§ 1. The modern predicament
The modern predicament, if I may try to sum up this long discussion, is that man seems to be faced with an unbridgeable gulf between science and religion or—it might be better to say—between knowledge and faith. This is a permanent human predicament as well as a modern one, but at the present time it is particularly cruel. Religion was born and bred in a world different from ours—a tiny, comfortable world, full of signs and wonders and divine interventions, where it was easy for man to consider himself the end for which all things were made. That ancient world has been nibbled away by science, and the question arises whether against a new and scientific background religion in any form will find it possible to survive.
The present situation is not to be taken too crudely. Scientific discoveries cannot be said to contradict the doctrines of theology except when theologians are rash enough to make pseudo-scientific assertions about events in the world of nature. Within science itself the problems of religion—like those of morality and art—simply do not arise: they are merely irrelevant. The conflict, so far as there is one, is not between abstractions like science and theology nor even between two different sets of men. It is a conflict of different attitudes in the soul of each individual man. This struggle is not to be easily described, yet it is very real and very obvious to many at the present time. Catherine Carswell, for example, the Scottish writer, speaks of herself as ‘religious of heart, but profoundly sceptical in mind.’ A divorce between mind and heart is bound to be unhealthy.
For those who are wholly satisfied with the findings of science there is no theoretical predicament; and if they are practising scientists, their minds may be more than fully occupied at their own job. But is there perhaps a practical predicament? If we suppose that moral judgements, because they are not scientific, must be based on sheer emotion, it may be hard to keep our faith in goodness and in the duty of respecting other men even to our own loss. If, on the other hand, like the Marxists, we are confused enough to extract moral judgements from supposedly scientific ones, we may find a faith for which we are willing to live and die, but one which makes us indifferent to justice and mercy and even to truth—a process in which science suffers as well as religion. From this last desperate error the English are usually saved by their distrust of philosophy and their love of fair play—perhaps even by a sense of humour. But there are among intellectuals many who speak of our sick society, and who feel themselves lost as individuals because they are without faith in the value of human living.
The divorce between mind and heart is far more dangerous to religion than to science; for it is directly opposed to that very wholeness at which religion aims. The religious man cannot afford to sweep aside science as the scientist can sweep aside religion. Whether he likes it or not, scientific knowledge must now provide the bony structure of the world in which he has to live and act; and it is foolish of him to shudder as if science were the skeleton at the feast of life. At every feast we are all skeletons underneath; but without our bony structure we should be too flabby to be interesting. Although we may prefer to look at the human body as artists rather than as anatomists, we shall do this all the better if we are anatomists as well.
§ 2. Points of view
The relation between art and anatomy already shows that it may be legitimate to look at the same thing from different points of view. Is it possible that this may afford a clue to the more complicated relations between science and religion? The question has forced itself upon us during the whole course of our enquiry, and perhaps we should try to bring together in short compass some of the answers that have suggested themselves. Readers who dislike jejune repetitions may go straight on to § 6.
There are different points of view even within science itself. The physicist, the chemist, the biologist, and the psychologist—each has his own special point of view, his particular assumptions, his appropriate methods; and consequently he finds different things, or at least different laws, in the world he studies. But each, as a scientist, assumes that these different laws are compatible with one another and can be combined in one whole. This assumption is not itself a scientific discovery but a kind of faith; and if we ask how the combination can be effected, we are already asking a philosophical question. If we are empirical philosophers, we should not assume a priori that all scientific laws can be reduced to the laws of physics.
If there is uncertainty about the way in which the points of view appropriate to different sciences can be combined in one whole, there is greater uncertainty about the way in which the scientific point of view is to be combined with points of view appropriate to the artist, the good man, and the saint. The danger is that each type of man, when he tries to consider this problem philosophically, will assume that his own point of view is the only possible one. This is legitimate and necessary as long as he is conducting his own business. When carried into philosophy it substitutes inertia for insight.
