Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/104

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Chapter IV.


Mr. Lecky says in his History, concerning "the habit of thought which is the supreme arbiter of the opinions of successive ages," that "those who have contributed most largely to its formation are, I believe, the philosophers." Philosophers, as a rule, dwell in heights that are inaccessible to the great multitude; their systems and conclusions are the most difficult of all sciences to popularize. Yet it is true that the philosophic systems that prevail in the academies of each successive age exercise a profound influence upon the whole thought of their generation. They impart a tone and give a point of view to the large army of popular writers, of poets, historians, scientists, etc., who mediate between the multitude and the select group of wisdom-seekers. Indeed, it is complained that the subversive character of the literary and historical criticism which has preceded is due entirely to the acceptance of certain philosophical tenets which control the scientific activity and prejudice its direction. Although the statement is entirely inaccurate—for those purely scientific positions and their defences are compelling daily acceptance by their inherent weight—it illustrates the importance which attaches to the philosophical activity of the nineteenth century in view of the advance of Rationalism.

So far is it from true that all Rationalistic critics are controlled by a sceptical philosophy, that a large number of them still cling to Theism, or some attenuated shade of Theism, only in virtue of philosophical considerations. Thus Kuenen, one of the most iconoclastic of higher critics, was a devout Theist, and even Professor Max Müller, the most powerful advocate of the mythical theory of all theological doctrine, retains a belief in a supreme Reason in