Appearance and Reality: A Metaphysical Essay

By F. H. Bradley


I have described the following work as an essay in metaphysics. Neither in form nor extent does it carry out the idea of a system. Its subject indeed is central enough to justify the exhaustive treatment of every problem. But what I have done is incomplete, and what has been left undone has often been omitted arbitrarily. The book is a more or less desultory handling of perhaps the chief questions in metaphysics.

There were several reasons why I did not attempt a more systematic treatise, and to carry out even what I proposed has proved enough for my powers. I began this book in the autumn of 1887, and, after writing the first two fifths of it in twelve months, then took three years with the remainder. My work has been suspended several times through long intervals of compulsory idleness, and I have been glad to finish it when and how I could. I do not say this to obviate criticizm on a book now deliberately published. But, if I had attempted more, I should probably have completed nothing.

And in the main I have accomplished all that lay within my compass. This volume is meant to be a critical discussion of first principles, and its object is to stimulate enquiry and doubt. To originality in any other sense it makes no claim. If the reader finds that on any points he has been led once more to reflect, I shall not have failed, so far as I can, to be original. But I should add that my book is not intended for the beginner. Its language in general I hope is not over-technical, but I have sometimes used terms intelligible only to the student. The index supplied is not an index but a mere collection of certain references.

|viii| My book does not design to be permanent, and will be satisfied to be negative, so long as that word implies an attitude of active questioning. The chief need of English philosophy is, I think, a sceptical study of first principles, and I do not know of any work which seems to meet this need sufficiently. By scepticism is not meant doubt about or disbelief in some tenet or tenets. I understand by it an attempt to become aware of and to doubt all preconceptions. Such scepticism is the result only of labour and education, but it is a training which cannot with impunity be neglected. And I know no reason why the English mind, if it would but subject itself to this discipline, should not in our day produce a rational system of first principles. If I have helped to forward this result, then, whatever form it may take, my ambition will be satisfied.

The reason why I have so much abstained from historical criticizm and direct polemics may be briefly stated. I have written for English readers, and it would not help them much to learn my relation to German writers. Besides, to tell the truth, I do not know precisely that relation myself. And, though I have a high opinion of the metaphysical powers of the English mind, I have not seen any serious attempt in English to deal systematically with first principles. But things among us are not as they were some few years back. There is no established reputation which now does much harm to philosophy. And one is not led to feel in writing that one is face to face with the same dense body of stupid tradition and ancestral prejudice. Dogmatic Individualism is far from having ceased to flourish, but it no longer occupies the ground as the one accredited way of ‘advanced thinking’. The present generation is learning that to gain education a man must study in more than one school. And to criticize |ix| a writer of whom you know nothing is now, even in philosophy, considered to be the thing that it is. We owe this improvement mostly to men of a time shortly before my own, and who insisted well, if perhaps incautiously, on the great claims of Kant and Hegel. But whatever other influences have helped, the result seems secured. There is a fair field for anyone now, I believe, who has anything to say. And I feel no desire for mere polemics, which can seldom benefit oneself, and which seem no longer required by the state of our philosophy. I would rather keep my natural place as a learner among learners.

If anything in these pages suggests a more dogmatic frame of mind, I would ask the reader not hastily to adopt that suggestion. I offer him a set of opinions and ideas in part certainly wrong, but where and how much I am unable to tell him. That is for him to find out, if he cares to and if he can. Would it be better if I hinted in effect that he is in danger of expecting more, and that I, if I chose, perhaps might supply it? I have everywhere done my best, such as it is, to lay bare the course of ideas, and to help the reader to arrive at a judgment on each question. And, as I cannot suppose a necessity on my part to disclaim infallibility, I have not used set phrases which, if they mean anything, imply it. I have stated my opinions as truths whatever authority there may be against them, and however hard I may have found it to come to an opinion at all. And, if this is to be dogmatic, I certainly have not tried to escape dogmatism.

It is difficult again for a man not to think too much of his own pursuit. The metaphysician cannot perhaps be too much in earnest with metaphysics, and he cannot, as the phrase runs, take himself too seriously. But the same thing holds good with every other positive function of the |x| universe. And the metaphysician, like other men, is prone to forget this truth. He forgets the narrow limitation of his special province, and, filled by his own poor inspiration, he ascribes to it an importance not its due. I do not know if anywhere in my work I may seem to have erred thus, but I am sure that such excess is not my conviction or my habitual mood. And to restore the balance, and as a confession possibly of equal defect, I will venture to transcribe some sentences from my note-book. I see written there that ‘Metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct, but to find these reasons is no less an instinct’. Of Optimism I have said that ‘The world is the best of all possible worlds, and everything in it is a necessary evil’. Eclecticism I have found preach |xv| that ‘Every truth is so true that any truth must be false’, and Pessimism that ‘Where everything is bad it must be good to know the worst’, or ‘Where all is rotten it is a man’s work to cry stinking fish’. About the Unity of Science I have set down that ‘Whatever you know it is all one’, and of Introspection that ‘The one self-knowledge worth having is to know one’s mind’. The reader may judge how far these sentences form a Credo, and he must please himself again as to how seriously he takes a further extract: ‘To love unsatisfied the world is mystery, a mystery which love satisfied seems to comprehend. The latter is wrong only because it cannot be content without thinking itself right’.

But for some general remarks in justification of metaphysics I may refer to the Introduction.

Preface to the Second Edition

It is a pleasure to me to find that a new edition of this book is wanted. I am encouraged to hope that with all its defects it has helped to stimulate thought on first principles. And it has been a further pleasure to me to find that my critics have in general taken this work in the spirit in which it was offered, whether they have or have not found themselves in agreement with its matter. And perhaps in some cases sympathy with its endeavour may have led them to regard its shortcomings too leniently. I on my side have tried to profit by every comment, though I have made no attempt to acknowledge each, or to reply to it in detail. But I fear that some criticizms must have escaped my notice, since I have discovered others by mere chance.

For this edition I have thought it best not to make many alterations; but I have added in an Appendix, beside some replies to objections, a further explanation and discussion of certain difficulties.

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Book I. Introduction.

|1-6| Preliminary objections to metaphysics answered. The task is not impossible, 2, or indefensible, 3-6.

The writer on metaphysics has a great deal against him. Engaged on a subject which more than others demands peace of spirit, even before he enters on the controversies of his own field, he finds himself involved in a sort of warfare. He is confronted by prejudices hostile to his study, and he is tempted to lean upon those prejudices, within him and around him, which seem contrary to the first. It is on the preconceptions adverse to metaphysics in general that I am going to make some remarks by way of introduction. We may agree, perhaps, to understand by metaphysics an attempt to know reality as against mere appearance, or the study of first principles or ultimate truths, or again the effort to comprehend the universe, not simply piecemeal or by fragments, but somehow as a whole. Any such pursuit will encounter a number of objections. It will have to hear that the knowledge which it desires to obtain is impossible altogether; or, if possible in some degree, is yet practically useless; or that, at all events, we can want nothing beyond the old philosophies. And I will say a few words on these arguments in their order.

(a) The man who is ready to prove that metaphysical knowledge is wholly impossible has no right here to any answer. He must be referred for conviction to the body of this treatise. And he can hardly refuse to go there, since he himself has, perhaps unknowingly, entered the arena. He is a brother metaphysician with a rival theory of first principles. And this is so plain that I must excuse myself from dwelling on the point. To say the reality is such that our knowledge cannot reach it, is a claim to know reality; to urge that our knowledge is of a kind which must fail to transcend appearance, itself implies that transcendence. For, if we had no idea of a beyond, we should assuredly not know how to talk about failure or success. And the test, by which we distinguish them, must obviously be some acquaintance with the nature of the goal. |2| Nay, the would-be sceptic, who presses on us the contradictions of our thoughts, himself asserts dogmatically. For these contradictions might be ultimate and absolute truth, if the nature of the reality were not known to be otherwise. But this introduction is not the place to discuss a class of objections which are themselves, however unwillingly, metaphysical views, and which a little acquaintance with the subject commonly serves to dispel. So far as is necessary, they will be dealt with in their proper place; and I will therefore pass to the second main argument against metaphysics.

(b) It would be idle to deny that this possesses great force. ‘Metaphysical knowledge’, it insists, ‘may be possible theoretically, and even actual, if you please, to a certain degree; but, for all that, it is practically no knowledge worth the name’. And this objection may be rested on various grounds. I will state some of these, and will make the answers which appear to me to be sufficient.

The first reason for refusing to enter on our field is an appeal to the confusion and barrenness which prevail there. ‘The same problems’, we hear it often, ‘the same disputes, the same sheer failure. Why not abandon it and come out? Is there nothing else more worth your labour?’ To this I shall reply more fully soon, but will at present deny entirely that the problems have not altered. The assertion is about as true and about as false as would be a statement that human nature has not changed. And it seems indefensible when we consider that in history metaphysics has not only been acted on by the general development, but has also reacted. But, apart from historical questions, which are here not in place, I am inclined to take my stand on the admitted possibility. If the object is not impossible, and the adventure suits us — what then? Others far better than ourselves have wholly failed — so you say. But the man who succeeds is not apparently always the man of most merit, and even in philosophy’s cold world perhaps some fortunes go by favour. One never knows until one tries.

“I am so bold as to believe that we have a knowledge of the Absolute, certain and real, though I am sure that our comprehension is miserably incomplete.”

But to the question, if seriously I expect to succeed, |3| I must, of course, answer, No. I do not suppose, that is, that satisfactory knowledge is possible. How much we can ascertain about reality will be discussed in this book; but I may say at once that I expect a very partial satisfaction. I am so bold as to believe that we have a knowledge of the Absolute, certain and real, though I am sure that our comprehension is miserably incomplete. But I dissent emphatically from the conclusion that, because imperfect, it is worthless. And I must suggest to the objector that he should open his eyes and should consider human nature. Is it possible to abstain from thought about the universe? I do not mean merely that to every one the whole body of things must come in the gross, whether consciously or unconsciously, in a certain way. I mean that, by various causes, even the average man is compelled to wonder and to reflect. To him the world, and his share in it is a natural object of thought, and seems likely to remain one. And so, when poetry, art, and religion have ceased wholly to interest, or when they show no longer any tendency to struggle with ultimate problems and to come to an understanding with them; when the sense of mystery and enchantment no longer draws the mind to wander aimlessly and to love it knows not what; when, in short, twilight has no charm — then metaphysics will be worthless. For the question (as things are now) is not whether we are to reflect and ponder on ultimate truth — for perhaps most of us do that, and are not likely to cease. The question is merely as to the way in which this should be done. And the claim of metaphysics is surely not unreasonable. Metaphysics takes its stand on this side of human nature, this desire to think about and comprehend reality. And it merely asserts that, if the attempt is to be made, it should be done as thoroughly as our nature permits. There is no claim on its part to supersede other functions of the human mind; but it protests that, if we are to think, we should sometimes try to think properly. And the opponent of metaphysics, it appears to me, is driven to a dilemma. He must either condemn all reflection on the essence of things, — and, if so, he breaks, or, |4| rather, tries to break, with part of the highest side of human nature, — or else he allows us to think, but not to think strictly. He permits, that is to say, the exercise of thought so long as it is entangled with other functions of our being; but as soon as it attempts a pure development of its own, guided by the principles of its own distinctive working, he prohibits it forthwith. And this appears to be a paradox, since it seems equivalent to saying, You may satisfy your instinctive longing to reflect, so long as you do it in a way which is unsatisfactory. If your character is such that in your thought is satisfied by what does not, and cannot, pretend to be thought proper, that is quite legitimate. But if you are constituted otherwise, and if in you a more strict thinking is a want of your nature, that is by all means to be crushed out. And, speaking for myself, I must regard this as at once dogmatic and absurd.

But the reader, perhaps, may press me with a different objection. Admitting, he may say, that thought about reality is lawful, I still do not understand why, the results being what they are, you should judge it to be desirable. And I will try to answer this frankly. I certainly do not suppose that it would be good for everyone to study metaphysics, and I cannot express any opinion as to the number of persons who should do so. But I think it quite necessary, even on the view that this study can produce no positive results, that it should still be pursued. There is, so far as I can see, no other certain way of protecting ourselves against dogmatic superstition. Our orthodox theology on the one side, and our common-place materialism on the other side (it is natural to take these as prominent instances), vanish like ghosts before the daylight of free sceptical enquiry. I do not mean, of course, to condemn wholly either of these beliefs; but I am sure that either, when taken seriously, is the mutilation of our nature. Neither, as experience has amply shown, can now survive in the mind which has thought sincerely on first principles; and it seems desirable that there should be such a refuge for the man who burns to think consistently, and yet is too good to become a slave, either to stupid fanaticism |5| or dishonest sophistry. That is one reason why I think that metaphysics, even if it end in total scepticism, should be studied by a certain number of persons.

And there is a further reason which, with myself perhaps, has even more weight. All of us, I presume, more or less, are led beyond the region of ordinary facts. Some in one way and some in others, we seem to touch and have communion with what is beyond the visible world. In various manners we find something higher, which both supports and humbles, both chastens and transports us. And, with certain persons, the intellectual effort to understand the universe is a principal way of thus experiencing the Deity. No one, probably, who has not felt this, however differently he might describe it, has ever cared much for metaphysics. And, wherever it has been felt strongly, it has been its own justification. The man whose nature is such that by one path alone his chief desire will reach consummation, will try to find it on that path, whatever it may be, and whatever the world thinks of it; and, if he does not, he is contemptible. Self-sacrifice is too often the ‘great sacrifice’ of trade, the giving cheap what is worth nothing. To know what one wants, and to scruple at no means that will get it, may be a harder self-surrender. And this appears to be another reason for some persons pursuing the study of ultimate truth.

(c) And that is why, lastly, existing philosophies cannot answer the purpose. For whether there is progress or not, at all events there is change; and the changed minds of each generation will require a difference in what has to satisfy their intellect. Hence, there seems as much reason for new philosophy as there is for new poetry. In each case the fresh production is usually much inferior to something already in existence; and yet it answers a purpose if it appeals more personally to the reader. What is really worse may serve better to promote, in certain respects and in a certain generation, the exercise of our best functions. And that is why, so long as we alter, we shall always want, and shall always have, new metaphysics.

I will end this introduction with a word of warning. I |6| have been obliged to speak of philosophy as a satisfaction of what may be called the mystical side of our nature — a satisfaction which, by certain persons, cannot be as well procured otherwise. And I may have given the impression that I take the metaphysician to be initiated into something far higher than what the common herd possesses. Such a doctrine would rest on a most deplorable error, |7| the superstition that the mere intellect is the highest side of our nature, and the false idea that in the intellectual world work done on higher subjects is for that reason higher work. Certainly the life of one man, in comparison with that of another, may be fuller of the Divine, or, again, may realize it with an intenser consciousness; but there is no calling or pursuit which is a private road to the Deity. And assuredly the way through speculation upon ultimate truths, though distinct and legitimate, is not superior to others. There is no sin, however prone to it the philosopher may be, which philosophy can justify so little as spiritual pride.

Book I. Appearance

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Chapter I. Primary and Secondary Qualities

|9-15| Attempt to explain error by taking primary qualities alone as real, 9. The secondary shown to be unreal, 9-11. But the primary have no independent existence, 12-14, save as useful fictions, 14-15.

The fact of illusion and error is in various ways forced early upon the mind; and the ideas by which we try to understand the universe, may be considered as attempts to set right our failure. In this division of my work I shall criticize some of these, and shall endeavour to show that they have not reached their object. I shall point out that the world, as so understood, contradicts itself; and is therefore appearance, and not reality.

In this chapter I will begin with the proposal to make things intelligible by the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. This view is old, but, I need hardly say, is far from obsolete, nor can it ever disappear. From time to time, without doubt, so long as there are human beings, it will reappear as the most advanced and as the one scientific theory of first principles. And I begin with it, because it is so simple, and in the main so easily disposed of. The primary qualities are those aspects of what we perceive or feel, which, in a word, are spatial; and the residue is secondary. The solution of the world’s enigma lies in taking the former as reality, and everything else somehow as derivative, and as more or less justifiable appearance.

“The world contradicts itself; it is therefore appearance, and not reality.”

The foundation of this view will be known to the reader, but for the sake of clearness I must trace it in outline. We assume that a thing must be self-consistent and self-dependent. It either has a quality or has not got it. And, if it has it, it can not have it only sometimes, and merely in this or that relation. But such a principle is the condemnation of secondary qualities.

It matters very little how in detail we work with it. A thing is coloured, but not coloured in the same way to every eye; and, except to some eye, it seems not coloured at all. Is it then coloured or not? And the eye — relation to which appears somehow to make the quality — does that itself possess colour? Clearly not so, unless there is |10| another eye which sees it. Nothing therefore is really coloured; colour seems only to belong to what itself is colourless. And the same result holds, again, with cold and heat. A thing may be cold or hot according to different parts of my skin; and, without some relation to a skin, it seems without any such quality. And, by a like argument, the skin is proved not itself to own the quality, which is hence possessed by nothing. And sounds, not heard, are hardly real; while what hears them is the ear, itself not audible, nor even always in the enjoyment of sound. With smell and with taste the case seems almost worse; for they are more obviously mixed up with our pleasure and pain. If a thing tastes only in the mouth, is taste its quality? Has it smell where there is no nose? But nose and tongue are smelt or tasted only by another nose or tongue; nor can either again be said to have as a quality what they sometimes enjoy. And the pleasant and disgusting, which we boldly locate in the object, how can they be there? Is a thing delightful or sickening really and in itself? Am even I the constant owner of these wandering adjectives? — But I will not weary the reader by insistence on detail. The argument shows everywhere that things have secondary qualities only for an organ; and that the organ itself has these qualities in no other way. They are found to be adjectives, somehow supervening on relations of the extended. The extended only is real. And the facts of what is called subjective sensation, under which we may include dream and delusion of all kinds, may be adduced in support. They go to show that, as we can have the sensation without the object, and the object without the sensation, the one cannot possibly be a quality of the other. The secondary qualities, therefore, are appearance, coming from the reality, which itself has no quality but extension.

“Reality itself has no quality but extension.”

This argument has two sides, a negative and a positive. The first denies that secondary qualities are the actual nature of things, the second goes on to make an affirmation about the primary. I will enquire first if the negative assertion is justified. I will not dispute the truth of the |11| principle that, if a thing has a quality, it must have it; but I will ask whether on this basis some defence may not be made. And we may attempt it in this way. All the arguments, we may protest, do but show defect in, or interference with, the organ of perception. The fact that I cannot receive the secondary qualities except under certain conditions, fails to prove that they are not there and existing in the thing. And, supposing that they are there, still the argument proves their absence, and is hence unsound. And sheer delusion and dreams do not overthrow this defence. The qualities are constant in the things themselves; and, if they fail to impart themselves, or impart themselves wrongly, that is always due to something outside their nature. If we could perceive them, they are there.

But this way of defence seems hardly tenable. For, if the qualities impart themselves never except under conditions, how in the end are we to say what they are when unconditioned? Having once begun, and having been compelled, to take their appearance into the account, we cannot afterwards strike it out. It being admitted that the qualities come to us always in a relation, and always as appearing, then certainly we know them only as appearance. And the mere supposition that in themselves they may really be what they are, seems quite meaningless or self-destructive. Further, we may enforce this conclusion by a palpable instance. To hold that one’s mistress is charming, ever and in herself, is an article of faith, and beyond reach of question. But, if we turn to common things, the result will be otherwise. We observed that the disgusting and the pleasant may make part of the character of a taste or a smell, while to take these aspects as a constant quality, either of the thing or of the organ, seems more than unjustifiable, and even almost ridiculous. And on the whole we must admit that the defence has broken down. The secondary qualities must be judged to be merely appearance.

“Qualities come to us always in a relation, and always as appearing.”

But are they the appearance of the primary, and are these the reality? The positive side of the contention was |12| that in the extended we have the essence of the thing; and it is necessary to ask if this conclusion is true. The doctrine is, of course, materialism, and is a very simple creed. What is extended, together with its spatial relations, is substantive fact, and the rest is adjectival. We have not to ask here if this view is scientific, in the sense of being necessarily used for work in some sciences. That has, of course, nothing to do with the question now before us, since we are enquiring solely whether the doctrine is true. And, regarded in this way, perhaps no student would call materialism scientific.

I will indicate briefly the arguments against the sole reality of primary qualities, (a) In the first place, we may ask how, in the nature of the extended, the terms stand to the relations which have to hold between them. This is a problem to be handled later (Chapter iv), and I will only remark here that its result is fatal to materialism. And, (b) in the second place, the relation of the primary qualities to the secondary — in which class feeling and thought have presumably to be placed — seems wholly unintelligible. For nothing is actually removed from existence by being labelled ‘appearance’. What appears is there, and must be dealt with; but materialism has no rational way of dealing with appearance. Appearance must belong, and yet cannot belong, to the extended (reality). It neither is able to fall somewhere apart, since there is no other real place; nor ought it, since, if so, the relation would vanish and appearance would cease to be derivative. But, on the other side, if it belongs in any sense to the reality, how can it be shown not to infect that with its own unreal character? Or we may urge that matter must cease to be itself, if qualified essentially by all that is secondary. But, taken otherwise, it has become itself but one out of two elements, and is not the reality.

“Nothing is actually removed from existence by being labelled ‘appearance’.”

And, (c) thirdly, the line of reasoning which showed that secondary qualities are not real, has equal force as applied to primary. The extended comes to us only by relation to an organ; and, whether the organ is touch or is sight or muscle-feeling — or whatever else it may |13| be — makes no difference to the argument. For, in any case, the thing is perceived by us through an affection of our body, and never without that. And our body itself is no exception, for we perceive that, as extended, solely by the action of one part upon another percipient part. Note 1 That we have no miraculous intuition of our body as spatial reality is perfectly certain. But, if so, the extended thing will have its quality only when perceived by something else; and the percipient something else is again in the same case. Nothing, in short, proves extended except in relation to another thing, which itself does not possess the quality, if you try to take it by itself. And, further, the objection from dream and delusion holds again. That objection urges that error points to a necessary relation of the object to our knowledge, even where error is not admitted. But such a relation would reduce every quality to appearance. We might, indeed, attempt once more here to hold the former line of defence. We might reply that the extended thing is a fact real by itself, and that only its relation to our percipience is variable. But the inevitable conclusion is not so to be averted. If a thing is known to have a quality only under a certain condition, there is no process of reasoning from this which will justify the conclusion that the thing, if unconditioned, is yet the same. This seems quite certain; and, to go further, if we have no other source of information, if the quality in question is non-existent for us except in one relation, then for us to assert its reality away from that relation is more than unwarranted. It is, to speak plainly, an attempt in the end without meaning. And it would seem that, if materialism is to stand, it must somehow get to the existence of primary qualities in a way which avoids their relation to an organ. But since, as we shall hereafter see (Chapter iv), their very essence is relative, even this refuge is closed.

(d) But there is a more obvious argument against the sole reality of spatial qualities; and, if I were writing for the people an attack upon materialism, I should rest great weight on this point. Without secondary quality extension |14| is not conceivable, and no one can bring it, as existing, before his mind if he keeps it quite pure. In short, it is the violent abstraction of one aspect from the rest, and the mere confinement of our attention to a single side of things, a fiction which, forgetting itself, takes a ghost for solid reality. And I will say a few words on this obvious answer to materialism.

“The materialist, from defect of nature or of education, or probably both, worships without justification the thin product of his untutored fancy.”

That doctrine, of course, holds that the extended can be actual, entirely apart from every other quality. But extension is never so given. If it is visual, it must be coloured; and if it is tactual, or acquired in the various other ways which may fall under the head of the ‘muscular sense’, — then it is never free from sensations, coming from the skin, or the joints, or the muscles, or, as some would like to add, from a central source. And a man may say what he likes, but he cannot think of extension without thinking at the same time of a ‘what’ that is extended. And not only is this so, but particular differences, such as ‘up and down’, ‘right and left’, are necessary to the terms of the spatial relation. But these differences clearly are not merely spatial. Like the general ‘what’, they will consist in all cases of secondary quality from a sensation of the kinds I have mentioned above. Some psychologists, indeed, could go further, and could urge that the secondary qualities are original, and the primary derivative; since extension (in their view) is a construction or growth from the wholly non-extended. I could not endorse that, but I can appeal to what is indisputable. Extension cannot be presented, or thought of, except as one with quality that is secondary. It is by itself a mere abstraction, for some purposes necessary, but ridiculous when taken as an existing thing. Yet the materialist, from defect of nature or of education, or probably both, worships without justification this thin product of his untutored fancy.

‘Not without justification’, he may reply, "since in the procedure of science the secondary qualities are explained as results from the primary. Obviously, therefore, these latter are independent and prior." But this is a very simple error. For suppose that you have shown that, given one |15| element, A, another, b, does in fact follow on it; suppose that you can prove that b comes just the same, whether A is attended by c, or d, or e, or any one of a number of other qualities, you cannot go from this to the result that A exists and works naked. The secondary b can be explained, you urge, as issuing from the primary A, without consideration of aught else. Let it be so; but all that could follow is, that the special natures of A’s accompaniments are not concerned in the process. There is not only no proof, but there is not even the very smallest presumption, that A could act by itself, or could be a real fact if alone. It is doubtless scientific to disregard certain aspects when we work; but to urge that therefore such aspects are not fact, and that what we use without regard to them is an independent real thing — this is barbarous metaphysics.

We have found then that, if the secondary qualities are appearance, the primary are certainly not able to stand by themselves. This distinction, from which materialism is blindly developed, has been seen to bring us no nearer to the true nature of reality. Note 2

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Chapter II. Substantive and Adjective

|16-20| Problem of Inherence. Relation between the thing and its qualities is unintelligible, 16-20.

We have seen that the distinction of primary from secondary qualities has not taken us far. Let us, without regard to it, and once more directly turning to what meets us, examine another way of making that intelligible. We find the world’s contents grouped into things and their qualities. The substantive and adjective is a time-honoured distinction and arrangement of facts, with a view to understand them and to arrive at reality. I must briefly point out the failure of this method, if regarded as a serious attempt at theory.

We may take the familiar instance of a lump of sugar. This is a thing, and it has properties, adjectives which qualify it. It is, for example, white, and hard, and sweet. The sugar, we say, is all that; but what the is can really mean seems doubtful. A thing is not any one of its qualities, if you take that quality by itself; if ‘sweet’ were the same as ‘simply sweet’, the thing would clearly be not sweet. And, again, in so far as sugar is sweet it is not white or hard; for these properties are all distinct. Nor, again, can the thing be all its properties, if you take them each severally. Sugar is obviously not mere whiteness, mere hardness, and mere sweetness; for its reality lies somehow in its unity. But if, on the other hand, we inquire what there can be in the thing beside its several qualities, we are baffled once more. We can discover no real unity existing outside these qualities, or, again, existing within them.

“Inherence is the relation of an attribute to its subject.”

But it is our emphasis, perhaps, on the aspect of unity which has caused this confusion. Sugar is, of course, not the mere plurality of its different adjectives; but why should it be more than its properties in relation? When ‘white’, ‘hard’, ‘sweet’, and the rest coexist in a certain way, that is surely the secret of the thing. The qualities are, and are in relation. But here, as before, when we leave phrases we wander among puzzles. ‘Sweet’, ‘white’, and |17| ‘hard’ seem now the subjects about which we are saying something. We certainly do not predicate one of the other; for, if we attempt to identify them, they at once resist. They are in this wholly incompatible, and, so far, quite contrary. Apparently, then, a relation is to be asserted of each. One quality, A, is in relation with another quality, B. But what are we to understand here by is? We do not mean that ‘in relation with Bis A, and yet we assert that A is ‘in relation with B’. In the same way C is called ‘before D’, and E is spoken of as being ‘to the right of F’? We say all this, but from the interpretation, then ‘before D’ is C, and ‘to the right of F’ is E, we recoil in horror. No, we should reply, the relation is not identical with the thing. It is only a sort of attribute which inheres or belongs. The word to use, when we are pressed, should not be is, but only has. But this reply comes to very little. The whole question is evidently as to the meaning of has; and, apart from metaphors not taken seriously, there appears really to be no answer. And we seem unable to clear ourselves from the old dilemma, If you predicate what is different, you ascribe to the subject what it is not; and if you predicate what is not different, you say nothing at all.

Driven forward, we must attempt to modify our statement. We must assert the relation now, not of one term, but of both. A and B are identical in such a point, and in such another point they differ; or, again, they are so situated in space or in time. And thus we avoid is, and keep to are. But, seriously, that does not look like the explanation of a difficulty; it looks more like trifling with phrases. For, if you mean that A and B, taken each severally, even ‘have’ this relation, you are asserting what is false. But if you mean that A and B in such a relation are so related, you appear to mean nothing. For here, as before, if the predicate makes no difference, it is idle; but, if it makes the subject other than it is, it is false.

“Inherence is the state of being a fixed characteristic.”

But let us attempt another exit from this bewildering circle. Let us abstain from making the relation an attribute of the related, and let us make it more or less |18| independent. ‘There is a relation C, in which A and B stand; and it appears with both of them’. But here again we have made no progress. The relation C has been admitted different from A and B, and no longer is predicated of them. Something, however, seems to be said of this relation C, and said, again, of A and B. And this something is not to be the ascription of one to the other. If so, it would appear to be another relation, D, in which C, on one side, and, on the other side, A and B, stand. But such a makeshift leads at once to the infinite process. The new relation D can be predicated in no way of C, or of A and B; and hence we must have recourse to a fresh relation, E, which comes between D and whatever we had before. But this must lead to another, F; and so on, indefinitely. Thus the problem is not solved by taking relations as independently real. For, if so, the qualities and their relation fall entirely apart, and then we have said nothing. Or we have to make a new relation between the old relation and the terms; which, when it is made, does not help us. It either itself demands a new relation, and so on without end, or it leaves us where we were, entangled in difficulties.

The attempt to resolve the thing into properties, each a real thing, taken somehow together with independent relations, has proved an obvious failure. And we are forced to see, when we reflect, that a relation standing alongside of its terms is a delusion. If it is to be real, it must be so somehow at the expense of the terms, or, at least, must be something which appears in them or to which they belong. A relation between A and B implies really a substantial foundation within them. This foundation, if we say that A is like to B, is the identity X which holds these differences together. And so with space and time — everywhere there must be a whole embracing what is related, or there would be no differences and no relation. It seems as if a reality possessed differences, A and B, incompatible with one another and also with itself. And so in order, without contradiction, to retain its various properties, this whole consents to wear the form of relations between them. And this is why qualities are found |19| to be some incompatible and some compatible. They are all different, and, on the other hand, because belonging to one whole, are all forced to come together. And it is only where they come together distantly by the help of a relation, that they cease to conflict. On the other hand, where a thing fails to set up a relation between its properties, they are contrary Note 3 at once. Thus colours and smells live together at peace in the reality; for the thing divides itself, and so leaves them merely side by side within itself. But colour collides with colour, because their special identity drives them together. And here again, if the identity becomes relational by help of space, they are outside one another, and are peaceful once more. The ‘contrary’, in short, consists of differences possessed by that which cannot find the relation which serves to couple them apart. It is marriage attempted without a modus vivendi. But where the whole, relaxing its unity, takes the form of an arrangement, there is coexistence with concord.

I have set out the above mainly because of the light which it throws upon the nature of the ‘contrary’. It affords no solution of our problem of inherence. It tells us how we are forced to arrange things in a certain manner, but it does not justify that arrangement. The thing avoids contradiction by its disappearance into relations, and by its admission of the adjectives to a standing of their own. But it avoids contradiction by a kind of suicide. It can give no rational account of the relations and the terms which it adopts, and it cannot recover the real unity, without which it is nothing. The whole device is a clear makeshift. It consists in saying to the outside world, ‘I am the thing in itself the owner of these my adjectives’, and to the properties, ‘I am but a relation, which leaves you your liberty’. And to itself and for itself it is the futile pretence to have both characters at once. Such an arrangement may work, but the theoretical problem is not solved.

“In short, this distinction, drawn between the fact and our manner of regarding it, only serves to double the original confusion.”

The immediate unity, in which facts come to us, has been broken up by experience, and later by reflection. The thing with its adjectives is a device for enjoying at |20| once both variety and concord. But the distinctions, once made, fall apart from the thing, and away from one another. And our attempt to understand their relations brought us round merely to a unity, which confesses itself a pretence, or else falls back upon the old undivided substance, which admits of no relations. We shall see the hopelessness of its dilemma more clearly when we have examined how relation stands to quality. But this demands another chapter.

I will, in conclusion, dispose very briefly of a possible suggestion. The distinctions taken in the thing are to be held only, it may be urged, as the ways in which we regard it The thing itself maintains its unity, and the aspects of adjective and substantive are only our points of view. Hence they do no injury to the real. But this defence is futile, since the question is how without error we may think of reality. If then your collection of points of view is a defensible way of so thinking, by all means apply it to the thing, and make an end of our puzzle. Otherwise the thing, without the points of view, appears to have no character at all, and they, without the thing, to possess no reality — even if they could be made compatible among themselves, the one with the other. In short, this distinction, drawn between the fact and our manner of regarding it, only serves to double the original confusion. There will now be an inconsistency in my mind as well as in the thing; and, far from helping, the one will but aggravate the other.

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|21-29| Qualities without relations are unintelligible. They cannot be found, 21-3. They cannot be got bare legitimately, 23-4, or at all, 24-5. Qualities with relations are unintelligible. They cannot be resolved into relations, 25-6, and the relations bring internal discrepancies, 26-7. Relations with, or without, qualities are unintelligible, 27-9.

Note 4

It must have become evident that the problem, discussed in the last chapter, really turns on the respective natures of quality and relation. And the reader may have anticipated the conclusion we are now to reach. The arrangement of given facts into relations and qualities may be necessary in practice, but it is theoretically unintelligible. The reality, so characterized, is not true reality, but is appearance.

And it can hardly be maintained that this character calls for no understanding — that it is a unique way of being which the reality possesses, and which we have got merely to receive. For it most evidently has ceased to be something quite immediate. It contains aspects now distinguished and taken as differences, and which tend, so far as we see, to a further separation. And, if the reality really has a way of uniting these in harmony, that way assuredly is not manifest at first sight. On our own side those distinctions which even consciously we make may possibly in some way give the truth about reality. But, so long as we fail to justify them and to make them intelligible to ourselves, we are bound, so far, to set them down as mere appearance.

The object of this chapter is to show that the very essence of these ideas is infected and contradicts itself. Our conclusion briefly will be this. Relation presupposes quality, and quality relation. Each can be something neither together with, nor apart from, the other; and the vicious circle in which they turn is not the truth about reality.

1. Qualities are nothing without relations. In trying to exhibit the truth of this statement, I will lay no weight on a considerable mass of evidence. This, furnished by psychology, would attempt to show how qualities are variable by changes of relation. The differences we perceive in many cases seem to have been so created. But |22| I will not appeal to such an argument, since I do not see that it could prove wholly the non-existence of original and independent qualities. And the line of proof through the necessity of contrast for perception has, in my opinion, been carried beyond logical limits. Hence, though these considerations have without doubt an important bearing on our problem, I prefer here to disregard them. And I do not think that they are necessary.

“Qualities are nothing without relations.”

We may proceed better to our conclusion in the following way. You can never, we may argue, find qualities without relations. Whenever you take them so, they are made so, and continue so, by an operation which itself implies relation. Their plurality gets for us all its meaning through relations; and to suppose it otherwise in reality is wholly indefensible. I will draw this out in greater detail.

