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Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume IV (1876-1877)

Elmendorf, John J.
Nature and freedom,   pp. 62-76 PDF (4.6 MB)


Page 62


62     Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters.
                NATURE AND FREEDOM.
                BY JOHN J. ELMENDORF, S. T. D.,
                     Professor in Racine College.
  Problems which concern the will have always been favorite
questions with American psychologists. There has seemed to be
a special fascination in the problem of reconciling the thought
of an infinite, omnipotent Being with what men know, or think
that they know of freedom in themselves?  I do not hope to
add anything towards the solution of the question; on the con-
trary, I only allude to it because I desire, as far as possible, to
exclude it, in order to consider the relations of man to nature, of
the free thinker to that phenomenal world which is -one of the
most attractive objects of his contemplation and study.
  I notice at present a wide divergence between philosophy in its
strictest sense, as based on analysis of the necessary thought of
the free ego, and sciences of nature; i. e., of the world of phenom-
ena which are observed, classified, and made the objects of induc-
tion, along with an attempt at founding a philosophy upon them
exclusively.
   The spheres of the two seem to me to be far apart, and their
methods, though each involving the other, essentially different.
On the one side is the domain of intelligence, freedom, will, con-
sciousness, morality, duty, activity.  Here is an intelligence so,
absolute that it hardly seems to be individual because its note is
an absolute oneness in all men; here is a will, an activity, which
is identified with our own personality which attends to and observes
all outward phenomena, all inward states, seeks to find their unitv
and their laws, and demands the how and the why in all things.
It criticises itself, and sits in judgment on its own faculties. To
understand it, our method is necessarily introspective, and ana-
lytic of any concrete act of volition or of intelligence.
   On the other side is a world of phenomena in which apparently
 rule blind necessity, unvarying, inflexible order. We are sensi-


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