George Eliot; a Critical Study of Her Life, Writings & Philosophy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 576 pages of information about George Eliot; a Critical Study of Her Life, Writings & Philosophy.
Kant, and discovered that both were wrong and both right.  So familiar has this reconciliation become, and so wide is its acceptance, that no more than a mere hint of its meaning will be needed here.  This philosophy asserts, with Locke, that all knowledge begins in sensation and experience; but with Kant, it affirms that knowledge passes beyond experience and becomes intuitional.  It differs from Kant as to the source of the intuitions, pronouncing them the results of experience built up into legitimate factors of the mind by heredity.  Experience is inherited and becomes intuitions.  The intuitions are affirmed to be reliable, and, to a certain extent, sure indications of truth.  They are the results, to use the phrase adopted by Lewes, of “organized experience;” experience verified in the most effective manner in the organism which it creates and modifies.  According to this philosophy, man must trust the results of experience, but he can by no means be certain that those results correspond with actuality.  They are actual for him, because it is impossible for him to go beyond their range.  Within the little round created by “organized experience,” which is also Lewes’s definition of science, man may trust his knowledge, because it is consistent with itself; but beyond that strict limit he can obtain no knowledge, and even knows that what is without it does not correspond with what is within it.  In truth, man knows only the relative, not the absolute; he must rely on experience, not on creative reason.

George Eliot would have us believe that the sources of life are not inward, but outward; not dependent on the deep affirmations of individual reason, or on the soul’s inherent capacity to see what is true, but on the effects of environment and the results of social experience.  Man is not related to an infinite world of reason and spiritual truth, but only to a world of universal law, hereditary conditions and social traditions.  Invariable law, heredity, feeling, tradition; these words indicate the trend of George Eliot’s mind, and the narrow limitations of her philosophy.  Man is not only the product of nature, but, according to this theory, nature limits his moral capacity and the range of his mental activity.  Environment is regarded as all-powerful, and the material world as the source of such truth as we can know.  In her powerful presentation of this philosophy of life George Eliot indicates her great genius and her profound insight.  At the same time, her work is limited, her genius cramped, and her imagination crippled, by a philosophy so narrow and a creed so inexpansive.



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George Eliot; a Critical Study of Her Life, Writings & Philosophy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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