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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/326

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ing our whole view of Nature and modifying our whole philosophy, the question presses upon us, "What will be its effect on religious belief, and therefore on moral conduct?" This is a question of gravest import. To answer it, however imperfectly, is the chief object of this work. Except for this, it would probably never have been undertaken. All that goes before is subsidiary to this.

But I will doubtless be met at the very threshold by an objection from the scientific side. Some will say—because it is the fashion now to say—that as simple, honest truth-seekers, we have nothing to do with its effect on religion and on life. They say we must follow Truth wherever she leads, utterly regardless of what may seem to us moral consequences. This I believe is a grave mistake, the result of a reaction, and on the whole a wholesome and noble reaction, against the far more common mistake of sacrificing truth to a supposed good. But the reaction, as in most other cases, has gone much too far. There is a true philosophic ground of justification for the reluctance with which even honest truth-seekers accept a doctrine which seems harmful to society. Effect on life is, and ought to be, an important element in our estimate of the truth of any doctrine. It is necessary for me to show this in order to justify this part of my work.

There is a necessary and indissoluble connection between truth and usefulness. We all at once admit this connection in one direction. We all admit that a truth must eventually have its useful application. It may not be now, nor in ten years, nor in a century, nor even in a millennium, but sometime in the future it will vindicate its usefulness. No truth is trivial or useless in its relation to human life, for man is a part of Nature, and his life must be in accordance with the laws of Nature. Every one admits this, but not every one admits the converse proposition, viz., that whatever doctrine or belief, in the long run and throughout the history of human advancement, has tended to the betterment of our race, must have in it an element of truth by virtue of which it has been useful, for man's good can not be in conflict with the laws of Nature. Also, whatever in the long run and in the final outcome tends to the bad in human conduct, ought to be received, even by the honest truth-seeker, with distrust, as containing essential error. The reason of this will now be further explained.

There are three primary divisions of our psychical nature, viz., sensuous, intellectual, and volitional, or moral. There are three corresponding primary processes necessary to make a complete rational and satisfactory philosophy: (1) There is first the instreaming of the external world through the senses, as impressions. These we call facts or phenomena. (2) The elaboration of these facts within, by the intellect, into a compact constant structure. This we call knowledge. (3) The outgoing of this knowledge by the will into the world as right or wise conduct. Now these three are all equally necessary. All these three portions of our complex nature are equally urgent to be satisfied.