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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/203

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A DEFENCE OF PRAGMATISM

That theism remains, however. It is the lineal descendent, through one stage of concession after another, of the dogmatic scholastic theism still taught rigorously in the seminaries of the Catholic Church. For a long time it used to be called among us the philosophy of the Scottish school. It is what I meant by the philosophy that has the air of fighting a slow retreat. Between the encroachments of the Hegelians and other 'philosophers of the absolute,' on the one hand, and those of the scientific evolutionists and agnostics, on the other, the men that give us this kind of a philosophy, James Martineau, Professor Bowne, Professor Ladd and others, must feel themselves rather tightly squeezed. Fair-minded and candid as you like, this philosophy is not radical in temper. It is eclectic, a thing of compromises, that seeks a modus vivendi above all things. It accepts the facts of Darwinism, the facts of cerebral physiology, but it does nothing active or enthusiastic with them. It lacks the victorious and agressive note. It lacks prestige in consequence, whereas absolutism has a certain prestige due to the more radical style of it.

These on the whole are what you have to choose between if you turn to the tender-minded school. And if you are the lovers of facts I have supposed you to be, you find the trail of the serpent of rationalism, of intellectualism, over everything that lies on that side of the line. You escape indeed the materialism that goes with the reigning empiricism; but you pay for your escape by losing contact with the concrete parts of life. The more absolutistic philosophers dwell on so high a level of abstraction that they never even try to come down. The absolute mind which they offer us, the mind that makes our universe by thinking it, might, for all they ever tell us to the contrary, have made any one of a million other universes just as well as this. You can deduce no single actual particular from the notion of it. It is compatible with any state of things whatever being true here below. And the theistic God is almost as sterile a principle. You have to go to the world which he has created to get any inkling of his actual character, he is the kind of God that has once for all made that kind of a world. Yet the theistic writers do not replace the old rationalist definitions of him by any new empirical constructions. Their system still lives on purely abstract heights. Absolutism has a certain sweep and dash about it, while the usual theism is more 'insipid.' But both are equally remote and vacuous. What you want is a philosophy that will not only exercise your powers of intellectual abstraction, but that will also make connection with this actual world of our own finite human experiences.

You want a system that will combine both things, the scientific loyalty to facts and willingness to take account of them, the spirit of adaptation and accommodation, in short, but also the old confidence