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IX: Faith and Knowledge. Review and Conclusion

Ex divinorum et humanorum malesana admistione non solum educitur philosophia phantastica, sed etiam religio haeretica. Itaque salutare admodum est, si mente sobria fidei tantum dentur quae fidei sunt.

—F. Bacon.

We have now, very rapidly and imperfectly, tried to consider some of the outstanding characteristics which distinguish an historical, or revelational religion from a purely philosophical. We must finally attempt to deal directly with the issue which has been long enough in my own mind, as I do not doubt that it has been in yours. Have we anywhere, by anything we have said, compromised the rightful claims of either living religion or reasoned science and philosophy to independence and freedom from alien interference, each within its own sphere? In particular, have we advanced anything which can prejudice the demand of a rational philosophy to pursue its own problems, by its own methods, in a strictly disinterested spirit, without apprehension of being arbitrarily arrested by dictation from the priest, or the dogmatic theologian? Or have we, in all good faith, anywhere played into the hand of the “obscurantist” who, in the famous image of St. Peter Damiani,1 would confine the critical intellect to the functions of an ancilla, a handmaid, and in fact a slave, to a purely authoritarian and supra–rational theology? A sense can be put on the familiar formula, “philosophy the handmaid of divinity,” in which its adoption would be a formal treason against rationality in God or man, and a surrender to the intellectual indolence which is itself a capital spiritual sin. To such a sin I trust I may plead not guilty with a good confidence. Yet it may be that this same metaphor of the mistress and the servant, rightly interpreted, may yield a valuable lesson. This is the point on which I could wish, in conclusion, to be a little explicit. I must therefore crave your indulgence if I raise, quite briefly, by way of conclusion, the general question what sort of autonomy or independence may, and what sort may not, be legitimately demanded for any intelligent activity of the human mind.

When does the reasonable demand for freedom pass, as it so easily may do, into the unreasonable and arrogant claim to play the dictator? Universal history has taught us how light–heartedly the transition is made in practical mundane affairs; how imperceptibly, for instance, the “patriot,” with his passion for national independence, becomes the aggressive “imperialist,” proudly conscious of a mission parcere subiectis et debellare superbos. There is also an imperialism of the speculative intellect against which we need no less to be on our guard. Nor is it only the theologian who requires the warning; metaphysicians, physicists, biologists are all only too apt, in the hour of their dominance, to assert the same right regere imperio populos pacisque imponere morem. There was only too much truth in the complaint once made by a brilliant living writer against the science of thirty years ago, that “science appears to be developing the vices of theology without any of its virtues—the dogmatism, the ‘index expurgatorius’, and the whole machinery for suppressing speculation, without any of the capacity to impose upon the conscience a clear and well–defined scheme of life”.2 And though our most eminent professed metaphysicians of the same period were conspicuously modest men, and expressed themselves more decorously, I think it would be true to say that they were not without some touch of the same temper. They often tended to assume that a general metaphysic, and that a metaphysic which is at bottom an epistemology, can prescribe in advance the ground–plan of a rational universe so completely that the epistemologist is in a position to say definitely just what is the permanent truth embodied in the great religions, and that everything in their divinity or their devotions which cannot be covered by his formulae is no more than imaginative fable, often actually, and always potentially, mischievous.

Towards natural science the attitude of these metaphysicians was often formally deferential; yet it was made politely clear that knowledge of nature was not rated very high as a possible source of valuable contribution to the philosophical interpretation of the world. Since epistemology, either alone or, at most, in conjunction with ethics, was widely supposed to be able to indicate the ground–plan of a rational world, there was a tendency to assume that, in all essentials, the work of philosophical interpretation had already been done by Aristotle, and might, indeed, have been equally well done by the Milesians in the sixth century, if they had only possessed Aristotle’s capacity for logical analysis, in spite of their inevitable ignorance of the detail of natural processes. Perhaps no other view could have been expected from philosophers who derived so much of their inspiration from Kant. For Kant seriously believed himself to have drawn the ground–plan of a rational world once and for all in the Critique of Pure Reason, in a way admitting of no serious modification or improvement; his successors were to do no more than build up the fabric of positive knowledge on the foundations so well and surely laid in 1781.3 It is in making this assumption that Kant gives the supreme proof of the radically unhistorical character of his thinking. The world in which a philosophy of this type moves, just because it is, in principle, a completely comprehended world, is a dead world. If our philosophical thought is to keep its contact with the living world of the historical, it will have to reckon everywhere with the contingent and surprising, and will have therefore to be empirical, in a sense in which the best thought of the last century was not empirical, even when it was loudest in its repudiation of a–priorism. And this unavoidable empiricism will be reflected in our interpretation of the claims of the various activities of the mind to autonomy.

True empiricism cannot mean, as has sometimes been supposed, that it is the business of the philosophical interpreter of nature to jump at the first impressions conveyed by the observation of sequences in nature, make sweeping generalisations from them by “simple induction,” and canonise the results as dogmas. A metaphysic of first impressions would be no better than an intellectual house of cards. But to be truly and sanely empirical, which is the same thing as to think historically, must mean that we are to be in earnest with the conviction that in our metaphysic, our science, our art, our divinity alike, we are “moving about in worlds not realised.” It must mean that the conviction of the rationality of the world, on which all pursuit of truth is founded, is strictly a postulate of the “practical” reason. An historical world is not rational in the sense that it ever has been, or ever will be, actually rationalised, made self–explanatory and self–justifying, by the labours of philosophers, even to the extent of successfully mapping out its ground–plan with finality. It is our unending task to divine the supreme pattern of the real, and so to rationalise it, to the best of our power, knowing well that the element of the disconcerting and perplexing will never be eliminated.4

For our intelligence, which is not “intuitive,” but works by painfully piecing fragments of reality together, a world in which time and contingency are more than illusions must always remain in large part unfamiliar and “uncanny.” Since this is so, one thing at least seems certain; whatever the ultimate structure of the real may be, it cannot be discovered by any mere consideration of an abstract scheme of logical categories. Epistemology, Kategorienlehre, analysis of the methods of the sciences, taken by themselves, cannot furnish the sole and complete clue to the character of the historical reality in which our thought and action are embedded, for the obvious reason that we are not related to the real as spectators to a picture. The world, indeed, sets us questions and provokes our curiosity. If it did no more than this, it would be conceivable that in constructing a critical theory of knowledge we should eo ipso arrive at a true metaphysic. The reason why this is not so is that we are not in the position of the spectator before the picture; our “picture” is a tableau vivant in which we are ourselves actors.

