Rudolph Eucken by Abel J. Jones


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Page 2

Before we proceed to outline Eucken's philosophical position, it will be
well if we can first be clear as to the special problem with which he
concerns himself. Philosophers have at some time or other considered all
the problems of heaven and earth to be within their province, especially
the difficult problems for which a simple solution is impossible. Hence
it is, perhaps, that philosophy has been in disrepute, especially in
English-speaking countries, the study of the subject has been very
largely limited to a small class of students, and the philosopher has
been regarded as a dreamy, theorising, and unpractical individual.

Many people, when they hear of Eucken, will put him out of mind as an
ordinary member of a body of cranks. From Eucken's point of view this is
the most unfortunate thing that can happen, for his message is not
directed to a limited number of advanced students of philosophy, but is
meant for all thinking members of the human race.

The problem he endeavours to solve is far from being one of mere
theoretical interest; on the contrary it has to do with matters of
immediate practical concern to the life of the individual and of the
community. To ignore him will be to fail to take account of one of the
most rousing philosophies of modern times.

The apathy that exists in regard to the subject of philosophy is not
easy to explain. It is not that philosophising is only possible to the
greatest intellects; it is indeed natural for the normal mind to do so.
In a quiet hour, when the world with its rush and din leaves us to
ourselves and the universe, we begin to ask ourselves "Why" and "How,"
and then almost unconsciously we philosophise. Nothing is more natural
to the human mind than to wonder, and to wonder is to begin to

Perhaps philosophers have been largely to blame for the indifference
shown; their terms have often been needlessly difficult, their language
obscure, and their ideas abstruse. Too often, too, their abstract
speculations have caused them to ignore or forget the actual experience
of mankind.

Those who have quarrelled with philosophy for these or other reasons
will do well to lay their prejudices aside when they start a study of
Eucken, for though he has some of the faults of his class, he has many
striking and exceptional excellences.

Philosophers in general set out to solve the riddle of the universe.
They differ in their statement of the problem, in the purpose of the
attempt, and in their methods of attempting the solution. Some will
wonder how this marvellous universe ever came into existence, and will
consider the question of the existence of things to be the problem of
philosophy. Others in observing the diversity of things in the universe
wonder what is behind it all; they seek to go beyond mere appearances,
and to investigate the nature of that behind the appearances, which they
call the reality. In their attempts to solve one or both of these
problems, thinkers are led to marvel how it is that we get to know
things at all; they are tempted to investigate the possibility of
knowledge, and are in this way side-tracked from the main problem.
Others in their investigations are struck with amazement at the
intricate organisation of the human mind; they leave the riddle of the
universe to study the processes of human thought, and examine as far as
they are able the phenomena of consciousness. Then thought itself claims
the attention of other philosophers; they seek to find what are the laws
of valid thought, what rules must be followed in order that through
reasoning we may arrive at correct conclusions. Others become attracted
to an investigation of the good in the universe, and their question
changes from "What is?" to "What ought to be?" Others interest
themselves in the problem of the beautiful, and endeavour to determine
the essence of the beautiful and of its appreciation. In this way the
subject of philosophy separates out into a number of branches. The study

of thought, Logic; of the mind processes, Psychology; of the possibility
of knowledge, the Theory of knowledge; while the deeper problems of the
existence of things, of reality and unity in the universe, are generally
included under Metaphysics.

It need hardly be pointed out that all these branches are very closely
related, and that a discussion of any one of them involves to some
extent a reference to the others. One cannot, for example, attempt to
solve the great question of reality without touching upon the
possibility of knowledge, without some reference to the processes of the
human mind, and the standards of the validity of thought, of the good,
and of the beautiful.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Tue 25th Feb 2020, 5:58