Romanticism and Rationalism[1]

Frank Thilly


MODERN philosophy began with an enthusiastic faith in the powers of human reason to reach the truth. It represented a protest against the methods of Scholasticism and demanded a free field for unrestricted inquiry to work out its own salvation. There were differences of opinion as to the nature and certainty of the knowledge actually attainable and as to the sources from which it sprang. But empiricists and rationalists alike regarded as the ideal of knowledge the acquisition of sure and universal judgments which would faithfully represent an existent reality; mathematics appealed to them both as the model of truth that would satisfy the intellectual craving for certainty. And somehow to reach the object, to know it as it is in itself, in its naked purity, was their heart's desire. The rationalists believed in the possibility of realizing the ideal through reason, that is, of grasping in thought the nature of the thing in itself; the empiricists did not share this faith: neither sense-perception nor thought can give us the object as it is, and knowledge derived from the senses cannot yield more than probability. Both schools, however, agreed in their conception of genuine knowledge as universal and necessary knowledge and in their distrust of sense-perception as a source of ultimate truth. Indeed, the sceptical attitude of the empiricist, first towards natural science, and then towards all knowledge, with the possible exception of mathematics, followed as a necessary consequence from his notion of knowledge as an absolutely

( 108) certain representation of things exactly as they are. He despaired of the power of either sense-perception or conceptual thought to reach the goal, and he ended in Human scepticism precisely because his ideal of truth was so extravagant, —as extravagant as any rationalist's.

With this outcome of empiricism not all the opponents of rationalism were disposed to come to rest. Unwilling to abandon the possibility of grasping reality as it is, and yet not satisfied with the cheerless conclusions and cold-blooded methods of intellectualism, mystics and faith-philosophers,—the Pascals, Huets, Bossuets, Poirets, Bayles, Rousseaus, and Hamanns,—appealed to other phases and functions of the human soul for help in stilling the longing for certainty: truth rests upon feeling, faith, or mystical vision of some sort; God is not conceived by the reason, but felt by the heart; the intellect busies itself with mere ideas, unreal shadows; the spirit of mathematics favors fatalism. These anti-intellectualistic tendencies were not new in the history of human thinking; they had accompanied philosophy as a chorus of protest almost from the beginning, which every now and then threatened to drown out the voices of the leading singers. But what particularly encouraged the reactionary movements in the modern era was the mechanical conception of natural science and the deterministic world-views to which it had given rise. Descartes and Spinoza both surrendered the natural order to mechanism,----the former somewhat hesitatingly, the latter boldly and completely. Descartes had reserved the spiritual world as an independent kingdom from which mechanism was barred, but Spinoza seemed to introduce even into the realm of mind the same rigid determinism that ruled the world of bodies. For both, the physical order was practically a machine; the Aristotelian metaphysics with its emphasis on life and purpose, which had controlled the thoughts of men for two thousand years, eked out a questionable existence in the theology-ridden universities, while all fruitful thinkers joined the ranks of the revolutionaries. It was this situation with its danger to human values that aroused opposition to the intellect and logic as sources of the highest truth, and made converts for fideism, intuitionism, and mysticism.

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But other solutions of the problem seemed possible, and they were tried by philosophers. Berkeley and Malebranche sought a way out of the mechanistic dilemma by abolishing or ignoring the world of matter and sinking nature in the mind of God, while Leibniz endeavored to heal the breach between the new mechanical theory and the old teleological interpretation of reality by means of an idealistic pluralism, reconciling the teachings of modern physical science with classical Greek thought and the spiritual demands of Christianity. And with this compromise many in the age of Enlightenment were content. Reason appeared to have accomplished the task which it had set itself when it cast off the guardianship of the School, and had accomplished it without capitulating to materialism, fatalism, and atheism.


But reason itself was not wholly satisfied with its success. In the face of Hume's vigorous attacks upon the pretensions of rationalism, the question of the validity of scientific and meta-physical knowledge could not be ignored, and account had also to be taken of the protests of the will against encroachments upon its freedom and its moral and religious yearnings. Kant offered a new compromise that would save everything worth saving: rational knowledge, modern science, the basal truths of the old metaphysics, and the most precious human values. His problem was, as one of his contemporaries stated it, "to limit Hume's scepticism, on the one hand, and the old dogmatism, on the other, and to refute and destroy materialism, fatalism, atheism, as well as Schwärmerei and superstition." We can have genuine knowledge, universal and necessary judgments, in physics and mathematics, but such knowledge applies to phenomena only; we cannot know things in themselves in this way. The old a priori metaphysics with its mathematical ideal, the old rational psychology, cosmology, and theology go by the board: there is and can be no scientific proof of the soul, of freedom, of immortality, or of the existence of God. Here the case is given to the sceptics: natural science, that is, mathematics and physics,

( 110) cannot reveal to us the true nature of things, the core of reality: it is limited to the outside, to mere appearance. Knowledge in the scientific sense is possible, only where there is sense-perception, in the domain of space and time : concepts without percepts are empty. And within the field of nature, in the realm of physical and mental phenomena, inexorable law reigns: every physical process, and every human act conceived as part of this process, is absolutely determined, a necessary link in the causal mechanical chain. The tribute to modern science is bravely paid. For the scientific understanding, for our human intelligence with its spatial and temporal categories, nature is a machine in which there is no room for the novel, the unique, and the individual; everything, the self included, is laid out in a serial temporal order, and the entire empirical realm is subject to law.

