Main currents of modern thought - by Rudolf Eucken - PDF (1912)

Main currents of modern thought: a study of the spiritual and intellectual movements of the present day

Main currents of modern thought
Main currents of modern thought

The present work is a translation of the 4th edition of the Geistige Stromungen der Gegenwart (Veit & Co., 1909). I have endeavoured throughout to render the sense of the original in the simplest English I could command, but I have not attempted to secure exact literal accuracy. Considerable care has been taken to bring the terminology as far as possible into line with that employed in the other English translations of Eucken's works. Eucken's earlier writings were historical, his constructive works being of comparatively recent date. 

The Main Currents of Modern Thought forms a link between the two periods; it starts from a broad historical basis and presses forward to positive construction. Here we may follow the growth of Eucken's philosophy, from its roots, lying far back in the historical work, to its full flower, as seen in the positive philosophy itself. 

While the Jena professor's other recent works concern themselves in the main with the general exposition of his convictions, the present study reveals in detail the extensive groundwork upon which these convictions have been built up, and in particular, it illustrates the various steps by which the author has been led to adopt the concept of the spiritual life as the basis of his whole philosophy. Eucken's method is one of elimination.

 One by one he examines the various attempts at a synthesis of life with which the thought of the day provides us. One by one they are found to be incomplete or to be involved in inner contradictions, while in each case it is seen that recognition of an independent spiritual life would remedy the incompleteness or remove the contradiction.

 Far from being a mere assumption certainly be supposed by those who are suspicious of the term "spiritual"), the spiritual life is thus seen to be nothing less than a necessity. Through its recognition alone can we explain the known content of the universe. For those who are commencing a study of Euckeu's thought a few words with regard to the exact meaning of the concept " spiritual life "may not be out of place. As this concept is the key to Eucken's whole philosophy, it is of the utmost importance that it should be clearly understood. 

The matter is perhaps best approached through a consideration of the most popular philosophy of the present day, namely, that general view of life which (whether it be called agnosticism, positivism, empiricism, materialism, or naturalism) declares that we know only that which is revealed to us through the senses, that man is not essentially anything more than a higher animal, and that there is no spirit (man's entire psychic life being regarded as no more than a mere product of natural forces); the higher is thus made entirely dependent upon the lower. 

Far different is the aspect of affairs when looked at from Eucken's point of view: the living spirit (or the spiritual life) now stands at the very centre of the universe, and is itself the most central and positive reality of which humanity can have any knowledge: " a spiritual life transcending all human life forms the ultimate basis of reality."

 This life is more primary than matter itself (the concept of matter being, in reality, one of the vaguest and most uncertain in the whole realm of thought). The recognition of an independent spiritual life is the first step towards all further knowledge and the first necessity of any adequate view of life as a whole. The spiritual life is not derived from any natural basis. It is not a product of evolution. It is superior to all time and to all change: " change (and with it evolution) is absolutely out of the question as far as the substance of spiritual life is concerned."

 It is entirely distinct from the whole realm of natural phenomena, and, as Eucken himself says, in spiritual life, we have to do " with something essentially different from any process following natural laws." The spiritual life works within the natural sphere, but it works as an independent reality; it is itself superior to the whole mechanism of nature.
 This life must be conceived of as something quite distinct from the human intellect and from every kind of merely human psychic life. 

The spiritual life is itself the foundation of truth and knowledge. It is cosmic, absolute and eternal. It will at once be asked If the spiritual life be thus independent and absolute, how can a man have any part in it, how can it affect him? Why, in short, should we bother about it at all? In reply to this Eucken would maintain that man's relationship to the spiritual life is the most immediate and vital of all human interests, for this life is itself the very centre of man's own beings. 

The spiritual life does not depend upon man, but man depends upon the spiritual life. In an external sense, a man may be natural, but in an internal sense he is spiritual, he belongs to the spiritual reality which is behind the whole universe.

 It is the spiritual life within him that distinguishes man from the animals and forms the root of his unique unifying capacity, as well as of his ethical and religious nature. Spiritual reality thus works within man, but it is not of man. Man attains to his spiritual self by rising above his human self; and only by thus rising does he become independent, for the merely human self is involved in a network of natural processes from which the spiritual life alone is free. 

The spiritual life is " a cosmic force operative in man "; here man finds a strength greater than his own. The ethical value of Eucken's philosophy lies in its recognition of a spiritual world of cosmic power and absolute and eternal values, a world set above the relativity of human affairs and yet present to man as an ethical imperative. Nor is the ethical point of view lightly to be ignored. A satisfactory philosophy of life must make room for man's ethical nature; as Balfour says (The Foundations of Belief, p. 856) : "

No unification of beliefs can be practically adequate which does not include ethical beliefs as well as scientific ones; nor which refuses to count among ethical beliefs, not merely those which have immediate reference to moral commands, but those also which make possible moral sentiments, ideals, and aspirations, and which satisfy our ethical needs. Any system which, when worked out to its legitimate issues, fails to effect this object can afford no permanent habitation for the spirit of man."


