1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Philosophy
PHILOSOPHY (Gr. φίλος, fond of, and σοφία, wisdom), a general term whose meaning and scope have varied very considerably according to the usage of different authors and different ages. It can best be explained by a survey of the steps by which philosophy differentiated itself, in the history of Greek thought, from the idea of knowledge and culture in general. These steps may be traced in the gradual specification of the term. The tradition which assigns the first employment of the Greek word φιλοσοφία to Pythagoras has hardly any claim to be regarded as authentic; and the somewhat self-conscious modesty to which Diogenes Laertius attributes the choice of the designation is, in all probability, a piece of etymology crystallized into narrative. It is true that, as a matter of fact, the earliest uses of the word (the verb φιλοσοφεῖν occurs in Herodotus and Thucydides) imply the idea of the pursuit of knowledge; but the distinction between the σοφός, or wise man, and the φιλόσοφος, or lover of wisdom, appears first in the Platonic writings, and lends itself naturally to the so-called Socratic irony. The same thought is to be found in Xenophon, and is doubtless to be attributed to the historical Socrates. But the word soon lost this special implication. What is of real interest to us is to trace the progress from the idea of the philosopher as occupied with any and every department of knowledge to that which assigns him a special kind of knowledge as his province.
A specific sense of the word first meets us in Plato, who defines the philosopher as one who apprehends the essence or reality of things in opposition to the man who dwells in appearances and the shows of sense. The philosophers, he says, “are those who are able to grasp the eternal and immutable”; they are “those who set their affections on that which in each case really exists” (Rep. 480). In Plato, however, this distinction is applied chiefly in an ethical and religious direction; and, while it defines philosophy, so far correctly, as the endeavour to express what things are in their ultimate constitution, it is not yet accompanied by a sufficient differentiation of the subsidiary inquiries by which this ultimate question may be approached. Logic, ethics and physics, psychology, theory of knowledge and metaphysics are all fused together by Plato in a semi-religious synthesis. It is not till we come to Aristotle—the encyclopaedist of the ancient world—that we find a demarcation of the different philosophic disciplines corresponding, in the main, to that still current. The earliest philosophers, or " physiologers," had occupied themselves chiefly with what we may call cosmology; the one question which covers everything for them is that of the underlying substance of the world around them, and they essay to answer this question, so to speak, by simple inspection. In Socrates and Plato, on the other hand, the start is made from a consideration of man's moral and intellectual activity; but knowledge and action are confused with one another, as in the Socratic doctrine that virtue is knowledge. To this correspond the Platonic confusion of logic and ethics and the attempt to substitute a theory of concepts for a metaphysic of reality. Aristotle's methodic intellect led him to separate the different aspects of reality here confounded. He became the founder of logic, psychology, ethics and aesthetics as separate sciences; while he prefixed to all such (comparatively) special inquiries the investigation of the ultimate nature of existence as such, or of those first principles which are common to, and presupposed in, every narrower field of knowledge. For this investigation Aristotle's most usual name is " first philosophy " or, as a modern might say, " first principles "; but there has since been appropriated to it, apparently by accident, the title " metaphysics." " Philosophy," as a term of general application, was not, indeed restricted by Aristotle or his successors to the disciplines just enumerated. Aristotle himself includes under the title, besides mathematics, all his physical inquiries. It was only in the Alexandrian period, as Zeller points out, that the special sciences attained to independent cultivation. Nevertheless, as the mass of knowledge accumulated, it naturally came about that the name " philosophy " ceased to be applied to inquiries concerned with the particulars as such. The details of physics, for example, were abandoned to the scientific specialist, and philosophy restricted itself in this department to the question of the relation of the physical universe to the ultimate ground or author of things. This inquiry which was long called " rational cosmology," may be said to form part of the general subject of metaphysics, or at all events a pendant to it. By the gradual sifting out of the special sciences philosophy thus came to embrace primarily the inquiries grouped as " metaphysics " or " first philosophy." These would embrace, according to the Wolffian scheme long current in philosophical textbooks, ontology proper, or the science of being as such, with its three-branch sciences of (rational) psychology, cosmology and (rational or natural) theology, dealing with the three chief forms of being - the soul, the world and God. Subsidiary to metaphysics, as the central inquiry, stand the sciences of logic and ethics, to which may be added aesthetics, constituting three normative sciences - sciences, that is, which do not, primarily, describe facts, but rather prescribe ends or set forth ideals. It is evident, however, that if logic deals with conceptions which may be considered constitutive of knowledge as such, and if ethics deals with the harmonious realization of human life, which is the highest known form of existence, both sciences must have a great deal of weight in the settling of the general question of metaphysics.