But there is another side to Kant's philosophy, a door through which entrance can be gained to the world of things in themselves and which is closed against natural science with its sense-experiences and discursive understanding. There is a higher kind of truth than the knowledge of sense-perceived things: truth based on the moral consciousness of man or practical reason, which pro-claims us to be free beings, not subject to the mechanism of nature, and gives us an insight into the spiritual world. The moral law within us is a sure guarantee of freedom, an ideal kingdom of ends, immortality, and Gad : all these are necessary implications of the categorical imperative. We cannot penetrate reality through the husk of sense-experience; the scientific manipulation of sensations can never carry us beyond the outside, into the heart of things where freedom and purpose reigns. Nor can immediate experience reveal to us the promised [and: the closer we get to immediacy, the nearer we get to chaos and the farther from truth: percepts without concepts are blind. Neither can we ever intuit or envisage the real; that would mean a face to face greeting of the thing in itself, a power of intellectual intuition which we do not possess. "Freedom, God, and immortality transcend all sense-perception; they are not objects of knowledge and science, but objects of necessary thought and faith."

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Kant's chief object, after all, was to discredit the discursive understanding as an instrument of ultimate truth, the same intelligence which the sceptics, faith-philosophers, intuitionists, and mystics, before and after his day, distrusted and rejected. He destroyed its knowledge to make room for a rational faith in a supersensible world. The scientific study of outer and inner nature, as conceived by him, will not help us in our attempt to get to the bottom of things; a metaphysic erected upon empirical foundations is built on sand. If there were not another, deeper source of truth in the practical reason, we should not only know nothing of freedom and the ideal world, but be unable to free ourselves from the mechanism of nature. It is moral truth that both sets us free and demonstrates our freedom. The effort of reason to think itself into the heart of reality by means of the discursive intellect is doomed to failure and must be abandoned.

Und was sie deinem Geist nicht offenbaren mag.
Das zwingst du ihr nicht ab mit Hebeln and raft Schraubem

But Kant does not seek in sentimentalism or mysticism the solution of the world-riddle;-he had contempt for all Schwärmerei of this sort, for Schwärmerei ins Uberschwangliche,—he is unwilling to leave the safe footing of reason and would climb into the supersensible by rational steps from rational moral principles.

And yet, in spite of all his rationalism, his appeal is, nevertheless, an appeal to the heart; faith in the moral ideal saves us from agnosticism, materialism, and determinism; we know because we believe in the moral Iaw. It is true, as Schelling says, the Critique of Pure Reason did not refute dogmatism, but dismissed its case from the tribunal of theoretical reason. The discursive understanding, as understood by Kant, is helpless in metaphysics, involving itself in hopeless antinomies; unless philosophy can discover other methods and sources of knowledge than those employed in mathematical physics, it cannot shake off the incubus of a block-universe. That is what troubled both Jacobi and Kant, compelling the former to seek refuge in feeling, the latter in a rational moral faith. Spinozism had become popular in Germany during the latter part of the eighteenth century and appealed to many thinkers as the most consistent dogmatic

( 112) system, indeed, as the last word of speculative metaphysics. Lessing and Goethe had been attracted to it, and the young Fichte heroically accepted its rigid determinism as inevitable. It was Kant's solution of the controversy between the head and the heart that provided an escape from the causal bugbear and made the `new' philosophy spread Like wild-fire, winning for its modest author the proud title which he had claimed for himself as "the reformer of philosophy." To Fichte it came as a revelation and a revolution that caused the Spinozistic scales to drop from his eyes and converted him into an eloquent and Life-long apostle of freedom.

Fichte and Schelling grappled with the same problem as Kant; they, too, endeavored "to deliver man from the terrors of the objective world," as Schelling once expressed it; only they were not satisfied with merely thinking the thing in itself, they yearned to see it face to face, in intellectual or artistic intuition, through a function which Kant had denied to human reason, but which his two successors held to be possible by an act of will. They both shared, also, Kant's view of the powerlessness of the intellect to pierce through the surfaces of things into the living, pulsating heart of reality. No romanticist of our own day can be more emphatic than they in accusing the discursive under-standing of deadening and mechanizing life and everything that comes within the sphere of its paralyzing influence. "Conceptual thinking," Fichte warns us again and again, "transforms the immediate life-process into stationary and dead existence," and Schelling harps on the same string in countless brilliant variations. The ordinary intelligence with its scientific method, for-ever searching after causes, forever relating, can accomplish nothing outside of the field of dead being to which it should confine its attention. Only by a kind of philosophical con-version, by a sudden leap of the mind, as it were, can man raise himself out of the machinery of nature and become conscious of the inner, active, self-determining reality in himself. You can prove that you are not a thing, a mere product of nature, only by refusing to be a thing; the only way of escape from materialism and determinism is by an act of freedom in which

( 113) you come face to face with spontaneous life. "What is de-scribed in concepts," Schelling tells us, "is at rest, hence there can be concepts only of things and of that which is finite and sense-perceived. The notion of motion is not motion itself, and without intuition we should never know what motion is. Freedom, however, is comprehended only by freedom, activity only by activity. If we had no intellectual intuition, we should be caught eternally in our objective ideas, . . . and there could be no transcendental thinking, no imagination rising above sense-experience, no philosophy, either theoretical or practical.."

All this means that natural science and philosophy have their special fields and special methods, that the former merely scratches the surface of reality, while the latter grasps its meaning: "the true philosophy is interested in the living, moving element in nature." We can understand the world when and only when we rise from death into life, and we can know life only by being alive and free, hence philosophy begins with an act of will. Im Anfang war die That. The phenomenal world is a means of realizing the living will of the world, and sense-perception and intelligence are instruments in the service of the will, which for Fichte is a moral will, for Schelling an absolute will, an élan vital.

