The Ethics Of Some Modern World-Theories -- By: James Lindsay

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:308 (Oct 1920)
Article: The Ethics Of Some Modern World-Theories
Author: James Lindsay

The Ethics Of Some Modern World-Theories

James Lindsay

In the History of Philosophy, world-theories may, on a broad view, be resolved into two main types, namely, Idealism and Materialism. Idealism takes a twofold direction, Theism and Pantheism. Theism is properly a form of religious philosophy, not of theology. The original opposition between theism and pantheism, however, was on religious rather than on philosophical grounds. Materialism has assumed a threefold form: that in which the psychic is something physical — the spiritual is a stuff; that in which the psychic is a product or effect of moved matter; and that in which the psychic is an accompaniment of physical processes, and here the materialistic trend is not so pronounced. It is, however, no part of my present purpose to pursue the classification of world-theories, but merely to select some of these, which have proved of great interest to the thought of our time, for consideration on their ethical sides or aspects.

There is the best-possible world-theory of Leibniz. Leibniz admitted his system to be a “mingle-mangle” of Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, and the Scholastics. But Hi is does not mean a mechanical laying down of the Ideas of his precursors, since they are organically bound in his thought with one another. He was the renewer of the vitalistic-teleological mode of thought. Men’s perfections he derived (in his “Monadology “) from God; their imperfections he ascribes to their own imperfect nature. To the imperfection inherent in finite things, not to Divine Will, he attributes (in his “Theodicy”) the evil in the world. But he would commit philosophical theism to a strange position, when he is prepared to deny that the world would have been a better one without sin and without suffering. There has been, to his p reestablished har-

mony, divine foresight and regulation of all things beforehand; everything is necessary, nothing can be changed; if the least evil in the world were wanting, it would not be this world; besides, an evil often causes a good. An optimism absurdly frigid and fatalistic, it must be said, for if the world is already the best possible, ethical incentives to hope are not in that case much in evidence. The ethical task, in his view, was the perfection of human spirits, which must be freed always more of their finite relations. For the source of error, and with that of moral evil, lies in their limitation and finitude. The more comprehensive and free their development away from limited knowledge, the greater their approach to an harmonious world-view. The unethical is, with him, too much the result of mere error and confused ideas; and the ethical is too much in need of harmonization with the metaphysically necess...

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