To find qualities without relations is surely impossible. In the field of consciousness, even when we abstract from the relations of identity and difference, they are never independent One is together with, and related to, one other, at the least, — in fact, always to more than one. Nor will an appeal to a lower and undistinguished state of mind, where in one feeling are many aspects, assist us in any way. I admit the existence of such states without any relation, but I wholly deny there the presence of qualities. For if these felt aspects, while merely felt, are to be called qualities proper, they are so only for the observation of an outside observer. And then for him they are given as aspects — that is, together with relations.

“If you go back to mere unbroken feeling, you have no relations and no qualities. But if you come to what is distinct, you get relations at once.”

I presume we shall be answered in this way. Even though, we shall be told, qualities proper cannot be discovered apart from relations, that is no real disproof of their separate existence. For we are well able to distinguish them and to consider them by themselves. And for this perception certainly an operation of our minds is required. So far, therefore, as you say, what is different |23| must be distinct, and, in consequence, related. But this relation does not really belong to the reality. The relation has existence only for us, and as a way of our getting to know. But the distinction, for all that, is based upon differences in the actual; and these remain when our relations have fallen away or have been removed.

But such an answer depends on the separation of product from process, and this separation seems indefensible. The qualities, as distinct, are always made so by an action which is admitted to imply relation. They are made so, and, what is more, they are emphatically kept so. And you cannot ever get your product standing apart from its process. Will you say, the process is not essential? But that is a conclusion to be proved, and it is monstrous to assume it. Will you try to prove it by analogy? It is possible for many purposes to accept and employ the existence of processes and relations which do not affect specially the inner nature of objects. But the very possibility of so distinguishing in the end between inner and outer, and of setting up the inner as absolutely independent of all relation, is here in question. Mental operations such as comparison, which presuppose in the compared qualities already existing, could in no case prove that these qualities depend on no relations at all. But I cannot believe that this is a matter to be decided by analogy, for the whole case is briefly this. There is an operation which, removing one part of what is given, presents the other part in abstraction. This result is never to be found anywhere apart from a persisting abstraction. And, if we have no further information, I can find no excuse for setting up the result as being fact without the process. The burden lies wholly on the assertor, and he fails entirely to support it. The argument that in perception one quality must be given first and before others, and therefore cannot be relative, is hardly worth mentioning. What is more natural than for qualities always to have come to us in some conjunction, and never alone?

We may go further. Not only is the ignoring of the process a thing quite indefensible — even if it blundered |24| into truth — but there is evidence that it gives falsehood. For the result bears internally the character of the process. The manyness of the qualities cannot, in short, be reconciled with their simplicity. Their plurality depends on relation, and, without that relation, they are not distinct. But, if not distinct, then not different, and therefore not qualities.

“Is relation essential to differences?”

I am not urging that quality without difference is in every sense impossible. For all I know, creatures may exist whose life consists, for themselves, in one unbroken simple feeling; and the arguments urged against such a possibility in my judgment come short. And, if you want to call this feeling a quality, by all means gratify your desire. But then remember that the whole point is quite irrelevant. For no one is contending whether the universe is or is not a quality in this sense; but the question is entirely as to qualities. And a universe confined to one feeling would not only not be qualities, but it would fail even to be one quality, as different from others and as distinct from relations. Our question is really whether relation is essential to differences.

We have seen that in fact the two are never found apart We have seen that the separation by abstraction is no proof of real separateness. And now we have to urge, in short, that any separateness implies separation, and so relation, and is therefore, when made absolute, a self-discrepancy. For consider, the qualities A and B are to be different from each other; and, if so, that difference must fall somewhere. If it falls, in any degree or to any extent, outside A or B, we have relation at once. But, on the other hand, how can difference and otherness fall inside? If we have in A any such otherness, then inside A we must distinguish its own quality and its otherness. And, if so, then the unsolved problem breaks out inside each quality, and separates each into two qualities in relation. In brief, diversity without relation seems a word without meaning. And it is no answer to urge that plurality proper is not in question here. I am convinced of the opposite, but by all means, if you will, let us confine |25| ourselves to distinctness and difference. I rest my argument upon this, that if there are no differences, there are no qualities, since all must fall into one. But, if there is any difference, then that implies a relation. Without a relation it has no meaning; it is a mere word, and not a thought; and no one would take it for a thought if he did not, in spite of his protests, import relation into it. And this is the point on which all seems to turn, Is it possible to think of qualities without thinking of distinct characters? Is it possible to think of these without some relation between them, either explicit, or else unconsciously supplied by the mind that tries only to apprehend? Have qualities without relation any meaning for thought? For myself, I am sure that they have none.

And I find a confirmation in the issue of the most thorough attempt to build a system on this ground. There it is not too much to say that all the content of the universe becomes something very like an impossible illusion. The Reals Note 5 are secluded and simple, simple beyond belief if they never suspect that they are not so. But our fruitful life, on the other hand, seems due to their persistence in imaginary recovery from unimaginable perversion. And they remain guiltless of all real share in these ambiguous connections, which seem to make the world. They are above it, and fixed like stars in the firmament — if there only were a firmament.

2. We have found that qualities, taken without relations, have no intelligible meaning. Unfortunately, taken together with them, they are equally unintelligible. They cannot, in the first place, be wholly resolved into the relations. You may urge, indeed, that without distinction no difference is left; but, for all that, the differences will not disappear into the distinction. They must come to it, more or less, and they cannot wholly be made by it. I still insist that for thought what is not relative is nothing. But I urge, on the other hand, that nothings cannot be related, and that to turn qualities in relation into mere relations is impossible. Since the fact seems constituted |26| by both, you may urge, if you please, that either one of them constitutes it. But if you mean that the other is not wanted, and that relations can somehow make the terms upon which they seem to stand, then, for my mind, your meaning is quite unintelligible. So far as I can see, relations must depend upon terms, just as much as terms upon relations. And the partial failure, now manifest, of the Dialectic Method seems connected with some misapprehension on this point.

“Qualities with relations are unintelligible.”

Hence the qualities must be, and must also be related. But there is hence a diversity which falls inside each quality. Each has a double character, as both supporting and as being made by the relation. It may be taken as at once condition and result, and the question is as to how it can combine this variety. For it must combine the diversity, and yet it fails to do so. A is both made, and is not made, what it is by relation; and these different aspects are not each the other, nor again is either A. If we call its diverse aspects a and α, then A is partly each of these. As a it is the difference on which distinction is based, while as α it is the distinctness that results from connection. A is really both somehow together as A (a — α. But (as we saw in Chapter ii) without the use of a relation it is impossible to predicate this variety of A. And, on the other hand, with an internal relation. As unity disappears, and its contents are dissipated in an endless process of distinction. A at first becomes a in relation with α, but these terms themselves fall hopelessly asunder. We have got, against our will, not a mere aspect, but a new quality a, which itself stands in a relation; and hence (as we saw before with A) its content must be manifold. As going into the relation it itself is a2, and as resulting from the relation it itself is α2. And it combines, and yet cannot combine, these adjectives. We, in brief, are led by a principle of fission which conducts us to no end. Every quality in relation has, in consequence, a diversity within its own nature, and this diversity cannot immediately be asserted of the quality. Hence, the quality must exchange its unity for an internal relation. But, thus set free, the |27| diverse aspects, because each something in relation, must each be something also beyond. This diversity is fatal to the internal unity of each; and it demands a new relation, and so on without limit. In short, qualities in a relation have turned out as unintelligible as were qualities without one. The problem from both sides has baffled us.

3. We may briefly reach the same dilemma from the side of relations. They are nothing intelligible, either with or without their qualities. In the first place, a relation without terms seems mere verbiage; and terms appear, therefore, to be something beyond their relation. At least, for myself, a relation which somehow precipitates terms which were not there before, or a relation which can get on somehow without terms, and with no differences beyond the mere ends of a line of connection, is really a phrase without meaning. It is, to my mind, a false abstraction, and a thing which loudly contradicts itself; and I fear that I am obliged to leave the matter so. As I am left without information, and can discover with my own ears no trace of harmony, I am forced to conclude to a partial deafness in others. And hence a relation, we must say, without qualities is nothing.

But how the relation can stand to the qualities is, on the other side, unintelligible. If it is nothing to the qualities, then they are not related at all; and, if so, as we saw, they have ceased to be qualities, and their relation is a nonentity. But if it is to be something to them, then clearly we now shall require a new connecting relation. For the relation hardly can be the mere adjective of one or both of its terms; or, at least, as such it seems indefensible.1 And, being something itself, if it does not itself bear a relation to the terms, in what intelligible way will it succeed in |28| being anything to them? But here again we are hurried off into the eddy of a hopeless process, since we are forced to go on finding new relations without end. The links are united by a link, and this bond of union is a link which also has two ends; and these require each a fresh link to connect them with the old. The problem is to find how the relation can stand to its qualities; and this problem is insoluble. If you take the connection as a solid thing, you have got to show, and you cannot show, how the other solids are joined to it. And, if you take it as a kind of medium or unsubstantial atmosphere, it is a connection no longer. You find, in this case, that the whole question of the relation of the qualities (for they certainly in some way are related) arises now outside it, in precisely the same form as before. The original relation, in short, has become a nonentity, but, in becoming this, it has removed no element of the problem.

I will bring this chapter to an end. It would be easy, and yet profitless, to spin out its argument with ramifications and refinements. And for me to attempt to anticipate the reader’s objections would probably be useless. I have stated the case, and I must leave it. The conclusion to which I am brought is that a relational way of thought — any one that moves by the machinery of terms and relations — must give appearance, and not truth. It is a makeshift, a device, a mere practical compromise, most necessary, but in the end most indefensible. We have to take reality as many, and to take it as one, and to avoid contradiction. We want to divide it, or to take it, when we please, as indivisible; to go as far as we desire in either of these directions, and to stop when that suits us. And we succeed, but succeed merely by shutting the eye, which if left open would condemn us; or by a perpetual oscillation and a shifting of the ground, so as to turn our back upon the aspect we desire to ignore. But when these inconsistencies are forced together, as in metaphysics they must be, the result is an open and staring discrepancy. And we cannot attribute this to reality; while, if we try to take it on ourselves, we have changed one evil for two. |29| Our intellect, then, has been condemned to confusion and bankruptcy, and the reality has been left outside uncomprehended. Or rather, what is worse, it has been stripped bare of all distinction and quality. It is left naked and without a character, and we are covered with confusion.

The reader who has followed and has grasped the principle of this chapter, will have little need to spend his time upon those which succeed it. He will have seen that our experience, where relational, is not true; and he will have condemned, almost without a hearing, the great mass of phenomena. I feel, however, called on next to deal very briefly with Space and Time.


1^ The relation is not the adjective of one term, for, if so, it does not relate. Nor for the same reason is it the adjective of each term taken apart, for then again there is no relation between them. Nor is the relation their common property, for then what keeps them apart? They are now not two terms at all, because not separate. And within this new whole, in any case, the problem of inherence would break out in an aggravated form. But it seems unnecessary to work this all out in detail.

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Chapter IV. Space and Time

|30-36| Their psychological origin is irrelevant, 30. Space is inconsistent because it is, and is not, a relation, 33, and its connection with other content is unintelligible, 33-4. Time, as usually taken, has the same vices, 33-4. And so has Time taken otherwise, for the ‘now’ is self-inconsistent, 34-6.

The object of this chapter is far from being an attempt to discuss fully the nature of space or of time. It will content itself with stating our main justification for regarding them as appearance. It will explain why we deny that, in the character which they exhibit, they either have or belong to reality. I will first show this of space.

We have nothing to do here with the psychological origin of the perception. Space may be a product developed from non-spatial elements; and, if so, its production may have great bearing on the question of its true reality. But it is impossible for us to consider this here. For, in the first place, every attempt so to explain its origin has turned out a clear failure.1 And, in the second place, its reality would not be necessarily affected by the proof of its development Nothing can be taken as real because, for psychology, it is original; or, again, as unreal, because it is secondary. If it were a legitimate construction from elements that were true, then it might be derived only for our knowledge, and be original in fact. But so long as its attempted derivation is in part obscure and in part illusory, it is better to regard this whole question as irrelevant.

Let us then, taking space or extension simply as it is, enquire whether it contradicts itself. The reader will be acquainted with the difficulties that have arisen from the continuity and the discreteness of space. These necessitate |31| the conclusion that space is endless, while an end is essential to its being. Space cannot come to a final limit, either within itself or on the outside. And yet, so long as it remains something always passing away, internally or beyond itself, it is not space at all. This dilemma has been met often by the ignoring of one aspect, but it has never been, and it will never be, confronted and resolved. And naturally, while it stands, it is the condemnation of space.

I am going to state it here in the form which exhibits, I think, most plainly the root of the contradiction, and also its insolubility. Space is a relation — which it cannot be; and it is a quality or substance — which again it cannot be. It is a peculiar form of the problem which we discussed in the last chapter, and is a special attempt to combine the irreconcilable. I will set out this puzzle antithetically.

1. Space is not a mere relation. For any space must consist of extended parts, and these parts clearly are spaces. So that, even if we could take our space as a collection, it would be a collection of solids. Note 6 The relation would join spaces which would not be mere relations. And hence the collection, if taken as a mere inter-relation, would not be space. We should be brought to the proposition that space is nothing but a relation of spaces. And this proposition contradicts itself.

Again, from the other side, if any space is taken as a whole, it is evidently more than a relation. It is a thing, or substance, or quality (call it what you please), which is clearly as solid as the parts which it unites. From without, or from within, it is quite as repulsive and as simple as any of its contents. The mere fact that we are driven always to speak of its parts should be evidence enough. What could be the parts of a relation?

2. But space is nothing but a relation. For, in the first place, any space must consist of parts; and, if the parts are not spaces, the whole is not space. Take then in a space any parts. These, it is assumed, must be solid, but they are obviously extended. If extended, however, they will themselves consist of parts, and these again of further parts, and so on without end. A space, or a part of space, |32| that really means to be solid, is a self-contradiction. Anything extended is a collection, a relation of extendeds, which again are relations of extendeds, and so on indefinitely. The terms are essential to the relation, and the terms do not exist. Searching without end, we never find anything more than relations; and we see that we cannot. Space is essentially a relation of what vanishes into relations, which seek in vain for their terms. It is lengths of lengths of — nothing that we can find.

“Space, to be space, must have space outside itself. It forever disappears into a whole, which proves never to be more than one side of a relation to something beyond.”

And, from the outside again, a like conclusion is forced on us. We have seen that space vanishes internally into relations between units which never can exist. But, on the other side, when taken itself as a unit, it passes away into the search for an illusory whole. It is essentially the reference of itself to something else, a process of endless passing beyond actuality. As a whole it is, briefly, the relation of itself to a nonexistent other. For take space and as complete as you possibly can. Still, if it has not definite boundaries, it is not space; and to make it end in a cloud, or in nothing, is mere blindness and our mere failure to perceive. A space limited, and yet without space that is outside, is a self-contradiction. But the outside, unfortunately, is compelled likewise to pass beyond itself; and the end cannot be reached. And it is not merely that we fail to perceive, or fail to understand, how this can be otherwise. We perceive and we understand that it cannot be otherwise, at least if space is to be space. We either do not know what space means; and, if so, certainly we cannot say that it is more than appearance. Or else, knowing what we mean by it, we see inherent in that meaning the puzzle we are describing. Space, to be space, must have space outside itself. It forever disappears into a whole, which proves never to be more than one side of a relation to something beyond. And thus space has neither any solid parts, nor, when taken as one, is it more than the relation of itself to a new self. As it stands, it is not space; and, in trying to find space beyond it, we can find only that which passes away into a relation. Space is a relation between terms, which can never be found.

|33| It would not repay us to dwell further on the contradiction which we have exhibited. The reader who has once grasped the principle can deal himself with the details. I will refer merely in passing to a supplementary difficulty. Empty space — space without some quality (visual or muscular) which in itself is more than spatial — is an unreal abstraction. It cannot be said to exist, for the reason that it cannot by itself have any meaning. When a man realizes what he has got in it, he finds that always he has a quality which is more than extension (cf. Chapter i). But, if so, how this quality is to stand to the extension is an insoluble problem. It is a case of ‘inherence’, which we saw (Chapter ii) was in principle unintelligible. And, without further delay, I will proceed to consider time. I shall in this chapter confine myself almost entirely to the difficulties caused by the discretion and the continuity of time. With regard to change, I will say something further in the chapter which follows.

Efforts have been made to explain time psychologically — to exhibit, that is to say, its origin from what comes to the mind as timeless. But, for the same reason which seemed conclusive in the case of space, and which here has even greater weight, I shall not consider these attempts. I shall inquire simply as to time’s character, and whether, that being as it is, it can belong to reality.

It is usual to consider time under a spatial form. It is taken as a stream, and past and future are regarded as parts of it, which presumably do not coexist, but are often talked of as if they did. Time, apprehended in this way, is open to the objection we have just urged against space. It is a relation — and, on the other side, it is not a relation; and it is, again, incapable of being anything beyond a relation. And the reader who has followed the dilemma which was fatal to space, will not require much explanation. If you take time as a relation between units without duration, then the whole time has no duration, and is not time at all. But, if you give duration to the whole time, then at once the units themselves are found to possess it; |34| and they thus cease to be units. Time in fact is ‘before’ and ‘after’ in one; and without this diversity it is not time. But these differences cannot be asserted of the unity; and, on the other hand and failing that, time is helplessly dissolved. Hence, they are asserted under a relation. ‘Before in relation to after’ is the character of time; and here the old difficulties about relation and quality recommence. The relation is not a unity, and yet the terms are nonentities, if left apart. Again, to import an independent character into the terms is to make each somehow in itself both before and after. But this brings on a process which dissipates the terms into relations, which, in the end, end in nothing. And to make the relation of time an unit is, first of all, to make it stationary, by destroying within it the diversity of before and after. And, in the second place, this solid unit, existing only by virtue of external relations, is forced to expand. It perishes in ceaseless oscillation, between an empty solidity and a transition beyond itself towards illusory completeness.

And, as with space, the qualitative content — which is not merely temporal, and apart from which the terms related in time would have no character — presents an insoluble problem. How to combine this in unity with the time which it fills, and again how to establish each aspect apart, are both beyond our resources. And time so far, like space, has turned out to be appearance.

But we shall be rightly told that a spatial form is not essential to time, and that, to examine it fairly, we should not force our errors upon it. Let us then attempt to regard time as it stands, and without extraneous additions. We shall only convince ourselves that the root of the old dilemma is not torn up.

If we are to keep to time as it comes, and are to abstain at first from inference and construction, we must confine ourselves, I presume, to time as presented. But presented time must be time present, and we must agree, at least provisionally, not to go beyond the ‘now’. And the question at once before us will be as to the ‘now’s’ temporal contents. First, let us ask if they exist. Is the ‘now’ simple and indivisible? |35| We can at once reply in the negative. For time implies before and after, and by consequence diversity; and hence the simple is not time. We are compelled then, so far, to take the present as comprehending diverse aspects.

How many aspects it contains is an interesting question. According to one opinion, in the "now" we can observe both past and future; and, whether these are divided by the present, and, if so, precisely in what sense, admits of further doubt. In another opinion, which I prefer, the future is not presented, but is a product of construction; and the ‘now’. contains merely the process of present turning into past. But here these differences, if indeed they are such, are fortunately irrelevant. All that we require is the admission of some process within the ‘now’.2

For any process admitted destroys the ‘now’ from within. Before and after are diverse, and their incompatibility compels us to use a relation between them. Then at once the old wearisome game is played again. The aspects become parts, the ‘now’ consists of ‘nows’, and in the end these ‘nows’ prove undiscoverable. For, as a solid part of time, the ‘now’ does not exist. Pieces of duration may to us appear not to be composite; but a very little reflection lays bare their inherent fraudulence. If they are not duration, they do not contain an after and before, and they have, by themselves, no beginning or end, and are by themselves outside of time. But, if so, time becomes merely the relation between them; and duration is a number of relations of the timeless, themselves also, I suppose, related somehow so as to make one duration. But how a relation is to be a unity, of which these differences are predicable, we have seen is incomprehensible. And, if it fails to be a unity, time is forthwith dissolved. But why should I weary the reader by developing in detail the impossible consequences of either alternative? If he has understood the principle, he is with us; and, otherwise, the uncertain argumentum ad hominem would too certainly pass into argumentum ad nauseam.

|36| I will, however, instance one result which follows from a denial of time’s continuity. Time will in this case fall somehow between the timeless, as A-C-E. But the rate of change is not uniform for all events; and, I presume, no one will assert that, when we have arrived at our apparent units, that sets a limit to actual and possible velocity. Let us suppose then another series of events, which, taken as a whole, coincides in time with A-C-E, but contains the six units a-b-c-d-e-f. Either then these other relations (those, for example, between a and b, c and d) will fall between A and C, C and E, and what that can mean I do not know; or else the transition a-b will coincide with A, which is timeless and contains no possible lapse. And that, so far as I can perceive, contradicts itself outright. But I feel inclined to add that this whole question is less a matter for detailed argument than for understanding in its principle. I doubt if there is anyone who has ever grasped this, and then has failed to reach one main result. But there are too many respectable writers whom here one can hardly criticize. They have simply never got to understand.

Thus, if in the time, which we call presented, there exists any lapse, that time is torn by a dilemma, and is condemned to be appearance. But, if the presented is timeless, another destruction awaits us. Time will be the relation of the present to a future and past; and the relation, as we have seen, is not compatible with diversity or unity. Further, the existence, not presented, of future and of past seems ambiguous. But, apart from that, time perishes in the endless process beyond itself. The unit will be forever its own relation to something beyond, something in the end not discoverable. And this process is forced on it, both by its temporal form, and again by the continuity of its content, which transcends what is given. |43|

Time, like space, has most evidently proved not to be real, but to be a contradictory appearance. I will, in the next chapter, reinforce and repeat this conclusion by some remarks upon change.


1^ I do not mean to say that I consider it to be original. On the contrary, one may have reason to believe something to be secondary, even though one cannot point out its foundation and origin. What has been called ‘extensity’ appears to me (as offered) to involve a confusion. When you know what you mean by it, it seems to turn out to be either spatial at once and downright, or else not spatial at all. It seems useful, in part, only as long as you allow it to be obscure. Does all perception of more and less (or all which does not involve degree in the strict sense) imply space, or not? Any answer to this question would, I think, depose of ‘extensity’ as offered. But see Mind, iv. pp. 232-5.

2^ On the different meanings of the ‘present’ I have said something in my Principles of Logic, pp. 51, foll.

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Chapter V. Motion and Change and its Perception

|37-45| Motion is inconsistent; is not so fundamental as Change, 37-8. Change is a new instance of our dilemma and is unintelligible, 38-41. Perception of Succession is not timeless, 41-3. Its true nature, 43-5.

I am sensible that this chapter will repeat much of the former discussion. It is not for my own pleasure that I write it, but as an attempt to strengthen the reader. Whoever is convinced that change is a self-contradictory appearance, will do well perhaps to pass on towards something which interests him.

Motion has from an early time been criticized severely, and it has never been defended with much success. I will briefly point to the principle on which these criticizms are founded. Motion implies that what is moved is in two places in one time; and this seems not possible. That motion implies two places is obvious; that these places are successive is no less obvious. But, on the other hand, it is clear that the process must have unity. The thing moved must be one; and, again, the time must be one. If the time were only many times, out of relation, and not parts of a single temporal whole, then no motion would be found. But if the time is one, then, as we have seen, it cannot also be many.

A common ‘explanation’ is to divide both the space and the time into discrete corresponding units, taken literally ad libitum. The lapse in this case is supposed to fall somehow between them. But, as a theoretical solution, the device is childish. Greater velocity would in this case be quite impossible; and a lapse, falling between timeless units, has really, as we have seen, no meaning. And where the unity of these lapses, which makes the one duration, is to be situated, we, of course, are not, and could not be, informed. And how this inconsistent mass is related to the identity of the body moved is again unintelligible. What becomes clear is merely this, that motion in space gives no solution of the problem of change. It adds, in space, a further detail which throws no light on the principle. But, on the other side, it makes the discrepancies |38| of change more palpable; and it forces on all but the thoughtless the problem of the identity of a thing which has changed. But change in time, with all its inconsistencies, lies below motion in space; and, if this cannot be defended, motion at once is condemned.

The problem of change underlies that of motion, but the former itself is not fundamental. It points back to the dilemma of the one and the many, the differences and the identity, the adjectives and the thing, the qualities and the relations. How anything can possibly be anything else was a question which defied our efforts. Change is little beyond an instance of this dilemma in principle. It either adds an irrelevant complication, or confuses itself in a blind attempt at compromise. Let us, at the cost of repetition, try to get clear on this head.

Change, it is evident, must be change of something, and it is obvious, further, that it contains diversity. Hence, it asserts two of one, and so falls at once under the condemnation of our previous chapters. But it tries to defend itself by this distinction: ‘Yes, both are asserted, but not both in one; there is a relation, and so the unity and plurality are combined’. But our criticizm of relations has destroyed this subterfuge beforehand. We have seen that, when a whole has been thus broken up into relations and terms, it has become utterly self — discrepant. You can truly predicate neither one part of the other part, nor any, nor all, of the whole. And, in its attempt to contain these elements, the whole commits suicide, and destroys them in its death. It would serve no purpose to repeat these inexorable laws. Let us see merely how change condemns itself by entering their sphere.

Something, A, changes, and therefore it cannot be permanent. On the other hand, if A is not permanent, what is it that changes? It will no longer be A, but something else. In other words, let A be free from change in time, and it does not change. But let it contain change, and at once it becomes A1, A2, A3. Then what becomes of A, and of its change, for we are left with something else? Again, we may put the problem thus. The diverse states |39| of A must exist within one time; and yet they cannot, because they are successive.

Let us first take A as timeless, in the sense of out of time. Here the succession of the change must belong to it, or not. In the former case, what is the relation between the succession and A? If there is none, A does not change. If there is any, it forces unintelligibly a diversity onto A, which is foreign to its nature and incomprehensible. And then this diversity, by itself, will be merely the unsolved problem. If we are not to remove change altogether, then we have, standing in unintelligible relation with the timeless A, a temporal change which offers us all our old difficulties unreduced.

A must be taken as falling within the time-series; and, if so, the question will be whether it has or has not got duration. Either alternative is fatal. If the one time, necessary for change, means a single duration, that is self-contradictory, for no duration is single. The would-be unit falls asunder into endless plurality, in which it disappears. The pieces of duration, each containing a before and an after, are divided against themselves, and become mere relations of the illusory. And the attempt to locate the lapse within relations of the discrete leads to hopeless absurdities. Nor, in any case, could we unite intelligibly the plurality of these relations so as to make one duration. In short, therefore, if the one time required for change means one duration, that is not one, and there is no change.

On the other hand, if the change actually took place merely in one time, then it could be no change at all. A is to have a plurality in succession, and yet simultaneously. This is surely a flat contradiction. If there is no duration, and the time is simple, it is not time at all. And to speak of diversity, and of a succession of before and after, in this abstract point, is not possible when we think. Indeed, the best excuse for such a statement would be the plea that it is meaningless. But, if so, change, upon any hypothesis, is impossible. It can be no more than appearance.

And we may perceive its main character. It contains |40| both the necessity and the impossibility of uniting diverse aspects. These differences have broken out in the whole which at first was immediate. But, if they entirely break out of it, they are dissipated and destroyed; and yet, by their presence within the whole, that already is broken, and they scattered into nothings. The relational form in general, and here in particular this form of time, is a natural way of compromise. Note 7 It is no solution of the discrepancies, and we might call it rather a method of holding them in suspension. It is an artifice by which we become blind on either side, to suit the occasion; and the whole secret consists in ignoring that aspect which we are unable to use. Thus, it is required that A should change; and, for this, two characters, not compatible, must be present at once. There must be a successive diversity, and yet the time must be one. The succession, in other words, is not really successive unless it is present And our compromise consists in regarding the process mainly from whichever of its aspects answers to our need, and in ignoring — that is, in failing or in refusing to perceive — the hostility of the other side. If you want to take a piece of duration as present and as one, you shut your eyes, or in some way are blind to the discretion, and, attending merely to the content, take that as a unity. And, on the other hand, it is as easy to forget every aspect but that of discreteness. But change, as a whole, consists in the union of these two aspects. It is the holding both at once, while laying stress upon the one which for the time is prominent, and while the difficulties are kept out of sight by rapid shuffling. Thus, in asserting that A alters, we mean that the one thing is different at different times. We bring this diversity into relation with A’s qualitative identity, and all seems harmonious. Of course, as we know, even so far, there is a mass of inconsistency, but that is not the main point here. The main point is that, so far, we have not reached a change of A. The identity of a content A, in some sort of relation with diverse moments and with varying states — if it means anything at all — is still not what we understand by change. That the mere oneness of |41| a quality can be the unity of a duration will hardly be contended. For change to exist at all, this oneness must be in temporal relation with the diversity. In other words, if the process itself is not one state, the moments are not parts of it; and, if so, they cannot be related in time to one another. On the one hand, A remains A through a period of any length, and is not changed so far as A. Considered thus, we may say that its duration is mere presence and contains no lapse. But the same duration, if regarded as the succession of A’s altered states, consists of many pieces. On the other hand, thirdly, this whole succession, regarded as one sequence or period, becomes a unity, and is again present. ‘Through the present period’, we should boldly say, ‘A’s processes have been regular. His rate of growth is normal, and his condition is for the present identical. But, during the lapse of this one period, there have been present countless successive differences in the state of B; and the coincidence in time, of B’s unchanging excitement with the healthy succession of A’s changes, shows that in the same interval we may have present either motion or rest’. There is hardly exaggeration here; but the statement exhibits a palpable oscillation. We have the dwelling, with emphasis and without principle, upon separate aspects, and the whole idea consists essentially in this oscillation. There is total failure to unite the differences by any consistent principle, and the one discoverable system is the systematic avoidance of consistency. The single fact is viewed alternately from either side, but the sides are not combined into an intelligible whole. And I trust the reader may agree that their consistent union is impossible. The problem of change defies solution, so long as change is not degraded to the rank of mere appearance.

I will end this chapter by some remarks on the perception of succession, or, rather, one of its main features. And I will touch upon this merely in the interest of metaphysics, reserving what psychological opinions I may have formed for another occasion. The best psychologists, so |42| far as I know, are becoming agreed that for this perception some kind of unity is wanted. They see that without an identity, to which all its members are related, a series is not one, and is therefore not a series. In fact, the person who denies this unity is able to do so merely because he covertly supplies it from his own unreflecting mind. And I shall venture to regard this general doctrine as established, and shall pass to the point where I think metaphysics is further interested.

It being assumed that succession, or rather, here, perceived succession, is relative to a unity, a question arises as to the nature of this unity, generally and in each case. The question is both difficult and interesting psychologically; but I must confine myself to the brief remarks which seem called for in this place. It is not uncommon to meet the view that the unity is timeless, or that it has at any rate no duration. On the other hand, presumably, it has a date, if not a place, in the general series of phenomena, and is, in this sense, an event. The succession I understand to be apprehended somehow in an indivisible moment, — that is, without any lapse of time, — and to be so far literally simultaneous. Any such doctrine seems to me open to fatal objections, some of which I will state.

1. The first objection holds good only against certain persons. If the timeless act contains a relation, and if the latter must be relative to a real unity, the problem of succession appears again to break out without limit inside this timeless unit.

2. But those who would deny, the premises of this first objection, may be invited to explain themselves on other points. The act has no duration, and yet it is a psychical event. It has, that is, an assignable place in history. If it does not possess the latter, how is it related to my perception? But, if it is an event with a before and an after in time, how can it have no duration? It occurs in time, and yet it occupies no time; or it does not occur in time, though it happens at a given date. This does not look like the account of anything real, but it is a manufactured abstraction, like length without breadth. And if it is a |43| mere way of stating the problem in hand — viz., that from one point of view succession has no duration — it seems a bad way of stating it. But if it means more, its meaning seems quite unintelligible.

3. And it is the more plainly so since its content is certainly successive, as possessing the distinction of after and before. This distinction is a fact; and, if so, the psychical lapse is a fact; and, if so, this fact is left in flat contradiction with the timeless unity. And to urge that the succession, as used, is ideal — is merely content, and is not psychical fact — would be a futile attempt to misapply a great principle. It is not wholly true that ‘ideas are not what they mean’, Note 8 for if their meaning is not psychical fact, I should like to know how and where it exists. And the question is whether succession can, in any sense, come before the mind without some actual succession entering into the very apprehension. If you do not mean a lapse, then you have given up your contention. But, if you do mean it, then how, except in the form of some actual mental transition, is it to come ideally before your mind? I know of no intelligible answer; and I conclude that, in this perception, what is perceived is an actual succession; and hence the perception itself must have some duration.

4. And, if it has no duration, then I do not see how it is related to the before and after of the time perceived; and the succession of this, with all its unsolved problems, seems to me to fall outside it (cp. No. 1).

5. And, lastly, if we may have one of these occurrences without duration, apparently we may also have many in succession, all again without duration. And I do not know how the absurd consequences which follow can be avoided or met.

In short, this creation is a monster. It is not a working fiction, entertained for the sake of its work. For, like most other monsters, it really is impotent. It is both idle and injurious, since it has diverted attention from the answer to its problem.

|44| And that, to the reader who has followed our metaphysical discussion, will, I think, be apparent. We found that succession required both diversity and unity. These could not intelligibly be combined, and their union was a mere junction, with oscillation of emphasis from one aspect to the other. And so, psychically also, the timeless unity is a piece of duration, not experienced as successive. Assuredly everything psychical is an event, and it really contains a lapse; but so far as you do not use, or notice, that lapse, it is not there for you and for the purpose in hand. In other words, there is a permanent in the perception of change, which goes right through the succession and holds it together. The permanent can do this, on the one hand, because it occupies duration and is, in its essence, divisible indefinitely. On the other hand, it is one and unchanging, so far as it is regarded or felt, and is used, from that aspect. And the special concrete identities, which thus change, and again do not change, are the key to the particular successions that are perceived. Presence is not absolute timelessness; it is any piece of duration, so far as that is considered from or felt in an identical aspect. And this mere relative absence of lapse has been perverted into the absolute timeless monstrosity which we have ventured to condemn.

But it is one thing to see how a certain feature of our time-perception is possible. It is quite another thing to admit that this feature, as it stands, gives the truth about reality. And that, as we have learnt, is impossible. We are forced to assert that A is both continuous and discrete, both successive and present. And our practice of taking it, now as one in a certain respect, and now again as many in another respect, shows only how we practise. The problem calls upon us to answer how these aspects and respects are consistently united in the one thing, either outside of our minds or inside — that makes no difference. And if we fail, as we shall, to bring these features together, we have left the problem unsolved. And, if it is unsolved, then change and motion are incompatible internally, and are set down to be appearance. And if, as a last resource, |45| we use the phrases ‘potential’ and ‘actual’, and attempt by their aid to reach harmony, we shall have left the case as it stands. We shall mean by these phrases that the thing is, and yet that it is not, and that we choose for our own purpose to treat these irreconcilables as united. But that is only another, though perhaps a more polite, way of saying that the problem is insoluble. Note 9

In the chapter which comes next, we must follow the same difficulties a little further into other applications.

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Chapter VI. Causation

|46-52| Effort to avoid the contradiction of Change. But the Cause and its Effect are not compatible, 46-7. Illusory attempt at explanation, 47-8. The Cause spreads to take in all the conditions, and yet cannot be complete, 48-9. Its relation to its effect is unintelligible, 49. Causal sequence must be, and cannot be, continuous, 49-52.

