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when a man reaches the clear conviction that such limits cannot be removed in the present life, he resigns himself to this necessity, and thus finds that satisfaction of intellect which is possible in mortal life.” In other words, to quote the famous saying of Goethe, “Man is not born to solve the problem of the universe, but to find out where the problem begins, and then to keep himself within the limits of the knowable."
Philo. sophy general and special.
Ultimate grounds are either absolute or relative. The former are, strictly speaking, alone ultimate, and, as such, constitute the scope of General Philosophy; whereas the latter are ultimate only in reference to a determinate branch of science, and hence form the scope of Special Philosophies, such as those
of mathematics, physics, history, politics, art, etc.
Though Rosmini prefers the term ultimate grounds, he does not object to calling them likewise first grounds. “ Ultimate grounds," he says, “and first grounds are equivalent expressions, because what is last in the one direction of thought is first in the other” (Purposes of the Author, § 9, n.). Compare the Aristotelian doctrine, that what is first in essence or nature is last in generation,* or, as St. Thomas puts it, “What is first and better known in its nature is last and less known relatively to us.” |
Of the relation of Philosophy to the other sciences
«'Εναντίως επί της γενέσεως έχει και της ουσίας» τα γάρ ύστερα τη γενέσει πρότερα την φύσιν έστι, και πρώτον το τη γενέσει τελευταίον” (De Part. Anim., i. 1 ; 646 a, 24 sq.). Cf. Physica, viii. 7 ; 201 a, 14:9; 265 a, 22 sq. ; and Eucken, Die Methode der Aristotelischen Forschung, p. 13.
+ “Quæ sunt priora et notiora secundum naturam, sunt posteriora et minus nota secundum nos (Sum. Theol., i. q. 85, art. 3, 1). Cf. Aristotle, “ Où yàp ταυτον πρότερον τη φύσει και προς ημάς πρότερον ουδε γνωριμώτερον και ημίν go wyruár pov” (Anal. Post., i. 2; 71 b, 35 sq.).
Rosmini says, “The ultimate grounds outside of the world and the ultimate grounds in the world, these form the object of philosophy, which thus occupies the last two and highest steps of the pyramid we have described. Hence philosophy remains clearly separated from, and elevated above, the other sciences, as the guide and mother of them all. These form the lower steps of the pyramid, depending upon the highest two and receiving their light from them" (Purposes of the Author, $ 9; cf. St. Thomas, Sum. Theol., ii. q. 6, art. I, I m.).
In attempting to discover the ultimate grounds Point of
departure. which shall satisfy its own last spontaneous why's, the human mind must, of necessity, begin by recognizing the state of its own cognitions and of its own persuasions. It must then go on and endeavour to supplement and complete these cognitions in such a way as to satisfy the intelligence, which imperatively demands a ground for everything it knows, and allows the mind no rest until it has found a self-sufficient ground, that is, a ground which calls for no further ground.
The gist of this section is, that philosophy sets out with simple, direct, unquestioning observation of the present facts of consciousness, and then proceeds to search for another fact of consciousness, a ground or idea, which shall so unite and supplement all others as to relieve the mind from the discomfort which disconnection and incompleteness always cause it. Philosophy, in this view,—and it is a correct one-may be defined as an explanation of the facts of consciousness; for even God and the Universe, in so far as they require or admit explanation, number as objects among these facts. That which is not known requires no expla
nation. To explain existence in itself is a task beyond the reach of philosophy. Indeed, the phrase is self-contradictory; for it means, to explain a fact of consciousness, which, by the very hypothesis, does not exist. This doctrine does not involve the conclusion that some would draw from it, that therefore we do not know things. The opposite conclusion is the true one. We do know things, and it is precisely for that reason that they do not require or admit explanation. We do not, indeed, think things; but, as has been already remarked, knowledge and thought are mutually exclusive.
