brief excerpt on what we call today 'relativism'
...In the absence of all opposing proof, we have the most
indubitable right to affirm that knowledge is knowledge.
To deny its present ostensible character is so far to
undermine truth itself as to render its speculative
restoration in the eternal verity of things wholly
fanciful. Such a conception in only a deeper im-
press of the same misleading forms of thought. We
should simply be fated to think of an evanescent absolute,
a thing in itself most alien to our experience. On
the other hand, that we think of the absolute is the
strongest proof that our thoughts reach to it.
Dr. Hickok has well shown that uncommon experience
is possible under the illusion of personal forms
of thought, which stand in no definite dependence on
things. Our conjunct experience must take place in
one time, and in one space, The time and the space must
express to each of us real objective form, and carry
with them common relations. When time and space are
mental forms merely as in dreams, our experiences lie
wholly apart. The assumption of the unity and oneness of these
forms of reason among men, while they are completely relative in
reference to men as a genus, is a marvellous example of a
bastard absolute, of an affirmation of falsehood and faith
in the same breath.
The one thing knowledge is never at liberty to do, is to
destroy itself. Reason may never impeach reason.
Beyond the faith of reason in itself we cannot go.
Knowledge holds within itself both elements, the relative and
the absolute, the empirical and the transcendental; in the
deepest meaning, of the words, the natural and the super-natural.
Our senses furnish the one term and our reason
the other, and the two interwoven in judgements, yield
knowledge. Knowledge cannot be made out of
sensasations; it cannot be made out of ideas. The web of
thought is a web by virtue of combining them both.
Thus facts and theories unite as knowledge in science.
To think, then, is to condition in this sense only;
correct thought springs up in discernment of the relations
which ever belong to things as the products of reason.
A trust in reason demands a recognition of its movement
toward the absolute; human experience has nothing to
offer against an absolute, while it constantly gives rise to
the idea; an absolute beyond thought, with no absolute
in thought, is unintelligible; a scepticism of reason of this
fundamental order, directed toward itself, is suicidal.
The relative always involves for the mind the absolute.
I say that one thing, as a hand ball, is larger than another
thing, as an acorn. I may then proceed to say, that the
words large and small are always relative. Yes, but I
regard the relation of the ball and the acorn as absolute
within itself, otherwise my words would have no meaning.
If the relation can change independently of the facts, the
assertion is lost. When the mind lifts the absolute from
one point, it plants it at once at another.