In sum, then, we may say that " philosophy " has come to be understood at least in modern times as a general term covering the various disciplines just enumerated. It has frequently tended, however, and still tends, to be used as specially convertible with the narrower term " metaphysics." This is not unnatural, seeing that it is only so far as they bear on the one central question of the nature of existence that philosophy spreads its mantle over psychology, logic or ethics. The particular organic conditions of perception and the associative laws to which the mind, as a part of nature, is subjected, are facts in themselves indifferent to the philosopher; and therefore the development of psychology into an independent science, which took place during the latter half of the loth century and may now be said to be complete, represents an entirely natural evolution. Similarly, logic, so far as it is an art of thought or a doctrine of fallacies, and ethics, so far as it is occupied with a natural history of impulses and moral sentiments, do neither of them belong, except by courtesy, to the philosophic province. But, although this is so, it is perhaps hardly desirable to deprive ourselves of the use of two terms instead of one. It will not be easy to infuse into so abstract and bloodless a term as " metaphysics " the fuller life (and especially the inclusion of ethical considerations) suggested by the more concrete term "philosophy." We shall first of all, then, attempt to differentiate philosophy from the special sciences, and afterwards proceed to take up one. by one what have been called the philosophical sciences, with the view of showing how far the usual subject-matter of each is really philosophical in its bearing, and how far it belongs rather to the domain of " science " strictly so called. The order in which, for clearness of exposition, it will be most convenient to consider these disciplines will be psychology, epistemology or theory of knowledge, and metaphysics, then logic, aesthetics and ethics. Finally, the connexion of the last-mentioned with politics (or, to speak more modernly, with jurisprudence and sociology), with the philosophy of history and the philosophy of religion, will call for a few words on the relation of these sciences to general philosophy.
Philosophy and Natural Science.—In distinguishing philosophy from the sciences, it may not be amiss at the outset to guard against the possible misunderstanding that philosophy is concerned with a subject-matter different from, and in some obscure way transcending, the subject-matter of the sciences. Now that psychology, or the observational and experimental study of mind, may be said to have been definitively included among the positive sciences, there is not even the apparent ground which once existed for such an idea. Philosophy, even under its most discredited name of metaphysics, has no other subjectmatter than the nature of the real world, as that world lies around us in everyday life, and lies open to observers on every side. But if this is so, it may be asked what function can remain for philosophy when every portion of the field is already lotted out and enclosed by specialists? Philosophy claims to be the science of the whole; but, if we get the knowledge of the parts from the different sciences, what is there left for philosophy to tell us ? To this it is sufficient to answer generally that the synthesis of the parts is something more than that detailed knowledge of the parts in separation which is gained by the man of science. It is with the ultimate synthesis that philosophy concerns itself ; it has to show that the subject-matter which we are all dealing with in detail really is a whole, consisting of articulated members. Evidently, therefore, the relation existing between philosophy and the sciences will be, to some extent, one of reciprocal influence. The sciences may be said to furnish philosophy with its matter, but philosophical criticism reacts upon the matter thus furnished, and transforms it. Such transformation is inevitable, for the parts only exist and can only be fully, i.e. truly, known in their relation to the whole. A pure specialist, if such a being were possible, would be merely an instrument whose results had to be co-ordinated and used by others. Now, though a pure specialist may be an abstraction of the mind, the tendency of specialists in any department naturally is to lose sight of the whole in attention to the particular categories or modes of nature's working which happen to be exemplified, and fruitfully applied, in their own sphere of investigation; and in proportion as this is the case it becomes necessary for their theories to be co-ordinated with the results of other inquirers, and set, as it were, in the light of the whole. This task of co-ordination, in the broadest sense, is undertaken by philosophy; for the philosopher is essentially what Plato, in a happy moment, styled him, συνοπτικός, the man who takes a "synoptic" or comprehensive view of the universe as a whole. The aim of philosophy (whether fully attainable or not) is to exhibit the universe as a rational system in the harmony of all its parts; and accordingly the philosopher refuses to consider the parts out of their relation to the whole whose parts they are. Philosophy corrects in this way the abstractions which are inevitably made by the scientific specialist, and may claim, therefore, to be the only " concrete " science, that is to say, the only science which takes account of all the elements in the problem, and the only science whose results can claim to be true in more than a provisional sense.