So much has often been said before with an eloquence which I cannot aspire to rival. I do not know whether the inference I would draw has always been made as explicitly as I would make it. It seems to follow that it is a grave mistake to assume, as I think must be assumed by anyone who accepts the full claims made by Kant for criticism, or by Hegel for his logic, that a theory of knowledge is, by itself, a sufficient basis for a metaphysical philosophy. For is it not perfectly possible that epistemology may only present us with an account of reality which is systematically ambiguous? With what right can we assume that unhistorical analysis, such as is the business of the logician and the critical student of scientific method, must conduct us to a single and determinate conception of the pattern of a historical reality? Might it not prove that these inquiries, pursued with the utmost vigour and subtlety, end by offering us a scheme in which there are ambiguities, just as the attempt to solve a numerical problem in which there are more unknowns than known independent relations between them leads to a system of indeterminate equations?

There might prove to be alternative metaphysical interpretations of the given historical reality, all equally consistent with the only condition which the epistemologist can legitimately insist on, the condition that, on any interpretation, the real world must be capable of being progressively known as intelligence is steadily brought to bear upon it. I do not see that a critical theory of knowledge entitles us to presuppose more about the character of the real world than that it must be such that an intelligible question about it is capable of receiving an intelligent answer, if investigation is patiently pursued far enough, though that answer may sometimes be only that data such as would lead to a determinate solution of the problem are not available. If this is so, it is obvious that the last word about the structure of reality cannot be uttered by the epistemologist. Where the critical theory of knowledge has left open alternatives, it will be permissible to ask whether other than purely speculative considerations may not properly have weight as closing some of the apparently open alternatives, and to admit such a claim will involve no disloyalty to reason. It would be disloyalty to reason to deny that the real world is one in which the prosecution of science is possible; it is not disloyalty to hold that the world is something other and more than a mere field for the elaboration of science.

As we all know, Kant himself definitely held that there are alternative interpretations of the pattern of reality, equally providing for all the legitimate claims of the sciences, and the choice between them has to be made on other than purely speculative grounds. So far as the sciences are concerned, the real world might equally well be an assemblage of mindless and purposeless automata, or a commonwealth of free and purposive agents under the moral government of God; only the extra–scientific consideration that if the first account is the true one genuine moral responsibility must be an illusion justifies our acceptance of the second, and the justification has no force except for the man who accepts the fact of moral responsibility, and accepts it, not because there would be a demonstrable absurdity in denying it, but because he is personally a man of high inward morality, whose life would become purposeless if morality were dismissed as an illusion. So far, as it seems to me, Kant’s procedure is thoroughly sound, and his philosophy, whatever other defects it may have, is sounder in principle than that of Spinoza or Hegel, precisely because it is not a panlogism; it does not try to stand on logic alone; but if it has one foot planted, so to say, on logic, it has the other securely planted on life. But Kant, I would submit, is not sufficiently alive to the full possibilities of what I have called the systematic ambiguity of epistemology. The places left open in the metaphysical interpretation of reality, when epistemology has “done her do,” are, according to him, very few; we know exactly where to find them, and the possible alternatives left open are, in each case, just two and no more. Since he only finds room for this limited amount of ambiguity, it is possible for him to hold, as he does, that what ambiguities there are are completely removed by the appeal to ethics.

If the possibilities of such ambiguity are greater than Kant was willing to allow, it may be in principle impossible to say exhaustively beforehand just where we shall find them, or how many alternative readings of the facts they permit, and, again, it will be premature to assume that it is only to ethics that we may look for guidance in these cases. It may be, for example, that the specifically religious life has the same right to unprejudiced consideration by the metaphysician as the specifically moral life. There may be alternatives which ethics leaves still open, and, if so, some may be closed when we take into account experiences which are neither those of the man of science, nor of the morally virtuous man as such, but belong specifically to the personally religious man, and to no one else. If this should prove to be the case, religion will have its claims to a real autonomy, no less than science or morality, and we have no right to determine in advance of examination that it is not the case.

There is at least a fair prima facie reason for thinking that the state of matters I have just described as possible is actually the fact. I would adapt here to my own purpose a line of argument which has been forcibly employed by Dr. E. R. Bevan against the type of “rationalist” who regards reason as identical with secularistic natural science, and religion as a mere widespread popular delusion. As Dr. Bevan has urged,5 the “appearances” are very strongly against this kind of rationalist, much more decidedly than they are, for example, against the average, more or less orthodox, Christian. For it is no part of the orthodox Christian’s case that the articles of his creed are all capable of being shown by demonstration, or by probable reasoning, to be either certainly true, or, at least, possessed of a high degree of probability. Such a claim is excluded by his belief in an actual historical revelation, and his acceptance, in some form, of the principle of authority. He does not assume that, with sufficient native intelligence and adequate education, every man must necessarily come into his own convictions, since they are admittedly inspired by a “faith” which, unlike the assurance won by proof, involves a “free assent” of the will. On his own theory it is no paradox that there should be men of the highest intelligence and the best education who reject his convictions as false. But it is part of the militant “rationalist’s” case that the orthodox Christian belief can be proved to be false, or unfounded, to anyone of high intelligence and good education. It ought therefore to be a serious paradox to him, as it is not to his orthodox opponent, that in actual fact the line of division between the orthodox and the “infidel” is not lateral, but vertical, so that, at all levels of intelligence and education, from the lowest to the highest, we find the believer and the “unbeliever” side by side. Among the most ignorant and least intelligent you will find both the devoutly orthodox and the scornfully anti–religious, and you will meet the same situation at the very top of the pyramid, or at any intervening level. This of itself is good reason for holding that, whether orthodoxy is true or not, it is at least not a mere product of dullness or ignorance.

The same line of argument may fairly be used to vindicate the autonomy of religion as a specific apprehension of features of reality, against attempts, like those of Kant in his work on Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason, to deny the serious value of everything in the historical religions which is not strictly ethical. If it were really true that everything in a great religion which is not directly ethical—in other words, the great body of its theology and cultus—is no more than superfluous “survival,” to be explained by the conservatism of human emotion, but not to be justified, we might fairly expect to find that the influences which make for such survival are regularly most potent where intelligence and education are at their lowest level; they should be weakest at the top of the pyramid. It ought to be the rule that, though I may attach value to these elements in the tradition in which I have been brought up, and persons of feebler intelligence and fewer “educational advantages” than myself may value them more highly still, when I look upwards to those whom I recognise to be more acute and better informed than myself, I should see them sitting more loosely to all these things than I do, and more generally agreed than myself and my intellectual equals in a “religion of all men of sense” which amounts to little more than the “morality touched with emotion” of Matthew Arnold’s unhappy definition.

