BLTC Press Titles


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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite


The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian


Man's place in the cosmos

by Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison

Excerpt:

PREFACE.

The title of this volume may seem disproportioned to its contents. A systematic discussion of "man's place in the cosmos" would obviously involve the whole range of science and of metaphysics. These essays make no pretence to be such a discussion. Nevertheless it is not unadvisedly that the title of the first paper has been extended to the volume as a whole, and thus used to indicate the general character of its contents. The papers of which it is composed were written within the last six years, and are, in the first instance, a criticism of some of the more significant contributions to philosophy which have appeared during that period. They cannot, therefore, be taken as a series, in which there is a systematic progress from the earlier essays to those which follow. But it will be found that they are all, at bottom, treatments of the same theme, man's relation to the forces of nature and to the absolute ground of things, or, in the words of the title, man's place in the cosmos. The books or pamphlets criticised were originally selected for criticism because of their bearing upon this fundamental question, in which all vital interest in philosophy centres. And whatever the starting-point of the discussion may be, the main concern of every essay is to enforce the same view of the world and of man.

That view I have described in one of the papers as humanism, in opposition to naturalism; in another reference, it might be described as ethicism, in opposition to a too narrow intellectualism. Man as rational, and, in virtue of self-conscious reason, the free shaper of his own destiny, furnishes us, I contend, with our only indefeasible standard of value, and our clearest light as to the nature of the divine. He does what science, occupied only with the laws of events, and speculative metaphysics, when it surrenders itself to the exclusive guidance of the intellect, alike find unintelligible, and are fain to pronounce impossible—he acts. As Goethe puts it in a seeming paradox, Man alone achieves the impossible. But inexplicable, in a sense, as man's personal agency is—nay, the one perpetual miracle—it is nevertheless our surest datum and our only clue to the mystery of existence.

This position is maintained in several of the essays against the lower monism of the naturalistic systems. In the long essay entitled "A New Theory of the Absolute," it is defended against the Spinozism which permeates Mr Bradley's statement of metaphysical monism. This essay emphasises, on the one hand, the necessary limitations of human insight and, on the other hand, the validity or practical truth of our human rendering of the divine. Such a view of the cosmos must rest ultimately, I think, upon a conviction of the absolute value of the ethical life. For there is no such thing as a philosophy without assumptions. Every idealistic theory of the world has for its ultimate premiss a logically unsupported judgment of value — a judgment which affirms an end of intrinsic worth, and accepts thereby a standard of unconditional obligation.

On account of this unity of contention, the essays have been brought together, in the hope that they may serve a useful purpose. The paper on Professor Huxley's " Evolution and Ethics " appeared in ' Blackwood's Magazine,' three of the others in the ' Contemporary Review,' and the short paper on " The Use of the Term ' Naturalism,'" in the ' Philosophical Review.' To the editors and proprietors of these Reviews I am indebted for their courtesy in sanctioning this republication. The essays are republished without substantial alteration, but I have availed myself of the opportunity of revision, and have also reinserted a few passages which had been omitted, in order to bring the treatment within the ordinary compass of review-articles. The second part -of the essay on " The ' New' Psychology and Automatism," though written in 1892 as an integral part of the discussion, is now printed for the first time. It gives the question a wider range, and will be found, I hope, to make the treatment more complete. Mechanism in physiology, " presentationism" in psychology, materialism and sheer pantheism in philosophy, may be regarded as different aspects of the same preconception—the denial of the presence of a real cause at any point in the sequence of events.


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