Happy Father's Day? Celebrate the Life of Your Dad

How can you be happy on Father's day when your dad just passed away a few weeks before?

I guess you celebrate his life and his achievements.

Here is an excerpt from the Kindle Edition which I published in honor of Zev Zahavy's recent sheloshim, thirty days after his passing. This book was originally published by my dad in 1978.

Whence and Wherefore by Zev Zahavy
The Cosmological Destiny of Man Scientifically and Philosophically Considered. An Analysis Relating to "In the Centre of Immensities" by Sir Bernard Lovell



One wonders how many of the distinguished scholars who listened to the significant presidential address delivered by Sir Bernard Lovell on that singular summer day in August 1975 recognized immediately its extensive ramifications. The subject of the paper at the time of its presentation was pointedly designated, “In the Centre of Immensities.” Its title relates to the classic work Sartor Resartus, by Thomas Carlyle, which first appeared in Fraser’s Magazine in 1833-34, at about the time when England’s leading men of science were advancing the cause of their newly formed organization, the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Among others, Carlyle boldly addressed science and expressed his concern for man’s basic existentialist identity and destiny. He was prompted by a desire to develop meaningful relationships between man and the mysterious universe of extensive expanse.
It is my estimation that the purposeful selection of a quotation from Carlyle before a body representing the distinguished scientific establishment conveys more than merely a setting for cosmological analysis. I believe that it contains a hint of majestic proportions insofar as amending the current materialistic outlook and philosophy of science. It points the way for the assumption of a new posture by men of science in their encounter with problems of existentialist overtones, and this is somewhat implied by placing before them for serious consideration, Carlyle’s inquiry, wherein he says of man, “Stands he not thereby in the centre of Immensities, in the conflux of Eternities?”
The New York Times deserves a measure of credit for exhibiting an alertness to the full significance of Professor Lovell’s presentation. It was published with some slight revisions as the lead cover-article in the Sunday magazine section on November 16, 1975, where it was endowed with the simple, but extremely provocative title, “Whence,” to which was further appended a rather enigmatic, philosophical subtitle, “We Are What We Know About Where We Came From.”
Quite appropriately, then, “Whence” may portray a milestone in the maturing of modern scientific thought. The essence of “Whence” signals to the contemporary scientist the explicit fact that other questions besides the normal “how” of the laboratory should come to the awareness of the researching mind. Perhaps this may come as a surprise to the current scientific generation, who, for the most part, are steeped in a materialistic attitude toward life and toward the tasks in their demanding discipline. Most of them, since their early freshman years, were indoctrinated with a scientific spirit that stressed the virtue of committing all investigations to the arena of “how.” Now, thanks to the courage of a leading scientist in the British Association, the staid rank and file are suddenly confronted with the challenge “whence.”

At first glance it may seem that the question “whence” may ruffle the traditional tranquility of the heretofore impregnable laboratory fortress of science and disturb its tidy security. After all, the query is a cardinal interpolation and points to an ultimate origin of some sort. “Whence” suggests the need to explore a philosophical abode where abstract concepts prevail. It anticipates the need to consider the broad domain of idealism. Science, however, is committed mainly to research in the world of concrete substance, and indeed the physical cosmos is now envisaged as extending into the remote areas of the atom’s invisible nucleus as well as unto the farout reaches of space. Does “whence” imply that the candid scientist in the coming space age must inevitably turn his sights in the direction of the divine domain?
Let us further consider the implications of Professor Lovell’s reference to an essential motif in Sartor Resartus. It is possible to discern in Carlyle’s work additional parallels that are quite relevant to our contemporary turbulent era of advanced technology. Some of the problems viewed by Carlyle in his generation may currently apply to our own day and age, as well. Behind a facade of amusing satire and frivolity, Sartor Resartus enunciates some very earnest and prudent thoughts.
