Henry Jones’s Opinion on Browning’s Philosophy Of Life: Part 1

I so want to base this article’s title on Browning, but I must say that reading his book, “Browning As A Philosophical And Religious Teacher“, I found Jones’ voice to be so powerful while he expressed his view on science’s absolute disregard for a philosophy of life or for religion and morals on the basis of unreasonableness and poetry and philosophy’s attempt to provide a uniting wholeness to life and the Universe at large, that to do justice to him, I must make the title about him instead.

Henry Jones starts off his book by explaining how Browning’s poems spoke about morality and religion and how that made him a “prophet” during his time. Jones was so impressed by Browning’s poetry that he so boldly dared to say:

He(Browning) has a right to a place amongst philosophers, as Plato has to a place amongst poets.

According to Jones, Browning’s view of life, which was expressed by his poetry was based on love:

Love yielded to him(Browning) as Reason did to Hegel, a fundamental exposition to the nature of things.

The most important part about his book to me was when he started answering the question, why the world needs a philosophy of life. Jones knows that the common opinion held by many is that poetry and religion cannot be mixed together with critical thinking and investigation. However, he challenges this belief because his book is about finding truth in poetry, in this case Browning’s poetry. Jones admits that while it might be difficult to view spiritual beliefs in light of rational thinking, it does not justify completely making impossible the idea that faith can stand the test of rationality. Jones is hopeful that in faith, religion and morality, a purpose of life can be found, which science failed to find:

Poetry and religion may, afterall, be truer then prose, and have something to tell the world that science, which is often ignorant of its own limits, cannot teach.

Jones discusses that science provided varied and unconnected facts without trying to view these facts as a whole or in other words, science failed to connect the dots between the existence of one thing in relation to all other things in the Universe. There is no wholeness to science since science is comfortable to provide a formula to one thing and not worry itself about how that one thing might be interconnected by other things all of which are guided by guiding principles which he called,”highest principles.” Science fails to interpet the world in the light of these highest princples. Jones states:

…there is no interpretation of an object which does not finally point to a theory of being. We understand no joint or ligament, except in relation to the whole organism, and no fact, or event, except by finding a place for it in the context of our experience.The history of the pebble can be given, only in the light of the story of the earth, as it is told by the whole of geology.

Jones totally believes that all our knowledge hinges on the belief that all things constitute one world, one orderly kosmos. He says that poetry and philosophy have always acknowledged this idea of wholeness just as religion has.

Jones points out that skepticism appears “…when the sense of the presence of the whole in the particular facts of the world and of life has been dulled.” Jones hypothesis is that the sense of the presence of the whole in the particular facts of the world and of life needs to be maintained otherwise philosophy will become useless, poetry will be “a vain sentiment and religion a delusion.” Jones believes that science and ordinary knowledge will eventually suffer the same fate.

To be continued in part 2.

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