his immediate experience will verify those features of the adventure that stand out conspicuously. To begin with, life is our birthright. We did not ask for it, but when we grew old enough to be self-conscious we found ourselves in possession of it. Nor is it a gift to be neglected, even if we had the will. As is true of no other gift of nature, we must use it, or cease to be. There is a unique urgency about life. But we have already implied more, in so far as we have said that it must be used, and have thereby referred to some form of movement or activity as its inseparable attribute. To live is to find one's self compelled to do something. To do something—there is another implication of life: some outer expression, some medium in which to register the degree and form of its activity. Such we recognize as the environment of life, the real objects among which it is placed; which it may change, or from which it may suffer change. Not only do we find our lives as unsolicited active powers, but find, as well, an arena prescribed for their exercise. That we shall act, and in a certain time and place, and with reference to certain other realities, this is the general condition of things that is encountered when each one of us discovers life. In short, to live means to be compelled to do something under certain circumstances.

There is another very common aspect of life that would not at first glance seem worthy of mention. Not only does life, as we have just described it, mean opportunity, but it means self-conscious opportunity. The facts are such as we have found them to be, and as each one of us has previously found them for himself. But when we discover life for ourselves, we who make the discovery, and we who live, are identical. From that moment we both live, and know that we live. Moreover, such is the essential unity of our natures that our living must now express our knowing, and our knowing guide and illuminate our living. Consider the allegory of the centipede. From the beginning of time he had manipulated his countless legs with exquisite precision. Men had regarded him with wonder and amazement. But he was innocent of his own art, being a contrivance of nature, perfectly constructed to do her bidding. One day the centipede discovered life. He discovered himself as one who walks, and the newly awakened intelligence, first observing, then foreseeing, at length began to direct the process. And from that moment the centipede, because he could not remember the proper order of his going, lost all his former skill, and became the poor clumsy victim of his own self-consciousness. This same self-consciousness is the inconvenience and the great glory of human life. We must stumble along as best we can, guided by the feeble light of our own little intelligence. If nature starts us on our way, she soon hands over the torch, and bids us find the trail for ourselves. Most men are brave enough to regard this as the best thing of all; some despair on account of it. In either case it is admittedly the true story of human life. We must live as separate selves, observing, foreseeing, and planning. There are two things that we can do about it. We can repudiate our natures, decline the responsibility, and degenerate to the level of those animals that never had our chance; or we can leap joyously to the helm, and with all the strength and wisdom in us guide our lives to their destination. But if we do the former, we shall be unable to forget what might have been, and shall be haunted by a sense of ignominy; and if we do the second, we shall experience the unique happiness of fulfilment and self-realization.

Life, then, is a situation that appeals to intelligent activity. Humanly speaking, there is no such thing as a situation that is not at the same time a theory. As we live we are all theorists. Whoever has any misgivings as to the practical value of theory, let him remember that, speaking generally of human life, it is true to say that there is no practice that does not issue at length from reflection. That which is the commonest experience of mankind is the conjunction of these two, the thought and the deed. And as surely as we are all practical theorists, so surely is philosophy the outcome of the broadening and deepening of practical theory. But to understand how the practical man becomes the philosopher, we must inquire somewhat more carefully into the manner of his thought about life.

[Sidenote: The Practical Knowledge of Means.]

Sect. 3. Let anyone inspect the last moment in his life, and in all probability he will find that his mind was employed to discover the means to some end. He was already bent upon some definite achievement, and was thoughtful for the sake of selecting the economical and effectual way. His theory made his practice skilful. So through life his knowledge shows him how to work his will. Example, experience, and books have taught him the uses of nature and society, and in his thoughtful living he is enabled to reach the goal he has set for the next hour, day, or year of his activity. The long periods of human life are spent in elaborating the means to some unquestioned end. Here one meets the curious truth that we wake up in the middle of life, already making headway, and under the guidance of some invisible steersman. When first we take the business of life seriously, there is a considerable stock in trade in the shape of habits, and inclinations to all sorts of things that we never consciously elected to pursue. Since we do not begin at the beginning, our first problem is to accommodate ourselves to ourselves, and our first deliberate acts are in fulfilment of plans outlined by some predecessor that has already spoken for us. The same thing is true of the race of men. At a certain stage in their development men found themselves engaged in all manner of ritual and custom, and burdened with concerns that were not of their own choosing. They were burning incense, keeping festivals, and naming names, all of which they must now proceed to justify with myth and legend, in order to render intelligible to themselves the deliberate and self-conscious repetition of them. Even so much justification was left to the few, and the great majority continued to seek that good which social usage countenanced and individual predisposition confirmed. So every man of us acts from day to day for love's sake, or wealth's sake, or power's sake, or for the sake of some near and tangible object; reflecting only for the greater efficiency of his endeavor.

[Sidenote: The Practical Knowledge of the End or Purpose.]

Sect. 4. But if this be the common manner of thinking about life, it does not represent the whole of such thought. Nor does it follow that because it occupies us so much, it is therefore correspondingly fundamental. Like the myth makers of old, we all want more or less to know the reason of our ends. Here, then, we meet with a somewhat different type of reflection upon life, the reflection that underlies the adoption of a life purpose. It is obvious that most ends are selected for the sake of other ends, and so are virtually means. Thus one may struggle for years to secure a college education. This definite end has been adopted for the sake of a somewhat more indefinite end of self-advancement, and from it there issues a whole series of minor ends, which form a hierarchy of steps ascending to the highest goal of aspiration. Now upon the face of things we live very unsystematic lives, and yet were we to examine ourselves in this fashion, we should all find our lives to be marvels of organization. Their growth, as we have seen, began before we were conscious of it; and we are commonly so absorbed in some particular flower or fruit that we forget the roots, and the design of the whole. But a little reflection reveals a remarkable unitary adjustment of parts. The unity is due to the dominance of a group of central purposes. Judged from the stand-point of experience, it seems bitter irony to say that everyone gets from life just what he wishes. But a candid searching of our own hearts will incline us to admit that, after all, the way we go and the length we go is determined pretty much by the kind and the intensity of our secret longing. That for which in the time of choice we are willing to sacrifice all else, is the formula that defines the law of each individual life. All this is not intended to mean that we have each named a clear and definite ideal which is our chosen goal. On the contrary, such a conception may be almost meaningless to some of us. In general the higher the ideal the vaguer and less vivid is its presentation to our consciousness. But, named or unnamed, sharp or blurred, vivid or half-forgotten, there may be found in the heart of every man that which of all things he wants to be, that which of all deeds he wants to do. If he has had the normal youth of dreaming, he has seen it, and warmed to the picture of his imagination; if he has been somewhat more thoughtful than the ordinary, his reason has defined it, and adopted it for his vocation; if neither, it has been present as an undertone throughout the rendering of his more inevitable life. He will recognize it when it is named as the desire to do the will of God, or to have as good a time as possible, or to make other people as happy as possible, or to be equal to his responsibilities, or to fulfil the expectation of his mother, or to be distinguished, wealthy, or influential. This list of ideals is miscellaneous, and ethically reducible to more fundamental concepts, but these are the terms in which men are ordinarily conscious of their most intimate purposes. We must now inquire respecting the nature of the thought that determines the selection of such a purpose, or justifies it when it has been unconsciously accepted.

