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in their bearing on life, as religion does; but affirms that such a construction of things affords the only true insight into their nature. It not only adopts the method of religion, but affirms the priority of that method over the method of detachment and self-elimination adopted by science. Thus idealism comes to be identified with the institution of religion; and to be recognized as its champion against naturalism.
But this alignment of intellectual forces is confusing and misleading. In the first place, idealism, as a special theory, acquires unmerited prestige through its alliance with religion, which is a universal human interest. The validity which attaches to the interest and the institution in which it finds expression, is transferred to the theory. For the religious method has its incontrovertible rights. Reality does have a bearing on life, and it is necessary that reality should be so construed. But it does not follow that such a construction should, as the idealist would have us believe, take precedence of all other constructions. It may be that while reality affects life, it does so only accidentally; for philosophy to overlook this possibility, by employing the religious method exclusively, would be sheer bias. To this bias idealism is peculiarly liable.
In the second place, the association of idealism with the religious motive tends, as we have seen, to encourage the belief that philosophy is the same as religion. Idealism has not hesitated to identify the standpoint of philosophy in general with its own special bio-centric doctrine. But this is to exclude ab initio a philosophy which shall survey the totality of things dispassionately.' It is to beg the question of the place of life in reality at large, and thus commit philosophy with reference to a question which it should treat in a spirit of free and critical inquiry.
The central thesis of idealism, to the effect that consciousness, especially in the form of cognition, is the creative and sustaining principle in things, thus obtains a certain adventitious support from prevailing ideas concerning the relations of science, religion, and philosophy. It has also the support of certain dialectical arguments, which we shall presently examine. The outcome of that examination cannot fairly be anticipated here. But we shall find, I believe, that the arguments for idealism fail; and if so, the critique of science on the ground of the priority of consciousness is invalid.
1 See above, pp. 29-30, 40-41.
$ 12. Are we then to conclude that science has no bounds, and that the claims of an optimistic religion must therefore
be abandoned? There remains a very simple Science as a Limited Body alternative. Without prejudice to the truth of Truth
of science or to the validity of its methods, without disparagement of the reality of physical nature, or the reduction of it to dependence on consciousness, it is still open to us to conclude that science is not all of truth, nor physical nature all of being. That which distinguishes such a critique of science is its recognition of science and nature, as they stand. They are not partially true or real; they are simply parts of truth and reality. And the other parts, while they do not undo or transmute the fact, may nevertheless put a wholly new face on the total situation. They disprove every claim to the exclusive truth of science; and provide a balance that may justify religion.
The ground on which such a critique of science stands has already been stated. Analysis shows that physical science presupposes logic and mathematics; or, that physical reality is complex, and decomposable into more simple terms and relations. Physical science has to do, furthermore, with certain features of physical reality. It describes the quantitative constancies exhibited by physical change. And there are other features exhibited, even by bodies; such, for example, as their control, in the case of living bodies, by desire and will. Thus, being is neither physical in substance nor is it exclusively mechanical in behavior.
See above, pp. 82-84. I shall resume this argument, and amplify its religious applications, in the final chapter.
Logic is prior to physics, in the sense that it has to do with more elementary forms of being; and ethics is at least correlative with physics, since what it describes is as truly found in the world as that which physics describes. And logic and ethics, taken together with other equally unimpeachable branches of philosophy, not only disprove the generalizations of naturalism, but afford a basis for religious belief.
It cannot, I think, be denied that naturalism has gained rather than lost by the usual tactics of its adversaries. It has been put in the position of being the more desirable alternative. As between naturalism and the traditional supernaturalism, no one would now hesitate to choose. And the polemic of idealism and pragmatism has similarly enhanced the credit of the very object of their attack. The charge of failure, the attempt to make capital out of the fallibility of science, has reacted upon its authors. The attacks upon the method of science have tended to create the supposition that the only alternative to naturalism is inexactness or unreason. The assertion of the unreality of space and time has not only failed to carry conviction, but has given rise to the more effective counter-charge of agnosticism and mysticism. And the attempt to disprove naturalism by claiming the universal priority of consciousness, has driven into the camp of naturalism many who shrink from the paradoxes of subjectivism. As the only alternative to supernaturalism, obscurantism, irrationalism, agnosticism, mysticism, and subjectivism, -- naturalism has acquired a place of intellectual distinction which it does not in fact merit. The greater the opportunity, then, for a critique of science that shall do it strict justice; a critique that shall neither, on the one hand, concede the extravagant claims which naturalism makes in its behalf, nor, on the other hand, through the extravagance of its counter-claims, produce a reaction in its favor.