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PLURALISM, INDETERMINISM AND RELIGIOUS
81. WITH pragmatism as a theory of knowledge — a definition of truth, and a critique of intellectualism, there Pluralism as
is allied a more or less clearly defined metathe Sequel to physics. While this metaphysics is by no Empiricism. The Additive
means systematic, it is distinct and characCharacter of teristic enough to afford an interpretation of Knowledge
life, and even a religion. Since pragmatism, like idealism and realism, is primarily a theory of knowledge, and a metaphysics only by implication, we shall do well to follow this logical order in our exposition.
As furnishing the basis for a metaphysics and philosophy of religion, pragmatism may best be summed up by the term 'empiricism.' Pragmatism is empirical, in the first place, in that it limits the term 'knowledge' to the particular cases of human knowledge that may be brought under observation. Its theory of knowledge is a description of the manner in which you and I know, in this or that concrete situation. This is both the only knowledge which can profitably be in question, since it is the only knowledge that can be examined; and also the only knowledge on which we can count. Every theory that may be held is some particular body's particular theory. Even a theory concerning infinite or divine knowledge is first of all your theory or mine. And it follows that unless human knowledge is to be credited, we must be sceptics. In other words, if we exclude the sceptical alternative, and say that we mean nothing more by knowledge than the most reliable knowledge available, then we must identify knowledge with human knowledge. Such is knowledge — for better or for worse. No hypothetical knowledge can be more infallible or more certain than the processes of that human mind which defines, proves, and believes it. It follows that it is possible to know, as fully as it is possible to know at all, a limited portion of reality. If one were to assert that it is impossible fully to know anything without knowing everything - then that assertion itself would be
discredited. It is itself a case of partial knowledge and is entitled to no special privileges.
Now if it is possible to know parts of reality without knowing all, it follows that such parts of reality are selfsufficient. If knowledge can be additive, if things can be known one at a time, then the things known must possess their natures independently. Thus one can know the laws of number, without knowing the date of Napoleon's birth. The latter knowledge, when obtained, is simply to be added to the former without modifying it. But this is equivalent to saying that Napoleon's birth is not a part of the nature of number. It is not asserted that one is not related to the other, but only that it is not germane, does not enter into its definition. And this, when generalized, is what is meant by pluralism. According to the opposite, or monistic, view, the all-relationship, the relation of each to all, is definitive; according to pluralism it is accidental. According to monism the universal interrelationship determines the essential nature of every item of being; according to pluralism certain limited relations sufficiently determine the nature of each thing, the residual relations being superfluous and unnecessary. According to monism the totality is more unified than the parts; according to pluralism the parts severally are more unified than the totality.
Pragmatism thus credits finite knowledge, and asserts that knowledge grows from part to whole. Knowledge is cumulative; omniscience would be a sum of knowledge,
· For pragmatist definitions of pluralism, see James: Pragmatism, Lect. IV. On the “monistic theory of truth,” cf. below, p. 323.
a knowledge of a and b, in which the knowledge of 2 and 6 severally is prior to the knowledge of them together. And pragmatism infers that a universe in which this is possible is a universe in which there is at least some irrelevance or casual conjunction.
§ 2. But the empirical method contributes more direct evidence for pluralism in that such casual conjunctions Pluralism and
are actually perceived. James, in particular, External Rela- has emphasized the existence of external' tions
relations. Rationalism singles out and emphasizes the relations of logical implication and organic unity. Such relations are not to be denied; and it is in the interest of knowledge to discover them wherever they can be found. Indeed, the discovery of such relations may even be said to be the principal motive of thought. But a thorough-going
a empiricism will admit that such relations are never found except in the company of other relations. “Everything you can think of," says James, "however vast or inclusive, has on the pluralistic view a genuinely "external' environment of some sort or amount. Things are 'with' one another in many ways, but nothing includes everything, or dominates over everything. The word 'and' trails along after every sentence.”? In other words, internal
2 definitive relationships are discriminated from casual relationships. Science distinguishes in connection with any subject of inquiry those things which are necessarily or functionally related, and which must therefore enter into the explanation, from those things which are there, and in some sense related, but which are negligible. Every definition, every determinate system, is obtained by exclusion as well as inclusion. The skilful scientific mind is the mind that readily fastens upon that which is germane, to the exclusion of that which is irrelevant. And empiricism is simply the willingness to accept facts, whether they
Cf., e.g., Pluralistic Universe, pp. 321-326, 358–361. Cf. below, p. 372. op. cit., p. 321.
