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PHILOSOPHY is the science of estimating values. The superiority of any state or substance over another is determined by philosophy. By assigning a position of primary importance to what remains when all that is secondary has been removed, philosophy thus becomes the true index of priority or emphasis in the realm of speculative thought. The mission of philosophy a priori is to establish the relation of manifested things to their invisible ultimate cause or nature.

“Philosophy,” writes Sir William Hamilton, “has been defined [as]: The science of things divine and human, and of the causes in which they are contained [Cicero]; The science of effects by their causes [Hobbes]; The science of sufficient reasons [Leibnitz]; The science of things possible, inasmuch as they are possible [Wolf]; The science of things evidently deduced from first principles [Descartes]; The science of truths, sensible and abstract [de Condillac]; The application of reason to its legitimate objects [Tennemann]; The science of the relations of all knowledge to the necessary ends of human reason [Kant];The science of the original form of the ego or mental self [Krug]; The science of sciences [Fichte]; The science of the absolute [von Schelling]; The science of the absolute indifference of the ideal and real [von Schelling]–or, The identity of identity and non-identity [Hegel].” (See Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic.)

The six headings under which the disciplines of philosophy are commonly classified are: metaphysics, which deals with such abstract subjects as cosmology, theology, and the nature of being; logic, which deals with the laws governing rational thinking, or, as it has been called, “the doctrine of fallacies”; ethics, which is the science of morality, individual responsibility, and character–concerned chiefly with an effort to determine the nature of good; psychology, which is devoted to investigation and classification of those forms of phenomena referable to a mental origin; epistemology, which is the science concerned primarily with the nature of knowledge itself and the question of whether it may exist in an absolute form; and æsthetics, which is the science of the nature of and the reactions awakened by the beautiful, the harmonious, the elegant, and the noble.

Plato regarded philosophy as the greatest good ever imparted by Divinity to man. In the twentieth century, however, it has become a ponderous and complicated structure of arbitrary and irreconcilable notions–yet each substantiated by almost incontestible logic. The lofty theorems of the old Academy which Iamblichus likened to the nectar and ambrosia of the gods have been so adulterated by opinion–which Heraclitus declared to be a falling sickness of the mind–that the heavenly mead would now be quite unrecognizable to this great Neo-Platonist. Convincing evidence of the increasing superficiality of modern scientific and philosophic thought is its persistent drift towards materialism. When the great astronomer Laplace was asked by Napoleon why he had not mentioned God in his Traité de la Mécanique Céleste, the mathematician naively replied: “Sire, I had no need for that hypothesis!”

In his treatise on Atheism, Sir Francis Bacon tersely summarizes the situation thus: “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.” The Metaphysics of Aristotle opens with these words: “All men naturally desire to know.” To satisfy this common urge the unfolding human intellect has explored the extremities of imaginable space without and the extremities of imaginable self within, seeking to estimate the relationship between the one and the all; the effect and the cause; Nature and the groundwork of Nature; the mind and the source of the mind; the spirit and the substance of the spirit; the illusion and the reality.

An ancient philosopher once said: “He who has not even a knowledge of common things is a brute among men. He who has an accurate knowledge of human concerns alone is a man among brutes. But he who knows all that can be known by intellectual energy, is a God among men.” Man’s status in the natural world is determined, therefore, by the quality of his thinking. He whose mind is enslaved to his bestial instincts is philosophically not superior to the brute-, he whose rational faculties ponder human affairs is a man; and he whose intellect is elevated to the consideration of divine realities is already a demigod, for his being partakes of the luminosity with which his reason has brought him into proximity. In his encomium of “the science of sciences” Cicero is led to exclaim: “O philosophy, life’s guide! O searcher–out of virtue and expeller of vices! What could we and every age of men have been without thee? Thou hast produced cities; thou hast called men scattered about into the social enjoyment of life.”

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