These two post-Kantians are, like their master, voluntarists in the double sense of making will the basal principle of reality and of the knowledge of reality. They are instrumentalists in ascribing to sense-perception and intelligence a practical value though conceiving them as incapable of revealing the living truth. They are pragmatists when they declare that the controversy between materialism and idealism, mechanism and freedom, cannot be decided by theoretical reason, but only by "inclination and interest," that is, by the will to believe. They are intuitionists: we cannot refute materialism or prove idealism to one who has not made himself free and does not experience freedom in himself; indeed we cannot even make the problem mean anything to him. And with Kant and many others of the age they are humanists, proclaiming the worth and dignity of man, and so reflecting in their philosophy the spirit of ethical individualism which had found expression in the French revolution.

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There is hardly a type of Romantic philosophy clamoring for recognition today that has not its counterpart in the anti-intellectualistic movements of the period inaugurated by Kant. Indeed, it would not be difficult to trace the descent of the con-temporary leaders of the new thought through the long line of `new' thinkers which runs unbroken through the nineteenth century. The names are familiar to every student of the history of philosophy; Jacobi, Herder, Fries, Schleiermacher, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Joseph de Maistre, Maine de Biran, Royer-Collard, Victor Cousin, Th. Jouffroy, Ravaisson, Renouvier, Boutroux, Sir William Hamilton, Mansel, and even Bradley, can all be appealed to in support of doctrines which are engaging philosophers of the present day. These romantic teachings are symptoms of dissatisfaction with the methods and results of our rationalistic science and philosophy, expressions of the same spirit of impatient discontent which is manifesting itself every-where in modern Life. We are dissatisfied; economically, politically, socially, morally, religiously, and intellectually dissatisfied ; and our philosophies are mirroring the turmoil of our souls. For one thing, we are tired of the old systems, idealistic and materialistic, rationalistic and empiristic, the old arguments, the old methods, the old categories, the old logic, the old terminologies, — sick and tired of them all. Familiarity breeds contempt in the world of ideas no less than in the world of things; repetition of the old truths and the old Labels deadens the intellect,--we want new names for old ways of thinking. We Long for change and are inclined to welcome every effort to begin the whole work of philosophy over again. But the chief ground of discontent with the traditional science and philosophy is to be sought in their theoretical results, or rather, in their supposed results. The yearnings of the heart are chilled by the contemplation of the vast machinery of a universe of which the individual forms an insignificant and vanishing part. Whether with Huxley we accept the mechanism of natural science with its claim that " the entire world, animate and inanimate, is the result of the mutual interaction, according to definite laws, of forces possessed by the

( 115) molecules which made up the primitive nebulosity of the universe," or conceive the world as an interlocked system of ideas realizing an absolute purpose from which there is absolutely no escape, the fate of the individual is sealed from the very start.

So musst du sein, dir kannst du nicht entfliehen.
So sagten schon Sibyllen und Propheten.

Whether we begin with moving atoms or logical concepts or universal purposes, the individual seems to become a mere phantom, a temporary arrangement of eternal particles of matter or the passing thought of a determined God. His beliefs, his yearnings, his loves and hates, his aspirations and ideals, all these are mere incidents, inevitable creakings and strainings, in the interlockings of the machinery of nature. It is not remarkable that, threatened to be caught in the never-stopping wheels, the modern man should shriek out in pain and protest against such a fate and refuse to have it so. The very terribleness of the conception fascinated him at first, held him spell-bound, and even kindled in him a spirit of exaltation, an excited desire to be spun along over the cataract and to be dashed against the rocks below. But now that the novelty has worn off, his bravado is all gone. Like the Romanticists of the past century, he is searching for a way of escape; as the dread of Spinozism had driven them to fideism, mysticism, intuitionism, and moral-ism, so the bugbear of mechanical, Logical, and teleological absolutism is driving the new philosophers away from the cheer-less abode of intellectualism in quest of a refuge where they may warm their hearts in the contemplation of ethical and religious values and be at peace, or where they may strive to bend a plastic world to human needs.

What characterizes the new currents in our contemporary thought is their opposition to any theory that degrades human life to the rile of an epiphenomenon, that makes man a puppet, that leaves no place for human values. If, the pragmatist asks, everything, man included, is a mere effect of the primitive nebula or infinite substance, what becomes of moral responsibility, freedom of action, individual effort and aspiration; what, indeed, of need, uncertainty, choice, novelty, and strife? An-

( 116) -other characteristic is the interest in the living, moving, pulsating element of existence. Reality for the latter-day opponent of rationalism, no Less than for his earlier brother, is not a dead, static thing, not a mere skeleton of bone and sinew, but flesh and blood, full of life and movement and never-ending change. This view of reality helps to intensify the distrust of the intellect already aroused by its failure to satisfy the longings of the will. Our estimate of the competence of the understanding to do justice to reality will, in a measure, depend upon what we believe reality to be; our theory of knowledge will rest upon our meta-physics. If we identify the world with what we experience objectively or subjectively, if we believe that we come face to face with the real in inner or outer perception or in both, and intelligence appears to give us a different report, we will repudiate intelligence. That is what some of the older Romanticists proceeded to do: the intellect was deposed because it did not tell the truth.

