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On the other hand consider the case of an idea in the discursive sense, an idea of something. It is an idea of something by virtue of the fact that it is connected through my plans or expectations with some portion of the environment. And in this case, there is nothing intrinsically either true or false in a, or in any relation of a to b, except that of my intention. Whatever a be, whether fact or fiction, it is then true only when the use I make of it is successful; or false when the plans I form with it, or the expectations I base on it, fail.
If this be regarded as subjectivistic, it can only be because of the assumption that the determination of success and failure is subjective. But such is not the case. Success and failure are determined by interest, means, and circumstance. If it will not do to fish for mermaids, this is because the facts are not consistent with the method I employ in the interests of livelihood. In the last analysis the reason for my folly lies in the fact that the image of a mermaid is a composite generated by the selective abstracting and grouping of consciousness. The fact loosely expressed in the judgment, 'there are no mermaids,' is that mermaid is a subjective, and not a physical, manifold. Hence it must be treated accordingly, if one is to deal with it successfully. And similarly, if my theoretical hypothesis is a mistaken one, this is because the locality to which my hypothesis refers me thwarts the theoretical purpose for which I have the hypothesis.
So far is it from being true that success and failure are subjective, that the subjective satisfaction or discontent may themselves be misleading. I may have the right idea when I am most discontented; I may serenely mistake fiction for fact, and heartily enjoy my illusions. And success and failure may be foredoomed without being consummated, as one may have the right key without unlocking the door, or play the fool without paying the penalty.
1 Cf. below, pp. 333-334.
The absolute thus reappears in the commonplace guise of fact. Mind operates in an environment, and succeeds or fails, according as it meets or violates the terms which the environment dictates. Truth is the achievement, and error the risk, incidental to the great adventure of knowledge. But eternal being, and the order of nature, are not implicated in its vicissitudes. So that if there be any virtue in these terms "Eternal," "Order," or "Absolute,' they can be transposed without loss.
A REALISTIC PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE
§ 1. It will doubtless appear to most readers of this book that realism is a philosophy of disillusionment. And in a
sense this is the case. As a polemic, realism Enlightenment and Disillusion- is principally concerned to discredit romanti
cism; that is the philosophy which regards reality as necessarily ideal, owing to the dependence of things on knowledge. Realism, in other words, rejects the doctrine that things must be good or beautiful or spiritual in order to be at all. It recognizes the being of things that are wholly non-spiritual, of things that are only accidentally spiritual, and of things that, while they belong to the domain of spirit, nevertheless antagonize its needs and aspirations. The universe, or collective totality of being, contains things good, bad, and indifferent. But before one hastily concludes that realism discourages endeavor and discredits faith, one will do well to recall that there is a sense in which disillusionment is a source of power.
Life has maintained itself, and promoted its interests, in proportion as it has become aware of the actual character of its environment. It is the practical function of intelligence, not to read goodness into the facts, but to lay bare the facts in all their indifference and brutality; so that action may be contrived to fit them, to the end that goodness may prevail. Well doing is conditioned by clear seeing. The development of intelligence as an instrument of power has consisted mainly in freeing it from the importunity of ulterior motives; and in rendering it an organ of discovery, through which the native constitution of things is illuminated and brought within the range of action. Achievement means taking advantage of things; and it is the function of intelligence to present things, roundly and fearlessly, so that they may serve advantage.
The civilization of nature has proceeded pari passu with the abandonment of the notion that nature is predetermined to human ends, and the recognition that nature has odd and careless ways of its own. It is the discovery of the independent mechanisms of nature, that has put tools into the hands of man. The civilization of society has been served best by those who have been most clearly aware of its present failure. Similarly, within any field of individual endeavor it is the sanguine or complacent temperament that is ineffective. It is the man who has no illusions of success, that veritably succeeds — the man that measures with a cool eye the length he has to go, and can audit his own accounts without over-estimating his assets.
All this would be too obvious to repeat, did it not have an important bearing on the present state of philosophy. The "new enlightenment,” with which realism is allied, would extend this principle of success to the larger issues with which religion and philosophy have to do; but finds that the ascendant philosophy, romanticism, is based upon another principle. Men are to be reassured and comforted by being guaranteed the eternal preëminence of the good. Their hope is to lie in the fact that the indifference of nature and the failure of man are apparent and not real. Their hope is to be realized by that act of imagination or thought which recovers the whole, and seeing it, judges it to be good. Philosophy is itself to make things good; since no more is necessary to the goodness of things than their "synthetic unity.”
Realism, on the other hand, proposes that philosophy, like science, shall illuminate things in order that action may be invented that shall make them good. Philosophy must enable man to deal with, and take advantage of, his total environment, as science adapts him to his proximate physi
cal environment. It must exhibit a like forbearance; and avoid confusing the present opportunity, mixed and doubtful as it is, with the dream of consummate fulfilment. For the question, “What shall I do to be saved ?” is in principle like any other question of expediency or policy: the answer depends on what actual dangers imperil salvation, and what actual instruments and agencies are available for the achieving of it. To argue the eternal and necessary goodness of things from the implications of knowledge, is to encourage a comfortable assurance concerning salvation, when it is the office of religion to put men on their guard and rouse them to a sense of peril.
If, then, realism is a philosophy of disillusionment, this cannot be said to its disparagement. Realism does, it is true, reject the notion that things are good because they must be thought to be so; but it does not in the least discourage the endeavor to make them good, or discredit the hope that through endeavor they may become good. On the contrary, in the spirit of all true enlightenment, it removes illusions only in order to lay bare the confronting occasion and the available resources of action.
§ 2. A philosophy of life must always contain two principal components, a theory concerning the nature
of goodness or value, and a theory concernRealism and the Dependence ing the conditions and prospect of its realiof Value on zation. The former is the central topic of Desire
ethics, and the second is the central topic of a philosophy of religion.
In discussing the nature of goodness or value, I find myself in disagreement with certain eminent realists with whom I should much prefer to agree. Mr. G. E. Moore and Mr. Bertrand Russell both contend that goodness is an indefinable quality which attaches to things independently of consciousness. Thus Mr. Moore says: “If I am asked What is good?' my answer is that good is good, and that is the end of the matter .... Being good, then, is not identical with being willed or felt in any kind of way, any