[Sidenote: The Philosophy of the Devotee, the Man of Affairs, and the Voluptuary.]

Sect. 5. What is most worth while? So far as human action is concerned this obviously depends upon what is possible, upon what is expected of us by our own natures, and upon what interests and concerns are conserved by the trend of events in our environment. What I had best do, presupposes what I have the strength and the skill to do, what I feel called upon to do, and what are the great causes that are entitled to promotion at my hands. It seems that practically we cannot separate the ideal from the real. We may feel that the highest ideal is an immediate utterance of conscience, as mysterious in origin as it is authoritative in expression. We may be willing to defy the universe, and expatriate ourselves from our natural and social environment, for the sake of the holy law of duty. Such men as Count Tolstoi have little to say of the possible, or the expedient, or the actual, and are satisfied to stand almost alone against the brutal facts of usage and economy. We all have a secret sense of chivalry, that prompts, however ineffectually, to a like devotion. But that which in such moral purposes appears to indicate a severance of the ideal and the real, is, if we will but stop to consider, only a severance of the ideal and the apparent. The martyr is more sure of reality than the adventurer. He is convinced that though his contemporaries and his environment be against him; the fundamental or eventual order of things is for him. He believes in a spiritual world more abiding, albeit less obvious, than the material world. Though every temporal event contradict him, he lives in the certainty that eternity is his. Such an one may have found his ideal in the voice of God and His prophets, or he may have been led to God as the justification of his irresistible ideal; but in either case the selection of his ideal is reasonable to him in so far as it is harmonious with the ultimate nature of things, or stands for the promise of reality. In this wise, thought about life expands into some conception of the deeper forces of the world, and life itself, in respect of its fundamental attachment to an ideal, implies some belief concerning the fundamental nature of its environment.

But lest in this account life be credited with too much gravity and import, or it seem to be assumed that life is all knight-errantry, let us turn to our less quixotic, and perhaps more effectual, man of affairs. He works for his daily bread, and for success in his vocation. He has selected his vocation for its promise of return in the form of wealth, comfort, fame, or influence. He likewise performs such additional service to his family and his community as is demanded of him by public opinion and his own sense of responsibility. He may have a certain contempt for the man who sees visions. This may be his manner of testifying to his own preference for the ideal of usefulness and immediate efficiency. But even so he would never for an instant admit that he was pursuing a merely conventional good. He may be largely imitative in his standards of value, recognizing such aims as are common to some time or race; nevertheless none would be more sure than he of the truth of his ideal. Question him, and he will maintain that his is the reasonable life under the conditions of human existence. He may maintain that if there be a God, he can best serve Him by promoting the tangible welfare of himself and those dependent upon him. He may maintain that, since there is no God, he must win such rewards as the world can give. If he have something of the heroic in him, he may tell you that, since there is no God, he will labor to the uttermost for his fellow-men. Where he has not solved the problem of life for himself, he may believe himself to be obeying the insight of some one wiser than himself, or of society as expressed in its customs and institutions. But no man ever admitted that his life was purely a matter of expediency, or that in his dominant ideal he was the victim of chance. In the background of the busiest and most preoccupied life of affairs, there dwells the conviction that such living is appropriate to the universe; that it is called for by the circumstances of its origin, opportunities, and destiny.

Finally, the man who makes light of life has of all men the most transparent inner consciousness. In him may be clearly observed the relation between the ideal and the reflection that is assumed to justify it.

"A Moment's Halt—a momentary taste Of Being from the Well amid the Waste— And Lo!—the phantom Caravan has reach'd The Nothing it set out from— . . ."

"We are no other than a moving row Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go Round with the Sun-illumin'd Lantern held In Midnight by the Master of the Show."

Where the setting of life is construed in these terms, there is but one natural and appropriate manner of life. Once believing in the isolation and insignificance of life, one is sceptical of all worth save such as may be tasted in the moment of its purchase. If one's ideas and experiences are no concern of the world's, but incidents of a purely local and transient interest, they will realize most when they realize an immediate gratification. Where one does not believe that he is a member of the universe, and a contributor to its ends, he does well to minimize the friction that arises from its accidental propinquity, and to kindle some little fire of enjoyment in his own lonely heart. This is the life of abandonment to pleasure, accompanied by the conviction that the conditions of life warrant no more strenuous or heroic plan.

[Sidenote: The Adoption of Purposes and the Philosophy of Life.]

Sect. 6. In such wise do we adopt the life purpose, or justify it when unconsciously adopted. The pursuit of an ideal implies a belief in its effectuality. Such a belief will invariably appear when the groundwork of the daily living is laid bare by a little reflection. And if our analysis has not been in error, there is something more definite to be obtained from it. We all believe in the practical wisdom of our fundamental ideals; but we believe, besides, that such wisdom involves the sanction of the universe as a whole. The momentousness of an individual's life will be satisfied with nothing less final than an absolutely wise disposition of it. For every individual, his life is all his power and riches, and is not to be spent save for the greatest good that he can reasonably pursue. But the solution of such a problem is not to be obtained short of a searching of entire reality. Every life will represent more or less of such wisdom and enlightenment; and in the end the best selection of ideal will denote the greatest wealth of experience. It is not always true that he who has seen more will live more wisely, for in an individual case instinct or authority may be better sources of aspiration than experience. But we trust instinct and authority because we believe them to represent a comprehensive experience on the part of the race as a whole, or on the part of God. He whose knowledge is broadest and truest would know best what is finally worth living for. On this account, most men can see no more reasonable plan of life than obedience to God's will, for God in the abundance of his wisdom, and since all eternity is plain before him, must see with certainty that which is supremely worthy.

