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 VIII
ABSOLUTE IDEALISM AND RELIGION

§ 1. THE religion of an idealist is not a forlorn hope, or a defence of last ditches, but an enjoyment of all the emotions of sovereignty. Idealism undertakes to substantiate the extreme claims of faith, -- the creation of matter by spirit, the indestructible significance of every human person, and the unlimited supremacy of goodness. The terms of a devotional mysticism -- Spirit, Perfection, Eternity, Infinity -- appear in the very letter of its discourse. Nor has this promise of good tidings been unheeded. Idealism has acquired prestige and a position of authority. While it has little if any direct access to the popular mind, it is resorted to habitually by the middle men of enlightenment, by clergymen, litterateurs, lecturers, and teachers. Hence it comes about that many an honest man has invested all his hopes of salvation in the adventure. And this is my apology for undertaking to audit its accounts; the question of its solvency being of no small human importance.

The General Meaning of Absolutism

The religious creed of idealism may be said to contain two major articles. The one of these is the cardinal principle already examined -- the assertion of the priority of consciousness in the act of cognition. The second article is the principle of absolutism, and with this we shall, in the present chapter, be chiefly occupied.

The sense in which I propose to employ the term 'absolutism,' is to be distinguished from two other senses in which it is also currently employed. These other uses of the term appear, it is true, chiefly in the writings of idealists; but they may nevertheless be regarded as quite independent. In the first place, 'absolute' is often taken

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