1902 Encyclopedia > Philosophy > Logic, Aesthetics, and Ethics

(Part 4)

Logic, Aesthetics, and Ethics

If the theory of knowledge thus takes upon itself the functions discharged of old by metaphysics, it becomes somewhat difficult to assign a distinct sphere to logic. It has already been seen how the theory of knowledge, when it passed out of Kant’s hands, and tried to make itself (a) complete and (b) pre suppositionless, became for Hegel a logic that was in reality a metaphysic. This is the comprehensive sense given to logical science in the article
LOGIC (q.v.) in this work ; and it is there contended that no other definition can be made consistent with itself. It is, of course, admitted that this is not the traditional use of the term (see vol. xiv. p. 802) Ueberweg’s definition of logic as "the science of the regulative laws of thought" (or "the normative science of thought") comes near enough to the old sense to enable us to compare profitably the usual subject-matter of the science with the definition and end of philosophy. The introduction of the term "regulative" or "normative" is intended to differentiate the science from psychology as the science of mental events. In this reference logic does not tell us how our intellections connect themselves as mental phenomena, but how we ought to connect our thoughts if they are to realize truth (either as consistency with what we thought before or as agreement with observed facts). Logic, therefore, agrees with epistemology (and differs from psychology) in treating thought not as mental fact but as knowledge, as idea, as having meaning in relation to an objective world. To this extent it must inevitably form a part of the theory of knowledge. But, if we desire to keep by older landmarks and maintain a distinction between the two disciplines, a ground for doing so may be found in the fact that all the main definition of logic point to the investigation of the laws of thought in a subjective reference,—with a view, that is, by an analysis of the operation, to ensure its more correct performance. According to the old phrase, logic is the art of thinking Moreover, the fact that ordinary logic investigates its laws primarily in this reference, and not disinterestedly as immanent laws of knowledge or of the connexion of conceptions, brings in its train a limitation of the sphere of the science as compared with the theory of knwoledge. We find the logician uniformly assuming that the process of thought has advanced a certain length before his examination of it begins; he takes his material full-formed from perception, without, as a rule, inquiring into the nature of the conceptions which are involved in our perceptive experience. Occupying a position, therefore, within the wider sphere of the general theory of knowledge, ordinary logic consists in an analysis of the nature of general statement, and of the conditions under which we pass validly from one general statement of another. But the logic of the school is eked out by contributions from a variety of sources (e.g., from grammar on one side and from psychology on another), and cannot claim the unity of an independent science.

AESTHETICS (q.v.) may be treated as a department of psychology of physiology, an in England this is the mode of treatment that has been most general. To what peculiar excitation of our bodily or mental organism, it is asked, are the emotions due which make us declare an object beautiful or sublime? And, the question being put in this form, the atttempt has been made in some cased to explain away any peculiarity in the emotions by analysing them into simpler elements, such as primitive organic pleasures and prolonged associations of usefulness or fitness. But, just as psychology in general can in no sense do duty for a theory of knowledge, so it holds true of this particular application of psychology that a mere reference of these emotions to the mechanism and interactive play of our faculties cannot be regarded as an account of the nature of the beautiful. The substitution of the one inquir -- standing very much in need of proof -- that our faculties are constructed on some arbitrary plan, without reference to the general nature of things. Perhaps by talking of "emotions" we tend to give an unduly subjective colour to the investigation; it would be better to speak of the perception of the beautiful. Pleasure in itself is unqualified, and affords no differentia. In the case of a beautiful object the resultant pleasure borrows its specific quality from the presence of determinations essentially intellectual in their nature, though not reducible to the categories of science. We have a prima facie right, therefore, to treat beauty as an objective determination of things. The question of aesthetics would then be formulated -- What is it in things that makes them beautiful, and what is the relation of this aspect of the universe to its ultimate nature, as that is expounded in metaphysics? The answer constitutes the substance of aesthetics, considered as a branch of philosophy. But it is not given simply in abstract terms; aesthetics includes also an exposition of the concrete phases of art, as these have appeared in the history of the world, relating themselves to different stages of the spirit’s insight into itself and into things.

ETHICS (q.v.) it may also be said that may of the topics commonly embraced under that title are not strictly ethical at all, but are subjects for a scientific psychology employing the historical method with the conceptions of heredity and development, and calling to its aid, as such a psychology will do, the investigations of ethnology, and all its subsidiary sciences. To such a psychology must be relegated all questions as to the origin and development of moral ideas. Similarly, the question debated at such length by English moralist as to the nature of the moral faculty (moral sense, conscience, &c.) belongs entirely to psychology. This is more generally admitted in regard to the controversy concerning the freedom to the will, though that still forms part of most ethical treatises. If we exclude such questions in the interest of systematic correctness, and seek to determine for ethics a definite subject-matter, the science may be said to fall into two departments. The first of these deals with the notion of duty, as such, and endeavour to define the ultimate end of action; the second lays out the scheme of concrete duties which are deducible from, or which, at least, are covered by, this abstractly-stated principle. The second of these departments is really the proper subject-matter of ethics considered as a separate science; but it is often conspicuous by its absence from ethical treatises. However moralists may differ on first principles, there seems to be remarkably little practical divergence when they come to lay down the particular laws of morality. Hence, as it must necessarily be a thankless task to tabulate the common places of conduct, the comparative neglect of this part of their subject is perhaps sufficiently explained. It may be added that, where a systematic account of duties is actually given, the connexion of the particular duties with the universal formula is in general more formal than real. It is only under the head of "casuistry" that ethics has been much cultivated as a separate science. The first department of ethics, on the other hand, is the branch of the subject in virtue of which, it merges in general metaphysics or ontology, and ought rather to be called, in Kant’s phrase, the metaphysic of ethics. A theory of obligation is ultimately found to be inseparable from a metaphysic of personality. The connexion of ethics with metaphysic will be patent as a matter of fact, if it be remembered how Plato’s philosophy is summed up in the idea of the good, and how Aristotle also employed the essentially ethical notion of end as the ultimate category by which the universe may be explained or reduced to unity. But the necessity of the connexion is also apparent, unless we are to suppose that, as regards the course of universal nature, ma in altogether an imperium in imperio, or rather (to adopt the forcible phrase of Marcus Aurelius) an abscess or excrescence on the nature of things. If, on the contrary, we must hold that man is essentially related to "a common nature," as the same writer puts it, then it is a legitimate corollary that in man as intelligence we ought to find the key of the whole fabric. At all events, this method of approach must be truer than any which, by restricting itself to the external aspect of phenomena as presented in space, leaves no scope for inwardness and life and all that, in Lotze’s language, gives existence "value." Historically we may be said in an intelligible sense to explain the higher by showing its genesis from the lower. But in philosophy it is exactly the reverse: the lower is always to be explained by the higher. In the ethical reference it ahs been customary to argue, as Sir W. Hamilton does, from man’s moral being to "an Intelligent Creator and Moral Governor of the Universe," It is evident that the argument ex analogia hominis may sometimes be carried too far" but if a "chief end of man" be discoverable -- anthropon agathon [Gk.], as Aristotle wisely insisted that the ethical end must be determined – then it may be assumed that this end cannot be irrelevant to that ultimate "meaning" of the universe which, according to Lotze, is the quest of philosophy. If "the idea of humanity," as Kant called it, has ethical perfection at its core, then a universe which is organic must be ultimately representable as a moral order or a spiritual kingdom such as Leibnitz named, in words borrowed from Augustine, a city of God.

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