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Philosophy of Education: Essays and Commentaries

By Hobert W. Burns; Charles J. Brauner | Go to book overview

A final usage is ontological. Here the word "real" is used to describe a Weltanschauung--an over-all, synoptic frame of reference. The tests of truth and falsity, proof and disproof, probability and possibility, simply are not pertinent since the assertion of what is real is an assumption rather than a conclusion. To assume an ontological position, Ducasse asserts, means that one has taken and is occupying some position with respect to what one says or believes or assumes the characteristics of reality to be. It is to take a stand which might hold, for instance, that anything which is real must have the characteristics of C 1, C 2, C 3 . . . C n--and without these characteristics that something is simply not real.

Here we have come full circle, for this is the usage intended by those who claim that ultimate reality has the characteristic of (water, air, fire, earth, number, mind, or material). That is, the Idealist insists that reality is mental and to be real is to be mental; the Materialists insist that reality is material and to be real is to be material . . . or that reality is dualistic, pluralistic, and so on.

It is important to note that these are positions, points of view, assumptions, or presuppositions; they are not statements of fact or hypotheses to be submitted to test since they are by their nature untestable. They serve to indicate a position taken from among all the positions that might have been taken; and he who takes one such position and claims this is the "true" position has deceived himself, for such positions are neither true nor false, but are simply "positions taken" and no more (that is, truth and falsity are not proper predicates of reality in this sense). To claim that reality is mental or material, air or fire, is not to solve an ontological problem or make a justifiable claim about reality; it is, in Ducasse's words, "either stating the ontological position (one) chooses to take, or else dealing with only a pseudo-problem. . . ."


The Method of Knowledge in Philosophy

C. J. Ducasse*

Even among philosophers, the part of philosophy called metaphysics enjoys today no great popularity, but rather is the subject of many strictures. Some of its critics allege that its problems are too remote from those of plain men to have any practical importance. Hence they urge philosophers to forget them and to occupy themselves instead with the problems of social and political philosophy. Others claim that the age long failure of metaphysicians to settle their differences is enough to show that any answers proposed to the

____________________
*
Reprinted by permission from University of California Publications in Philosophy, Vol. 16, No. 7 ( 1945). The Howison Lecture for 1944.

-113-

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