From the PREFACE.
This work does not aim to say everything about theism. I have rather sought to give an outline of the essential argument which might serve as a text for teachers and as a somewhat critical survey of the subject for other readers.
Kant pointed out that the ontological argument properly proves nothing, and that the cosmological and the design argument depend on the ontological. The argument, then, is not demonstrative, and rests finally on the assumed existence of a perfect being. In a different form I have maintained the same position; but so far from concluding that theistic faith is baseless, I have sought to show that essentially the same postulate underlies our entire mental life. There is an element of faith and volition latent in all our theorizing. Where we cannot prove, we believe. Where we cannot demonstrate, we choose sides. This element of faith cannot be escaped in any field of thought, and without it the mind is helpless and dumb. Oversight of this fact has led to boundless verbal haggling and barren logic-chopping, in which it would be hard to say whether the affirmative or the negative be the more confused. Absurd demands for "proof" have been met with absurd "proofs." The argument has thus been transferred from the field of life and action, where it mainly belongs, to the arid wastes of formal logic, where it has fared scarcely better than the man who journeyed to Jericho from Jerusalem. The conclusion is that theism is "the fundamental postulate of our total life. It cannot, indeed, be demonstrated without assumption, but it cannot be denied without wrecking all our interests.
This claim has been especially emphasized in considering the bearing of theism upon the problem of knowledge. I have sought to show that our cognitive and speculative interests, as well as our moral and religious interests, are so bound up with theism as to stand or fall with it. If we say, then, that theism is strictly proved by nothing, we must also admit that it is implicit in everything. Anti-theistic schemes are generally in the instinctive stage of thought, where knowledge constitutes no problem and is taken for granted. In this stage any theory whatever may be held, however self destructive; and when its suicidal implications are pointed out, the theorist falls back on unreasoned common-sense, and repudiates, not his own theory, which is the real offender, but the critic. He sets up natural selection as *the determining principle of belief, and then repudiates the great catholic convictions of the race. He shows how the survival of the fittest must bring thought and thing into accord, and then rejects the beliefs which survive. He defines mind as an adjustment of inner relations to outer relations, and forthwith drifts off into nescience. He presents the Unknown Cause as the source of all beliefs, and then rules out most of them as invalid, and, at times, declares them all worthless. This pitiable compound of instinct and reflection, in which each destroys the other, has even been regarded as the final philosophy. Such performances are both saddening and wearisome. It seems clear that whoever will reason should regard the conditions of reason, and should not set up theories which undermine reason. But it will be a lone: step in advance when this simple principle is recognized. Meanwhile the critic must possess his tired soul in patience when he sees suicidal theories parading as science and supreme wisdom. The greater the dearth of thought, the greater the swarm of opinions....show more