Note 10

The object of this chapter is merely to point out, first, the main discrepancy in causation, and, in the second place, to exhibit an obstacle coming from time’s continuity. Some other aspects of the general question will be considered in later chapters.1

We may regard cause as an attempt to account rationally for change. A becomes B, and this alteration is felt to be not compatible with A. Mere A would still be mere A, and, if it turns to something different, then something else is concerned. There must, in other words, be a reason for the change. But the endeavour to find a satisfactory reason is fruitless.

We have seen that A is not B, nor, again, a relation to B. ‘Followed by B,’ ‘changing into A B,’ are not the same as A; and we were able to discover no way of combining these with A which could be more than mere appearance. In causation we must now consider a fresh effort at combination, and its essence is very simple. If ‘A becomes B’ is a self-contradiction, then add something to A which will divide the burden. In ‘A + C becomes B’ we may perhaps find relief. But this relief, considered theoretically, is a mass of contradictions.

It would be a thankless task to work these out into detail, for the root of the matter may be stated at once. If the sequence of the effect is different from the cause, how is the ascription of this difference to be rationally defended? If, on the other hand, it is not different, then causation does not exist, and its assertion is a farce. There is no escape from this fundamental dilemma.

We have in the cause merely a fresh instance of compromise without principle, another case of pure makeshift. And it soon exhibits its nature. The cause was not mere A; that would be found too intolerable. The cause was |47| A + C; but this combination seems meaningless. It is offered in the face of our result as to the nature of relations (Chapter iii); and by that result it has already been undermined and ruined. But let us see how it proposes to go about its business. In ‘A + C followed by B’ the addition of C makes a difference to A, or it makes no difference. Let us suppose, first, that it does make a difference to A. But, if so, then A has already been altered; and hence the problem of causation breaks out within the very cause. A and C become A + C, and the old puzzle begins about the way in which A and C become other than they are. We are concerned here with A but, of course, with C there is the same difficulty. We are, therefore, driven to correct ourselves, and to say that, not A and C merely, but A and C + D become A + C, and so B. But here we perceive at once that we have fallen into endless regress within the cause. If the cause is to be the cause, there is some reason for its being thus, and so on indefinitely.

Or let us accept the other alternative. Let us assert boldly that in A + C, which is the cause of B, their relation makes no difference either to A or to C, and yet accounts for the effect. Although the conjunction makes no difference, it justifies apparently our attribution to the cause of the difference expressed by the effect But (to deal first with the cause) such a conjunction of elements has been shown (Chapter iii) to be quite unintelligible. And to the defence that it is only our own way of going on, the answer is twofold. If it is only our way, then, either it does not concern the thing at all, or else is admitted to be a mere practical makeshift. If, on the other hand, it is a way of ours with the thing which we are prepared to justify, let the justification be produced. But it cannot be produced in any form but in the proof that our thinking is consistent. On the other hand, the only reason for our hesitation above to attribute our view to reality seemed to lie in the fact that our view was not consistent. But, if so, it surely should not be our view. And, to pass now to the effect, the same reasoning there holds good. The sequence of a difference still remains entirely irrational. And, if we attempt here |48| to take this difference upon ourselves, and to urge that it does not attach to the thing, but only to our view, the same result follows. For what is this but a manner of admitting politely that in reality there is no difference and is no causation, and that, in short, we are all agreed in finding causation to be makeshift and merely appearance? We are so far agreed, but we differ in our further conclusions. For I can discover no merit in an attitude which combines every vice of theory. It is forced to admit that the real world is left naked and empty; while it cannot pretend itself to support and to own the wealth of existence. Each party is robbed, and both parties are beggared.

The only positive result which has appeared from our effort to justify causation, seems to be the impossibility of isolating the cause or the effect. In endeavouring to make a defensible assertion, we have had to go beyond the connection as first we stated it. The cause A not only recedes backwards in time, but it attempts laterally to take in more and more of existence. And we are tending to the doctrine that, to find a real cause, we must take the complete state of the world at one moment as this passes into another state also complete. The several threads of causation seem, that is, always to imply the action of a background. And this background may, if we are judicious, be irrelevant practically. It may be practically irrelevant, not because it is ever idle, but because often it is identical, and so makes no special difference. The separate causes are, therefore, legitimate abstractions, and they contain enough truth to be practically admissible. But it will be added that, if we require truth in any strict sense, we must confine ourselves to one entire state of the world. This will be the cause, and the next entire state will be the effect.

There is much truth in this conclusion, but it remains indefensible. This tendency of the separate cause to pass beyond itself cannot be satisfied, while we retain the relational form essential to causation. And we may easily, I think, convince ourselves of this. For, in the first place, a complete state of existence, as a whole, is at any one moment utterly impossible. Any state is forced by its |49| content to transcend itself backwards in a regress without limit. And the relations and qualities of which it is composed will refer themselves, even if you keep to the moment, forever away from themselves into endless dissipation. Thus the complete state, which is necessary, cannot be reached. And, in the second place, there is an objection which is equally fatal. Even if we could have one self-comprised condition of the world preceding another, the relation between them would still be irrational. We assert something of something else; we have to predicate B of A, or else its sequence of A, or else the one relation of both. But in these cases, or in any other case, can we defend our assertion? It is the old puzzle, how to justify the attributing to a subject something other than itself, and which the subject is not. If ‘followed by B’ is not the nature of A, then justify your predication. If it is essential to A, then justify, first, your taking A without it; and in the next place show how, with such an incongruous nature, A can succeed in being more than unreal appearance.

And we may perhaps fancy at this point that a door of exit is opened. How will it be, since the difference is the source of our trouble, if we fall back upon the identity of cause and effect? The same essence of the world, persisting in unchanged self-conservation from moment to moment, and superior to diversity — this is perhaps the solution. Perhaps; but, if so, what has been done with causation? So far as I am able to understand, that consists in the differences and in their sequence in time. Mere identity, however excellent, is emphatically not the relation of cause and effect. Either then once more you must take up the problem of reconciling intelligibly the diversity with the unity, and this problem so far has shown itself intractable. Or you yourself have arrived at the same conclusion with ourselves. You have admitted that cause and effect is irrational appearance, and cannot be reality.

I will add here a difficulty, in itself superfluous, which comes from the continuity of causal change. Its succession, |50| on the one hand, must be absolutely without pause; while, on the other hand, it cannot be so. This dilemma is based upon no new principle, but is a mere application of the insoluble problem of duration. The reader who is not attracted may pass on.

For our perception change is not properly continuous. It cannot be so, since there are durations which do not come to us as such; and however our faculties were improved, there must always be a point at which they would be transcended. On the other hand, to speak of our succession as being properly discrete seems quite as indefensible. It is in fact neither the one nor the other. I presume that what we notice is events with time between them, whatever that may mean. But, on the other hand, when we deal with pieces of duration, as wholes containing parts and even a variable diversity of parts, the other aspect comes up. And, in the end, reflection compels us to perceive that, however else it may appear, all change must really be continuous. This conclusion cannot imply that no state is ever able to endure for a moment. For, without some duration of the identical, we should have meaningless chaos, or, rather, should not have even that. States may endure, we have seen, so long as we abstract. We take some partial state, or aspect of a state, which in itself does not alter. We fix one eye upon this, while we cast, in fear of no principle, our other eye upon the succession that goes with it, and so is called simultaneous. And we solve practically in this way the problem of duration. We have enduring aspects, A, B, C, one after the other. Alongside of these there runs on a current of changes minutely subdivided. This goes on altering, and in a sense it alters A, B, C, while in another sense they are unchanged pieces of duration. They do not alter in themselves, but in relation to other changes they are in constant internal lapse. And, when these other changes have reached a certain point of alteration, then A passes into B, and so later B into C. This is, I presume, the proper way of taking causation as continuous. We may perhaps use the following figure:

|51| Here A, B, C, is the causal succession of enduring states. The Greek letters represent a flow of other events which are really a determining element in the succession of A, B, C. And we understand at once how A, B and C both alter and do not alter. But the Greek letters represent much more, which cannot be depicted. In the first place, at any given moment, there are an indefinite number of them; and, in the second place, they themselves are pieces of duration, placed in the same difficulty as were A, B, C. Coincident with each must be a succession of events, which the reader may try to represent in any character that he prefers. Only let him remember that these events must be divided indefinitely by the help of smaller ones. He must go on until he reaches parts that have no divisibility. And if we may suppose that he could reach them, he would find that causation had vanished with his success.

The dilemma, I think, can now be made plain. (a) Causation must be continuous. For suppose that it is not so. You would then be able to take a solid section from the flow of events, solid in the sense of containing no change. I do not merely mean that you could draw a line without breadth across the flow, and could find that this abstraction cut no alteration. I mean that you could take a slice off, and that this slice would have no change in it. But any such slice, being divisible, must have duration. If so, however, you would have your cause, enduring unchanged through a certain number of moments, and then suddenly changing. And this is clearly impossible, for what could have altered it? Not any other thing, for you have taken the whole course of events. And, again, not itself, for you have got itself already without any change. In short, if |52| the cause can endure unchanged for any the very smallest piece of duration, then it must endure for ever. It cannot pass into the effect, and it therefore is not a cause at all. On the other hand, (b) Causation cannot be continuous. For this would mean that the cause was entirely without duration. It would never be itself except in the time occupied by a line drawn across the succession. And since this time is not a time, but a mere abstraction, the cause itself will be no better. It is unreal, a nonentity, and the whole succession of the world will consist of these nonentities. But this is much the same as to suppose that solid things are made of points and lines and surfaces. These may be fictions useful for some purposes, but still fictions they remain. The cause must be a real event, and yet there is no fragment of time in which it can be real. Causation is therefore not continuous; and so, unfortunately, it is not causation, but mere appearance.

The reader will understand at once that we have repeated here the old puzzle about time. Time, as we saw, must be made, and yet cannot be made, of pieces. And he perhaps will not be sorry to have reached an end of these pages through which I have been forced to weary him with continuity and discreteness. In the next chapter we shall arrive at somewhat different matter. Note 10


1^ I have touched on the Law of Causation in Chapter xxiii.

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Chapter VII. Activity

|53-60| Whether an original datum, or not, is irrelevant, 53. It has a meaning which implies change in time, 54, and self-caused change, 55-6. Passivity what and how connected with Activity. Occasion what, 55-6. Condition and Sum of Conditions, 56-8. Activity and Passivity imply one another, but are inconsistent, 58-60.

Note 11

In raising the question if activity is real or is only appearance, I may be met by the assertion that it is original, ultimate, and simple. I am satisfied myself that this assertion is incorrect, and is even quite groundless; but I prefer to treat it here as merely irrelevant. If the meaning of activity will not bear examination, and if it fails to exhibit itself intelligibly, then that meaning cannot, as such, be true of reality. There can be no origin, or want of origin, which warrants our predicating nonsense. And if I am told that, being simple, activity can have no meaning, then it seems a quality like one of our sensations or pleasures, and we have dealt with it already. Or I may possibly be answered, No, it is not simple in that sense, nor yet exactly composite. It somehow holds a variety, and is given in that character. Hence its idea may be indefensible, while itself is real. But the business of metaphysics is surely to understand; and if anything is such that, when thought of and not simply felt, it goes to pieces in our hands, we can find but one verdict. Either its nature is nonsensical, or we have got wrong ideas about it. The assertor of the latter alternative should then present us with the right ideas — a thing which, I need not add, he is not forward to perform. But let us leave these poor excuses to take care of themselves, and let us turn to the facts. There, if we examine the way in which the term activity is employed, the result is not doubtful. Force, energy, power, activity, these phrases certainly are used too often without clear understanding. But no rational man employs them except to convey some kind of meaning, which is capable of being discovered and subjected to analysis. And if it will not bear scrutiny, then it clearly does not represent reality.

There is a sense in which words like power, force, or energy, are distinguished from activity. They may be used to stand for something that does not happen at all, |54| but somehow remains in a state of suspended animation, or in a region between nonexistence and existence. I do not think it worthwhile to discuss this at present, and shall pass at once to the signification in which force means force in exercise — in other words, activity.

The element in its meaning, which comes to light at once, is succession and change. In all activity something clearly becomes something else. Activity implies a happening and a sequence in time. And, when I spoke of this meaning as coming to the light, I might have added that it positively stares us in the face, and it is not to be hidden. To deal frankly, I do not know how to argue this question. I have never seen a use of the term which to my mind retained its sense if time-sequence is removed. We can, of course, talk of a power sustaining or producing effects, which are subordinate and yet not subsequent; but to talk thus is not to think. And unless the sequence of our thought, from the power to its manifestation, is transferred to the fact as a succession there, the meaning is gone. We are left with mere coexistence, and the dependence, either of adjective on substantive, or of two adjectives on one another and on the substance which owns them. And I do not believe that any one, unless influenced by, and in the service of, some theory, would attempt to view the matter otherwise. And I fear that I must so leave it.

Activity implies the change of something into something different. So much, I think, is clear; but activity is not a mere uncaused alteration. And in fact, as we have seen, that is really not conceivable. For Ab to become Ac, something else beside Ab is felt to be necessary; or else we are left with a flat self-contradiction. Thus, the transition of activity implies always a cause.

Activity is caused change, but it also must be more. For one thing, altered by another, is not usually thought active, but, on the contrary, passive. Activity seems rather to be self-caused change. A transition that begins with, and comes out of, the thing itself is the process where we feel that it is active. The issue must, of course, be |55| attributed to the thing as its adjective; it must be regarded, not only as belonging to the thing, but as beginning in it and coming out of it. If a thing carries out its own nature we call the thing active.

But we are aware, or may become aware, that we are here resting on metaphors. These cannot quite mean what they say, and what they intimate is still doubtful. It appears to be something of this kind: the end of the process, the result or the effect, seems part of the nature of the thing which we had at the beginning. Not only has it not been added by something outside, but it is hardly to be taken as an addition at all. So far, at least, as the end is considered as the thing’s activity, it is regarded as the thing’s character from the first to the last. Thus it somehow was before it happened. It did not exist, and yet, for all that, in a manner it was there, and so it became. We should like to say that the nature of the thing, which was ideal, realized itself, and that this process is what we mean by activity. And the idea need not be an idea in the mind of the thing; for the thing, perhaps, has no mind, and so cannot have that which would amount to volition. On the other hand, the idea in the thing is not a mere idea in our minds which we have merely about the thing. We are sure of this, and our meaning falls between these extremes. But where precisely it falls, and in what exactly it consists, seems at present far from clear. Let us, however, try to go forwards.

Passivity seems to imply activity. It is the alteration of the thing, in which, of course, the thing survives, and acquires a fresh adjective. This adjective was not possessed by the thing before the change. It therefore does not belong to its nature, but is a foreign importation. It proceeds from, and is the adjective of, another thing which is active — at the expense of the first. Thus, passivity is not possible without activity; and its meaning is obviously still left unexplained. Note 12

It is natural to ask next if activity can exist by itself and apart from passivity. And here we begin to involve ourselves in further obscurity. We have spoken so far as |56| if a thing almost began to be active without any reason; as if it exploded, so to speak, and produced its contents entirely on its own motion, and quite spontaneously. But this we never really meant to say, for this would mean a happening and a change without any cause at all; and this, we agreed long ago, is a self-contradiction and impossible. The thing, therefore, is not active without an occasion. This, call it what you please, is something outside the standing nature of the thing, and is accidental in the sense of happening to that essential disposition. But if the thing cannot act unless the act is occasioned, then the transition, so far, is imported into it by the act of something outside. But this, as we saw, was passivity. Whatever acts then must be passive, so far as its change is occasioned. If we look at the process as the coming out of its nature, the process is its activity. If we regard the same process, on the other hand, as due to the occasion, and, as we say, coming from that, we still have activity. But the activity now belongs to the occasion, and the thing is passive. We seem to have diverse aspects, of which the special existence in each case will depend on our own minds.

We find this ambiguity in the common distinction between cause and condition, and it is worth our while to examine this more closely. Both of these elements are taken to be wanted for the production of the effect; but in any given case we seem able to apply the names almost, or quite, at discretion. It is not unusual to call the last thing which happens the cause of the process which ensues. But this is really just as we please. The body fell because the support was taken away; but probably most men would prefer to call this ‘cause’ a condition of a certain kind. But apparently we may gratify whatever preference we feel. And the well-meant attempt to get clear by defining the cause as the ‘sum of the conditions’ does not much enlighten us. As to the word ‘sum’, it is, I presume, intended to carry a meaning, but this meaning is not stated, and I doubt if it is known. And, further, if the cause is taken as including every single condition, we are met by a former difficulty. Either this cause, not existing through |57| any part of duration, is really non-existent; or else a condition will be wanted to account for its change and its passing into activity. But if the cause already includes all, then, of course, none is available (Chapter vi). But, to pass this point by, what do you mean by these conditions, that all fall within the cause, so as to leave none outside? Do you mean that what we commonly call the ‘conditions’ of an event are really complete? In practice certainly we leave out of the account the whole background of existence; we isolate a group of elements, and we say that, whenever these occur, then something else always happens; and in this group we consider ourselves to possess the ‘sum of the conditions’. And this assumption may be practically defensible, since the rest of existence may, on sufficient ground, be taken as irrelevant. We can therefore treat this whole mass as if it were inactive. Yes, but that is one thing, and it is quite another thing to assert that really this mass does nothing. Certainly there is no logic which can warrant such a misuse of abstraction. The background of the whole world can be eliminated by no sound process, and the furthest conclusion which can be logical is that we need not consider it practically. As in a number of diverse cases it seems to add nothing special, we may for each purpose consider that it adds nothing at all. But to give out this working doctrine as theoretically true is quite illegitimate.

The immediate result of this is that the true ‘sum of conditions’ must completely include all the contents of the world at a given time. And here we run against a theoretical obstacle. The nature of these contents seems such as to be essentially incomplete, and so the ‘sum’ to be nothing attainable. This appears fatal so far, and, having stated it, I pass on. Suppose that you have got a complete sum of the facts at one moment, are you any nearer a result? This entire mass will be the ‘sum of conditions’, and the cause of each following event. For there is no process which will warrant your taking the cause as less. Here there is at once another theoretical trouble, for the same cause produces a number of different effects; and how will |58| you deal with that consequence? But, leaving this, we are practically in an equal dilemma. For the cause, taken so widely, is the cause of everything alike, and hence it can tell us nothing about anything special; and, taken less widely, it is not the sum, and therefore not the cause. And by this time it is obvious that our doctrine must be given up. If we want to discover a particular cause (and nothing else is a discovery), we must make a distinction in the ‘sum’. Then, as before, in every case we have conditions beside the cause; and, as before, we are asked for a principle by which to effect the distinction between them. And, for myself, I return to the statement that I know of none which is sound. We seem to effect this distinction always to suit a certain purpose; and it appears to consist in our mere adoption of a special point of view.

But let us return to the consideration of passivity and activity. It is certain that nothing can be active without an occasion, and that what is active, being made thus by the occasion, is so far passive. The occasion, again, since it enters into the causal process — a thing it never would have done if left to itself — suffers a change from the cause; and it therefore itself is passive in its activity. If the cause is A, and the occasion B, then each is active or passive, according as you view the result as the expression of its nature, or as an adjective imported from outside.

And we are naturally brought here to a case where both these aspects seem to vanish. For suppose, as before, that we have A and B, which enter into one process, and let us call the result ACB. Here A will suffer a change, and so also will B; and each again may be said to produce change in the other. But if the nature of A was, before, Acb, and the nature of B was, before, Bca, we are brought to a pause. The ideas which we are applying are now plainly inadequate and likely to confuse us. To A and B themselves they might even appear to be ridiculous. How do I suffer a change, each would answer, if it is nothing else but what I will? We cannot adopt your points of view, since they seem at best quite irrelevant.

|59| To pass to another head, the conclusion, which so far we have reached, seems to exclude the possibility of one thing by itself being active. Here we must make a distinction. If this supposed thing had no variety in its nature, or, again, if its variety did not change in time within it, then it is impossible that it should be active. The idea, indeed, is self-contradictory. Nor could one thing again be said to be active as a whole; for that part of its nature which, changing, served as the occasion could not be included. I do not propose to argue these points, for I do not perceive anything on the other side beyond confusion or prejudice. And hence it is certain that activity implies finitude, and otherwise possesses no meaning. But, on the other hand, naturally where there are a variety of elements, changing in time, we may have activity. For part of these elements may suffer change from, and may produce it in, others. Indeed, the question whether this is to go on inside one thing by itself, appears totally irrelevant, until at least we have some idea of what we mean by one thing. And our enquiries, so far, have not tended to establish any meaning. It is as if we enquired about hermaphroditism, where we do not know what we understand by a single animal. Indeed, if we returned at this point to our A and B connected in one single process, and enquired of them if they both were parts of one thing, or were each one thing containing a whole process of change, we should probably get no answer. They would once more recommend us to improve our own ideas before we went about applying them.

Our result up to this point appears to be much as follows. Activity, under any of the phrases used to carry that idea, is a mass of inconsistency. It is, in the first place, riddled by the contradictions of the preceding chapters, and if it cannot be freed from these, it must be condemned as appearance. And its own special nature, so far as we have discovered that, seems certainly no better. The activity of anything seems to consist in the way in which we choose to look at that which it is and becomes. For, apart from the inner nature which comes |60| out in the result, activity has no meaning. If this nature was not there, and was not real in the thing, is the thing really active? But when we press this question home, and insist on having something more than insincere metaphors, we find either nothing, or else the idea which we are pleased to entertain. And this, as an idea, we dare not attribute to the thing, and we do not know how to attribute it as anything else. But a confusion of this kind cannot belong to reality.

Throughout this chapter I have ignored a certain view about activity. This view would admit that activity, as we have discussed it, is untenable; but it would add that we have not even touched the real fact. And this fact, it would urge, is the activity of a self, while outside self the application of the term is metaphorical. And, with this question in prospect, we may turn to another series of considerations about reality.

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Chapter VIII. Things

|61-3| Our previous results have ruined Things, 61. Things must have identity which is ideal, and so appearance, 61-3. Everyday confusion as to Things’ identity, 62-3.

Note 13

Before proceeding further we may conveniently pause at this point. Note 12 The reader may be asked to reflect whether anything of what is understood by a thing is left to us. It is hard to say what, as a matter of fact, is generally understood when we use the word ‘thing’. But, whatever that may be, it seems now undermined and ruined. I suppose we generally take a thing as possessing some kind of independence, and a sort of title to exist in its own right, and not as a mere adjective. But our ideas are usually not clear. A rainbow probably is not a thing, while a waterfall might get the name, and a flash of lightning be left in a doubtful position. Further, while many of us would assert stoutly that a thing must exist, if at all, in space, others would question this and fail to perceive its conclusiveness.

We have seen how the attempt to reconstitute our ideas by the help of primary qualities broke down. And, since then, the results, which we have reached, really seem to have destroyed things from without and from within. If the connections of substantive and adjective, and of quality and relation, have been shown not to be defensible; if the forms of space and of time have turned out to be full of contradictions; if, lastly, causation and activity have succeeded merely in adding inconsistency to inconsistency, — if, in a word, nothing of all this can, as such, be predicated of reality, — what is it that is left? If things are to exist, then where and how? But if these two questions are unanswerable, then we seem driven to the conclusion that things are but appearances. And I will add a few remarks, not so much in support of this conclusion as in order to make it possibly more plain.

I will come to the point at once. For a thing to exist it must possess identity; and identity seems a possession with a character at best doubtful. If it is merely ideal, the thing itself can hardly be real. First, then, let us inquire if a thing can exist without identity. To ask this question |62| is at once to answer it; unless, indeed, a thing is to exist, and is to hold its diversity combined in an unity, somehow quite outside of time. And this seems untenable. A thing, if it is to be called such, must occupy some duration beyond the present moment, and hence succession is essential. The thing, to be at all, must be the same after a change, and the change must, to some extent, be predicated of the thing. If you suppose a case so simple as the movement of an atom, that is enough for our purpose. For, if this ‘thing’ does not move, there is no motion. But, if it moves, then succession is predicated of it, and the thing is a bond of identity in differences. And, further, this identity is ideal, since it consists in the content, or in the ‘what we are able to say of the thing’. For raise the doubt at the end of our atom’s process, if the atom is the same. The question raised cannot be answered without an appeal to its character. It is different in one respect — namely, the change of place; but in another respect — that of its own character — it remains the same. And this respect is obviously identical content. Or, if anyone objects that an atom has no content, let him throughout substitute the word ‘body’, and settle with himself how, without any qualitative difference (such as right and left), he distinguishes atoms. And this identical content is called ideal because it transcends given existence. Existence is given only in presentation; and, on the other hand, the thing is a thing only if its existence goes beyond the now, and extends into the past. I will not here discuss the question as to the identity of a thing during a presented lapse, for I doubt if anyone would wish to except to our conclusion on that ground.

Now I am not here raising the whole question of the Identity of Indiscernibles. I am urging rather that the continuity, which is necessary to a thing, seems to depend on its keeping an identity of character. A thing is a thing, in short, by being what it was. And it does not appear how this relation of sameness can be real. It is a relation connecting the past with the present, and this connection is evidently vital to the thing. But, if so, the thing has |63| become, in more senses than one, the relation of passages in its own history. And if we assert that the thing is this inclusive relation, which transcends any given time, surely we have allowed that the thing, though not wholly an idea, is an idea essentially. And it is an idea which at no actual time is ever real.

“The identity of a thing lies in the view which you take of it.”

And this problem is no mere abstract invented subtlety, but shows itself in practice. It is often impossible to reply when we are asked if an object is really the same. If a manufactured article has been worked upon and partly remade, such a question may have no sense until it has been specified. You must go on to mention the point or the particular respect of which you are thinking. For questions of identity turn always upon sameness in character, and the reason why here you cannot reply generally, is that you do not know this general character which is taken to make the thing’s essence. It is not always material substance, for we might call an organism identical, though its particles were all different It is not always shape, or size, or colour, or, again, always the purpose which the thing fulfills. The general nature, in fact, of a thing’s identity seems to lie, first, in the avoidance of any absolute break in its existence, and, beyond that, to consist in some qualitative sameness which differs with different things. And with some things — because literally we do not know in what character their sameness lies — we are helpless when asked if identity has been preserved. If any one wants an instance of the value of our ordinary notions, he may find it, perhaps, in Sir John Cutler’s silk stockings. These were darned with worsted until no particle of the silk was left in them, and no one could agree whether they were the same old stockings or were new ones. In brief, the identity of a thing lies in the view which you take of it. That view seems often a mere chance idea, and, where it seems necessary, it still remains an idea. Or, if you prefer it, it is a character, which exists outside of and beyond any fact which you can take. But it is not easy to see how, if so, any thing can be real. And things have, so far, turned out to be merely appearances.

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Chapter IX. The Meanings of Self

|64-88| The Self at last, but what does it mean? 64-5. Self as body excluded, 65-6. Self as total contents of experience at one moment, 66. Self as average contents of experience, 66-8. Essential self, 80, 81. Personal identity, 68-9. Self as Monad, 69-73. Self as what interests, 75. Self as opposed to Not-self, 75-82. Each is a concrete group, 76-7. But does any content belong solely to self, 77-8, or to Not-self, 78-9? Doubtful cases, 79-81. Self and Not-self on the whole are not fixed, 81-2. Perception of Activity, its general nature, 82-7. Self as Mere Self, 87-8.

Our facts, up to the present, have proved to be illusory. We have seen our things go to pieces, crumbled away into relations that can find no terms. And we have begun, perhaps, to feel some doubt whether, since the plague is so deep-rooted, it can be stayed at any point. At the close of our seventh chapter we were naturally led beyond the inanimate, and up to the self. And here, in the opinion of many, is the end of our troubles. The self, they will assure us, is not apparent, but quite real. And it is not only real in itself, but its reality, if I may say so, spreads beyond its own limits and rehabilitates the selfless. It provides a fixed nucleus round which the facts can group themselves securely. Or it, in some way, at least provides us with a type, by the aid of which we may go on to comprehend the world. And we must now proceed to a serious examination of this claim. Is the self real, is it anything which we can predicate of reality? Or is it, on the other hand, like all the preceding, a mere appearance — something which is given, and, in a sense, most certainly exists, but which is too full of contradictions to be the genuine fact? I have been forced to embrace the latter conclusion.

There is a great obstacle in the path of the proposed inquiry. A man commonly thinks that he knows what he means by his self. He may be in doubt about other things, but here he seems to be at home. He fancies that with the self he at once comprehends both that it is and what it is. And of course the fact of one’s own existence, in some sense, is quite beyond doubt. But as to the sense in which this existence is so certain, there the case is far otherwise. And I should have thought that no one who gives his attention to this question could fail to come to one preliminary result. We are all sure that we exist, but in what sense and what character — as to that we are most of us in helpless uncertainty and in blind confusion. And so |65| far is the self from being clearer than things outside us that, to speak generally, we never know what we mean when we talk of it. But the meaning and the sense is surely for metaphysics the vital point. For, if none defensible can be found, such a failure, I must insist, ought to end the question. Anything the meaning of which is inconsistent and unintelligible is appearance, and not reality.

I must use nearly the whole of this chapter in trying to fix some of the meanings in which self is used. And I am forced to trespass inside the limits of psychology; as, indeed, I think is quite necessary in several parts of metaphysics. I do not mean that metaphysics is based upon psychology. I am quite convinced that such a foundation is impossible, and that, if attempted, it produces a disastrous hybrid which possesses the merits of neither science. The metaphysics will come in to check a resolute analysis, and the psychology will furnish excuses for half-hearted metaphysics. And there can be really no such science as the theory of cognition. But, on the other hand, the metaphysician who is no psychologist runs great dangers. For he must take up, and must work upon, the facts about the soul; and, if he has not tried to learn what they are, the risk is very serious. The psychological monster he may adopt is certain also, no doubt, to be monstrous metaphysically; and the supposed fact of its existence does not prove it less monstrous. But experience shows that human beings, even when metaphysical, lack courage at some point. And we cannot afford to deal with monsters, who in the end may seduce us, and who are certain sometimes, at any rate, to be much in our way. But I am only too sensible that, with all our care, the danger nearest each is least seen.

On the use of self which identifies it with the body: “As to our perception of our own bodies, there, of course, exists some psychological error. And this may take a metaphysical form if it tries to warrant, through some immediate revelation, the existence of the organism as somehow the real expression of the self.”

I will merely mention that use of self which identifies it with the body. As to our perception of our own bodies, there, of course, exists some psychological error. And this may take a metaphysical form if it tries to warrant, through some immediate revelation, the existence of the organism as somehow the real expression of the self. But I intend |66| to pass all this by. For, at the point which we have reached, there seems no exit by such a road from familiar difficulties.

1. Let us then, excluding the body as an outward thing, go on to inquire into the meanings of self. And the first of these is pretty clear. By asking what is the self of this or that individual man, I may be enquiring as to the present contents of his experience. Take a section through the man at any given moment. You will then find a mass of feelings, and thoughts, and sensations, which come to him as the world of things and other persons, and again as himself; and this contains, of course, his views and his wishes about everything. Everything, self and not-self, and what is not distinguished as either, in short the total filling of the man’s soul at this or that moment — we may understand this when we ask what is the individual at a given time. There is no difficulty here in principle, though the detail would naturally (as detail) be unmanageable. But, for our present purpose, such a sense is obviously not promising.

2. The congeries inside a man at one given moment does not satisfy as an answer to the question what is self. The self, to go no further, must be something beyond present time, and it cannot contain a sequence of contradictory variations. Let us then modify our answer, and say, Not the mass of any one moment, but the constant average mass, is the meaning of self. Take, as before, a section completely through the man, and expose his total psychical contents; only now take this section at different times, and remove what seems exceptional. The residue will be the normal and ordinary matter, which fills his experience; and this is the self of the individual. This self will contain, as before, the perceived environment — in short, the not-self so far as that is for the self — but it will contain now only the usual or average not-self. And it must embrace the habits of the individual and the laws of his character — whatever we mean by these. His self will be the usual manner in which he behaves, and the usual matter to which he behaves, that is, so far as he behaves to it.

We are tending here towards the distinction of the |67| essential self from its accidents, but we have not yet reached that point. We have, however, left the self as the whole individual of one moment, or of succeeding moments, and are trying to find it as the individual’s normal constituents, What is that which makes the man his usual self? We have answered, It is his habitual disposition and contents, and it is not his changes from day to day and from hour to hour. These contents are not merely the man’s internal feelings, or merely that which he reflects on as his self. They consist quite as essentially in the outward environment, so far as relation to that makes the man what he is. For, if we try to take the man apart from certain places and persons, we have altered his life so much that he is not his usual self. Again, some of this habitual not-self, to use that expression, enters into the man’s life in its individual form. His wife possibly, or his child, or, again, some part or feature of his inanimate environment, could not, if destroyed, be so made good by anything else that the man’s self would fail to be seriously modified. Hence we may call these the constituents which are individually necessary; requisite for the man, that is, not in their vague, broad character, but in their specialty as this or that particular thing. But other tracts of his normal self are filled by constituents necessary, we may say, no more than generically. His usual life gets its character, that is, from a large number of details which are variable within limits. His habits and his environment have main outlines which may still remain the same, though within these the special features have been greatly modified. This portion of the man’s life is necessary to make him his average self, but, if the generic type is preserved, the special details are accidental. Note 14

This is, perhaps, a fair account of the man’s usual self, but it is obviously no solution of theoretical difficulties. A man’s true self, we should be told, cannot depend on his relations to that which fluctuates. And fluctuation is not the word; for in the lifetime of a man there are irreparable changes. Is he literally not the same man if loss, or death, or love, or banishment has turned the |68| current of his life? And yet, when we look at the facts, and survey the man’s self from the cradle to the coffin, we may be able to find no one average. The usual self of one period is not the usual self of another, and it is impossible to unite in one mass these conflicting psychical contents. Either then we accept the man’s mere history as his self, and, if so, why call it one? Or we confine ourselves to periods, and there is no longer any single self. Or, finally, we must distinguish the self from the usual constituents of the man’s psychical being. We must try to reach the self which is individual by finding the self which is essential.

3. Let us then take, as before, a man’s mind, and inspect its furniture and contents. We must try to find that part of them in which the self really consists, and which makes it one and not another. And here, so far as I am aware, we can get no assistance from popular ideas. There seems, however, no doubt that the inner core of feeling, resting mainly on what is called Coenesthesia {cenesthesia}, is the foundation of the self.1

But this inner nucleus, in the first place, is not separated from the average self of the man by any line that can be drawn; and, in the second place, its elements come from a variety of sources. In some cases it will contain, indivisibly from the rest, relation to a not-self of a certain character. Where an individual is such that alteration in what comes from the environment completely unsettles him, where this change may produce a feeling of self-estrangement so severe as to cause sickness and even death, we must admit that the self is not enclosed by a wall. And where the essential self is to end, and the accidental self to begin, seems a riddle without an answer.

For an attempt to answer it is baffled by a fatal dilemma. If you take an essence which can change, it is not an essence at all; while, if you stand on anything more narrow, the self has disappeared. What is this essence of |69| the self which never is altered? Infancy and old age, disease and madness, bring new features, while others are borne away. It is hard indeed to fix any limit to the self’s mutability. One self, doubtless, can suffer change in which another would perish. But, on the other hand, there comes a point in each where we should agree that the man is no longer himself. This creature lost in illusions, bereft of memory, transformed in mood, with diseased feelings enthroned in the very heart of his being — is this still one self with what we knew? Well, be it so; assert, what you are unable to show, that there is still a point untouched, a spot which never has been invaded. I will not ask you to point this out, for I am sure that is impossible. But I urge upon you the opposite side of the dilemma. This narrow persisting element of feeling or idea, this fixed essence not ‘servile to all the skyey influences’ {Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, iii, I, 9}, this wretched fraction and poor atom, too mean to be in danger — do you mean to tell me that this bare remnant is really the self? The supposition is preposterous, and the question wants no answer. If the self has been narrowed to a point which does not change, that point is less than the real self. But anything wider has a ‘complexion’ which ‘shifts to strange effects’, {ibid.} and therefore cannot be one self. The riddle has proved too hard for us.

