Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Narrowing the Issues with A.E. Taylor

Suspense and philosophy are not usually twinned, in general, we, like the PP’s advice on sermons to his curate, are told what we going to be told, we are told it and then in a magisterial summing up are told what we have just been told. Taylor in Elements of Metaphysics is open about his idealism but what sort is it? His criticism of its chief proponents such as Kant and Berkeley are cogent and the latters invulnerability according to Hume which to me has always seemed overstated is controverted effectively.

He writes:

When we say that a thing " is " or " has Being," we seem primarily to mean that it is an object for the knowing consciousness, that it has its place in the system of objects which coherent thought recognises. When we call the same object "real" or a " reality," we lay the emphasis rather on the consideration that it is something of which we categorically must take account, whether we like it or not, if some purpose of our own is to get its fulfilment.

Is this his own thought on the matter or must we wait as he says himself for ‘the narrowing of the issues’? Something like it seems to be as further down he rejects the example of the unknown yet existing:

We may pass from the case of the mental life of a fellow-man to the case of unperceived physical reality. A recent realist philosopher, Mr. L. T. Hobhouse, has brought forward as a clear instance of an independent physical reality, the case of a railway train just emerging from a tunnel. I do not perceive the train, he says, until it issues from the tunnel, but it was just as real while it was running through the tunnel. Its reality is therefore independent of the question whether it is perceived or not. But, in the first place, the argument requires that the train shall be empty; it must be a runaway train without driver, guard, or passengers, if the conditions presumed in the premisses are to be fulfilled. And, in the second place, we may retort that even an empty runaway train must have been despatched from somewhere by somebody. It must stand in some relation to the general scheme of purposes and interests expressed in our system of railway traffic, and it is precisely this connection, with a scheme of purposes and interests, which makes the runaway train a reality and not a mere fiction of an ingenious philosopher's imagination.

How different this is from the Vedantin’s ‘unknown object’ i.e. the capacity to be an unknown object is just what makes an object a reality. It may be that as a Monist Idealist Taylor holds that the system as a whole is one and ‘minded’ and that reality is self-creative consciousness. Or something. We are living in a cosmic neighborhood alert scheme. Everything is minding the others business. Or something. The current is picking up, a narrowing of the issues is approaching but theres a sense of ‘keep calm and carry on’. It’s a remarkable production for a 34 year old man.


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