Chapter 2.
Ultimate Goods 1)


575. It is pretty generally admitted that logic is a normative science, that is to say, it not only lays down rules which ought to be, but need not be followed; but it is the analysis of the conditions of attainment of something of which purpose is an essential ingredient. It is, therefore, closely related to an art; from which, however, it differs markedly in that its primary interest lies in understanding those conditions, and only secondarily in aiding the accomplishment of the purpose. Its business is analysis, or, as some writers prefer to say, definition.

The word normative was invented in the school of Schleiermacher.2) The majority of writers who make use of it tell us that there are three normative sciences, logic, esthetics, and ethics, the doctrines of the true, the beautiful, and the good, a triad of ideals which has been recognized since antiquity. On the other hand, we quite commonly find the term »normative science« restricted to logic and ethics; and Schleiermacher himself states their purposes in a way that seems to give room for no third. The one, he says, relates to making thought conform to being, the other, to making being conform to thought. There seems to be much justice in this restriction. For that which renders logic and ethics peculiarly normative is that nothing can be either logically true or morally good without a purpose to be so. For a proposition, and especially the conclusion of an argument, which is only accidentally true is not logical. On the other hand, a thing is beautiful or ugly quite irrespective of any purpose to be so. It would seem, therefore, that esthetics is no more essentially normative than any nomological science. The science of optics, for example, might very well be regarded as the study of the conditions to be observed in making use of light. Under such a conception, nothing essential to optics would be omitted, nor anything foreign to it inserted. Those writers, however, who stand out for the trinity of normative sciences do so upon the ground that they correspond to three fundamental categories of objects of desire. As to that, the logician may be exempted from inquiring whether the beautiful is a distinct ideal or not; but he is bound to say how it may be with the true; and accordingly the intention of this chapter is to lay the foundation for the doctrine, which will appear more and more evident as we proceed, that that truth the conditions of which the logician endeavors to analyze, and which is the goal of the reasoner's aspirations, is nothing but a phase of the summum bonum which forms the subject of pure ethics, and that neither of those men can really understand himself until he perceives clearly that it is so.

576. I hope I shall not be thought to wander if I note one observation by the way, before formally settling down to the question. Were there nothing in reasoning more than the old traditional treatises set forth, then a rogue might be as good a reasoner as a man of honor; although a coward could not, even under such an idea of reasoning. But in induction a habit of probity is needed for success: a trickster is sure to play the confidence game upon himself. And in addition to probity, industry is essential. In the presumptive choice of hypotheses, still higher virtues are needed — a true elevation of soul. At the very lowest, a man must prefer the truth to his own interest and well-being and not merely to his bread and butter, and to his own vanity, too, if he is to do much in science. This will appear in the logical discussion; and it is thoroughly borne out by examining the characters of scientific men and of great heuretic students of all kinds. It is a remarkable fact that, excluding idle tales about pre-socratic philosophers, all history does not tell of a single man who has considerably increased human knowledge (unless theology be knowledge) having been proved a criminal. Of the four or five instances usually adduced, Seneca neither contributed to knowledge nor has been convicted of positive crime; Calvin was nothing but a theologian; the attacks upon Erasmus are beneath contempt; Bacon was no man of science, but only a grandiose writer, whose very style betrays him; Dr. Dodd was an ordinary commentator on the Bible; and nothing was proved against Libri. The same may be said of whispers that this or that naturalist purloined specimens in the interest of science. The lofty character of the true man of science, physical or psychical, finds not one exception among a hundred. But it is needless to go to history for cases in which relatively small obliquities have prevented eminent scientists from achieving higher successes; for they abound in the experience of everybody who knows the scientific world from within. If it were true that every fallacy were a sin, logic would be reduced to a branch of moral philosophy. This is not true. But we can perceive that good reasoning and good morals are closely allied; and I suspect that with the further development of ethics this relation will be found to be even more intimate than we can, as yet, prove it to be.

577. There is room for doubt whether ethics is correctly described as a normative branch of philosophy. The doctrine of rights and duties is practical rather than normative; and if we are to use the word philosophy, as I intend to do, for that part of science which rests upon so much of experience as presses in upon every man during every hour of his waking life, then it is plain that the doctrine of rights and duties, which makes heavy drafts upon wisdom, or the knowledge which comes by reflection upon the total experience of a lifetime, as well as upon a learned acquaintance with the structure of the society in which one lives, stretches far beyond the familiar ground of philosophy. But the doctrine of rights and duties is a mere superstructure upon ethics proper. This groundwork philosophy will never disavow; for it is her pride and boast, the one branch of her work in which during the last three centuries an indisputable, steady progress has been made, not put to shame by the achievements of the special sciences. I wish as much could be said of logic. Concerning what, then, have all those writers whose subtle and beautiful discussions have built up the science of ethics been mainly occupying themselves? Surely not casuistry, or the determination of what under given circumstances ought to or may be done. They have been largely busied with the analysis of conscience, which as a psychological problem, mainly, belongs among the special psychical sciences. But the more important subject of their deliberations has been, What is good? Now this is hardly a normative question: it is pre-normative. It does not ask for the conditions of fulfillment of a definitely accepted purpose, but asks what is to be sought, not for a reason, but back of every reason. Logic, as a true normative science, supposes the question of what is to be aimed at to be already answered before it could itself have been called into being. Pure ethics, philosophical ethics, is not normative, but pre-normative.

578. »If so, why this chapter?« I fear the reader will ask, and forthwith skip, as surplusage, the true life-germ of all the truths I have to unfold. »Never mind,« you will say, »whether the aim which logic has in view is a good one, or not; as a matter of fact, we are interested in it. It is to learn the truth: no aim could be of more elementary simplicity. Let us turn to where we are told how to come to it.« Well, if this aim is so readily comprehensible, suppose you tell me, to whom it does not seem so, what truth consists in. »Truth is the conformity of a representation to its object,« says Kant.1) One might make this statement more explicit; but for our present purpose it may pass. It is nearly correct, so far as it is intelligible. Only, what is that "object« which serves to define truth? Why it is the reality: it is of such a nature as to be independent of representations of it, so that, taking any individual sign or any individual collection of signs (such, for example, as all the ideas that ever enter into a given man's head) there is some character which that thing possesses, whether that sign or any of the signs of that collection represents the thing as possessing that character or not. Very good: now only tell me what it means to say that an object possesses a character, and I shall be satisfied. But even now, in advance of our study of definition, [we can] sufficiently see that we can only reach a conception of the less known through the more known, and that consequently the only meaning which we can attach to the phrase that a thing »has a character« is that something is true of it. So there we are, after threading the passages of this labyrinth, already thrown out at that very conception of truth at which we entered it. Indeed, when one comes to consider it, how futile it was to imagine that we were to clear up the idea of truth by the more occult idea of reality!


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