Ferdinand canning scott schiller essay prize in philosophy

To understand Schiller's opposition to formal logic, consider the following inference:. From the formal characteristics of this inference alone All As are Bs; c is not a B; Therefore, c is not an A , formal logic would judge this to be a valid inference. Schiller, however, refused to evaluate the validity of this inference merely on its formal characteristics. Schiller argued that unless we look to the contextual fact regarding what specific problem first prompted this inference to actually occur, we can not determine whether the inference was successful i.

In the case of this inference, since "Cerebos is 'salt' for culinary, but not for chemical purposes", [5] without knowing whether the purpose for this piece of reasoning was culinary or chemical we cannot determine whether this is valid or not. Schiller's attack on formal logic and formal mathematics never gained much attention from philosophers, however it does share some weak similarities to the contextualist view in contemporary epistemology as well as the views of ordinary language philosophers.

In Riddles, Schiller gives historical examples of the dangers of abstract metaphysics in the philosophies of Plato , Zeno , and Hegel , portraying Hegel as the worst offender: "Hegelianism never anywhere gets within sight of a fact, or within touch of reality. And the reason is simple: you cannot, without paying the penalty, substitute abstractions for realities; the thought-symbol cannot do duty for the thing symbolized".

Schiller argued that the flaw in Hegel's system, as with all systems of abstract metaphysics, is that the world it constructs always proves to be unhelpful in guiding our imperfect, changing, particular, and physical lives to the achievement of the "higher" universal Ideals and Ends. For example, Schiller argues that the reality of time and change is intrinsically opposed to the very modus operandi of all systems of abstract metaphysics.

He says that the possibility to change is a precondition of any moral action or action generally , and so any system of abstract metaphysics is bound to lead us into a moral scepticism. The problem lies in the aim of abstract metaphysics for "interpreting the world in terms of conceptions, which should be true not here and now, but " eternally " and independently of Time and Change. Of course, "[o]nce abstracted from,". The assumption is made that, to express the 'truth' about Reality, its ' thisness ,' individuality, change and its immersion in a certain temporal and spatial environment may be neglected, and the timeless validity of a conception is thus substituted for the living, changing and perishing existence we contemplate.

What I wish here to point out is merely that it is unreasonable to expect from such premises to arrive at a deductive justification of the very characteristics of Reality that have been excluded.

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The true reason, then, why Hegelism can give no reason for the Time-process, i. If you insist on having a system of eternal and immutable ' truth ,' you can get it only by abstracting from those characteristics of reality, which we try to express by the terms individuality, time, and change. But you must pay the price for a formula that will enable you to make assertions that hold good far beyond the limits of your experience.

And it is part of the price that you will in the end be unable to give a rational explanation of those very characteristics, which you dismissed at the outset as irrelevant to a rational explanation. While abstract metaphysics provides us with a world of beauty and purpose and various other "highers", it condemns other key aspects of the world we live in as imaginary. The world of abstract metaphysics has no place for imperfect moral agents who 1 strive to learn about the world and then 2 act upon the world to change it for the better. Consequently, abstract metaphysics condemns us as illusionary, and declares our place in the world as unimportant and purposeless.

Where abstractions take priority, our concrete lives collapse into scepticism and pessimism. He also makes a case against the alternative naturalist method, saying that this too results in an epistemological and moral scepticism.

Finding Aid for the Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller Papers, ca. 1870-1940

Schiller looks to show this method's inadequacy at moving from the cold, lifeless lower world of atoms to the higher world of ethics, meanings, and minds. As with abstract metaphysics, Schiller attacks naturalism on many fronts: 1 the naturalist method is unable to reduce universals to particulars, 2 the naturalist method is unable to reduce freewill to determinist movements, 3 the naturalist method is unable to reduce emergent properties like consciousness to brain activity, 4 the naturalist method is unable to reduce God into a pantheism , and so on.

Just as the abstract method cannot find a place for the lower elements of our world inside the higher, the naturalist method cannot find a place for the higher elements of our world inside the lower. In a reversal of abstract metaphysics, naturalism denies the reality of the higher elements to save the lower.

Schiller uses the term "pseudo-metaphysical" here instead of naturalism—as he sometimes does—because he is accusing these naturalist philosophers of trying to solve metaphysical problems while sticking to the non-metaphysical "lower" aspects of the world i. The pseudo-metaphysical method puts forward the method of science as the method of philosophy. But it is doomed to perpetual failure. The objects of the physical sciences form the lower orders in the hierarchy of existence, more extensive but less significant.

Thus the atoms of the physicist may indeed be found in the organisation of conscious beings, but they are subordinate: a living organism exhibits actions which cannot be formulated by the laws of physics alone; man is material, but he is also a great deal more.

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To show that the world's higher elements do not reduce to the lower is not yet to show that naturalism must condemn the world's higher elements as illusionary. A second component to Schiller's attack is showing that naturalism cannot escape its inability to reduce the higher to the lower by asserting that these higher elements evolve from the lower. However, Schiller does not see naturalism as any more capable of explaining the evolution of the higher from the lower than it is capable of reducing the higher to the lower. While evolution does begin with something lower that in turn evolves into something higher, the problem for naturalism is that whatever the starting point for evolution is, it must first be something with the potential to evolve into a higher.

For example, the world cannot come into existence from nothing because the potential or "germ" of the world is not "in" nothing nothing has no potential, it has nothing; after all, it is nothing. Likewise, biological evolution cannot begin from inanimate matter, because the potential for life is not "in" inanimate matter. The following passage shows Schiller applying the same sort of reasoning to the evolution of consciousness:. Taken as the type of the pseudo-metaphysical method, which explains the higher by the lower Unable to either reduce or explain the evolution of the higher elements of our world, naturalism is left to explain away the higher elements as mere illusions.