For example, Carlyle was moved to produce his masterful work as an expression of disdain for the extensive materialistic outlook of his generation. Like the prophet of old, he ranted against the spiritual deficiencies of his age. The book’s title is commonly translated “Tailor Retailored,” and the philosophical influence of German spiritual idealism is strongly evident.
According to Carlyle, civilization is a tired robe enveloping the essential. world soul. Since appearances are deceiving, physical Identities can hardly claim reality. The most important aspect of life is the divine principle, but it is concealed by the extensive garment of nature. While the godless ones experience negative points in a life bereft of spiritual values, the Godly ones endeavor to retrieve valid meaning from life’s depths through dedication and spiritual heroism.
Life is woven with tragic elements such as the finitude of worldly dimensions dominated by time and space. Nature’s garments symbolically conceal from man the true essence and meaning of the universe. God’s divine spirit is hidden behind the .splendorous vesture of creation. Contrary to popular belief, which sets happiness as the ultimate goal III life, Carlyle suggests that communion with God is a greater achievement. Life’s enigmas are not readily discerned, nor can life’s rewards be easily attained.
In reference to the science of his day, Carlyle notes that It had hardly penetrated the shrouded spiritual mysteries concealed behind the outer vestment of nature. Carlyle abhors the condition of man enslaved to custom. The seeker of truth must wage relentless battle against the futile elements of custom. Science, however, is enamored with custom, and in dogmatic fashion, it helps to maintain human bondage.
Sartor Resartus reflects Carlyle’s own spiritual struggles to set a meaningful course in life. In some respects, his work evokes an existentialist mood. Carlyle rejects the assumption of a negative attitude toward life, since it would eradicate God and foster a hopeless existence. Instead, he announces his faith in God, and he endorses the possibility of reaching divinity through hard labor and courage.
If we may assume that Professor Lovell’s citation from Carlyle is indicative of a sympathy toward its broader, general implications, then we are presented with a statement of far-reaching proportions. Let us examine at further length the text of the selected quotation. The passages appear in chapter ten of Sartor Resartus, which is endowed with the title “Pure Reason.” This calls to mind Kant, who was one of the foremost discoursers on pure reason.
The paragraph containing the quotation commences in the following manner: “To the eye of vulgar Logic ... what is man? An omnivorous Biped that wears Breeches.” The famed exponent of logic is Aristotle. Carlyle here indicates a none-too-great affection for that peripatetic philosopher. Carlyle returns to the Platonic theme of his literary symphony, and continues his exposition with evident warmth.
To the eye of Pure Reason what is he? A Soul, a Spirit, and divine Apparition. Round his mysterious ME, there lies, under all those wool rags, a Garment of Flesh (or of Senses), contextured in the Loom of Heaven; whereby he is revealed to his like, and dwells with them in Union and Division; and sees and fashions for himself a Universe, with azure Starry Spaces, and long Thousands of Years. Deep-hidden is he under that strange Garment; amid Sounds and Colours and Forms, as it were, swathed-in, and inextricably over-shrouded: yet it is sky-woven and worthy of a God. Stands he not thereby in the centre of Immensities, in the conflux of Eternities? He feels; power has been given him to know, to believe; nay does not the spirit of Love, free in its celestial primeval brightness, even here, though but for moments look through? Well said Saint Chrysostom, with his lips of gold, “the true SHEKINAH is Man”: where else is the GOD’S-PRESENCE manifested not to our eyes only, but to our hearts, as in our fellow-man?
The strains of idealism continue to flow from the philosopher’s pen with delicate charm:
In such passages, unhappily too rare, the high Platonic Mysticism of our Author, which is perhaps the fundamental element of his nature, bursts forth, as it were, in full flood: and, through all the vapour and tarnish of what is often so perverse, so mean in his exterior and environment, we seem to look into a whole inward Sea of Light and Love; –though, alas, the grim coppery clouds soon roll together again, and hide it from view.