For it is evident from what has been said that the way in which we commonly speak of " facts " is calculated to convey a false impression. The world is not a collection of individual facts existing side by side and capable of being known separately. A fact is nothing except in its relations to other facts; and as these relations are multiplied in the progress of knowledge the nature of the so-called fact is indefinitely modified. Moreover, every statement of fact involves certain general notions and theories, so that the " facts " of the separate sciences cannot be stated except in terms of the conceptions or hypotheses which are assumed by the particular science. Thus mathematics assumes space as an existent infinite, without investigating in what sense the existence or the infinity of this Unding, as Kant called it, can be asserted. In the same way, physics may be said to assume the notion of material atoms and forces. These and similar assumptions are ultimate presuppositions or working hypotheses for the sciences themselves. But it is the office of philosophy, as a theory of knowledge, to submit such conceptions to a critical analysis, with a view to discover how far they can be thought out, or how far, when this is done, they refute themselves, and call for a different form of statement, if they are to be taken as a statement of the ultimate nature of the real. The first statement may frequently turn out to have been merely provisionally or relatively true; it is then superseded by, or rather inevitably merges itself in, a less abstract account. In this the same " facts " appear differently, because no longer separated from other aspects that belong to the full reality of the known world. There is no such thing, we have said, as an individual fact; and the nature of any fact is not fully known unless we know it in all its relations to the system of the universe, or, in Spinoza's phrase, sub specie aeternitatis. In strictness, there is but one res completa or concrete fact, and it is the business of philosophy, as science of the whole, to expound the chief relations that constitute its complex nature.
The last abstraction which it becomes the duty of philosophy to remove is the abstraction from the knowing subject which is made by all the sciences, including, as we shall see, the science of psychology. The sciences, one and all, deal with a world of objects, but the ultimate fact as we know it is the existence of an object for a subject. Subject-object, knowledge, or, more widely, self-consciousness with its implicates - this unity in duality is the ultimate aspect which reality presents. It has generally been considered, therefore, as constituting in a special sense the problem of philosophy. Philosophy may be said to be the explication of what is involved in this relation, or, in Kantian phraseology, a theory of its possibility. Any would-be theory of the universe which makes its central fact impossible stands self-condemned. On the other hand, a sufficient analysis here may be expected to yield us a statement of the reality of things in its last terms, and thus to shed a light backwards upon the true nature of our subordinate conceptions.
Psychology, Epistemology and Metaphysics.—This leads to the consideration of the main divisions of philosophy - Psychology (q.v.), epistemology (theory of knowledge, Erkenntnisstheorie), and metaphysics (ontology; see Metaphysic). A special relation has always existed between psychology and systematic philosophy, but the closeness of the connexion has been characteristic of modern and more particularly of English thought. The connexion is not difficult to explain, seeing that in psychology, or the science of mind, we study the fact of intelligence (and moral action), and have, so far, in our hands the fact to which all other facts are relative. From this point of view we may even see a truth in Jacobi's dictum as quoted by Sir W. Hamilton : " Nature conceals God; man reveals God." Nature by itself, that is to say, is insufficient. The ultimate explanation of things cannot be given by any theory which excludes from its survey the intelligence in which nature, as it were, gathers herself up. But knowledge, or the mind as knowing, willing, &c., may be looked at in two different ways. It may be regarded simply as a fact; in which case the evolutions of mind may be traced and reduced to laws in the same way as the phenomena treated by the other sciences. This study gives us the science of empirical psychology, or, as it is now termed, psychology sans phrase. In order to give an adequate account of its subject-matter, psychology may require higher or more complex categories than are employed in the other sciences, just as biology, for example, cannot work with mechanical categories alone, but introduces the conception of development or growth. But the affinities of such a study are manifestly with the sciences as such rather than with philosophy; and the definitive establishment of psychology as an independent science has already been alluded to. Since it has been taken up by specialists, psychology is being established on a broader basis of induction, and with the advantage, in some departments, of the employment of experimental methods of measurement. But it is not of mind in this aspect that such assertions can be made as those quoted above. Mind, as studied by the psychologist - mind as a mere fact or phenomenon - grounds no inference to anything beyond itself. The distinction between mind viewed as a succession of "states of consciousness " and the further aspect of mind which philosophy considers was very clearly put by Croom Robertson, who also made a happy suggestion of two terms to designate the double point of view: " We may view knowledge as mere subjective function, but it has its full meaning only as it is taken to represent what we may call objective fact, or is such as is named (in different circumstances) real, valid, true. As mere subjective function, which it is to the psychologist, it is best spoken of by an unambiguous name, and for this there seems none better than Intellection. We may then say that psychology is occupied with the natural function of Intellection, seeking to discover its laws and distinguishing its various modes (perception, representative imagination, conception, &c.) according to the various circumstances in which the laws are found at work. Philosophy, on the other hand, is theory of Knowledge (as that which is known)." - " Psychology and Philosophy," Mind (1883), pp. 15, 16.
