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Professor Royce's Lecture.

The Rise of the Philosophy of Evolution.


Schopenhauer marks the transition to the modern method of thought-from romantic idealism to modern realism. He was a naturalist who studied nature only to find out in it the expressions of divine will. Hegel built up an inadequate but interesting philosophy of history, trying to explain on a Kantian basis the theory of human life. He could not get into the inner facts of nature but this was the first onslaught of constructive idealism upon realism. This onslaught failed, but men began to realize that nature's mysteries were not unfathomable. The mysteries are of a spiritual nature but can only be studied through the outside world by means of science. The object of science is to make out through experience the spiritual laws that govern the world. Thus thinkers of the early part of this century were idealists by nature but scientists by profession, uniting empirical research and philosophical thought. The doctrine of evolution is to comprehend the world of experience by means of idealistic postulates.

To arrive at this doctrine required the historical study of the world. Formerly nature, as it is, was the object of thought; everything was regarded as eternal and fixed; now it is the growth and change which fascinates our attention. The rights of man, in the light of the theory of evolution, can no longer be regarded as inalienable, but hard won and hard to keep.

In the beginning of this century the romantic school of writers and thinkers was in full sway. These romanticists took their subjects from oriental and mediaeval sources. English and French conquests in the East brought rut a great deal of material for this interest to work on, and as a result there was a great study of eastern language, religion and institutions. The motive of this study was romantic, the outcome was scientific; and the chief result of it was an increase in the importance of history.

Between 1815 and 1835 there was a great deepening of interest in the study of history. Darwin's great achievement was the spreading of the historical idea far beyond the limits of humanity. His "Origin of Species" (1859) was not the first exponent of the evolution but only one grand application of it; bringing to a focus tendencies of modern thought.

The thought that the processes of nature are historical came early to the attention of Herbert Spencer. It was not until after 1870, however, that he became prominent as an exponent of evolution. He poses as one who unifies scientific thought through synthesis, but over him hangs the great shadow of the unknowable; in the same breath he seems to say we know all and we know nothing. His inspiration is more concrete than Hegel's but probably vaguer than the vaguest realism. He has not profited by the lesson of philosophy. His idea is great but not satisfactory. The doctrine of evolution teaches that there is something behind the mere mechanism of change, it does not remove ideals but presupposes them.

In the closing lectures Professor Royce will abandon his position as chronicler to expound his own theories.

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