We mean, then, that the selection of our ideals shall be determined by the largest possible knowledge of the facts pertaining to life. We mean to select as one would select who knew all about the antecedents and surroundings and remote consequences of life. In our own weakness and finitude we may go but a little way in the direction of such an insight, and may prefer to accept the judgment of tradition or authority, but we recognize a distinct type of knowledge as alone worthy to justify an individual's adoption of an ideal. That type of knowledge is the knowledge that comprehends the universe in its totality. Such knowledge does not involve completeness of information respecting all parts of reality. This, humanly speaking, is both unattainable and inconceivable. It involves rather a conception of the kind of reality that is fundamental. For a wise purpose it is unnecessary that we should know many matters of fact, or even specific laws, provided we are convinced of the inner and essential character of the universe. Some of the alternatives are matters of every-day thought and speech. One cannot tell the simplest story of human life without disclosing them. To live the human life means to pursue ideals, that is, to have a thing in mind, and then to try to accomplish it. Here is one kind of reality and power. The planetary system, on the other hand, does not pursue ideals, but moves unconscious of itself, with a mechanical precision that can be expressed in a mathematical formula; and is representative of another kind of reality and power. Hence a very common and a very practical question: Is there an underlying law, like the law of gravitation, fundamentally and permanently governing life, in spite of its apparent direction by ideal and aspiration? Or is there an underlying power, like purpose, fundamentally and permanently governing the planetary system and all celestial worlds, in spite of the apparent control of blind and irresistible forces? This is a practical question because nothing could be more pertinent to our choice of ideals. Nothing could make more difference to life than a belief in the life or lifelessness of its environment. The faiths that generate or confirm our ideals always refer to this great issue. And this is but one, albeit the most profound, of the many issues that arise from the desire to obtain some conviction of the inner and essential character of life. Though so intimately connected with practical concerns, these issues are primarily the business of thought. In grappling with them, thought is called upon for its greatest comprehensiveness, penetration, and self-consistency. By the necessity of concentration, thought is sometimes led to forget its origin and the source of its problems. But in naming itself philosophy, thought has only recognized the definiteness and earnestness of its largest task. Philosophy is still thought about life, representing but the deepening and broadening of the common practical thoughtfulness.

We who began together at the starting-point of life, have now entered together the haven of philosophy. It is not a final haven, but only the point of departure for the field of philosophy proper. Nevertheless that field is now in the plain view of the man who occupies the practical stand-point. He must recognize in philosophy a kind of reflection that differs only in extent and persistence from the reflection that guides and justifies his life. He may not consciously identify himself with any one of the three general groups which have been characterized. But if he is neither an idealist, nor a philistine, nor a pleasure lover, surely he is compounded of such elements, and does not escape their implications. He desires something most of all, even though his highest ideal be only an inference from the gradation of his immediate purposes. This highest ideal represents what he conceives to be the greatest worth or value attainable in the universe, and its adoption is based upon the largest generalization that he can make or borrow. The complete justification of his ideal would involve a true knowledge of the essential character of the universe. For such knowledge he substitutes either authority or his own imperfect insight. But in either case his life is naturally and organically correlated with a thought about the universe in its totality, or in its deepest and essential character. Such thought, the activity and its results, is philosophy. Hence he who lives is, ipso facto, a philosopher. He is not only a potential philosopher, but a partial philosopher. He has already begun to be a philosopher. Between the fitful or prudential thinking of some little man of affairs, and the sustained thought of the devoted lover of truth, there is indeed a long journey, but it is a straight journey along the same road. Philosophy is neither accidental nor supernatural, but inevitable and normal. Philosophy is not properly a vocation, but the ground and inspiration of all vocations. In the hands of its devotees it grows technical and complex, as do all efforts of thought, and to pursue philosophy bravely and faithfully is to encounter obstacles and labyrinths innumerable. The general problem of philosophy is mother of a whole brood of problems, little and great. But whether we be numbered among its devotees, or their beneficiaries, an equal significance attaches to the truth that philosophy is continuous with life.



[Sidenote: Who is the Philosopher-Poet?]

Sect. 7. As the ultimate criticism of all human interests, philosophy may be approached by avenues as various as these interests. Only when philosophy is discovered as the implication of well-recognized special interests, is the significance of its function fully appreciated. For the sake of such a further understanding of philosophy, those who find either inspiration or entertainment in poetry are invited in the present chapter to consider certain of the relations between poetry and philosophy.

We must at the very outset decline to accept unqualifiedly the poet's opinion in the matter, for he would not think it presumptuous to incorporate philosophy in poetry. "No man," said Coleridge, "was ever yet a great poet without being at the same time a great philosopher." This would seem to mean that a great poet is a great philosopher, and more too. We shall do better to begin with the prosaic and matter of fact minimum of truth: some poetry is philosophical. This will enable us to search for the portion of philosophy that is in some poetry, without finally defining their respective boundaries. It may be that all true poetry is philosophical, as it may be that all true philosophy is poetical; but it is much more certain that much actual poetry is far from philosophical, and that most actual philosophy was not conceived or written by a poet. The mere poet and the mere philosopher must be tolerated, if it be only for the purpose of shedding light upon the philosopher-poet and the poet-philosopher. And it is to the philosopher-poet that we turn, in the hope that under the genial spell of poetry we may be brought with understanding to the more forbidding land of philosophy.

[Sidenote: Poetry as Appreciation.]

Sect. 8. Poetry is well characterized, though not defined, as an interpretation of life. The term "life" here signifies the human purposive consciousness, and active pursuit of ends. An interpretation of life is, then, a selection and account of such values in human experience as are actually sought or are worth the seeking. For the poet all things are good or bad, and never only matters of fact. He is neither an annalist nor a statistician, and is even an observer only for the sake of a higher design. He is one who appreciates, and expresses his appreciation so fittingly that it becomes a kind of truth, and a permanently communicable object. That "unbodied joy," the skylark's song and flight, is through the genius of Shelley so faithfully embodied, that it may enter as a definite joy into the lives of countless human beings. The sensuous or suggestive values of nature are caught by the poet's quick feeling for beauty, and fixed by his creative activity. Or with his ready sympathy he may perceive the value of some human ideal or mastering passion, and make it a reality for our common feeling. Where the poet has to do with the base and hateful, his attitude is still appreciative. The evil is apprehended as part of a dramatic whole having positive moral or aesthetic value. Moral ideas may appear in both poetry and life as the inspiration and justification of struggle. Where there is no conception of its moral significance, the repulsive possesses for the poet's consciousness the aesthetic value of diversity and contrast. Even where the evil and ugly is isolated, as in certain of Browning's dramatic monologues, it forms, both for the poet and the reader, but a part of some larger perception of life or character, which is sublime or beautiful or good. Poetry involves, then, the discovery and presentation of human experiences that are satisfying and appealing. It is a language for human pleasures and ideals. Poetry is without doubt a great deal more than this, and only after a careful analysis of its peculiar language could one distinguish it from kindred arts; but it will suffice for our purposes to characterize and not differentiate. Starting from this most general truth respecting poetry, we may now look for that aspect of it whereby it may be a witness of philosophical truth.

