Some Turns of Thought in Modern Philosophy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 84 pages of information about Some Turns of Thought in Modern Philosophy.

All modern philosophy, in so far as it is a description of experience and not of nature, therefore seems to belong to the sphere of literature, and to be without scientific value.



After fifty years, an old milestone in the path of philosophy, Bradley’s Ethical Studies, has been set up again, as if to mark the distance which English opinion has traversed in the interval.  It has passed from insular dogmatism to universal bewilderment; and a chief agent in the change has been Bradley himself, with his scornful and delicate intellect, his wit, his candour, his persistence, and the baffling futility of his conclusions.  In this early book we see him coming forth like a young David against every clumsy champion of utilitarianism, hedonism, positivism, or empiricism.  And how smooth and polished were the little stones in his sling!  How fatally they would have lodged in the forehead of that composite monster, if only it had had a forehead!  Some of them might even have done murderous execution in Bradley’s own camp:  for instance, this pebble cast playfully at the metaphysical idol called “Law”:  “It is always wet on half-holidays because of the Law of Raininess, but sometimes it is not wet, because of the Supplementary Law of Sunshine”.

Bradley and his friends achieved a notable victory in the academic field:  philosophic authority and influence passed largely into their hands in all English-speaking universities.  But it was not exactly from these seats of learning that naturalism and utilitarianism needed to be dislodged; like the corresponding radicalisms of our day, these doctrines prevailed rather in certain political and intellectual circles outside, consciously revolutionary and often half-educated; and I am afraid that the braggart Goliaths of today need chastening at least as much as those of fifty years ago.  In a country officially Christian, and especially in Oxford, it is natural and fitting that academic authority should belong to orthodox tradition—­theological, Platonic, and Aristotelian.  Bradley, save for a few learned quotations, strangely ignored this orthodoxy entrenched behind his back.  In contrast with it he was himself a heretic, with first principles devastating every settled belief:  and it was really this venerable silent partner at home that his victory superseded, at least in appearance and for a season.  David did not slay Goliath, but he dethroned Saul.  Saul was indeed already under a cloud, and all in David’s heart was not unkindness in that direction.  Bradley might almost be called an unbelieving Newman; time, especially, seems to have brought his suffering and refined spirit into greater sympathy with ancient sanctities.  Originally, for instance, venting the hearty Protestant sentiment that only the Christianity of laymen is sound, he had written:  “I am happy to say

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Some Turns of Thought in Modern Philosophy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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