Title Thumbnail

A New Era of Thought

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
There are no new truths in this book, but it consists of an effort to impress upon and bring home to the mind some of the more modern developments of thought. A few sentences of Kant, a few leading ideas of Gauss and Lobatschewski form the material out of which it is built up. It may be thought to be unduly long; but it must be remembered that in these times there is a twofold process going on—one of discovery about external nature, one of education, by which our minds are brought into harmony with that which we know. In certain respects we find ourselves brought on by the general current of ideas—we feel that matter is permanent and cannot be annihilated, and it is almost an axiom in our minds that energy is persistent, and all its transformations remains the same in amount. But there are other directions in which there is need of definite training if we are to enter into the thoughts of the time. And it seems to me that a return to Kant, the creator of modern philosophy, is the first condition. Now of Kant’s enormous work only a small part is treated here, but with the difference that should be found between the work of a master and that of a follower. Kant’s statements are taken as leading ideas, suggesting a field of work, and it is in detail and manipulation merely that there is an opportunity for workmanship. Of Kant’s work it is only his doctrine of space which is here experimented upon. With Kant the perception of things as being in space is not treated as it seems so obvious to do. We should naturally say that there is space, and there are things in it. From a comparison of those properties which are common to all things we obtain the properties of space. But Kant says that this property of being in space is not so much a quality of any definable objects, as the means by which we obtain an apprehension of definable objects—it is the condition of our mental work. Now as Kant’s doctrine is usually commented on, the negative side is brought into prominence, the positive side is neglected. It is generally said that the mind cannot perceive things in themselves, but can only apprehend them subject to space conditions. And in this way the space conditions are as it were considered somewhat in the light of hindrances, whereby we are prevented from seeing what the objects in themselves truly are. But if we take the statement simply as it is—that we apprehend by means of space—then it is equally allowable to consider our space sense as a positive means by which the mind grasps its experience. There is in so many books in which the subject is treated a certain air of despondency—as if this space apprehension were a kind of veil which shut us off from nature. But there is no need to adopt this feeling. The first postulate of this book is a full recognition of the fact, that it is by means of space that we apprehend what is. Space is the instrument of the mind. And here for the purposes of our work we can avoid all metaphysical discussion. Very often a statement which seems to be very deep and abstruse and hard to grasp, is simply the form into which deep thinkers have thrown a very simple and practical observation. And for the present let us look on Kant’s great doctrine of space from a practical point of view, and it comes to this—it is important to develop the space sense, for it is the means by which we think about real things.