Carlyle invokes a thoughtful mood of theistic idealism, which suggests the revelation of the Divine Presence, the Shekinah, so to speak, through an awareness of ego noesis; and a brief glimpse of the Divine Personality through the appearance of natural law from whence emanates the vibrations of dynamic moral norms. We shall discuss such concepts more fully in a later chapter. At the moment, let us briefly examine some aspects of idealism and materialism that prominently relate to the contemporary scene.
There are some who submit that basically philosophy is comprised of two principle systems: idealism and materialism. Idealism sponsors the view that mind or spirit is primary in the universe. Materialism proposes that matter is primary in the universe. More specifically, idealism looks beyond that which appears to common sense experience in search of an ultimate nonphysical abstract reality. It considers the concepts and values consequently emerging from such an exploration as the fundamental mainstay of the cosmos. Materialism, on the other hand, regards all such emergent notions as items readily reducible to material things and processes.
Idealism embraces a number of subordinate doctrines such as subjective idealism, objective idealism, and to some extent, pantheism. The latter would come under this heading by virtue of its opinion that only God, including His attributes, alone exists. For the pantheist, the material world is either an aspect of God, or the entire appearance of God. As an aspect of God, some elements of idealism may be professed; however, if the universe is considered to embrace the entire appearance of God, then such a pantheistic notion could better serve the interests of the materialist. In all, idealism entails a divergent spectrum of classifications ranging from Platonism and panpsychism to personalism and absolutism. Our interest in the term refers to a thesis common to all elements of Idealism. Perhaps we may offer as its identification the term “theistic idealism.” In contrast, when we speak of materialism, we refer to what could be called “atheistic materialism.”
The idealists reflect an essential aspect of Platonism by regarding ideas and ideals as prior to and fundamental for material construction. At the other pole, materialists consider ideas as a derivative of matter and of secondary significance, much as did Democritus, Empedocles, and Lucretius. An important point in absolute Idealism is the emphasis upon relating the identity of reality with the Absolute.
It is tempting to depict the fluctuations in human intellectual history on a simplified scale, with a pendulum swinging between two integral doctrines. If one yield: to such a description of intellectual variations, the two basic extremes deserving to be so cited are idealism and materialism. Generally speaking, then, the main contours of western social and intellectual expression could be depicted as inclining toward either idealism or materialism. The type of idealism or the cast of materialism a generation chooses to reflect can be expected to influence the popular mores and social behavior of its society. For this reason, the promotion of theistic idealism could have far-reaching beneficial effects, since it subscribes not only to God, but also to a high moral code considered to be of divine essence.
Theistic idealism exalts God as the creator of a universe beyond or outside of His own being. Although the material world is dependent on God, it is not an aspect or appearance of God. Beneath the banner of theistic idealism a metaphysic becomes possible that may favorably synthesize religious doctrine and belief in accord with its principles. Theistic idealism upholds God as the fundamental, perfect creator of the universe. Theistic idealism does not necessarily dismiss the physical cosmos as an illusion of the mind. It does regard the material world as conforming to laws and formulae that preceded all existence.
Idealism traces its roots back to Plato, whose “Doctrine of Ideas” exalted the Idea or Form as being more real than its actual material counterpart. The Idea described a universal as permanent in contrast to its particular, temporal counterpart. When the particular conforms to the universal, it can only approximate the perfection of its formula, blueprint, or design. That which is real for Plato must be eternal, indestructible, and intangible. The abstract idea, as apprehended by the intellect, fulfills these requirements. Medieval philosophers established the Ideas as paradigms for divine creation, and they therefore were considered to exist in the divine intellect.
The being of all data that is experienced by the senses is only transitory in its nature. Perceived matter is temporal, variable, subject to the vagaries of time and tide, and therefore impossible to identify at any given moment as the permanent embodiment of its species or class. The Real, on the other hand, exhibits an indubitable permanence, because it serves as the law to which matter is committed. Such law is enduring and immutable. It is beyond the tangible reach of the senses. The Idea as the Real is uniquely self-subsistent; it is dependent neither upon the mind nor upon the material world for its existence.