We have been led up to the problem of personal identity, and anyone who thinks that he knows what he means by his self, may be invited to solve this. To my mind it seems insoluble, but not because all the questions asked are essentially such questions as cannot be answered. The true cause of failure lies in this — that we will persist in asking questions when we do not know what they mean, and when their meaning perhaps presupposes what is false. In inquiries about identity, as we saw before in Chapter viii, it is all-important to be sure of the aspect about which you ask. A thing may be identical or different, according as you look at it Hence in personal identity the main point is to fix the meaning of person; and it is chiefly because our ideas as to this are confused, that we are unable to come to a further result.

|70| In the popular view a man’s identity resides mainly in his body.2 There, before we reflect much, lies the crucial point. Is the body the same? Has it existed continuously? If there is no doubt about this, then the man is the same, and presumably he has preserved his personal identity, whatever else we like to say has invaded or infected it. But, of course, as we have seen, this identity of the body is itself a doubtful problem (pp. 62-3). And even apart from that, the mere oneness of the organism must be allowed to be a very crude way of settling personal sameness. Few of us would venture to maintain that the self is the body.

Now, if we add the requirement of psychical continuity, have we advanced much further? For obviously it is not known, and there seems hardly any way of deciding, whether the psychical current is without any break. Apparently, during sleep or otherwise, such intervals are at least possible; and, if so, continuity, being doubtful, cannot be used to prove identity. And further, if our psychical contents can be more or less transformed, the mere absence of an interval will hardly be thought enough to guarantee sameness. So far as I can judge, it is usual, for personal identity, to require both continuity and qualitative sameness. But how much of each is wanted, and how the two stand to one another, — as to this I can find little else but sheer confusion. Let us examine it more closely.

We should perhaps say that by one self we understand one experience. And this may either mean one for a supposed outside observer, or one for the consciousness of the self in question, the latter kind of unity being added to or apart from the first kind. And the self is not one unless within limits its quality is the same. But we have already seen that if the individual is simply viewed from outside, it is quite impossible to find a limit within which change may not come, and which yet is wide enough to embrace a real self. Hence, if the test is only sameness for an outside observer, it seems clear that sometimes a man’s |71| life must have a series of selves. But at what point of difference, and on what precise principle, that succession takes place seems not definable. The question is important, but the decision, if there is one, appears quite arbitrary. But perhaps, if we quit the view of the outside observer, we may discover some principle. Let us make the attempt. Note 15

We may take memory as the criterion. The self, we may hold, which remembers itself is so far one; and in this lies personal identity. We perhaps may wish also to strengthen our case by regarding memory as something entirely by itself, and as, so to speak, capable of anything whatever. But this is, of course, quite erroneous. Memory, as a special application of reproduction, displays no exceptional wonders to a sane psychology, nor does it really offer greater difficulties than we find in several other functions. And the point I would emphasize here is its limits and defects. Whether you take it across its breadth, or down its length, you discover a great want of singleness. This one memory of which we talk is very weak for many aspects of our varied life, and is again disproportionately strong for other aspects. Hence it seems more like a bundle of memories running side by side and in part unconnected. It is certain that at any one time what we can recall is most fragmentary. There are whole sides of our life which may be wanting altogether, and others which will come up only in various degrees of feebleness. This is when memory is at its best; and at other times there hardly seems any limit to its failure. Not only may some threads of our bundle be wanting or weak, but, out of those that remain, certain lengths may be missing. Pieces of our life, when we were asleep, or drugged, or otherwise distempered, are not represented. Doubtless the current, for all that, comes to us as continuous. But so it does when things go further, and when in present disease our recollection becomes partial and distorted. Nay, when in one single man there are periodic returns of two disconnected memories, the faculty still keeps its nature and proclaims its identity. And psychology explains how this is so. Memory depends on reproduction |72| from a basis that is present — a basis that may be said to consist in self-feeling. Hence, so far as this basis remains the same through life, it may, to speak in general, recall anything once associated with it. And, as this basis changes, we can understand how its connections with past events will vary indefinitely, both in fulness and in strength. Hence, for the same reason, when self-feeling has been altered beyond a limit not in general to be defined, the base required for reproduction of our past is removed. And, as these different bases alternate, our past life will come to us differently, not as one self, but as diverse selves alternately. And of course these "reproduced" selves may, to a very considerable extent, have never existed in the past.3

Now I would invite the person who takes his sameness to consist in bare memory, to confront his view with these facts, and to show us how he understands them. For apparently, though he may not admit that personal identity has degrees, he at least cannot deny that in one life we are able to have more than one self. And, further, he may be compelled to embrace self-sameness with a past which exists, for him only sometimes, and for others not at all. And under these conditions it is not easy to see what becomes of the self. I will, however, go further. It is well known that after an injury followed by unconsciousness which is removed by an operation, our mental life may begin again from the moment of the injury. Now if the self remembers because and according as it is now, might not another self be made of a quality the same, and hence possessing the same past in present recollection? And if one could be made thus, why not also two or three? These might be made distinct at the present time, through their differing quality, and again through outward relations, and yet be like enough for each to remember the same past, and so, of course, to be the same. Nor do I see how this supposition is to be rejected as theoretically impossible. And it may help us to perceive, what was evident before, that a self is not thought to be the same |73| because of bare memory, but only so when that memory is considered not to be deceptive. But this admits that identity must depend in the end upon past existence, and not solely upon mere present thinking. And continuity in some degree, and in some unintelligible sense, is by the popular view required for personal identity. He who is risen from the dead may really be the same, though we can say nothing intelligible of his ambiguous eclipse or his phase of half-existence. But a man wholly like the first, but created fresh after the same lapse of time, we might feel was too much to be one, if not quite enough to make two. Thus it is evident that, for personal identity, some continuity is requisite, but how much no one seems to know. In fact, if we are not satisfied with vague phrases and meaningless generalities, we soon discover that the best way is not to ask questions. But if we persist, we are likely to be left with this result. Personal identity is mainly a matter of degree. The question has a meaning, if confined to certain aspects of the self, though even here it can be made definite in each case only by the arbitrary selection of points of view. And in each case there will be a limit fixed in the end by no clear principle. But in what the general sameness of one self consists is a problem insoluble |86| because it is meaningless. This question, I repeat it, is sheer nonsense until we have got some clear idea as to what the self is to stand for. If you ask me whether a man is identical in this or that respect, and for one purpose or another purpose, then, if we do not understand one another, we are on the road to an understanding. In my opinion, even then we shall reach our end only by more or less of convention and arrangement. But to seek an answer in general to the question asked at large is to pursue a chimera.

We have seen, so far, that the self has no definite meaning. It was hardly one section of the individual’s contents; nor was it even such a section, if reduced to what is usual and taken somehow at an average. The self appeared to be the essential portion or function, but in |74| what that essence lies no one really seemed to know. We could find nothing but opinions inconsistent with each other, not one of which would presumably be held by any one man, if he were forced to realize its meaning.

4. By selecting from the individual’s contents, or by accepting them in the gross, we have failed to find the self. We may hence be induced to locate it in some kind of monad, or supposed simple being. By this device awkward questions, as to diversity and sameness, seem fairly to be shelved. The unity exists as a unit, and in some sphere presumably secure from chance and from change. I will here first recall our result which turned out adverse to the possibility of any such being (Chapters iii and v). And secondly I will point out in a few words that its nature is most ambiguous. Is it the self at all, and, if so, to what extent and in what sense?

If we make this unit something moving parallel with the life of a man, or, rather, something not moving, but literally standing in relation to his successive variety, this will not give us much help. It will be the man’s self about as much as is his star (if he has one), which looks down from above and cares not when he perishes. And if the unit is brought down into the life of the person, and so in any sense suffers his fortunes, then in what sense does it remain any longer a unit? And if we will but look at the question, we are forced to this conclusion. If we knew already what we meant by the self, and could point out its existence, then our monad might be offered as a theory to account for that self. It would be an indefensible theory, but at least respectable as being an attempt to explain something. But, so long as we have no clear view as to the limits in actual fact of the self s existence, our monad leaves us with all our old confusion and obscurity. But it further loads us with the problem of its connection with these facts about which we are so ignorant. What I mean is simply this. Suppose you have accepted the view that self consists in recollection, and then offer me one monad, or two or three, or as many as you think the facts call for, in order to account for recollection. I think |75| your theory worthless, but, to some extent, I respect it, because at least it has taken up some fact, and is trying to account for it. But if you offer me a vague mass, and then a unit alongside, and tell me that the second is the self of the first, I do not think that you are saying anything. All I see is that you are drifting towards this dilemma. If the monad owns the whole diversity, or any selected part of the diversity, which we find in the individual, then, even if you had found in this the identity of the self, you would have to reconcile it all with the simplicity of the monad. But if the monad stands aloof, either with no character at all or a private character apart, then it may be a fine thing in itself, but it is mere mockery to call it the self of a man. And, with so much for the present, I will pass away from this point.

5. It may be suggested that the self is the matter in which I take personal interest. The elements felt as mine may be regarded as the self, or, at all events, as all the self which exists. And interest consists mainly, though not wholly, in pain and pleasure. The self will be therefore that group of feelings which, to a greater or less extent, is constantly present, and which is always attended by pleasure or pain. And whatever from time to time is united with this group, is a personal affair and becomes part of self. This general view may serve to lead us to a fresh way of taking self; but it obviously promises very little result for metaphysics. For the contents of self are most variable from one time to another, and are largely conflicting; and they are drawn from many heterogeneous sources. In fact, if the self means merely what interests us personally, then at any one time it is likely to be too wide, and perhaps also to be too narrow; and at different times it seems quite at variance with itself.

6. We are now brought naturally to a most important way of understanding the self. We have, up to the present, ignored the distinction of subject and object. We have made a start from the whole psychical individual, and have tried to find the self there or in connection with that. But |76| this individual, we saw, contained both object and subject, both not-self and self. At least, the not-self must clearly be allowed to be in it, so far as that enters into relation with the self and appears as an object. The reader may prefer another form of expression, but he must, I think, agree as to the fact If you take what in the widest sense is inside a man’s mind, you will find there both subject and object and their relation. This will, at all events, be the case both in perception and thought, and again in desire and volition. And this self, which is opposed to the not-self, will most emphatically not coincide with the self, if that is taken as the individual or the essential individual. The deplorable confusion, which is too prevalent on this head, compels me to invite the reader’s special attention.

The psychical division of the soul into subject and object has, as is well known, two main forms. The relation of the self to the not-self is theoretical and practical. In the first we have, generally, perception or intelligence; in the second we have desire and will. It is impossible for me here to point out the distinct nature of each; and still less can I say anything on their development from one root What seems to me certain is that both these forms of relation are secondary products. Every soul either exists or has existed at a stage where there was no self and no not-self, neither Ego nor object in any sense whatever. But in what way thought and will have emerged from this basis — this whole of feeling given without relation — I cannot here discuss.4 Nor is the discussion necessary to an understanding of the crucial point here. That point turns upon the contents of the self and the not-self; and we may consider these apart from the question of origin.

Now that subject and object have contents and are actual psychical groups appears to me evident. I am aware that too often writers speak of the Ego as of something not essentially qualified by this or that psychical matter. And I do not deny that in a certain use that language might be defended. But if we consider, as we are considering |77| here, what we are to understand by that object and subject in relation, which at a given time we find existing in a soul, the case is quite altered. The Ego that pretends to be anything either before or beyond its concrete psychical filling, is a gross fiction and mere monster, and for no purpose admissible. And the question surely may be settled by observation. Take any case of perception, or whatever you please, where this relation of object to subject is found as a fact. There, I presume, no one will deny that the object, at all events, is a concrete phenomenon. It has a character which exists as, or in, a mental fact. And, if we turn from this to the subject, is there any more cause for doubt? Surely in every case that contains a mass of feeling, if not also of other psychical existence. When I see, or perceive, or understand, I (my term of the relation) am palpably, and perhaps even painfully, concrete. And when I will or desire, it surely is ridiculous to take the self as not qualified by particular psychical fact. Evidently any self which we can find is some concrete form of unity of psychical existence. And whoever wishes to introduce it as something (now or at any time) apart or beyond, clearly does not rest his case upon observation. He is importing into the facts a metaphysical chimera, which, in no sense existing, can do no work; and which, even if it existed, would be worse than useless.

The self and not-self, as discoverable, are concrete groups,5 and the question is as to the content of these. What is that content, if any, which is essentially not-self or self? Perhaps the best way of beginning this inquiry is to ask whether there is anything which may not become an object and, in that sense, a not-self. We certainly seem able to set everything over against ourselves. We begin from the outside, but the distinguishing process becomes more inward, until it ends with deliberate and conscious introspection. Here we attempt to set before, and so opposite to, self our most intimate features. We cannot do this with all at any one time, but with practice and |78 |labour one detail after another is detached from the felt background and brought before our view. It is far from certain that at some one time every feature of the self has, sooner or later, taken its place in the not-self; but it is quite certain that this holds of by far the larger part. And we are hence compelled to admit that very little of the self can belong to it essentially. Let us now turn from the theoretical to the practical relation. Is there here anything, let us ask, which is incapable of becoming an object to my will or desire? But what becomes such an object is clearly a not-self and opposed to the self. Let us go at once to the region that seems most internal and inalienable. As introspection discloses this or that feature in ourselves, can we not wish that it were otherwise? May not everything that we find within us be felt as a limit and as a not-self, against which we either do, or conceivably might, react. Take, for instance, some slight pain. We may have been feeling, in our dimmest and most inward recesses, uneasy and discomposed; and, so soon as this disturbing feature is able to be noticed, we at once react against it. The disquieting sensation becomes clearly a not-self, which we desire to remove. And, I think, we must accept the result that, if not everything may become at times a practical not-self, it is at least hard to find exceptions.

Let us now, passing to the other side of both these relations, ask if the not-self contains anything which belongs to it exclusively. It will not be easy to discover many such elements. In the theoretical relation it is quite clear that not everything can be an object, all together and at once. At any one moment that which is in any sense before me must be limited. What are we to say then becomes of that remainder of the not-self which clearly has not, even for the time, passed wholly from my mind? I do not mean those features of the environment to which I fail to attend specially, but which I still go on perceiving as something before me. I refer to the features which have now sunk below this level. These are not even a setting or a fringe to the object of my mind. They have passed lower into the general background of feeling, from which |79| that distinct object with its indistinct setting is detached. But this means that for the time they have passed into the self. A constant sound will afford us a very good instance.6 That may be made into the principal object of my mind, or it may be an accompaniment of that object more or less definite. But there is a further stage, where you cannot say that the sensation has ceased, and where yet it is no feature in what comes as the not-self. It has become now one among the many elements of my feeling, and it has passed into that self for which the not-self exists. I will not ask if with any, or with what, portions of the not-self this relapse may be impossible, for it is enough that it should be possible with a very great deal. Let us go on to look at the same thing from the practical side. There it will surely be very difficult to fix on elements which essentially must confront and limit me. There are some to which in fact I seem never to be practically related; and there are others which are the object of my will or desire only from occasion to occasion. And if we cannot find anything which is essential to the not-self, then everything, it would appear, so far as it enters my mind, may form part of the felt mass. But if so, it would seem for the time to be connected with that group against which the object of will comes. And thus once again the not-self has become self.

The reader may have observed one point on which my language has been guarded. That point is the extreme limit of this interchange of content between the not-self and the self. I do not for one moment deny the existence of that limit. In my opinion it is not only possible, but most probable, that in every man there are elements in the internal felt core which are never made objects, and which practically cannot be. There may well be features in our Coenesthesia which lie so deep that we never succeed in detaching them; and these cannot properly be said to be ever our not-self. Even in the past we cannot distinguish their speciality. But I presume that even here the obstacle may be said to be practical, and to consist in the |80| obscurity, and not otherwise in the essence, of these sensations.7 And I will barely notice the assertion that pleasure and pain are essentially not capable of being objects. This assertion seems produced by the straits of theory, is devoid of all basis in fact, and may be ignored. But our reason for believing in elements which never are a not-self is the fact of a felt surplus in our undistinguished core. What I mean is this: we are able in our internal mass of feeling to distinguish and to recognize a number of elements; and we are able, on the other side, to decide that our feeling contains beyond these an unexhausted margin.8 It contains a margin which, in its general idea of margin, can be made an object, but which, in its particularity, cannot be. But from time to time this margin has been encroached upon; and we have not the smallest reason to suppose that at some point in its nature lies a hard and fast limit to the invasion of the not-self.

On the side of the not-self, once more, I would not assert that every feature of content may lapse into mere feeling, and so fuse itself with the background. There may be features which practically manage never to do this. And, again, it may be urged that there are thought-products not capable of existence, save when noticed in such a way as must imply opposition to self. I will not controvert this; but will suggest only that it might open a question, as to the existence in general of thought-products within the feeling self, which might further bewilder us. I will come to the conclusion, and content myself with urging the general result. Both on the side of the self and on the side of the not-self, there are, if you |81| please, admitted to be features not capable of translocation. But the amount of these will be so small as to be incapable of characterizing and constituting the self or the not-self. The main bulk of the elements on each side is interchangeable.

If at this point we inquire whether the present meaning of self will coincide with those we had before, the answer is not doubtful. For clearly well nigh everything contained in the psychical individual may be at one time part of self and at another time part of not-self. Nor would it be possible to find an essence of the man which was incapable of being opposed to the self, as an object for thought and for will. At least, if found, that essence would consist in a residue so narrow as assuredly to be insufficient for making an individual. And it could gain concreteness only by receiving into its character a mortal inconsistency. The mere instance of internal volition should by itself be enough to compel reflection. There you may take your self as deep lying and as inward as you please, and may narrow it to the centre; yet these contents may be placed in opposition to your self, and you may desire their alteration. And here surely there is an end of any absolute confinement or exclusive location of the self. For the self is at one moment the whole individual, inside which the opposites and their tension is contained; and, again, it is one opposite, limited by and struggling against an opponent.

And the fact of the matter seems this. The whole psychical mass, which fills the soul at any moment, is the self so far as this mass is only felt. So far, that is, as the mass is given together in one whole, and not divisible from the group which is especially connected with pleasure and pain, this entire whole is felt as self. But, on the other side, elements of content are distinguished from the mass, which therefore is, so far, the background against which perception takes place. But this relation of not-self to self does not destroy the old entire self. This is still the whole mass inside which the distinction and the relation falls. And self in these two meanings coexists with itself, though it certainly does not coincide. Further, in the |82| practical relation a new feature becomes visible. There we have, first of all, self as the whole felt condition. We have, next, the not-self which is felt as opposing the self. We have, further, the group, which is limited and struggles to expand, so causing the tension. This is, of course, felt specially as the self, and within this there falls a new feature worth noticing. In desire and volition we have an idea held against the existing not-self, the idea being that of a change in that not-self. This idea not only is felt to be a part of that self which is opposed to the not-self, — it is felt also to be the main feature and the prominent element there. Thus we say of a man that his whole self was centred in a certain particular end. This means, to speak psychologically, that the idea is one whole with the inner group which is repressed by the not self, and that the tension is felt emphatically in the region of the idea. The idea becomes thus the prominent feature in the content of self. And hence its expansion against, or contraction by, the actual group of the not-self is felt as the enlargement or the restraint of myself. Here, if the reader will call to mind that the existing not-self may be an internal state, whose alteration is desired, — and, again, if he will reflect that the idea, viewed theoretically, itself is a not-self, — he may realize the entire absence of a qualification attached to, and indivisible from, one special content.

We have yet to notice even another meaning which is given to "self." But I must first attempt at this point to throw further light on the subject of our seventh chapter. The perception by the self of its own activity is a corner of psychology which is dangerous if left in darkness. We shall realize this danger in our next chapter; and I will attempt here to cut the ground from beneath some blind prejudices. My failure, if I fail, will not logically justify their existence. It may doubtless be used in their excuse, but I am forced to run that risk for the sake of the result.

The perception of activity comes from the expansion of the self against the not-self, this expansion arising from |83| the self.9 And by the self is not meant the whole contents of the individual, but one term of the practical relation described above. We saw there how an idea, over against the not-self, was the feature with which the self-group was most identified. And by the realisation of this idea the self therefore is expanded; and the expansion, as such,10 is always a cause of pleasure. The mere expansion, of course, would not be felt as activity, and its origination from within the self is of the essence of the matter.

But there are several points necessary for the comprehension of this view. 1. The reader must understand, first of all, that the expansion is not necessarily the enlargement of the self in the sense of the whole individual. Nor is it even the enlargement of the self as against the not-self, in every meaning of those terms. It is the expansion of the self so far as that is identified with the idea of the change. If, for example, I wished to produce self-contraction, then that also would be enlargement, because in it the idea, before limited by the fact of a greater area, would transcend that limit. Thus even self-destruction is relative expansion, so long as the activity lasts. And we may say, generally, the self here is that in which it feels its chief interest For this is both indivisible from and prominent in its inmost being. No one who misses this point can understand what activity means.

2. This leads us to a difficulty. For sometimes clearly I am active, where there is no idea proper, and, it might be added, even no limiting not-self. I will take the last point first, (a) Let us, for argument’s sake, imagine a case where, with no outside Other, and no consciousness of an empty environment, the self feels expansion. In what sense can we discover any not-self here? The answer is simple. The self, as existing, is that limit to itself which it transcends by activity. Let us call the self, as it is before |84| the activity, A, and, while active, AB. But we have a third feature, the inner nature of A, which emerges in AB. This, as we saw, is the idea of the change, and we may hence write it b. We have, therefore, at the beginning not merely A, but in addition A qualified by b; and these are opposite to one another. The unqualified A is the not-self of A as identified with b; and the tension between Ab and A is the inner source of the change, which, of course, expands b to B, and by consequence, so far, A. We may, if we like these phrases, call activity the ideality of a thing carrying the thing beyond its actual limit. But what is really important is the recognition that activity has no meaning, unless in some sense we suppose an idea of the change and that, as against this idea in which the self feels its interest, the actual condition of the self is a not-self. (b) And this, of course, opens a problem. For in some cases where the self apprehends itself as active, there seems at first sight to be no idea. But the problem is solved by the distinction between an idea which is explicit and an idea not explicit. The latter is ideal solely in the sense that its content is used beyond its existence.11 It might indeed be argued that, when we predicate activity, the end is always transferred in idea to the beginning. That is doubtless true; but, when activity is merely felt, there will never be there an explicit idea. And, in the absence of this, I will try to explain what takes place. We have first a self which, as it exists, may be called Ac. This self becomes Acd, and is therefore expanded. But bare expandedness is, of course, by itself not activity, and could not be so felt. And the mere alteration consequently, of Ac to Acd would be felt only as a change, and as an addition made to the identical A. When these differences, c and d, are connected before the mind by the identical A — and for the perception of change they must be connected — there is, so far, no action or passivity, but a mere change which happens. This is not enough for activity, since we require also δ, the idea of d, in Ac; and this idea we do not have in an explicit form. But what, I think, |85| suffices is this. Ac, which as a fact passes into Acd, and is felt so to pass by the perception of a relation of sequence, is also previously felt as Acδ. That is, in the A, apart from and before its actual change to d, we have the qualification Acδ wavering and struggling against Ac. Ac suggests Acδ, which is felt as one with it, and not as given to it by anything else. But this suggestion Acδ, as soon as it arises, is checked by the negative, mere Ac, which maintains its position. A is therefore the site of a struggle of Acδ against Ac. Each is felt in A as belonging to it and therefore as one; and there is no relation yet which serves as the solution of this discrepancy. Hence comes the feeling that A is, and yet is not, Acd. But when the relation of sequence seems to solve this contradiction, then the ensuing result is not felt as mere addition to Ac. It is felt as the success of Acd, which before was kept back by the stronger Ac. And thus, without any explicit idea, an idea is actually applied; for there is a content which is used beyond and against existence. And this, I think, is the explanation of the earliest felt activity.

This brief account is naturally open to objections, but all that are not mere misunderstanding can, I believe, be fully met. The subject, however, belongs to psychology, and I must not here pursue it. The reader will have seen that I assume, for the perception of change, the necessity of connecting the end with the beginning. This is effected by redintegration from the identical A, and it is probably assisted at first by the after-sensation of the starting-place, persisting together with the result. And this I am obliged here to assume. Further, the realisation of Acd must not be attached as an adjective to anything outside A, such as E. This would be fatal to the appearance of a feeling of activity. A must, for our feeling, be Acd; and, again, that must be checked by the more dominant Ac. It must be unable to establish itself, and yet must struggle, that is, oscillate and waver. Hence a wavering Acδ, causing pleasure at each partial success, and resisted by Ac, which you may take, as you prefer for its negative or its privation — this is what afterwards turns into that strange |86| scandalous hybrid, potential existence. And δ, as a content that is rejected by existence, is on the highway to become an explicit idea. And with these too scanty explanations I must return from the excursion we have made into psychology. Note 16

7. There is still another meaning of self which we can hardly pass by, though we need say very little about it at present.12 I refer to that use in which self is the same as the ‘mere self’ or the ‘simply subjective’. This meaning is not difficult to fix in general. Everything which is part of the individual’s psychical contents, and which is not relevant to a certain function, is mere self to that function. Thus, in thinking, everything in my mind — all sensations, feelings, ideas which do not subserve the thought in question — is unessential; and, because it is self, it is therefore mere self. So, again, in morality or in aesthetic perception, what stands outside these processes (if they are what they should be) is simply ‘subjective’, because it is not concerned in the "object" of the process. Mere self is whatever part of the psychical individual is, for the purpose in hand, negative. It, at least, is irrelevant, and it may be even worse.

This in general is clearly the meaning, and it surely will give us no help in our present difficulties. The point which should be noticed is that it has no fixed application. For that which is ‘objective’ and essential to one kind of purpose, may be irrelevant and ‘subjective’ to every other kind of purpose. And this distinction holds even among cases of the same kind. That feature, for example, which is essential to one moral act may be without significance for another, and may therefore be merely myself. In brief, there is nothing in a man which is not thus ‘objective’ or ‘subjective’, as the end which we are considering is from time to time changed. The self here stands for that which, for a present purpose, is the chance self. And it is obvious, if we compare this meaning with those which have preceded, that it does not coincide with them. It is at once |87| too wide and too narrow. It is too wide, because nothing falls essentially outside it; and yet it is too narrow, because anything, so soon as you have taken that in reference to any kind of system, is at once excluded from the mere self. It is not the simply felt; for it is essentially qualified by negation. It is that which, as against anything transcending mere feeling, remains outside as a residue. We might, if we pleased, call it what, by contrast, is only the felt. But then we must include under feeling every psychical fact, if considered merely as such and as existing immediately. There is, however, here no need to dwell any further on this point.

I will briefly resume the results of this chapter. We had found that our ideas as to the nature of things — as to substance and adjective, relation and quality, space and time, motion and activity — were in their essence indefensible. But we had heard somewhere a rumour that the self was to bring order into chaos. And we were curious first to know what this term might stand for. The present chapter has supplied us with an answer too plentiful. Self has turned out to mean so many things, to mean them so ambiguously, and to be so wavering in its applications, that we do not feel encouraged. We found, first, that a man’s self might be his total present contents, discoverable on making an imaginary cross section. Or it might be the average contents we should presume ourselves likely to find, together with something else which we call dispositions. From this we drifted into a search for the self as the essential point or area within the self; and we discovered that we really did not know what this was. Then we went on to perceive that, under personal identity, we entertained a confused bundle of conflicting ideas. Again the self, as merely that which for the time being interests, proved not satisfactory; and from this we passed to the distinction and the division of self as against the not-self. Here, in both the theoretical and again in the practical relation, we found that the self had no contents that were fixed; or it had, at least, none sufficient to make it a self. |88| And in that connection we perceived the origin of our perception of activity. Finally, we dragged to the light another meaning of self, not coinciding with the others; and we saw that this designates any psychical fact which remains outside any purpose to which at any time psychical fact is being applied. In this sense self is the unused residue, defined negatively by want of use, and positively by feeling in the sense of mere psychical existence. And there was no matter which essentially fell, or did not fall, under this heading.


1^ I may refer here to a few further remarks in Mind, 12, p. 368 and foll. I am not suggesting that ideas may not form part of the innermost self. One thinks here naturally of the strange selves suggested in hypnotism.

2^ In the Fortnightly Review, ccxxviii, p. 820, I have further discussed this question.

3^ Compare here once again the suggested selves of hypnotism.

4^ On this and other kindred points, compare my articles in Mind, Nos. 47 and 49. And see below, Chapters xix, xxvi, xxvii.

5^ I am not saying that the whole soul is divided into two groups. That is really not possible. See more below.

6^ Another instance would be the sensations from my own clothes.

7^ Notice that our emotional moods, where we hardly could analyse them, may qualify objects aesthetically.

8^ How the existence of this margin is observed is a question I cannot discuss here. The main point lies in our ability to feel a discrepancy between our felt self and any object before it. This, reflected on and made an object — as, of course, in its main vague type is always possible with past feeling — gives us the idea of an unreduced residue. The same ability to feel discrepancy is the ground of our belief as to difference or identity between past and present feeling. But the detail of this discussion does not belong to metaphysics.

9^ I may refer the reader hereto Mind, 43, pp. 319-320; 47, pp. 371-372; and 49, p. 33. I have not answered Mr. Ward’s criticizms (Mind 48, pp. 572-575) in detail, because in my opinion they are mere misunderstandings, the removal of which is not properly my concern.

10^ For a further distinction on this point see Mind, 49, pp. 6 and foll.

11^ Mind, 49, p. 23; and see below, Chapter xv, p. 163.

12^ See Chapter xix. Top ↑

Chapter X. The Reality of Self

|89-104| Self is doubtless a fact, but, as it appears, can it be real? 89-90. (a) Self as Feeling proves for several reasons untenable, 90-2. (b) Nor is self-consciousness in better case, 92-6. (c) Personal Identity useless, and so also functional unity of self, 96-9. (d) Self as Activity, Force, or Will, 99-101. (e) Self as Monad, 101-2. Conclusion, 103-4.

In the present chapter we must briefly inquire into the self’s reality. Naturally the self is a fact, to some extent and in some sense; and this, of course, is not the issue. The question is whether the self in any of its meanings can, as such, be real. We have found above that things seem essentially made of inconsistencies. And there is understood now to be a claim on the part of the self, not only to maintain and to justify its own proper being, but, in addition, to rescue things from the condemnation we have passed on them. But the latter part of the claim may be left undiscussed. We shall find that the self has no power to defend its own reality from mortal objections.

It is the old puzzle as to the connection of diversity with unity. As the diversity becomes more complex and the unity grows more concrete, we have, so far, found that our difficulties steadily increase. And the expectation of a sudden change and a happy solution, when we arrive at the self, seems hence little warranted. And if we glance at the individual self, as we find it at one time, there seems at first sight no clear harmony which orders and unites its entangled confusion. At least, popular ideas are on this point visibly unavailing. The complexity of the phenomena, exhibited by a cross section, must be admitted to exist But how in any sense they can be one, even apart from alteration, is a problem not attempted. And when the self changes in time, are we able to justify the inconsistency which most palpably appears, or, rather, stares us in the face? You may say that we are each assured of our personal identity in a way in which we are not assured of the sameness of things. But this is, unfortunately, quite irrelevant to the question. That selves exist, and are identical in some sense, is indubitable. But the doubt is whether their sameness, as we apprehend it, is really intelligible, and whether it can be true in the character in which it comes to us. Because otherwise, while it will be |90| certain that the self and its identity somehow belong to reality, it will be equally certain that this fact has somehow been essentially misapprehended. And our conclusion must be that, since, as such, it contradicts itself, this fact must, as such, be unreal. The self also will in the end be no more than appearance.

This question turns, I presume, on the possibility of finding some special experience which will furnish a new point of view. It is, of course, admitted that the self presents us with fresh matter, and with an increased complication. The point in debate is whether at the same time it supplies us with any key to the whole puzzle about reality. Does it give an experience by the help of which we can understand the way in which diversity is harmonized? Or, failing that, does it remove all necessity for such an understanding? I am convinced that both these questions must be answered in the negative.

(a) For mere feeling, to begin the inquiry with this, gives no answer to our riddle. It may be said truly that in feeling, if you take it low enough down, there is plurality with unity and without contradiction. There being no relations and no terms, and yet, on the other side, more than bare simplicity, we experience a concrete whole as actual fact. And this fact, it may be alleged, is the understanding of our self, or is, at least, that which is superior to and overrides any mere intellectual criticizm. It must be accepted for what it is, and its reality must be admitted by the intelligence as a unique revelation.

But no such claim can be maintained. I will begin by pointing out that feeling, if a revelation, is not exclusively or even specially a revelation of the self. For you must choose one of two things. Either you do not descend low enough to get rid of relations with all their inconsistency, or else you have reached a level where subject and object are in no sense distinguished, and where, therefore, neither self nor its opposite exists. Feeling, if taken as immediate presentation, most obviously gives features of what later becomes the environment. And these are indivisibly one thing with what later becomes the self. Feeling, therefore, |91| can be no unique or special revelation of the self, in distinction from any other element of the universe. Nor, even if feeling be used wrongly as equivalent to the aspect of pleasure or pain,1 need we much modify our conclusion. This is a point on which naturally I have seen a good many dogmatic assertions, but no argument that would bear a serious examination. Why in the case of a pleasant feeling — for example, that of warmth — the side of pleasure should belong to the self, and the side of sensation to the not-self (psychologically or logically), I really do not know. If we keep to facts, it seems clear that at the beginning no such distinction exists at all; and it is clear too that at the latest stage there are some elements within the not-self which retain their original aspect of pleasure or pain. And hence we must come to this result. We could make little metaphysical use of the doctrine that pleasure and pain belong solely to the self as distinct from the not-self. And the doctrine itself is quite without foundation. It is not even true that at first self and not-self exist. And though it is true that pleasure and pain are the main feature on which later this distinction is based, yet it is even then false that they may not belong to the object.

But, if we leave this error and return once more to feeling, in the sense of that which comes undifferentiated, we are forced to see that it cannot give the knowledge which we seek. It is an apprehension too defective to lay hold on reality. In the first place, its content and its form are not in agreement; and this is manifest when feeling changes from moment to moment. Then the matter, which ought to come to us harmoniously and as one whole, becomes plainly discrepant within itself. The content exhibits its essential relativity. It depends, that is to say — in order to be what it is — upon something not itself. Feeling ought to be something all in one and self-contained, if not simple. Its essence ought not to include matter the adjective of, and with a reference to, a foreign existence. It should be real, and should not be, in this |92| sense, partly ideal. And the form of immediacy, in which it offers itself, implies this self-subsistent character. But in change the content slips away, and becomes something else; while, again, change appears necessary and implied in its being. Mutability is a fact in the actual feeling which we experience, for that never continues at rest. And, if we examine the content at any one given moment, we perceive that, though it presents itself as self-subsistent, it is infected by a deep-seated relativity. And this will force itself into view, first in the experience of change, and later, for reflection. Again, in the second place, apart from this objection, and even if feeling were self-consistent, it would not suffice for a knowledge of reality. Reality, as it commonly appears, contains terms and relations, and indeed may be said to consist in these mainly. But the form of feeling (on the other side) is not above, but is below, the level of relations; and it therefore cannot possibly express them or explain them. Hence it is idle to suppose, given relational matter as the object to be understood, that feeling will supply any way of understanding it. And this objection seems quite fatal. Thus we are forced beyond feeling, first by change, and then further by the relational form which remains obstinately outstanding. But, when once more we betake ourselves to reflection, we seem to have made no advance. For the incompleteness and relativity in the matter given by feeling become, when we reflect on them, open contradiction. The limitation is seen to be a reference to something beyond, and the self-subsistent fact shows ideality, and turns round into mere adjectives whose support we cannot find. Feeling can be, therefore, no solution of the puzzles which, so far, have proved to be insoluble. Its content is vitiated throughout by the old inconsistencies. It may be said even to thrust upon us, in a still more apparent form, the discrepancy that lies between identity and diversity, immediate oneness and relation.

