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To a large audience in Sever 11, last night, Dr. Royce gave the second of his series of four lectures on the "Religious Aspect of Philosophy. The special subject of this lecture was some suggestions about the theoretical element in religion.
Dr. Royce first summed up the results of the previous lecture and illustrated them more fully, closing these illustrations by a statement of what is suggested as the ultimate moral principle, which is in the form of a maxim: Act as thou wouldst be minded to act if all the consequences of thy act, for all conscious beings, in so far as such consequences can be foreseen, were to be realized for thy self at the next moment. That is to say, that morality is defined as a perfectly impersonal view of all conscious life and as action based upon such a view. The lecturer then spoke of the relation of the real world to the moral law. Does the real world offer any support to us in doing right? that is, what aspect of reality helps us to fix our attention on our neighbor's experiences as being just as valuable as our own?
Then in answer to this question, first, all those views were excluded from consideration which lay stress on rewards and punishments as sanctions of the moral law. What is done for reward is, in so far, not a positively moral act. The real world offers support to true morality only in so far as it can show us that we are not alone when we try to act morally. If something in nature tends to realize genuine morality, then this something may show us a religious aspect of nature. For religion seeks in nature for something that gives support to the moral law. Now in two directions we may seek for such a religious aspect of nature: namely, in the laws of mental life and in the laws of physical life. To consider the first of these two - the natural growth of every man seems at first sight to lead him away from what we have defined as genuine morality. For this natural growth leads to individualism, self-assertion and independence, and these tendencies seem opposed to unselfish, impersonal regard for other beings. And it is true that individualism, up to a certain point, is both natural and opposed to moral growth. The happy successful individual is especially apt to be increasingly selfish. Few individuals are, however, quite successful, and thus in the growth of most people there comes a stage of checked, disappointed self-assertion, when one's own growth is felt to be hindered by the world. At this stage men tend to become either sentimental or defiant; that is, either the disappointed man retires into himself to find in his own emotional culture what the world refuses to let him find elsewhere, or else one makes a boast of his independence for its own sake, and regards his life as a continual warfare against the wicked world that tries to crush him. The sentimental man is a subjective poet, or an aesthete, or a mystic.
The defiant man is more common, and on the whole the more manly type, exemplified by heroes and stubborn men everywhere. Now neither of these classes of men can really justify their position. If they keep on growing on all sides of their nature, they will inevitably come to see that this individualism is very petty; that all of importance in their lives depends upon living, active union with other beings. This is the lesson that Faust, for example, learns through the keen-witted criticism of Mephistopheles. Experience, in short, teaches everybody finally that as an individual he is of no importance, and that his only worth lies in quiet, submissive union with all conscious beings, in so far as he has anything to do with them. But this is morality, and thus, if our mental growth is simply full enough, it does lead us in the end toward morality. Moral law is in harmony with the laws of mental growth in all cases of completed growth, and thus, however evil the world may be, there is always in a man's nature a tendency that leads one to rest nowhere but in the possession of true moral insight. This, then, is the first religious aspect of reality. Whatever power planned the world, this power ended in making man's nature harmonize with morality, and this religious truth we can keep in mind, whatever else is doubtful. Dr. Royce closed the lecture by suggesting a few thoughts introductory to the further consideration of the religious aspect of external nature, outside of man, and this aspect will form the special topic of the third lecture.
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