In doing this, naturalism condemns us to a scepticism in the both epistemology and ethics. It is worth noting, that while Schiller's work has been largely neglected since his death, Schiller's arguments against a naturalistic account of evolution have been recently cited by advocates of intelligent design to establish the existence of a longer history for the view due to legal concerns in the United States See: Kitzmiller v.

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Schiller argued that both abstract metaphysics and naturalism portray man as holding an intolerable position in the world. He proposed a method that not only recognises the lower world we interact with, but takes into account the higher world of purposes, ideals and abstractions. We require, then, a method which combines the excellencies of both the pseudo-metaphysical and the abstract metaphysical, if philosophy is to be possible at all.

Finding Aid for the Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller Papers, ca.

Schiller was demanding a course correction in field of metaphysics, putting it at the service of science. For example, to explain the creation of the world out of nothing, or to explain the emergence or evolution of the "higher" parts of the world, Schiller introduces a divine being who might generate the end i. Final Cause which gives nothingness , lifelessness, and unconscious matter the purpose and thus potential of evolving into higher forms:. And thus, so far from dispensing with the need for a Divine First Cause, the theory of evolution , if only we have the faith in science to carry it to its conclusion, and the courage to interpret it, proves irrefragably that no evolution was possible without a pre-existent Deity, and a Deity, moreover, transcendent, non-material and non-phenomenal.

This re-introduction of teleology which Schiller sometimes calls a re-anthropomorphizing of the world is what Schiller says the naturalist has become afraid to do. Schiller's method of concrete metaphysics i. The process which the theory of Evolution divined the history of the world to be, must have content and meaning determined from the basis of the scientific data; it is only by a careful study of the history of a thing that we can determine the direction of its development, [and only then] that we can be said to have made the first approximation to the knowledge of the End of the world process.

It does not attempt to explain things anthropocentrically, or regard all creation as existing for the use and benefit of man; it is as far as the scientist from supposing that cork-trees grow to supply us with champagne corks. The end to which it supposes all things to subserve is If our speculations have not entirely missed their mark, the world-process will come to an end when all the spirits whom it is designed to harmonise [by its Divine Creator] have been united in a perfect society.

Now, while by today's philosophic standards Schiller's speculations would be considered wildly metaphysical and disconnected from the sciences, compared with the metaphysicians of his day Hegel, McTaggart, etc. Schiller gave his philosophy a number of labels during his career. Early on he used the names "Concrete Metaphysics" and "Anthropomorphism", while later in life tending towards "Pragmatism" and particularly "Humanism".

Schiller also developed a method of philosophy intended to mix elements of both naturalism and abstract metaphysics in a way that allows us to avoid the twin scepticisms each method collapses into when followed on its own. However, Schiller does not assume that this is enough to justify his humanism over the other two methods. He accepts the possibility that both scepticism and pessimism are true.

To justify his attempt to occupy the middle ground between naturalism and abstract metaphysics, Schiller makes a move that anticipates James' The Will to Believe :. And in action especially we are often forced to act upon slight possibilities. Hence, if it can be shown that our solution is a possible answer, and the only possible alternative to pessimism, to a complete despair of life, it would deserve acceptance, even though it were but a bare possibility.

Schiller contends that in light of the other methods' failure to provide humans with a role and place in the universe, we ought avoid the adoption of these methods. By the end of Riddles, Schiller offers his method of humanism as the only possible method that results in a world where we can navigate our lower existence to the achievement of our higher purpose. He asserts that it is the method we ought to adopt regardless of the evidence against it "even though it were but a bare possibility".

While Schiller's will to believe is a central theme of Riddle of the Sphinx appearing mainly in the introduction and conclusion of his text , in the doctrine held a limited role in Schiller's philosophy.

source In Riddles, Schiller only employs his version of the will to believe doctrine when he is faced with overcoming sceptic and pessimistic methods of philosophy. In , William James published his essay "The Will to Believe" and this influenced Schiller to drastically expanded his application of the doctrine.


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For a volume titled Personal Idealism, Schiller contributed a widely read essay titled "Axioms as Postulates" in which he sets out to justify the " axioms of logic" as postulates adopted on the basis of the will to believe doctrine. In this essay Schiller extends the will to believe doctrine to be the basis of our acceptance of causality , of the uniformity of nature , of our concept of identity , of contradiction , of the law of excluded middle , of space and time, of the goodness of God, and more.

He notes that we postulate that nature is uniform because we need nature to be uniform:. The only question is—Will Nature honour the cheque? Audentes Natura juvat—let us take our life in our hands and try! If we fail, our blood will be on our own hands or, more probably, in some one else's stomach , but though we fail, we are in no worse case than those who dared not postulate Our assumption, therefore, is at least a methodological necessity; it may turn out to be or be near a fundamental fact in nature [an axiom].

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Schiller stresses that doctrines like the uniformity of nature must first be postulated on the basis of need not evidence and only then "justified by the evidence of their practical working. Schiller argues that preconditions are not conclusions, but demands made on our experience that may or may not work. On this success hinges our continued acceptance of the postulate and its eventual promotion to axiom status.

In "Axioms and Postulates" Schiller vindicates the postulation by its success in practice, marking an important shift from Riddles of a Sphinx. In Riddles, Schiller is concerned with the vague aim of connecting the "higher" to the "lower" so he can avoid scepticism, but by he has clarified the connection he sees between these two elements.