be conjunctive or disjunctive. It recognizes behind the intellectual preference for unity, the more fundamental cognitive demand that things should be taken as they are – whether they satisfy that preference or disappoint it.
Empirically, then, the world is a mixture of oneness and manyness, of relevance and irrelevance, of disjunction and conjunction, of essence and accident. On empirical grounds no other account is even plausible. And this has virtually been recognized even by the opponents of pluralism. Monism has not been offered as a faithful description of the world, judging by appearances, but as a necessary ideal that must be affirmed of the world despite appearances. The issue then turns upon the considerations already set forth in the discussion of absolutism. Is the absolute world-system a definite ideal; and can it be shown to be implied in the act of knowledge, so that to doubt it is to affirm it? Pragmatism concludes, as we have been led to conclude above, that such a system is not only a dogma, but a vague dogma. As a sentiment it is intelligible; but as a hypothesis it is not only unverified but unverifiable. Owing to the extreme abstractness of the terms in which it is formulated, in so far as it is formulated at all, no crucial experiment can be devised which would decisively determine its truth or its falsity. Unformulated, it is a feeling for unity, a love of order, a "cosmic emotion." Thus the absolute' is either a superficial commonplace, to the effect that the world is one and interrelated, and is what it is; or a symbol of mystical reverence.
To find the native and distinguishing characters of this world, one must turn away from logical and mystical unities, and observe it in its characteristic physiognomy. It is a world that cannot be summed up in superlatives, without oversimplification or confusion. It has unity, but also variety; it is orderly, but only in a measure; it is good, but also in parts bad and indifferent. For better or for worse, it is just this homely, familiar old world,
· See above, Ch. VIII.
with some rhyme and some reason in it, but with much that is arbitrary and inconsequential. Such opportunity and hopefulness as it affords are limited; but they cannot be enjoyed more by exaggerating them. The rational life and true religion begin, as the natural life begins, not by taking the world to be the best, but by taking it as it is, and making the best of it.
$ 3. It is evident that pluralism is readily convertible into a philosophy of religion. As a Weltanschauung, it
evokes a characteristic practical response and Pluralism as a Philosophy of inspires a characteristic faith. Religion
In the first place, it applies directly to the problem of evil. On monistic grounds, the world must be approved or condemned as a unit. It is what it is, through and through; every characteristic that it manifests is implicated in every other characteristic. The meaning of the part must be sought in the whole. Such a theory overrules that empirical estimate of nature and of affairs which is the guide to action. The difference between goodness, evil, and indifference, which practice sharpens, is, in this type of theory, dulled. In a monistic philosophy real goodness is such as implies evil; real evil such as implies good; and real value and real indifference are reciprocally implicative. In other words, the real nature of each is revealed in its connection with the others. In practice, on the other hand, the real nature of each is intrinsic, the relation to the rest being accidental, circumstantial, or derogatory.
And this practical version of the matter constitutes the pluralistic philosophy of evil. It is not denied that good, evil, and indifference are related. It is not denied that value may come of indifference, or even good of evil. But it is denied such relations define and explain the terms. It is denied that value must be so defined as to embrace indifference, or good so defined as to provide for evil. Hence goodness is not to be charged with or judged by the evil that attends it. The pure nature of goodness is apprehended in proportion as evil is left out of the account.