Whether this state of things is what we do in fact see, each of us must judge for himself. For my own part, I have to confess, that I do not see the facts so, though I might have been predisposed in that direction by some of the educational influences to which I have been subject in earlier manhood. Among the dull or ill–informed I do, indeed, often see vehement confessional and theological attachments which I cannot share, but I often also see among them marked confessional and theological indifferentism which I cannot share either. And when I consider those whom I am constrained to regard as my superiors in mental acumen, or solid education, or both, in some of these again I find indifferentism, but in others very marked attachments with which I do not always personally sympathise. Consequently, for my own part, I discover no connection between intellectual eminence and any one particular attitude to Christian or other “orthodoxy,” certainly no connection between such eminence and agnosticism or scepticism about the possibility of knowledge concerning God.6

There is, indeed, one particular mental attitude which, so far as my observation goes, is commonly an accompaniment of recognisable intellectual inferiority of some kind, the contemptuous and rancorous self–satisfaction which springs from inability either to see any difficulties in one’s own position, or any advantages in that of one’s opponents; but this moral defect seems to show itself among inferior adherents of all the possible points of view. There are rancorous militants of all varieties of possible belief, contemptuous and angry deniers of everything, even bitter and scornful indifferentists. The men of unmistakable mental distinction, again, are to be found alike among believers in a positive theology, convinced disbelievers, sceptics. Only they, in whichever of these classes they are found, regularly combine the power to hold their own position with confidence with the ability to appreciate the difficulties it involves; they know the “weak side” of their own case better than most of their opponents do, just as in political life a man of real statesmanlike insight usually knows better than any critic from outside the vulnerable spots in the programme of his own party. We must all have learned long ago that it is a delusion to imagine that the “infidel”—the man who denies the convictions which make up our own “faith,” whatever it is—must be “wicked”; it is an equal delusion to fancy that the “orthodox” of an orthodoxy which is not our own must be stupid, or insincere. Behind the orthodoxy of a really great historical religion—and this is peculiarly true of our own religion—there is safe to be a great philosophy. It is not the only philosophy tenable as an interpretation of the actualities so far disclosed by everyday practical life and the prosecution of the natural sciences—this is what I meant by speaking of the systematic ambiguity of a metaphysic based on mere epistemology, or on a mere combination of ethics with epistemology—and, like all philosophies, it is sure to have its difficulties: there are sure to be some “appearances” which are intractable to it, but it is a great philosophy, not to be spoken of except with respect, and no man is entitled to presume lightly that it may not prove to be the true philosophy. To understand this is the first condition of approaching the problem in the right spirit.

The case, then, as it seems to me, stands thus. Theologies arise, in the first instance, not from the indulgence of an idle curiosity, but from the attempt to take as a clue to the interpretation of the historical world certain experiences, or phases of experience, which, to those who are sensitive to them, come stamped with a significance that marks them as authoritative self–disclosures of the supreme reality, and, moreover, are not self–contained, but at least appear to throw light on the whole pattern of historical reality. As we have said before, the claim that these experiences have this significance is not refuted by the objection that, in their full intensity, they are confined to the few. For, as we remarked, the same thing may be said of the appeal of art to those who are sensitive to it. Thus, to take a definite example, and one which I choose with a great deal of trepidation, to a very large number of men Beethoven’s Third Symphony probably conveys no impression whatever beyond that of being a vast volume of pleasing or unpleasing sounds. Many more, I suppose, find such a work vaguely suggestive of something which impresses them as fine and great, but would be incapable, if left to themselves, to give any more precise account of the impression made on them. But there are some hearers to whom the composition has a much more precise significance. Rightly or wrongly, they find in it a “meaning” which is of importance for the appreciation of the whole of human life, and perhaps of something more. It suggests to them a specific attitude of the human soul to the vicissitudes of human fortunes, or even to the entire rhythm of the cosmic process. I suppose it would not be exaggerating to say that to such hearers the Eroica is something of a “revelation” of the meaning of life and death, though not a revelation which can be digested into propositional form.7

Now a philosopher who is also a wise man, if he happens to be one of the many to whom the work says nothing of all this, will not argue that what he cannot find for himself was never meant to be found, and in fact is not there to be discovered. Nor, again, if he is truly wise, would he take the line of admitting that there is “something” there, but denying that the “something” can be what the more “suggestible” auditor supposes it to be, on the ground that, if this is so, there must be something in the world of which his own analyses have taken no account. He would not, for instance, argue that it must be a delusion to find there a disclosure of the meaning of life and death, because there can be no truth except truth capable of expression in the form of propositions. He will rather reckon with the fact that there are those who agree in finding some such disclosure there, and note the fact as suggesting a possibility that there may be “truth,” apprehension of reality, which is not “propositional,”8 however difficult he may find it to make a place for such “truth” in his metaphysical scheme. He may find himself incapable of making the necessary reconstruction of his scheme, and have to be content with recording an outstanding and unexplained fact which he does not know how to rationalise. But, if he does so, he will recognise that the inability shows that his own intellectual scheme is an inadequate instrument of rationalisation and calls for amendment, though he may be quite unable to say what precise form the amendment should take. He will note not only the presence of an outstanding and perplexing fact, but the presence of a definite problem raised by that fact for the philosophy of the future. He will avoid, if he is wise, both the temptation to pretend that there is no problem to be solved, and the temptation to produce a premature solution.

It is this second temptation to which philosophers appear to be peculiarly ready to succumb. They are too ready to assume that to say that an intelligent question must be capable of receiving an intelligible answer is equivalent to saying that it must be capable of being answered in terms of the “categories” with which their own thought habitually works. They forget that in speculation, as in practice, the obviousness and reasonableness of a solution to a problem is often apparent only après coup. The rationalising of the given, we must remember, is an “inverse” problem; the solution of it is comparable not with differentiation, where we have a simple universal rule for procedure, but with integration, a procedure just as “rational,”9 for which no general rule can be given, and where success depends on the combination of original “divination” with a well–stored memory of the devices which have proved serviceable in the past.

