tyrrell - the church and scholasticism

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  • 7/25/2019 Tyrrell - The Church and Scholasticism


    550 American Catholic Quarterly Review.


    ATIONALISM and Tradz'tzonatzsm may conveniently beused as terms to denote two philosophical extremes or ex

    cesses, towards one or other of which every mind, and the mind

    of every people and age, is unduly bent. Rationalism, in this

    sense, repudiates wholly, or suspects and distrusts, any assent

    which is not based on self-evidence or logical demonstration.

    Traditionalism, seeing the sceptical and unpractical issue of

    Rationalism, not only accepts the consent of mankind as an ex

    cellent working criterion, but would make it the universal final

    and infallible guide. Each ofthese erroneous extremes is founded

    on a truth too much neglected and overlooked bythe other; and,according to the recognized law of its growth, it is only after a

    series of diminishing oscillation from one to the other that the

    human mind can hope to find rest and equilibrium in the golden

    mean. IfRationatism stands for an abuse of reason, Tradz'tiorzalism stands for an abuse ofthe principle offaith. To establish the

    right use of faith and reason, and their exact relation one to an

    other, is a problem which is ever gradually approaching a final

    solution, but which still presents many obscure points.

    We may assume, what has so often been abundantly demon

    strated, that the great bulk of our beliefs rest on matters which

    are not strictly rational, although in a broader sense they may bejustified as prudent, and as so far rational. On a former occasion,

    when criticizing Mr. Balfour's work on The Foundations of Be

    lief," we wrote as follows :

    A moment's reflection will show that if,

    under pain of unreasonableness, we were

    bound to discredit every assertion until personally satisfied, from intrinsic reasons, mental

    growth would be impossible and society would perish. Itwould be like forbidding oneto eat any morsel of food that he had not drawn out of the ground and prepared by his

    own unaided labor. Nor, to go much further with Mr. Ilalfour, would the effects be

    much less disastrous were one to refuse credence to any testimony that did not evidently

    conform to the logicians criterion of testimony. . Authority, as Mr. Balfour takes it

    ,isastrictly non-rational cause of belief; and its

    results, though reasonably accepted, have not per se a justification in philosophy, but

    must seek it elsewhere. That he means something m or e t ha n s uc h a n instinctively

    rational acquiescence in authority as might be justified by the Illative Sense'


    to us plain, though he d oes not explicitly a dv er t t o t he possible confusion. That

    children and simple folk believe what they are told isoften to agreat extent arational

    act, so f ar as they confusedly believe, rightly or wrongly, that their informant isa com

    Month, May, 1895.






  • 7/25/2019 Tyrrell - The Church and Scholasticism


    The Church and Scholasticism. 551

    petent and truthful witness, although to analyze or state their reason is beyond them.

    But, according to Mr. Balfour, reason here but supervenes, and mingles its force with

    that of a strong mental instinct analogous to the gregarious or imitative instincts of animals, which inclines us to believe an assertion as such, rather than discredit it.

    That this tendency to be influenced by assertion, to assent rather than to doubt inthe absence of

    all evidence, does exist, can hardly be denied. Proofs abound to showthat men's beliefs and conclusions do, as a fact, rest to a great extent on anything but

    reason. The existence of prejudice is not so much an abuse of reason as of this instinctive tendency to believe; i t i s b ut a hurtful issue of a principle which is, on t he

    whole, useful and beneficial, though, like all instincts, fallible through want of adapta

    bility to particular cases. Hence it is for reason not to despise, b ut t o safeguard and

    supplement this instinct of docility. That the same political views should be held byall the members of the same family

    for generations plainly points to a non-rational influence at work ; that on the whole all

    the members of one religious order should agree as to the issue of an open question

    against all the members of another order,and that, for generations,-is manifestly an

    other instance in point. That in deference to the time-spirit nearly all philosophers

    should agree in certain leading ethical and scientific conclusions, while hopelessly at

    variance about their derivation and worth, may serve as another example. It is needless to prove the existence of what is so notorious; but Mr. Balfours concern is to show

    that this influence, and the instinct it appeals to, are an absolutely necessary and, in therough. a legitimate source of beliefs. Far from clogging the growth ofmind, it supplies

    it with its daily bread. To refuse these supplies is to perish. It is for reason to sift andcompare, to eliminate what is incompatible, to verify and prove; b ut a s a n inventive

    faculty reason is feeble, almost useless in comparison. What reason disproves is reason

    ably rejected; but what reason cannot prove, remains by the same title that it entered. Even most of the beliefs that we seem to owe to reason, depend more fully on in

    fluence which furnishes so many of the premises. By reasoning we but condition and

    determine their action upon our mind; a nd t o credit ourselves with the whole result

    would be to be proud ofgrowing on the score that we had eaten our meals regularly.

    No doubt one of the causes why reason is in such superior repute is that we look on its

    conclusions as actively self-produced, forgetting how largely we are passively influenced

    by the premises which we use, and of which we can often give no rational account.

    "There are very few who can give reasons at all for much that they believe; still

    less, reasons that are truly the cause of those beliefs, and not a mere after-justification

    ofan instinctive acquiescence in authority. Like free-choice in the determination of ouractions, reason in the detennination of our opinions is everything in respect to its rights,

    but comparatively nothing in its actual results-a supreme court of appeal, but rarely ap

    pealed to. It criticizes when needful, but originates little. It supplements where theordinary means is deficient, i.e., where our instinct of docility and our acquired mental

    habits fail us. Mr. Balfour insists that this instinct is not only beneficial but necessary to all mental

    growth and program. He defends it against the contempt with which it is fashionable

    to treat it,

    especially o n t he part ofNaturalists who rest their system on beliefs

    which are non-rational, and accepted merely on psychological compulsion, and whose

    only reasonable justification istrust in Natures selected methods for man's well-being.

    'Our relation to this mental instinct ismuch the same as that in which we stand to other

    instincts. Previous to the full use of reason we are governed by them wholly. They

    are for the most part efficacious means to the securing of necessary and natural ends,

    but, being of the nature of physical laws, they are not self-adaptive to exceptional cases.

    W'hen reason supervenes, it may at times resist these instincts for motives of its own

    kind; or it may freely and deliberately approve and follow them; or it may direct,

    modify and adapt them; or, finally, itmay trust the reins to Nature, and simply stand

    by to check or veto whatever isseemingly against right order. In all these cases, even

    in the last, the result isin some sense reasonable, though not the direct effect of reason.

    Even the policeman who stands by unseen to prevent a disturbance, may be credited

    with the order preserved bythe crowd.





  • 7/25/2019 Tyrrell - The Church and Scholasticism


    552 American Catholic Quarterly Review.

    So, too, many of our beliefs may be called reasonable in so far as reason wouldveto any patent absurdity. Still there will always be a large residuum with which

    reason has had nothing to do; mere unsorted material, by no means to be bundled out


    As is implied in the passages just cited, the formation of themind is dependent both on reason and on what Mr. Balfour calls