(b) Thus mere feeling has no power to justify the self’s reality, and naturally none to solve the problems of the universe at large. But we may perhaps be more fortunate |93| with some form of self-consciousness. That possibly may furnish us with a key to the self, and so also to the world; and let us briefly make an attempt. The prospect is certainly at first sight not very encouraging. For (i.) if we take the actual matter revealed by self-consciousness, that (in any sense in which it pleases us to understand self) seems quite inconsistent internally. If the reader will recall the discussions of the preceding chapter, he may, I think, convince himself on this point. Take the self, either at one time or throughout any duration, and its contents do not seem to arrange themselves as a harmony. Nor have we, so far, found a principle by the application of which we are enabled to arrange them without contradiction. (ii.) But self-consciousness, we may be told, is a special way of intuition, or perception, or what you will. And this experience of both subject and object in one self, or of the identity of the Ego through and in the opposition of itself to itself, or generally the self-apprehension of the self as one and many, is at last the full answer to our whole series of riddles. But to my mind such an answer brings no satisfaction. For it seems liable to the objections which proved fatal to mere feeling. Suppose, for argument’s sake, that the intuition (as you describe it) actually exists; suppose that in this intuition, while you keep to it, you possess a diversity without discrepancy. This is one thing, but it is quite another thing to possess a principle which can serve for the understanding of reality. For how does this way of apprehension suffice to take in a long series of events? How again does it embrace, and transcend, and go beyond, the relational form of discursive intelligence? The world is surely not understood if understanding is left out. And in what manner can your intuition satisfy the claims of understanding? This, to my mind, forms a wholly insuperable obstacle. For the contents of the intuition (this many in one), if you try to reconstruct them relationally, fall asunder forthwith. And the attempt to find in self-consciousness an apprehension at a level, not below, but above relations — a way of apprehension superior to discursive thought, and including its mere |94| process in a higher harmony — appears to me not successful. I am, in short, compelled to this conclusion: even if your intuition is a fact, it is not an understanding of the self or of the world. It is a mere experience, and it furnishes no consistent view about itself or about reality in general. An experience, I suppose, can override understanding only in one way, by including it, that is, as a subordinate element somehow within itself. And such an experience is a thing which seems not discoverable in self-consciousness.

And (iii.) I am forced to urge this last objection against the whole form of self-consciousness, as it was described above. There does not really exist any perception, either in which the object and the subject are quite the same, or in which their sameness amid difference is an object for perception. Any such consciousness would seem to be impossible psychologically. And, as it is almost useless for me to try to anticipate the reader’s views on this point, I must content myself with a very brief statement. Self-consciousness, as distinct from self-feeling, implies a relation. It is the state where the self has become an object that stands before the mind. This means that an element is in opposition to the felt mass, and is distinguished from it as a not-self. And there is no doubt that the self, in its various meanings, can become such a not-self. But, in whichever of its meanings we intend to consider it, the result is the same. The object is never wholly identical with the subject, and the background of feeling must contain a great deal more than what we at any time can perceive as the self. And I confess that I scarcely know how to argue this point. To me the idea that the whole self can be observed in one perception would be merely chimerical. I find, first, that in the felt background there remains an obscure residue of internal sensation, which I perhaps at no time can distinguish as an object. And this felt background at any moment will almost certainly contain also elements from outer sensation. On the other hand, the self, as an object, will at any one time embrace but a poor extent of detail. It is palpably and flagrantly |95| much more narrow than the background felt as self. And in order to exhaust this felt mass (if indeed exhaustion is possible) we require a series of patient observations, in none of which will the object be as full as the subject.2 To have the felt self in its totality as an object for consciousness seems out of the question. And I would further ask the reader to bear in mind that, where the self is observed as in opposition to the not-self, this whole relation is included within that felt background, against which, on the other hand, the distinction takes place.

And this suggests an objection. How, I may be asked, if self-consciousness is no more than you say, do we take one object as self and another as not-self? Why is the observed object perceived at all in the character of self? This is a question, I think, not difficult to answer, so far at least as is required for our purpose here. The all-important point is this, that the unity of feeling never disappears. The mass, at first undifferentiated, groups itself into objects in relation to me; and then again further the "me" becomes explicit, and itself is an object in relation to the background of feeling. But, none the less, the object not-self is still a part of the individual soul, and the object self likewise keeps its place in this felt unity. The distinctions have supervened upon, but they have not divided, the original whole; and, if they had done so, the result would have been mere destruction. Hence, in self-consciousness, those contents perceived as the self belong still to the whole individual mass. They, in the first place, are features in the felt totality; then again they are elements in that inner group from which the not-self is distinguished; and finally they become an object opposed to the internal background. And these contents exist thus in several forms all at once. And so, just as the not-self is felt; is still psychically my state, the self, when made an object, is still felt as individually one with me. Nay, we may reflect upon this unity of feeling, and may say that the self, as self and as not-self all in one, is our object, And |96| this is true if we mean that it is an object for reflection. But in that reflection once more there is an actual subject; and that actual subject is a mass of feeling much fuller than the object; and it is a subject which in no sense is an object for the reflection. The feature, of being not-self and self in one self, can indeed be brought before the present subject, and can be felt to be its own. The unity of feeling can become an object for perception and thought, and can also be felt to belong to the self which is present, and which is the subject that perceives. But, without entering into psychological refinements and difficulties, we may be sure of this main result. The actual subject is never, in any state of mind, brought before itself as an object. It has that before it which it feels to be itself, so far at least as to fall within its own area, and to be one thing with its felt unity. But the actual subject never feels that it is all out there in its object, that there is nothing more left within, and that the difference has disappeared. And of this we can surely convince ourselves by observation. The subject in the end must be felt, and it can never (as it is) be perceived.

But, if so, then self-consciousness will not solve our former difficulties. For these distinctions, of self and of not-self in one whole, are not presented as the reality even of my self. They are given as found within it, but not as exhausting it But even if the self did, what it cannot do, and guaranteed this arrangement as its proper reality, that would still leave us at a loss. For unless we could think the arrangement so as to be consistent with itself we could not admit it as being the truth about reality. It would merely be an experience, unintelligible or deceptive. And it is an experience which, we have now seen, has no existence in fact.

(c) We found the self, as mere feeling, gave us no key to our puzzles, and we have not had more success in our attempt with self-consciousness. So far as that transcends mere feeling, it is caught in, and is dissipated by, the old illusory play of relations and qualities. It repeats this |97| illusion, without doubt, at a higher level than before; the endeavour is more ambitious, but the result is still the same. For we have not been taught how to understand diversity in unity. And though, in my judgment, the further task should now be superfluous, I will briefly touch upon some other claims made for the self. The first rests on the consciousness of personal identity. This may be supposed to have some bearing on the reality of the self, but to my mind it appears to be almost irrelevant. Of course the self, within limits and up to a certain point, is the same; and I will leave to others the attempt to fix those limits by a principle. For, in my opinion, there is none which at bottom is not arbitrary. But what I fail to perceive is the metaphysical conclusion which comes from a consciousness of self-sameness. I quite understand that this fact disproves any doctrine of the selfs mere discreteness. Or, more correctly, it is an obvious instance against a doctrine which evidently contradicts itself in principle. The self is not merely discrete; and therefore (doubtless by some wonderful alternative) we are carried to a positive result about its reality. But the facts of the case seem merely to be thus. As long as there remains in the self a certain basis of content, ideally the same, so long may the self recall anything once associated with that basis. And this identity of content, working by redintegration {definition: “to make whole or complete again; to restore to a perfect state; to renew”} and so bringing up the past as the history of one self — really this is all which we have to build upon. Now this, of course, shows that self-sameness exists as a fact, and that hence somehow an identical self must be real. But then the question is how? The question is whether we can state the existence and the continuity of a real self in a way which is intelligible, and which is not ruined by the difficulties of previous discussions. Because, otherwise, we may have found an interesting fact, but most assuredly we have not found a tenable view about reality. That tenable view, if we got sight of it, might show us that our fact had been vitally misapprehended. At all events, so long as we can offer only a bundle of inconsistencies, it is absurd to try to believe that these are the true reality. And, |98| if any one likes to fall back upon a miraculous faculty which he discovers in memory, the case is not altered. For the issue is as to the truth either of the message conveyed, or of our conclusion from that message. And, for myself, I stand on this. Present your doctrine (whatever it is) in a form which will bear criticizm, and which will enable me to understand this confused mass of facts which I encounter on all sides. Do this, and I will follow you, and I will worship the source of such a true revelation. But I will not accept nonsense for reality, though it be vouched for by miracle, or proceed from the mouth of a psychological monster.

And I am compelled to adopt the same attitude towards another supposed fact. I refer to the unity in such a function as, for instance, Comparison. This has been assumed to be timeless, and to serve as a foundation for metaphysical views about the self. But I am forced to reject alike both basis and result, if that result be offered as a positive view. It is in the first place (as we have seen in Chapter v) psychologically untenable to take any mental fact as free from duration. And, apart from that, what works in any function must be something concrete and specially relevant to that function. In comparison it must be, for instance, a special basis of identity in the terms to be compared.3 A timeless self, acting in a particular way from its general timeless nature, is to me, in the first place, a psychological monster. And, in the second place, if this extraordinary fact did exist, it would indeed serve to show that certain views were not true; but, beyond that, it would remain a mere extraordinary fact. At least for myself I do not perceive how it supplies us with a conclusion about the self or the world, which is consistent and defensible. And here once again we have the same issue. We have found puzzles in reality, besetting every way in which we have taken it. Now give me a view not obnoxious to these mortal attacks, and combining differences in one so as to turn the edge of criticizm — and then I will thank you. But I cannot be grateful for an assertion |99| which seems to serve merely as an objection to another doctrine, otherwise known to be false; an assertion, which, if we accepted it as we cannot, would leave us simply with a very strange fact on our hands. Such a fact is certainly no principle by which we could solve the riddle of the universe.

(d) I must next venture a few words on an embarrassing topic, the supposed revelation of reality within the self as force or will. And the difficulty comes, not so much from the nature of the subject, as from the manner of its treatment. If we could get a clear statement as to the matter revealed, we could at this stage of our discussion dispose of it in a few words, or rather point out that it has been already disposed of. But a clear statement is precisely that which (so far as my experience goes) is not to be had.

The reader who recalls our discussions on activity, will remember how it literally was riddled by contradictions. All the puzzles as to adjectives and relations and terms, every dilemma as to time and causation, seemed to meet in it and there even to find an addition. Far from reducing these to harmony, activity, when we tried to think it, fell helplessly asunder or jarred with itself. And to suppose that the self is to bring order into this chaos, after our experience hitherto of the self’s total impotence, seems more sanguine than rational.

If now we take force or cause, as it is revealed in the self, to be the same as volition proper, that clearly will not help us. For in volition we have an idea, determining change in the self, and so producing its own realization.4 Volition perhaps at first sight may seem to promise a solution of our metaphysical puzzles. For we seem to find at last something like a self-contained cause with an effect within itself. But this surely is illusory. The old difficulties about the beginning of change and its process in time, the old troubles as to diversity in union with sameness — how is any one of these got rid of, or made more tractable? It is bootless to enquire whether we have |100| found a principle which is to explain the universe. For we have not even found anything which can bear its own weight, or can endure for one moment the most superficial scrutiny. Volition gives us, of course, an intense feeling of reality; and we may conclude, if we please, that in this lies the heart of the mystery of things. Yes, perhaps; here lies the answer — for those who may have understood; and the whole question turns on whether we have reached an understanding. But what you offer me appears much more like an experience, not understood but interpreted into hopeless confusion. It is with you as with the man who, transported by his passion, feels and knows that only love gives the secret of the universe. In each case the result is perfectly in order, but one hardly sees why it should be called metaphysics.

And we shall make no advance, if we pass from will proper where an idea is realized, and fall back on an obscurer revelation of energy. In the experience of activity, or resistance, or will, or force (or whatever other phrase seems most oracular), we are said to come at last down to the rock of reality. And I am not so ill-advised as to offer a disproof of the message revealed. It is doubtless a mystery, and hence those who could inform the outer world of its meaning, are for that very reason compelled to be silent and to seem even ignorant. What I can do is to set down briefly the external remarks of one not initiated.

In the first place, taken psychologically, the revelation is fraudulent. There is no original experience of anything like activity, to say nothing of resistance. This is quite a secondary product, the origin of which is far from mysterious, and on which I have said something in the preceding chapter.5 You may, doubtless, point to an outstanding margin of undetermined sensations, but these will not contain the essence of the matter. And I do not hesitate to say this: Where you meet a psychologist who |101| takes this experience as elementary, you will find a man who has not ever made a serious attempt to decompose it, or ever resolutely faced the question as to what it contains. And in the second place, taken metaphysically, these tidings, given from whatever source, are either meaningless or false. And here once again we have the all-important point. I do not care what your oracle is, and your preposterous psychology may here be gospel if you please; the real question is whether your response (so far as it means anything) is not appearance and illusion. If it means nothing, that is to say, if it is merely a datum, which has no complex content that can be taken as a principle — then it will be much what we have in, say, pleasure or pain. But if you offered me one of these as a theoretical account of the universe, you would not be even mistaken, but simply nonsensical. And it is the same with activity or force, if these also merely are, and say nothing. But if, on the other hand, the revelation does contain a meaning, I will commit myself to this: either the oracle is so confused that its signification is not discoverable, or, upon the other hand, if it can be pinned down to any definite statement, then that statement will be false. When we drag it out into the light, and expose it to the criticizm of our foregoing discussions, it will exhibit its helplessness. It will be proved to contain mere unsolved discrepancies, and will give us therefore, not truth, but in the end appearance. And I intend to leave this matter so without further remark.

(e) I will in conclusion touch briefly on the theory of Monads. A tenable view of reality has been sought in the doctrine that each self is an independent reality, substantial if not simple. But this attempt does not call for a lengthy discussion. In the first place, if there is more than one self in the universe, we are met by the problem of their relation to each other. And the reply, ‘Why there is none’, we have already seen in Chapter iii, is no sufficient defence. For plurality and separateness without a relation of separation seem really to have no meaning. And, from the other side, without relations these poor monads |102| would have no process and would serve no purpose. But relations admitted, again, are fatal to the monads’ independence. The substances clearly become adjectival, and mere elements within an all-comprehending whole. And hence there is left remaining for their internal contents no solid principle of stability.6 And in the second place, even if this remained, it would be no solution of our difficulties. For consider: we have found, so far, that diversity and unity cannot be reconciled. Both in the existence of the whole self in relation with its contents, and in the various special forms which that existence takes, we have encountered everywhere the same trouble. We have had features which must come together, and yet were willing to do so in no way that we could find. In the self there is a variety, and in the self there is a unity; but, in attempting to understand how, we fall into inconsistencies which, therefore, cannot be truth. And now in what way is the monadic character of the self — with whatever precise meaning (if with any) we take this up — about to assist us? Will it in the least show us how the diversity can exist in harmony with the oneness? If it can do this, then I would respectfully suggest that it should do it. Because, otherwise, the unity seems merely stated and emphasized; and the problem of its diverse content is either wholly neglected or hidden under a confusion of fictions and metaphors. But if more than an emphasis on the unity is meant, that more is even positively objectionable. For while the diversity is slurred over, instead of being explained, there will be a negative assertion as to the limits within which the self’s true unity falls. And this assertion cannot stand criticizm. And lastly the relation of the self to its contents in time will tend to become a new insoluble enigma. Monadism, on the whole, will increase and will add to the difficulties which already exist, and it will not supply |103| us with a solution of any single one of them. It would be strange indeed if an explanation of all sides of our puzzle were found in mere obstinate emphasis upon one of those sides.

And with this result I will bring the present chapter to a close. The reader who has followed our discussions up to this point, can, if he pleases, pursue the detail of the subject, and can further criticize the claims made for the self’s reality. But if he will drive home the objections which we have come to know in principle, the conclusion he will reach is assured already. In whatever way the self is taken, it will prove to be appearance. It cannot, if finite, maintain itself against external relations. For these will enter its essence, and so ruin its independency. And, apart from this objection in the case of its finitude, the self is in any case unintelligible. For, in considering it, we are forced to transcend mere feeling, itself not satisfactory; and yet we cannot reach any defensible thought, any intellectual principle, by which it is possible to understand how diversity can be comprehended in unity. But, if we cannot understand this, and if whatever way we have of thinking about the self proves full of inconsistency, we should then accept what must follow. The self is no doubt the highest form of experience which we have, but, for all that, is not a true form. It does not give us the facts as they are in reality; and, as it gives them, they are appearance, appearance and error.

And one of the reasons why this result is not admitted on all sides, seems to lie in that great ambiguity of the self which our previous chapter detailed. Apparently distinct, this phrase wavers from one meaning to another, is applied to various objects, and in argument is used too seldom in a well-defined sense. But there is a still more fundamental aid to obscurity. The end of metaphysics is to understand the universe, to find a way of thinking about facts in general which is free from contradiction. But how few writers seem to trouble themselves much about this vital issue. Of those who take their principle of |104| understanding from the self, how few subject that principle to an impartial scrutiny. But it is easy to argue from a foregone alternative, to disprove any theory which loses sight of the self, and then to offer what remains as the secret of the universe — whether what remains is thinkable or is a complex which refuses to be understood. And it is easy to survey the world which is selfless, to find there vanity and illusion, and then to return to one’s self into congenial darkness and the equivocal consolation of some psychological monster. But, if the object is to understand, there can be only one thing which we have to consider. It does matter from what source our principle is derived. It may be the refutation of something else — it is no worse for that. Or it may be a response emitted by some kind of internal oracle, and it is no worse for that. But for metaphysics a principle, if it is to stand at all, must stand absolutely by itself. While wide enough to cover the facts, it must be able to be thought without jarring internally. It is this, to repeat it once more, on which everything turns. The diversity and the unity must be brought to the light, and the principle must be seen to comprehend these. It must not carry us away into a maze of relations, relations that lead to illusory terms, and terms disappearing into endless relations. But the self is so far from supplying such a principle, that it seems, where not hiding itself in obscurity, a mere bundle of discrepancies. Our search has conducted us again not to reality but mere appearance.


1^ I think this confined use wrong, but it is, of course, legitimate. To ignore the existence of other uses is, on the other hand, inexcusable.

2^ The possibility of this series rests on the fact that sameness and alteration can be felt where they are not perceived. Compare pp. 79, 80.

3^ There are some further remarks in Mind, Nos. 41 and 43.

4^ I have discussed the nature of will psychologically in Mind, No. 49.

5^ I have touched the question only in its general form. As to the special source from which come the elements of this or that perception of activity, I have not said anything. This is a matter for psychology.

6^ The attentive reader of Lotze must, I think, have found it hard to discover why individual selves with him are more than phenomenal adjectives. For myself I discern plainly his resolve that somehow they have got to be more. But I do not find that he is ever willing to face this question fairly.

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Chapter XI. Phenomenalism

|105-9| Result so far, 105. Phenomenalism as a remedy, 105-6. But it does not include the facts, itself for one, 106. And its elements are unintelligible, 106-7. And difficulty as to past and future and Identity, 107-8. And what are Laws, 108? Final dilemma, 108-9.

Our attempts, so far, to reduce the world’s diverse contents to unity have ended in failure. Any sort of group which we could find, whether a thing or a self, proved unable to stand criticizm. And, since it seems that what appears must somewhere certainly be one, and since this unity is not to be discovered in phenomena, the reality threatens to migrate to another world than ours. We have been driven near to the separation of appearance and reality; we already perhaps contemplate their localization in two different hemispheres — the one unknown to us and real, and the other known and mere appearance. But, before we take this step, I will say a few words on a proposed alternative, stating this entirely in my own way and so as to suit my own convenience.

‘Why’, it may be said, ‘should we trouble ourselves to seek for a unity? Why do things not go on very well as they are? We really want no substance or activity, or anything else of the kind. For phenomena and their laws are all that science requires’. Such a view may be called Phenomenalism. It is superficial at its best, and it is held of course with varying degrees of intelligence. In its most consistent form, I suppose, it takes its phenomena as feelings or sensations. These with their relations are the elements; and the laws somewhere and somehow come into this view. And against its opponents Phenomenalism would urge, What else exists? ‘Show me anything real’, it would argue, ‘and I will show you mere presentation; more is not to be discovered, and really more is meaningless. Things and selves are not unities in any sense whatever, except as given collections or arrangements of such presented elements. What appears is, as a matter of fact, grouped in such and such manners. And then, of course, there are the laws. When we have certain things given, then certain other things are given too; or we know that certain other occurrences will or may take place. There |106| is hence nothing but events, appearances which happen, and the ways which these appearances have of happening. And how, in the name of science, can any one want any more?’

The last question suggests a very obvious criticizm. The view either makes a claim to take account of all the facts, or it makes no such claim. In the latter case there is at once an end of its pretensions. But in the former case it has to meet this fatal objection. All the ways of thinking which introduce an unity into things, into the world or the self — and there clearly is a good deal of such thinking on hand — are of course illusory. But, none the less, they are facts entirely undeniable. And Phenomenalism is invited to take some account of these facts, and to explain how on its principles their existence is possible. How, for example, with only such elements and their laws, is the theory of Phenomenalism itself a possible fact? The theory seems a unity which, if it were true, would be impossible. And an objection of this sort has a very wide range, and applies to a considerable area of appearance. But I am not going to ask how Phenomenalism is prepared to reply. I will simply say that this one objection, to those who understand, makes an end of the business. And if there ever has been so much as an attempt to meet this fairly, it has escaped my notice. We may be sure beforehand that such an effort must be wholly futile.

Thus, without our entering into any criticizm on the positive doctrine, a mere reference to what it must admit, and yet blindly ignores, is a sufficient refutation. But I will add a few remarks on the inconsistencies of that which it offers us.

What it states, in the first place, as to its elements and their relations, is unintelligible. In actual fact, wherever you get it, these distinctions appear and seem even to be necessary. At least I have no notion of the way in which they could be dispensed with. But if so, there is here at once a diversity in unity; we have somehow together, perhaps, several elements and some relations; and what is the meaning of ‘together’, when once distinctions have been |107| separated? And then what sort of things are relations? Can you have elements which are free from them even internally? And are relations themselves not given elements, another kind of phenomena? But, if so, what is the relation between the first kind and the second (Cf. Chapter iii)? Or, if that question ends in sheer nonsense, who is responsible for the nonsense? Consider, for instance, any fact of sense, it does not matter what; and let Phenomenalism attempt to state clearly what it means by its elements and relations; let it tell us whether these two sides are in relation with one another, or, if not that, what else is the case. But I will pass to another point.

An obvious question arises as to events past and future. If these, and their relations to the present, are not to be real and in some sense to exist — then difficulties arise into which I will not enter. But, if past and future (or either of them) are in any sense real, then, in the first place, the unity of this series will be something inexplicable. And, in the second place, a reality, not presented and not given (and even the past is surely not given), was precisely that against which Phenomenalism set its face. This is another inconsistency.

Let us go on to consider the question as to identity. This Phenomenalism should deny, because identity is a real union of the diverse. But change is not to be denied, for obviously it must be there when something happens. Now, if there is change, there is by consequence something which changes. But if it changes, it is the same throughout a diversity. It is, in other words, a real unity, a concrete universal. Take, for example, the fact of motion; evidently here something alters its place. Hence a variety of places, whatever that means — in any case a variety — must be predicated of one something. If so, we have at once on our hands the One and the Many, and otherwise our theory declines to deal with ordinary fact.

In brief, identity — being that which the doctrine excluded — is essential to its being. And now how far is this to go? Is the series of phenomena, with its differences, one series? If it is not one, why treat it as if it were so? If |108| it is one, then here indeed is a unity which gives us pause. Again, are the elements ever permanent and remaining identical from one time to another? But, whether they are or are not identical, how are facts to be explained? Suppose, in the first place, that we do have identical elements, surviving amid change and the play of variety. Here are metaphysical reals, raising the old questions we have been discussing through this Book. But perhaps nothing is really permanent except the laws. The problem of change is given up, and we fall back upon our laws, persisting and appearing in successions of fleeting elements. If so, phenomena seem now to have become temporal illustrations of laws.

And it is perhaps time to ask a question concerning the nature of these last-mentioned creatures. Are they permanent real essences, visible from time to time in their fleeting illustrations? If so, once more Phenomenalism has adored blindly what it rejected. And, of course, the relations of these essences — the one to the other, and each to the phenomena which in some way seem its adjectives — take us back to those difficulties which proved too hard for us. But I presume that the reality of the laws must be denied, or denied, that is, not quite, but with a reservation. The laws are hypothetical; they are in themselves but possibilities, and actual only when found in real presentation. Apart from this, and as mere laws, they are connections between terms which do not exist; and, if so, as connections, they are not strictly anything actual. In short, just as the elements were nothing outside of presentation, so again, outside of presentation, the laws really are nothing. And in presentation then — what is either side, the elements or the laws, but an unreal and quite indefensible thought? It seems that we can say of them only that we do not know what they are; and all that we can be certain of is this, that they are not what we know, namely, given phenomena.

And here we may end. The view has started with mere presentation. It, of course, is forced to transcend this, and it has done so ignorantly and blindly. A little criticizm |109| has driven it back, and has left it with a universe, which must either be distinctions within one presentation, or else mere nonsense. And then these distinctions themselves are quite indefensible. If you admit them, you have to deal with the metaphysical problem of the Many in One; and you cannot admit them, because clearly they are not given and presented, but at least more or less made. And what it must come to is that Phenomenalism ends in this dilemma. It must either keep to the moment’s presentation, and must leave there the presented entirely as it is given — and, if so, then surely there could be no more science; or it must "become transcendent" (as the phrase goes), and launch out into a sea of more preposterous inconsistencies than are perhaps to be found in any other attempt at metaphysics. As a working point of view, directed and confined to the ascertainment of some special branch of truth, Phenomenalism is of course useful and is indeed quite necessary. And the metaphysician who attacks it when following its own business, is likely to fare badly. But when Phenomenalism loses its head and, becoming blatant, steps forward as a theory of first principles, then it is really not respectable. The best that can be said of its pretensions is that they are ridiculous.

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Chapter XII. Things in Themselves

|110-15| Separation of Universe into two hemispheres is indefensible, 110-11, and only doubles our difficulties, 112-14. Appearances are facts, which somehow must qualify reality, 114-15.

We have found, so far, that we have not been able to arrive at reality. The various ways, in which things have been taken up, have all failed to give more than mere appearance. Whatever we have tried has turned out something which, on investigation, has been proved to contradict itself. But that which does not attain to internal unity, has clearly stopped short of genuine reality. And, on the other hand, to sit down contented is impossible, unless, that is, we are resolved to put up with mere confusion. For to transcend what is given is clearly obligatory, if we are to think at all and to have any views whatever. But, the deliverance of the moment once left behind, we have succeeded in meeting with nothing that holds together. Every view has been seen only to furnish appearance, and the reality has escaped. It has baffled us so constantly, so persistently retreated, that in the end we are forced to set it down as unattainable. It seems to have been discovered to reside in another world than ours.

We have here reached a familiar way of regarding the universe, a doctrine held with very different degrees of comprehension. The universe, upon this view (whether it understands itself or not), falls apart into two regions, we may call them two hemispheres. One of these is the world of experience and knowledge — in every sense without reality. The other is the kingdom of reality — without either knowledge or experience. Or we have on one side phenomena, in other words, things as they are to us, and ourselves so far as we are anything to ourselves; while on the other side are Things as they are in themselves and as they do not appear; or, if we please, we may call this side the Unknowable. And our attitude towards such a divided universe varies a good deal. We may be thankful to be rid of that which is not relative to our affairs, and which cannot in any way concern us; and we may be glad |111| that the worthless is thrown over the wall. Or we may regret that Reality is too good to be known, and from the midst of our own confusion may revere the other side in its inaccessible grandeur. We may even naively felicitate ourselves on total estrangement, and rejoice that at last utter ignorance has removed every scruple which impeded religion. Where we know nothing we can have no possible objection to worship.1

This view is popular, and to some extent is even plausible. It is natural to feel that the best and the highest is unknowable, in the sense of being something which our knowledge cannot master. And this is probably all that for most minds the doctrine signifies. But of course this is not what it says, nor what it means, when it has any definite meaning. For it does not teach that our knowledge of reality is imperfect; it asserts that it does not exist, and that we have no knowledge at all, however imperfect There is a hard and fast line, with our apprehension on the one side and the Thing on the other side, and the two hopelessly apart. This is the doctrine, and its plausibility vanishes before criticizm.

Its absurdity may be shown in several ways. The Unknowable must, of course, be prepared either to deserve its name or not. But, if it actually were not knowable, we could not know that such a thing even existed. It would be much as if we said, ‘Since all my faculties are totally confined to my garden, I cannot tell if the roses next door are in flower.’ And this seems inconsistent. And we may push the line of attack which we mentioned in the last chapter. If the theory really were true, then it must be impossible. There is no reconciling our knowledge of its truth with that general condition which exists if it is true. But I propose to adopt another way of criticizm, which perhaps may be plainer.

|112| I will first make a remark as to the plurality involved in Things in themselves. If this is meant, then within their secluded world we have a long series of problems. Their diversity and their relations bring us back to those very difficulties which we were endeavouring to avoid. And it seems clear that, if we wish to be consistent, the plural must be dropped. Hence in future we shall confine ourselves to the Thing in itself.

We have got this reality on one side and our appearances on the other, and we are naturally led to enquire about their connection. Are they related, the one to the other, or not? If they are related, and if in any way the appearances are made the adjectives of reality, then the Thing has become qualified by them. It is qualified, but on what principle? That is what we do not know. We have in effect every unsolved problem which vexed us before; and we have, besides, this whole confusion now predicated of the Thing, no longer, therefore, something by itself. But this perplexed attribution was precisely that which the doctrine intended to avoid. We must therefore deny any relation of our appearances to the Thing. But, if so, other troubles vex us. Either our Thing has qualities, or it has not. If it has them, then within itself the same puzzles break out which we intended to leave behind, — to make a prey of phenomena and to rest contented with their ruin. So we must correct ourselves and assert that the Thing is unqualified. But, if so, we are destroyed with no less certainty. For a Thing without qualities is clearly not real. It is mere Being, or mere Nothing, according as you take it simply for what it is, or consider also that which it means to be. Such an abstraction is palpably of no use to us.

And, if we regard the situation from the side of phenomena, it is not more encouraging. We must take appearances in connection with reality, or not. In the former case, they are not rendered one whit less confused. They offer precisely the old jungle in which no way could be found, and which is not cleared by mere attribution to a Thing in itself. But, if we deny the connection of phenomena with |113| the Real, our condition is not improved. Either we possess now two realms of confusion and disorder, existing side by side, or the one above the other. And, in this case, the ‘other world’ of the Thing in itself only serves to reduplicate all that troubles us here. Or, on the other hand, if we suppose the Thing to be unqualified, it still gives us no assistance. Everything in our concrete world remains the same, and the separate existence somewhere of this wretched abstraction serves us only as a poor and irrelevant excuse for neglecting our own concerns.

And I will allow myself to dwell on this last feature of the case. The appearances after all, being what we experience, must be what matters for us. They are surely the one thing which, from the nature of the case, can possess human value. Surely, the moment we understand what we mean by our words, the Thing in itself becomes utterly worthless and devoid of all interest. And we discover a state of mind which would be ridiculous to a degree, if it had not unfortunately a serious side. It is contended that contradictions in phenomena are something quite in order, so long as the Thing in itself is not touched. That is to say that everything, which we know and can experience, does not matter, however distracted its case, and that this purely irrelevant ghost is the ark of salvation to be preserved at all costs. But how it can be anything to us whether something outside our knowledge contradicts itself or not — is simply unintelligible. What is too visible is our own readiness to sacrifice everything which possesses any possible claim on us. And what is to be inferred is our confusion, and our domination by a theory which lives only in the world of misunderstanding.

We have seen that the doctrine of a Thing in itself is absurd. A reality of this sort is assuredly not something unverifiable. It has on the contrary a nature which is fully transparent, as a false and empty abstraction, whose generation is plain. We found that reality was not the appearances, and that result must hold good; but, on the other hand, reality is certainly not something else which is unable to appear. For that is sheer self-contradiction, |114| which is plausible only so long as we do not realize its meaning. The assertion of a reality falling outside knowledge, is quite nonsensical.

“Everything so far, which we have seen, has turned out to be appearance.… we have not found the way in which appearances can belong to reality.”

And so this attempt to shelve our problems, this proposal to take no pains about what are only phenomena, has broken down. It was a vain notion to set up an idol apart, to dream that facts for that reason had ceased to be facts, and had somehow become only something else. And this false idea is an illusion which we should attempt to clear out of our minds once for all. We shall have hereafter to enquire into the nature of appearance; but for the present we may keep a fast hold upon this, that appearances exist. That is absolutely certain, and to deny it is nonsense. And whatever exists must belong to reality. That is also quite certain, and its denial once more is self-contradictory. Our appearances no doubt may be a beggarly show, and their nature to an unknown extent may be something which, as it is, is not true of reality. That is one thing, and it is quite another thing to speak as if these facts had no actual existence, or as if there could be anything but reality to which they might belong. And I must venture to repeat that such an idea would be sheer nonsense. What appears, for that sole reason, most indubitably is; and there is no possibility of conjuring its being away from it. And, though we ask no question at present as to the exact nature of reality, we may be certain that it cannot be less than appearances; we may be sure that the least of these in some way contributes to make it what it is. And the whole result of this Book may be summed up in a few words. Everything so far, which we have seen, has turned out to be appearance. It is that which, taken as it stands, proves inconsistent with itself, and for this reason cannot be true of the real. But to deny its existence or to divorce it from reality is out of the question. For it has a positive character which is indubitable fact, and, however much this fact may be pronounced appearance, it can have no place in which to live except reality. And reality, set on one side and apart from all appearance, would assuredly be nothing. Hence what is certain is that, in some way, these inseparables are joined. This is the positive result which has emerged from our discussion. Our failure so far lies in this, that we have not found the way in which appearances can belong to reality. And to this further task we must now address ourselves, with however little hope of more than partial satisfaction.


1^ I do not wish to be irreverent, but Mr. Spencer’s attitude towards his Unknowable strikes me as a pleasantry, the point of which lies in its unconsciousness. It seems a proposal to take something for God simply and solely because we do not know what the devil it can be. But I am far from attributing to Mr. Spencer any one consistent view.

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Book II. Reality

Chapter XIII. The General Nature of Reality 1

|119-26| Result, so far, mainly negative, 119; but we have an absolute criterion, 120. Objection based on development, 120-21. Our criterion is supreme, and not merely negative. It gives positive knowledge about reality, 121-24. Further, the Real is one substantially. Plurality of Reals is not possible, 124-26.

