The Nature of Thought - Vol. 2

The Nature of Thought - Vol. 2

The Nature of Thought - Vol. 2

The Nature of Thought - Vol. 2

Excerpt

The account of reflection that follows is the complement of the theory of ideas presented in the preceding book. We have held that an idea is a purpose which only the object would fulfil, and is itself a partial realization of that object. The theoretic impulse expressed in the idea is an effort to get the object as it really is within experience. But the immanent end of thought forbids us to say that we have reached the object as it really is so long as that object remains unintelligible. In the present book we shall study the process by which thought seeks to render it intelligible. In Book IV we shall try to see what intelligibility means.

In some ways it would have been more natural to take the last point first. If all ideas, judgements, and processes of reflection, are directed toward the goal of intelligibility, it would seem that the path which thought must travel would be plainer were the goal in sight from the beginning. But for good or ill we have elected to follow another order, and to let the character of the end emerge gradually, as it does in experience itself. That such an end is gradually emerging will now, no doubt, be clear. We found traces of it even in the tied ideas of perception, though its workings there were dim. As the earlier free ideas gave place to ideas that were more explicit and more general, the character of the end came little by little into evidence. In the process of reflection it will become far clearer, rising where the rational control is firmest to richness and dominance. But the best and purest of human thinking is a broken and fragmentary affair compared with what it would be if its immanent end were working fully and freely through it. What thought of this kind would be like we shall try to see at the end of our course.

Meanwhile it is imperative that we should not proceed in the dark. If the movement of reflection is governed, however . . .

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