around us is this clamour for action, all around the contempt for mere words, however verbose the exponents of theaction cult may be. But then, even action needs expounding.Yet there is sound reason underlying this impatience with words that are not vitally connected with action. Especiallyin philosophy we have suffered for many years from a deluge of words, barren of action, and consequently the manin the street has come to look upon philosophy as a pretentious speculation leading nowhere, an intellectual game,subtle and clever, sometimes not even that, but always without practical value for the life of everyday. Often it hasbeen such; disguising its lack of reality under the cloak of a difficult and technical terminology it frightened away theinvestigating layman and made him feel that it was his fault, his shortcoming which prevented him from understandingits profound mysteries. Only the bold and persevering investigator discovers that its cloak often hides but a pitifulemptiness.The profoundest minds have ever spoken the simplest language. The thought of Plato may be deep; his language isever simple and may be understood by any cultured man. Here Oriental philosophy may well teach the West. LaoTze, Patanjali, Gautama speak a language of utter simplicity, by the side of which Kant or Hegel appears ponderousand confused. When a thing is clear to a philosopher he must be able to say it in simple and intelligible language. Ifhe fails to do so and if many volumes must be written to expound what he might have meant, it is a certain sign thathis knowledge was confused. Only imperfect knowledge goes hidden under a load of words.But apart from its intricate and unbeautiful language philosophy has often been a stranger to life. See again how thetruly great touch life at every step and ever bring into this world of daily life the fire, which they steal, from the gods.If our philosophy leads to wisdom and not merely to knowledge it must bear fruit in action. Hear Epictetus the Stoic:The first and most essential part of philosophy is that concerning the application of rules, such as for instance: not tolie. The second part is that concerning proofs such, as for instance: whence does it follow that one should not lie?
The third part is the confirmation and analysis of the first two parts, for instance: how does it follow that this is a proof? For what is a proof? What is a consequence, what a contradiction? What truth, what error? Hence the third part is necessary because of the second and the second because of the first; but the most necessary and that in which we must find peace, is the first. We, however, do the opposite; for we stop at the third part and all our interest concerns it; but the first we neglect entirely. Hence we do lie, but we know by heart the proof that we should not lie. (Eucheiridion, 52.)
It is in the acid test of daily life that the worth of a philosophy is proved. Morality is never the beginning, but alwaysthe end. While knowledge may remain a stranger to action, wisdom being experience of life, can never fail to stampour every word and action with its seal.Morality, however, or ethics, is but one-way in which wisdom becomes action; true philosophy inspires civilization atevery point. There was never a Platonist worthy of the name who did not leave the world the better for hisphilosophy, whether he was a poet or politician. But it is only when philosophy has ceased to be merely intellectualand has become experience of living truth that it can be thus creative.It is possible, with infallible logic, to build up an intellectual structure that has the appearance of a philosophy of life,but is in reality a phantasm of death. Only when philosophy as experience is rooted in our consciousness, and thencedraws the life-giving force that makes of it a living organism, can it bear fruits that nourish man. Thus the facts onwhich a vital philosophy is based must needs be of a psychological nature or, using a much-dreaded word,`subjective.' But then even though we may be happily oblivious of it, all facts are of a psychological nature, since wedo not know a thing except in so far as it becomes awareness in our consciousness. The division of knowledge ortruth into subjective and objective is misleading; the moment a thing becomes knowledge it is subjective, though itsvalidity may well be objective. A fact of our consciousness or psychological truth may well be of objective value in sofar as it is not a merely personal appreciation, but of universal application. In that case the method is subjective, thevalue objective. On the other hand there are facts which we call objective since they belong to what we call the outerworld, but which are subjective in value since they apply to us only. It is the confusion of the two ways in which theword subjective is used, the one pertaining to
, when subjective means "belonging to the consciousness," andthe other pertaining to
, when subjective means `of personal value only,' which makes us dread the termsubjective. There are many facts of the consciousness which we come to know in a subjective way, but which yetare objective in validity since they hold good not only for us, but for all men.It is therefore no disparagement of philosophy to say of it that, in contrast with science, its method is subjective. Didwe but realize it; there is greater safety in the knowledge of our own consciousness, which is direct, than in theknowledge of the world around us, which is indirect.
The Conquest of Illusionhttp://home.earthlink.net/~grharmon/conquest.htof 822009-03-13 18:45