Not all our contemporary anti-intellectualists are, however, prepared to go so far. Bergson admits that science and logic cannot grasp the core of reality; science breaks it up, arrests it and schematizes it in its rigid forms. We cannot draw off the flowing vital process in static logical concepts. Le mot est brutal; just because it is universal, every definition robs the immediate of its individual character. Where there is life and movement, conceptual thinking finds its occupation gone. But this does not mean that intelligence is without its raison d'aire, and that the methods and results of natural science are to be abandoned as false trails. The work of the intellect is not without purpose; it owes its origin to practical needs; it is, as pragmatists have insisted, an instrument in the service of the will to live. And yet it is not merely such a tool for Bergson. Conceptual thought is well-adapted for employment in a dead world, and such a world confronts it in inert matter: here mechanism reigns and here the discursive understanding has cognitive value. Where there is no individuality, no inwardness, nothing but dead surface, science and logic have practical and theoretical worth.. In its own peculiar field intelligence is

( 117) king. But the trouble comes when the logical mind extends its operations to the world in which everything is moving, growing, becoming, living. Baffled by the infinite variety and change of forms, and taking the whirling flux for illusion, the intellect proceeds to construct a bony skeleton, a rigid frame-work, and substitutes this, as the true reality, for the disturbing and unpleasant temporal succession. It keeps forever reading static elements, eternal causes and substances, into the flux, and drop-ping out as mere appearance what does not fit into the logical scheme. Life and consciousness cannot be treated mathematically, scientifically, Logically; the scientist who studies and analyzes them in the ordinary mathematical-physical ways, cuts them up, destroys them, and misses their meaning. The meta-physician cannot give us scientific knowledge of them; philosophy is and remains a direct vision of reality, a Weltanschauung in the literal sense of the term, intuition. Intuition is life, real and immediate life envisaging itself. There is something in the universe analogous to the creative spirit of the poet, a living pushing force, which eludes the mathematical intelligence and which can be appreciated only by a kind of divining sympathy, a feeling which often gets nearer to the essence of things than reason. A normal philosophy must do justice to both intelligence and intuition, for only by a union of these two faculties will the philosopher succeed in approximating the truth. The Critique of Pure Reason would be right and metaphysics would be impossible if mathematical-physical knowledge were the only form of truth, but for Bergson, as for Fichte, Schelling, and, indeed, for Kant himself, there are other sources of knowledge, upon which a satisfactory world-view may be based.

Bergson sharply distinguishes between intelligence and intuition, science and philosophy, and is led to do so by the cleavage his metaphysics makes between the world of matter and the world of life and mind. Like his fellow-countryman Descartes, he abandons the corporeal realm to mechanism; whatever of life and movement there is in nature is due to the élan vital that pushes itself through obstructing matter and flows in channels fashioned by itself. Matter itself is dead, life and consciousness

( 118) are everything but that, for to live is to create and invent. The dualism becomes especially marked in the case of the self with its free will. We cannot strap the ego, which is both a unity and a plurality, upon the conceptual frame-work used for the external world. The intellect looks at reality from the outside and can understand only such existences as have nothing but an outside; in the presence of the true realities it is condemned to relativity and symbolism; it operates with pictures, rigid concepts, substitutes and symbols of the absolute; it cannot break itself of its habit of cutting things into strips and measuring and counting them. With qualities and movements, with life and consciousness, with the growing personality, all of which have to be caught on the wing, as it were, only intuition can deal; intelligence can at best give us nothing but snap-shots of life, while intuition seizes its movement.

The sharp distinction which Bergson makes between matter and mind is not always consistently adhered to in his works and perhaps does not represent the final form of his philosophy; but as it stands, it reminds us somewhat of the dualistic metaphysics of Descartes. Unlike his predecessor, however, he does not advance upon the spiritual citadel of reality by way of logical arguments, but takes it by storm, seizes it by direct inner vision like the German Romanticists. We cannot think ourselves into life and mind, but must grasp them without the intervention of intellectual reflection, which would at once begin to block them out. James, too, discredits the intellect; for him also philosophy is more a matter of passionate vision than of logic. We must go behind the conceptual function altogether; in this he is agreed with Bergson, but his sympathies seem to lie with Hume and Mill rather than with Schelling in looking to the more primitive flux of the sensational life for reality's true shape. The French philosopher looks inward for reality's true shape, the American outward. It is not true, as Hegel held, that whatever is real is rational and whatever is rational is real; whatever is experienced is real. But English empiricism is no more satisfactory than German rationalism, James tells us, simply because it is not empirical, not radical enough, because it does violence to the

( 119) sensational flux, instead of taking it just as it comes. Philosophy should seek this kind of living understanding of the movement of reality, not follow science in vainly patching together fragments of its dead results. Radical empiricism makes for pluralism: experience shows us multiplicity, diversity, opposition, and not a block-universe, not the completely organized harmonious system of the Absolutists and Monists in which all differences and oppositions are reconciled. Pluralism takes perceptual experience at its face value, and such experience reveals countless independent individual beings. The concrete perceptual flux, taken just as it comes, offers in our activity-situations perfectly comprehensible instances of causal agency. Free will means nothing but real novelty! we also experience perceptual novelties all the while. Hence there is room for chance, for novelty, for freedom in the world of radical experience.

Moreover, the pluralistic universe satisfies the demands of our moral nature, while there is no room for morality in the rigorous deterministic universe of the absolutist. In such a world of novelty and change, in which not everything is the necessary effect of something else, man is free to risk realizing his ideal. Each concrete moral situation is something new, special, unique, in which the agent must eventually judge and act for himself.

