Gambar halaman

Christian revelation set forth in their order and connections; and so far as Ritschlianism has helped by its protests to purge theology of scholastic and metaphysical conceptions really foreign to its essence, it deserves our cordial thanks.


By Rev. ARTHUR JENKINSON. The contributions made by the leading minds of Scotland to present-day problems are of special interest to all English-speaking students. I propose to give a brief account of the way in which the chief philosophical and theological questions of the age have been grasped by them. In so doing, the main problems engaging thinkers everywhere will be opened up, and the various trends of thought indicated.

I begin with Dr. Caird, the distinguished Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the Glasgow University. He occupies one of the most conspicuous places in the intellectual life of Scotland. Very many competent to judge claim him as the foremost preacher of the age. But, more than that, he is a profound and philosophical thinker. Next year he will succeed Professor Max Müller as Gifford Lecturer on Natural Theology. His Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, a second edition of which has just been issued, was declared by the late Professor T. H. Green, of Oxford, to be the most valuable book of its kind that has appeared. Principal Caird, together with his brother, Professor Edward Caird, has, for a long stretch of years, wielded an immense influence over numbers of the ablest students that have passed through the University. Hundreds of men now doing good work as teachers, professors, and ministers in various parts of the English-speaking world look up to these two thinkers with a reverence and an admiration too deep for expression. They are conscious that they gained from them, not only a deeper insight into the heart of things, but an altogether new intellectual and moral enthusiasm. It has been very largely through them that the great idealistic systems of German thought have been made known in Scotland ; and, whatever may be the ultimate outcome of that way of philosophising, they have given the most consistent exposition of those systems, have submitted them to the most profound and sympathetic criticism, and their writings and teaching have been most powerful factors in the intellectual life of Scotland.

It is confessedly a difficult, well-nigh an impossible, thing to so state the leading ideas of Absolute Idealism as really to convey any conviction or intelligible meaning to one who hears them for the first time. The words may be simple enough, but what they stand for is such a great contrast to our ordinary way of thought that the whole thing remains a sealed mystery. It has been said that Hegel, recognising the failure of his predecessors to solve the problems of metaphysics, whatever position they assumed, tried the new one of standing on his head and writing with his feet in the air. It cannot, therefore, be surprising that the mind finds a difficulty in adjusting itself to the new point of view. What, however, I propose to do is to take Dr. Caird's Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, and to state, as far as can be done in this short paper, the leading or central principle of the book, and to give one or two illustrations of how it is expounded and justified. The argument does not really admit of condensation, and yet I hope its salient features may be so presented as to afford some help and guidance to the student to whom this way of ideas is new. The book is essentially Hegelian in spirit and method, and claims religion as a fit subject for philosophical inquiry in the characteristic Hegelian language : “Whatever is real is rational, and with all that is rational philosophy claims to deal.” Here, then, on the second page of the book, we are face to face with Hegel's fundamental hypothesis, which, once grasped, it has been said, will make all else fairly easy. Once see that there is no reality which is not thought, and no thought which is not reality, and you will have grasped the key to the whole of Hegel's philosophy. But that is just the difficulty. It is well, however, to see that this is really the central core of the Hegelian system. The late Professor T. H. Green thus stated the vital truth which Hegel had to teach : "That there is one Spiritual Self-conscious Being, of which all that is real is the activity or expression; that we are related to this Spiritual Being, not merely as parts of the world, which is its expression, but as partakers, in some inchoate manner, of the self-consciousness through which it at once constitutes and distinguishes itself from the world ; that this participation is the source of all morality and religion : this we take to be the vital truth which Hegel had to teach." And this “vital truth” forms the grand central core of this book. Again and again it is presented as the fundamental idea. All Dr. Caird's marvellous gifts of exposition and of illustration are engaged in setting it forth, and each time it is stated some new light is thrown upon its meaning. Thus he says: Two things may without difficulty be proved-viz., that this ultimate reality is an Absolute Spirit whose existence is presupposed in all finite existence, whose thought is the one condition of all finite thoughts; and, conversely, that it is only in communion with this Absolute Spirit or Intelligence that the finite spirit can realise itself.” 2 Here is another statement of this vital principle: “It is only when we think of God as Absolute Spirit or Self-consciousness that we attain to an idea of His nature, which, while it gives to the finite the reality of an object ever distinguishable from, never lost in, the subject, yet refuses to it any independence or individuality which cannot be brought back to a higher unity. In the light of this idea we see that the world and man have a being and reality of their own, even that highest reality which consists in being that whereby God reveals or manifests Himself." 3 This, then, is the thesis of the book.

