Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/309

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WORTH OF METAPHYSICAL SYSTEMS.

religions, and in nearly every great philosophy; the latest systems of the latter, those of the great Germans, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Schopenhauer, being among the most elaborate and absolute ever constructed. There are other systems, rightly called philosophical, of a very different kind, being founded on experience not intuition, following Nature instead of trying to transcend her, consciously limited amidst the Illimitable. There is nothing metaphysical in the greater part of what is called the Idealism of Berkeley; the metaphysic comes when he brings in the Eternal and Infinite Mind to give permanence to the ideal world. There is nothing metaphysical in Kant's demonstration that time and space are but constant forms of our sensibility; the metaphysic comes in when beyond the phenomena of our perceptions he predicates noumena or things in themselves of which we know nothing. There is nothing metaphysical (save by lapse or oversight) in the great modern psychological systems, for these continually appeal to the test of experience, and are in general but working theories more or less comprehensive, always open to modification by new discoveries and to inclusion in wider formulas. And here we have the essential difference between the natural and the extra-natural or supernatural, between the relative and the absolute systems; the former as empirical are ever open to improvement and susceptible of transformations, the latter as imperious and unconditional cannot suffer change without being destroyed. Hence the former are continually advancing and extending, the latter are still where they commenced; the former have established much that is practically certain in their limits, the latter in their deepest depths are each and all as uncertain as ever.

What, then, is the worth of these absolute systems which have fascinated some of the profoundest intellects and