Now observe what happens when one is overtaken with doubt. One may come to question the worthiness of the ideal. Is it not perhaps a more worthy thing to assert one’s self, than to sacrifice one’s self? Or is not the great man after all one who is superior to scruples, who sets might above right? Who is to decide such a question? Surely not public opinion, nor the authority of any institution, for these are dogmatic. Once having doubted, dogma will no longer suffice. What is needed is a thoughtful comparison of ideals, a critical examination of the whole question of values and of the meaning of life. One who undertakes such a study, every one who has made even a beginning of such a study in the hope of solving his own personal problem, is ipso facto a moral philosopher. He is following in the steps of Plato and of Kant, of Mill and of Nietzsche, and he will do well to walk for at least a part of the way with them.

Or suppose that our doubter questions, not the correctness of the traditional ideal, but the certainty of its triumph. Suppose that, like Job, he is impressed by the misfortunes of the righteous, and set to wondering whether the natural course of events is not utterly indifferent to the cause of righteousness. Is not the world after all a prodigious accident, a cruel and clumsy play of blind forces? Do ideals count for anything, or are they idle dreams, illusions, a mere play of fancy? Can spirit move matter, or is it a helpless witness of events wholly beyond its control? Ask these questions and you have set philosophical problems; answer them, and you have made philosophy.

It is possible, of course, to treat doubt by the use of anæsthetics. But such treatment does not cure doubt. With many, indeed, anæsthetics will not work at all. They will require an intellectual solution of intellectual questions; their thought once aroused will not rest until it has gone to the bottom of things. And problems forgotten in one generation will reappear to haunt the next. But even if it were possible that the critical and doubting faculty should be numbed or atrophied altogether, it would be the worst calamity that could befall mankind. For the virtue of religion must lie in its being true, and if it is to be true it must be open to correction as enlightenment advances. Salvation cannot be won by a timid clinging to comfortable illusions.

What should be done for the saving of our souls depends not upon an imaginary state of things, in which the wish is father to the thought, but upon the real state of things. Salvation must be founded on fact and not on fiction. In short, the necessity of philosophy follows from the genuineness of the problems that underlie religion. In religion, as in other activities and interests, it will not do forever to assume that things are so; but it becomes important from time to time to inquire into them closely and with an open mind. So to inquire into the ideals of life and the basis of hope, is philosophy.

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