I trust I am not dwelling with too wearisome an iteration on a type of illustration of which I have already made some considerable use. My special reason for reintroducing it at the present moment is this. If great music, or great art of any kind, is something more than a clever sporting with geometrical or quasi–geometrical patterns—and the great artists, I think, have regularly believed that it is something much more than this—it seems undeniable that it makes a real contribution to the understanding of the world, and has a profound metaphysical signification. At the same time, this signification cannot make its appearance anywhere among the categories of a logic, or the principles of an epistemology; we cannot call it irrational, but it is certainly extra–logical. When it has been grasped by those to whom immediate apprehension of it has been granted it can be reasoned upon, and attempts can be made, as they so often are made, to transcribe it into a language created by the analytical understanding. But such transcriptions are notoriously unsatisfactory, and, what is more, they are only intelligible to those who already possess in some measure the immediate apprehension itself.

We all, perhaps, remember the famous declaration of Hegel,10 that the categories of his logic describe “God as He is in His eternal being before the creation of nature or any finite spirit.” I would not deny that there is an intelligible meaning in Hegel’s boast. No “true worshipper,” of course, can concede that a system of logical categories describes the “eternal being of God,” but there is something which the system should elucidate, the “intelligible” ground–plan of the historical world, and if Hegel’s own Wissenschaft der Logik does not fully realise this ideal, it might be fairly said that it is, at any rate, the ideal which a perfect logic would embody. But my point is that Beethoven would have had the same right to make the claim for his symphonies. They too declare to us something about the ground–plan of the historical world, and it is something which could not be disclosed by any system of logical categories, the most flawless that could be devised. It might be asked, indeed, how we know that the claim is substantiated. But the answer would be simple. It would be, in the first place, that the witness of those who are sensitive to the disclosure is concordant; they are in a story together, to a degree which makes it incredible that their story should be fiction, and, further, that many of us who do not belong to their number can at least learn, with their story before us, to see for ourselves that they are telling us of no wholly strange country, but of one of which we have ourselves had our more perplexed and uncertain glimpses. And the case, as I have argued at some length before, appears to be typical.

My purpose in recurring to all this is to urge that, if it be true, we shall be led to recognise a genuine autonomy, for both religion and its intellectual elaboration in the form of theology, against all over–confident metaphysical short–cuts to a final “synthetic” interpretation of the world. For it will follow that no metaphysical system, working, as all such systems must, with the implements of the analytical understanding, can give a final account of that ground–plan of the real which the metaphysician is seeking to formulate. An intelligence before which the whole plan lay bare would be the intelligence not of a metaphysician, but of God. Philosophy, as Diotima is made to teach in Plato’s Symposium, is not the fruition of such a vision, but the always unfinished and partly baffled aspiration to it.11 If we think thus of the functions of philosophy, we shall be careful not to make the mistake of requiring the theologian, any more than we require the interpreter of literature or art, to work under the control of a body of “categories” prescribed to him from without, whether they are “categories” dictated by reflection upon the natural, or by reflection upon the moral sciences. What we have a right to demand of the theologian, as of the workers with whom I have compared him, is that the matter upon which his thought works shall be something genuinely given, and that in his reflective elaboration of it he shall be true to it. I do not see that we have a right to demand more.

We have no more right to expect that the theologian as such shall be himself a super–metaphysician than we have to expect the same qualifications in the interpreter of art, the moralist, or the scientific specialist. I may find it beyond my powers to fit in the convictions of any of the four with the scheme which guides my own thinking in metaphysics, but this difficulty need not require me to censure any of them. What would be fatal to the claims of any of the four is not that I should not see where he is going, but that he should have no definite goal before him. His reality need be none the less real, nor his own account of it any the less true, that I do not know what to make of it. He, presumably, in such a case, will say with equal justice that he does not know what to make of me and my metaphysic. All that is necessarily proved by our misunderstanding is that neither of us has done what no man ever will do, rationalised the whole of “possible experience.” Neither of us, so far as I can see, has any right to dismiss the other as “under an illusion,” because he himself does not see just what to make of the other’s work. If either of us did adopt this attitude to the other, he might profitably be admonished to attend more to the beam in his own eye than to a mote—or even a beam—in his brother’s eye.

The claim, too often advanced by eager metaphysicians, to prescribe with finality to all the rest of the world what “categories” may be employed in the attempt to understand experiences of specific type is, after all, only a form of the dangerous spiritual sin of pride, the very fault justly charged by the metaphysicians of to–day upon so many of the constructive theologians of the past. A contemporary divine may fairly retort, as Plato is fabled to have retorted on Diogenes, when he set his muddy feet on the carpet with the brag, “Thus I trample the pride of Plato,” Yes, with an equal pride of your own.12 There is a sense in which there can be no metaphysic which is final, even relatively. If the last word could ever be said even on the world of man—itself no more than a fragment of the whole world—the speaker who should utter it would need to be furnished with the experiences of all men as his matter, to be, in his own person, at once St. Paul and Newton, Caesar and Columbus and Keats (and how many more besides!), and also to be Plato, or Aristotle, or Hegel into the bargain, and “there is no such man.” He who lives one life intensely cannot live all. It is just conceivable that it might lie in a man’s choice, for example, to be St. Paul, to be Caesar, or to be Newton. But in choosing to be St. Paul he would be cutting himself off from effective possibility of being either of the others.

Again, those whose mental vision is most habitually limpid do not commonly live any life with the richest intensity; like Browning’s Grammarian, they determine “not to be, but know,” and the quality of the knowing itself is affected by the choice. Systematic all–round clarity is hardly possible except for a vision content to remain on the surface. The system–maker in metaphysics—and it is the system–makers who prescribe dogmatically for the human mind—is a man who has made it his special business to see what he does see with exceptional clearness, but he commonly does not see so deep as some other men. It is not to the great systematisers who supply us with admirable “bird’s–eye views” of the omne scibile that we naturally turn, if we want to sound the depths of a specific sphere of human experiences, if, for instance, we would know the heart of the lover, the adventurer, the sinner. When a man is, like Plato, a great metaphysician, and also has, like Plato, an eye for the depths, he refuses, as Plato did,13 to make a system. But I think it is the common experience that, when all is said that there is to say in the way of a sed contra, we get the most penetrating and convincing glimpses of a tremendous reality less often from the most illustrious of the great systematisers, an Aristotle, a St. Thomas, a Hegel, than from the intense unsystematic thinkers, the Pascals and the Schopenhauers.

