Present Philosophical Tendencies: A Critical Survey of Naturalism, Idealism, Pragmatism, and Realism Together with a Synopsis of the Philosophy of William James

By Ralph Perry Barton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS MOTIVES IN
PHILOSOPHY

§ 1. THE distinction between theory and belief is of the utmost importance, not only for the understanding of the relation of philosophy to life, but also for the understanding of the development and present meaning of philosophical doctrines themselves. For philosophy, owing to its peculiar relations with science and religion, has been governed by both motives.

The Difference between Science and Religion, and the Ambiguous Position of Philosophy

There are two fundamental differences between science and religion, a difference of subject-matter, and a difference of motive.1 Their difference of subject-matter corresponds to the difference between proximate and ultimate causes. Physical science has to do with particular interrelations and rearrangements among facts of nature; religion has to do with the general character of nature as a whole, or with whatever may lie beyond nature and still belong to the environment of life. Their difference of form corresponds to that difference between theory and belief which we have just discussed. Science is the most conspicuous example of the method and spirit of disinterested research. Its development has been marked by the purification of its theoretical motive; until, despite its ulterior usefulness, it is in its own procedure of all human activities the most indifferent to the clamor of interests. Religion, on the other hand, is essentially a plan of action.

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1
The subject-matter of science will be discussed in the next chapter. We have here to do primarily with its theoretical motive.

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