Philosophy too, as it actually exists, has always its own point of view, and every philosopher suffers from a kind of narrowness more obvious to other people than to himself—perhaps even painfully obvious. Yet it is the aim of philosophy, or at least of one powerful tradition in philosophy, to enter into different points of view, to formulate their assumptions, to examine the world as seen from each of them, and to fit the different vistas as far as possible into one coherent whole. This is why the problems we have been considering are philosophical problems—not scientific ones. It is also why the task of philosophy is almost beyond human strength.
The prestige of science is now so great that some philosophers are tempted to concern themselves exclusively with the scientific point of view and even to adopt it as their own. In so doing they have contributed much to the study of scientific method and scientific language—including the method and language of mathematics and mathematical logic—and also to the theory of knowledge. But there has been a danger of neglecting other problems or treating them superficially or even distorting them by the application of inappropriate standards borrowed from elsewhere. A narrowness not unnatural in the excitement of new discoveries may also react unfavourably on theories about science itself. There are signs that this narrowness is gradually being overcome.
All this is a matter of controversy, but one thing is beyond dispute. A philosophy that restricts itself to a scientific point of view can have no use for religion.
§ 3. The scientific point of view
Within its own limits science is, and must be, supreme: it can be contradicted only by better science; and there is no observable part of reality or of human life that can claim immunity from its investigations. Nevertheless the scientific point of view is, like others, still partial and limited.
First of all, science is concerned only with certain aspects of reality, however hard they may be to describe. Fifty years ago we might have said that it was concerned only with quantity and measurement, but to-day we are sometimes told that it is turning instead to concepts of shape and structure and is becoming more geometrical, like the early science of the Greeks. What remains clear is that it has, and can have, no concern with judgements of value or with judgements of what ought to be: it can treat these only as emotive utterances or psychological events.
In the second place, it is occupied only with the relation of part to part within the whole of reality: it does not pretend to make judgements about reality as a whole. Scientists may assume for their own purposes that reality as a whole consists only of more and more of the sort of thing that they investigate; but if they assert this explicitly, they are making, not a scientific, but a metaphysical statement, and one open to question, as all metaphysical statements are.
It is often held that the scientist makes assumptions only about his own methods and not about the reality he proposes to investigate. This is one reason why we have to say that explicit assumptions about reality are metaphysical, not scientific; and it is right to insist that if the scientist makes any such assumptions, they are only provisional. Nevertheless it seems clear that any suppositions about a method of investigation must take for granted certain characteristics in the objects to be investigated—for example, that they conform to law.
What is not so commonly recognized is that to adopt a method of investigation is also to make assumptions about the character of the investigator. These assumptions are so different from suppositions about the character of the objects investigated that they may never come officially within the purview of the investigator himself. Science seeks to be objective—to concern itself solely with objects and to eliminate all merely personal points of view. Yet to adopt such an aim is itself to take up a point of view—a point of view from which things can be seen objectively and impersonally. However much we may attribute this to the method rather than to the individual, it raises questions about how such an objective point of view is possible for imperfect human beings. This is a question for philosophy, not for science, but it is one we cannot afford to neglect.
Similarly, a scientist may take it for granted that his objects are in some sense determined, and of this assumption he may be fully aware. But he also takes it for granted that he himself is free—free to think in accordance with rational principles and so to distinguish between truth and error. Of this assumption he need hardly be aware at all—it is certainly no object of his science—but it should not be ignored by philosophers. Hence it is philosophically false—though it may be scientifically true—to say that there is no freedom in his world. And although truth is not one of the objects he investigates, it is always truth that he is seeking. Hence it is philosophically false—though it may be scientifically true—to say that there is no truth in his world. The contradiction arises only because the word ‘world’ is being used in two senses; but the point is that the world of science is one from which something is being systematically left out.
§ 4. A critical philosophy
A critical philosophy cannot afford to leave out what is properly ignored by science: it must take into account, not only the world as known to the scientist, but also the scientist as claiming to know the world. Nor is there any reason why it should confine itself to scientists and neglect all other forms of human experience. It has to recognize that human activity is not confined to science and that all men in all their activities are subjects as well as objects.
