Men and Movements in American Philosophy

By Arthur E. Murphy | Go to book overview

8
CROSS CURRENTS OF REALISM

I. THE SEARCH FOR A PLATFORM

The successors of Kant in Germany, England, and America accepted his elaborate and careful criticism of man's knowledge of nature with far less critical limitation than he would himself have approved. He wished to establish the limits within which scientific knowledge could be considered valid, and to restrict somewhat the claims made by the thinkers of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment for the range and certainty of human reason. His followers among the idealists considered his attempts to fix the limits of validity for natural science as an invalidation of natural science. They developed, to replace science, a superscientific view of the universe based upon the belief in a super-Reason able to comprehend the Reality behind the fragmentary world of appearance, and of phenomena, to which science was restricted. The empirical method of the scientist, they asserted, could result in but a relative, particular, and partial knowledge of true being. Even the particular facts which scientific inquiry could reach were, by this interpretation of Kant's thought, infected with a subjectivity arising out of the inability of the human understanding to grasp things as they are in themselves the necessity of regarding things in internal relationships which are supplied by the mind. Only by means of philosophic speculation which leaves particular facts and human experience far behind, and which soars into realms completely transcending the physical, did they believe that men could gain a knowledge of absolute, universal, and unitary Being. This metaphysical Reality they considered to be the only source of human comprehension of the complete pattern of the universe. For some, this superior Reality was a Mind, for others, a Person; for still others, a Will. In all of these interpretations, the

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