The Revolt against Dualism: An Inquiry concerning the Existence of Ideas

By Arthur O. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

II THE FIRST PHASE OF THE REVOLT AND ITS OUTCOME

WHILE dualism of both sorts was--to sum up again in a word the general result of the first lecture--a normal and inevitable outcome of men's effort rationally to adjust their native realistic faith to familiar facts of experience and elementary postulates of reflection, it was, no doubt, equally inevitable and natural that there should sooner or later arise, among reflective minds who still held to that faith, a revulsion against the dualistic form of it. The general and fundamental motives of the revolt which we are to consider are intelligible enough; and it is impossible not to sympathize with them. It might or might not prove in the end logically possible to escape from dualism--without giving up realism; but there were at least strong reasons for wishing to escape from it. For it undeniably was, in the first place, to the realistically minded, a pis aller. Its theory of knowledge granted you no actual access to the reality in which you believed and about which you desired to know. The craving to possess your object, to meet it face to face, instead of being limited to reports from it given by deputies whose credentials were perhaps dubious, had not been effectually extirpated from the human mind by the course of reflection which had led to dualism; and this repressed desire (along with many others) began in our own century to reassert itself openly. "Ever not-quite" was (at best) the discouraging prospect with which a dualistic epistemology confronted the spontaneous disposition of a constitutionally cognitive animal to believe that his organ of knowledge, like his other organs, is capable of the function for which it seems to be designed. Even among some of the most subtle and sophisticated of contemporary minds one may discern a clearly emotional repugnance to conceiving that the conditions and process of knowing may add ingredients of their own making to the content of experience, that perception does not, so far as it goes, afford an unadulterated and unmediated disclosure of what is present in "nature." The dualistic account of what occurs in sense- perception, moreover, appeared to belie the actual character of that

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