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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/268

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METAPHYSICS


228


METAPHYSICS


matter ami manifestations of mattor, and then the as- sertion is nicn'ly of l)io!;r:iphical interest; or it is an aftirmalion regarding possiMe Ininian experience, a declaration of the iinpossil)iIity of immaterial exist- ence, ami in that sense it is a statement which in itself has a melaiihysical im|)orl. Materialism is, in fad, a metaphysical theory of reality and is a contribution to the science which it professes to reject. Philosophi- cal agnosticism, winch is derived ultimately from Kant's doctrine of the unknowableness of nouniinal reality (Ding an siV/i), rejects metaphysics on the ground that while the imniMlerial dws, indeed, exist, it is unknown and must reniam unknowable to the speculative reason. Kant (see Kant) maintained that all metaphysical reasoning, since it attempts by means of the speculative reason to go beyoiul experi- ence, is doomed to failure, because the a priori forms which the understanding impo.ses on the empirical data of knowledge modify the quality of that knowl- edge by making it to be transcendental, but do not ex- tend it beyond the realm of actual sense experience. The followers of Kant stigmatize as intellectual for- malism the view that the speculative reason does ac- tually attain ultra-empirical knowledge. This is the contention of the modernists and other Catholic wri- ters who are more or less influenced by Kant. These decrj' rational melaphysics and offer as a substitute a metaphysics based on sentiment, vital activity, or eonie other non-rational foundation.

The answer to this line of thought is a denial of its fundamenlal tenet, the doctrine, namely, that the ra- tional faculty cannot attain a knowledge of the essen- tial or noumenal natures of things. Gratuitous as- sertion is often best refuted by categorical denial. The rejection of metaphysics by the materialist and the Kantian agnostic does not meet the full approval of the idealist. Instead of banishing metaphysics from the republic of the sciences, the ideahst, having deprived it of its scientific character, elevates it to the rank of aesthetic pre-eminence side by side with poe- trj'. He considers that it furnishes a point of view from which to contemplate the beauty, harmony, and value of those things which science merely explains. He holds that it is not the province of metaphysics to assign reasons or causes, but to furnish motives for actioii and enhance the value of reality. For him, its uplifting and regenerating function is entirely inde- pendent of its alleged abihty to explain: he considers metaphysics to be, not an ontology, or science of real- ity, but a teleology, or application of the principle of purpose. That this is a function of metaphysics no one will deny. It is only one function, however, and unless the doctrine of final causes has its foundation in a doctrine of formal and efficient causes, teleological metaphysics is a castle in the air. Finally, the posi- tivi-st, and the scientist whom the positivist has in- fluenced, reject metaphysics because all our knowl- edge is confined to facts and the relations among facts. To attempt to go beyond facts and the succession or concomitance of facts is to essay the impossible. Causes, essences, and so forth, are terms which clothe in fictitious garb our ignorance of the real scientific ex- planation. The whole gist of positivism is contained in Hume's verdict that " it is impossible to go beyond experience". This psychological dictum is accepted by the philosophical positivist, as the death sentence of metaphysics. With the scientist, however, other considerations weigh more than the psychological ar- gument. The scientist points to the present condi- tion of metaphysies; he calls attention to the fact that, while the physical sciences have advanced by leaps and bounds, metaphysics is still grappling with the most fundamental problems and has not even settled the questions on which its very existence depends. The condition of metaphysics i.s, indeed, such as to in- vite the contempt and provoke the disdain of the scientist; the fault, however, may lie not so much in


the claims of metaphysics as in the vagaries of the metaphysicians.

IV. Kelation of Metaphysics to Othek Sci- F.NCKs. — The consideration of the relation in which metaphysics stands, or ought to stand, to the other seieiiei's should result in a refutation of the jjositivist contention that metaphysics is u.seless. in the first place, metaphysics is the natural co-ordinating science wliii-h crowns the unifying cITorts of the other seiciiccs. It accomplishes in the highest j)laiir of kiiowli'dgc that process of unification towards which the liuiiian mind tends irrcsistilily. Without it, the ex|)l:inatioiis and co-onlinations attained in the lower sciiMiccs would be, l)erhaps, satisfactory within the limits of those sci- ences, but would fail to meet the requiri'iiieiits of that unifying instinct which the mind tends to apply to knowleilge in general. So long as the mind of the knower is one, it is impossible not to attempt to bring under the most general conceptions and j)iiiiciples the conclusions of the various sciences. That is the task of metaphysics. Whenever we look around among the contents of the mind and try to discover order and hierarchical arrangement among them, we are at- tempting a system of metapliysics. In the next place, the process of explanation which belongs to each of the lower sciences, if pursued far enough, brings us face to face with the demand for a metaphysical ex- planation. Thus, the chemical problem of atomic or proto-atomic constitution of bodies leads inevitably to the question. What is matter? The biological prob- lem of the nature and origin of life brings us to the point where it is imperative to answer the query. What is life? The questions: W'hat is substance? What is a cause? What is quantity? are additional examples of problems to which physics, mathematics, etc., finally lead. Indeed, the world of science is completely sur- rounded by the metaphysical world, and every path of investigation brings us to a highroad of incjuiry which sooner or later crosses the bortler and leads us into metaphysics. Wlien therefore, the scientist re- jects metaphysics, he suppresses a natural and ineradi- cable tendency of the individual mind towards unifi- cation and, at the same time, he tries to put up in every highway and byway of his own science a barrier against further progress in the direction of rational explanation. Besides, the cultivation of the meta- physical habit of mind is productive of excellent re- sults in the sjihere of general culture. The faculty of aiiprceiuting principles as well as facts is a quality which cannot be absent from the mind without detri- ment to that symmetry of development- wherein true culture consists. The scientist who objects to meta- physics, rightly condemns the metaphysician who dis- dains to consider facts. He himself, unless he cultivate the metaphysical powers of his mind, is in danger of reaching the point where he is incapable of appreciat- ing principles. Both the empirical talent for ascertain- ing facts and the metaphysical grasp of principles and laws are necessary for the rounding out of man's men- tal powers, and there is no reason why they should not both be cultivated.

V. Relation of Metaphysics to Theolooy. — The nature of metaphysics determines its essential and iiitimate relation to thcologj'. Theology, it need hardly be said, derives its conclusions from premises which are revealed, and in so far as it does this it rises above all schools of philosophy or metaphysics. At the same time, it is a human science, and, as such, it must formulate its premises in exact terminology and must employ processes of human reasoning in attain- ing its conclusions. For this, it depends on meta- physics. Sometimes, indeed, as when it deals with the supernatural mysteries of faith, theology acknowl- edges that metaphysical conceptions are inadequate and metaphysical formula; incompetent to express the truths discussed. Nevertheless, if theology had no metaphysical formularies to rely upon, it could