This section shows how different Rosmini's startingpoint was from that of Hegel. Indeed, there are few things which Rosmini so strongly opposes as the doctrine of a
presuppositionless beginning" in philosophy. His refutation of this doctrine (Logic, $$ 43–50 ; Theodicy, i. $$ 10, 19, 20) is, in many points, superior to that of Trendelenburg (Logische Untersuchungen, i. pp. 36–140, and Die logische Frage in Hegel's System, Leipzig, 1843; cf. SS II, 53). Rosmini cordially agrees with Kant and his school (cf. Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Einleitung, i.) in holding that “all our knowledge begins with experience ;” but he finds grave fault with them for not clearly showing what they mean by experience. His strictures on this omission are worth quoting. “Modern philosophers," he says, “generally
admit that all human knowledge comes from experience ; but | they do not trouble themselves to ask, What is experience ?
Is it meant that experience is the facts? The facts by themselves cannot form experience, because, until the facts are known by me, they are, with reference to my knowledge, as if they did not exist. By experience, therefore, is meant the facts cognized by me.
If this is the meaning of the word experience,' we must go on and inquire what kind of cognition is here meant. Is it meant that experience is the facts cognized by the senses alone? The question is absurd : with the senses alone they cannot be cognized. When I say that I know a fact with my senses alone, I have removed from that fact the whole of my thought regarding it. The facts, as they then remain, are sensations and nothing more. There is no comparison between them, or relation of any kind. These facts, cognised, as the very improper expression is, by the sense alone, can neither be written nor spoken, because language has no individual words fitted to express them, and because, if I joined them to some sensible sign, in order to make them speakable, I should be obliged to make some reflection on them, which is contrary to the hypothesis that I know them through my senses alone. Experience, therefore, must be the facts as really known. But into this knowledge there enters necessarily intelligence, which adds to the facts a certain universality, considering them in relation to being, and, through being, in relation to each other, and, in this way, forming classes or species. This is certainly the only kind of experience that can or does produce our cognitions. But if this is the experience which we mean when we say that all our cognitions come from experience, we must, first of all, inquire, What is intellectual cognition of facts? What is that intellect with which we form, or at least complete, this experience? How must such a faculty of cognizing be constituted, in order that it may be able to produce such experience? This last question is equivalent to, What must the intellect have that is innate ? or, What are the conditions under which the experience we speak of is possible ?” (New Essay, vol. ii. § 398). What would Rosmini have said to those philosophers who define Logic as “the science of the laws of thought,” without ever inquiring, What is thought?
The mental rest or quiet here meant is only Different a scientific quiet, which the inquiring mind reaches mental
quiet. when it finds scientific replies to its own inevitable interrogations. But it must not be supposed that the mind always puts such interrogations to itself. Many minds never do so at all, or, if they do, at
least put far fewer than they might put. The mind which does not question itself at all enjoys rest and quiet. The same is true of the mind, which questions itself up to a certain point and no further, as soon as it has found replies to its limited number of interrogations, although it may not have arrived at ultimate reasons, these not being essential to its quiet. Hence the science of ultimate grounds, that is, philosophy, is not necessary to the mental quiet of the majority of mankind, who content themselves with a much more limited kind of cognition. Such cognition, though not philosophical, may be true and certain, and may thus afford a most reasonable persuasion.
The distinction here drawn between the two kinds of mental satisfaction is a most important one, involving not only the whole distinction between reason and faith, but the whole question of the nature of assent. To this latter subject Rosmini devotes the first book of his Logic (pp. 9-85), the most original part of the whole work. A few sentences from this treatise will make the distinction clearer. “Assent is the act with which a man adheres voluntarily to the object which stands before his intelligence. To assent to an object means to affirm it with subjective authority” (efficacia, § 85). “Assent is not one of those acts of the spirit which produce new cognitions, but it is an act by which a person appropriates the cognitions which stand before him. We are in the habit, nevertheless, of saying that assent produces cognitions, because by means of it a person makes cognitions his, and obtains persuasion * of
* Persuasione. After some hesitation, I have concluded to render this word by its etymological equivalent, although in many cases conviction would have read better. Rosmini distinguishes the two. “ To convince,” he says, “is to give a man demonstrated cognitions, and regards the intellect; to persuade is to move the will to assent" (Logic, § 1144).