restricted access Mr. Middleton Murry’s Synthesis
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[ 271 Mr. Middleton Murry’s Synthesis The Monthly Criterion, 6 (Oct 1927) 340-47 “What is disquieting about the present time is not so much its open and avowed materialism as what it takes to be its spirituality.” – Babbitt: Democracy and Leadership.1 Referring to Mr. Murry’s extremely interesting essay (The Criterion, June, 1927) and to my own superficial note which provoked it (The Criterion, January, 1927), I shall say no more about the views of Mr. Read or Mr. Fer­ nandez, for the reason that they can expound their own theories (which are by no means identical) much better than I can.2 Nor shall I say more than I can help about the doctrine of St. Thomas, for three reasons: I am not yet certaintowhatpointIshouldwishtochampionthe“system”ofSt.Thomas; IamquitecertainthatIamnotatpresentqualifiedtodoso;andthird,Iwish to concern myself at the moment not with finding out what St. Thomas thought, but with the much more difficult problem of finding out what Mr. Murry thinks. My knowledge of Aquinas is slight: it is limited to the accounts of Gilson and de Wulf, to two volumes of extracts, one prepared by Professor Gilson and the other by M. Truc, to two or three books by M. Maritain and modern Dominicans, and to the new edition of the Summa published by Desclée. Only nine volumes of this edition have yet appeared, and in these nine volumes I have only read here and there.3 I am in every way unfitted to pose as an authority on “non-Christian neo-Thomism”; and it may be that my slight and piecemeal knowledge of the texts is the reason why I do not think of St. Thomas’s work primarily and panoramically as a “system,” in Mr. Murry’s sense. There are three points in Mr. Murry’s reasoning which interest me especially , and in the first two St. Thomas is implicated. I do not understand Mr. Murry’s attitude toward “faith,” or his theory of “reason,” “intelligence” and“intuition,”orhisphilosophyofhistory,withitssharpdivisionbetween the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. As the first two points have already been considered by previous critics, I will deal with them as briefly as I can. I shall begin with a few remarks on “intuition,” and incorporate what I have tosayabout“faith”inmyobservationsonMr.Murry’sphilosophyofhistory, which seems to me much the most important matter hitherto untouched. 1927 272 ] Mr. Murry suggests that I must mean one of two things: either I deny “intuition” altogether, or I affirm “intuition” to be a form of “intelligence.” I certainly do not mean the former; I do not at all wish to expunge the word “intuition” from the dictionary. What I mean is much more like the latter; I am willing to admit, in a rough and ready way, that “intelligence is the genus, intuition and discourse the species” [295]. Only just at this point Mr. Murry takes advantage of my simplicity, by introducing a kind of intuition which is his kind, and hustling out several specimens of my kind. To Mr. Murry, apparently, knowledge of mathematical axioms, and everything thatMr.Russelldiscussesinhisadmirablechapteron“knowledgebyacquaintance ,”4 is not intuitive at all, though I do not see how he can call it “discursive .” Instead, he gives an example of his kind of intuition. It is the following proposition (which he says is a truth which we apprehend):     Nessun maggior dolore,    che ricordarsi del tempo felice nella miseria . . .5 Mr. Murry has here, I believe, the tentative support of Lord Tennyson, but nevertheless, the proposition above is not a “truth” at all;6 and if therefore weapprehenditintuitively,thereissomethingsuspiciousaboutourintuition. It is a dramatic statement; Francesca believed it, but there is no conclusive evidence that Dante believed it; it has great value in its place as heightening the connexion and contrast of Francesca’s past and present. It is just the sort of thing that Francesca would believe; and fits in with the whole passage to show how far Francesca is from a state of grace. As an universal statement, it is simply not true.7 * I do not say that intuition is not existent; but I am very much tempted to say that “the kind of mental activity which the writer in The Times calls ‘intuition’” is inexistent, if this is a fair example of it. I can now make a little clearer what, in my rough and ready way, I mean by “being on the side of what we call the intelligence.” I mean that intuition must have its place in...


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