Unless we screw ourselves religiously to the scientific point of view and regard all deviations as temptations of the devil, we may reasonably ask ourselves what kind of world we should know if our scientific investigations were as successful as possible. Although this is rank heresy to-day, I have maintained that even then our world of objects would be incomplete: it would leave out too much. If we take the relativity of science seriously, we have to say that we can have knowledge only of reality as it must appear to finite minds like our own, and not of reality as it is in itself. We should still be haunted with the thought of something beyond, possibly of something not contingent, but unconditioned and absolute—not intelligible merely in relation to something else, but intelligible in itself. Such a thought is admittedly obscure and may even contain contradictions. Whether rightly or wrongly, I have insisted that it can give us no knowledge of ultimate reality: it can certainly never be confirmed by any conceivable development of scientific observations. Nevertheless we are at least entitled to regard our between-world, as I have called it, as leaving a blank—perhaps even a God-shaped blank—beyond itself.
This view I take to be more than confirmed if we consider human knowledge, not as a series of subsistent propositions nor as a succession of events looked at from outside, but as it can be analysed from within. It is not enough to say, as some do, that the world we know must be relative to our sense-organs and to a brain which does not merely receive impressions but is always itself continually active. This is indeed a puzzle, but it appears to assume that the brain itself is a kind of absolute, whereas it can on this hypothesis only be part of the relative world we know. The real crux is that we seem to start from given impressions which, apart from our own activity, are indeterminate and constantly changing (so far as the indeterminate can change); and on this precarious basis we have to construct, in accordance with spontaneous principles of thought and imagination, an ordered world which is always a perspective viewed from a particular, and changing, point in time and space. To suppose that this world of ours is reality as it is in itself, or is all the world there is, may appear on reflexion to be useful and necessary for practical purposes and yet to be theoretically indefensible.
Farther than this it seems impossible to go in a philosophical theory based only on the character of our knowledge; but on such suppositions we can at least admit that points of view other than the scientific may be possible and legitimate. Of these the moral point of view is the most fundamental for our purposes so far as it recognizes the possibility of obeying an absolute moral law and fulfilling an unconditioned duty; for moral action so understood seems to give a concrete meaning to terms which might otherwise be supposed to be unintelligible. In spite of admitted difficulties I have maintained that the moral point of view is as rational and as legitimate as that of science itself. Its assumption of freedom and value is closely akin to a very similar assumption made by the scientific thinker (and perhaps also in some ways by the artist). In all such assumptions man is committed to the view that the world of objects known to science is not all the world there is.
We trespass upon more difficult ground if we seek to pass from this to theological beliefs. The passage is certainly a natural one, and it has been held to be logically necessary; but perhaps it requires what may be called a rational leap of faith more like our assurance that physical objects and other minds exist than like any scientific theory or logical proof, and yet different from all of these. I must here describe it without qualifications.
A good man—if this term may be applied to a man who is trying to do his duty—must assume that his duty can be done; and, at least if he has a religious bent, he will find himself acting as if the laws of duty were the commands of God—as if God existed and man were immortal. He will find himself thinking of God, not merely as unconditioned and self-sufficient, but as all-wise and all-holy. To think thus is to conceive God under the analogy of a perfect human being, and not merely as the supreme reality. By the aid of such concepts man is able, however confusedly, to think about God, and to act as if the God-shaped blank in reality as he knows it (and perhaps also in his own life) were filled by God himself. Such a practical belief can never become knowledge, and if he fails to recognize this, he will have to meet overwhelming theoretical difficulties; but considered as a living faith it will be confirmed, or perhaps we should rather say aroused and strengthened, by his experience of what he takes to be divine grace.
Such processes of thought, here summarily outlined, may reflect on an abstract level some deeper and more obscure religious experience. They will not prove either God's existence or His goodness; but they may provide some assurance that religious belief is not unreasonable and is not to be disproved by any extension of scientific knowledge.