James bases his world-view upon the testimony of immediate experience and upon the demands of the human will. The intellect in the form of natural science and the old philosophies fastens a block-universe upon us, while the will cries out for independence and a plastic malleable world, and unanalyzed experience gives us the world we want. Pragmatism not only suggests that we trust direct experience and follow the will, but modifies the conception of truth to meet the situation. The will itself becomes the test of truth; the test of a theory, belief, or doctrine is its practical consequences, its effect upon us, its relation to the human will. "The possession of truth is not an end in itself, but only a preliminary means to other vital satisfactions." Always ask yourself what difference it will make in your experience whether you accept materialism or spiritualism,

( 120) determinism or free will, atheism or theism. One is a doctrine of despair, the other a doctrine of hope. "On practical principles, if the hypothesis of God works satisfactorily in the widest sense of the word, it is true. Experience shows that it certainly does work." "Truth in science is what gives us the maximum possible sum of satisfactions, taste included, but consistency both with previous truth and novel fact is always the most imperious claimant." Yet consistency is not the sole criterion of truth, according to James; in order to be true, a philosophy must satisfy other than logical demands. And the practical, moral, and religious demands favor pluralism, freedom and individual-ism, spiritualism and theism. The will demands consistency, coherency; the will to know, the intelligence, asserts its rights in James,-so much of the old rationalism is still in his bones,-but he refuses to make intelligence the absolute judge: knowledge is not knowledge that does not satisfy all the cravings of the will. In the case of conflict preference is to be given to what will satisfy the life-long hunger in the human heart. James can take this position because he believes that the will somehow reaches down into a mysterious spiritual underworld, and that its cravings can be satisfied in the world of experience, that they can be made true. A belief or theory is true in so far as it can be made to work in the field of human experience.


Peculiar to the anti-intellectualistic philosophies of the present day is their antagonism to ultra-deterministic systems of any kind, materialistic or idealistic. They all plead for a more elastic universe, for a world in which human life can amount to something more than a mere puppet show or a drama in which the characters simply play the parts cast for them. They all repudiate a world in which freedom, initiative, individual responsibility, novelty, adventure, risk, chance, romance,—life as the individual unspoiled by philosophy, seems to live it,-are lacking; the interest is shifted from the universal to the particular, from the machine-like to the organic, from the intellect to the will, from logic to intuition, from the theoretical to the practical,

( 121) from God to man. Recent Romanticism demands a world in which the human being shall have a fighting chance, in which the cards are not stacked against him from the start, in which things can happen that were not on the bills, which, with effort, he can fashion to his purposes and ideals, in which he can succeed and fail. h wants the world back again as it revealed itself to ordinary unreflecting common sense.

There is much that is good in these new tendencies. For one thing they have put the old classical systems on their mettle and are making them justify their existence.

Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast,
Erwirb es um es zu besitzen.

Without antagonisms, without battles to fight, philosophy easily falls to sleep, sinks into "the deep slumber of a decided opinion." Conflict is better than self-satisfied assurance or indifference. War is the Father of all and the King of all, in the domain of mind as everywhere else, and there is nothing so dead as an accepted creed. "Both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post," Mill is right, "as soon as there is no enemy in the field." A philosophy that is done, is a philosophy that is done for.

Des Menschen Thätigkeit kann allzuleicht erschlaffen,
Er liebt sich bald die unbedingte Ruh'.

In addition to the important service which the new thinkers have rendered in helping to rejuvenate philosophy, they have also aided in focusing attention upon points that are apt to be lost sight of. They have again pushed to the front the question of the relation of natural science and philosophy, the whole knowledge-problem, and have emphasized the significance of human values in the scheme of things: questions which call for ever new answers with the progress of human inquiry. They have warned us against mistaking the universal frame-work of reality for reality itself, and have insisted on our keeping close to concrete experience. They protest against a one-sided meta-physic, a metaphysic that fails to do justice to all the varied experiences of mankind and interprets the world in terms of mere aspects of experience, conceiving it as a physical, logical, or teleological machine. They refuse to accept as complete the

( 122) account of reality written by the outward-looking intellect and to picture it in analogy with the knowing human mind. They accentuate the dynamic character of reality, the Heraclitean world-view as against the static absolutes of the Eleatics, and conceive being in analogy with the human will.

All these points and many others in the writings of the newest reformers of philosophy are well taken and have been emphasized again and again in the history of speculation. The new doctrines are not new in principle, as we have seen, and their champions often thunder too much in the index. The motives behind their wholesale distrust of the intellect are fear of depreciation of standard moral and religious values, a preconceived metaphysics and an all-too narrow conception of intelligence. Distrust of reason based on cravings of the will is not necessarily a bona fide distrust. It is not rational to discredit the intelligence because it fails to give us the world we want, or the heaven we want, or the God we want. The direst need cannot make black white though it may persuade us to paint it white. Nor does the fact that hypotheses happen to please the will to believe, or succeed in this sense, make these hypotheses true. The will to be deceived, though it may stifle the will to know, does not make truth. It is necessary to give reasons for taking the side of the will to believe, that is, to appeal to the intelligence, the same intelligence that has helped to free us from the slavery of nature and the slavery of our own superstitions. Such an appeal is made by every anti-intellectualist, yes, by every pragmatist who asks us to accept his theory because it is rational, because it accounts for the facts as he sees the facts, because it is true,-true in the old sense of the word.

It may be held that where knowledge leaves us in the lurch, faith comes into its own, that of two equally unprovable hypotheses that one is to be accepted which works in the sense of satisfying ethical and religious needs. As a piece of practical advice to be followed or not, philosophy need not concern itself with this statement. But there is objection to calling the hypothesis true because it chimes in with our desires or works in that way. Truth and utility are not the same, and it does not

( 123) add to our understanding of things to identify them. We may interpret utility so as to include in it Logical consistency and scientific verification, refusing to accept anything as true that does not satisfy the will for consistency as well as explain the facts of our experience. But in that case we are simply abandoning the pragmatic test and adopting a time-honored rationalistic standard. We may refuse to accept anything as true that does not satisfy both the will for intelligibility and the moral and religious will, but we can do that only in case the thing does not really satisfy the will to understand. The mere fact that a theory leaves no room for free will, pluralism, immortality, or God, does not make it false, even though belief in such ideas should happen to help us over the dismal places in Life. What satisfies the will to believe in God may not satisfy the will to understand our world of experience. The will to believe must itself be rendered intelligible; reasons must be given for accepting its demands, and these reasons must satisfy the will to know. And reasons are always given, even by faith-philosophers; they construct a world for us in which the will to believe will not constitute an irrational element. Kant accepted the categorical imperative and its implications because he believed in a rational universe and because a universe did not seem intelligible to him in which human reason could demand an irrational thing, a meaningless Law.

