Beyond Realism and Idealism

By Wilbur Marshall Urban | Go to book overview

Chapter III
The Resistance of Realism. The Realistic Train of Thought.

I --

A

THE World We Live in is the way the modern realist likes to describe that view of the world which he has elected to defend against the malicious criticism of the idealist. His is the actual world as contrasted with the world of romantics and idealists. He professes to be outraged by what these conscienceless thinkers have done to the 'plain man's' world and proceeds to take it under his defence.

It is this note of outrage that primarily and fundamentally is heard in all the protests and resistances of realism. Let us listen to that note as sounded by a modern realist. 'If common sense realism is outraged by the reduction of the visible and existent universe in all its vast extent to mere mental content, with a constant belittlement in power and magnitude, the new or Platonic realism of the present day is still more outraged by the idealists' relegation to the status of subjective dependence upon consciousness of the even vaster realm of abstract subsistence. For the invisible region of the subsistent comprehends the infinite totality of essences and values -- of truth, beauty and goodness -- and the laws of its structure possess a degree of validity which, to the realist, far transcends the validity of inductive inference as to the laws of nature.'1

It is, I repeat, to this sense of outrage, this natural morals of the unspoiled human understanding, that all realists first and last appeal. As Royce complains, 'they hold it to be more or less immoral not to believe in transcendent realities.' This appeal to morals is one of which the simple chronicler of realism should not complain but one rather which he should note, mark and inwardly digest. If it is an extrinsic appeal, as in a sense it undoubtedly is, that is as we have seen, not a matter to complain of. If idealism is, in the last analysis, a gigantic argumentum ad hominem, so also is realism. There is then no ground for quarrel with the realist because of his moral pathos. His indignation becomes him, both as philosopher and as man. One can justly

____________________
1
W. P. Montague.

-71-

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