[Sidenote: Sincerity in Poetry. Whitman.]

Sect. 9. For the answer to our question, we must turn to an examination of the intellectual elements of poetry. In the first place, the common demand that the poet shall be accurate in his representations is suggestive of an indispensable intellectual factor in his genius. As we have seen, he is not to reproduce nature, but the human appreciative experience of nature. Nevertheless, he must even here be true to his object. His art involves his ability to express genuinely and sincerely what he himself experiences in the presence of nature, or what he can catch of the inner lives of others by virtue of his intelligent sympathy. No amount of emotion or even of imagination will profit a poet, unless he can render a true account of them. To be sure, he need not define, or even explain; for it is his function to transfer the immediate qualities of experience: but he must be able to speak the truth, and, in order to speak it, he must have known it. In all this, however, we have made no demand that the poet should see more than one thing at a time. Sincerity of expression does not require what is distinctly another mode of intelligence, comprehensiveness of view. It is easier, and accordingly more usual, to render an account of the moments and casual units of experience, than of its totality. There are poets, little and great, who possess the intellectual virtue of sincerity, without the intellectual power of synthesis and reconciliation. This distinction will enable us to separate the intelligence exhibited in all poetry, from that distinct form of intelligence exhibited in such poetry as is properly to be called philosophical.

The "barbarian" in poetry has recently been defined as "the man who regards his passions as their own excuse for being; who does not domesticate them either by understanding their cause or by conceiving their ideal goal."[28:1] One will readily appreciate the application of this definition to Walt Whitman. What little unity there is in this poet's world, is the composition of a purely sensuous experience,

"The earth expending right hand and left hand, The picture alive, every part in its best light, The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted."

In many passages Whitman manifests a marvellous ability to discover and communicate a fresh gladness about the commonest experiences. We cannot but rejoice with him in all sights and sounds. But though we cannot deny him truth, his truth is honesty and not understanding. The experiences in which he discovers so much worth, are random and capricious, and do not constitute a universe. To the solution of ultimate questions he contributes a sense of mystery, and the conviction

"That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."

His world is justly described by the writer just quoted as "a phantasmagoria of continuous visions, vivid, impressive, but monotonous and hard to distinguish in memory, like the waves of the sea or the decorations of some barbarous temple, sublime only by the infinite aggregation of parts."[30:2]

As is Walt Whitman, so are many poets greater and less. Some who have seen the world-view, exhibit the same particularism in their lyric moods; although, generally speaking, a poet who once has comprehended the world, will see the parts of it in the light of that wisdom. But Walt Whitman is peculiarly representative of the poetry that can be true, without being wise in the manner that we shall come shortly to understand as the manner of philosophy. He is as desultory in his poet raptures as is the common man when he lives in his immediate experiences. The truth won by each is the clear vision of one thing, or of a limited collection of things, and not the broad inclusive vision of all things.

[Sidenote: Constructive Knowledge in Poetry. Shakespeare.]

Sect. 10. The transition from Whitman to Shakespeare may seem somewhat abrupt, but the very differences between these poets serve to mark out an interesting affinity. Neither has put any unitary construction upon human life and its environment. Neither, as poet, is the witness of any world-view; which will mean for us that neither is a philosopher-poet. As respects Shakespeare, this is a hard saying. We are accustomed to the critical judgment that finds in the Shakespearian dramas an apprehension of the universal in human life. But though this judgment is true, it is by no means conclusive as respects Shakespeare's relation to the philosophical type of thought. For there can be universality without philosophy. Thus, to know the groups and the marks of the vertebrates is to know a truth which possesses generality, in contradistinction to the particularism of Whitman's poetic consciousness. Even so to know well the groups and marks of human character, vertebrate and invertebrate, is to know that of which the average man, in his hand to hand struggle with life, is ignorant. Such a wisdom Shakespeare possessed to a unique degree, and it enabled him to reconstruct human life. He did not merely perceive human states and motives, but he understood human nature so well that he could create consistent men and women. Moreover, Shakespeare's knowledge was not only thus universal in being a knowledge of general groups and laws, but also in respect of its extensity. His understanding was as rich as it was acute. It is true, then, that Shakespeare read human life as an open book, knowing certainly the manner of human thinking and feeling, and the power and interplay of human motives. But it is equally true, on the other hand, that he possessed no unitary conception of the meaning and larger relations of human life. Such a conception might have been expressed either by means of the outlook of some dominating and persistent type of personality, or by a pervading suggestion of some constant world-setting for the variable enterprise of mankind. It could appear only provided the poet's appreciation of life in detail were determined by an interpretation of the meaning of life as a whole. Shakespeare apparently possessed no such interpretation. Even when Hamlet is groping after some larger truth that may bear upon the definite problems of life, he represents but one, and that a strange and unusual, type of human nature. And Hamlet's reflections, it should be noted, have no outcome. There is no Shakespearian answer to the riddles that Hamlet propounds. The poet's genius is not less amazing for this fact; indeed, his peculiar distinction can only be comprehended upon this basis. Shakespeare put no construction upon life, and by virtue of this very reserve accomplished an art of surpassing fidelity and vividness. The absence of philosophy in Shakespeare, and the presence of the most characteristic quality of his genius, may both be imputed by the one affirmation, that there is no Shakespearian point of view.