It would, however, be a valid objection against the competence of the intellect if it could be shown that it falsifies reality, that it compels us to construct a world-view that simply is not true. Such an objection presupposes the possession of a metaphysic or other sources of knowledge which we are able to oppose to the conclusions of reason as something more real and authoritative. If the intelligence saddles us with a block-universe and there is no block-universe, intelligence ought to be drummed out of camp. But the question quite naturally arises: Does the human understanding really squeeze all life out of existence and leave us nothing but a bony skeleton? Does rational thought demand an absolutely closed system, one in which nothing exists that was not there before, nothing that cannot be deduced in principle,

( 124) without a remainder, from pre-existent elements? Does it follow from the very nature of reason that what now is always has been and always will be, that there is nothing new under the sun, that the new is nothing but a re-arrangement of the old? If we define reality in the first place, as rigid, inert blocks of matter that can be pushed and pulled and nothing else, it follows that nothing can come out of it that was not there before. If we conceive reality as mind, and mind as a thing, as something that can do nothing unless pushed by something else, or as a static universal purpose, then, again, the world is a closed system, nothing can come into it that was not already there before. But we are not compelled to define reality in either way, and human intelligence is not by nature forced to conceive it so; it is compelled only to accept the consequences of such a definition if such a definition be accepted. Moreover, this is not the view of reality which the great historical systems have given us; to construe them in this sense is to misconstrue them. It is true, the human mind has its ways of thinking; our very problems follow from the nature of our thought and certain results follow. There is not a single faith-philosopher, intuitionist, or pragmatist who does not think in these general human ways, who does not try hard to be consistent, who does not look out for similarities and differences in his experiences, who does not single out and hold fast certain phases of them, and who does not relate them in definite ways. The mind has its ways, and some of these ways, if left to themselves, tend to stretch reality upon a static Procrustean frame to make it fit; there is always danger of one-sidedness in intelligence, that, instinct-Like, it will spin the same old web around everything it meets, that it will apply everywhere the methods which Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Bergson allow it to use in the dead world, that it will try to handle life and consciousness as it would handle its corpses. There is this danger, and the thinker who deals largely in abstract formulas often succumbs to it. But it is just the business of philosophy to avoid this very danger, to apply the methods intelligently; the cure for intelligence is more intelligence.

There is nothing whatever in the nature of the human mind to

( 125) force it to reduce all reality to dead blocks that can be counted, arranged in order, and measured. There is nothing to hinder it from doing justice to the dynamic, living, flowing, galloping phase of experience, to that phase about which the new philosophers are so much concerned. Rationalism is not fatally bound to the mathematical-physical method of procedure and static absolutes, nor prevented by any presuppositions from reaching the conception of a dynamic and developing universe. Hegel assumed such a world and made reason move to keep step with it, or, rather, he could not hinder reason from keeping step, for, in his opinion, rational thought is just such a dynamic process as the world. No Romanticist can be more pronounced in his distrust of mere intelligence than was he of the Verstand, and more insistent on avoiding its pit-falls. But he was not, on that account, ready to throw thinking overboard and to take on faith and intuition as pilots; reason itself provided the remedy for the short-sightedness of the discursive understanding as he conceived it: die Wunden die die Vernunft schlagt heilt sie auch.

But whether or not Hegel succeeded in his attempt to reproduce in thought the dynamic cosmic process, human reason does not demand a static world for its satisfaction. Nor must we, to be rational, conceive reality, in analogy with the mind of the logician, as a fleshless and bloodless skeleton of categories, or reduce it to a passionless contemplative God. Rationalism has as its aim the interpretation of experience as it finds it; it seeks to under-stand it, to render it intelligible, to put certain questions to the given and to answer them. It does not seek to spin reality out of a priori truths, to construct a conceptual system independently of experience, to shut its eyes and stop up its ears and just think the world out in the dark, as it were. No rationalist has ever done such a thing; if anyone has ever pretended to be able to create a philosophy blind-folded, we may safely class him among the tribe of mediums, clairvoyants, and Leger-de-main artists. Rationalism proposes to Look experience squarely in the face, to see things as they are and then to understand them in the only sense in which human beings can understand them, that is, in their manifold relations to one another. It will not reject

( 126) any methods or sources of experiencing that promise to throw light on its business, be they intellectual, artistic or religious intuitions, but it will not accept any one of them without criticism, any more than it will accept ordinary sense-experience offhand.

And, so far as I can see, no new school of philosophy attempts to force its intuitions or wills to believe upon us without giving reasons for our accepting these methods of knowledge rather than others: the only question is whether or not the reasons are adequate. There is always some more or less rational theory behind the view that pure experience, or immediate experience, or intellectual intuition, or sympathetic artistic feeling, or moral or religious faith, gives us the clearest and truest insight into reality. Blind faith in witches and demons is not accepted on its own testimony by those in whom the will to know is strong, and no alleged experience is going to pass unchallenged that cannot give an account of itself.

