Theory of knowledge in John Wild, Samuel Alexander, and Borden Parker Bowne
Hatch, Leon Stanley Jr
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The problem of this thesis is to consider the epistemological theories of three modern thinkers, John Wild, Samuel Alexander, and Borden Parker Bowne, in regard to their evaluation of what knowing essentially is. The writer's purpose in pursuing this study is to discover whether these three realistic theories are as widely divergent as might appear to be the case. The method followed is one of internal criticism based first on a sympathetic exposition of the views being considered, then criticism and comparison, and finally whatever conclusions can be inferred from such consideration. It was discovered that for John Wild, a direct realist, to know means to know something exactly as it is formally, apart from knowledge. Mere similarity will not suffice if knowledge is to be meaningful, there must be identity between what is in mind and what is in the object. This noetic identity involves a mode of assimilation which is non-composite, nonphysical and immaterial in nature. Wild illustrates his position by use of an analogy in which the mind is seen to follow the operation of a flash camera and the resultant photographic process. For Samuel Alexander, a naturalistic realist, theory of knowledge is not thought to be the essential concern of metaphysics, but only an important chapter in it. It is to this chapter that greatest attention has been given in this thesis. Mind was found to be in dynamic relation to the living organism which it occupies, and from which it emerges. Rather than unique, in the strict sense of that term, the cognitive relation is but an outstanding instance of a relation which can be appropriately expressed on any level of emergence. Alexander finds no discontinuity between mind and body in that mental process is also neural process in an allembracing inter-relationship of the organism as a whole. In mind's activity there were discovered three main types of experience on Alexander's view, each distinguished by the nature of that which is experienced. These forms of cognitive experience were seen to be, first, contemplation of external things, further described as activity of mind, second, assurance of other minds and of God; and finally, enjoyment of one's own mind in its contemplation, assurance and enjoyment. The transcendental realism of B. P. Bowne is set in an idealistic metaphysical framework. The mind was seen to be active in knowing on Bowne's view. "Thought first goes straight to things." Objects cannot pass bodily into consciousness, nor can consciousness expand itself and engulf the existing object. The mind, Bowne taught, can do nothing but think, and the object can do nothing but be. Still Bowne admitted the two terms must be brought together. This is to be accomplished only by thinking the cosmic order and reconstructing it in thought. However real or ideal the world may be, on Bowne's view, it becomes an object for us only as mind builds up in consciousness a system of conceptions, and relates their contents under the various forms of intelligence. In comparison of the three philosophers being studied attention was given to their respective theories concerning the nature of the mind or knowing subject, the nature of the object known, and the relationship obtaining between them. It was discovered that on Wild's view the mind or psyche corresponds to the Aristotelian notion of form which gives determinate structure to matter. Wild does not however fuse mind and body. Alexander makes no hesitancy in proclaiming that mental processes are neural process, but seems at the same time to want "something more" in mentality. For Bowne the mind or self was neither deducible from, nor explainable in terms of, physical process. The object of knowledge varies for the three thinkers in respect to its nature. Wild sees it, in his hylomorphic universe, as a real substantial entity existing in itself and ordered to other entities by real, extramental relations. For Alexander things are complexes of Space-Time, and occupy a position secondary to that of mind only by virtue of their antecedence in emergence. The insistence of Alexander that "bare" Space-Time comprises all there is in the world and in mind was found to be a contradiction with his whole endeavor which brings from this "empty matrix" all the world of existents. Bowne's postulation of a cosmic intelligence commits him to a conception of a world of continuous existence in and for this intelligence. The world of existents may be independent from finite thought but not from all thought since the active will of the cosmic mind causes all existence. The cognitive relation is seen by Wild to be one of noetic identity, for Alexander one of compresence, and for Bowne a reconstruction by the finite mind of the willed fact of the cosmic intelligence. Are the three thinkers then to be conceived as epistemic monists or dualists? There were detected emphases to indicate both positions in all three views. Each man spoke of objective reference which seems to necessitate an existential dualism. Wild holds to a noetic identity or direct experience of the real object. Alexander would have to admit that ultimately the sensa are received by the mind. Bowne's reconstituted or reconstructed object is certainly "in" the mind. Traditionally speaking the three views could be clas sified as dualistic, with Wild presenting the greatest difficulty especially in the noetic moment. The question as to whether or not these views are of nature irreconcilable was asked and, even when the greatest attempt to find a basis of compatibility was made, the answer was yes. The nature of the object was found to be different on each theory as was the cognitive relation. The three philosophers dealt with in this thesis were found to present at least two distinctly and fundamentally divergent conceptions of the knowledge experience.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University