The result of our First Book has been mainly negative. We have taken up a number of ways of regarding reality, and we have found that they all are vitiated by self-discrepancy. The reality can accept not one of these predicates, at least in the character in which so far they have come. We certainly ended with a reflection which promised something positive. Whatever is rejected as appearance is, for that very reason, no mere nonentity. It cannot bodily be shelved and merely got rid of, and, therefore, since it must fall somewhere, it must belong to reality. To take it as existing somehow and somewhere in the unreal, would surely be quite meaningless. For reality must own and cannot be less than appearance, and that is the one positive result which, so far, we have reached. But as to the character which, otherwise, the real possesses, we at present know nothing; and a further knowledge is what we must aim at through the remainder of our search. The present Book, to some extent, falls into two divisions. The first of these deals mainly with the general character of reality, and with the defence of this against a number of objections. Then from this basis, in the second place, I shall go on to consider mainly some special features. But I must admit that I have kept to no strict principle of division. I have really observed no rule of progress, except to get forward in the best way that I can.

At the beginning of our inquiry into the nature of the real we encounter, of course, a general doubt or denial.1 To know the truth, we shall be told, is impossible, or is, at all events, wholly impracticable. We cannot have positive knowledge about first principles; and, if we could possess it, we should not know when actually we had got it. What is denied is, in short, the existence of a criterion. I shall, later on, in Chapter xxvii, have to deal more fully with the objections of a thorough-going scepticism, and |120| I will here confine myself to what seems requisite for the present.

Is there an absolute criterion? This question, to my mind, is answered by a second question: How otherwise should we be able to say anything at all about appearance? For through the last Book, the reader will remember, we were for the most part criticizing. We were judging phenomena and were condemning them, and throughout we proceeded as if the self-contradictory could not be real. But this was surely to have and to apply an absolute criterion. For consider: you can scarcely propose to be quite passive when presented with statements about reality. You can hardly take the position of admitting any and every nonsense to be truth, truth absolute and entire, at least so far as you know. For, if you think at all so as to discriminate between truth and falsehood, you will find that you cannot accept open self-contradiction. Hence to think is to judge, and to judge is to criticize, and to criticize is to use a criterion of reality. And surely to doubt this would be mere blindness or confused self-deception. But, if so, it is clear that, in rejecting the inconsistent as appearance, we are applying a positive knowledge of the ultimate nature of things. Ultimate reality is such I that it does not contradict itself; here is an absolute criterion. And it is proved absolute by the fact that, either in endeavouring to deny it, or even in attempting to doubt it, we tacitly assume its validity.

One of these essays in delusion may be noticed briefly in passing. We may be told that our criterion has been developed by experience, and that therefore at least it may not be absolute. But why anything should be weaker for having been developed is, in the first place, not obvious. And, in the second place, the whole doubt, when understood, destroys itself. For the alleged origin of our criterion is delivered to us by knowledge which rests throughout on its application as an absolute test. And what can be more irrational than to try to prove that a principle is doubtful, when the proof through every step rests on its unconditional truth? It would, of course, not |121| be irrational to take one’s stand on this criterion, to use it to produce a conclusion hostile to itself, and to urge that therefore our whole knowledge is self-destructive, since it essentially drives us to what we cannot accept. But this is not the result which our supposed objector has in view, or would welcome. He makes no attempt to show in general that a psychological growth is in any way hostile to metaphysical validity. And he is not prepared to give up his own psychological knowledge, which knowledge plainly is ruined if the criterion is not absolute. The doubt is seen, when we reflect, to be founded on that which it endeavours to question. And it has but blindly borne witness to the absolute certainty of our knowledge about reality.

Thus we possess a criterion, and our criterion is supreme. I do not mean to deny that we might have several standards, giving us sundry pieces of information about the nature of things. But, be that as it may, we still have an over-ruling test of truth, and the various standards (if they exist) are certainly subordinate. This at once becomes evident, for we cannot refuse to bring such standards together, and to ask if they agree. Or, at least, if a doubt is suggested as to their consistency, each with itself and with the rest, we are compelled, so to speak, to assume jurisdiction. And if they were guilty of self contradiction, when examined or compared, we should condemn them as appearance. But we could not do that if they were not subject all to one tribunal. And hence, as we find nothing not subordinate to the test of self-consistency, we are forced to set that down as supreme and absolute.

But it may be said that this supplies us with no real information. If we think, then certainly we are not allowed to be inconsistent, and it is admitted that this test is unconditional and absolute. But it will be urged that, for knowledge about any matter, we require something more than a bare negation. The ultimate reality (we are agreed) does not permit self-contradiction, but a prohibition or an absence (we shall be told) by itself does not |122| amount to positive knowledge. The denial of inconsistency, therefore, does not predicate any positive quality. But such an objection is untenable. It may go so far as to assert that a bare denial is possible, that we may reject a predicate though we stand on no positive basis, and though there is nothing special which serves to reject. This error has been refuted in my Principles of Logic (Book I., Chapter iii),2 and I do not propose to discuss it here. I will pass to another sense in which the objection may seem more plausible. The criterion, it may be urged, in itself is doubtless positive; but, for our knowledge and in effect, is merely negative. And it gives us therefore no information at all about reality, for, although knowledge is there, it cannot be brought out. The criterion is a basis, which serves as the foundation of denial; but, since this basis cannot be exposed, we are but able to stand on it and unable to see it. And it hence, in effect, tells us nothing, though there are assertions which it does not allow us to venture on. This objection, when stated in such a form, may seem plausible, and there is a sense in which I am prepared to admit that it is valid. If by the nature of reality we understand its full nature, I am not contending that this in a complete form is knowable. But that is very far from being the point here at issue. For the objection denies that we have a standard which gives any positive knowledge, any information, complete or incomplete, about the genuine reality. And this denial assuredly is mistaken.

The objection admits that we know what reality does, but it refuses to allow us any understanding of what reality is. The standard (it is agreed) both exists and possesses a positive character, and it is agreed that this character rejects inconsistency. It is admitted that we know this, and the point at issue is whether such knowledge supplies any positive information. And to my mind this question seems not hard to answer. For I cannot see how, when I observe a thing at work, I am to stand there and to insist |123| that I know nothing of its nature. I fail to perceive how a function is nothing at all, or how it does not positively qualify that to which I attribute it. To know only so much, I admit, may very possibly be useless; it may leave us without the information which we desire most to obtain; but, for all that, it is not total ignorance.

Our standard denies inconsistency, and therefore asserts consistency. If we can be sure that the inconsistent is unreal, we must, logically, be just as sure that the reality is consistent. The question is solely as to the meaning to be given to consistency. We have now seen that it is not the bare exclusion of discord, for that is merely our abstraction, and is otherwise nothing. And our result, so far, is this, Reality is known to possess a positive character, but this character is at present determined only as that which excludes contradiction.

But we may make a further advance. We saw (in the preceding chapter) that all appearance must belong to reality. For what appears is, and whatever is cannot fall outside the real. And we may now combine this result with the conclusion just reached. We may say that everything, which appears, is somehow real in such a way as to be self-consistent. The character of the real is to possess everything phenomenal in a harmonious form.

I will repeat the same truth in other words. Reality is one in this sense that it has a positive nature exclusive of discord, a nature which must hold throughout everything that is to be real. Its diversity can be diverse only so far as not to clash, and what seems otherwise anywhere cannot be real. And, from the other side, everything which appears must be real. Appearance must belong to reality, and it must therefore be concordant and other than it seems. The bewildering mass of phenomenal diversity must hence somehow be at unity and self-consistent; for it cannot be elsewhere than in reality, and reality excludes discord. Or again we may put it so: the real is individual. It is one in the sense that its positive character embraces all differences in an inclusive harmony. And this knowledge, poor as it may be, is certainly more than bare |124| negation or simple ignorance. So far as it goes, it gives us positive news about absolute reality.

Let us try to carry this conclusion a step farther on. We know that the real is one; but its oneness, so far, is ambiguous. Is it one system, possessing diversity as an adjective; or is its consistency, on the other hand, an attribute of independent realities? We have to ask, in short, if a plurality of reals is possible, and if these can merely coexist so as not to be discrepant? Such a plurality would mean a number of beings not dependent on each other. On the one hand they would possess somehow the phenomenal diversity, for that possession, we have seen, is essential. And, on the other hand, they would be free from external disturbance and from inner discrepancy. After the enquiries of our First Book the possibility of such reals hardly calls for discussion. For the internal states of each give rise to hopeless difficulties. And, in the second place, the plurality of the reals cannot be reconciled with their independence. I will briefly resume the arguments which force us to this latter result.

If the Many are supposed to be without internal quality, each would forthwith become nothing, and we must therefore take each as being internally somewhat. And, if they are to be plural, they must be a diversity somehow coexisting together. Any attempt again to take their togetherness as unessential seems to end in the unmeaning. We have no knowledge of a plural diversity, nor can we attach any sense to it, if we do not have it somehow as one. And, if we abstract from this unity, we have also therewith abstracted from the plurality, and are left with mere being.

Can we then have a plurality of independent reals which merely coexist? No, for absolute independence and coexistence are incompatible. Absolute independence is an idea which consists merely in one-sided abstraction. It is made by an attempted division of the aspect of several existence from the aspect of relatedness; and these aspects, whether in fact or thought, are really indivisible.

|125| If we take the diversity of our reals to be such as we discover in feeling and at a stage where relations do not exist, that diversity is never found except as one integral character of an undivided whole. And if we forcibly abstract from that unity, then together with feeling we have destroyed the diversity of feeling. We are left not with plurality, but with mere being, or, if you prefer it, with nothing. Coexistence in feeling is hence an instance and a proof not of self-sufficiency, but of dependence, and beside this it would add a further difficulty. If the nature of our reals is the diversity found at a stage below relations, how are we to dispose of the mass of relational appearance? For that exists, and existing it must somehow qualify the world, a world the reality of which is discovered only at a level other than its own. Such a position would seem not easy to justify.

Thus a mode of togetherness such as we can verify in feeling destroys the independence of our reals. And they will fare no better if we seek to find their coexistence elsewhere. For any other verifiable way of togetherness must involve relations, and they are fatal to self-sufficiency. Relations, we saw, are a development of and from the felt totality. They inadequately express, and they still imply in the background that unity apart from which the diversity is nothing. Relations are unmeaning except within and on the basis of a substantial whole, and related terms, if made absolute, are forthwith destroyed. Plurality and relatedness are but features and aspects of a unity.

If the relations in which the reals somehow stand are viewed as essential, that, as soon as we understand it, involves at once the internal relativity of the reals. And any attempt to maintain the relations as merely external must fail. For if, wrongly and for arguments sake, we admit processes and arrangements which do not qualify their terms, yet such arrangements, if admitted, are at any rate not ultimate. The terms would be prior and independent only with regard to these arrangements, and they would remain relative otherwise, and vitally dependent on some whole. And severed from this unity, the terms |126| perish by the very stroke which aims to set them up as absolute. Note 17

The reals Note 16 therefore cannot be self-existent, and, if self-existent, yet taken as the world they would end in inconsistency. For the relations, because they exist, must somehow qualify the world. The relations then must externally qualify the sole and self-contained reality, and that seems self-contradictory or meaningless.3 And if it is urged that a plurality of independent beings may be unintelligible, but that after all some unintelligible facts must be affirmed — the answer is obvious. An unintelligible fact may be admitted so far as, first, it is a fact, and so far as, secondly, it has a meaning which does not contradict itself internally or make self-discrepant our view of the world. But the alleged independence of the reals is no fact, but a theoretical construction; and, so far as it has a meaning, that meaning contradicts itself, and issues in chaos. A reality of this kind may safely be taken as unreal.

We cannot therefore maintain a plurality save as dependent on the relations in which it stands. Or if desiring to avoid relations we fall back on the diversity given in feeling, the result is the same. The plurality then sinks to become merely an integral aspect in a single substantial unity, and the reals have vanished.


1^ See the Introduction, pp. 1-2.

2^ The word ‘not’ here, on p. 120, line 12, is an error, and should be struck out. [Corrected Ed. II.]

3^ To this brief statement we might add other fatal objections. There is the question of the reals’ interaction and of the general order of the world. Here, whether we affirm or deny, we turn in a maze. The fact of knowledge plunges us again in a dilemma. If we do not know that the Many are, we cannot affirm them. But the knowledge of the Many seems compatible with the self-existence neither of what knows nor of what is known. Finally, if the relations are admitted to an existence somehow alongside of the reals, the sole reality of the reals is given up. The relations themselves have now become a second kind of real thing. But the connection between these new reals and the old ones, whether we deny or affirm it, leads to insoluble problems.

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Chapter XIV. The General Nature of Reality 2

|127-42| The Absolute is one system, and its matter is Experience, 127-30. But has it more than theoretical perfection?, 130-31. No answer from any practical postulate, 131-36 Ontological Argument, 131-32. Practical and theoretical Axioms, 133-36. But, indirectly, theoretical perfection seems to imply perfection on all sides, 136-40. Our knowledge of the Absolute is incomplete, but positive. Its sources, 140-42.

Our result so far is this. Everything phenomenal is somehow real; and the absolute must at least be as rich as the relative. And, further, the Absolute is not many; there are no independent reals. The universe is one in this sense that its differences exist harmoniously within one whole, beyond which there is nothing. Hence the Absolute is, so far, an individual and a system, but, if we stop here, it remains but formal and abstract. Can we then, the question is, say anything about the concrete nature of the system?

“Sentient experience is reality, and what is not this is not real.”

Certainly, I think, this is possible. When we ask as to the matter which fills up the empty outline, we can reply in one word, that this matter is experience. And experience means something much the same as given and present fact. We perceive, on reflection, that to be real, or even barely to exist must be to fall within sentience. Sentient experience, in short, is reality, and what is not this is not real. We may say, in other words, that there is no being or fact outside of that which is commonly called psychical existence. Feeling, thought, and volition (any groups under which we class psychical phenomena) are all the material of existence, and there is no other material, actual or even possible. This result in its general form seems evident at once; and, however serious a step we now seem to have taken, there would be no advantage at this point in discussing it at length. For the test in the main lies ready to our hand, and the decision rests on the manner in which it is applied. I will state the case briefly thus. Find any piece of existence, take up anything that anyone could possibly call a fact, or could in any sense assert to have being, and then judge if it does not consist in sentient experience. Try to discover any sense in which you can still continue to speak of it, when all perception and feeling have been removed; or point out any fragment of its matter, any aspect of its being, which is not derived from |128| and is not still relative to this source. When the experiment is made strictly, I can myself conceive of nothing else than the experienced. Anything, in no sense felt or perceived, becomes to me quite unmeaning. And as I cannot try to think of it without realising either that I am not thinking at all, or that I am thinking of it against my will as being experienced, I am driven to the conclusion that for me experience is the same as reality. The fact that falls elsewhere seems, in my mind, to be a mere word and a failure, or else an attempt at self-contradiction. It is a vicious abstraction whose existence is meaningless nonsense, and is therefore not possible.

This conclusion is open, of course, to grave objection, and must in its consequences give rise to serious difficulties. I will not attempt to anticipate the discussion of these, but before passing on, will try to obviate a dangerous mistake. For, in asserting that the real is nothing but experience, I may be understood to endorse a common error. I may be taken first to divide the percipient subject from the universe; and then, resting on that subject, as on a thing actual by itself, I may be supposed to urge that it cannot transcend its own states.1 Such an argument would lead to impossible results, and would stand on a foundation of faulty abstraction. To set up the subject as real independently of the whole, and to make the whole into experience in the sense of an adjective of that subject, seems to me indefensible. And when I contend that reality must be sentient, my conclusion almost consists in the denial of this fundamental error. For if, seeking for reality, we go to experience, what we certainly do not find is a subject or an object, or indeed any other thing whatever, standing separate and on its own bottom. What we discover rather is a whole in which distinctions can be made, but in which divisions do not exist.

“To be real is to be indissolubly one thing with sentience.”

And this is the point on which I insist, and it is the very ground on which I stand, when I urge that reality is sentient experience. I mean that to be real is to be indissolubly one thing with sentience. It is to be something which comes as a feature |129| and aspect within one whole of feeling, something which, except as an integral element of such sentience, has no meaning at all. And what I repudiate is the separation of feeling from the felt, or of the desired from desire, or of what is thought from thinking, or the division — I might add — of anything from anything else. Nothing is ever so presented as real by itself, or can be argued so to exist without demonstrable fallacy. And in asserting that the reality is experience, I rest throughout on this foundation. You cannot find fact unless in unity with sentience, and one cannot in the end be divided from the other, either actually or in idea. But to be utterly indivisible from feeling or perception, to be an integral element in a whole which is experienced, this surely is itself to be experience. Being and reality are, in brief, one thing with sentience; they can neither be opposed to, nor even in the end distinguished from it.

I am well aware that this statement stands in need of explanation and defence. This will, I hope, be supplied by succeeding chapters, and I think it better for the present to attempt to go forward. Our conclusion, so far, will be this, that the Absolute is one system, and that its contents are nothing but sentient experience. It will hence be a single and all-inclusive experience, which embraces every partial diversity in concord. For it cannot be less than appearance and hence no feeling or thought, of any kind, can fall outside its limits. And if it is more than any feeling or thought which we know, it must still remain more of the same nature. It cannot pass into another region beyond what falls under the general head of sentience. For to assert that possibility would be in the end to use words without a meaning. We can entertain no such suggestion except as self-contradictory, and as therefore impossible.

“Being and reality are, in brief, one thing with sentience.”

This conclusion will, I trust, at the end of my work bring more conviction to the reader; for we shall find that it is the one view which will harmonize all facts. And the objections brought against it, when it and they are once properly defined, will prove untenable. But our general |130| result is at present seriously defective; and we must now attempt to indicate and remedy its failure in principle.

What we have secured, up to this point, may be called mere theoretical consistency. The Absolute holds all possible content in an individual experience where no contradiction can remain. And it seems, at first sight, as if this theoretical perfection could exist together with practical defect and misery. For apparently, so far as we have gone, an experience might be harmonious, in such a way at least as not to contradict itself, and yet might result on the whole in a balance of suffering. Now no one can genuinely believe that sheer misery, however self-consistent, is good and desirable. And the question is whether in this way our conclusion is wrecked.

There may be those possibly who here would join issue at once. They might perhaps wish to contend that the objection is irrelevant, since pain is no evil. I shall discuss the general question of good and evil in a subsequent chapter, and will merely say here that for myself I cannot stand upon the ground that pain is no evil. I admit, or rather I would assert, that a result, if it fails to satisfy our whole nature, comes short of perfection. And I could not rest tranquilly in a truth if I were compelled to regard it as hateful. While unable, that is, to deny it, I should, rightly or wrongly, insist that the enquiry was not yet closed, and that the result was but partial. And if metaphysics is to stand, it must, I think, take account of all sides of our being. I do not mean that every one of our desires must be met by a promise of particular satisfaction; for that would be absurd and utterly impossible. But if the main tendencies of our nature do not reach consummation in the Absolute, we cannot believe that we have attained to perfection and truth. And we shall have to consider later on what desires must be taken as radical and fundamental. But here we have seen that our conclusion, so far, has a serious defect, and the question is whether this defect can be directly remedied. We have been resting on the theoretical standard which guarantees that Reality |131| is a self-consistent system. Have we a practical standard which now can assure us that this system will satisfy our desire for perfect good? An affirmative answer seems plausible, but I do not think it would be true. Without any doubt we possess a practical standard; but that does not seem to me to yield a conclusion about reality, or it will not give us at least directly the result we are seeking. I will attempt briefly to explain in what way it comes short.

“If metaphysics is to stand, it must take account of all sides of our being.”

That a practical end and criterion exists I shall assume, and I will deal with its nature more fully hereafter (Chapter xxv). I may say for the present that, taken in the abstract, the practical standard seems to be the same as what is used for theory. It is individuality, the harmonious or consistent existence of our contents; an existence, further, which cannot be limited, because, if so, it would contradict itself internally (Chapters xx and xxiv). Nor need I separate myself at this stage from the intelligent Hedonist, since, in my judgment, practical perfection will carry a balance of pleasure. These points I shall have to discuss, and for the present am content to assume them provisionally and vaguely. Now taking the practical end as individuality, or as clear pleasure, or rather as both in one, the question is whether this end is known to be realized in the Absolute, and, if so, upon what foundation such knowledge can rest. It apparently cannot be drawn directly from the theoretical criterion, and the question is whether the practical standard can supply it. I will explain why I believe that this cannot be the case.

I will first deal briefly with the ‘ontological’ argument. The essential nature of this will, I hope, be more clear to us hereafter (Chapter xxiv), and I will here merely point out why it fails to give us help. This argument might be stated in several forms, but the main point is very simple. We have the idea of perfection — there is no doubt as to that — and the question is whether perfection also actually exists. Now the ontological view urges that the fact of the idea proves the fact of the reality; or, to put it otherwise, it argues that, unless perfection existed, you could not have it in idea, which is agreed to be the case. I shall not |132| discuss at present the general validity of this argument, but will confine myself to denying its applicability. For, if an idea has been manufactured and is composed of elements taken up from more than one source, then the result of manufacture need not as a whole exist out of my thought, however much that is the case with its separate elements. Thus we might admit that, in one sense, perfection or completeness would not be present in idea unless also it were real. We might admit this, and yet we might deny the same conclusion with respect to practical perfection. For the perfection that is real might simply be theoretical. It might mean system so far as system is mere theoretical harmony and does not imply pleasure. And the element of pleasure, taken, up from elsewhere, may then have been added in our minds to this valid idea. But, if so, the addition may be incongruous, incompatible, and really, if we knew it, contradictory. Pleasure and system perhaps are in truth a false compound, an appearance which exists, as such, only in our heads; just as would be the case if we thought, for example, of a perfect finite being. Hence the ontological argument cannot prove the existence of practical perfection2 and let us go on to enquire if any other proof exists.

It is in some ways natural to suppose that the practical end somehow postulates its existence as a fact. But a more careful examination tends to dissipate this idea. The moral end, it is clear, is not pronounced by morality to have actual existence. This is quite plain, and it would be easier to contend that morality even postulates the opposite (Chapter xxv). Certainly, as we shall perceive hereafter, the religious consciousness does imply the reality of that object, which also is its goal. But a religion whose object is perfect will be founded on inconsistency, even more than is the case with mere morality. For such a religion, if it implies the existence of its ideal, implies at the same time a feature which is quite incompatible. This we shall |133| discuss in a later chapter, and all that I will urge here is that the religious consciousness cannot prove that perfection really exists. For it is not true that in all religions the object is perfection; nor, where it is so, does religion possess any right to dictate to or to dominate over thought. It does not follow that a belief must be admitted to be true, because, given a certain influence, it is practically irresistible. There is a tendency in religion to take the ideal as existing; and this tendency sways our minds and, under certain conditions, may amount to compulsion. But it does not, therefore, and merely for this reason, give us truth, and we may recall other experience which forces us to doubt. A man, for instance, may love a woman whom, when he soberly considers, he cannot think true, and yet, in the intoxication of her presence, may give up his whole mind to the suggestions of blind passion. But in all cases, that alone is really valid for the intellect, which in a calm moment the mere intellect is incapable of doubting. It is only that which for thought is compulsory and irresistible — only that which thought must assert in attempting to deny it — which is a valid foundation for metaphysical truth.

‘But how’, I may be asked, ‘can you justify this superiority of the intellect, this predominance of thought? On what foundation, if on any, does such a despotism rest? For there seems no special force in the intellectual axiom if you regard it impartially. Nay, if you consider the question without bias, and if you reflect on the nature of axioms in general, you may be brought to a wholly different conclusion. For all axioms, as a matter of fact, are practical. They all depend upon the will. They none of them in the end can amount to more than the impulse to behave in a certain way. And they cannot express more than this impulse, together with the impossibility of satisfaction unless it is complied with. And hence, the intellect, far from possessing a right to predominate, is simply one instance and one symptom of practical compulsion. Or (to put the case more psychologically) the intellect is merely one result of the general working of |134| pleasure and pain. It is even subordinate, and therefore its attempt at despotism is founded on baseless pretensions’.

Now, apart from its dubious psychological setting, I can admit the general truth contained in this objection. The theoretical axiom is the statement of an impulse to act in a certain manner. When that impulse is not satisfied there ensues disquiet and movement in a certain direction, until such a character is given to the result as contents the impulse and produces rest. And the expression of this fundamental principle of action is what we call an axiom. Take, for example, the law of avoiding contradiction. When two elements will not remain quietly together but collide and struggle, we cannot rest satisfied with that state. Our impulse is to alter it, and, on the theoretical side, to bring the content to a shape where without collision the variety is thought as one. And this inability to rest otherwise, and this tendency to alter in a certain way and direction, is, when reflected on and made explicit, our axiom and our intellectual standard.

‘But is not this’, I may be asked further," a surrender of your position? Does not this admit that the criterion used for theory is merely a practical impulse, a tendency to movement from one side of our being? And, if so, how can the intellectual standard be predominant?" But it is necessary here to distinguish. The whole question turns on the difference between the several impulses of our being.3 You may call the intellect, if you like, a mere tendency to movement, but you must remember that it is a movement of a very special kind. I shall enter more fully into the nature of thinking hereafter, but the crucial point may be stated at once. In thought the standard, you may say, amounts merely to ‘act so’; but then ‘act so’ means ‘think so’, and ‘think so’ means ‘it is’. And the psychological origin and base of this movement, and of this inability to act otherwise, may be anything you please; for that is all utterly irrelevant to the metaphysical issue. Thinking is the attempt to satisfy a special impulse, and the attempt implies an assumption about reality. You may avoid the assumption so far as you decline to think, but, if you sit down to the game, there is only one way of playing. In order to think at all you must subject yourself to a standard, a standard which implies an absolute knowledge of reality; and while you doubt this, you accept it, and obey while you rebel. You may urge that thought, after all, is inconsistent, because appearance is not got rid of but merely shelved. That is another question which will engage us in a future chapter, and here may be dismissed. For in any case thinking means the acceptance of a certain standard, and that standard, in any case, is an assumption as to the character of reality.

‘But why’, it may be objected, ‘is this assumption better than what holds for practice? Why is the theoretical to be superior to the practical end?’ I have never said that this is so. Only here, that is in metaphysics, I must be allowed to reply, we are acting theoretically. We are occupied specially, and are therefore subject to special conditions; and the theoretical standard within theory must surely be absolute. We have no right to listen to morality when it rushes in blindly. ‘Act so’, urges morality, that is ‘be so or be dissatisfied’. But if I am dissatisfied, still apparently I may be none the less real. ‘Act so’, replies speculation, that is, ‘think so or be dissatisfied; and if you do not think so, what you think is certainly not real’. And these two commands do not seem to be directly connected. If I am theoretically not satisfied, then what appears must in reality be otherwise; but, if I am dissatisfied practically, the same conclusion does not hold. Thus the two satisfactions are not the same, nor does there appear to be a straight way from the one to the other. Or consider again the same question from a different side. Morality seemed anxious to dictate to metaphysics, but is it prepared to accept a corresponding dictation? If it were to hear that the real world is quite other than its ideal, and if it were unable theoretically to shake this result, would morality acquiesce? Would it not, on the other hand, regardless of this, still maintain its own ground? Facts may be as you say, but none the less they should not be so, and something |136| else ought to be. Morality, I think, would take this line, and, if so, it should accept a like attitude in theory. It must not dictate as to what facts are, while it refuses to admit dictation as to what they should be. Note 18

Certainly, to anyone who believes in the unity of our nature, a one-sided satisfaction will remain incredible. And such a consideration to my mind carries very great weight. But to stand on one side of our nature, and to argue from that directly to the other side, seems illegitimate. I will not here ask how far morality is consistent with itself in demanding complete harmony (Chapter xxv). What seems clear is that, in wishing to dictate to mere theory, it is abandoning its own position and is courting foreign occupation. And it is misled mainly by a failure to observe essential distinctions. ‘Be so’ does not mean always ‘think so’, and ‘think so’, in its main signification, certainly does not mean "be so." Their difference is the difference between ‘you ought’ and ‘it is’ — and I can see no direct road from the one to the other. If a theory could be made by the will, that would have to satisfy the will, and, if it did not, it would be false. But since metaphysics is mere theory, and since theory from its nature must be made by the intellect, it is here the intellect alone which has to be satisfied. Doubtless a conclusion which fails to content all the sides of my nature leaves me dissatisfied. But I see no direct way of passing from ‘this does not satisfy my nature’ to ‘therefore it is false’. For false is the same as theoretically untenable, and we are supposing a case where mere theory has been satisfied, and where the result has in consequence been taken as true. And, so far as I see, we must admit that, if the intellect is contented, the question is settled. For we may feel as we please about the intellectual conclusion, but we cannot, on such external ground, protest that it is false.

Hence if we understand by perfection a state of harmony with pleasure, there is no direct way of showing that reality is perfect. For, so far as the intellectual standard at present seems to go, we might have harmony with pain |137| and with partial dissatisfaction. But I think the case is much altered when we consider it otherwise, and when we ask if on another ground such harmony is possible. The intellect is not to be dictated to; that conclusion is irrefragable. But is it certain, on the other hand, that the mere intellect can be self-satisfied, if other elements of our nature remain not contented? Or must we not think rather that indirectly any partial discontent will bring unrest and imperfection into the intellect itself? If this is so, then to suppose any imperfection in the Absolute is inadmissible. To fail in any way would introduce a discord into perception itself. And hence, since we have found that, taken perceptively, reality is harmonious, it must be harmonious altogether, and must satisfy our whole nature. Let us see if on this line we can make an advance.

If the Absolute is to be theoretically harmonious, its elements must not collide. Idea must not disagree with sensation, nor must sensations clash. In every case, that is, the struggle must not be a mere struggle. There must be a unity which it subserves, and a whole, taken in which it is a struggle no longer. How this resolution is possible we may be able to see partly in our subsequent chapters, but for the present I would insist merely that somehow it must exist. Since reality is harmonious, the struggle of diverse elements, sensations or ideas, barely to qualify the self-same point must be precluded. But, if idea must not clash with sensation, then there cannot in the Absolute be unsatisfied desire or any practical unrest. For in these there is clearly an ideal element not concordant with presentation but struggling against it, and, if you remove this discordance, then with it all unsatisfied desire is gone. In order for such a desire, in even its lowest form, to persist, there must (so far as I can see) be an idea qualifying diversely a sensation and fixed for the moment in discord. And any such state is not compatible with theoretical harmony.

But this result perhaps has ignored an outstanding possibility. Unsatisfied desires might, as such, not exist in the Absolute, and yet seemingly there might remain |138| a clear balance of pain. For, in the first place, it is not proved that all pain must arise from an unresolved struggle; and it may be contended, in the second place, that possibly the discord might be resolved, and yet, so far as we know, the pain might remain. In a painful struggle it may be urged that the pain can be real, though the struggle is apparent. For we shall see, when we discuss error (Chapter xvi), how discordant elements may be neutralized in a wider complex. We shall find how, in that system, they can take on a different arrangement, and so result in harmony. And the question here as to unsatisfied desires will be this. Can they not be merged in a whole, so as to lose their character of discordance, and thus cease to be desires, while their pain none the less survives in reality? If so, that whole, after all, would be imperfect. For, while possessor of harmony, it still might be sunk in misery, or might suffer at least with a balance of pain. This objection is serious, and it calls for some discussion here. I shall have to deal with it once more in our concluding chapter.

I feel at this point our want of knowledge with regard to the conditions of pleasure and pain.4 It is a tenable view, one at least which can hardly be refuted, that pain is caused, or conditioned, by an unresolved collision. Now, if this really is the case, then, given harmony, a balance of pain is impossible. Pain, of course, is a fact, and no fact can be conjured away from the universe; but the question here is entirely as to a balance of pain. Now it is common experience that in mixed states pain may be neutralized by pleasure in such a way that the balance is decidedly pleasant. And hence it is possible that in the universe as a whole we may have a balance of pleasure, and in the total result no residue of pain. This is possible, and if an unresolved conflict and discord is essential to pain, it is much more than possible. Since the reality is harmonious, and since harmony excludes the conditions which are requisite for a balance of pain, that balance is impossible. I will urge this so far as to raise a very grave doubt. I |139| question our right even to suppose a state of pain in the Absolute.

And this doubt becomes more grave when we consider another point. When we pass from the conditions to the effects of painful feeling, we are on surer ground. For in our experience the result of pain is disquietude and unrest. Its main action is to set up change, and to prevent stability. There is authority, I am aware, for a different view, but, so far as I see, that view cannot be reconciled with facts. This effect of pain has here a most important bearing. Assume that in the Absolute there is a balance of pleasure, and all is consistent. For the pains can condition those processes which, as processes, disappear in the life of the whole; and these pains can be neutralized by an overplus of pleasure. But if you suppose, on the other hand, a balance of pain, the difficulty becomes at once insuperable. We have postulated a state of harmony, and, together with that, the very condition of instability and discord. We have in the Absolute, on one side, a state of things where the elements cannot jar, and where in particular idea does not conflict with presentation. But with pain on the other side we have introduced a main-spring of change and unrest, and we thus produce necessarily an idea not in harmony with existence. And this idea of a better and of a non-existing condition of things must directly destroy theoretical rest. But, if so, such an idea must be called impossible. There is no pain on the whole, and in the Absolute our whole nature must find satisfaction. For otherwise there is no theoretical harmony, and that harmony we saw must certainly exist. I shall ask in our last chapter if there is a way of avoiding this conclusion, but for the present we seem bound to accept it as true. We must not admit the possibility of an Absolute perfect in apprehension yet resting tranquilly in pain. The question as to actual evidence of defect in the universe will be discussed in Chapter xvii; and our position so far is this. We cannot argue directly that all sides of our nature must be satisfied, but indirectly we are led to the same result. For we are forced to assume theoretical satisfaction; and |140| to suppose that existing one-sidedly, and together with practical discomfort, appears inadmissible. Such a state is a possibility which seems to contradict itself. It is a supposition to which, if we cannot find any ground in its favour, we have no right. For the present at least it is better to set it down as inconceivable.5

And hence, for the present at least, we must believe that reality satisfies our whole being. Our main wants — for truth and life, and for beauty and goodness — must all find satisfaction. And we have seen that this consummation must somehow be experience, and be individual. Every element of the universe, sensation, feeling, thought and will, must be included within one comprehensive sentience. And the question which now occurs is whether really we have a positive idea of such sentience. Do we at all know what we mean when we say that it is actual?

Fully to realize the existence of the Absolute is for finite beings impossible. In order thus to know we should have to be, and then we should not exist. This result is certain, and all attempts to avoid it are illusory. But then the whole question turns on the sense in which we are to understand ‘knowing’. What is impossible is to construct absolute life in its detail, to have the specific experience in which it consists. But to gain an idea of its main features — an idea true so far as it goes, though abstract and incomplete — is a different endeavour. And it is a task, so far as I see, in which we may succeed. For these main features, to some extent, are within our own experience; and again the idea of their combination is, in the abstract, quite intelligible. And surely no more than this is wanted for a knowledge of the Absolute. It is a knowledge which of course differs enormously from the fact. But it is true, for all that, while it respects its own limits; and it seems fully attainable by the finite intellect.