The inner experiences emphasized and variously named by Fichte, Schelling, Bergson, and countless others, the inner psychic life of man himself, cannot be cast aside or reduced to mere appearance unless there is ample cognitive warrant for so doing. The protests of the new movements against the mechanization of life and mind may be justified, but they are not protests against intelligence and rationalism; rationalism itself has pro-tested against a static and mechanical view in the persons of a long line of illustrious thinkers ever since the days of Plato. And the protests of the reformers against a spiritual block-universe, against the atomic conception of mental life or the idea of a teleological despotism ruled by an arch-purpose, may be justified, but it is not a valid protest against rationalism, which is in no wise compelled to look at mental Life in such a wooden way. Rationalism is committed to nothing but the business of under-standing experience, of putting questions to it, not such as any fool may ask but only such as a wise man can answer.

It is true, reason can operate only in a rational world, in a world in which there is Likeness besides difference, unity besides plurality, permanence besides change. It does not demand a

( 127) dead, static world for its work-shop; it is not baffled by life and change and evolution, even by creative evolution and novelty, provided creation and novelty are not absolutely capricious: in a topsy-turvy world reason would grow dizzy and shut its eyes. With absolute caprice, with novelty that is utterly without rhyme or reason, that appears and disappears at random and is absolutely unrelated to anything else, neither intelligence nor intuition can do anything whatsoever. There is no meaning in novelty except in relation with the old: where there is no oldness there can be no newness. And one looks in vain for any such miracles in the recent philosophies. Even Bergson's creative principle does not really create out of nothing, like a bolt from -the blue; it contains in itself an infinite number of possibilities, potentialities; it is big with the past, and, like the Aristotelian entelechies and the Leibnizian monads, it is big with the future. And it is not absolutely capricious: it battles with obstreperous matter and it cannot help pushing through, so much of law there is in it, and, what is more, it is bound to win the fight. The meta-physical reality changes, it is true, but its changes are not irrational; it has developed into instinct in animals and into intelligence in man; its march is upward, it corrects its mistakes, eradicates the evil, and perfects itself. In man it has succeeded in breaking through the rigid mechanism of matter and in raising itself to freedom. New creations arise, but they are not unrelated to the demands of the situation; they come when and where they are needed. From thorns men do not gather grapes or figs from thistles." An absolutely irrational durée might suddenly stop creating, explode, go into nothing and refuse to come back; its creations might be like the frenzies of a madman. It is true, rationalism would still seek to find some uniformity in its whims, it would indeed attempt to rationalize its freakish behavior, to find some method in its madness, or abandon the task of knowing altogether. The entrance of novelty will not, however, put a quietus on rational inquiry. The phenomena of life and the phenomena of consciousness may be unique events in comparison with mechanical occurrence, and rationalism will have to admit their uniqueness if it cannot reduce them to a

( 128) single principle. It is not the business of human reason to falsify the world of experience, but to understand it; it keeps before itself the ideal of unity and simplicity, but it is not bound to bury all differences in a single grave. It is itself a unity in diversity, a one and many, and it will not do violence to its own nature.

There is nothing to hinder us from calling the method of thought which results in the mechanization of experience intelligence and giving another name to the function or functions through which we reach a different conception. We may distinguish, if we will, between intelligence and intuition, Verstand and Vernunft, regarding the former as the method of scientific study, the latter as the source of metaphysical knowledge of a higher order. But the distinction would be an artificial one, the very kind of distinction against which Romanticists inveigh as cutting up what cannot be cut up. There can be no intuition that is absolutely devoid of intelligence, no philosophy, no knowledge, where intellect is dumb. Radical empiricism, naive realism, and intuitionism, all represent an effort to get directly at the heart of things, all are expressions of an intense longing for reality, symptoms of metaphysical home-sickness. Rational-ism can accept any one or all of these heroic attempts at taking reality by storm,-if they can pass muster. But can any experience, pure, immediate, or intuitive, be made the basis of philosophical truth without being inspected by the same intelligence that operates in ordinary Life; can this intelligence he silenced, can it Lose itself in mere unintelligent mystical gazing, and if it can, of what use will it ever be to science or philosophy? No theory that endeavors, as every theory must, to validate its methods and sources of knowledge, can or does refuse to reflect upon its immediate experiences, to analyze them for us, to tell us how they are constituted, and to employ categories in doing all this. The pure experience as described by the new philosophers is not an experience at all, but the product of analysis and reflection, the result of the very conceptual operations which they condemn. The voice is Heraclitus's voice, but the hand is the hand of Parmenides.

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The true reality, we are told, is unanalyzable, alive, full of qualities, many and yet one. It must be directly experienced, Lived, or intuited. But merely living it is not intuiting it, as that process is described by Bergson. Intuition already includes reflection, and this implies a number of mental operations such as recognition, memory, comparison, analysis and synthesis, the same operations that are employed in knowing the outer world. Only a philosopher can intuit, see the one in the many, and only a genius among philosophers, it seems. Bergson himself tells us that, compared with what memory adds, the original stock of the intuition would be quite small. Moreover, it must be remembered that the philosopher does not merely experience, envisage, gaze, lose himself in mystical contemplation and remain lost there: he writes books, describes what he discovers, tells us his story, and constructs a system. How that can be done without the critical and logical employment of intelligence, it is hard to see. It is not done; the discredited discursive understanding performs its functions in the accustomed ways, trying to render the situation intelligible. It assumes that the inner experience is the true reality; it assumes that it is the same in others as in ourselves; it assumes that what is found in man lies at the very core of things; it assumes that the principle is a creative principle, that it creates new qualities, that it makes progress, that it subdivides matter, that inorganic existence is mind come to rest, congealed mind, that souls are ceaselessly created by the rolling of the great current of life through matter and the forming of brooklets, as it were. All this is thinking, the same kind of thinking that is employed in the effort to understand the world of dead things.

