CHAPTER NINE
THE SEARCH FOR PURPOSE: NATURE PHILOSOPHY AND PLATONISM

OFTEN WHEN A MAN IS BESET BY PROBLEMS OF EVERYDAY LIFE, he finds it a tonic to take a walk in the country. Similarly, when he is troubled by the thought of the mortality of human purpose and the flux of things, he may turn to the study of nature. Here he examines a record which, so far as he can ensure, is purged of human fabrication. Perhaps this record will, so to speak, return a more objective answer to his question than history. He does not ask so much for proofs as for plausible hypotheses. Having come across these, he can then try to work them up into more rigorous and adequate doctrine.

Ends in Nature There are two facts, often noted, which may give him hope that flux and perishing are not final. The first is that the flux often seems to be engaged in accomplishing "ends" or purposes; the second, that throughout time and space certain familiar patterns or "laws" recur.

Suppose that he is trying to explain to a child in the simplest terms how a flower comes into existence. He starts with the seed, relating how it is blown by the wind into some crevice in the ground where a covering of earth and leaves protects it while it begins its growth. Then, he continues, rain soaks down from the surface to provide water for the germinating seed; the sun warms the ground and in time, after the snow has melted, the seed puts its first shoots above ground. Its roots go down and draw up nourishment; its leaves spread out, absorbing needed elements from the sunlight and giving off

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