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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"


comprehension of the intricate human, economic, and political back-
ground), the more it will help us to formulate peace aims which will
be not merely satisfying, but themselves an efficient weapon of war.
But conversely, if our philosophy is false or partial, its application will
give us incomplete or unsatisfactory peace aims, which will have a
correspondingly lower efficiency as psychological weapons.

The Western world to-day is caught in an apparent dilemma
between two conflicting modes of thought. The one thinks in terms
of absolutes—the absoluteness of truth, beauty, justice, goodness,
themselves all deriving from an Absolute of absolutes, which is God.
The natural world is complemented by the supernatural, the body by
the soul, the temporal by the eternal. This view gives an essentially
static world-picture; the flux of events is merely change, in which the
only progress is a spiritual one, toward the perfection of eternal
values. Empiricism and the experimental method are alien to it; the
absolute of Revelation and the absolute of pure Reason will between
them answer all the questions that can be answered. Man's place in
the universe is the place of an eternal soul, created by God, and work-
ing out its destiny in terms of eternal values.

The other is the scientific method. It subjects the conclusions of
reason to the arbitrament of hard fact to build an increasing body of
tested knowledge. It refuses to ask questions that cannot be answered,
and rejects such answers as cannot be provided except by Revelation.
It discovers the relatedness of all things in the universe—of the motion
of the moon to the influence of earth and sun, of the nature of the
organism to its environment, of human civilization to the conditions
under which it is made. It introduces history into everything. Stars
and scenery have their history, alike with plant species or human
institutions, and nothing is intelligible without some knowledge of its
past. As Whitehead has said, each event is the reflection or effect of
every other event, past as well as present. It rejects dualism. The
supernatural is in part the region of the natural that has not yet been
understood, in part an invention of human fantasy, in part the un-
knowable. Body and soul are not separate entities, but two aspects of
one organization, and Man is that portion of the universal world-stuff
that has evolved until it is capable of rational and purposeful values.
His place in the universe is to continue that evolution and to realize
those values.

These two ways of approaching and thinking about the universe are
irreconcilable—as irreconcilable as is magic with scientific agriculture,