Reason and Goodness by Brand Blanshard

By Brand Blanshard

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Sample text

It would not seem so at first sight. An enormous range of experience would apparently be left us-the whole range of science, the whole of history, the dispassionate contemplation of the philosopher, and such part-not great, perhaps-of the life of action as could be carried on by knowledge and will without feeling. Much of our social life we should have, indeed, to forgo; and we should have to do without art, since such experiences as poetry, music, and the enjoyment of painting would be closed to a mind incapable of feeling.

Is it not itself a part of nature? And may we not suppose that there is a wider, though still purposive, order that embraces not only human experience but the whole of nature in one system, and that the end of our own life is to be truly seen only as a fragment of this over-all design? With whatever justification, this was what Plato thought. He thought that if we appealed from the statesman to the philosopher, we should learn that the world itself was an intelligible system, in which everything had its appointed part.

Similarly of all other genuine art. But then a suspicion arises. Would anything have value for us if we were incapable of feeling about it? We have suggested that for a feelingless man the realm of knowledge would in theory still be open. But would it? The people who sit over their microscopes for hours daily, watching the performance of paramoecia, are fascinated by what they see; whatever it may be to us, the behaviour of unicellular organisms is for them interesting and even exciting. But suppose they had absolutely no feeling about it, one way or the other, would they ever be moved to study it, or attach any value to knowledge of it?

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