Beyond Realism and Idealism

By Wilbur Marshall Urban | Go to book overview

PREFACE

AS A beginner in philosophy I read in Hegel Philosophy of Religion1 these striking words: 'The contrast of idealistic and realistic philosophy is of no importance; such expressions as subjectivity and objectivity, reality and ideality, are simply bare abstractions.' At the time I was impressed both by the insight and the essential truth of the statement and, since that time, can truly say I have never willingly allowed myself to be called either an exclusive realist or an exclusive idealist.

The idea expressed in the title of this book, Beyond Realism and Idealism, has for many years been in the background of all my thoughts. More and more I became convinced of the fatal character of this division among philosophers. It has seemed little less than tragic that preoccupation with this debate should divert the energies of many first-rate minds from the more magnificent problems of philosophy, and should blind them to that which from time immemorial has made philosophy the significant thing it is in human culture. To see so many philosophers who, in contrast to the unphilosophical have so much in common, caught in this endless strife of systems has at times filled me with a profound melancholy -- a melancholy but slightly tempered by the element of humour which this curious situation must arouse in any but the most academic mind.

Twenty-five years ago I published an article in The Philosophical Review entitled 'Beyond Realism and Idealism' in which was presented in preliminary form a thesis which has become one of the main elements in the present argument.2 I there maintained that the issue between epistemological realism and idealism is not an issue of fact or of logic but of cognitive meanings and values, and tried to show that this problem, which is insoluble on the factual or logical levels, is capable of solution when transferred to this higher court. I argued for a consistency of idealism with realism, or synthesis of the two positions, which should retain the essential cognitive meanings

____________________
1
The Philosophy of Religion, III, p. 169.
2
"Beyond Realism and Idealism", The Philosophical Review, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, 1917. This was followed by a discussion between Professor Creighton and the present writer, entitled "Beyond Realism and Idealism vs. Two Types of Idealism", The Philosophical Review, Vol. XXVII, No. 1, January 1918.

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