First there was the Idea or Form, then there followed the implementation of the Idea through the appearance of matter. The objective of matter was to subscribe to the law, the formula, or the equation to which it was committed. Matter itself could not compose its own paradigm, nor could it propose its own Idea. The pre-existent idea determined the manner of particle composition and behavior. Even the erratic quantum qualities act in accordance with their pre-existent Idea, which endorses their erratic motion.
But, from whence came the Ideas themselves? Their source derived from what Plato identified as the “Good.” Perhaps an acceptable explanation of this concept would simply be God.
When Carlyle espoused the spirit of Platonism in line with German idealism, he was inspired by the recognition of a universal as the supreme entity in the cosmos. The idealist notes that matter itself is committed to an ideal, namely its Idea or Formula. For the materialist, matter is responsible to nought but itself. In a civilization inspired by idealism, man recognizes the supremacy of a higher authority. In a self-serving, materialistic society, man assumes that he is only responsible to himself.
The grand tradition of idealism occupies a distinguished chapter in the history of British thought. George Berkeley (1685-1753) developed what he termed “immaterialism” in an age of English empiricism, when the doctrines of the determined materialist, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the empirical dualist, John Locke (1632-1704), and the empirical skeptic, David Hume (1711-76), were competing for the favor of British acceptance. Berkeley considered that man can only know his own ideas. He upheld the concept that all we know are sensations and ideas, and considered a proof for the existence of outer material substance as unlikely. The world of ideas was paramount, and he conceived two varieties, namely: ideas within the mind wholly; ideas that come to us from without, we know not whence-sensations. Since there are no material substances, the cause must be incorporeal. We assume that our ideas belong to our spirits, so these outer ideas are similarly in the custody of a “spirit,” who is better identified as God.
In Germany, idealism blossomed along several hues. Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), a rational idealist, sponsored a metaphysical idealism, contending that reality consists of monads that affect each other. He proposed a series of realms of being. God is the supreme, uncreated spiritual source. Created substances are immaterial, and the self-conscious members are formed in God’s image.
The towering figure of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) arises in the age of Enlightenment. It was a period that glorified knowledge, extolled the sciences and the arts, and encouraged civilization and progress. The Enlightenment in England was somewhat slower in its development and not as radical. Nevertheless, the English influence is strongly apparent, with the ideas of Locke practically formulating the whole spirit of the Enlightenment. Generally speaking, the Enlightenment developed the scientific view of the material world, and absolutized scientific knowledge.
Often overlooked is the English influence on the development of German idealism. Toward the middle of the eighteenth century English thought was transmitted for German study through the translations of Locke, Hume, and the English moralists, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Ferguson. Consequently, German philosophy assumed an eclectic disposition, with emphasis on the rational, teleological aspects of the universe and mankind’s history. Reason was applied to remove the blemish of popular superstition. A rational theology developed, emphasizing nature, so that when Kant brought forth his transcendental idealism, he reflected the spirit of the times.
Kant was intrigued with English empiricism, and it motivated his own philosophical thinking toward the contemporary issues of his age. His purpose was to diminish the skepticism of Hume and to eradicate the specter of materialism, fatalism, and atheism. Kant’s philosophy is enormously complex, so that we shall suffice by mentioning only a few of its highlights. Hume’s skepticism moved Kant to distrust physical science as a total explanation of knowledge. Kant adopted a Neoplatonic position insofar as conceiving a suprarational self through which an ethical motif may gain ascendency. He regarded knowledge as universal and necessary. In his analysis of pure reason, he concluded that the will and not reason is decisive in determining things. Practical reason is superior to theoretical reason. Religion within the bounds of reason is exemplified in a high morality. The moral law is a categorical imperative.
The spirit of absolute idealism is reflected in the writings of Johann Fichte (1762-1814), Friedrich von Schelling (1775-1854), and Georg Hegel (1770-1831). The problem for these post-Kantian idealists was the search for a common denominator for the purpose of unifying the systems of knowledge embracing nature, science, morals, and aesthetics. It was desirable to solidify the various tendencies into a systematic form.
