Nature, Mind, and Modern Science

Nature, Mind, and Modern Science

Nature, Mind, and Modern Science

Nature, Mind, and Modern Science

Excerpt

When philosophical speculation has taken a wrong turning and followed an old and long-abandoned track, which has led it into a cul-de-sac, the only proper course is for us to retrace our steps and return to the high road, there to take our bearings again and to redetermine the direction of progress for the future. Believing this to be the present situation, I have attempted to put modern developments in their historical perspective and assess their value accordingly. This has required a good deal of recapitulation of what, to the professional philosopher, are familiar arguments, but I wish my readers and critics to ask themselves not whether the arguments are familiar but whether they are sound, and, if they are, whether theories which conflict with them can justifiably be maintained. If they are not sound, their error should be properly exposed, and I know no work in which this has been done. On the contrary, too many contemporary philosophers are content to ignore sound arguments because they are familiar and to indulge in new analyses which are faulty and misleading and against which the old arguments should have warned them. Meanwhile a generation of students is growing up whose attention is devoted only to the new, unmindful of its defects, to whom the old is by no means familiar and who therefore allow it to go unheeded. This, I think, is sufficient reason for presenting to the public once again theories and criticisms which are not new, though whenever I have been able and thought it necessary I have tried to throw new light upon them. My main purpose, however, has been to make them throw light upon contemporary views which seem to have gained too easily widespread approbation.

There will no doubt be those who wish to discredit the criticisms offered in Chapters I and XVI on the ground that the views criticized have been abandoned and superseded. But the question is whether such new doctrines as may have been suggested have corrected the faults of their predecessors so as to render the criticism inapplicable. Moreover, the abandonment of old theories is, these days, often more professed than real, and seldom amounts to any genuine recantation.

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