English and American Philosophy since 1800: A Critical Survey

By Arthur K. Rogers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V

ABSOLUTE IDEALISM

§ I. Transcendentalism in Literature. Carlyle. Emerson

I. The conflict between science and religion so much talked about in the latter part of the century, and to which a brief reference has already been made in the preceding chapter, resulted in what may fairly be called a draw. On the one side science achieved its main object. It no longer is necessary that it should fight for the privilege of pursuing its own distinctive work unhampered by vested intellectual interests; nowadays science moves freely and without hindrance, and indeed at times with something of a swagger. On the other hand, the establishment of a purely naturalistic creed as the necessary basis for this immunity cannot be said to have had a similar success. Naturalism found itself opposed with growing confidence by rival philosophies, which proposed to reinterpret the universe in various way to vindicate its spiritual meaning, while also taking care to avoid any clash with such results as science proper might affirm. In general these efforts fall into two classes. The first does not depart very widely from the traditional attitude of English philosophy, and so, in spite of disagreements, it can meet and contend with naturalism on something like a common metaphysical ground. The second is equally concerned, from the standpoint of an interest which, at the start at least, was definitely religious, to show the deficiencies of the naturalistic creed; but it proceeds in a much more drastic way through a reconstruction of the whole theory of knowledge and of reality, so that incidentally its criticism

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