Kant had left a lasting impression on his successors. In his opposition to the naturalistic world view ,with its mechanism, atheism, and hedonism, Kant limited natural science to the field of phenomena. There was, he concluded, a higher type of truth than that offered by scientific facts. What Kant called das Ding an sich, “the thing-in-itself” or noumenon, remains beyond the reach of sensual identification. As an abstraction, it becomes a necessary idea of reason, and a regulative principle desiring a unification of the soul, the world, and God. Within man, the cognizance of moral rectitude implies the existence of a supersensible world, and this is closed to the physical methods of research. This moral law is Kant’s categorical imperative. The mind possesses concepts and presuppositions that are useful in assessing the world. It is not a question of reflecting upon cosmic phenomena, but endeavoring to understand and interpret them. Man’s concepts provide him with the tools for interpreting, by applying the principle of synthesizing.
Kant’s philosophy found favor in the eyes of the new generation. By minimizing its claims to knowledge, it offered an opportunity for turning from the natural sciences as the predominant influence in life. Along these lines, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel commenced their inquiries with the intelligible world, or freedom, emanating from the moral law. The ideal or supersensible world, the world of the mind or spirit, was installed as the real world. All knowledge and experience was considered to flow from self-determining spiritual expression, and with it the attempt to solve humanity’s problems became more conceivable.
Mention should be made of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), who was a distinguished theologian and an essential spokesman of the German idealistic movement. He sought a concept of reality that would be acceptable to both the intellect and the feelings. Schleiermacher turned away from Fichte’s view that considered the Ego as the source of all reality. Instead, he assumed the existence of a real world, and he inferred a transcendent basis for all thought and being. Since our perceptions are not equipped to gain sufficient knowledge concerning the original source of things, it is necessary to seek the absolute principle, and know the identity of thought and being. God is this principle. He is the absolute unity or identity of thought and being. Schleiermacher endeavors to harmonize elements of pantheism with dualism by identifying God and the world as a unity. Although God and the universe are inseparable, things and the world have a relative independence. God is a spaceless, timeless unity. The world is a spatial-temporal plurality.
The preceding constitutes the basic concepts of German idealism that Thomas Carlyle helped to introduce upon English soil. He was ably joined in this project by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and John Ruskin. It is strange that these four personalities are popularly known for their literary contributions, but hardly at all recognized for their philosophical pursuits. Chiefly representative of a subsequent school of English idealism are Thomas Hill Green, Bernard Bosanquet, and F. H. Bradley, along with Edward Caird, John Caird, and James Ward.
Thomas Hill Green (1836-82) sponsored an objective idealism that sought to supplement natural science with a spiritual metaphysic. Utilizing Kant’s criticism, he turned upon the popularly viewed concepts of empiricism and utilitarianism. Specifically, he attacked the empiricism of Hume, the hedonism of Mill, and the evolution of Spencer; and he adduced as a common major failure their assumption that phenomenon is a product of itself. Although man is a biological phenomenon, he also possesses spiritual qualities, and it is the spiritual principle in man that makes knowledge possible and morality meaningful. It is not possible to derive a purposeful knowledge of nature without a unifying spiritual principle. The intelligence of man makes it desirable for him to transcend nature. Man may apply his will toward realizing the idea of the self.
Bosanquet’s idealism stressed the point that every aspect of finite existence must transcend itself. Through such a process, it becomes possible to turn to other existences. Subsequently, the existing particular may confront the whole. This concept reflected the general principle, which gained wide popularity in the early twentieth century, that philosophical truth was an all-embracing unity.
Francis Herbert Bradley (1846-1924) took up the cudgels of Green in his battle against empirical and utilitarian assumptions. In line with the German idealists, Bradley upheld the importance of metaphysics in the search for truth. His conclusions followed the patterns of Hegel and Kant. Man is impelled to reflect upon ultimate truth, and his knowledge of the Absolute is certain; however, it is also incomplete. The ultimate reality is a self-consistent whole embracing all differences in an inclusive harmony.