This truth signifies both gain and loss. The philosophical criticism of life may vary from the ideal objectivity of absolute truth, to the subjectivity of a personal religion. Philosophy aims to correct the partiality of particular points of view by means of a point of view that shall comprehend their relations, and effect such reconciliations or transformations as shall enable them to constitute a universe. Philosophy always assumes the hypothetical view of omniscience. The necessity of such a final criticism is implicit in every scientific item of knowledge, and in every judgment that is passed upon life. Philosophy makes a distinct and peculiar contribution to human knowledge by its heroic effort to measure all knowledges and all ideals by the standard of totality. Nevertheless it is significant that no human individual can possibly possess the range of omniscience. The most adequate knowledge of which any generation of men is capable, will always be that which is conceived by the most synthetic and vigorously metaphysical minds; but every individual philosophy will nevertheless be a premature synthesis. The effort to complete knowledge is the indispensable test of the adequacy of prevailing conceptions, but the completed knowledge of any individual mind will shortly become an historical monument. It will belong primarily to the personal life of its creator, as the articulation of his personal covenant with the universe. There is a sound justification for such a conclusion of things in the case of the individual, for the conditions of human life make it inevitable; but it will always possess a felt unity, and many distinct features, that are private and subjective. Now such a projection of personality, with its coloring and its selection, Shakespeare has avoided; and very largely as a consequence, his dramas are a storehouse of genuine human nature. Ambition, mercy, hate, madness, guilelessness, conventionality, mirth, bravery, deceit, purity—these, and all human states and attributes save piety, are upon his pages as real, and as mysterious withal, as they are in the great historical society. For an ordinary reader, these states and attributes are more real in Hamlet or Lear than in his own direct experience, because in Hamlet and Lear he can see them with the eye and intelligence of genius. But Shakespeare is the world all over again, and there is loss as well as gain in such realism. Here is human life, no doubt, and a brilliant pageantry it is; but human life as varied and as problematic as it is in the living. Shakespeare's fundamental intellectual resource is the historical and psychological knowledge of such principles as govern the construction of human natures. The goods for which men undertake, and live or die, are any goods, justified only by the actual human striving for them. The virtues are the old winning virtues of the secular life, and the heroisms of the common conscience. Beyond its empirical generality, his knowledge is universal only in the sense that space and time are universal. His consciousness contains its representative creations, and expresses them unspoiled by any transforming thought. His poetic consciousness is like the very stage to which he likens all the world: men and women meet there, and things happen there. The stage itself creates no unity save the occasion and the place. Shakespeare's consciousness is universal because it is a fair field with no favors. But even so it is particular, because, though each may enter and depart in peace, when all enter together there is anarchy and a babel of voices. All Shakespeare is like all the world seen through the eyes of each of its inhabitants. Human experience in Shakespeare is human experience as everyone feels it, as comprehensive as the aggregate of innumerable lives. But human experience in philosophy is the experience of all as thought by a synthetic mind. Hence the wealth of life depicted by Shakespeare serves only to point out the philosopher's problem, and to challenge his powers. Here he will find material, and not results; much to philosophize about, but no philosophy.

[Sidenote: Philosophy in Poetry. The World-View. Omar Khayyam.]

Sect. 11. The discussion up to this point has attributed to poetry very definite intellectual factors that nevertheless do not constitute philosophy. Walt Whitman speaks his feeling with truth, but in general manifests no comprehensive insight. Shakespeare has not only sincerity of expression but an understanding mind. He has a knowledge not only of particular experiences, but of human nature; and a consciousness full and varied like society itself. But there is a kind of knowledge possessed by neither, the knowledge sought by coordinating all aspects of human experience, both particular and general. Not even Shakespeare is wise as one who, having seen the whole, can fundamentally interpret a part. But though the philosopher-poet may not yet be found, we cannot longer be ignorant of his nature. He will be, like all poets, one who appreciates experiences or finds things good, and he will faithfully reproduce the values which he discovers. But he must justify himself in view of the fundamental nature of the universe. The values which he apprehends must be harmonious, and so far above the plurality of goods as to transcend and unify them. The philosopher-poet will find reality as a whole to be something that accredits the order of values in his inner life. He will not only find certain things to be most worthy objects of action or contemplation, but he will see why they are worthy, because he will have construed the judgment of the universe in their favor.

In this general sense, Omar Khayyam is a philosopher-poet. To be sure his universe is quite the opposite of that which most poets conceive, and is perhaps profoundly antagonistic to the very spirit of poetry; but it is none the less true that the joys to which Omar invites us are such as his universe prescribes for human life.

"Some for the Glories of This World; and some Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come; Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum."

Herein is both poetry and philosophy, albeit but a poor brand of each. We are invited to occupy ourselves only with spiritual cash, because the universe is spiritually insolvent. The immediately gratifying feelings are the only feelings that the world can guarantee. Omar Khayyam is a philosopher-poet, because his immediate delight in "youth's sweet-scented manuscript" is part of a consciousness that vaguely sees, though it cannot grasp, "this sorry scheme of things entire."

"Drink for you know not whence you come, nor why; Drink for you know not why you go, nor where."

[Sidenote: Wordsworth.]

Sect. 12. But the poet in his world-view ordinarily sees other than darkness. The same innate spiritual enterprise that sustains religious faith leads the poet more often to find the universe positively congenial to his ideals, and to ideals in general. He interprets human experience in the light of the spirituality of all the world. It is to Wordsworth that we of the present age are chiefly indebted for such imagery, and it will profit us to consider somewhat carefully the philosophical quality of his poetry.

Walter Pater, in introducing his appreciation of Wordsworth, writes that "an intimate consciousness of the expression of natural things, which weighs, listens, penetrates, where the earlier mind passed roughly by, is a large element in the complexion of modern poetry." We recognize at once the truth of this characterization as applied to Wordsworth. But there is something more distinguished about this poet's sensibility even than its extreme fineness and delicacy; a quality that is suggested, though not made explicit, by Shelley's allusion to Wordsworth's experience as "a sort of thought in sense." Nature possessed for him not merely enjoyable and describable characters of great variety and minuteness, but an immediately apprehended unity and meaning. It would be a great mistake to construe this meaning in sense as analogous to the crude symbolism of the educator Froebel, to whom, as he said, "the world of crystals proclaimed, in distinct and univocal terms, the laws of human life." Wordsworth did not attach ideas to sense, but regarded sense itself as a communication of truth. We readily call to mind his unique capacity for apprehending the characteristic flavor of a certain place in a certain moment of time, the individuality of a situation. Now in such moments he felt that he was receiving intelligences, none the less direct and significant for their inarticulate form. Like the boy on Windermere, whom he himself describes,

"while he hung Loitering, a gentle shock of mild surprise Has carried far into his heart the voice Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene Would enter unawares into his mind, With all its solemn imagery, its rocks, Its woods, and that uncertain heaven received Into the bosom of the steady lake."

For our purpose it is essential that we should recognize in this appreciation of nature, expressed in almost every poem that Wordsworth wrote, a consciousness respecting the fundamental nature of the world. Conversation, as we know, denotes an interchange of commensurable meanings. Whatever the code may be, whether words or the most subtle form of suggestion, communication is impossible without community of nature. Hence, in believing himself to be holding converse with the so-called physical world, Wordsworth conceives that world as fundamentally like himself. He finds the most profound thing in all the world to be the universal spiritual life. In nature this life manifests itself most directly, clothed in its own proper dignity and peace. But it may be discovered in the humanity that is most close to nature, in the avocations of plain and simple people, and the unsophisticated delights of children; and, with the perspective of contemplation, even "among the multitudes of that huge city."

So Wordsworth is rendering a true account of his own experience of reality when, as in "The Prelude," he says unequivocally:

"A gracious spirit o'er this earth presides, And in the heart of man; invisibly It comes to works of unreproved delight, And tendency benign; directing those Who care not, know not, think not, what they do."

Wordsworth is not a philosopher-poet because by searching his pages we can find an explicit philosophical creed such as this, but because all the joys of which his poet-soul compels him to sing have their peculiar note, and compose their peculiar harmony, by virtue of such an indwelling consciousness. Here is one who is a philosopher in and through his poetry. He is a philosopher in so far as the detail of his appreciation finds fundamental justification in a world-view. From the immanence of "the universal heart" there follows, not through any mediate reasoning, but by the immediate experience of its propriety, a conception of that which is of supreme worth in life. The highest and best of which life is capable is contemplation, or the consciousness of the universal indwelling of God. Of those who fail to live thus fittingly in the midst of the divine life, Walter Pater speaks for Wordsworth as follows:

"To higher or lower ends they move too often with something of a sad countenance, with hurried and ignoble gait, becoming, unconsciously, something like thorns, in their anxiety to bear grapes; it being possible for people, in the pursuit of even great ends, to become themselves thin and impoverished in spirit and temper, thus diminishing the sum of perfection in the world at its very sources."[42:3]

The quiet and worshipful spirit, won by the cultivation of the emotions appropriate to the presence of nature and society, is the mark of the completest life and the most acceptable service. Thus for Wordsworth the meaning of life is inseparable from the meaning of the universe. In apprehending that which is good and beautiful in human experience, he was attended by a vision of the totality of things. Herein he has had to do, if not with the form, at any rate with the very substance of philosophy.

[Sidenote: Dante.]

Sect. 13. Unquestionably the supreme philosopher-poet is Dante. He is not only philosophical in the temper of his mind, but his greatest poem is the incarnation of a definite system of philosophy, the most definite that the world has seen. That conception of the world which in the thirteenth century found argumentative and orderly expression in the "Summa Theologiae" of Thomas of Aquino, and constituted the faith of the church, is visualized by Dante, and made the basis of an interpretation of life.

The "Divina Commedia" deals with all the heavens to the Empyrean itself, and with all spiritual life to the very presence of God. It derives its imagery from the cosmology of the day, its dramatic motive from the Christian and Greek conceptions of God and his dealings with the world. Sin is punished because of the justice of God; knowledge, virtue, and faith lead, through God's grace and mercy manifested in Christ, to a perpetual union with Him. Hell, purgatory, and paradise give place and setting to the events of the drama. But the deeper meaning of the poem is allegorical. In a letter quoted by Lowell, Dante writes:

"The literal subject of the whole work is the state of the soul after death, simply considered. But if the work be taken allegorically the subject is man, as by merit or demerit, through freedom of the will, he renders himself liable to the reward or punishment of justice."[43:4]

In other words, the inner and essential meaning of the poem has to do not with external retribution, but with character, and the laws which determine its own proper ruin or perfection. The punishments described in the "Inferno" are accounts of the state of guilt itself, implications of the will that has chosen the part of brutishness. Sin itself is damnable and deadening, but the knowledge that the soul that sinneth shall die is the first way of emancipation from sin. The guidance of Virgil through hell and purgatory signifies the knowledge of good and evil, or moral insight, as the guide of man through this life of struggle and progress. The earthly paradise, at the close of the "Purgatorio," represents the highest state to which human character can attain when choice is determined by ordinary experience, intelligence, and understanding. Here man stands alone, endowed with an enlightened conscience. Here are uttered the last words of Virgil to Dante, the explorer of the spiritual country:

"Expect no more or word or sign from me. Free, upright, and sane is thine own free will, and it would be wrong not to act according to its pleasure; wherefore thee over thyself I crown and mitre."[44:5]

But moral self-reliance is not the last word. As Beatrice, the image of tenderness and holiness, comes to Dante in the earthly paradise, and leads him from the summit of purgatory into the heaven of heavens, and even to the eternal light; so there is added to the mere human, intellectual, and moral resources of the soul, the sustaining power of the divine grace, the illuminating power of divine truth, and the transforming power of divine love. Through the aid of this higher wisdom, the journey of life becomes the way to God. Thus the allegorical truth of the "Divina Commedia" is not merely an analysis of the moral nature of man, but the revelation of a universal spiritual order, manifesting itself in the moral evolution of the individual, and above all in his ultimate community with the eternal goodness.

"Thou shouldst not, if I deem aright, wonder more at thy ascent, than at a stream if from a high mountain it descends to the base. A marvel it would be in thee, if, deprived of hindrance, thou hadst sat below, even as quiet by living fire in earth would be."[45:6]

Such, in brief, is Dante's world-view, so suggestive of the freer idealistic conceptions of later thought as to justify a recent characterization of him as one who, "accepting without a shadow of a doubt or hesitation all the constitutive ideas of mediaeval thought and life, grasped them so firmly and gave them such luminous expression that the spirit in them broke away from the form."[46:7]

But it must be added, as in the case of Wordsworth, that Dante is a philosopher-poet not because St. Thomas Aquinas appears and speaks with authority in the Thirteenth Canto of the "Paradiso," nor even because a philosophical doctrine can be consistently formulated from his writings, but because his consciousness of life is informed with a sense of its universal bearings. There is a famous passage in the Twenty-second Canto of the "Paradiso," in which Dante describes himself as looking down upon the earth from the starry heaven.

"'Thou art so near the ultimate salvation,' began Beatrice, 'that thou oughtest to have thine eyes clear and sharp. And therefore ere thou further enterest it, look back downward, and see how great a world I have already set beneath thy feet, in order that thy heart, so far as it is able, may present itself joyous to the triumphant crowd which comes glad through this round ether.' With my sight I returned through each and all the seven spheres, and saw this globe such that I smiled at its mean semblance; and that counsel I approve as the best which holds it of least account; and he who thinks of other things maybe called truly worthy."

Dante's scale of values is that which appears from the starry heaven. His austere piety, his invincible courage, and his uncompromising hatred of wrong, are neither accidents of temperament nor blind reactions, but compose the proper character of one who has both seen the world from God, and returned to see God from the world. He was, as Lowell has said, "a man of genius who could hold heartbreak at bay for twenty years, and would not let himself die till he had done his task"; and his power was not obstinacy, but a vision of the ways of God. He knew a truth that justified him in his sacrifices, and made a great glory of his defeat and exile. Even so his poetry or appreciation of life is the expression of an inward contemplation of the world in its unity or essence. It is but an elaboration of the piety which he attributes to the lesser saints of paradise, when he has them say:

"Nay, it is essential to this blessed existence to hold ourselves within the divine will, whereby our very wills are made one. So that as we are from stage to stage throughout this realm, to all the realm is pleasing, as to the King who inwills us with His will. And His will is our peace; it is that sea whereunto is moving all that which It creates and which nature makes."[47:8]

[Sidenote: The Difference between Poetry and Philosophy.]

