The Ways of Knowing: Or, the Methods of Philosophy

By Wm. Pepperell Montague | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE METHODS OF RATIONALISM AND EMPIRICISM (continued)

The Ontological Status of Universals and the Cosmological Significance of Universal and Necessary Propositions.

THE subjective phase of the controversy between rationalism and empiricism fell naturally into two parts: I. The question as to the psychological genesis of universal concepts. II. The question as to the logical validation of universal and necessary judgments, especially those that are necessary and self-evident as distinguished from those that are merely contingent. And as regards each problem there proved to be three distinguishable types of theory: (1) Extreme empiricism which holds that universal concepts are reducible to particular percepts, and necessary judgments reducible to contingent judgments. (2) Extreme rationalism which would regard the particular and contingent as reducible to the universal and necessary. (3) The dualistic or compromise doctrine which in the main we defended, and according to which both universals and particulars, and both necessity and--at least in the light of our present knowledge--contingency were recognized to be genuinely present in experience. The objective phase of the controversy between empiricism and rationalism which we are to consider in this chapter may be divided in the same way into: I. The problem of the ontological status of universals; and II. the problem of the cosmological significance of universal and necessary propositions. And the solution of each of these problems will again be of the three types noted above: (1) The extreme empiricist will hold that the world is composed exclusively of particulars, and that all laws and relations are reducible to contingent propositions.

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