To the saint and the sceptic alike this may seem a lame conclusion to draw from a halting argument; but both may be asked to remember that theology is not a substitute for religion. Religion is simple, while theology is complicated; religion is a rich experience, and theology—especially natural theology—only abstract thinking. It is not the business of a natural theologian to persuade the sceptic or to edify the saint. What should be clear to them both is that in the modern world religion is desperately in need of some philosophic defence if it is to survive without taking refuge in absurdity; and if the saints are dissatisfied with the line of defence suggested here, it is high time they should find a better.
As for those who hold that the world as revealed to science is all the world there is and that anything else is frills and furbelows, they are unanswerable—like Karl Barth—so long as they stick to their own point of view. But the question is whether we should stick to one point of view.
§ 5. Psychology
There are many who suppose that we must look to psychology for the explanation of religious experience—and even of such philosophical considerations as I have put forward on its behalf. One word must be added about this if we are to avoid the charge of ignoring the obvious answer to all our questions.
It is certainly right and proper that psychology should concern itself with the whole of human experience, and it would be absurd to claim any exemption for religion. As a science psychology indeed is only in its infancy; it has as yet not attained to one consistent point of view; it suffers too often from a jargon which is lacking in precision; and it appears to hesitate between admitting and excluding judgements of value. Broadly speaking, it has had greater success in dealing with the more elementary mental activities than with the more developed, and with the abnormal rather than with the normal. A behaviouristic approach to religion must be superficial; and although some thinkers not unsympathetic to religion are inclined to look to psycho-analysis for help, this type of enquiry is more likely to illuminate religious aberrations than religious sanity, or even to treat all religion as an aberration. However it may explain, or explain away, his experience, the religious man will still insist that the same experience may be understood differently from different points of view, and even that psychology can touch only on its accidental concomitants and outer fringes—not on its inner core of rationality.
The plain fact is that an appeal to psychology is merely another example of the assumption that the scientific point of view is completely adequate by itself and that all other points of view can be ignored. This is the assumption that is being questioned.
On this topic it is desirable to avoid dogmatism, for as psychology develops, it may have to adopt a point of view and a method peculiar to itself—all I say must be taken as provisional. But—subject to this qualification—it would seem that so far as psychology is a science, it must take the view of a detached spectator; it must regard mental events as a causal succession; it must refrain from all judgements of value and ignore the function of rational principles; it must look on the individual as one object among others, and consider his experience, not as it appears to the individual himself, but as it appears to the psychologist, who sees it from outside and seeks to determine its place in nature.
The legitimacy and value of all this is not to be questioned; but it leaves too much out, and it can be no substitute for an attempt, however imperfect, to analyse experience from the subject's own point of view. Such an analysis is not an attempt to trace causal connexions between successive mental events or even to follow the growth of a mind from infancy to maturity. It is rather an endeavour to formulate the principles without which there could be no rational experience at all—no science, no psychology, and, if we suppose religion to be rational, no religion.
Analysis of this kind is not easy. It means that we have to abandon our ordinary habit of looking at objects without reflecting on their relation to subjects. If the effort is made, all our thinking will undergo a complete revolution, and we shall see everything (including religion) in a different light.
§ 6. The scientific attitude to life
Perhaps in conclusion we may be allowed to leave these dusty regions and survey again the human situation with its practical difficulties and varying responses. What is to be said about the scientific and religious attitudes to life?
The scientific attitude, while wholly beneficent in its own realm, must here be taken as one which looks to science for all practical guidance and refuses to have any truck with religion or metaphysics. This is perhaps the dominant mood of the present age.
