Prolegomena to History: The Relation of History to Literature, Philosophy, and Science

Prolegomena to History: The Relation of History to Literature, Philosophy, and Science

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Prolegomena to History: The Relation of History to Literature, Philosophy, and Science

Prolegomena to History: The Relation of History to Literature, Philosophy, and Science

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Excerpt

The mind of a thinking being is largely occupied in making constructions; impressions come to us and we fit them into our own schemes of thought. Our constructions, conscious or unconscious, are framed for the purpose of setting up an intelligent conception of the world we live in, and Philosophy and Science are the two methods available for the attainment of this object. Philosophy regards the universe as a totality, and adopts the view that the significance of any part depends upon the meaning of the whole. The philosopher may be said to look upon the universe as a work of art. For him it is made up of details, but is not a mere aggregate; it is a whole or unity in which the details acquire a significance that does not attach to them taken separately. In a work of art, and in the universe as the philosopher views it, the whole is something more than the sum of all its parts; and this conception finds expression in the doctrine that analysis always falsifies, because the parts of a complex whole are different, as contained in that whole, from what they would otherwise be. Science, on the other hand, maintains that any view of the whole must be in conformity with what is known of the parts, and so, putting off the entire question of "meaning," devotes itself to the laborious undertaking of dissecting and sorting the objects of experience. In either case, it should be observed, the construction is an hypothesis; but whereas the hypotheses of science relate to strands or factors of which more than one example is to be found in the world, those of philosophy relate to a unique thing, the universe itself, so that verification by comparison is here impossible. It follows that while the constructions of science may be tested by reference to objective actualities, those of philosophy can be criticized only in respect . . .

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