The Path to Public Service at SEAS
Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum
Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President
Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study
Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum
To a large and appreciative audience in Sever, last night, Dr. Royce gave the third of his series of lectures on the "Religious Aspect of Philosophy." This lecture considered especially the world outside of man. Science assumes that this world is a vast whole, under the control of physical forces; an immense succession of phenomena, every one of which could have been predicted from all eternity by a mind powerful enough to know and to use some exact universal formula. Has such a world any religious aspect? The answer suggested by science is often stated thus: The world shows us universal evolution. Evolution in human nature tends towards the good, and is therefore a progress. Progress tends to realize the moral needs of man, and thus the world has a religious aspect.
In answer to this statement the lecturer suggested that progress can be a religiously encouraging fact only in case it is an essential, not a purely accidental feature of realty. But the progress that science discovers in the world is a local and transient fact, occurring at a particular stage in the process of the cooling of the solar system certain, in so far as we can judge to end before long altogether. If it be replied that progress, ceasing here, may reach a higher stage in some other planet, or in some other solar or stellar system, the lecturer insisted that such ideas have at least no sure foundation in experience, and that at best we see in the physical world a conflict of processes, some tending to growth others to decay. Thus we cannot be sure that progress is an essential and necessary fact in the world; and the religious comfort that we draw from progress must be very limited.
Not only the facts, however, but also general considerations, make progress seem an insignificant thing. For, whatever we say, progress is either transient, or else being eternal, it has not as yet been able to remove evil from the world; and there is thus no evidence that an infinity of progress in the future would do what a past eternity has not done. In the nature of the world, then, evil is grounded. We must not turn to progress to find that which can remove evil.
Leaving aside all ways of viewing the world that see in it an historical growth, we must fix our attention upon what the world eternally is. For an historical growth that goes on from eternity to eternity is, like an absolutely endless continued story in the newspapers, a sheer contradiction. The world as a whole cannot have a history; for the world as a whole is regarded as limitless in time, while a history has beginning, middle and end.
But what can we say, then, of the eternal nature of the world? To answer this question, said the lecturer, we must re-examine the assumptions on which the scientific conception of the world is founded. One of these assumptions was taken up and an analysis of this assumption was sketched. We assume in all discussions about the world that there is a difference between the truth of a statement and its falsity. But a statement is true by reason of its agreement with its object, and here arises a difficulty.
The object of my statement is just what I have in mind as my object; otherwise my statement means nothing at all. But if the object of my statement is what I have in mind, how can my statement fail to agree with this object? i. e., how can my statement be false? That our statements are not all true implies, then, that they can have objects beyond themselves with which they can fail to agree. But how can an object that is wholly out of my thought be actually the object concerning which I am making statements? This difficulty once stated, the lecturer suggested as a solution the hypothesis that our thoughts are really not wholes in and of themselves, but parts of an all-embracing intelligence, of which we ourselves are but parts, to which both our thoughts and their objects are present, forming one whole, and this whole the real world. If the world, then, is an intelligence to which all truth is present, then the world has a religious aspect. For all moral truth, in so far forth as it is truth, will be present to this consciousness. All our moral or immoral acts, in so far as they are facts, will be eternally present in all their relations to this all embracing intelligence, and we shall have found the perfect, all-seeing judge, and at least some of the moral reality that the religious consciousness seeks in the world.
The next lecture on "Scientific and Religious Faith," will take place in two weeks, and will conclude the course.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.