 Translator's introductory note . ... 9
Author's preface to the English edition . . 15
Preface to the third edition 17
Preface to the fourth edition . . . .21
Introduction :
The present state of affairs and the task with which it
Presents us . . . . . . .23
A. The fundamental concept op
Spiritual life
1. Subjective objective.
(a) historical . ....... 35
(6) the nineteenth centubt . . . . .44
(c) the positive position . . . . . .53
1. Introduction . . . . . . .53
2. The fundamental concept of the spiritual life . . 57
3. The relationship between man and the spiritual life. 60
4. The results as they affect the concept of truth . . 62
2. Theoretical practical (intellectualism
(a) historical . . . . . . . .64
(6) voluntarism . . . , . .70
(c) pragmatism . . . . . . . .75
(d) our own position : activism . . . . .79
(e) intellect and intellectualism . . . . .81
1. The invasion of modern life by intellectualism . . 82
2. The life-process as the foundation of knowledge . . 85
3. The quest for truth and its motive power . . .89
4. Consequences in the sphere of knowledge . . .93
5. Consequences with regard to the history of philosophy. 96
3. Idealism realism.
(a) the terms . . . . . . . .99
(6) the conflict of practical ideals .... 101
1. Nineteenth-century realism . . . . . 103
2. The limitations of the new realism .... 105
3. Criticism of the traditional forms of idealism . . 107
4. The problem of reality . . . . . .110
5. The necessity for a new idealism .... 113

B. The problem of knowledge
1. Thought and experience (metaphysics).
(a) historical ........ 119
(6) the right op an independent philosophy . . . 129
(c) the tendency towards metaphysics .... 141
(d) the pursuit after knowledge: a general survey. 149
(e) estimation of rationalism and empiricism . . . 155
2. Mechanical organic (teleology).
(a) on the history of the terms and concepts . . 165
(6) on the history of the problem .... 169
(c) the present-day conflict ..... 182
1. The philosophical aspect of the problem . . . 182
2. The scientific aspect of the problem .... 185
3. The problem in the social sphere . . . . 189
3. Law.
(a) historical ........ 195
(b) the problem op law in the modern world . . 201

C. The world problem.
1. Monism and dualism.
(a) the concepts: historical and critical remarks . . 215
(b) the monism of to-day . . , ; . . . 230
2. Evolution.
(a) on the history of the term ..... 240
(b) on the history of the concept and problem of evolution 242
(c) the complications and limitations op the merely evolutionary doctrine . . . . . . 255
(d) the requirements of a new type of life . . . 272

D. The problems of human life.
1. Civilisation (or human culture).
(a) on the history of the term and concept . . . 281
(b) critical ........ 288
1. The nature and value of civilisation . . . .288
2. The problem of the content of civilisation . . . 291
3. The uncertainty in the relationship of man to civilisation. 294

(c) the requirements op a true civilisation. , . 298
1. The necessity of a deeper foundation . . . 298
2. The necessity of the inner development of civilisation. 802

2. History.
(a) towards the development of the problem . . . 808
(b) demands and prospects ...... 318
Appendix: the concept "Modern" .... 330

8. Society and the individual (socialism),
(a) the relationship between society and the individual. 341
1. Historical ....... 341
2. The problems of today:
A. The inadequacy of merely social civilisation . . 361
/3. The inadequacy of merely individual civilisation. 363
Y. The necessity for an inner overcoming of the antithesis 373
(6) the social-democratic movement .... 374

4. The problems of morality.
(a) the present insecure position of morality . . 385
(b) morality and metaphysics ..... 388
(c) morality and art ....... 393
1. On the history of the problem ..... 393
2. The problems of the present day :
A. Modern aestheticism ..... 400
/3. The position of art in modern life . . . 404

5. Personality and character.
(a) personality ....,,. 409
1. On the history of the term ..... 409
2. On the history of the concept ..... 412
3. Investigation of the problem ..... 414
(b) character ........ 422
1. On the history of the term and concept . . . 422
2. The present position. 425

6. The freedom of the will.
(a) introduction ....... 431
(b) remarks on the determinist position . . . 434


E. Ultimate problems.

1. The value of life.
(a) introduction: on the history of the terms . . 447
(b) the perplexities of the present situation . . . 449

, the religious problem (immanence tran-Science).
(a) on the history of the terms ..... 462
(6) the trend of the modern world towards immanence. 464
(c) the complications in the concept op immanence . . 467
(d) the revival of the religious problem . . . 469
(e) the demands made by the present position of religion. 471

Conclusion . .479
Index . 481

 book details :
  • Author: Rudolf Eucken
  • Publication date: 1912
  • Translator: MEYRICK BOOTH
  • Company: New York : Macmillan

  • Download 18 MB - PDF ebook 

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