1 Professor Henry Jones on Hegel, in Modern Church, January 14th. · P. 247. First Edition.

3 P. 256.

The first three chapters are occupied with objections to the scientific treatment of religion. Chapter I. deals with the objection from the relative character of human knowledge.” In it we have the answer which Absolute Idealism gives to Agnosticism, Nescience, Subjectivism, Phenomenalism, and all those thinkers of whatever other name who traffic in the Unknowable ; Mr. H. Spencer, who has given the last and clearest exposition of their central doctrine, being taken as the type of them all. His position is well known ; but it is necessary to state it briefly here, in order to appreciate the reply. Following Sir Wm. Hamilton and Kant, this system rests on the doctrine that the human understanding is absolutely cut off from reality. Man can only know phenomena. His rational nature is looked upon as a sort of psychical organisation, which, for aught we can tell, is peculiar to us as men, and which may, for anything we know, so distort and modify the object that what appears in consciousness is not the same as the thing in itself. “What may be the nature of objects,” said Kant, "considered as things in themselves and without reference to the receptivity of our sensibility is quite unknown to us. We know nothing more than our mode of perceiving them, which is peculiar to us." What we may be certain of is that the object as it appears to us is not the object as it is in itself. By becoming known it has become coloured and conditioned by the consciousness that contemplates it. And thus we are, by the constitution of our rational nature, cut off from knowledge of the real. From this necessarily springs the doctrine that the Absolute or Infinite is unknowable. The Infinite cannot be known; for it cannot, of course, be defined or limited. But to think is to limit, to define, to mark off and distinguish one thing from another. Therefore, to know the Infinite is a contradiction. And the Absolute is the unrelated; but thought is only possible as a relation of the thing thought to the thinker : therefore, the Absolute must be unknowable. We can have a vague consciousness that the Absolute or Infinite does exist; but that is all.

Now, after pointing out that the two elements in this doctrine—that we cannot know the Absolute, and yet may have a vague consciousness of its existence—are irreconcilable, Dr. Caird proceeds to pull down the whole edifice of agnosticism. But it is done by proving that when we examine the relation of thought to reality, of subject to object, of knowing to being, we find “that the unity expressed by these correlatives is one which is absolutely indissoluble, and that though by an abstraction we can distinguish, yet we can never divide or isolate the one from the other.” The doctrine of the agnostic is founded upon an abstraction. “ What is the Absolute behind thought which the theorist first sets himself to conceive, and what is that modification or degradation from reality which it undergoes by entering into thought?” There is no reality which is not a thinkable, intelligible reality. There can be no reality out of all relation to thought, without its inseparable correlate in an intelligence that thinks it. Thought and reality are inseparable correlatives, and the one can no more exist without the other than one end of a stick can exist without the other end. “It is only by a fictitious abstraction that we suppose ourselves to transcend the unity of knowing and being, and to conceive or imagine a being which exists absolutely, apart from all knowing, or which is absolutely unknowable.”] This, however, must not be understood to mean that the world only exists as we think it. It is rather the recognition of that Absolute which comprehends all finite things and thoughts, because it is itself the Unity of Thought and Being. It is manifest that nothing can have any reality for us save as it enters into thought, and, on the other hand, the thought we find in all things and beings, in nature and in man- the system of relations which we find in the order of the world, and which the man of science seeks more and more fully to understand—this we do not create, but find; and all our movements to interpret nature go on the tacit assumption that nature is intelligible, and that the reason or thought in us can find itself in a rational system without. Thus the presupposition of knowledge is that there is an Absolute Mind realising itself in the outward system or order of the world, and subjectively in the human spirit, and that therefore nature and mind are not two independent things, but two members of one organic whole. As nature is realised mind, so mind finds itself in nature.