If man were a purely intellectual being, there would be much to recommend this view. Those who adopt it have ample warrant for preferring the solid certainty of science to the misty speculation of theology, especially where these seem to conflict; and they may be well advised to devote themselves to urgent scientific work instead of wasting their time on insoluble problems. Even as regards the practical business of life, they are seeking to act in the world with the most accurate knowledge that is available to man. If the world as known to science is a less agreeable world than we might wish, this—they may hold—is no reason for indulging in vague yearnings and rosy dreams. If men want poetry, let them take it as poetry, and not as philosophy or science. It is more manly to face the world in all its harshness and not delude ourselves and others with false hopes. We must free ourselves from the foolish superstitions by which religion has been riddled and progress impeded. An honest man should live in the open-air world of science with all its chill, and not in the opium den of religious hallucinations. Even in the hour of danger or death he should fall back on natural human courage; for he certainly has nothing more.
This view—although, like any other, it may be held in a superficial way—is at least a manly and honest one: intellectual honesty, as well as moral toleration, has been greatly fostered by the development of scientific method. On the intellectual side the most it can be charged with is a lack of philosophical curiosity—an unwillingness to explore first principles and to look beyond the solution of particular problems; but, so far as theory is concerned, there may be more important things to do, and the unwillingness may rest on the considered conviction that there are no first principles to explore.
The fundamental difficulty here is that although we are provided with much, we do not seem to be offered any philosophy of life.
This contention should not be exaggerated. Every way of life has in it a kind of unreflective philosophy; and although, as I have insisted, we cannot extract principles of action (other than technical ones) from what scientists discover, perhaps we can from what they do.
The detachment and impersonality of science—the willingness to consider evidence from every source and to set aside all prejudice and self-interest—is closely akin to the detachment and impersonality necessary to moral judgement: this is one ground for the claim that it is legitimate to speak of practical, as well as of theoretical, reason. To see our situation and ourselves objectively is the first condition of spiritual health and good action: even without judgements of value it may offer a substitute for that self-examination which, although practised at times in an unbalanced way, is necessary to a religious life. And since scientists are also men, they do in fact make judgements of value about their own activity: they recognize their duty as scientists, and devotion to truth is sometimes taken as an absolute duty and even as a kind of religion.
Attitudes and judgements of this kind are not objects or discoveries of science, and they are as much in need of philosophical criticism as any other moral attitudes and moral judgements. Some scientists, for example, being rightly exercised at their part in the creation of the hydrogen bomb, insist that they have an absolute duty to publish the truth, since they alone know it. If they mean that they should make the public aware of its devastating effects, this can probably be better done by trained journalists. If they mean that the physical theory behind its construction should be made more widely known, this task, although laudable enough, can affect only the few who have the necessary training and intelligence to understand them. If they mean that they should impart technical secrets to an unscrupulous enemy of their country and of human freedom, they are merely showing that a scientific education does not always equip men for making political and moral judgements.
Whatever the scientific attitude may take for granted without reflexion, it can, by its very nature, give no account of any objective standards by which we may guide our lives. The artist need not be greatly perturbed if he is told in consequence that one man's taste is as good as another's: in practice he knows very well that this is nonsense, that aesthetic judgements are not dependent on scientific measurements, and that a good scientist may be an arrant philistine. In any case the artist can live happily with his dreams. The man of action is not in the same comfortable position: it is a serious matter, both for the individual and for society, if men are to be told that there can be no objective moral principles because these are not the same as scientific generalizations. Science provides man with a most potent instrument, but it can provide no directions for its use. This is like putting a hydrogen bomb in the hands of a child.
So far as this is true, the scientific attitude, in the sense here employed, leaves men in a practical predicament, if not in a theoretical one; for vast ranges of human life are abandoned to mere impulse or emotion, and we are left to struggle blindly for we know not what. It is not surprising if this should produce our modern discontent and even despair.
