Reason and the Nature of Things: Reflections on the Cognitive Function of Philosophy

Reason and the Nature of Things: Reflections on the Cognitive Function of Philosophy

Reason and the Nature of Things: Reflections on the Cognitive Function of Philosophy

Reason and the Nature of Things: Reflections on the Cognitive Function of Philosophy

Excerpt

This book, which comprises the ninth series of the Paul Carus Lectures, addresses itself to no special class of readers. The themes treated and the manner of treating them will, I fear, find little favor in the eyes of those whose preoccupation with the technical minutae of philosophy may have deadened or corrupted their appreciation of its broader aspects. The issues here presented are speculative and the method adopted dialectical. "Analysts" and "salvationists," to borrow the names given by a facetious critic to persons driven to excess by certain current "winds of doctrine," will look askance at the issues as well as the method. The first will take umbrage at my flexible and often metaphorical language, the second at my aloofness in this work from non-cognitive or spiritual topics. Fortunately, analysis and salvation, though not mutually exclusive, can hardly be said to constitute, even at the present time, the lion's share of philosophic concern and activity.

The title and subtitle taken together may suggest perhaps the general tenor of the undertaking. What I have attempted to do is to combine some contentions that at first sight may seem incompatible. The arguments running through the entire series of reflections have to do with the cognitive aspect of philosophy as compared and contrasted with that of science. The philosophic spirit is speculative and the philosophic enterprise free, yet philosophic knowledge, hardly scientific in any strict sense, is as indispensable as scientific. By their different ways of inquiry science and philosophy seek equally to understand the nature of things, and their understanding, if communicable, must be equally embodied in reasoned discourse. And the things open to exploration . . .

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