See also:CHARLOTTE Rfjul (1857- the emphasis upon the
See also:object of knowledge, " I know this ," we have the other sense of absoluteness of knowledge: it is an assertion that the knower knows the " this," whatever it may be, in its .essence or as it truly is in itself . The phrase " relativity of knowledge " has therefore two meanings: (a) that no portion of knowledge is absolute, but is always affected by its relations to other portions of knowledge; (b) that what we know are not absolute things in themselves, but things conditioned in their quality by our channels of knowledge . Each of these two propositions must command assent as soon as uncritical
See also:ignorance gives place to philosophic reflection; but each may be exaggerated, indeed has currently been exaggerated, into falsity . The simplest experience—a single note struck upon the piano—would not be what it is to us but for its relation by contrast or comparison with other experiences . This is true; but we may easily exaggerate it into a falsehood by saying that a piece of experience is entirely constituted by its relation to other experiences . Such an extreme relativity, as advocated by T . H .
See also:Green in the first
See also:chapter of his Prolegomena to Ethics, involves the absurdity that our whole experience is a tissue of relations with no points of
See also:attachment on which the relations depend . The only
See also:motive for advocating it is the
See also:prejudice of absolute
See also:idealism which would deny that sensation has any
See also:part whatever in the constitution of experience . As soon as we recognize the part of sensation, we have no reason to deny the
See also:common-sense position that each piece of experience has its own quality, which is modified indefinitely by the relations in which it stands . The second sense of relativity, that which asserts the impossibility of knowing things except as conditioned by our perceptive faculties, is more important philosophically and has had a more interesting
See also:history . To apprehend it is really the first
See also:great step in philosophical
See also:education .
See also:person assumes that a
See also:tree as he
See also:sees it is identical with the tree as it is in itself and as it is for other percipient minds . Reflection ;shows that our apprehension of the tree is conditioned by the .sense-
See also:organs with which we have been endowed, and that the apprehension of a
See also:blind man, and still more the apprehension of a
See also:dog or
See also:horse, is quite different from ours . What the tree is in itself—that is, for a perfect intelligence—we cannot know, any more than a dog or horse can know what the tree is for a human intelligence . So far the relativist is on sure ground; but from this truth is
See also:developed the paradox that the tree has no
See also:objective existence at all and consists entirely of the conscious states of the perceiver . Observe the
See also:parallelism of the two paradoxical forms of relativity: one says that things are relations with nothing that is related; the other says that things are perceptive conditions with nothing objective to which the conditions apply . Both make the given nothing and the
See also:work of the mind everything . To see the absurdity of the second paradox of relativity is easier than to refute it . If nothing exists but the conscious states of the perceiver, how does he come to think that there is an objective tree at all ? Why does he regard his conscious states as produced by an object ? And how does he come to imagine that there are other minds than his own ? In
See also:short, this kind of relativity leads straight to what is generally known as " the abyss of solipsism." But, like all the great paradoxes of philosophy, it has its value in directing our
See also:attention to a vital, yet much neglected,
See also:element of experience . We cannot avoid solipsism (q.v.) so long as we neglect the element of force or power .
If, asHegel asserted, our experience is all knowledge, and if knowledge is indefinitely transformed by the conditions of knowing, then we are tempted to regard the object as superfluous, and to treat our innate conviction that knowledge has reference to
See also:objects as a delusion which philosophical reflection is destined to dispel . The remedy for the paradox is to recognize that the foundation for our belief in the existence of objects is the force which they exercise upon us and the resistance which they offer to our will . What the tree is in regard to its specific qualities depends on what faculties we have for perceiving it . But, whatever specific qualities it may have, it will still existas an object, so long as it comes into dynamic relations with our minds . In the history of thought the relativity of knowledge as just described begins with
See also:Descartes, the founder of
See also:modern philosophy: the characteristic of modern philosophy is that it
See also:lays more stress upon the subjective than upon the objective side of experience . It is a
See also:mistake to refer it back to the Greeks . The
See also:maxim of
See also:Protagoras, for example, " Man is the measure of all things," has a different purpose; it was meant to point to the truth that man rather than nature is the
See also:primary object of human study: it is a
See also:doctrine of humanism rather than of relativism . To appreciate the relativistic doctrines we find in various thinkers we must take account of the use to which they were put . By Descartes the principle was used as an instrument of scepticism, the beneficent scepticism of pulling down
See also:medieval philosophy to make
See also:room for modern science; by
See also:Berkeley it was used to combat the materialists; by Hume in the cause of scepticism once more against the intellectual dogmatists; by
See also:Kant to prepare a
See also:justification for a noumenal sphere to be apprehended by faith; by J . S .
See also:Mill and
See also:Spencer to support their derivation of all our experience from sensation . It is in Mill's Examination of
See also:Hamilton's Philosophy that the classical statement of the Relativity of Knowledge is to be found .
The second chapter of that
See also:book sets forth the various forms of the doctrine with admirable lucidity and precision, and gives many references to other writers . For the
See also:sake of clearness it seems desirable to keep for the future the
See also:term " relativity of knowledge " to the first meaning explained above: for the second meaning it has been superseded in contemporary philosophizing by the terms "
See also:subjectivism," " subjective idealism," and, for its extreme
See also:form, " solipsism " (q.v.) . (H .
JOHANN JACOB REISKE (1716-1774)
ADRIAN RELAND (1676-1718)
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