This book is designed to separate Mr. Spencer's doctrine of the Unknowable from his general system of evolution, and to refute the former while leaving the latter to stand as "a law of things" and not "only a law of appearances." Its author sums up his conclusions in about the following terms (p. 211 f.): Every argument that is used, or that can be used, in proof of the existence of the objective Unknowable is based on the very knowledge which the argument purports to prove impossible (Chap. II.). A number of problems which Mr. Spencer supposes peculiar to Ontology and considers insoluble, the author finds to be capable of solution by Phenomenology (Chaps. III.-VI.). Actual nature does not exclude realities from its sphere (Chap. VII.). The unknowableness deduced by Mr. Spencer is the unknowableness of something neither in existence nor capable of existence (Chap. VIII.). Spencer's deduction of the unknowableness of things outside of consciousness from the conception of life, Mr. Lacy considers meaningless and-erroneous (Chap. IX.). Absolute knowledge is possible and can be accounted for (Chapter X.). The author justly declares that Spencer's "reconciliation" is a "high" (he might have said a pompous and meaningless) abstraction; but he himself believes that "Science and the Religion of to-day shall pass into something more worthy than either, which shall take their place" (p. 235).
Mr. Lacy has studied this doctrine of Spencer with painstaking care, and his refutations of its details are tolerably successful in consideration of the fact that he so largely looks upon metaphysical problems in Spencer's way, and almost-it might be said- with borrowed eyes. The "Synthetic Philosophy" he considers "as perhaps the noblest speculative product of a single mind" (p. 4). Yet he does not hesitate to criticise it with commendable thoroughness. This estimate of the "Synthetic Philosophy," in connection with many other tokens, would seem to indicate that the author is not familiar with the masters in modern philosophy; especially that he, like the one master whom he so admiringly but sharply criticises, little knows or appreciates the critical method and results of Kant, or the process of thought in the solution of metaphysical problems since the time of Kant. We are quite willing to have Mr. Spencer's theory of the Unknowable so thoroughly refuted by one avowedly an admirer of the "Synthetic Philosophy." For ourselves, we are looking to see this entire system of philosophy speedily disintegrate and deliver over its elements, so far as they have any stable quality, to a new and different process of philosophical integration.
-"New Englander and Yale Review," Volume 43 show more