Borden Parker Bowne's treatment of the problem of change and identity
Franquiz, Jose A.
MetadataShow full item record
The problem of this dissertation is that of the relations of change and identity with special reference to its treatment in the philosophical writings of Borden Parker Bowne. The historical backgrounds of the problem are investigated in order to shed light on Bowne's views. The problem of change and identity is one of the most difficult and persistent as well as one of the most ancient problems of thought. Traces of it may be found in history as far back as early Indian philosophy. The Rg Veda (about 1500-1000 B.C.), which is one of the most ancient monuments of civilization that we possess, develops a cosmic pantheism according to which a persistent unitary being manifests itself through the numberless forms of our changing world. In the subsequent philosophies of the Brahmanas, Upanishads, and later Hindu and Sanskrit literatures, the crudity of this primitive view is attenuated, but pantheism ,continues to be the characteristic note. The concepts of Brahma and Atman, as universal and individual realities respectively, are important developments in : the evolution of the problem in the second period of Indian philosophy (1000-500 B.C.). In the third period, that of the Hindu and Sanskrit literatures of Vedanta, Vaiseshika, Nyaya, Sankya, Yoga, Mimansa, (from 500 B. C. on), the problem shifts from cosmology to psychology, from the objective world to the world of mind. Two concepts are specially significant during this period, namely, that of Manas Inferior, the changing mind; and that of Manas Superior, the unchanging soul. The problem of change and identity is also treated in the Chinese philosophy, especially in the Tao Teh King of Lao-Tze, with its theory of Reason as a metaphysical ultimate, in which "the ten thousand things" find explanation and justification. Lao-Tze also anticipates the theory of "Opposites" that is to appear later on in Greek philosophy. Not until the Greek pre-Socratics, however, do we find the problem methodically treated. We may even say that the fundamental theme of Greek Pre-Socratic Philosophy, is that of change and identity. The Milesians, the Eleatics, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Democritus, Pythagoras all aimed at the same problem through the same question :-What is the one root and trunk of the tree whose branches constitute the many phenomena of the world? Socrates contributes to the clarification of the issue with his view of the logical importance of the Concept. Plato enriches thought about the problem of identity with his Ideas, and Aristotle gives it final form for the Greek period by distinguishing between logical identity, metaphysical identity, and identity as object of the intellect. After Aristotle, the Scholastics spoke of Substance as the only true being, the only unchanging reality. Locke and Hume referred to it as the "unknown cause" of impressions not originated in the senses. Berkeley identified it with Mind. Descartes spoke of matter as extended substance, of mind as unextended substance, and of God as the fundamental underlying substance that connects matter and mind. Spinoza identified substance with nature, and nature he called God. In him, therefore, the principle of identity is nature itself. Leibniz, however, is to be credited with a major contribution. He made reality to consist of individual monads, varying in degrees of self-consciousness, self-direction, and ability to realize themselves. Identity, therefore, he identified with Being itself, but Being he identified with activity. Kant's position with respect to the problem in question is rather problematic because of his so-called Dinge an sich and all the ambiguities of his Categories. But it can at least be said that for Kant identity is one of the functions of the mind. Mind imposes it upon its world of phenomena. Schelling does away with Kant's noumena, and speaks of the Absolute, as the organic whole, in which all theses and antitheses find ultimate explanation. Identity, for him, is a function of the Absolute. Hegel makes this Absolute an organic dialectical whole, objective cosmic spirit. Identity for Schopenhauer is of the nature of the universal will-to-be. This is the metaphysical ultimate in which he finds all continuity. Hermann Lotze (1817-1881) goesbeyond previous thinkersinhisanalysis of change and identity. For him, the problem finds solution only on the plane of personality. Only persons change while remaining identical. Change and identity taken abstractly are logical contradictories. In personal experience they find exemplification and explanation. Borden Parker Bowne, student of Lotze, owes much to his teacher in the position he occupies with respect to the problem of change and identity, but does not depend completely on the line of argument laid out by Lotze. Bowne (1847- 1910) treats the problem of change and identity from the points of view of psychology, logic, epistemology, metaphysics, and religious and social thought. The main steps of his argument in psychology run as follows: The reality of the self is a primary condition of the