Once more returning to Bernard Bosanquet (1848-1923), who influenced Bradley and was influenced by him, we note that he disagreed with the latter on several points. Bosanquet stressed the adequacy of thought as a means for reconciling immediacy and logic. He also identified a concrete individual or whole in higher synthetic experiences, and he further conceived the existence of a collective will.
Green, Bradley, and Bosanquet, as the foremost spokesmen of objective idealism, sounded a call for universal harmony, wherein the organization of experience could be welded into a living totality and systematic whole, thereby healing all conflicts, unifying all differences, and harmonizing all discords.
Having cursorily identified the allied forces of idealism, let us pause momentarily to glimpse some of the notions expounded by the proponents of materialism. The materialists assert that the essence of the real world is limited to the material elements therein, as they appear in various states and relationships unto each other. In their view, only matter exists. The mind or spirit is dependent upon reality for its operation and function. Since matter is the subject of science, the many states of matter become the object of scientific inquiry and evaluation. The mind and all ideas are subject to matter. Conscious perception and all of the uniquely human functions, such as emotion, ambition, and desire, are excluded from the serious concern of the materialist, since they do not appear to be properties of matter. Matter has no psychological backbone, and neither souls, nor spirits, nor gods exist, since they are conceived as divorced of matter. Everything that appears or occurs in the universe is the consequence of some antecedent physical condition.
In this respect, the proponents of materialism turn out to be the staunchest supporters of a determinist doctrine, yet recently, some materialists have turned away from determinism, particularly in consideration of the enigmatic quantum behavior. Science, however, is largely favorably disposed toward a materialistic doctrine, because most of its analysis involves matter, and its basic methodology relates to applicable physical situations. Materialists consider that their views serve science best, and to reinforce their assumptions, they point to the progress science has made in explaining the physical nature of the world through a program of investigation based upon materialistic principles.
The ancient forerunners of materialism were the Greek thinkers Democritus, Empedocles, and Epicurus. Generally speaking, the materialistic position described above well reflected their views. The famous Roman Lucretius was motivated along similar lines of materialism when he wrote his well-known piece De Rerum Natura. During the period dominated by Aristotelianism and the Church, the voice of materialism remained at low ebb. With the coming of the Renaissance its theme was renewed. Thomas Hobbes appeared as its most vociferous patron. Quite simply stated, Hobbes advocated the notions that the mind is a brain substance; images and ideas are motions in the brain; and the whole universe is particles of matter in motion. He further postulated that incorporeal substances cannot exist, and he rejected angels, the soul, and religion’s God.
We may also take note of an interesting materialist and a contemporary of Hobbes who sought to harmonize Epicureanism and Christianity. Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) subscribed to a materialist interpretation of the universe by upholding the supremacy of matter in the whole physical realm. Yet, he conceived God as the creator and director of the cosmos, and he permitted man an immortal intellect apart from his corporeal soul.
The advancements made in science, especially in chemistry and biochemistry during the early nineteenth century, resulted in an increased support for materialism. A compelling impetus on its behalf was the appearance of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, and his Descent of Man in 1871. Materialism welcomed the sanction of one of Darwin’s tenets that survival of the fittest was an impersonal trait of nature, beyond the reach of any immanent power, and bereft of any transcendent purpose. It was further strengthened by Darwin’s assessment that man was nothing more than a biological entity at the end of a meaningless physical chain. From that point onward, the swift advance of materialism could not be curbed. Contemporary materialism holds sway in all walks of life, on all levels of existence, and dominates the academic and cultural environment of the human family. Whether it be in the sphere of science or philosophy, psychology or technology, materialism reigns supreme.