I would seriously urge, then, that the systematic, methodical metaphysician is going outside his province if he undertakes to prescribe to religion, to morality, to art, limits beyond which they must not expatiate, on pain of losing contact with reality. It is not for him to declare with authority what religion, or art, or morality must be if they are to be capable of a rational justification. Their legitimate bounds are set to them, not from without, but from within, by the character of the specific living experiences which are their matter, and by nothing else. The “irrationality” which would be fatal to any one of them is not some failure of adjustment to a preconceived epistemological scheme, but absence of internal unifying principle. And what is true of morality, religion, art, as ways of life will hold good equally for the intellectual reflective interpretation of them in the disciplines of ethics, theology, “aesthetics.” It would be fatal to the claims of an ethical or theological body of doctrine if it were found to contradict itself, or if, again, there were an unremoved and unremovable conflict between the ethical or theological interpretation and those very facts of the moral or religious life which it professes to interpret. But mere inability to see how the presuppositions of the religious life can be harmoniously adjusted to those of the moral, or both, again, to the presuppositions of our natural knowledge, seems no valid reason for disputing the rights of ethics or theology to be genuine knowledge of a genuine reality, or to deal autonomously and independently with its own specific “matter,” any more than the acknowledged difficulty of adjusting biology with physics is a reason for disputing the character of biology as a genuine field of knowledge, with a right to its own presuppositions and methods.

When we bear in mind that all our knowledge is always in fieri, in the process of making, not finally made, it is manifest that this lack of complete adjustment is no more than a consequence of the fact that everywhere “we know in part and we prophesy in part.” It is our business to do all we can to effect a completer adjustment and to wait patiently for its arrival, not arbitrarily to suppress one part of a necessarily imperfect apprehension of an infinitely rich whole, because we are puzzled about its precise links of contact with other apprehensions which are equally partial. Indeed, I think we may fairly say that an apparently flawless synthesis, for example, of natural knowledge and theology must be a false synthesis, since its very faultlessness—when we remember how fragmentary and confused is our knowledge of nature, and much more our knowledge of God—would be proof that it had been obtained by the mutilation of one, and probably of both constituents. (Just as the once fashionable “reconciliations” of physics with the opening chapters of Genesis ought to have been seen to be condemned as vain in principle by the single consideration that a complete agreement between Genesis and the physical text–books of the current year must inevitably lead to contradiction between Genesis and the text–books of twenty years later—unless, indeed, the interpretations of the supposedly infallible narrative of Genesis should prove to be just as much perpetually in fieri as the doctrines of the physical text–books, in which case each successive conciliator’s labour is once more in vain.)14

It seems to me, then, that in the matter of the claim to autonomy, theology, ethics, and natural knowledge stand all on one footing. All have a right to exist, and each has the right to deal with its own problems without dictation from either of the others. We have a right, and a duty, to be satisfied, in the case of each, that we are being presented with real problems, not with senseless conundrums excogitated by our own vanity, and, so far as theology is concerned, the whole of what we have said throughout these discussions, may be regarded as a continued attempt to plead that its problems are real problems, forced on us by life, whether we will or no. We have also the right to demand everywhere that the problems thus forced upon us shall be met by strenuous thinking, that there shall be none of the idle mystification which, in fact, has, in different ages, infected men’s attitude towards all the problems set us by life, no substitution of acquiescence in an accepted formula for honest thinking, whether in natural science, in moral science, or in divinity. But if, as we have urged is the case, theology itself has inevitably arisen in the honest attempt to think out the implications of genuine experiences, which are other than, or at least more than, the experiences intellectually elaborated by the natural and moral sciences, it is as vain to dismiss theology as illegitimate on the strength of the acknowledged difficulty of fitting its presuppositions into a metaphysical scheme based on the assumption that the course of physical nature and the history of our social relations with our fellowmen, between them, disclose all the reality there is to be known, as it would be to deny some adequately established position in natural science for the like reason that it is hard to adjust it to a metaphysical scheme inspired by exclusive attention to experiences of a distinctively religious kind.

We may all of us probably remember Pascal’s incisive comment on the attempt to subject natural science to theological dictation: “The Jesuits have procured a decree from Rome that the earth does not revolve, but, if it really revolves, no decrees can alter the fact”.15 In our own day we more commonly, perhaps, see the process reversed: we see the invoking of something like a “decree” from the Royal Society in condemnation of the doctrines of theology. But here also we may comment, in the spirit of Pascal, that if the life of which theology attempts to give us the theory is real fact, no decree of anyone can make it unreal. If, for example, sin and the remission of sins are real facts of life—and the physicist or biologist assuredly cannot pretend to settle that question by his physics or biology—it is idle to dismiss the theologian’s doctrines of sin and grace on the plea that the biologist, for the purposes of his biology, can dispense with the notions. Both theologian and biologist are dealing with a restricted selection from our experiences of a rich and bewildering reality; it is preposterous to dispute the worth of the special view into that reality disclosed by either on the plea that we are at a loss how to combine the two views into one.

In principle the difficulty is the same, though in degree it may be less, when we try to understand how the living organism can be at once what the pure physicist says it is and what the biologist declares it must be. It is not the least of Prof. Whitehead’s services to clear thinking that he has made it so apparent that the “conflict of theology with science,” so much talked of in the nineteenth century, has its counterpart, on a smaller scale, in a similar conflict between the biology of the century and its physics. It may be that the remoulding of scientific concepts which is so busily prosecuted from within at the present moment may bring us, in the course of a generation or two, to a fairly complete solution of this lesser problem. It would be too much to hope for any final solution of the graver problem, but at least we may learn the lesson that difficulties of this kind are not to be removed by the facile device of refusing to see those features of the reality on which we live which conflict with our natural preference for a simplified and unified view of the world.

It is our duty as rational beings to aim at the unified view, but it is surely an illusion to imagine that the unified view will ever be within the grasp of finite intelligences, condemned by their finitude to get at truth piecemeal. Any account of the real which is to do justice to all the features it presents to us is bound to be untidy in places, to be scored with seams and ridges. What we can do is to note where the gaps are found and to try our best, with hope, but also with patience and a fixed resolve to avoid premature syntheses, towards filling them up. So we shall best make our own contribution to the only true philosophia perennis, a philosophy which is, as Francis Bacon said,16 the work, not of some single superman, but of Time, and of which, just because it is always in the making, we might use the phrase of Tennyson, that it is

never built at all,

And therefore built for ever.

Of course, to defend the claim of theology, or any other discipline, to autonomy on these lines is, at the same time, to recognise that the right to autonomy is never merely unilateral. Theology, we have urged, is entitled to deal with its own very real problems without suffering either its procedure or its conclusions to be clipped and curtailed to the pattern presupposed in the natural sciences, and no less entitled to refuse to let itself be made into a mere instrument of morality. For the very same reasons there must be no well–meant edificatory interfering with the unfettered and single–minded investigation of natural fact in the supposed interests of a sound social morality, nor any shirking or wresting of the results of either natural or moral science for the convenience of the divine. If we would be intellectually honest, as it is no easy task to be, it must be our rule, whether our particular work is done in the field of natural science, of ethics, or of theology, to “follow the argument wherever it leads.” To force the “argument” to a conclusion dictated in advance, to cut it arbitrarily short in its progress, when the goal to which it is tending is an unwelcome one, to avoid so much as entering on a legitimate investigation because we are afraid of the conclusions to which it might conduct, all these devices, so often illustrated by the history of both divinity and science, are but so many ways of “offering to the God of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie.” In the realm of thought, as in the sphere of political relations, independence is something very different from a right to domineer over a neighbour who has an equal right to an independence of his own, though it is the lamentable fact that sciences, like nations, are always apt to overstep the boundary which divides independence within one’s own borders from domineering outside them.

At the same time, it needs equally to be said that, however fully natural science, moral science, divinity, are justified in asserting their several rights to pursue their own tasks without interference, no one of the three can be indifferent to the conclusions asserted by the others. The conclusions of natural science cannot be wholly irrelevant to those of moral science, nor the conclusions of either to divinity, since all alike deal with elements in the same given. Life and the world are, in the end, one and not many, and therefore any version of the doctrine of the “double truth” must, in the long run, be destructive of the ideal of truth itself. Hence it is only as a rule of method that we can unreservedly accept the principle of what has been called “ethical neutrality,” and the analogous principle of “theological neutrality.” It is perfectly true that in pursuing any line of inquiry we have a duty, as well as a right, to refuse to be diverted by considerations which, however important, are strictly irrelevant to the question what conclusions are indicated by the evidence before us. To urge that, as may perfectly well be the case, the moral practice, or the devotion of a given community is likely to suffer from the general admission of certain inferences in natural science or in history is strictly irrelevant to the question whether the available evidence justifies or supports those inferences. So far17 it is our business, in pursuing any special branch of knowledge, to be consistently “neutral” towards all considerations which fall outside the purview of that branch of knowledge itself. What cannot be true is that there should be one “truth” of physical science, another of moral science, and possibly a third of divinity, all incompatible with one another and irrelevant to one another. The moralist cannot afford to be indifferent to an alleged scientific account of the world which would make it a system with no place for genuine effort, real freedom and causality, true responsibility and desert, or the divine to a scientific or ethical reading of life which leaves no room for God. In view of the ultimately practical character of our concern as individuals with the ordering of our lives, this may at least explain, though it does not follow that it justifies, the attempts which have been made at various times to arrest the advance of scientific and historical inquiry in the real or supposed interests of morality and religion.

Without subscribing to Newman’s unqualified assertion of the inherent right of ecclesiastical authority to prohibit further pursuit of investigations in every department at its discretion, we may at least be able to understand that such interference has not necessarily always been prompted simply by arrogance and meddlesomeness, or by the criminal and impious concern of a powerful order for its own prestige. Human nature being what it is, it is not surprising that these unworthy motives have played only too prominent a part in history, but it would be the blindness of the mere partisan to deny that behind the “obscurantism” of ecclesiastical authority there has often been a genuine, I do not say an unadulterated, concern to safeguard the interests of practical good living, and that the quality of the practical morality advocated by the so–called “advanced scientific thinkers” of the past and the present has often shown this concern to be well founded. Some part, at least, of the “domineering” of the divine and moralist has been provoked by a correct perception that the autonomy of religion and morality has been challenged from the other side and needs to be defended.18 The pity is that so often the defence has been conducted on the wrong lines.

By way of illustration we need only remind ourselves of the attitude taken up, often for quite honourable reasons, by moralists as well as divines, in the last century towards Darwin’s researches into the origin of species. The legitimate procedure for a divine or moralist who anticipated, correctly enough, that the actual consequences of general acceptance of the doctrine of our physical kinship with the brutes might be, in various ways, injurious to morality, would have been twofold. It should have been argued that the scrutiny of the available evidence and the full interpretation of it must necessarily be the work of years; what precise conclusions would in the end emerge under patient examination could not have been said at the time, and, I suppose, cannot be said even now, except in a very general way, and with a good deal of reserve on all points of detail. And, further, and this is, of course, the important point, it should have been persistently repeated that even if the facts on which Darwin’s speculations were based were absolutely certain, and known to be the whole of the relevant facts, they could not be, and still less could his, or any man’s, speculative inferences from them be, more certain than the certainties on which morality and religion are based, the certainty of absolute moral obligation, of human responsibility and freedom of choice, and of the reality of the saint’s “life in God, and union there.” The facts in this order are as certainly facts as those of the breeder of plants and animals, or the palaeontologist, and inferences about what men are which are really guaranteed by them are at least as trustworthy as inferences about what their remote ancestors once were which are guaranteed by the others. We may therefore rest assured of one thing, and it is the only thing which matters very much, that whatever the newly discovered facts of the natural order really prove, they cannot prove anything incompatible with what is really proved by the already familiar fundamental facts of the moral and religious order. They may seem for a time to do so, and we may not at present see how this apparent contradiction is to be avoided, but we may also be assured that it cannot be more than apparent, and may therefore be content to confess our perplexity, without concealment, but also without dismay. There should really have been none of the unedifying eagerness which was shown, and not by professed theologians only, to get rid of inconvenient facts by hasty denials, or to disguise the conclusions to which they, pro tanto, pointed, by ingenious special pleading and forced interpretations. The appeal to certainties of one order should have been met by a counter–appeal to equal certainties of a different order, not by disingenuous or irrelevant rhetoric, nor by the superfluous invocation of official custodians of faith and morals to cut investigation short by the fiat of authority.

I should not, however, like to maintain that there are not circumstances in which this last procedure may be justified as a temporary and purely administrative act, since the prosecution of scientific research is neither the only interest of mankind, nor necessarily the principal interest of all human societies in all circumstances. We can all think of researches in course of eager prosecution at the present time which it might be for the immense gain of humanity to arrest, if the thing could be done, on precisely the grounds on which, by general consent, it is also desirable, if we can, to “call a halt all round” to naval construction, and I have sometimes been inclined to wonder whether, in the absence of some authority capable of enforcing such a general arrest, civilisation is not in some danger of being destroyed by its own men of science. It does not seem quite impossible that “divine philosophy” may yet fulfil Tennyson’s mournful prophecy,19 and become “procuress to the Lords of Hell” in a fashion undreamed of by sober, decent “mid – Victorians,” who had never heard of “poison–gas,” “death–rays,” “rejuvenation,” or artificial birth–control. Indeed the possibility is, I fear, something more than a bare possibility, unless the world can be won to take the poet’s warning to “hold the good” in a degree of earnest of which, at present, it shows no sufficient signs. It may even be that society will only, in fact, save itself at the eleventh hour by desperately reverting to an iron authoritarianism more rigorous than any claimed by a Hildebrand, or a Boniface VIII. But if that should prove to be the price of holding fast the good, it will only be a mutilated good which will have been preserved from the general wreck; for an unforeseeable time, philosophy and science will once more have retired, like Astraea, from the earth, as once long ago in the midnight between the age of Justinian and that of Charlemagne, and the recovery from the new “dark age” may be more painful and slower than the recovery from the old. One must at least hope that mankind will find a more excellent way while there is still time, and the Avar and Vandal are not as yet actually within the gates.