The confusion of these two points of view has led, and still leads, to serious philosophical misconception. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that, in the English school since Hume, psychology superseded properly philosophical inquiry. And we find even a thinker with a wider horizon like Sir W. Hamilton encouraging the confusion by speaking of " psychology or metaphysics," while his lectures on metaphysics are mainly taken up with what belongs in the strictest sense to psychology proper, with an occasional excursus (as in the theory of perception) into epistemology. The distinction between psychology and theory of knowledge was first clearly made by Kant, who repeatedly insisted that the Critique of Pure Reason was not to be taken as a psychological inquiry. He defined his problem as the quid juris or the question of the validity of knowledge, not its quid facti or the laws of the empirical genesis and evolution of intellection (to use Croom Robertson's phraseology). Since Kant philosophy has chiefly taken the form of theory of knowledge or of a criticism of experience. Not, indeed, a preliminary criticism of our faculties or conceptions such as Kant himself proposed to institute, in order to determine the limits of their application; such a criticism ab extra of the nature of our experience is essentially a thing impossible. The only criticism which can be applied in such a case is the immanent criticism which the conceptions or categories exercise upon one another. The organized criticism of these conceptions is really nothing more than the full explication of what they mean and of what experience in its full nature or notion is. This constitutes the theory of knowledge in the only tenable sense of the term, and it lays down, in Kantian language, the conditions of the possibility of experience. These conditions are the conditions of knowledge as such, or, as it may be put, of objective consciousness - of a self-consciousness of a world of objects and through them conscious of itself. The inquiry is, therefore, logical or transcendental in its nature, and does not entangle us in any decision as to the conditions of the genesis of such consciousness in the individual. When we inquire into subjective conditions we are thinking of facts causing other facts. But the logical or transcendental conditions are not causes or even factors of knowledge; they are the statement of its idea. Hence the dispute between evolutionist and transcendentalist rests, in general, on an ignoratio elenchi; for the history of the genesis of an idea (the historical or genetic method) does not contain an answer to - though it may throw light on - the philosophical question of its truth or validity. Speaking of this transcendental consciousness, Kant goes so far as to say that it is not of the slightest consequence " whether the idea of it be clear or obscure (in empirical consciousness), no, not even whether it really exists or not. But the possibility of the logical form of all knowledge rests on its relation to this apperception as a faculty or potentiality " (Werke, ed. Hartenstein, iii. 578 note). Or, if we return to the distinction between epistemology and psychology, by way of illustrating the nature of the former, we may take the following summing up by Professor James Ward in a valuable article on " Psychological Principles " in Mind (April 1883, pp. 166, 567) : " Comparing psychology and epistemology, then, we may say that the former is essentially genetic in its method, and might, if we had the power to revise our existing terminology, be called biology; the latter, on the other hand, is essentially devoid of everything historical, and treats, sub specie aeternitatis, as Spinoza might have said, of human knowledge, conceived as the possession of mind in general." Kant's problem is not, in its wording, very different from that which Locke set before him when he resolved to " inquire into the original, certainty and extent of human knowledge together with the grounds and degrees of belief, opinion and assent." Locke's Essay is undoubtedly, in its intention, a contribution to the theory of knowledge. But, because time had not yet made the matter clear, Locke suffered himself to digress in his second book into the psychological question of the origin of our ideas; and his theory of knowledge is ruined by the failure to distinguish between the epistemological sense of " idea " as significant content and the psychological sense in which it is applied to a fact or process in the individual mind. The same confusion runs through Berkeley's arguments and vitiates his conclusions as well as those of Hume. But appearing with these thinkers as the problem of perception, epistemology widens its scope and becomes, in Kant's hands, the question of the possibility of experience in general. With Hegel it passes into a completely articulated " logic," which apparently claims to be at the same time a metaphysic, or an ultimate expression of the nature of the real.