Within its own sphere science is the most astounding achievement of modern man. Any philosopher who seeks to condemn it, or even to correct it, merely makes himself a laughing-stock. Yet science by itself cannot satisfy the whole of man's needs: for purposes of action he requires at least a system of moral beliefs. In an age of criticism such a system is unable to stand unless it is supported by a rational ethics, which cannot conceivably be merely an inductive science. Whether wisely or unwisely, I have maintained that moral action and ethical beliefs bring men at least to the threshold of religion, and that rational ethics has to face the problems of theology. If we act consistently on the assumption that science is to be a substitute for all our other ways of thinking, there is a danger of falling, not merely into philosophical error, but into practical disaster. Such consistency is not likely to be found in human action; but if it were, man would tend to become an ill-balanced, divided, dissatisfied, and possibly heartless creature, incapable of spiritual wholeness and spiritual health. He might even end in self-destruction.
§ 7. The religious attitude to life
The religious attitude leads to a different predicament—to one which in its origin is mainly theoretical.
The climate of the modern world is unfavourable to religion, partly because the habits and attitudes of scientific investigation are different from the habits and attitudes of religious life, but mainly because so many of us assume, consciously or unconsciously, that science is the only source of knowledge and rational belief. This assumption, in spite of its psychological influence, is, I have maintained, a philosophical error and not a scientific truth. Nevertheless it has to be admitted that religious faith cannot pretend to be knowledge, and that theology does not provide us either with scientific knowledge or with a super-scientific knowledge such as has been ascribed in the past to metaphysics. The utmost we can claim is that our moral judgements may reasonably be regarded as providing knowledge and rational beliefs of a non-scientific kind; and that moral and speculative philosophy together may be able to supply a defence of religious faith and a protection against religious aberrations. Yet even if this be granted—and many philosophers would reject it—there remains a wide-spread impression that religion, as we know it, is opposed, not only to a scientific attitude which claims too much, but to science itself. If this belief is to be dispelled, it can only be by a supreme effort of religious thinking; for the belief has its roots in a theological obscurantism which has ignored or controverted or even persecuted scientific discovery. This may be the main source, although not the only one, of modern indifference.
Religious leaders are already conscious of living in what they call a pagan world: they regard themselves as missionaries to the heathen and are seeking to recover territory which they once held, even if with light forces, and have now lost. For this purpose they have their own well-tried methods of prayer and meditation and religious rites, as well as of preaching and teaching; and the best of them know that success will come, if it comes at all, only from a whole-hearted devotion—from scrupulous toleration and kindness, from a continual battle for justice, from genuine love of others and complete forgetfulness of self. Some of them may believe that man cannot seek for God, or that seeking he will not find, but can only await the divine condescension. Yet even this waiting is a kind of seeking—a turning away from too much absorption in the goods of this world, a retiral into the self and a readiness to receive what may be given. In these matters it is to be presumed that religious men know their own business: they are in no need of advice or criticism, but only of God's grace.
When all this is said, it may still be true that in its present predicament religion is in dire need of an intellectual reformation. The great teachers of religion have always had to get rid of the useless lumber which accumulates in its progress—the rigid dogmatism, the narrow legalism, the mechanical rites, the silly superstitions which may become a substitute for religious life. But in our times there is a special need for intellectual honesty, or intellectual scrupulousness. These words have to be used in no crude sense: they must not be taken to suggest that religious men, or religious leaders, are guilty of rank dishonesty or wilful unscrupulousness—that in short they are conscious hypocrites. This would be far from the truth and would merely be insulting. Yet the fact remains that many men to-day are encouraged to regard religion as a cheat because they suspect their preceptors of failing to face the results of scientific discovery and Biblical criticism, of imposing moral rules based on chance texts accepted blindly without regard to their setting, and even of not telling the whole truth as they see it. Religious teachers must be humble enough to face intellectual difficulties and to admit how little they can know; and in their arguments they must not give the impression that they accept the conclusions first and select or twist the premises to fit them. The tasks that lie before theology are not for every one—there are many who, however transparently sincere, are lacking in the necessary intellectual equipment. These tasks are being tackled by the courageous few against inertia and opposition within the Church itself; but the world is not convinced of their success.
