The metaphysics of Wilbur M. Urban
Pixler, Paul Wellington
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1. PROBLEM AND METHOD This investigation is an attempt to organize and evaluate the metaphysical system contained in the writings of Wilbur M. Urban by an examination of his theory of knowledge, of value, and of reality. 2. SUMMARY OF THE INVESTIGATION For Urban the metaphysical task is the interpretation of the totality of experience and its co-implicates. All knowledge must include both the intuitive element of experience and "value intent" in order to be intelligible. Fact and value cannot be separated. Their union is the axiom of intelligibility, the criterion of truth and reality. In his early thought, Urban analyzed value psychologically. He defined values as funded affective-volitional meanings. But, later he concluded that psychological analyses of value presuppose the value of life. Furthermore, the truth-seeker presupposes the value of knowledge. These two value-presuppositions are a priori. Though he still held that value-qualities are known through emotions, Urban believed that the values themselves are known by intellectual intuition as objective validities, which, in turn, are ultimately conceive as norms in the mind of God. Since positivism and naturalism neglect the value component in meaning, Urban turned to idealism and realism for metaphysical guidance. At the core of all idealisms and realisms Urban found value-presuppositions-mind-dependence in idealisms and mind-independence in realisms. Since Urban believes there is no conflict between these presuppositions, he synthesizes idealism and realism into the view that subject and object are interconnected in knowing. This epistemological dualism leads Urban to think that mind and matter constitute a metaphysical dualism. Nevertheless, Urban believes that reality must be one; ens est unum, verum, bonum. Substance, as the principle of unity, is the basic category of being; causality is the basic category of value. As the mind seeks wider and wider unities it finally reaches God as its widest possible concept. Intelligibility demands the unity of being and value as its axiom. Intelligibility also ultimately demands the unity of matter and mind and of subject and object. But human reason reaches its limitation here and cannot gain the full unity of reality. At this point Urban moves beyond reason and gains the unity by "trenching on the mystical." In mystical experience all distinctions disappear, and God is intuited as a fusion of all reality in one great Eternal Now. 3. CONCLUSIONS 1. Urban's most important contribution is his emphasis on value as central to all knowledge, especially to metaphysics. 2. Urban's basic difficulty is his presuppositional method. If interpretation of experience is what is at stake his system might better have been constructed from the totality of all experience. However, the presuppositions method led Urban to de-temporalize experience at the level of its metaphysical interpretation. De-temporalization left his concept of God in the following serious confusion. 3. Urbsn was led to a divided notion of God. The first notion, based on experience, sees God as temporal, finite, personal, mutable. The second, based on the demand for unity, for de-temporalization, and for an absolute status for values, sees God as timeless, infinite, impersonal, unchanging. Urban escaped his "dilemma" only by a final appeal to mysticism in which incompatibles are somehow united. However, the divided concept of God and the abandonment of reason at a crucial point would not have been necessary if Urban could have seen that life and knowledge are experienced to be valuable. Then the presuppositions method would not have been necessary, and Urban would not have had to hold to the absolute status of values.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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