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

By Arthur O. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

VIII DUALISM AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD

OUR inquiry thus far has been concerned almost wholly with a hypothetical question. It is primarily with hypothetical questions that philosophical inquiries ought, I think, to be concerned. Philosophy would proceed with a somewhat steadier gait, and agreement among philosophers would come about more rapidly, if they would oftener put the problems they discuss, and especially those they first discuss, expressly in this form: If certain things (which some philosophers or other men believe) are provisionally taken as true, what other things must be or may be true? A great part of philosophy, in other words, should consist of attempts to determine what sets of propositions, in certain fields of investigation, properly go together. It is not natural to philosophers, as a rule, to attack their problems in this manner; for they are likely to be eagerly absorbed in the question of the truth of the protases --the prior and supposedly more fundamental propositions decision about the tenability of which the method of hypothetical inquiry postpones. But the haste of many philosophers to settle what appear to be the more fundamental issues first, and their consequent reluctance to discuss in a spirit of scientific detachment questions of the mere congruity of suppositions, has been highly detrimental to philosophy. It tends, for one thing, to bring the more controversial and less soluble problems to the fore from the start, and thus renders effective intellectual coöperation between philosophers having different convictions on fundamental and (supposedly) non-hypothetical questions difficult and unusual. The idealist, for example, is not commonly much interested in the special problems of the realist; why should he be--he is likely to ask--since those problems arise only in consequence of presuppositions which he is quite sure are false and even absurd? And the realist often more than reciprocates this attitude. If both could be persuaded to refrain for a time from raising the prior question and to collaborate in good faith in working out the implications and possibilities of both presuppositions, the moment of divergence and mutual incomprehensibility would at least be deferred, and by this less direct attack upon the fundamental issues we should, I suspect, be more likely to ar-

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