If we are to find that more excellent way, we must, I should say, safeguard ourselves in all our thinking, alike as theologians, as metaphysicians, as workers in the various sciences, by a real and frank confession of a sane agnosticism, unwelcome to the temper of a self–confident age. We inheritors of such an age—for I cannot, of course, speak for a younger generation—are all too prone to exaggerate the amount of our certain knowledge. Theologians have often been specifically derided, as by Matthew Arnold, for their alleged tendency to take it for granted that they know all about God, and with respect to all but the greatest theologians there is too much truth in the charge. But metaphysicians are no less apt to assume that they know so well what “ultimate reality” is as to be able to say with some confidence what can happen and what cannot possibly have happened; men of science, at least when they are addressing the public at large, frequently speak with a great deal of assurance about the lines on which “nature” has been laid down. It is true that, as a matter of form, all these classes are ready enough to make a “general confession.” In words, the men of science will readily admit that “nature” is, after all, in the main a still unexplored field, and the metaphysician that “the absolute” is very much of a mystery; the theologians even adopt it as a truth of their science that though we know that God is, in this life, at least, we do not know, except in the most distant fashion, what God is. Yet when we come to the application of the admission in practice, we only too often find that each party uses it mainly to keep his rivals in their place. If you are an average divine, you dwell on the limitations of human knowledge chiefly by way of rebuke to the over–confident assertions of metaphysicians, or men of science, who do not accept your theology; if you are a metaphysician, you labour the same theme to confute the rashness of the divine, or the scientific specialist; if you are yourself a scientific specialist, you apply the whip to repress the self–confidence of everyone who has not cultivated your own particular specialism.

A genuine agnosticism, which is neither that of indolent indifference nor that of despair, means something different. It means the repression not of another man’s self–confidence, but of my own. Nor does repression of my own self–confidence mean treating my most assured convictions as quite probably mere illusions. It means taking care to avoid the assumption that “what I don’t know isn’t knowledge”; in other words, scrupulous conscientiousness in distinguishing what is really forced upon me by the given from what may be personal and arbitrary in my interpretation of the given, and capable of being shown to be so by comparison with the attempts of others to say what they find given to them. We need always to remember that there is a double source of fallibility in our personal interpretation of the common given. Our personal intellectual interpretation of our most familiar experiences may be vitiated by want of thoroughness, or by reliance on uncriticised categories of thought; and, again, not all of us are equally responsive to every element in the common given. On both grounds we can only hope for approximation to a true understanding of the “common” in which our life is set on the condition that we are willing to learn the lessons of an experience which is not our own, in a spirit of docility. None of us can escape from intellectual disaster, unless he is ready to walk somewhere in life by the faith which comes by hearing; no man’s soul can successfully walk by its own private light alone.

The particular danger against which such a sane and hopeful agnosticism is most needed as a prophylactic in our own day does not seem to me to be undue confidence in dogmatic theologies or metaphysical systems. These have been dangers in the past, but our present peril is rather that of being too confident in science, or what we take for science. We commonly do not realise as fully as we need to do that there is so much in life, so much, too, which is of the first moment to us, which is not knowledge, and yet must imperatively be acted on, and that very much which is knowledge is not science. Science is not the whole of life; it is not even the whole of knowledge, but one rather curious and restricted department of knowledge. Life would be a poor affair if there were not many things which each of us knew with much more certainty than the scientific man knows any of the theorems of his own science. And, again, as our philosophically–minded scientific men seem almost unnecessarily eager to convince us at the present moment, the more scientific we make our science, the nearer we bring its conclusions to being demonstrations, the more remote they appear to be from all contact with actuality, and the more completely do they take on the character of hypothetical inference from assumed postulates, which are themselves declared to be no more than hypothetical. If the day has gone by for ever when science could be treated, in the fashion of some of the older apologists, as a short cut to the establishment of a particular theology, no less has the day gone by, though this is not always equally recognised, when theology could be treated as though it had been rendered absurd or superfluous by the existence of natural science. The very fact of our own existence and the existence of our world sets us problems, and thereby imposes on us the moral obligation of dealing with problems, not all of which can be treated by the special methods of natural science, nor yet all by the special methods of theology, and thus justifies the existence of both studies, while the necessarily tentative character of all our human thinking makes it impossible that either should ever be simply absorbed into metaphysics. That consummation would only be possible if the actual could be completely rationalised without ceasing to be a given actual. And if we were in possession of a completely rationalised actual, we should no longer have either science or theology; both would have given place to something better than either—vision. “ἀλλ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἀπολέσθαι τὰ κακὰ δυνατόν, ὦ Θεόδωρε ὑπεναντίον γάρ τι τῷ ἀγαθῷ ἀεὶ εἶναι ἀνάγκη οὔτ᾽ ἐν θεοῖς αὐτὰ ἱδρῦσθαι, τὴν δὲ θνητὴν φύσιν καὶ τόνδε τὸν τόπον περιπολεῖ ἐξ ἀνάγκης. διὸ καὶ πειρᾶσθαι χρὴ ἐνθένδε ἐκεῖσε φεύγειν ὅτι τάχιστα. φυγὴ δὲ ὁμοίωσις θεῷ κατὰ τὸ δυνατόν. …”20

  • 1.

    De divin. omnipotent, v. (Migne, Patrolog. Latin. cxlv. 603), “quae tamen artis humanae peritia, si quando tractandis sacris eloquiis adhibetur, non debet ius magisterii sibimet arroganter arripere, sed velut ancilla dominae quodam famulatus obsequio subservire.” On this conception of the strictly “ancillary” functions of human knowledge see É. Gilson, Études de philosophie médiévale, essay ii., “La servante de la théologie.” Presumably the image is connected by some obscure link of derivation with the mot attributed in antiquity to Aristippus that those who give themselves to the ἐγκύκλια παιδεύματα, but neglect philosophy, are like the suitors in the Odyssey who consoled themselves for their ill–success with Penelope in the embraces of the “handmaids” (Diog. Laert. ii. 79) (or is the allusion simply to the domestic arrangements of Abraham and Jacob?).