This introduces us to the second part of the question we are seeking to determine, namely the relation of epistemology to metaphysics. It is evident that philosophy as theory of knowledge must have for its complement philosophy as metaphysics (ontology) or theory of being. The question of the truth of our knowledge, and the question of the ultimate nature of what we know, are in reality two sides of the same inquiry; and therefore our epistemological results have to be ontologically expressed. But it is not every thinker that can see his way with Hegel to assert in set terms the identity of thought and being. Hence the theory of knowledge becomes with some a theory of human ignorance. This is the case with Herbert Spencer's doctrine of the Unknowable, which he advances as the result of epistemological considerations in the philosophical prolegomena to his system. Very similar positions were maintained by Kant and Comte; and, under the name of " agnosticism " (q.v.), the theory has popularized itself in the outer courts of philosophy, and on the shifting borderland of philosophy and literature. The truth is that the habit of thinking exclusively from the standpoint of the theory of knowledge tends to beget an undue subjectivity of temper. And the fact that it has become usual for men to think from this standpoint is very plainly seen in the almost universal description of philosophy as an analysis of " experience," instead of its more old-fashioned de s ignation as an inquiry into " the nature of things." As it is matter of universal agreement that the problem of being must be attacked indirectly through the problem of knowledge, this substitution may be regarded as an advance, more especially as it implies that the fact of experience, or of self-conscious existence, is the chief fact to be dealt with. But if so, then self-consciousness must be treated as itself real, and as organically related to the rest of existence. If self-consciousness be treated in this objective fashion, then we pass naturally from epistemology to metaphysics or ontology. (For, although the term " ontology " has been as good as disused, it still remains true that the aim of philosophy must be to furnish us with an ontology or a coherent and adequate theory of the nature of reality.) But if, on the other hand, knowledge and reality be ab initio opposed to one another - if consciousness be set on one side as over against reality, and merely holding up a mirror to it - then it follows with equal naturalness that the truly real must be something which lurks unrevealed behind the subject's representation of it. Hence come the different varieties of a so-called phenomenalism. The upholders of such a theory would, in general, deride the term `" metaphysics " or " ontology "; but it is evident, none the less, that their position itself implies a certain theory of the universe and of our own place in it, and the establishment of this theory constitutes their metaphysics.
Without prejudice, then, to the claim of epistemology to constitute the central philosophic discipline, we may simply note its liability to be pressed too far. The exclusive preoccupation of men's minds with the question of knowledge during the neo-Kantian revival in the 'seventies of the last century drew from Lotze the caustic criticism that " the continual sharpening of the knife becomes tiresome, if , after all, we have nothing to cut with it." Stillingfleet's complaint against Locke was that he was " one of the gentlemen of this new way of reasoning that have almost discarded substance out of the reasonable part of the world." The same may be said with greater truth of the devotees of the theory of knowledge; they seem to have no need of so old-fashioned a commodity as reality. Yet, after all, Fichte's dictum holds good that knowledge as knowledge - i.e. so long as it is looked at as knowledge - is, ipso facto, not reality. The result of the foregoing, however, is to show that, as soon as epistemology draws its conclusion, it becomes metaphysics; the theory of knowledge passes into a theory of being. The ontological conclusion, moreover, is not to be regarded as something added by an external process; it is an immediate implication. The metaphysic is the epistemology from another point of view - regarded as completing itself, and explaining in the course of its exposition that relative or practical separation of the individual knower from the knowable world, which it is a sheer assumption to take as absolute. This, not the so-called assumption of the implicit unity of being and thought, is the really unwarrantable postulate; for it is an assumption which we are obliged to retract bit by bit, while the other offers the whole doctrine of knowledge as its voucher.
Logic, Aesthetics and Ethics.—If the theory of knowledge thus passes insensibly into metaphysics it becomes somewhat difficult to assign a distinct sphere to logic (q.v.). Ueberweg's definition of it as " the science of the regulative laws of thought " (or " the normative science of thought ") comes near enough to the traditional sense to enable us to compare profitably the usual subject-matter of the science with the definition and end of philosophy. The introduction of the term " regulative " or " normative " is intended to differentiate the science from psychology as the science of mental processes or events. In this reference logic does not tell us how our intellections connect themselves as mental phenomena, but how we ought to connect our thoughts if they are to realize truth (either as consistency with what we thought before or as agreement with observed facts). Logic, therefore, agrees with epistemology (and differs from psychology) in treating thought not as mental fact but as knowledge, as idea, as having meaning in relation to an objective world. To this extent it must inevitably form a part of the theory of knowledge. But, if we desire to keep by older landmarks and maintain a distinction between the two disciplines, a ground for doing so may be found in the fact that all the main definitions of logic point to the investigation of the laws of thought in a subjective reference - with a view, that is, by an analysis of the operation, to ensure its more correct performance. According to the old phrase, logic is the art of correct thinking. Moreover we commonly find the logician assuming that the process of thought has advanced a certain length before his examination of it begins; he takes his material full-formed from perception, without, as a rule, inquiring into the nature of the conceptions which are involved in our perceptive experience. Occupying a position, therefore, within the wider sphere of the general theory of knowledge, ordinary logic consists in an analysis of the nature of general statement, and of the conditions under which we pass validly from one general statement to another. But the logic of the schools is eked out by contributions from a variety of sources (e.g. from grammar on one side and from psychology on another), and cannot claim the unity of an independent science.
Aesthetics (q.v.) may be treated as a department of psychology or physiology, and in England this is the mode of treatment that has been most general. To what peculiar excitation of our bodily or mental organism, it is asked, are the emotions due which make us declare an object beautiful or sublime? And, the question being put in this form, the attempt has been made in some cases to explain away any peculiarity in the emotions by analysing them into simpler elements, such as primitive organic pleasures and prolonged associations of usefulness or fitness. But, just as psychology in general cannot do duty for a theory of knowledge, so it holds true of this particular application of psychology that a mere reference of these emotions to the mechanism and interactive play of our faculties cannot be regarded as an account of the nature of the beautiful. Perhaps by talking of " emotions " we tend to give an unduly subjective colour to the investigation; it would be better to speak of the perception of the beautiful. Pleasure in itself is unqualified, and affords no differentia. In the case of a beautiful object the resultant pleasure borrows its specific quality from the presence of determinations essentially objective in their nature, though not reducible to the categories of science. Unless, indeed, we conceive our faculties to be constructed on some arbitrary plan which puts them out of relation to the facts with which they have to deal, we have a prima facie right to treat beauty as an objective determination of things. The question of aesthetics would then be formulated - What is it in things that makes them beautiful, and what is the relation of this aspect of the universe to its ultimate nature, as that is expounded in metaphysics? The answer constitutes the substance of aesthetics, considered as a branch of philosophy. But it is not given simply in abstract terms: the philosophical treatment of aesthetics includes also an exposition of the concrete phases of art, as these have appeared in the history of the world, relating themselves to different phases of human culture.
Of ethics (q.v.) it may also be said that many of the topics commonly embraced under that title are not strictly philosophical in their nature. They are subjects for a scientific psychology employing the historical method with the conceptions of heredity and development, and calling to its aid, as such a psychology will do, the investigations of all the sociological sciences. To such a psychology must be relegated all questions as to the origin and development of moral ideas. Similarly, the question debated at such length by English moralists as to the nature of the moral faculty (moral sense, conscience, &c.) and the controversy concerning the freedom of the will belong entirely to psychology. If we exclude such questions in the interest of systematic correctness, and seek to determine for ethics a definite subject-matter, the science may be said to fall into two departments. The first of these deals with the notion of duty, and endeavours to define the good or the ultimate end of action; the second lays out the scheme of concrete duties which are deducible from, or which, at least, are covered by, this abstractly stated principle. The second of these departments is really the proper subject-matter of ethics considered as a separate science; but it is often conspicuous by its absence from ethical treatises. However moralists may differ on first principles, there seems to be remarkably little practical divergence when they come to lay down the particular laws of morality. It may be added that, where a systematic account of duties is actually given, the connexion of the particular duties with the universal formula is in general more formal than real. It is only under the head of casuistry (q.v.) that ethics has been much cultivated as a separate science. The first department of ethics, on the other hand, is the branch of the subject in virtue of which ethics forms part of philosophy. As described above, it ought rather to be called, in Kant's phrase, the metaphysic of ethics. A theory of obligation is ultimately found to be inseparable from a metaphysic of personality. The connexion of ethics with metaphysics will be patent as a matter of fact, if it be remembered how Plato's philosophy is summed up in the idea of the good, and how Aristotle also employs the essentially ethical notion of end as the ultimate category by which the universe may be explained or reduced to unity. But the necessity of the connexion is also apparent, unless we are to suppose that, as regards the course of universal nature, man is altogether an imperium in imperio, or rather (to adopt the forcible phrase of Marcus Aurelius) an abscess or excrescence on the nature of things. If, on the contrary, we must hold that man is essentially related to what the same writer calls " a common nature," then it is a legitimate corollary that in man as intelligence we ought to find the key of the whole fabric. At all events, this method of approach must be truer than any which, by restricting itself to the external aspect of phenomena as presented in space, leaves no scope for inwardness and life and all that, in Lotze's language, gives " value " to the world. The argument ex analogia hominis has often been carried too far; but if a " chief end of man " be discoverable - av9p6miruvov ayaOov, as Aristotle wisely insisted that the ethical end must be determined - then it may be assumed that this end cannot be irrelevant to that ultimate " meaning " of the universe which, according to Lotze, is the quest of philosophy. If " the idea of humanity," as Kant called it, has ethical perfection at its core, then a universe which is really an organic whole must be ultimately representable as a moral order or a spiritual kingdom such as Leibnitz named, in words borrowed from St Augustine, a city of God.
Philosophy of the State (Political Philosophy), Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Religion.—In Plato and Aristotle ethics and politics are indissolubly connected. In other words, seeing that the highest human good is realizable only in a community, the theory of the state as the organ of morality, and itself in its structure and institutions the expression of ethical ideas or qualities, becomes an integral part of philosophy. The difficulty already hinted at, which individualistic systems of ethics experience in connecting particular duties with the abstract principle of duty is a proof of the failure of their method. For the content of morality we are necessarily referred, in great part, to the experience crystallized in laws and institutions and to the unwritten law of custom, honour and good breeding, which has become organic in the society of which we are members. Plato's Republic and Hegel's Philosophie des Rechts are the most typical examples of a fully developed philosophy of the state, but in the earlier modern period the prolonged discussion of natural rights and the social contract must be regarded as a contribution to such a theory. Moreover, if philosophy is to complete its constructive work, it must bring the course of human history within its survey, and exhibit the sequence of events as an evolution in which the purposive action of reason is traceable. This is the task of the philosophy of history, a peculiarly modern study, due to the growth of a humanistic and historical point of view. Lessing's conception of history as an " education of the human race " is a typical example of this interpretation of the facts, and was indeed the precursor which stimulated many more elaborate German theories. The philosophy of history differs, it will be observed, from the purely scientific or descriptive studies covered by the general title of sociology. Sociology conceives itself as a natural science elucidating a factual sequence. The philosophy of history is essentially teleological; that is to say, it seeks to interpret the process as the realization of an immanent end. It may be said, therefore, to involve a complete metaphysical theory. Social institutions and customs and the different forms of state-organization are judged according to the degree in which they promote the realization of the human ideal. History is thus represented by Hegel, for example, as the realization of the idea of freedom, or rather as the reconciliation of individual freedom and the play of cultured interests with the stable objectivity of law and an abiding consciousness of the greater whole in which we move. So far as the course of universal history can be truly represented as an approximation to this reconciliation by a widening and deepening of both the elements, we may claim to possess a philosophy of history. But although the possibility of such a philosophy seems implied in the postulated nationality of the universe, many would hold that it remains as yet an unachieved ideal.