Note 18^

I will end this chapter by briefly mentioning the sources of such knowledge. First, in mere feeling, or |141| immediate presentation, we have the experience of a whole (Chapters ix, xix, xxvi, xxvii). This whole contains diversity, and, on the other hand, is not parted by relations. Such an experience, we must admit, is most imperfect and unstable, and its inconsistencies lead us at once to transcend it. Indeed, we hardly possess it as more than that which we are in the act of losing. But it serves to suggest to us the general idea of a total experience, where will and thought and feeling may all once more be one. Further, this same unity, felt below distinctions, shows itself later in a kind of hostility against them. We find it in the efforts made both by theory and practice, each to complete itself and so to pass into the other. And, again, the relational form, as we saw, pointed everywhere to a unity. It implies a substantial totality beyond relations and above them, a whole endeavouring without success to realize itself in their detail. Further, the ideas of goodness, and of the beautiful, suggest in different ways the same result. They more or less involve the experience of a whole beyond relations though full of diversity. Now, if we gather (as we can) such considerations into one, they will assuredly supply us with a positive idea. We gain from them the knowledge of a unity which transcends and yet contains every manifold appearance. They supply not an experience but an abstract idea, an idea which we make by uniting given elements. And the mode of union, once more in the abstract, is actually given. Thus we know what is meant by an experience, which embraces all divisions, and yet somehow possesses the direct nature of feeling. We can form the general idea of an absolute experience in which phenomenal distinctions are merged, a whole become immediate at a higher stage without losing any richness. Our complete inability to understand this concrete unity in detail is no good ground for our declining to entertain it. Such a ground would be irrational, and its principle could hardly everywhere be adhered to. But if we can realize at all the general features of the Absolute, if we can see that somehow they come together in a way known vaguely and in the abstract, our |142| result is certain. Our conclusion, so far as it goes, is real knowledge of the Absolute, positive knowledge built on experience, and inevitable when we try to think consistently. We shall realize its nature more clearly when we have confronted it with a series of objections and difficulties. If our result will hold against them all, we shall be able to urge that in reason we are bound to think it true.


1^ This matter is discussed in Chapter xxi.

2^ The objection that, after all, the compound is there, will be met in Chapter xxiv. Notice also that I do not distinguish as yet between ‘existence’ and ‘reality.’ But see p. 280.

3^ Compare here Chapter xxvi.

4^ Compare Mind, xiii, pp. 3-14 (No. 49).

5^ In our last chapter this conclusion will be slightly modified. The suposition will appear there to be barely possible.

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Chapter XV. Thought and Reality

|143-62| Nature of Ideality, 143-44. This visible in judgment through contrast of predicate with subject, 144-46. Truth what, 145; is based on Ideality of the Finite, 146-47. Puzzle about the relation of thought to reality, 147. Thought is dualistic, and its subject and predicate are different, 148-50. And if thought succeeded in transcending dualism, it would perish as thought, 150-52. But why should it not do so? 152-54. But can we maintain an Other to thought, 154-55? Yes, if this Other is what thought itself desires and implies. And that is the case, 155-59. The relational form implies a completion beyond itself, 159-61. Our Absolute is no Thing-in-itself, 161-62.

There is a natural objection which the reader will raise against our account of the Absolute. The difficulty lies, he may urge, not in making a statement which by itself seems defensible, but rather in reconciling any view with obvious inconsistencies. The real problem is to show how appearance and evil, and in general finite existence, are compatible with the Absolute. These questions, however, he will object, have been so far neglected. And it is these which in the next chapter must begin to engage our serious attention. Still it is better not to proceed at once; and before we deal with error we must gain some notion of what we mean by truth. In the present chapter I will try to state briefly the main essence of thought, and to justify its distinction from actual existence. It is only by misunderstanding that we find difficulty in taking thought to be something less than reality.

If we take up anything considered real, no matter what it is, we find in it two aspects. There are always two things we can say about it; and, if we cannot say both, we have not got reality. There is a ‘what’ and a ‘that’, an existence and a content, and the two are inseparable. That anything should be, and should yet be nothing in particular, or that a quality should not qualify and give a character to anything, is obviously impossible. If we try to get the ‘that’ by itself, we do not get it, for either we have it qualified, or else we fail utterly. If we try to get the ‘what’ by itself, we find at once that it is not all. It points to something beyond, and cannot exist by itself and as a bare adjective. Neither of these aspects, if you isolate it, can be taken as real, or indeed in that case is itself any longer. They are distinguishable only and are not divisible.

And yet thought seems essentially to consist in their division. For thought is clearly, to some extent at least, ideal. Without an idea there is no thinking, and an idea implies the separation of content from existence. It is |144| a ‘what’ which, so far as it is a mere idea, clearly is not, and if it also were, could, so far, not be called ideal. For ideality lies in the disjoining of quality from being. Hence the common view, which identifies image and idea, is fundamentally in error. For an image is a fact, just as real as any sensation; it is merely a fact of another kind and it is not one whit more ideal. But an idea is any part of the content of a fact so far as that works out of immediate unity with its existence. And an idea’s factual existence may consist in a sensation or perception, just as well as in an image. The main point and the essence is that some feature in the ‘what’ of a given fact should be alienated from its "that" so far as to work beyond it, or at all events loose from it. Such a movement is ideality, and, where it is absent, there is nothing ideal.

We can understand this most clearly if we consider the nature of judgment, for there we find thought in its completed form. In judgment an idea is predicated of a reality. Now, in the first place, what is predicated is not a mental image. It is not a fact inside my head which the judgment wishes to attach to another fact outside. The predicate is a mere ‘what’, a mere feature of content, which is used to qualify further the ‘that’ of the subject. And this predicate is divorced from its psychical existence in my head, and is used without any regard to its being there. When I say ‘this horse is a mammal’, it is surely absurd to suppose that I am harnessing my mental state to the beast between the shafts. Judgment adds an adjective to reality, and this adjective is an idea, because it is a quality made loose from its own existence, and is working free from its implication with that. And, even when a fact is merely analysed, — when the predicate appears not to go beyond its own subject, or to have been imported divorced from another fact outside — our account still holds good. For here obviously our synthesis is a reunion of the distinguished, and it implies a separation, which, though it is overridden, is never unmade. The predicate is a content which has been made loose from its own immediate existence and is used in divorce from that first unity. And, |145| again, as predicated, it is applied without regard to its own being as abstracted and in my head. If this were not so, there would be no judgment; for neither distinction nor predication would have taken place. But again, if it is so, then once more here we discover an idea.

And in the second place, when we turn to the subject of the judgment, we clearly find the other aspect, in other words, the ‘that’. Just as in ‘this horse is a mammal’ the predicate was not a fact, so most assuredly the subject is an actual existence. And the same thing holds good with every judgment. No one ever means to assert about anything but reality, or to do anything but qualify a ‘that’ by a ‘what’. And, without dwelling on a point which I have worked out elsewhere,1 I will notice a source of possible mistake. ‘The subject, at all events’, I may be told, ‘is in no case a mere “that.” It is never bare reality, or existence without character’. And to this I fully assent. I agree that the subject which we mean — even before the judgment is complete, and while still we are holding its elements apart — is more than a mere ‘that’. But then this is not the point. The point is whether with every judgment we do not find an aspect of existence, absent from the predicate but present in the subject, and whether in the synthesis of these aspects we have not got the essence of judgment. And for myself I see no way of avoiding this conclusion. Judgment is essentially the reunion of two sides, ‘what’ and ‘that’, provisionally estranged. But it is the alienation of these aspects in which thought’s ideality consists.

“Truth is the object of thinking, and the aim of truth is to qualify existence ideally. Its end, that is, is to give a character to reality in which it can rest.”

Truth is the object of thinking, and the aim of truth is to qualify existence ideally. Its end, that is, is to give a character to reality in which it can rest. Truth is the predication of such content as, when predicated, is harmonious, and removes inconsistency and with it unrest. And because the given reality is never consistent, thought is compelled to take the road of indefinite expansion. If thought were successful, it would have a predicate consistent in itself and agreeing entirely with the subject. |146| But, on the other hand, the predicate must be always ideal. It must, that is, be a ‘what’ not in unity with its own ‘that’, and therefore, in and by itself, devoid of existence. Hence, so far as in thought this alienation is not made good, thought can never be more than merely ideal.

I shall very soon proceed to dwell on this last consideration, but will first of all call attention to a most important point. There exists a notion that ideality is something outside of facts, something imported into them, or imposed as a sort of layer above them; and we talk as if facts, when let alone, were in no sense ideal. But any such notion is illusory. For facts which are not ideal, and which show no looseness of content from existence, seem hardly actual. They would be found, if anywhere, in feelings without internal lapse, and with a content wholly single. But if we keep to fact which is given, this changes in our hands, and it compels us to perceive inconsistency of content. And then this content cannot be referred merely to its given ‘that’, but is forced beyond it, and is made to qualify something outside. But, if so, in the simplest change we have at once ideality — the use of content in separation from its actual existence. Indeed, in Chapters ix and x we have already seen how this is necessary. For the content of the given is for ever relative to something I not given, and the nature of its ‘what’ is hence essentially to transcend its ‘that’. This we may call the ideality of the given finite. It is not manufactured by thought, but thought itself is its development and product. The essential nature of the finite is that everywhere, as it presents itself, its character should slide beyond the limits of its existence.

And truth, as we have seen, is the effort to heal this disease, as it were, homeopathically. Thought has to accept, without reserve, the ideality of the ‘given’, its want of consistency and its self-transcendence. And by pushing this self-transcendence to the uttermost point, thought attempts to find there consummation and rest. The subject, on the one hand, is expanded until it is no longer what is given. It becomes the whole universe, |147| which presents itself and which appears in each given moment with but part of its reality. It grows into an all-inclusive whole, existing somewhere and somehow, if we only could perceive it. But on the other hand, in qualifying this reality, thought consents to a partial abnegation. It has to recognize the division of the ‘what’ from the ‘that,’ and it cannot so join these aspects as to get rid of mere ideas and arrive at actual reality. For it is in and by ideas only that thought moves and has life. The content it applies to the reality has, as applied, no genuine existence. It is an adjective divorced from its ‘that,’ and never in judgment, even when the judgment is complete, restored to solid unity. Thus the truth belongs to existence, but it does not as such exist. It is a character which indeed reality possesses, but a character which, as truth and as ideal, has been set loose from existence; and it is never rejoined to it in such a way as to come together singly and make fact. Hence, truth shows a dissection and never an actual life. Its predicate can never be equivalent to its subject. And if it became so, and if its adjectives could be at once self-consistent and re-welded to existence, it would not be truth any longer. It would have then passed into another and a higher reality.

And I will now deal with the misapprehension to which I referred, and the consideration of which may, I trust, help us forward.2

There is an erroneous idea that, if reality is more than thought, thought itself is, at least, quite unable to say so. To assert the existence of anything in any sense beyond thought suggests, to some minds, the doctrine of the Thing-in-itself. And of the Thing-in-itself we know (Chapter xii) that if it existed we could not know of it; and, again, so far as we know of it, we know that it does not exist. The attempt to apprehend this Other in succeeding would be suicide, and in suicide could not reach anything beyond total failure. Now, though I have urged |148| this result, I wish to keep it within rational limits, and I dissent wholly from the corollary that nothing more than thought exists. But to think of anything which can exist quite outside of thought I agree is impossible. If thought is one element in a whole, you cannot argue from this ground that the remainder of such a whole must stand apart and independent. From this ground, in short, you can make no inference to a Thing-in-itself. And there is no impossibility in thought’s existing as an element, and no self-contradiction in its own judgment that it is less than the universe.

We have seen that anything real has two aspects, existence and character, and that thought always must work within this distinction. Thought, in its actual processes and results, cannot transcend the dualism of the ‘that’ and the ‘what’. I do not mean that in no sense is thought beyond this dualism, or that thought is satisfied with it and has no desire for something better. But taking judgment to be completed thought, I mean that in no judgment are the subject and predicate the same. In every judgment the genuine subject is reality, which goes beyond the predicate and of which the predicate is an adjective. And I would urge first that, in desiring to transcend this distinction, thought is aiming at suicide. We have seen that in judgment we find always the distinction of fact and truth, of idea and reality. Truth and thought are not the thing itself, but are of it and about it. Thought predicates an ideal content of a subject, which idea is not the same as fact, for in it existence and meaning are necessarily divorced. And the subject, again, is neither the mere ‘what’ of the predicate, nor is it any other mere ‘what’. Nor, even if it is proposed to take up a whole with both its aspects, and to predicate the ideal character of its own proper subject, will that proposal assist us. For if the subject is the same as the predicate, why trouble oneself to judge? But if it is not the same, then what is it, and how is it different? Either then there is no judgment at all, and but a pretence of thinking without thought, or there is a judgment, but its subject is more than the |149| predicate, and is a ‘that’ beyond a mere ‘what’. The subject, I would repeat, is never mere reality, or bare existence without character. The subject, doubtless, has unspecified content which is not stated in the predicate. For judgment is the differentiation of a complex whole, and hence always is analysis and synthesis in one. It separates an element from, and restores it to, the concrete basis; and this basis of necessity is richer than the mere element by itself. But then this is not the question which concerns us here. That question is whether, in any judgment which really says anything, there is not in the subject an aspect of existence which is absent from the bare predicate. And it seems clear that this question must be answered in the affirmative. And if it is urged that the subject itself, being in thought, can therefore not fall beyond, I must ask for more accuracy; for ‘partly beyond’ appears compatible with ‘partly within’. And, leaving prepositions to themselves, I must recall the real issue. For I do not deny that reality is an object of thought; I deny that it is barely and merely so. If you rest here on a distinction between thought and its object, that opens a further question to which I shall return (p. 153-54). But if you admit that in asserting reality to fall within thought, you meant that in reality there is nothing beyond what is made thought’s object, your position is untenable. Reflect upon any judgment as long as you please, operate upon the subject of it to any extent which you desire, but then (when you have finished) make an actual judgment. And when that is made, see if you do not discover, beyond the content of your thought, a subject of which it is true, and which it does not comprehend. You will find that the object of thought in the end must be ideal, and that there is no idea which, as such, contains its own existence. The ‘that’ of the actual subject will forever give a something which is not a mere idea, something which is different from any truth, something which makes such a difference to your thinking, that without it you have not even thought completely.

‘But’, it may be answered, ‘the thought you speak of is thought that is not perfect. Where thought is |150| perfect there is no discrepancy between subject and predicate. A harmonious system of content predicating itself, a subject self-conscious in that system of content, this is what thought should mean. And here the division of existence and character is quite healed up. If such completion is not actual, it is possible, and the possibility is enough’. But it is not even possible, I must persist, if it really is unmeaning. And once more I must urge the former dilemma. If there is no judgment, there is no thought; and if there is no difference, there is no judgment, nor any self-consciousness. But if, on the other hand, there is a difference, then the subject is beyond the predicated content.

Still a mere denial, I admit, is not quite satisfactory. Let us then suppose that the dualism inherent in thought has been transcended. Let us assume that existence is no longer different from truth, and let us see where this takes us. It takes us straight to thought’s suicide. A system of content is going to swallow up our reality; but in our reality we have the fact of sensible experience, immediate presentation with its colouring of pleasure and pain. Now I presume there is no question of conjuring this fact away; but how it is to be exhibited as an element in a system of thought-content, is a problem not soluble. Thought is relational and discursive, and, if it ceases to be this, it commits suicide; and yet, if it remains thus, how does it contain immediate presentation? Let us suppose the impossible accomplished; let us imagine a harmonious system of ideal contents united by relations, and reflecting itself in self-conscious harmony. This is to be reality, all reality; and there is nothing outside it. The delights and pains of the flesh, the agonies and raptures of the soul, these are fragmentary meteors fallen from thought’s harmonious system. But these burning experiences — how in any sense can they be mere pieces of thought’s heaven? For, if the fall is real, there is a world outside thought’s region, and, if the fall is apparent, then human error itself is not included there. Heaven, in brief, must either not be |151| heaven, or else not all reality. Without a metaphor, feeling belongs to perfect thought, or it does not. If it does not, there is at once a side of existence beyond thought. But if it does belong, then thought is different from thought discursive and relational. To make it include immediate experience, its character must be transformed. It must cease to predicate, it must get beyond mere relations, it must reach something other than truth. Thought, in a word, must have been absorbed into a fuller experience. Now such an experience may be called thought, if you choose to use that word. But if any one else prefers another term, such as feeling or will, he would be equally justified. For the result is a whole state which both includes and goes beyond each element; and to speak of it as simply one of them seems playing with phrases. For (I must repeat it) when thought begins to be more than relational, it ceases to be mere thinking. A basis, from which the relation is thrown out and into which it returns, is something not exhausted by that relation. It will, in short, be an existence which is not mere truth. Thus, in reaching a whole which can contain every aspect within it, thought must absorb what divides it from feeling and will. But when these all have come together, then, since none of them can perish, they must be merged in a whole in which they are harmonious. But that whole assuredly is not simply one of its aspects. And the question is not whether the universe is in any sense intelligible. The question is whether, if you thought it and understood it, there would be no difference left between your thought and the thing. And, supposing that to have happened, the question is then whether thought has not changed its nature.

Let us try to realize more distinctly what this supposed consummation would involve. Since both truth and fact are to be there, nothing must be lost, and in the Absolute we must keep every item of our experience. We cannot have less, but, on the other hand, we may have much more; and this more may so supplement the elements of our actual experience that in the whole they may become transformed. But to reach a mode of apprehension, which is |152| quite identical with reality, surely predicate and subject, and subject and object, and in short the whole relational form, must be merged. The Absolute does not want, I presume, to make eyes at itself in a mirror, or, like a squirrel in a cage, to revolve the circle of its perfections. Such processes must be dissolved in something not poorer but richer than themselves. And feeling and will must also be transmuted in this whole, into which thought has entered. Such a whole state would possess in a superior form that immediacy which we find (more or less) in feeling; and in this whole all divisions would be healed up. It would be experience entire, containing all elements in harmony. Thought would be present as a higher intuition; will would be there where the ideal had become reality; and beauty and pleasure and feeling would live on in this total fulfilment. Every flame of passion, chaste or carnal, would still burn in the Absolute unquenched and unabridged, a note absorbed in the harmony of its higher bliss. We cannot imagine, I admit, how in detail this can be. But if truth and fact are to be one, then in some such way thought must reach its consummation. But in that consummation thought has certainly been so transformed, that to go on calling it thought seems indefensible.

I have tried to show first that, in the proper sense of thought, thought and fact are not the same. I have urged, in the second place, that, if their identity is worked out, thought ends in a reality which swallows up its character. I will ask next whether thought s advocates can find a barrier to their client’s happy suicide.

They might urge, first, that our consummation is the Thing-in-itself, and that it makes thought know what essentially is not knowable. But this objection forgets that our whole is not anything but sentient experience. And it forgets that, even when we understand by "thought" its strict discursive form, our reality does not exist apart from this. Emphatically the Absolute is nothing if taken apart from any single one of its elements. But the Thing-in-self, on the other hand, must exist apart.

|153| Let us pass to another objection against our view. We may be told that the End, because it is that which thought aims at, is therefore itself (mere) thought. This assumes that thought cannot desire a consummation in which it is lost. But does not the river run into the sea, and the self lose itself in love? And further, as good a claim for predominance might be made on behalf of will, and again on behalf of beauty and sensation and pleasure. Where all elements reach their end in the Absolute, that end can belong to no one severally. We may illustrate this principle by the case of morality. That essentially desires an end which is not merely moral because it is super-moral. Nay, even personality itself, our whole individual life and striving, tends to something beyond mere personality. Of course, the Absolute has personality, but it fortunately possesses so much more, that to call it personal would be as absurd as to ask if it is moral.3

But in self-consciousness, I may be told, we actually experience a state where truth and being are identical; and here, at all events, thinking is not different from reality. But in our tenth chapter we have seen that no such state exists. There is no self-consciousness in which the object is the same as the subject, none in which what is perceived exhausts the whole self. In self-consciousness a part or element, or again a general aspect or character, becomes distinct from the whole mass and stands over against the felt background. But the background is never exhausted by this object, and it never could be so. An experiment should convince any man that in self-consciousness what he feels cannot wholly come before him. It can be exhausted, if at all, only by a long series of observations, and the summed result of these observations cannot be experienced as a fact. Such a result cannot ever be verified as quite true at any particular given moment. In short consciousness implies discrimination of an element from the felt mass, and a consciousness that should discriminate every element at once is psychologically impossible. And this impossibility, if it became actual, would still leave us |154| held in a dilemma. For there is either no difference, and therefore no distinction, and no consciousness; or there is a distinction, and therefore a difference between object and reality. But surely, if self-consciousness is appealed to, it is evident that at any moment I am more than the self which I can think of. How far everything in feeling may be called intelligible, is not the question here. But what is felt cannot be understood so that its truth and its existence become the same. And, if that were possible, yet such a process would certainly not be thinking.

In thinking the subject which thinks is more than thought. And that is why we can imagine that in thinking we find all reality. But in the same way the whole reality can as well be found in feeling or in volition. Each is one element in the whole, or the whole in one of its aspects; and hence, when you get an aspect or element, you have the whole with it. But because, given one aspect (whichever it may be), we find the whole universe, to conclude that in the universe there is nothing beyond this single aspect, seems quite irrational.

But the reader may agree that no one really can believe that mere thought includes everything. The difficulty lies, he may urge, in maintaining the opposite. Since in philosophy we must think, how is it possible to transcend thought without a self-contradiction? For theory can reflect on, and pronounce about, all things, and in reflecting on them it therefore includes them. So that to maintain in thought an Other is by the same act to destroy its otherness, and to persist is to contradict oneself. While admitting that thought cannot satisfy us as to reality’s falling wholly within its limits, we may be told that, so long as we think, we must ignore this admission. And the question is, therefore, whether philosophy does not end in sheer scepticism — in the necessity, that is, of asserting what it is no less induced to deny. The problem is serious, and I will now attempt to exhibit its solution.

We maintain an Other than mere thought. Now in what sense do we hold this? Thought being a judgment, |155| we say that the predicate is never the same as the subject; for the subject is reality presented as ‘this’ (we must not say as mere ‘this’). You can certainly abstract from presentation its character of "thisness," or its confused relatedness; and you can also abstract the feature of presentation. Of these you can make ideas,4 for there is nothing which you cannot think of. But you find that these ideas are not the same as the subject of which you must predicate them. You can think of the subject, but you cannot get rid of it, or substitute mere thought-content for it. In other words, in practice thought always is found with, and appears to demand, an Other.

Now the question is whether this leads to self-contradiction. If thought asserted the existence of any content which was not an actual or possible object of thought — certainly that assertion in my judgment would contradict itself. But the Other which I maintain, is not any such content, nor is it another separated ‘what’, nor in any case do I suggest that it lies outside intelligence. Everything, all will and feeling, is an object for thought, and must be called intelligible.5 This is certain; but, if so, what becomes of the Other? If we fall back on the mere ‘that’, thatness itself seems a distinction made by thought. And we have to face this difficulty: If the Other exists, it must be something; and if it is nothing, it certainly does not exist.

Let us take an actual judgment and examine the subject there with a view to find our Other. In this we at once meet with a complication. We always have more content in the presented subject than in the predicate, and it is hence harder to realize what, beside this overplus of content, the subject possesses. However, passing this by, we can find in the subject two special characters. There is first (a) sensuous infinitude, and (b) in the second place there is immediacy.

(a) The presented subject has a detail which is unlimited. By this I do not mean that the actual plurality of its features exceeds a finite number. I mean that its |156| detail always goes beyond itself, and is indefinitely relative to something outside.6 In its given content it has relations which do not terminate within that content; and its existence therefore is not exhausted by itself, as we ever can have it. If I may use the metaphor, it has always edges which are ragged in such a way as to imply another existence from which it has been torn, and without which it really does not exist. Thus the content of the subject strives, we may say, unsuccessfully towards an all-inclusive whole. Now the predicate, on its side, is itself not free from endlessness. For its content, abstracted and finite, necessarily depends on relation to what is beyond. But it lacks the sensible and compulsory detail of the subject. It is not given as one thing with an actual but indefinite context. And thus, at least ostensibly, the predicate is hostile to endlessness.

(b) This is one difference, and the second consists in immediacy. The subject claims the character of a single self-subsistent being. In it the aspects of ‘what’ and ‘that’ are not taken as divorced, but it is given with its content as forming one integral whole. The ‘what’ is not sundered from the ‘that’, and turned from fact into truth. It is not predicated as the adjective of another ‘that’, or even of its own. And this character of immediacy is plainly not consistent with endlessness. They are, in truth, each an imperfect appearance of individuality.7 But the subject clearly possesses both these discrepant features, while the predicate no less clearly should be without them. For the predicate seeks also for individuality but by a different road.

Now, if we take the subject to have these two characters which are absent from the predicate, and if the desire of thought implies removal of that which makes predicate and subject differ — we begin to perceive the nature of our Other. And we may see at once what is required in order to extinguish its otherness. Subject and predicate alike must accept reformation. The ideal content |157| of the predicate must be made consistent with immediate individuality; and, on its side, the subject must be changed so as to become consistent with itself. It must become a self-subsistent, and that means an all-inclusive, individual. But these reforms are impossible. The subject must pass into the judgment, and it becomes infected with the relational form. The self-dependence and immediacy, which it claims, are not possessed by its content. Hence in the attempted self-assertion this content drives the subject beyond actual limits, and so begets a process which is infinite and cannot be exhausted. Thus thought’s attempt wholly to absorb the subject must fail. It fails because it cannot reform the subject so as to include and exhaust its content. And, in the second place, thought fails because it cannot reform itself. For, if per impossibile the exhausted content were comprised within a predicate, that predicate still could not bear the character of immediacy. I will dwell for a little on both points.

Let us consider first the subject that is presented. It is a confused whole that, so far as we make it an object, passes into a congeries of qualities and relations. And thought desires to transform this congeries into a system. But, to understand the subject, we have at once to pass outside it in time, and again also in space. On the other hand these external relations do not end, and from their own nature they cannot end. Exhaustion is not merely impracticable, it is essentially impossible. And this obstacle would be enough; but this is not all. Inside the qualities, which we took first as solid endpoints of the relations, an infinite process breaks out. In order to understand, we are forced to distinguish to the end, and we never get to that which is itself apart from distinction. Or we may put the difficulty otherwise thus. We can neither take the terms with their relations as a whole that is self-evident, that stands by itself, and that calls for no further account; nor, on the other side, when we distinguish, can we avoid the endless search for the relation between the relation and its terms.8

|158| Thus thought cannot get the content into a harmonious system. And in the next place, even if it did so, that system would not be the subject. It would either be a maze of relations, a maze with a plan, of which forever we made the circuit; or otherwise it would wholly lose the relational form. Our impossible process, in the first place, would assuredly have truth distinguished from its reality. For it could avoid this only by coming to us bodily and all at once, and, further, by suppressing entirely any distinction between subject and predicate. But, if in this way thought became immediate, it would lose its own character. It would be a system of relations no longer, but would have become an individual experience. And the Other would certainly have been absorbed, but thought itself no less would have been swallowed up and resolved into an Other.

Thought’s relational content can never be the same as the subject, either as that subject appears or as it really is. The reality that is presented is taken up by thought in a form not adequate to its nature, and beyond which its nature must appear as an Other. But, to come at last in full view of the solution of our problem, this nature also is the nature which thought wants for itself. It is the character which even mere thinking desires to possess, and which in all its aspects exists within thought already, though in an incomplete form. And our main result is briefly this. The end, which would satisfy mere truth-seeking, would do so just because it had the features possessed by reality. It would have to be an immediate, self-dependent, all-inclusive individual. But, in reaching this perfection, and in the act of reaching it, thought would lose its own character. Thought does desire such individuality, that is precisely what it aims at. But individuality, on the other hand, cannot be gained while we are confined to relations.

“We desire only what we know. … Thought desires for its content the character which makes reality. … And in desire for the completion of what one has there is no contradiction.”

Still we may be told that we are far from the solution of our problem. The fact of thoughts desiring a foreign perfection, we may hear, is precisely the old difficulty. If thought desires this, then it is no Other, for we desire only |159| what we know. The object of thought’s desire cannot, hence, be a foreign object; for what is an object is, therefore, not foreign. But we reply that we have penetrated below the surface of any such dilemma. Thought desires for its content the character which makes reality. These features, if realized, would destroy mere thought; and hence they are an Other beyond thought. But thought, nevertheless, can desire them, because its content has them already in an incomplete form. And in desire for the completion of what one has there is no contradiction. Here is the solution of our difficulty.

The relational form is a compromise on which thought stands, and which it develops. It is an attempt to unite differences which have broken out of the felt totality.9 Differences forced together by an underlying identity, and a compromise between the plurality and the unity — this is the essence of relation. But the differences remain independent, for they cannot be made to resolve themselves into their own relation. For, if so, they would perish, and their relation would perish with them. Or, otherwise, their outstanding plurality would still remain unreconciled with their unity, and so within the relation would beget the infinite process. The relation, on the other side, does not exist beyond the terms; for, in that case, itself would be a new term which would aggravate the distraction. But again, it cannot lose itself within the terms; for, if so, where is their common unity and their relation? They would in this case not be related, but would fall apart. Thus the whole relational perception joins various characters. It has the feature of immediacy and self-dependence; for the terms are given to it and not constituted by it. It possesses again the character of plurality. And as representing the primitive felt whole, it has once more the character of a comprehending unity — a unity, however, not constituted by the differences, but added from without. And, even against its wish, it has further a restless infinitude; for such infinitude is the very result of its practical compromise. And thought desires, retaining |160| these features, to reduce them to harmony. It aims at an all-inclusive whole, not in conflict with its elements, and at elements subordinate to a self-dependent whole. Hence neither the aspect of unity, nor of plurality, nor of both these features in one, is really foreign to thought. There is nothing foreign that thought wants in desiring to be a whole, to comprehend everything, and yet to include and be superior to discord. But, on the other hand, such a completion, as we have seen, would prove destructive; such an end would emphatically make an end of mere thought It would bring the ideal content into a form which would be reality itself, and where mere truth and mere thought would certainly perish. Thought seeks to possess in its object that whole character of which it already owns the separate features. These features it cannot combine satisfactorily, though it has the idea, and even the partial experience, of their complete combination. And, if the object were made perfect, it would forthwith become reality, but would cease forthwith to be an object. It is this completion of thought beyond thought which remains for ever an Other. Thought can form the idea of an apprehension, something like feeling in directness, which contains all the character sought by its relational efforts. Thought can understand that, to reach its goal, it must get beyond relations. Yet in its nature it can find no other working means of progress. Hence it perceives that somehow this relational side of its nature must be merged and must include somehow the other side. Such a fusion would compel thought to lose and to transcend its proper self. And the nature of this fusion thought can apprehend in vague generality, but not in detail; and it can see the reason why a detailed apprehension is impossible. Such anticipated self-transcendence is an Other; but to assert that Other is not a self-contradiction.

Hence, in our Absolute, thought can find its Other without inconsistency. The entire reality will be merely the object thought out, but thought out in such a way that mere thinking is absorbed. This same reality will be feeling that is satisfied completely. In its direct experience |161| we get restored with interest every feature lost by the disruption of our primitive felt whole. We possess the immediacy and the strength of simple apprehension, no longer forced by its own inconsistencies to pass into the infinite process. And again volition, if willed out, becomes our Absolute. For we reach there the identity of idea and reality, not too poor but too rich for division of its elements. Feeling, thought, and volition have all defects which suggest something higher. But in that higher unity no fraction of anything is lost. For each one-sided aspect, to gain itself, blends with that which seemed opposite, and the product of this fusion keeps the riches of all. The one reality, we may say from our human point of view, was present in each aspect in a form which does not satisfy. To work out its full nature it has sunk itself into these differences. But in each it longs for that absolute self-fruition which comes only when the self bursts its limits and blends with another finite self. This desire of each element for a perfection which implies fusion with others, is not self-contradictory. It is rather an effort to remove a present state of inconsistency, to remain in which would indeed be fixed self-contradiction.

Now, if it is objected that such an Absolute is the Thing-in-itself, I must doubt if the objector can understand. How a whole which comprehends everything can deserve that title is past my conjecture. And, if I am told that the differences are lost in this whole, and yet the differences are, and must therefore be left outside — I must reply to this charge by a counter-charge of thoughtless confusion. For the differences are not lost, but are all contained in the whole. The fact that more is included there than these several, isolated, differences hardly proves that these differences are not there at all. When an element is joined to another in a whole of experience, then, on the whole, and for the whole, their mere specialities need not exist; but, none the less, each element in its own partial experience may retain its own speciality. ‘Yes; but these partial experiences’, I may be told, ‘will at all events fall outside the whole’. Surely no such consequence follows. The |162| self-consciousness of the part, its consciousness of itself even in opposition to the whole — all will be contained within the one absorbing experience. For this will embrace all self-consciousness harmonized, though, as such, transmuted and suppressed. We cannot possibly construe, I admit, such an experience to ourselves. We cannot imagine how in detail its outline is filled up. But to say that it is real, and that it unites certain general characters within the living system of one undivided apprehension, is within our power. The assertion of this Absolute’s reality I hope in the sequel to justify. Here (if I have not failed) I have shown that, at least from the point of view of thinking, it is free from self-contradiction. The justification for thought of an Other may help both to explain and to bury the Thing-in-itself.


1^ Principles of Logic, Book I.

2^ The remainder of this chapter has been reprinted, with some alterations and omissions, from Mind, No. 51.

3^ See further, Chapters xxv and xxvii.

4^Principles of Logic, pp. 64-69.

5^ On this point see below, Chapters xix and xxvi.

6^ This sensible ‘infinite’ is the same as the finite, which we just saw was in its essence ‘ideal’.

7^ Compare here the doctrine of Chapters xix and xxiv.

8^ For this see above, Chapter iii.

9^ On this point see Chapter iii.

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Chapter XVI. Error

|163-73| A good objection must be founded on something discrepant, not merely something unexplained, 163-64. Problem of Error. It involves a dilemma, 164-65. Error is Appearance and false Appearance, 165-66. It is rejected by Reality because it makes that discordant, 167-69. But it belongs to Reality somehow, 169. Error can be made truth by division and rearrangement, 169-72. And its positive discordance can be absorbed, 173-73. This possible solution must be real, 173.

We have so far sketched in outline the Absolute which we have been forced to accept, and we have pointed out the general way in which thought may fall within it. We must address ourselves now to a series of formidable objections. If our Absolute is possible in itself, it seems hardly possible as things are. For there are undeniable facts with which it does not seem compatible. Error and evil, space, time, chance and mutability, and the unique particularity of the ‘this’ and the ‘mine’ — all these appear to fall outside an individual experience. To explain them away or to explain them, one of these courses seems necessary, and yet both seem impossible. And this is a point on which I am anxious to be clearly understood. I reject the offered dilemma, and deny the necessity of a choice between these two courses. I fully recognize the facts, I do not make the smallest attempt to explain their origin, and I emphatically deny the need for such an explanation. In the first place to show how and why the universe is so that finite existence belongs to it, is utterly impossible. That would imply an understanding of the whole not practicable for a mere part. It would mean a view by the finite from the Absolute’s point of view, and in that consummation the finite would have been transmuted and destroyed. But, in the second place, such an understanding is wholly unnecessary. We have not to choose between accounting for everything on one side and on the other side admitting it as a disproof of our doctrine of the Absolute. Such an alternative is not logical. If you wish to refute a wide theory based on general grounds, it is idle merely to produce facts which upon it are not explained. For the inability to explain these may be simply our failure in particular information, and it need imply nothing worse than confirmation lacking to the theory. The facts become an objection to the doctrine when they are incompatible with some part of it; while, if they merely |164| remain outside, that points to incompleteness in detail and not falsity in principle. A general doctrine is not destroyed by what we fail to understand. It is destroyed only by that which we actually do understand, and can show to be inconsistent and discrepant with the theory adopted.

