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century Frenchman, “man is a stupid animal.” Man is not only a stupid animal in spite of his conceit of his own cleverness but we are here at the source of his stupidity. The source is the moral indolence that Buddha with his almost infallible sagacity defined long ago. In spite of the fact that his spiritual and in the long run his material success hinge on his ethical effort, man persists in dodging this effort, in seeking to follow the line of least or lesser resistance. An energetic material working does not mend but aggravate the failure to work ethically and is therefore especially stupid. Just this combination has in fact led to the crowning stupidity of the ages — the Great War. No more delirious spectacle has ever been witnessed than that of hundreds of millions of human beings using a vast machinery of scientific efficiency to turn life into a hell for one another. It is hard to avoid concluding that we are living in a world that has gone wrong on first principles, a world that, in spite of all the warnings of the past, has allowed itself to be caught once more in the terrible naturalistic trap. The dissolution of civilization with which we are threatened is likely to be worse in some respects than that of Greece or Rome in view of the success that has been attained in "perfecting the mystery of murder.” Various traditional agencies are indeed still doing much to chain up the beast in man. Of these the chief is no doubt the Church. But the leadership of the Occident is no longer here. The leaders have succumbed in greater or less degree to naturalism and so have been tampering with the moral law. That the brutal imperialist who brooks no obstacle to his lust for domin
1 The Church, so far as it has become humanitarian, has itself suocumbed to naturalism.
ion has been tampering with this law goes without saying; but the humanitarian, all adrip with brotherhood and profoundly convinced of the loveliness of his own soul, has been tampering with it also, and in a more dangerous way for the very reason that it is less obvious. This tampering with the moral law, or what amounts to the same thing, this overriding of the veto power in man, has been largely a result, though not a necessary result, of the rupture with the traditional forms of wisdom. The Baconian naturalist repudiated the past because he wished to be more positive and critical, to plant himself upon the facts. Yet the veto power is itself a fact, - the weightiest with which man has to reckon. The Rousseauistic naturalist threw off traditional control because he wished to be more imaginative. Yet without the veto power the imagination falls into sheer anarchy. Both Baconian and Rousseauist were very impatient of any outer authority that seemed to stand between them and their own perceptions. Yet the veto power is nothing abstract, nothing that one needs to take on hearsay, but is very immediate. The naturalistic leaders may be proved wrong without going beyond their own principles, and their wrongness is of a kind to wreck civilization.
I have no quarrel, it is scarcely necessary to add, either with the man of science or the romanticist when they keep in their proper place. As soon however as they try, whether separately or in unison, to set up some substitute for humanism or religion, they should be at once attacked, the man of science for not being sufficiently positive and critical, the romanticist for not being rightly imaginative.
This brings us back to the problem of the ethical im
agination the imagination that has accepted the veto power - which I promised a moment ago to treat in its larger aspects. This problem is indeed in a peculiar sense the problem of civilization itself. A curious circumstance should be noted here: a civilization that rests on dogma and outer authority cannot afford to face the whole truth about the imagination and its rôle. A civilization in which dogma and outer authority have been undermined by the critical spirit, not only can but must do this very thing if it is to continue at all. Man, a being ever changing and living in a world of change, is, as I said at the outset, cut off from immediate access to anything abiding and therefore worthy to be called real, and condemned to live in an element of fiction or illusion. Yet civilization must rest on the recognition of something abiding. It follows that the truths on the survival of which civilization de pends cannot be conveyed to man directly but only through imaginative symbols. It seems hard, however, for man to analyze critically this disability under which he labors, and, facing courageously the results of his analysis, to submit his imagination to the necessary control. He consents to limit his expansive desires only when the truths that are symbolically true are presented to him as literally true. The salutary check upon his imagination is thus won at the expense of the critical spirit. The pure gold of faith needs, it should seem, if it is to gain currency, to be alloyed with credulity. But the civilization that results from humanistic or religious control tends to produce the critical spirit. Sooner or later some Voltaire utters his fatal message:
Les prêtres ne sont pas ce qu'un vain peuple pense;
The emancipation from credulous belief leads to an anarchic individualism that tends in turn to destroy civilization. There is some evidence in the past that it is not quite necessary to run through this cycle. Buddha, for example, was very critical; he had a sense of the flux and evanescence of all things and so of universal illusion keener by far than that of Anatole France; at the same time he had ethical standards even sterner than those of Dr. Johnson. This is a combination that the Occident has rarely seen and that it perhaps needs to see. At the very end of his life Buddha uttered words that deserve to be the Magna Charta of the true individualist: “Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye refuges unto yourselves. Look to no outer refuge. Hold fast as a refuge unto the Law (Dhamma).” 1 A man may safely go into himself if what he finds there is not, like Rousseau, his own emotions, but like Buddha, the law of righteousness.
Men were induced to follow Rousseau in his surrender to the emotions, it will be remembered, because that seemed the only alternative to a hard and dry rationalism. The rationalists of the Enlightenment were for the most part Cartesians, but Kant himself is in his main trend a rationalist. The epithet critical usually applied to his philosophy is therefore a misnomer. For to solve the critical problem the relation between appearance and reality — it is necessary to deal adequately with the rôle of the imagination and this Kant has quite failed to do.”
1 Sutta of the Great Decease.
? If a man recognizes the supreme rôle of fiction or illusion in life while proceeding in other respects on Kantian principles, he will reach results similar to the “As-if Philosophy” (Philosophie des Als Ob) of Vaihinger, a leading authority on Kant and co-editor of the Kantstudien. This
Modern philosophy is in general so unsatisfactory because it has raised the critical problem without carrying it through; it is too critical to receive wisdom through the traditional channels and not critical enough to achieve insight, and so has been losing more and more its human relevancy, becoming in the words of one of its recent votaries, a "narrow and unfruitful eccentricity.” The professional philosophers need to mend their ways and that speedily if the great world is not to pass them disdainfully by and leave them to play their mysterious little game among themselves. We see one of the most recent groups, the new realists, flat on their faces before the man of science - surely an undignified attitude for a philosopher. It is possible to look on the kind of knowledge that science gives as alone real only by dodging the critical problem - the problem as to the trustworthiness of the human instrument through which all knowledge is received -- and it would be easy to show, if this were the place to go into the more technical aspects of the question, that the new realists have been doing just this whether through sheer naïveté or metaphysical despair I am unable to say. The truly critical observer is unable to discover anything real in the absolute sense since everything is mixed with illusion. In this absolute sense the man of science must ever be ignorant of the reality behind the shows of nature. The new realist is, however, justified relatively in thinking that the only thing real in the view of life that has prevailed of late has been its working according to the natural law and the fruits of this work, though not published until 1911, was composed, the author tells us in his preface, as early as 1875–78. It will be found to anticipate very strikingly pragmatism and various other isms in which philosophy has been proclaiming so loudly of late its own bankruptcy.