Sect. 14. There now remains the brief task of distinguishing the philosopher-poet from the philosopher himself. The philosopher-poet is one who, having made the philosophical point of view his own, expresses himself in the form of poetry. The philosophical point of view is that from which the universe is comprehended in its totality. The wisdom of the philosopher is the knowledge of each through the knowledge of all. Wherein, then, does the poet, when possessed of such wisdom, differ from the philosopher proper? To this question one can give readily enough the general answer, that the difference lies in the mode of utterance. Furthermore, we have already given some account of the peculiar manner of the poet. He invites us to experience with him the beautiful and moving in nature and life. That which the poet has to express, and that which he aims to arouse in others, is an appreciative experience. He requires what Wordsworth calls "an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings." Therefore if he is to be philosophical in intelligence, and yet essentially a poet, he must find his universal truth in immediate experience. He must be one who, in seeing the many, sees the one. The philosopher-poet is he who visualizes a fundamental interpretation of the world. "A poem," says one poet, "is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth."

The philosopher proper, on the other hand, has the sterner and less inviting task of rendering such an interpretation articulate to thought. That which the poet sees, the philosopher must define. That which the poet divines, the philosopher must calculate. The philosopher must dig for that which the poet sees shining through. As the poet transcends thought for the sake of experience, the philosopher must transcend experience for the sake of thought. As the poet sees all, and all in each, so the philosopher, knowing each, must think all consistently together, and then know each again. It is the part of philosophy to collect and criticise evidence, to formulate and coordinate conceptions, and finally to define in exact terms. The reanimation of the structure of thought is accomplished primarily in religion, which is a general conception of the world made the basis of daily living.

For religion there is no subjective correlative less than life itself. Poetry is another and more circumscribed means of restoring thought to life. By the poet's imagination, and through the art of his expression, thought may be sensuously perceived. "If the time should ever come," says Wordsworth, "when what is now called Science, thus familiarized to men, shall be ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh, and blood, the Poet will lend his divine spirit to aid the transfiguration, and will welcome the Being thus produced, as a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man."[50:9] As respects truth, philosophy has an indubitable priority. The very sternness of the philosopher's task is due to his supreme dedication to truth. But if validity be the merit of philosophy, it can well be supplemented by immediacy, which is the merit of poetry. Presuppose in the poet conviction of a sound philosophy, and we may say with Shelley, of his handiwork, that "it is the perfect and consummate surface and bloom of all things; it is as the odor and the color of the rose to the texture of the elements which compose it, as the form and splendor of unfaded beauty to the secrets of anatomy and corruption." "Indeed," as he adds, "what were our consolations on this side of the grave—and our aspirations beyond it—if poetry did not ascend to bring light and fire from those eternal regions where the owl-winged faculty of calculation dare not ever soar?"[51:10]

The unity in outlook, attended by differences of method and form, which may exist between poet and philosopher, is signally illustrated by the relation between Goethe and Spinoza. What Goethe saw and felt, Spinoza proved and defined. The universal and eternal substance was to Spinoza, as philosopher, a theorem, and to Goethe, as poet, a perception and an emotion. Goethe writes to Jacobi that when philosophy "lays itself out for division," he cannot get on with it, but when it "confirms our original feeling as though we were one with nature," it is welcome to him. In the same letter Goethe expresses his appreciation of Spinoza as the complement of his own nature:

"His all-reconciling peace contrasted with my all-agitating endeavor; his intellectual method was the opposite counterpart of my poetic way of feeling and expressing myself; and even the inflexible regularity of his logical procedure, which might be considered ill-adapted to moral subjects, made me his most passionate scholar and his devoted adherent. Mind and heart, understanding and sense, were drawn together with an inevitable elective affinity, and this at the same time produced an intimate union between individuals of the most different types."[51:11]

It appears, then, that some poets share with all philosophers that point of view from which the horizon line is the boundary of all the world. Poetry is not always or essentially philosophical, but may be so; and when the poetic imagination restores philosophy to immediacy, human experience reaches its most exalted state, excepting only religion itself, wherein God is both seen and also served. Nor is the part of philosophy in poetry and religion either ignoble or presumptuous, for, humanly speaking, "the owl-winged faculty of calculation" is the only safe and sure means of access to that place on high,

"Where the nightingale doth sing Not a senseless, tranced thing, But a divine melodious truth; Philosophic numbers smooth; Tales and golden histories Of heaven and its mysteries."


[28:1] George Santayana, in his Poetry and Religion, p. 176.

[30:2] Santayana: op. cit., p. 180.

[42:3] Appreciations, p. 59.

[43:4] Letter to Can Grande. See Lowell's Essay on Dante, p. 34.

[44:5] Purgatorio, Canto XXVII. Translation by Norton.

[45:6] Paradiso, Canto I.

[46:7] Edward Caird, in his Literature and Philosophy, Vol. I, p. 24.

[47:8] Paradiso, Canto III.

[50:9] Observations prefixed to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads.

[51:10] A Defence of Poetry.

[51:11] Quoted by Caird in his Literature and Philosophy, Vol. I, p. 60.



[Sidenote: The Possibility of Defining Religion.]

Sect. 15. The least religious experience is so mysterious and so complex that a moderate degree of reflection upon it tends to a sense of intellectual impotence. "If I speak," says Emerson, "I define and confine, and am less." One would gladly set down religion among the unspeakable things and avoid the imputation of degrading it. It is certain that the enterprise of defining religion is at present in disrepute. It has been undertaken so often and so unsuccessfully that contemporary students for the most part prefer to supply a list of historical definitions of religion, and let their variety demonstrate their futility. Metaphysicians and psychologists agree that in view of the differences of creed, ritual, organization, conduct, and temperament that have been true of different religions in different times and places, one may as well abandon the idea that there is a constant element.

But on the other hand we have the testimony afforded by the name religion; and the ordinary judgments of men to the effect that it signifies something to be religious, and to be more or less religious. There is an elementary logical principle to the effect that a group name implies certain common group characters. Impatience with abstract or euphemistic definitions should not blind us to the truth. Even the psychologist tends in his description of religious phenomena to single out and emphasize what he calls a typical religious experience. And the same applies to the idealist's treatment of the matter.[54:1] Religion, he reasons, is essentially a development of which the true meaning can be seen only in the higher stages. The primitive religion is therefore only implicit religion. But lower stages cannot be regarded as belonging to a single development with higher stages, if there be not some actual promise of the later in the earlier, or some element which endures throughout. It is unavoidable, then, to assume that in dealing with religion we are dealing with a specific and definable experience.

[Sidenote: The Profitableness of Defining Religion.]

