Symbolism and Truth: An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge

Symbolism and Truth: An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge

Symbolism and Truth: An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge

Symbolism and Truth: An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge

Excerpt

As the various sciences have branched off from the common stem of philosophy, which was in the beginning the pursuit of truth wherever it might be found, the philosophers have been left with certain problems preëminently their own, and among these is the theory of knowledge. It is not probable that the theory of knowledge will ever be a science in the sense in which mathematics, physics, and biology are sciences. There is too much room for difference of opinion, not only in the solution of its problems, but in their statement. Yet progress in this field of thought, as in any other, comes only with the attempt to define the subject-matter more clearly, to cut it off from neighboring fields which threaten it with incursions of irrelevant questions, and to find some ideas that bind the whole together.

Just as a physical theory takes its rise from physical facts, so a theory of knowledge is built on the facts of knowledge; but though these facts are before us when we make the simplest statement or perform the most elementary process of reasoning, they are by no means so apt to strike the mind as are the facts of physics or of any other special science. We are mentally farsighted and tend to neglect that which is closest to us.

Everything that can be mentioned is known in some sense. If I deny the existence of two-headed lions or red elephants, I know what I mean by these denials, and therefore these imaginary creatures are somehow objects of my knowledge. If I open my eyes on the world about me, I see trees and houses, and people passing in the street; and these are obviously known in some other way than the red elephants and the two-headed lions. The geometer sketches a rough triangle on a bit of note-

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