Page:Reason in Common Sense (1920).djvu/232

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cal bonds may secretly unite them; it is obstructed also by the traditional mythical idealism, intent as this philosophy is on proving nature to be the expression of something ulterior and non-natural and on hugging the fatal misconception that ideals and eventual goods are creative and miraculous forces, without perceiving that it thereby renders goods and ideals perfectly senseless; for how can anything be a good at all to which some existing nature is not already directed? It may therefore be worth while, before leaving this phase of the subject, to consider one or two prejudices which might make it sound paradoxical to say, as we propose, that ideals are ideal and nature natural.

Of all forms of consciousness the one apparently most useful is pain, which is also the one most immersed in matter and most opposite to ideality and excellence. Its utility lies in the warning it gives: in trying to escape pain we escape destruction. That we desire to escape pain is certain; its very definition can hardly go beyond the statement that pain is that element of feeling which we seek to abolish on account of its intrinsic quality. That this desire, however, should know how to initiate remedial action is a notion contrary to experience and in itself unthinkable. If pain could have cured us we should long ago have been saved. The bitterest quintessence of pain is its helplessness, and our incapacity to abolish it. The most intolerable