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

By Arthur O. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

IX THE NATURE OF KNOWING AS A NATURAL EVENT

THE hypothetical conclusion which we reached at the beginning of the preceding lecture was a conclusion pertinent only to the case of the physical realist. If you are to believe in a real physical world, then--so the argument ran--you must necessarily be a dualist in both senses of the term: you must hold (a) that there are given in experience particular existents which are not parts of that world, and you must hold (b) that whatever knowledge of real objects you have is indirect or representative, that the datum whereby you know any such object is not identical with the object known. Resuming our inquiry at this point--after some divagation into a collateral issue--we proceed to consider two further questions, relating exclusively to the second of these propositions. The first question is whether that proposition is valid not exclusively from the standpoint of the realist, but from any standpoint --in other words, whether epistemological dualism must be accepted by anyone, be he realist or idealist or phenomenalist or pragmatist, who believes that the phenomenon called knowing ever does actually occur. The second question is whether, in final analysis, epistemological dualism itself is tenable--whether the notion of the apprehension of an existent (whatever be its metaphysical nature) by means of the immediate presence in experience of something other than itself is psychologically intelligible, or even conceivable without self-contradiction. Our two questions, then, more briefly stated, are: (1) Is the mediate character of knowledge implied by idealism (or kindred doctrines) as well as by physical realism? (2) Is mediate knowledge possible--and if so, how?

The comment will, of course, naturally suggest itself here that the second question ought to come first, and that, indeed, it should have been dealt with at the very beginning of our whole inquiry. But this order of procedure would, I think, be a mistaken one, in spite of its air of logicality. It is, for reasons which I have already suggested, better to begin with hypothetical questions, to make explicit the necessary but frequently overlooked implications, with respect to a given problem, of the various types of opinion which

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