  • 2.

    G. Lowes Dickinson, The Meaning of Good, p. 193.

  • 3.

    Kdr V.2 xxiii–xxiv. (Werke2, iii. 21).

  • 4.

    Cf. Jeans, The Universe Around Us, p. 330: “There is no need to worry overmuch about apparent contradictions. The higher unity of ultimate reality must no doubt reconcile them all, although it remains to be seen whether this higher unity is within our comprehension or not. In the meantime a contradiction worries us about as much as an unexplained fact, but hardly more; it may or may not disappear in the progress of science.”

  • 5.

    See the acute essay “Christianity in the Modern World” in Hellenism and Christianity, pp. 249 ff.

  • 6.

    And, in the same way, among those whom I cannot but recognise as morally better than myself I find a similar disagreement. Some of them are devoted adherents of a Church and a creed, some are indifferent in the matter, some decidedly “anti–confessional.” Moral purity and elevation of character thus seem to be no adequate guarantee for agreement in “religion” any more than for agreement in aesthetic appreciation.

  • 7.

    Cf. the words of Romain Rolland, Vie de Beethoven15, p. 75: “il est bien davantage que le premier des musiciens. Il est la force la plus héroïque de l’art moderne … et quand la fatigue nous prend de l’éternel combat inutilement livré contre la médiocrité des vices et des vertus, c’est un bien indicible de se retremper dans cet océan de volonté et de foi.” Romanticism perhaps; but, then, Beethoven was a “romantic,” and the greatest of them, and we are not likely to understand him as he meant to be understood if we forget the fact.

  • 8.

    On this whole much–neglected subject of “non–propositional truth” see the instructive and too brief chapter 9 of L. A. Reid’s Knowledge and Truth.

  • 9.

    “Just as rational.” I mean that though the integration may only be achieved by a stroke of ingenuity for which no rule can be given, when it has been obtained, we can reverse the process. One can differentiate the integral now found, and so recover the expression from which one started as the datum to be “integrated,” and for this “verificatory” procedure there is a precise and definite rule. Similarly there is no rule for the solution of an equation of a higher degree than the fourth, but if one has, by some ingenious manipulation, hit upon the roots of a particular “higher equation,” one can verify one’s result by reconstructing the original equation from the roots, and for this there is a simple rule.

  • 10.

    Logik, Einl. (Werke1, iii. 36).

  • 11.

    Plato, Sympos. 204 A θεῶν οὐδεὶς φιλοσοφεῖ οὐδ᾽ ἐπιθυμεῖ σοφὸς γενέσθαι ἔστι γάρ · οὐδ᾽ εἴ τις ἄλλος σοφός, οὐ φιλοσοφεῖ κτλ.

  • 12.

    Diog. Laert. vi. 26 οἱ δέ φασι τὸν Διογένην εἰπεῖν, “πατῶ τὸν Πλάτωνος τῦφον”. τὸν δὲ φάναι, “ἑτέρῳ γε τύφῳ, Διόγενες”

  • 13.

    Ep. vii. 341 C τοσόνδε γε μὴν περὶ πάντων ἔχω φράζειν τῶν γεγραφότων καὶ γραψόντων, ὅσοι φασὶν εἰδέναι περὶ ὧν ἐγὼ σπουδάζω … τούτους οὐκ ἔστιν κατά γε τὴν ἐμὴν δόξαν περὶ τοῦ πρἁγματος ἐπαΐειν οὐδέν. οὔκουν ἐμόν γε περὶ αὐτῶν ἔστι σύγγραμμα οὐδὲ μήποτε γένηται. This is clearly meant as Plato’s refusal to put the substance of his famous discourse on “the Good” into writing, and I believe we may add that it is also meant to dissociate himself from responsibility for the versions of the discourse which we know to have been circulated by some of those who heard it. It was one of his grievances against Dionysius II. that he had composed, or at least circulated, such a professed exposition of “Platonism.”

  • 14.

    Thus I have read works of the last generation in which “religion” was reconciled with “science” by a proof that Scripture teaches the doctrines of Herbert Spencer’s First Principles. If this could really be proved, where would Scripture be to–day?

  • 15.

    Lettres écrites à un provincial, xviii: “Ce fut aussi en vain que vous obtîntes contre Galilée un décret de Rome, qui condamnoit son opinion touchant le mouvement de la terre. Ce ne sera pas cela qui prouvera qu’elle demeure en repos; et si l’on avoit des observations constantes qui prouvassent que c’est elle qui tourne, tous les hommes ensemble ne l’empêcheroient pas de tourner, et ne s’empêcheroient pas de tourner aussi avec elle.”

  • 16.

    N.O. i. 84 “summae pusillanimitatis est authoribus infinita tribuere, authori autem authorum atque adeo omnis authoritatis, Tempori, ius suum denegare. Recte enim Veritas Temporis filia dicitur.”

  • 17.

    But no further. If, for example, biological investigations should provide evidence that it is possible, by various artifices, to control the fertility of marriages, or the sex of the resulting offspring, the moralist may not deny the possibility because he thinks that the practice of the artifices is morally deleterious. So far he is bound to be “ethically neutral,” and the obligation is itself a moral one. But if the biologist goes on to advocate the practice of these artifices, he has himself ventured into the field of morals, and the moralist is not free, but actually bound, to judge the recommendation from the moral point of view. Here he has no right to be “neutral.”

  • 18.

    Cf. the remarks of Lord Acton on the suppression of the Albigenses: “There was a practice which the clergy desired to restrain, and which they attempted to organise. We see by their writings that they believed in many horrible imputations. As time went on, it appeared that much of this was fable. But it also became known that it was not all fabulous, and that the Albigensian creed culminated in what was known as the Endura, which was in reality suicide. It was the object of the Inquisition that such people should not indeed be spared, but should not perish without a trial and without opportunity of resipiscence, so that they might save their souls if not their lives. Its founders could claim to act from motives both of mercy and of justice against members of a Satanic association” (Lectures on Modern History, p. III). The words are the more weighty from the writer’s notorious hatred of “persecution.”

  • 19.
    In Memoriam liii.:

    “Hold thou the good: define it well:
    For fear divine Philosophy
    Should push beyond her mark, and be
    Procuress to the Lords of Hell.”
  • 20.

    Plato, Theaetetus, 176 A, B.