If, however, it is insisted that the intellect reveals to us only an external world, physical objects in causal-mechanical relation, then it is true that it does not tell us the whole story. And if the intellect paralyzes everything it lays its eyes on, stops motion, kills life, butchers reality, then, indeed, scientific thinking is inadequate and there is need of a special method or the abandonment of philosophy. The Romanticists are right in throwing logic and concepts overboard, or at least in limiting their depra-

( 130) -dations to the field of things already dead, if conceptual thought is guilty of playing such havoc. They are right in holding that sense-perception is not the sole source and sense-perceived things not the sole objects of knowledge. A being capable only of looking outward would miss a body of experiences which mere outward-gazing intelligence can never reach. Living consciousness is an event in the world which living consciousness alone can know. If there can be science only where there are static absolutes, then every attempt to treat life and mind scientifically must be a falsification of them and science had better let them alone.

But it is not necessary to take such a one-sided view of intelligence and knowledge. Science is not Limited to outward perception. Intelligence is not limited to the function of chopping things up and counting, measuring, and arranging the bits; synthesis is as much its function as analysis. The two functions imply each other, one is impossible without the other; how could there be counting, measuring, and arranging without either? It is true, the intellect can never reproduce the original experience as it appears in inner or outer perception; all the science and philosophy in the world will not enable the blind man to experience colors in his thoughts as he would if he actually saw them. But it is not the aim of thinking to photograph experiences: thinking does not intend to repeat the work of perception, but to illuminate and interpret perception, to analyze and synthetize, to discover similarities and differences, to determine the various relations existing between what is given. Even though the mind longs for flesh and blood pictures of reality, for sensuous images, and keeps close to them in its thinking, the purpose of thought is never to reinstate the original experiences just as they were experienced, or to create new ones after the manner of the realistic painter, that is, to give its thought complete perceptual expression again. Indeed, it may well be asked which of the many possible experiences is to be reinstated, the experience of the ignorant unreflecting mind or the experience of the trained thinker? It is not true that if we could observe all natural processes, we should need no science to explain them.

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Our conclusion then would be this: If anyone finds grounds for supposing that the object of rationalism is to deduce a world from a priori principles, to construct an absolute system independently of experience, his hostility to it is fully justified. The aim of all thinking is to interpret experience as we find it, not to spin it out of an a priori principle. We are in search of theories, and, if the thing is possible, of a universal theory that will help us to understand what is; and such theories must be Laid on the foundations of experience; they cannot hang in mid-air. And though the mind longs for certainty and has for its ideal a system of interrelated judgments, present-day rationalism cannot and does not lay claim to the possession of complete truth. Again, human thinking has its ways or habits, and rationalism is right in recognizing such habits or categories of thought. But they are not mere arbitrary forms and they do not falsify the real. It is natural to suppose that a mind that has grown up in the world should have caught something of its spirit; it is hard to see how a mind could have formed habits in a world that has no habits, or how a mind could live in an environment that knows no law and yet conceive it as obedient to law. If to categorize the world is to falsify it, we are confronted with the double miracle of a sane mind being born in bedlam and remaining sane in bedlam.

Moreover, if rationalism is taken to mean the degradation of the seeming diversity of experience to mere illusion and the absolute domination of concrete particulars by an abstraction, call it matter, energy, spirit, or God, the protests of pluralism are just. Unity without plurality is death, as plurality without unity is chaos. Indeed, thinking itself would be as absolutely dumb in the presence of absolute monotony as in the presence of absolute chaos. And so would sense-perception and feeling and intuition. Rationalism does not compel us to reduce all processes to a single principle; a world of differences, oppositions, changes is not an irrational world. It is true that knowledge would be impossible in a world in which there are no unities and uniformities, but it is just as true that it would be impossible in a world in which there is neither difference nor change. Rationalism does not prescribe the goal and path of science

( 132) or philosophy a priori; it does not fasten the mind in the strait jacket of mathematical-physical method, it does not compel us to reduce biology, psychology, and history to physics, it does not force us to reduce everything to static absolutes and block-universes. It leaves ample room for adventure and change; it takes experience as it comes and finds rhyme and reason in it. Even if nature and her laws were conceived as constantly changing, rationalism would not give up the ghost so long as there remained the possibility of discovering a law of change in the changing laws. Only in case there were no Law of change, if nature were utterly Lawless, would rationalism fail. But in that case, all the other philosophies,—pragmatism, intuitionism, and the rest,— would go down with the wreck, for every one of them is an attempt to understand experience, and none of them could thrive in an irrational world. And in such a world as that nothing would work.

The fundamental postulate of rationalism is that experience is somehow intelligible, that all genuine problems are somehow and sometime soluble; if reason can ask them intelligibly, reason can answer. But the demand for rationality does not necessarily preclude the possibility of freedom, responsibility, change, novelty, evolution, and play into the hands of absolute determinism. It is true, if reality is broken up into a physical series of causes and effects or into a mental series of the same character, then the concrete particular, thing or person, is caught in the clutches of circumstance, be they mechanical or teleological. Whether he is coerced by the physical machinery or by a universal purpose, man is equally a slave. But why should we interpret our categories of cause, purpose, and evolution in such a wooden way and insist on seeing everything, Life and consciousness included, in the form of static absolutes ? To conceive them so is to take a decidedly narrow and unhistorical view of reason and intelligence and to give an easy victory to mechanism. The way of escape from the block-universe is not through Romanticism but through a broad-minded rationalistic philosophy.



  1. Delivered as the presidential address before the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association at Columbia University, December 27, 1912.

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