There only remains to be briefly noticed the relation of philosophy to theology and the nature of what is called Philosophy of Religion. By theology is commonly understood the systematic presentation of the teaching of some positive or historical religion as to the existence and attributes of a Supreme Being, including his relation to the world and especially to man. But these topics have also been treated by philosophers and religious thinkers, without dependence on any historical data or special divine revelation, under the title of Natural Theology. Natural Theology is specially associated with the Stoic theories of providence in ancient times and with elaborations of the argument from design in the 18th century. But there is no warrant for restricting the term to any special mode of approaching the problems indicated; and as these form the central subject of metaphysical inquiry, no valid distinction can be drawn between natural theology and general metaphysics. The philosophy of religion, on the other hand, investigates the nature of the religious consciousness and the value of its pronouncements on human life and man's relation to the ground of things. Unity, reconciliation, peace, joy, " the victory that overcometh the world " - such, in slightly varying phrases, is the content of religious faith. Does this consciousness represent an authentic insight into ultimate fact, or is it a pitiful illusion of the nerves, born of man's hopes and fears and of his fundamental ignorance? The philosophy of religion assumes the first alternative. The function of philosophy in general is the reflective analysis of experience, and the religious experience of mankind is prima facie entitled to the same consideration as any other form of conscious activity. The certainties of religious faith are matter of feeling or immediate assurance, and are expressed in the pictorial language of imagination. It becomes the function of philosophy, dealing with these utterances, to relate them to the results of other spheres of experience, and to determine their real meaning in the more exact terms of thought. The philosophy of religion also traces in the different historical forms of religious belief and practice the gradual evolution of what it takes to be the truth of the matter. Such an account may be distinguished from what is usually called the science of religion by the teleological or 'metaphysical presuppositions it involves. The science of religion gives a purely historical and comparative account of the various manifestations of the religious instinct without pronouncing on their relative truth or value and without, therefore, professing to apply the idea of evolution in the philosophical sense. That idea is fundamental in the philosophy of religion, which therefore can be written only from the standpoint of a constructive metaphysical theory.
It is, indeed, only from the standpoint of such a theory that the definitions and divisions of the different philosophical disciplines adopted in this article can be said to hold good. But those who, like the positivists, agnostics and sceptics, deny the possibility of metaphysics as a theory of the ultimate nature of things, are still obliged to retain philosophy as a theory of knowledge, in order to justify the asserted limitation or impotence of human reason.
Bibliography—The best general histories of philosophy are by J. E. Erdmann, Friedrich Ueberweg and W. Windelband, Windelband's being probably the freshest in its treatment and point of view. Ed. Zeller's History of Greek Philosophy still holds the field as the best continuous exposition of the subject, but more recent work in the early period is represented by H. Diels and J. Burnet, while Zeller's view of Plato may be said to have been superseded by the later researches of Lewis Campbell, H. Jackson and others. T. Gomperz's Greek Thinkers is an able, if somewhat diffuse, survey of the philosophical development in connexion with the general movement of Greek life and culture. It does not go beyond Plato. B. Haureau, A. Stockl and Karl Werner give the fullest and most trustworthy histories of the medieval period, but the subject is very carefully treated by Erdmann and Ueberweg, and a useful compendium, written from a Roman Catholic standpoint, is De Wulf's History of Medieval Philosophy (1900; Eng. trans., 1907). For modern times, in addition to the general histories already named, the works of Kuno Fischer, R. Falckenberg and H. Hoffding, and R. Adamson's Lectures on the Development of Modern Philosophy, may be specially mentioned. Writers on the history of philosophy generally prefix to their work a discussion of the scope of philosophy, its divisions and its relations to other departments of knowledge, and the account given by Windelband and Ueberweg will be found specially good. The Introductions to Philosophy published by F. Paulsen, O. Kulpe, W. Wundt and G. T. Ladd, deal largely with this subject, which is also treated by Henry Sidgwick in his Philosophy, its Scope and Relations (1902), by Ernest Naville, La Définition de la philosophie (1894) and by Wundt in the introduction to his System der Philosophie (1889). A useful work of general reference is J. M. Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology (3 vols., 1902–1905). (A. S. P.-P.)
- ↑ The revisional office which philosophy here assumes constitutes her the critic of the sciences. It is in this connexion that the meaning of the definition of philosophy as " the science of principles " can best be seen. This is perhaps the most usual definition, and, though vague, one of the least misleading.
- ↑ It is true that he afterwards modifies this misleading identification by introducing the distinction between empirical psychology or the phenomenology of mind and inferential psychology' or ontology, i.e. metaphysics proper. But he continues to use the terms " philosophy," " metaphysics," and " mental science " as synonymous.