The work of intellectual reformation is bound to be a thankless one. It may have to lay its hands on the dearest idols of the past—to break with much that is embedded, not only in the language of theology, but in the traditional language of religion itself. Criticism is not a religious exercise, even though it may be carried on in a religious spirit; and it may seem to empty religion and so to weaken its appeal. Yet religion, which has always to struggle against spurious sentiment and twisted morality, must to-day free itself also from the primitive science and false history it has taken over from an earlier age. In the ancient and mediaeval worlds, where there was no vast gulf between the religious and the secular views, it was easier to adjust them to one another than it is under present conditions. Good men who reject theological dogmatism may still attach themselves to religious institutions in which they find the elements of grace; but until theology can be adapted to its modern scientific background and so can recover its ancient integrity, not only will the indifferent masses remain indifferent, but many men and women who either are, or long to be, religious in heart will continue to live their lives outside the Churches, especially if these treat honest attempts at criticism—not to mention one another—with hostility or intolerance. Simone Weil, for example, who combined a deeply religious spirit with a passion for intellectual integrity, found herself in many ways—in spite of her wider sympathies and her queer ideas of history—astonishingly close to the doctrines and rites of the Roman Catholic Church; and yet felt herself obliged to remain outside—perhaps most of all because of the two little words ‘anathema sit’.
A revival of religion will never come by mere thinking, not even by religious thinking; but without a supreme effort of thought which will satisfy the mind as well as the heart, religion will not easily recover its former influence or restore to men the spiritual wholeness which many of them prize but seek in vain.
§ 8. Faith and knowledge
What I have said is unlikely to please either the sceptics or the orthodox, especially if they expect more from natural theology than it can give. Both may regard the whole discussion as an attempt to defend the pale relics of an earlier and more full-blooded doctrine, which to the first is sheer superstitition and to the second is true religion. If a complaint about lack of intellectual honesty is to be bandied about, they may perhaps even unite to bring this charge against a plea for seeking to combine the religious and scientific points of view.
Such a plea, it may be said, is only an effort to revive a double standard of truth or—in the blunter language of to-day—to defend the dishonest practice of double-talk or double-thinking. I have suggested that a binocular rather than a monocular vision may give us the most satisfactory view of reality—perhaps a stereoscopic view. When one eye becomes much weaker than the other, there is a tendency for the weaker eye not to be used at all; and something like this seems to be happening to modern man. His scientific eye is, so to speak, ousting his religious eye, while in the old days it was the other way about. If it is retorted that such contentions can lead only to a spiritual intoxication in which men are reduced to seeing double, I must reply that they are seeing double now and are in need of an operation to adjust the focus of their eyes to one another.
These metaphors take us nowhere. Whatever my errors in detail, the theoretical question is this: If, as I think, it is the business of philosophy to look at the world from different points of view and try to see how far these views can be consistently combined, can this be done in the case of religion and science? An honest attempt at an answer, however imperfect, may at least help others to see what the problem is. But the question of religion, like that of morality, is not one of theory: it is a question of the life a man is going to lead. This is a matter for personal decision and personal commitment in a world of which we can know only the surface appearance, although there is no need to surround this with an atmosphere of portentousness and despair. For the religious man the decision may come only by the grace of God, but even so it should not be taken blindly in the dark. The leap of faith—or the leap of doubt—should be made in the light of all that each man can know, not merely of science, but of action and of art and of religion itself.
The predicament caused by the gulf between faith and knowledge is acute in the modern world, but it is also very old. Perhaps I cannot do better than conclude with some words which in the Phaedo Plato puts into the mouth of Simmias:
‘I think, Socrates, as perhaps you do yourself, that about such matters it is either impossible or supremely difficult to acquire clear knowledge in our present life. Yet it is cowardly not to test in every way what we are told about them, or to give up before we are worn out with studying them from every point of view. For we ought to do one of the following things: either we should learn the truth about them from others; or we should find it out for ourselves; or, if this is impossible, we should take what is at least the best human account of them, the one hardest to disprove, and sailing on it, as on a raft, we should voyage through life in the face of risks—unless one might be able on some stouter vessel, some divine account, to make the journey with more assurance and with fewer perils’.