I have dealt very fully with this reply to Mr. H. Spencer, for in many respects it carries us really into the heart of the book. The central principle of Absolute Idealism is again very powerfully maintained in the profound chapter on the Necessity of Religion. The idea that the Absolute Spirit is the presupposition and ultimate reality is emphasized in two ways. In answer to all materialistic theories it is argued that although they profess to exclude mind, and to reduce it to a function of matter, yet they tacitly presuppose it. Experience involves something which is not given in sensation. Abstract everything but sensation and there could be no experience. All that sense can give is isolated, transient, incoherent sensations, and if nothing else were present they could never be built up into the ordered whole which we call experience. They could not yield the smallest object of real knowledge. From the first there must be present some unifying, concentrating power which can identify, relate, compare, co-ordinate sensations, and build them up into the fair fabric of knowledge. And this constant amid the variable, this unifying power, can only be the spiritual self, the self-conscious Ego. “In a word, to constitute the reality of the outward world—to make possible the minimum of knowledge, nay, the very existence for us of molecules and atoms—you must needs presuppose that thought or thinking self which some would persuade us is to be educed or evolved from them." 2

But it is not enough to attain this point. We may disprove the theory of the materialist who would make mind a mere function of matter; we may have proved that mind must have been present from the beginning, or no start could have been made at all. But this is not a proof of God or of 1 P. 24.

? P. 99.


the necessity of religion. “To have shown that thought is the prius of all things is not enough, unless we can further show that the thought of which we thus speak is not individual or finite thought, but that the mind is impelled onwards by its own inward dialectic until it finds its goal in a thought which is universal and absolute, a thought or intelligence on which all finite thought can rest. This is the task involved in the attempt to prove the necessity of religion."1 Accordingly two positions are laid down. (1) That in the very notion of a spiritual or self-conscious being there is already involved a virtual or potential infinitude. (2) That the knowledge

. of a limit implies a virtual, and, in some sense, an actual transcendence of it. We are rational and spiritual beings because we have in us a power to transcend the bounds of our narrow individuality, and to find ourselves in what seems to lie beyond us. There is a vital difference between the finitude of nature and of man. The finitude of material nature is a hard and fast limitation, one individual thing limiting another: where one is the other cannot be. But the finitude of the mind gives way before its capacity to realise itself and find itself in that which seems to lie beyond. If mind could be absolutely shut up to itself it would cease to be mind. It must. transcend the bounds of its own narrow life, and then it finds not a world in separation from itself ; but rather one in which the barriers are continually breaking down, and in which more and more fully it finds an indwelling reason akin to its own. What science finds in nature is not something foreign to mind, but that which is essentially rational. And if this is true with respect to outward nature, still more is it true when we turn to our social relationships. These relationships, instead of becoming a limitation upon our own lives, are really the means by which we realise the wealth of our spiritual being. In the Family, the Church, the State, our isolated individuality seems to break down, and we participate in a larger life, which is yet our true life; so that he who knows what love, and sympathy, and trust, and loyalty mean has entered upon a fuller life, which is yet the true and reasonable life of man.

To be ourselves we must be more than ourselves. We see the same truth from a different point of view in that all knowledge rests upon the assumption of an absolute criterion of knowledge. Our whole intellectual and moral life implies the reality of a final standard, an absolute truth, a perfect goodness. Thus our nature though finite in one sense, yet bears in it the consciousness of the Infinite.

• In other words, when we examine into the real significance of the rational and spiritual nature of man, we find that it involves what is virtually the consciousness. of God and of our essential relation to Him." The ultimate basis of consciousness is not the consciousness of self; for the individual's consciousness. of self would have no meaning if it did not rest on a more universal consciousness which lies beneath it. The consciousness of self is given only in relation to that which is not self. Subject and object are correlatives as indivisible as the notions of outward and inward, motion and rest, parent

P. 120.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »