Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/356

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
352
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

God, or in anything, for "freewill" changes would not be "freewill" changes, if they had their ground in anything that is or has been. He sees clearly that the watchman which he has set on the wall to tell him of the night has no other task than to come down from time to time and inform him that it is conceivable that something may happen, but God alone can know what that something may be. Why keep a man out in the cold just for this? Let us rather bring him down and put him beside the fire.

And Schopenhauer is, I think, more nearly right than he usually was when he was in the body and on this planet, which science will not recognize to be a "freewill" planet. Surely it is not reasonable to take comfort in mere uncertainties as such — in promises which promise nothing. A reasonable hope, even a faintly reasonable hope, must have "some outlines and shadows" of a foundation, as Maritornes, though a sinner, had "some outlines and shadows of a Christian."

May we, then, harbor no hopes unless they are reasonable hopes? May we never hope against hope? May we never lighten dark hours by insisting that sometime the dawn must come?

I should be the last to insist that we must be as coldly rational as this. One of our problems is the problem of getting through life and of being happy and cheerful if we can. One can, as a help to this, embrace a faith, clearly recognizing that it is a faith and not a scientifically established doctrine. One can look on the bright side of things, knowing well enough that the bright side is not the only side, and yet preventing one's mind from dwelling upon what lies in the shadow.

I can not see that this would, in itself, do harm. We are concerned with a rule of life, and one may adopt such a rule without necessarily clouding one's intellect or repudiating the open mind. But when one undertakes to bolster up a faith adopted in this way, by the invention of arbitrary metaphysical hypotheses, which introduce confusion into the science of ethics, and which make of this orderly world in which we live a realm of anarchy, a scene of disorder, in which prudence and forethought and knowledge lose their significance — when one does this, one goes, I maintain, beyond what is permissible, and one does harm.

It has been well said that one must not judge of a man's intellect from the religious doctrines which he elects to embrace. It is the man who chooses these things; not the mere intellect. The man may be acute, and he may be learned; and he may, nevertheless, hold opinions which seem to us narrow and unenlightened. Too many things go to the determination of the religious belief of a given individual, to enable us to judge him in summary fashion.

And is it not somewhat the same in philosophy? I do not say that it ought to be just the same in philosophy; but, as a matter of fact,