mental life. Sensations require an organizing agent and consciousness is the agent. The essence of self is memory, and the essence of memory is recognition. Recognition is impossible if the recognizing agent is not identical with itself. In his argument from the point of view of logic, stress is laid on identity as the fundamental function of all faculties, on the unity of the mental subject, and on the necessity of this unity for all inference, memory, and knowledge. Mind is the coordinator of the one and the manifold; and the notion is its shorthand expression for the many. From the point of view of epistemology, attention is called to the mind as active and constitutive in sensation, for mind is the relational principle. Apart from this principle experience is impossible. Recurrence of experience itself is possible only to a universalizing intelligence. The problem of change and identity belongs especially in the field of metaphysics. Bowne's argument in this field begins by way of definitions and penetrating analyses of the terms of change and identity and their corresponding implications. The two terms taken abstractly contradict each other. Identity and change are concretely found only in consciousness. Hence, personality, the common ground of both, is the only solution to the problem. Unity is ultimate. "The heavens are crystallized' mathematics," and nature is a thought world. Knowledge of nature implies mind at both ends, the knower and the known. The universe is a "logical togetherness." Bowne applies the metaphysics of change and identity to the daily experiences of the social process. The progressive element in society is the factor of change; the conservative, the factor of identity. Bowne's position is that of a social organism, where change is stimulated through discussion and criticism as instruments of progress, and permanence is stimulated through the spiritual growth of the church as conserver of value achieved. The following problems and observations are some of the results of our investigation. (1) Like Herbart, Bowne (for pedagogical reasons) starts with "concepts" already given to us in experience. He taught his students by pointing out the contradictions implied in such concepts. But it is not necessarily true that this method is the most pedagogical. (2) Bowne's metaphysics of change and identity has undergone numerous changes of special interest during his revisions of his works. In 1882 Bowne published his Metaphysics. In 1898 it was revised. The revised Metaphysics lays more emphasis on logic than does the original edition of 1882, and stresses more the element of identity than the element of change. The author is also more careful of the connotation of his words. A benign attitude is observed in the revised edition toward Heraclitus, as over against the unfavorable previous treatment that he received in the first edition. (3) Throughout the treatment of the problem of change and identity, Bowne is not consistent in naming his principle of permanence. Sometimes it is called intelligence, sometimes, soul. At times, it is given the name of substance. At other times he calls it monad; but he also calls it ego, and self. (4) Up to 1897 Bowne seems to have limited the term experience to physical sensations as we may infer from his discussion of apriorism and empiricism; but afterwards, experience comes to mean for Bowne all the data of self-consciousness, as we may infer from his discussion of the Kantian categories. (5) Bowne is not consistent in his theory of soul; neither is he consistent in his attitude towards logic. He attacks logic as a discipline, but expects from it more than any other philosopher naturally would. In method of exposition he himself is a most rigorous logician. (6) In his social theory, there are also apparent contradictions, at least between his atomistic individualism and his organic pluralism. (7) The most important problem in the metaphysics of Bowne, however, is his metaphysics of time. For him, "God is timeless and changeless." But in several passages, Bowne tells us that "Change is a fact in reality itself," that "the divine activity is temporal," and "Time is eternally coexistent with God." It appears impossible to reconcile Bowne's contradictory views on time. How can thought reconcile the timelessness of God with the activity of God? If personality is the essential metaphysical ultimate, time must be metaphysically real. A serious problem remains unsolved in this investigation, namely, the respect in which the self in Bowne explains the problem of change and identity. Is it because the self as such is permanent and unchanging, or because it experiences both the changing and the permanent? Of course, if the latter be the case, change and identity are fundamental characteristics of the self; but in the case of Bowne, we can neither affirm the later nor the former, in view of the fact that Bowne's theories of the soul are obscure and contradictory.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University N.B.: between p. 149 and p. 159, there are only five pages without numbers. It appears that the author mis-numbered the pages; no actual content is missing.