The Ways of Knowing: Or, the Methods of Philosophy

By Wm. Pepperell Montague | Go to book overview
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of willing, in which we strive to bring the existence-system into harmonious coincidence with the experience-system of desired objects, which coincidence, when attained, we call "the good."1It is the great merit of epistemological dualism that it recognizes, in the first of its two defining propositions, that the objects in experience and the objects in existence are determined by different sets of causes, and that consequently they can vary independently of one another, and will not of necessity coincide. Dualism errs in the second of its propositions, in which it asserts that, because the experience- system and the existence-system vary independently, therefore their objects can never coincide, and that we can be conscious never of reality itself, but only of more or less perfect copies of reality.
In order to illustrate the concordance of the three schools of epistemology, I wish now to show how the concept of truth can be stated adequately in terms of each theory and translated from one to the other without essential change of meaning.
1. For the Objectivist, the True is simply the real considered as the object of a possible conscious belief or judgment. And the real or existent comprises all those entities, and only those
There is indeed a third type of equilibrium or adjustment between the individual and his environment which manifests itself in conscious experience, though not as a direct result of purposive activity. The stimuli of the environment, in so far as they affect the vital processes and tendencies of the organism and not merely its organs of sense, produce those forms of experience which we call feelings and emotions. When such stimuli are in accord with our needs and tendencies they give us the feeling of pleasure; and when the pleasure is associated with the form of the object perceived, and is ascribed to its intrinsic character (rather than to our own individual mood), the pleasure is æsthetic, and the object causing it is termed "beautiful." Thus our experiences of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are all of them cases in which the environment and the individual are in equilibrium; but whereas the hedonic or æsthetic equilibrium is a matter of feeling and is brought about spontaneously, the true and the good are attained as the result of purposeful effort, and consist, as we have said, in an identity or coincidence of the objects of the experience-system with the objects of the existence-system.


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