Sect. 16. The profitableness of undertaking such a definition is another matter. It may well be that in so human and practical an affair as religion, definition is peculiarly inappropriate. But is there not a human and practical value in the very defining of religion? Is there not a demand for it in the peculiar relation that exists between religion and the progress of enlightenment? Religion associates itself with the habits of society. The progress of enlightenment means that more or less all the time, and very profoundly at certain critical times, society must change its habits. The consequence is that religion is likely to be abandoned with the old habits. The need of a new religion is therefore a chronic one. The reformer in religion, or the man who wishes to be both enlightened and religious, is chiefly occupied with the problem of disentangling religion pure and undefiled from definite discredited practices and opinions. And the solution of the problem turns upon some apprehension of the essence of religion. There is a large amount of necessary and unnecessary tragedy due to the extrinsic connection between ideas and certain modes of their expression. There can be no more serious and urgent duty than that of expressing as directly, and so as truly as possible, the great permanent human concerns. The men to whom educational reform has been largely due have been the men who have remembered for their fellows what this whole business of education is after all for. Comenius and Pestalozzi served society by stripping educational activity of its historical and institutional accessories, and laying bare the genuine human need that these are designed to satisfy. There is a similar virtue in the insistent attempt to distinguish between the essential and the accessory in religion.

[Sidenote: The True Method of Defining Religion.]

Sect. 17. Although declining to be discouraged by the conspicuousness of past failures in this connection, one may well profit by them. The amazing complexity of religious phenomena must somehow be seen to be consistent with their common nature. The religious experience must not only be found, but must also be reconciled with "the varieties of religious experience." The inadequacy of the well-known definitions of religion may be attributed to several causes. The commonest fallacy is to define religion in terms of a religion. My definition of religion must include my brother's religion, even though he live on the other side of the globe, and my ancestor's religion, in spite of his prehistoric remoteness. Error may easily arise through the attempt to define religion in terms of my own religion, or what I conceive to be the true religion. Whatever the relation between ideal religion and actual religion, the field of religion contains by common consent cults that must on their own grounds condemn one another; religions that are bad religions, and yet religions.

A more enlightened fallacy, and a more dangerous one, is due to the supposition that religion can be defined exclusively in terms of some department of human nature. There have been descriptions of religion in terms of feeling, intellect, and conduct respectively. But it is always easy to overthrow such a description, by raising the question of its application to evidently religious experiences that belong to some other aspect of life. Religion is not feeling, because there are many phlegmatic, God-fearing men whose religion consists in good works. Religion is not conduct, for there are many mystics whose very religion is withdrawal from the field of action. Religion is not intellection, for no one has ever been able to formulate a creed that is common to all religions. Yet without a doubt one must look for the essence of religion in human nature. The present psychological interest in religion has emphasized this truth. How, then, may we describe it in terms of certain constant conditions of human life, and yet escape the abstractness of the facultative method? Modern psychology suggests an answer in demonstrating the interdependence of knowledge, feeling, and volition.[58:2] The perfect case of this unity is belief. The believing experience is cognitive in intent, but practical and emotional as well in content. I believe what I take for granted; and the object of my belief is not merely known, but also felt and acted upon. What I believe expresses itself in my total experience.

There is some hope, then, of an adequate definition of the religious experience, if it be regarded as belonging to the psychological type of belief.[58:3] Belief, however, is a broader category than religion. There must be some religious type of believing. An account of religion in terms of believing, and the particular type of it here in question, would, then, constitute the central stem of a psychology of religion, and affords the proper conceptions for a description of the religious experience. Even here the reservation must be made that belief is always more than the believing state, in that it means to be true.[59:4] Hence to complete an account of religion one should consider its object, or its cognitive implications. But this direct treatment of the relation between religion and philosophy must be deferred until in the present chapter we shall have come to appreciate the inwardness of the religious consciousness. To this end we must permit ourselves to be enlightened by the experience of religious people as viewed from within. It is not our opinion of a man's religion that is here in question, but the content and meaning which it has for him.

"I would have you," says Fielding, in his "Hearts of Men," "go and kneel beside the Mahommedan as he prays at the sunset hour, and put your heart to his and wait for the echo that will surely come. . . . I would have you go to the hillman smearing the stone with butter that his god may be pleased, to the woman crying to the forest god for her sick child, to the boy before his monks learning to be good. No matter where you go, no matter what the faith is called, if you have the hearing ear, if your heart is in unison with the heart of the world, you will hear always the same song."[59:5]

[Sidenote: Religion as Belief.]

Sect. 18. The general identification of religion with belief is made without serious difficulty. The essential factor in belief, is, as we have seen, the reaction of the whole personality to a fixed object or accepted situation. A similar principle underlies common judgments about a man's religion. He is accounted most religious whose religion penetrates his life most intimately. In the man whose religion consists in the outer exercise of attendance upon church, we recognize the sham. He appears to be religious. He does one of the things which a religious man would do; but an object of religious faith is not the constant environment of his life. He may or may not feel sure of God from his pew, but God is not among the things that count in his daily life. God does not enter into his calculations or determine his scale of values. Again, discursive thinking is regarded as an interruption of religion. When I am at pains to justify my religion, I am already doubting; and for common opinion doubt is identical with irreligion. In so far as I am religious, my religion stands in no need of justification, even though I regard it as justifiable. In my religious experience I am taking something for granted; in other words I act about it and feel about it in a manner that is going to be determined by the special conditions of my mood and temperament. The mechanical and prosaic man acknowledges God in his mechanical and prosaic way. He believes in divine retribution as he believes in commercial or social retribution. He is as careful to prepare for the next world as he is to be respectable in this. The poet, on the other hand, believes in God after the manner of his genius. Though he worship God in spirit he may conduct his life in an irregular manner peculiar to himself. Difference of mood in the same individual may be judged by the same measure. When God is most real to him, brought home to him most vividly, or consciously obeyed, in these moments he is most religious. When, on the other hand, God is merely a name to him, and church a routine, or when both are forgotten in the daily occupations, he is least religious. His life on the whole is said to be religious in so far as periods of the second type are subordinated to periods of the first type. Further well-known elements of belief, corollaries of the above, are evidently present in religion. A certain imagery remains constant throughout an individual's experience. He comes back to it as to a physical object in space. And although religion is sporadically an exclusive and isolated affair, it tends strongly to be social. The religious object, or God, is a social object, common to me and to my neighbor, and presupposed in our collective undertakings. This reduction of religion to the type of the believing state should thus provide us with an answer to that old and fundamental question concerning the relative priority of faith and works. The test of the faith is in the works, and the works are religious in so far as they are the expression of the faith. Religion is not the doing of anything nor the feeling of anything nor the thinking of anything, but the reacting as a whole, in terms of all possible activities of human life, to some accepted situation.

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