Speculative Philosophy -- By: Robert Turnbull

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 008:29 (Jan 1851)
Article: Speculative Philosophy
Author: Robert Turnbull


Speculative Philosophy

Rev. Robert Turnbull

Few terms are more indefinite in their meaning, and more variant in their application, than that of Philosophy. Sometimes it is used as equivalent to Psychology, or the science of mind; then it is made to denote some particular branch of speculative inquiry, in the realm either of matter or of spirit. It is no uncommon thing to hear of the philosophy of life, the philosophy of health, and the philosophy of digestion! Indeed philosophies wonderfully abound in modern times, and one might suppose, from the prevalence of the term, that we live in the most philosophical era that ever dawned upon our race. We have philosophies of religion, of morals, of language, of rhetoric, of art, of history and of politics. In Germany, and to some extent in France, and in this country, the term philosophy is frequently used to designate ontology, or the science of absolute being; but the province of this science has never been exactly defined, and is to most persons, a terra incognita. Natural philosophy has a province tolerably well defined, though physical or positive science is its more common and certainly its more appropriate designation. Philosophy, properly so called, or speculative philosophy is occupied, though not exclusively, with the nature and manifestations of spirit. It transcends all physics, and is thence justly styled metaphysics.

“The first man that reflected” says Morell, “was the first speculative philosopher; — the first time that ever thought returned to inquire into itself and arrest its own trains was the commencement of intellectual philosophy; and once commenced it was inevitable that philosophy should continue as long as a problem was left in the mental or moral world to be solved. The primary efforts of reason to get at the ground principles of human knowledge, were naturally weak and imperfect; but as reflection advanced, the path became clearer,

until some individual of more than ordinary reflective power arrived, as he considered, at a solution of the main problems of human life, and sent it forth into the world. This was the first system of philosophy.” — p. 20.

But inquiry does not stop at the human mind; all things both in the realm of matter and of spirit have their causes; and hence philosophy has been viewed by some as “that which is to explain the principles and causes of all things.” Hence we may have a philosophy of all possible matters in heaven above and in earth below. Speculative philosophy may be made to cover the entire ground of human knowledge, and include both psychology and ontology. It may constitute at once the science of man and the science of God, in other words it may cover the whole ...

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