It is no little wonder, then, that a pro-idealist quotation emanating from a prominent scientist in the late twentieth century should command widespread interest and attention. Sir Bernard Lovell assumes a courageous position of leadership in what may yet develop into a resurgence of space-age idealism on all fronts of human endeavor. It is not easy to be a pioneer or forerunner in modern society. The strong British materialistic tradition of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is sustained by the influential power of Locke and Hume; the psychological-epistemological theories of the British School; Bentham’s Utilitarianism· and Comte’s Positivism. Add to these forces Mills’s skeptical empiricism; Darwin’s theories; Spencer’s cosmic evolution; Haeckel’s monistic philosophy of nature; and Ernst Mach’s new positivism, and one is exposed to a formidable array of anti-idealistic sapience. For over a period of almost two centuries science has been mainly committed to a mainstream of atheistic materialism, and the ethics that such a viewpoint could tolerate for society may dismally reflect, as Spencer taught, a hedonistic and base utilitarianism.
It is therefore important to gather together like-minded parties to support and further endorse the view that Professor Lovell has boldly brought to the attention of the British Association and the world at large. If we interpret Professor Lovell’s presidential address correctly, he is pointing to the timely need for a neoteric transfer from the heretofore rigid scientific commitment to atheistic materialism unto a more flexible position that could tolerate the basic principles of theistic idealism. If this be indeed the case, then “Whence” assumes the stellar quality of a historic declaration. It calls for the sighting of new directions by the scientific establishment; for a progressive, new era in its scope of purpose; and an upward adjustment of its attitude in regards to the ultimate destiny of man in his universe. An invitation to scientists to consider the significant rewards that may accrue by seeking new corridors of thought in theistic idealism is surely a momentous event at this critical point in human history.
Professor Lovell should take heart in pursuing such a course, because he reflects the grand philosophical tradition of British idealism. Indeed, he travels in the highly respectable company of such distinguished scholars as George Berkeley, Arthur Collier, Thomas Hill Green, F. H. Bradley, and Bernard Bosanquet. Of course, we must not overlook the fact that he treads a path that was once heroically outlined by the fearless pen of a Thomas Carlyle.
If the full message of Carlyle’s classic work is not only implied, but moreso, conscientiously taken to heart, then possibly the time may be near at hand when bold scientists will express a desire to penetrate beyond the substantial veil of nature’s physical formulae, to seek truths of nobler existentialist significance. Perhaps, like Carlyle, the scientist may now be prepared to escape from the custom of a bland servitude to a rigorous materialism, and soar unto the ethereal heights of idealism in search of more meaningful explanations for the existence of the universe, its generation of organic life, and its gifted intellectual product, man.
But, what is the consequence to scientific thought if such a search leads to God? Must then the scientist, who has been bound by custom to an iron-clad atheistic materialism, hang his head in embarrassment, and burrow his way back to the world of physical “garments” and laws, where he has permitted a widespread agnosticism to prevail, and from that nether point of concealment deny that God exists? Or is it possible that, out of the depths of despair to which civilization has fallen, the need for hope and promise becomes an existentialist imperative, so that it may even behoove the modern scientist, as Carlyle was so moved, to endorse the possibility of reaching divinity through hard labor and courage?
These and other enquiries which we postulate in the following folios come to mind hard on the heels of the courageous question “whence,” which seems to suggest the need for a new type of idealism to which modern man may become committed. While Professor Lovell may harbor some sympathy for the high-minded principles of traditional English idealism, he does not seem to find any of its particular representations as potentially applicable to current situations. Perhaps the classical spirit of philosophical idealism and realism sufficed for a preatomic civilization; something more appealing may be needed for the perplexed generations of a coming space age, as Professor Lovell states, “Today we cannot evade this deepest problem of our existence by an escape into philosophical idealism or realism.” (Sir Bernard Lovell, Supra, p. 35.) If the old idealism and realism are insufficiently endowed to service a modern society, what other intellectual direction appears as an alternative? Considering that certain elements of idealism are desirable and useful, can they be updated and wedded to a meaningful existentialist accommodation? Does an existentialist idealism offer a vision of promise for the future? Let us consider this in the ensuing chapters.

No comments: