1.7 Summary


(1) The aim of this first chapter has been to ask what man has done in the past to answer the questions that have haunted him since the dawn of thought: "Where am I?", "What am I?", and "What should I do?"


(2) Answering these questions has largely been, until a few centuries ago, the task of religion; and, to this day, some people still believe that the first two questions should be referred to revealed religion, while virtually all believe that religion should handle the last. Actually, as is increasingly realized by educated people, science has, by now, far more comprehensively and reliably answered the first two. It is the object of this book to show that it is also the only sound basis for obtaining an answer to the third.


(3) Actually, modern man finds before him three main gateways to systems of understanding himself and his world; religion, science, and the activities of art and literature. A brief examination is given to each, partly as a social institution, but mainly concerning its particular methodological qualifications for reaching verifiable knowledge.


(4) A condensed psychological and anthropological analysis has been made of the complex functions which great religions have performed throughout history. This is intended as a basis for later comparisons with the functions of other social institutions. The corresponding analysis of the social functions of literature and the arts in respect to morality has been almost entirely postponed to a later chapter (Chapter 8), since it needs to be considered in a strictly contemporary context. However, just as religion has a major role in socio-emotional life quite apart from the claims to philosophical truth we are primarily examining so the arts have an adjustive "cathartic" and "condenser function" (Chapter 8) for human emotions denied expression elsewhere by cultural pressures.


(5) A more comprehensive analysis of what these three avenues for the pursuit of understanding may mean in their wider social and institutional roles remains to be made below. But in their intrinsic properties as instruments for seeking truth one must immediately conclude that religion and art, in epistemological evaluation, lack the validity of the intrument which we call scientific method. Science uses empirical exploration, along with checking of inferences, reached by an explicit logical syntax. This results in knowledge which is communicative and cumulative. All three share the use of cognitive intuition, in some of their phases; but religion and the arts use, in addition, emotional intuition and the concept of emotional truth.


(6) In spite of the methods of science being already able by the verdict of history to demonstrate far greater success, they need to be subjected to intensive epistemological examination. We conclude that both our sensorial equipment for perceiving the world and our logical habits of understanding it are imperfect products of evolution but capable of extension. The meaning of "the truth of a statement" is its "fit" to the outer world including its predictive value, tested by fact and logic. Provided we discount the classical, absolute worship of logic, and recognize that a grand logic has still to be evolved by empirical generalization extending beyond local logics, science is our most dependable avenue to truth.


(7) A meaning can be given to emotional truth as "the most appropriate emotional response for survival in a given species in relation to a given environmental situation." As such, it is really only the familiar cognitive truth with a behavioral corollary attached to it. But the expression is actually constantly in use as if it connoted some entirely new species of truth-testing. Thus it appears popularly as the degree of emotional conviction experienced, and philosophically as the fit of the emotional response to a cultural norm. In the first sense, it is not independent of scientific, cognitive truth; and in the two last, it involves a quite false use of "truth."


(8) Both because of this intrusion of emotional intuition into their values, and also through their lack of systematic empirical and rational, logical tests typical of the inductive-hypothetical-deductive spiral of science, religion and the arts cannot be accepted as avenues to new truths. Their roles may be to provide emotional education in truths otherwise established.

However, both revealed religion and the arts and literature offer a supreme expression of the same use of cognitive intuition, as is found also in the first steps in science. But they lack the instruments and organizations necessary to carry its fruits beyond the outcome of merely individual achievement. One may guess that the great religions have reached appreciably valid conclusions, but they have undoubtedly done so by processes which no self-respecting scientist would want his work to be associated. Since better truth-finding processes now exist methods which advance knowledge from generation to generation religious and ethical genius is better expressed through these new channels. The love which men of education and spiritual sensitivity have for great literature and religious creativity must not blind them to the fact that these are not gateways to transmissible, verifiable new truths.















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