“Error and evil are … a disproof … of our absolute experience … when their nature is understood in such a way as to collide with the Absolute.”

And this is the real issue here. Error and evil are no disproof of our absolute experience so long as we merely fail to see how in detail it comprehends them. They are a disproof when their nature is understood in such a way as to collide with the Absolute. And the question is whether this understanding of them is correct. It is here that I confidently join issue. If on this subject there exists a false persuasion of knowledge, I urge that it lies on the side of the objector. I maintain that we know nothing of these various forms of the finite which shows them incompatible with that Absolute, for the accepting of which we have general ground. And I meet the denial of this position by pointing out assumed knowledge where really there is ignorance. It is the objector who, if any one, asserts omniscience. It is he who claims to understand both the infinite and the finite, so as to be aware and to be assured of their incompatibility. And I think that he much overestimates the extent of human power. We cannot know that the finite is in collision with the Absolute. And if we cannot, and if, for all we understand, the two are at one and harmonious — then our conclusion is proved fully. For we have a general assurance that reality, has a certain nature, and, on the other side, against that assurance we have to set nothing, nothing other than our ignorance. But an assurance, against which there is nothing to be set, must surely be accepted. And I will begin first with Error.

Error is without any question a dangerous subject, and the chief difficulty is as follows. We cannot, on the one hand, accept anything between non-existence and reality, while, on the other hand, error obstinately refuses to be either. It persistently attempts to maintain a third position, which appears nowhere to exist, and yet somehow is |165| occupied. In false appearance there is something attributed to the real which does not belong to it. But if the appearance is not real, then it is not false appearance, because it is nothing. On the other hand, if it is false, it must therefore be true reality, for it is something which is. And this dilemma at first sight seems insoluble. Or, to put it otherwise, an appearance, which is, must fall somewhere. But error, because it is false, cannot belong to the Absolute; and, again, it cannot appertain to the finite subject, because that, with all its contents, cannot fall outside the Absolute; at least, if it did, it would be nothing. And so error has no home, it has no place in existence; and yet, for all that, it exists. And for this reason it has occasioned much doubt and difficulty.

For Psychology and for Logic the problem is much easier. Error can be identified with wrong inference, and can be compared on one side with a typical model; while, on the other side, we can show by what steps it originates. But these enquiries, however interesting, would not much assist us, and we must endeavour here to face the problem more directly. We must take our stand on the distinction between idea and reality.

Error is the same as false appearance,1 or (if the reader objects to this) it is at any rate one kind of false appearance. Now appearance is content not at one with its existence, a ‘what’ loosened from its ‘that’. And in this sense we have seen that every truth is appearance, since in it we have divorce of quality from being (p. 143-44). The idea which is true is the adjective of reality so far as its content goes. It, so far, is restored, and belongs, to existence. But an idea has also another side, its own private being as something which is and happens. And an idea, as content, is alienated from this its own existence as an event. Even where you take a presented whole, and predicate one or more features, our account still holds good. For the content predicated has now become alien to its existence. On the one side it has not been left in simple unity with the whole, nor again is it predicated so far as |166| changed from a mere feature into another and separate fact. In ‘sugar is sweet’ the sweetness asserted of the sugar is not the sweetness so far as divided from it and turned into a second thing in our minds. This thing has its own being there, and to predicate it, as such, of the sugar would clearly be absurd. In respect of its own existence the idea is therefore always a mere appearance. But this character of divorce from its private reality becomes usually still more patent, where the idea is not taken from presentation but supplied by reproduction. Wherever the predicate is seen to be supplied from an image, the existence of that image can be seen at once not to be the predicate. It is something clearly left outside of the judgment and quite disregarded.2

Appearance then will be the looseness of character from being, the distinction of immediate oneness into two sides, a ‘that’ and a ‘what’. And this looseness tends further to harden into fracture and into the separation of two sundered existences. Appearance will be truth when a content, made alien to its own being, is related to some fact which accepts its qualification. The true idea is appearance in respect of its own being as fact and event, but is reality in connection with other being which it qualifies. Error, on the other hand, is content made loose from its own reality, and related to a reality with which it is discrepant. It is the rejection of an idea by existence which is not the existence of the idea as made loose. It is the repulse by a substantive of a liberated adjective.3 Thus it is an appearance which not only appears, but is false. It is in other words the collision of a mere idea with reality.

Error is “the collision of a mere idea with reality.”

There are serious problems with regard both to error and truth, and the distinction between them, which challenge our scrutiny. I think it better however to defer these to later chapters. I will therefore limit here the enquiry, so far as is possible, and will consider two main |167| questions. Error is content neither at one with its own being, nor otherwise allowed to be an adjective of the real. If so, we must ask (1) why it cannot be accepted by reality, and (2) how it still actually can belong to reality; for we have seen that this last conclusion is necessary.

1. Error is rejected by reality because that is harmonious, and is taken necessarily to be so, while error, on the other hand, is self-contradictory. I do not mean that it is a content merely not at one (if that were possible) with its own mere being.4 I mean that its inner character, as ideal, is itself discordant and self-discrepant But I should prefer not to call error a predicate which contradicts itself. For that might be taken as a statement that the contradiction already is present in the mere predicate, before judgment is attempted; and this, if defensible, would be misleading. Error is the qualification of a reality in such a way that in the result it has an inconsistent content, which for that reason is rejected. Where existence has a ‘what’ colliding within itself, there the predication of this ‘what’ is an erroneous judgment. If a reality is self-consistent, and its further determination has introduced discord, there the addition is the mistake, and the reality is unaffected. It is unaffected, however, solely on the assumption that its own nature in no way suggested and called in the discordant. For otherwise the whole result is infected with falseness, and the reality could never have been pure from discrepancy.5

It will perhaps tend to make clearer this general view of error if I defend it against some possible objections. Error is supposed by some persons to be a departure from experience, or from what is given merely. It is again taken sometimes as the confusion of internal image with outward sensation. But any such views are of course most superficial. Quite apart from the difficulty of finding anything merely given, and the impossibility of always using actual present sensation as a test of truth — without noticing |168| the strange prejudice that outward sensations are never false, and the dull blindness which fails to realize that the ‘inward’ is a fact just as solid as the ‘outward’ — we may dismiss the whole objection. For, if the given has a content which is not harmonious, then, no matter in what sense we like to take ‘given’ that content is not real. And any attempt, either to deny this, or to maintain that in the given there is never discrepancy, may be left to itself. But I will go on to consider the same view as it wears a more plausible form. ‘We do not’, I may be told, ‘add or take away predicates simply at our pleasure. We do not, so long as this arbitrary result does not visibly contradict itself, consider it true’. And I have not said that we should do this.

Outside known truth and error we may, of course, have simple ignorance.6 An assertion, that is, must in every case be right or be wrong; but, for us and for the present, it may not yet be either. Still, on the other hand, we do know that, if the statement is an error, it will be so because its content collides internally. ‘But this’ (an objector may reply) ‘is really not the case. Take the statement that at a certain time an event did, or did not, happen. This would be erroneous because of disagreement with fact, and not always because it is inconsistent with itself.’ Still I must insist that we have some further reason for condemning this want of correspondence with fact. For why, apart from such a reason, should either we or the fact make an objection to this defect? Suppose that when William has been hung, I assert that it was John. My assertion will then be false, because the reality does not admit of both events, and because William is certain. And if so, then after all my error surely will consist in giving to the real a self-discrepant content. For otherwise, when John is suggested, I could not reject the idea. I could only say that certainly it was William, and might also, for all that I knew, be John too. But in our actual practice we proceed thus: since ‘both John and William’ forms a discordant content, that statement is in error — here to the |169| extent of John.7 In the same way, if where no man is you insist on John’s presence, then, without discussing here the nature of the privative judgment,8 we can understand the mistake. You are trying to force on the reality something which would make it inconsistent, and which therefore is erroneous. But it would be alike easy and idle to pursue the subject further; and I must trust that, to the reader who reflects, our main conclusion is already made good. Error is qualification by the self-discrepant. We must not, if we take the predicate in its usual sense, in all cases place the contradiction within that. But where discrepancy is found in the result of qualification, it is there that we have error. And I will now pass to the second main problem of this chapter.

2. The question is about the relation of error to the Absolute. How is it possible for false appearance to take its place within reality? We have to some extent perceived in what error consists, but we still are confronted by our original problem. Qualification by the self-discrepant exists as a fact, and yet how can it be real? The self-contradiction in the content both belongs, and is unable to belong, to reality. The elements related, and their synthesis, and their reference to existence — these are things not to be got rid of. You may condemn them, but your condemnation cannot act as a spell to abolish them wholly. If they were not there, you could not judge them, and then you judge them not to be; or you pronounce them apparently somehow to exist without really existing. What is the exit from this puzzle?

There is no way but in accepting the whole mass of fact, and in then attempting to correct it and make it good. Error is truth, it is partial truth, that is false only because partial and left incomplete. The Absolute has without subtraction all those qualities, and it has every arrangement which we seem to confer upon it by our mere |170| mistake. The only mistake lies in our failure to give also the complement. The reality owns the discordance and the discrepancy of false appearance; but it possesses also much else in which this jarring character is swallowed up and is dissolved in fuller harmony. I do not mean that by a mere rearrangement of the matter which is given to us, we could remove its contradictions. For, being limited, we cannot apprehend all the details of the whole. And we must remember that every old arrangement, condemned as erroneous, itself forms part of that detail. To know all the elements of the universe, with all the conjunctions of those elements, good and bad, is impossible for finite minds. And hence obviously we are unable throughout to reconstruct our discrepancies. But we can comprehend in general what we cannot see exhibited in detail. We cannot understand how in the Absolute a rich harmony embraces every special discord. But, on the other hand, we may be sure that this result is reached; and we can even gain an imperfect view of the effective principle. I will try to explain this latter statement.

There is only one way to get rid of contradiction, and that way is by dissolution. Instead of one subject distracted, we get a larger subject with distinctions, and so the tension is removed. We have at first A, which possesses the qualities c and b, inconsistent adjectives which collide; and we go on to produce harmony by making a distinction within this subject. That was really not mere A, but either a complex within A, or (rather here) a wider whole in which A is included, The real subject is A + D; and this subject contains the contradiction made harmless by division, since A is c and D is b. This is the general principle, and I will attempt here to apply it in particular. Let us suppose the reality to be X (a b c d e f g …), and that we are able only to get partial views of this reality. Let us first take such a view as ‘X (a b) is b.’ This (rightly or wrongly) we should probably call a true view. For the content b does plainly belong to the subject; and, further, the appearance also — in other words, the separation of b in the predicate — can partly be explained. For, answering |171| to this separation, we postulate now another adjective in the subject; let us call it β. The ‘thatness’, the psychical existence of the predicate, which at first was neglected, has now also itself been included in the subject. We may hence write the subject as X (a b β); and in this way we seem to avoid contradiction. Let us go further on the same line, and, having dealt with a truth, pass next to an error. Take the subject once more as X (a b c d e …), and let us now say ‘X (a b) is d.’ This is false, because d is not present in the subject, and so we have a collision. But the collision is resolved if we take the subject, not as mere X (a b), but more widely as X (a b c d). In this case the predicate d becomes applicable. Thus the error consisted in the reference of d to a b; as it might have consisted in like manner in the reference of a b to c, or again of c to d. All of these exist in the subject, and the reality possesses with each both its ‘what’ and its ‘that’. But not content with a provisional separation of these indissoluble aspects, not satisfied (as in true appearance) to have aα, bβ, and dδ — forms which may typify distinctions that bring no discord into the qualities — we have gone on further into error. We have not only loosened ‘what’ from ‘that’, and so have made appearance; but we have in each case then bestowed the ‘what’ on a wrong quality within the real subject. We have crossed the threads of the connection between our ‘whats’ and our ‘thats’, and have thus caused collision, a collision which disappears when things are taken as a whole.

I confess that I shrink from using metaphors, since they never can suit wholly. The writer tenders them unsuspiciously as a possible help in a common difficulty. And so he subjects himself, perhaps, to the captious ill-will or sheer negligence of his reader. Still to those who will take it for what it is, I will offer a fiction. Suppose a collection of beings whose souls in the night walk about without their bodies, and so make new relations. On their return in the morning we may imagine that the possessors feel the benefit of this divorce; and we may therefore call it truth. But, if the wrong soul with its experience came back to |172| the wrong body, that might typify error. On the other hand, perhaps the ruler of this collection of beings may perceive very well the nature of the collision. And it may even be that he provokes it. For how instructive and how amusing to observe in each case the conflict of sensation with imported and foreign experience. Perhaps no truth after all could be half so rich and half so true as the result of this wild discord — to one who sees from the centre. And, if so, error will come merely from isolation and defect, from the limitation of each being to the ‘this’ and the ‘mine’.

But our account, it will fairly be objected, is untenable because incomplete. For error is not merely negative. The content, isolated and so discordant, is after all held together in a positive discord. And so the elements may exist, and their relations to their subjects may all be there in the Absolute, together with the complements which make them all true, and yet the problem is not solved. For the point of error, when all is said, lies in this very insistence on the partial and discrepant, and this discordant emphasis will fall outside of every possible rearrangement. I admit this objection, and I endorse it. The problem of error cannot be solved by an enlarged scheme of relations. Each misarrangement cannot be taken up wholly as an element in the compensations of a harmonious mechanism. For there is a positive sense and a specific character which marks each appearance, and this will still fall outside. Hence, while all that appears somehow is, all has not been accounted for by any rearrangement.

But on the other side the Absolute is not, and can not be thought as, any scheme of relations. If we keep to these, there is no harmonious unity in the whole. The Absolute is beyond a mere arrangement, however well compensated, though an arrangement is assuredly one aspect of its being. Reality, consists, as we saw, in a higher experience, superior to the distinctions which it includes and overrides. And, with this, the last objection to the transformation |173| of error has lost its basis. The one-sided emphasis of error, its isolation as positive and as not dissoluble in a wider connection — this again will contribute, we know not how, to the harmony of the Absolute. It will be another detail, which, together with every ‘what’ and ‘that’ and their relations, will be absorbed into the whole and will subserve its perfection.

On this view there still are problems as to error and truth which we must deal with hereafter. But the main dilemma as to false appearance has, I think, been solved. That both exists and is, as such, not real. Its arrangement becomes true in a wider rearrangement of ‘what’ and of ‘that’. Error is truth when it is supplemented. And its positive isolation also is reducible, and exists as a mere element within the whole. Error is, but is not barely what it takes itself to be. And its mere one-sidedness again is but a partial emphasis, a note of insistence which contributes, we know not how, to greater energy of life. And, if so, the whole problem has, so far, been disposed of.

Now that this solution cannot be verified, in the sense of being made out in detail, is not an admission on my part It is rather a doctrine which I assert and desire to insist on. It is impossible for us to show, in the case of every error, how in the whole it is made good. It is impossible, even apart from detail, to realize how the relational form is in general absorbed. But, upon the other hand, I deny that our solution is either unintelligible or impossible. And possibility here is all that we want. For we have seen that the Absolute must be a harmonious system. We have first perceived this in general, and here specially, in the case of error, we have been engaged in a reply to an alleged negative instance. Our opponents case has been this, that the nature of error makes our harmony impossible. And we have shown, on the other side, that he possesses no such knowledge. We have pointed out that it is at least possible for errors to correct themselves, and, as such, to disappear in a higher experience. But, if so, we must affirm that they are thus absorbed and made good. For what is possible, and what a general principle compels us to say must be, that certainly is.


1^ See more, Chapter xxvi.

2^ Compare p. 144-5.

3^ Whether the adjective has been liberated from this substantive or from another makes no difference.

4^ In the end no finite predicate or subject can possibly be harmonious.

5^ The doctrine here is stated subject to correction in Chapter xxiv. No finite predicate or subject can really be self-consistent.

6^ For further explanation, see Chapter xxvii.

7^ I do not here touch the question why John is sacrificed rather than William (or both). On this, see Chapter xxiv.

8^ See Chapter xxvii.

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Chapter XVII. Evil

|174-80| Main difficulties made by an error, 174. Several senses of evil. Evil as pain, 174-75; as failure to realize End, 176-77; and as immorality, 177-79. In no sense is it incompatible with the Absolute. And no diversity is lost there, 179-80.

We have seen that error is compatible with absolute perfection, and we now must try to reach the same result in the case of evil. Evil is a problem which of course presents serious difficulties, but the worst have been imported into it and rest on pure mistake. It is here, as it is also with what is called ‘Free Will’. The trouble has come from the idea that the Absolute is a moral person. If you start from that basis, then the relation of evil to the Absolute presents at once an irreducible dilemma. The problem then becomes insoluble, but not because it is obscure or in any way mysterious. To anyone who has sense and courage to see things as they are, and is resolved not to mystify others or himself, there is really no question to discuss. The dilemma is plainly insoluble because it is based on a clear self-contradiction, and the discussion of it here would be quite uninstructive. It would concern us only if we had reason to suppose that the Absolute is (properly) moral. But we have no such reason, and hereafter we may hope to convince ourselves (Chapter xxv), that morality cannot (as such) be ascribed to the Absolute. And, with this, the problem becomes certainly no worse than many others. Hence I would invite the reader to dismiss all hesitation and misgiving. If the questions we ask prove unanswerable, that will certainly not be because they are quite obscure or unintelligible. It will be simply because the data we possess are insufficient. But let us at all events try to understand what it is that we seek.

Evil has, we all know, several meanings. It may be taken (I.) as pain, (II.) as failure to realize end, and (III.), specially, as immorality. The fuller consideration of the last point must be postponed to a later chapter, where we can deal better with the relation of the finite person to the Absolute.

I. No one of course can deny that pain actually exists, and I at least should not dream of denying that it is evil. But we failed to see, on the other hand, how pain, as such, can possibly exist in the Absolute.1 Hence, it being admitted that pain has actual existence, the question is whether its nature can be transmuted. Can its painfulness disappear in a higher unity? If so, it will exist, but will have ceased to be pain when considered on the whole.

We can to some extent verify in our actual experience the neutralization of pain. It is quite certain that small pains are often wholly swallowed up in a larger composite pleasure. And the assertion that, in all these cases, they have been destroyed and not merged, would most certainly be baseless. To suppose that my condition is never pleasant on the whole while I still have an actual local pain, is directly opposed to fact. In a composite state the pain doubtless will detract from the pleasure, but still we may have a resultant which is pleasurable wholly. Such a balance is all that we want in the case of absolute perfection.

We shall certainly so far have done nothing to confute the pessimist. ‘I accept’, he will reply, ‘your conclusion in general as to the existence of a balance. I quite agree that in the resultant one feature is submerged. But, unfortunately for your view, that feature really is not pain but pleasure. The universe, taken as a whole, suffers therefore sheer pain and is hence utterly evil’. But I do not propose to undertake here an examination of pessimism. That would consist largely in the weighing of psychological arguments on either side, and the result of these is in my opinion fatal to pessimism. In the world, which we observe, an impartial scrutiny will discover more pleasure than pain, though it is difficult to estimate, and easy to exaggerate, the amount of the balance. Still I must confess that, apart from this, I should hold to my conclusion. I should still believe that in the universe there is |176| preponderance of pleasure. The presumption in its favour is based on a principle from which I see no escape (Chapter xiv), while the world we see is probably a very small part of the reality. Our general principle must therefore be allowed to weigh down a great deal of particular appearance; and, if it were necessary, I would without scruple rest my case on this argument But, on the contrary, no such necessity exists. The observed facts are clearly, on the whole, in favour of some balance of pleasure. They, in the main, serve to support our conclusion from principle, and pessimism may, without hesitation, be dismissed.

We have found, so far, that there is a possibility of pain ceasing, as such, to exist in the Absolute. We have shown that this possibility can to some extent be verified in experience. And we have a general presumption in favour of an actual balance of pleasure. Hence once more here, as before with error, possibility is enough. For what may be, if it also must be, assuredly is.

“It is a mistake to think that perfection is made more perfect by increase of quantity.”

There are readers, perhaps, who will desire to go farther. It might be urged that in the Absolute pain not merely is lost, but actually serves as a kind of stimulus to heighten the pleasure. And doubtless this possibly may be the case; but I can see no good reason for taking it as fact. In the Absolute there probably is no pleasure outside of finite souls (Chapter xxvii); and we have no reason to suppose that those we do not see are happier than those which we know. Hence, though this is possible, we are not justified in asserting it as more. For we have no right to go farther than our principle requires. But, if there is a balance of clear pleasure, that principle is satisfied, for nothing then stands in the way of the Absolute’s perfection. It is a mistake to think that perfection is made more perfect by increase of quantity (Chapter xx).

II. Let us go on to consider evil as waste, failure, and confusion. The whole world seems to a large extent the sport of mere accident. Nature and our life show a struggle in which one end perhaps is realized, and a |177| hundred are frustrated. This is an old complaint, but it meets an answer in an opposing doubt. Is there really any such thing as an end in Nature at all? For, if not, clearly there is no evil, in the sense in which at present we are taking the word. But we must postpone the discussion of this doubt until we have gained some understanding of what Nature is to mean.2 I will for the present admit the point of view which first supposes ends in Nature, and then objects that they are failures. And I think that this objection is not hard to dispose of. The ends which fail, we may reply, are ends selected by ourselves and selected more or less erroneously. They are too partial, as we have taken them, and, if included in a larger end to which they are relative, they cease to be failures. They, in short, subserve a wider scheme, and in that they are realized. It is here with evil as it was before with error. That was lost in higher truth to which it was subordinate, and in which, as such, it vanished. And with partial ends, in Nature or in human lives, the same principle will hold. Idea and existence we find not to agree, and this discord we call evil. But, when these two sides are enlarged and each taken more widely, both may well come together. I do not mean, of course, that every finite end, as such, is realized. I mean that it is lost, and becomes an element, in a wider idea which is one with existence. And, as with error, even our one-sidedness, our insistence and our disappointment, may somehow all subserve a harmony and go to perfect it The aspects of idea and of existence may be united in one great whole, in which evil, and even ends, as such, disappear. To verify this consummation, or even to see how in detail it can be, is alike impossible. But, for all that, such perfection in its general idea is intelligible and possible. And, because the Absolute is perfect, this harmony must also exist. For that which is both possible and necessary we are bound to think real.

III. Moral evil presents us with further difficulties. Here it is not a question simply of defect, and of the failure in outward existence of that inner idea which we take as the end. We are concerned further with a positive strife and opposition. We have an idea in a subject, an end which strives to gain reality; and on the other side, we have the existence of the same subject. This existence not merely fails to correspond, but struggles adversely, and the collision is felt as such. In our moral experience we find this whole fact given beyond question. We suffer within ourselves a contest of the good and bad wills and a certainty of evil. Nay, if we please, we may add that this discord is necessary, since without it morality must wholly perish.

“Discord is necessary, since without it morality must wholly perish.”

And this necessity of discord shows the road into the centre of our problem. Moral evil exists only in moral experience, and that experience in its essence is full of inconsistency. For morality desires unconsciously, with the suppression of evil, to become wholly non-moral. It certainly would shrink from this end, but it thus unknowingly desires the existence and perpetuity of evil. I shall have to return later to this subject (Chapter xxv), and for the present we need keep hold merely of this one point. Morality itself, which makes evil, desires in evil to remove a condition of its own being. It labours essentially to pass into a supermoral and therefore a non-moral sphere.

But, if we will follow it and will frankly adopt this tendency, we may dispose of our difficulty. For the content, willed as evil and in opposition to the good, can enter as an element into a wider arrangement. Evil, as we say (usually without meaning it), is overruled and subserves. It is enlisted and it plays a part in a higher good end, and in this sense, unknowingly is good. Whether and how far it is as good as the will which is moral, is a question later to be discussed. All that we need understand here is that ‘Heaven’s design’, if we may speak so, can realize itself as effectively in ‘Catiline or Borgia’ as in the scrupulous or innocent. For the higher end is super-moral, and our moral end here has been confined, and is therefore incomplete. As before with physical evil, the discord as such disappears, if the harmony is made wide enough.

|179| But it will be said truly that in moral evil we have something additional. We have not the mere fact of incomplete ends and their isolation, but we have in addition a positive felt collision in the self. And this cannot be explained away, for it has to fall within the Absolute, and it makes there a discord which remains unresolved. But our old principle may still serve to remove this objection. The collision and the strife may be an element in some fuller realisation. Just as in a machine the resistance and pressure of the parts subserve an end beyond any of them, if regarded by itself — so at a much higher level it may be with the Absolute. Not only the collision but that specific feeling, by which it is accompanied and aggravated, can be taken up into an all-inclusive perfection. We do not know how this is done, and ingenious metaphors (if we could find them) would not serve to explain it. For the explanation would tend to wear the form of qualities in relation, a form necessarily (as we have seen) transcended in the Absolute. Such a perfect way of existence would, however, reconcile our jarring discords; and I do not see how we can deny that such a harmony is possible. But, if possible, then, as before, it is indubitably real. For, on the one side, we have an overpowering reason for maintaining it; while upon the other side, so far as I can see, we have nothing.

I will mention in passing another point, the unique sense of personality which is felt strongly in evil. But I must defer its consideration until we attack the problem of the ‘mine’ and the ‘this’ (Chapter xix). And I will end here with some words on another source of danger. There is a warning which I may be allowed to impress on the reader. We have used several times already with diverse subject-matters the same form of argument. All differences, we have urged repeatedly, come together in the Absolute. In this, how we do not know, all distinctions are fused, and all relations disappear. And there is an objection which may probably at some point have seemed plausible. ‘Yes’, I may be told, ‘it is too true that all |180| difference is gone. First with one real existence, and then afterwards with another, the old argument is brought out and the old formula applied. There is no variety in the solution, and hence in each case the variety is lost to the Absolute. Along with these distinctions all character has wholly disappeared, and the Absolute stands outside, an empty residue and bare Thing-in-itself’. This would be a serious misunderstanding. It is true that we do not know how the Absolute overrides the relational form. But it does not follow from this that, when the relational form is gone, the result is really poorer. It is true that with each problem we cannot say how its special discords are harmonized. But is this to deny the reality of diverse contents in the Absolute? Because in detail we cannot tell in what each solution consists, are we therefore driven to assert that all the detail is abolished, and that our Absolute is a flat monotony of emptiness? This would indeed be illogical. For though we do not know in each case what the solution can be, we know that in every case it contains the whole of the variety. We do not know how all these partial unities come together in the Absolute, but we may be sure that the content of not one is obliterated. The Absolute is the richer for every discord, and for all diversity which it embraces; and it is our ignorance only in which consists the poverty of our object. Our knowledge must be poor because it is abstract. We cannot specify the concrete nature of the Absolute’s riches, but with every region of phenomenal existence we can say that it possesses so much more treasure. Objections and problems, one after the other, are not shelved merely, but each is laid up as a positive increase of character in the reality. Thus a man might be ignorant of the exact shape in which his goods have been realized, and yet he might be rationally assured that, with each fresh alienation of visible property, he has somehow corresponding wealth in a superior form.


1^ Chapter xiv. This conclusion is somewhat modified in Chapter xxvii, but, for the sake of clearness, I state it here unconditionally. The reader can correct afterwards, so far as is required, the results of the present chapter.

2^ For the question of ends in Nature see Chapters xxii and xxvi.

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Chapter XVIII. Temporal and Spatial Appearance

|181-96| Time and space are inexplicable, but not incompatible with our Absolute, 181. Question of origin irrelevant, and appeal to ‘fact of consciousness’ idle, 181-82. Time points to something beyond itself in several ways, 183-85. It is transcended, 185. Unity of Time. There is none, 186-89. My ‘real’ world — what, 187. Direction of Time. There is none, or rather there may be any number, 189-92. Sequence in Causation is but appearance, 192-94. Space, whatever is its origin, transcends itself, 195-96.

Note 20

Both time and space have been shown to be unreal as such. We found in both such contradictions that to predicate either of the reality was out of the question. Time and space are mere appearance, and that result is quite certain. Both, on the other hand, exist; and both must somehow in some way belong to our Absolute. Still a doubt may be raised as to this being possible.

To explain time and space, in the sense of showing how such appearances come to be, and again how without contradiction they can be real in the Absolute, is certainly not my object. Anything of the kind, I am sure, is impossible. And what I wish to insist on is this, that such knowledge is not necessary. What we require to know is only that these appearances are not incompatible with our Absolute. They have been urged as instances fatal to any view such as ours; and this objection, we must reply, is founded on mistake. Space and time give no ground for the assertion that our Absolute is not possible. And, in their case once more, we must urge the old argument. Since it is possible that these appearances can be resolved into a harmony which both contains and transcends them; since again it is necessary, on our main principle, that this should be so — it therefore truly is real. But let us examine these appearances more closely, and consider time first.

It is unnecessary to take up the question of time’s origin. To show it as produced psychologically from timeless elements is, I should say, not possible. Its perception generally may supervene at some stage of our development; and, at all events in its complete form, that perception is clearly a result. But, if we take the sense of time in its most simple and undeveloped shape, it would be difficult to show that it was not there from the first. Still this whole question, however answered, |182| has little importance for Metaphysics. We might perhaps draw, if we could assume that time has been developed, some presumption in favour of its losing itself once more in a product which is higher. But it is hardly worth while to consider this presumption more closely.

Passing from this point I will reply to an objection from fact. If time is not unreal, I admit that our Absolute is a delusion; but, on the other side, it will be urged that time cannot be mere appearance. The change in the finite subject, we are told, is a matter of direct experience; it is a fact, and hence it cannot be explained away. And so much of course is indubitable. Change is a fact, and, further, this fact, as such, is not reconcilable with the Absolute. And, if we could not in any way perceive how the fact can be unreal, we should be placed, I admit, in a hopeless dilemma. For we should have a view as to reality which we could not give up, and should, on the other hand, have an existence in contradiction with that view. But our real position is very different from this. For time has been shown to contradict itself, and so to be appearance. With this, its discord, we see at once, may pass as an element into a wider harmony. And, with this, the appeal to fact at once becomes worthless.

It is mere superstition to suppose that an appeal to experience can prove reality. That I find something in existence in the world or in my self, shows that this something exists, and it cannot show more. Any deliverance of consciousness — whether original or acquired — is but a deliverance of consciousness. It is in no case an oracle and a revelation which we have to accept. It is a fact, like other facts, to be dealt with; and there is no presumption anywhere that any fact is better than appearance. The ‘given’ of course is given; it must be recognized, and it cannot be ignored. But between recognising a datum and receiving blindly its content as reality is a very wide interval. We may put it thus once for all — there is nothing given which is sacred. Metaphysics can respect no element of experience except on compulsion. It can |183| reverence nothing but what by criticizm and denial the more unmistakably asserts itself.

Time is so far from enduring the test of criticizm, that at a touch it falls apart and proclaims itself illusory. I do not propose to repeat the detail of its self-contradiction; for that I take as exhibited once for all in our First Book. What I must attempt here first is to show how by its inconsistency time directs us beyond itself. It points to something higher in which it is included and transcended.

1. In the first place change, as we saw (Chapter v), must be relative to a permanent. Doubtless here was a contradiction which we found was not soluble. But, for all that, the fact remains that change demands some permanence within which succession happens. I do not say that this demand is consistent, and, on the contrary, I wish to emphasize the point that it is not so. It is inconsistent, and yet it is none the less essential. And I urge that therefore change desires to pass beyond simple change. It seeks to become a change which is somehow consistent with permanence. Thus, in asserting itself, time tries to commit suicide as itself, to transcend its own character and to be taken up in what is higher.

2. And we may draw this same conclusion from another inconsistency. The relation of the present to the future and to the past shows once more time’s attempt to transcend its own nature. Any lapse, that for any purpose you take as one period, becomes forthwith a present. And then this lapse is treated as if it existed all at once. For how otherwise could it be spoken of as one thing at all? Unless it is, I do not see how we have a right to regard it as possessing a character. And unless it is present, I am quite unable to understand with what meaning we can assert that it is. And, I think, the common behaviour of science might have been enough by itself to provoke reflection on this head. We may say that science, recognising on the one side, on the other side quite ignores the existence of time. For it habitually treats past and future as one thing with the present (Chapter viii). The |184| character of an existence is determined by what it has been and by what it is (potentially) about to be. But if these attributes, on the other hand, are not present, how can they be real? Again in establishing a Law, itself without special relation to time, science treats facts from various dates as all possessing the same value. Yet how, if we seriously mean to take time as real, can the past be reality? It would, I trust, be idle to expand here these obvious considerations. They should suffice to point out that for science reality at least tries to be timeless, and that succession, as such, can be treated as something without rights and as mere appearance.

3. This same tendency becomes visible in another application. The whole movement of our mind implies disregard of time. Not only does intellect accept what is true once for true always, and thus fearlessly take its stand on the Identity of Indiscernibles — not only is this so, but the whole mass of what is called ‘Association’ implies the same principle. For such a connection does not hold except between universals.1 The associated elements are divorced from their temporal context; they are set free in union, and ready to form fresh unions without regard for time’s reality. This is in effect to degrade time to the level of appearance. But our entire mental life, on the other hand, has its movement through this law. Our whole being practically implies it, and to suppose that we can rebel would be mere self-deception. Here again we have found the irresistible tendency to transcend time. We are forced once more to see in it the false appearance of a timeless reality.

It will be objected perhaps that in this manner we do not get rid of time. In those eternal connections which rule in darkness our lowest psychical nature, or are used consciously by science, succession may remain. A law is not always a law of what merely coexists, but it often gives the relation of antecedent and sequent. The remark is true, but certainly it could not show that time is self-consistent. And it is the inconsistency, and hence the |185| self-transcendence of time which here we are urging. This temporal succession, which persists still in the causal relation, does but secure to the end the old discrepancy. It resists, but it cannot remove, time’s inherent tendency to pass beyond itself. Time is an appearance which contradicts itself, and endeavours vainly to appear as an attribute of the timeless.

It might be instructive here to mention other spheres, where we more visibly treat mere existence in time as appearance. But we perhaps have already said enough to establish our conclusion; and our result, so far, will be this. Time is not real as such, and it proclaims its unreality by its inconsistent attempt to be an adjective of the timeless. It is an appearance which belongs to a higher character in which its special quality is merged. Its own temporal nature does not there cease wholly to exist but is thoroughly transmuted. It is counterbalanced and, as such, lost within an all-inclusive harmony. The Absolute is timeless, but it possesses time as an isolated aspect, an aspect which, in ceasing to be isolated, loses its special character. It is there, but blended into a whole which we cannot realize. But that we cannot realize it, and do not know how in particular it can exist, does not show it to be impossible. It is possible, and, as before, its possibility is enough. For that which can be, and upon a general ground must be — that surely is real.

And it would be better perhaps if I left the matter so. For, if I proceed and do my best to bring home to our minds time’s unreality, I may expect misunderstanding. I shall be charged with attempting to explain, or to explain away, the nature of our fact; and no notice will be taken of my protests that I regard such an attempt as illusory. For (to repeat it) we can know neither how time comes to appear, nor in what particular way its appearance is transcended. However, for myself and for the reader who will accept them as what they are, I will add some remarks. There are considerations which help to weaken our belief in time’s solidity. It is no mass which stands out and |186| declines to be engulfed. It is a loose image confusedly thrown together, and that, as we gaze, falls asunder.

1. The first point which will engage us is the unity of time. We have no reason, in my opinion, to regard time as one succession, and to take all phenomena as standing in one temporal connection. We have a tendency, of course, to consider all times as forming parts of a single series. Phenomena, it seems clear, are all alike events which happen;2 and, since they happen, we go on to a further conclusion. We regard them as members in one temporal whole, and standing therefore throughout to one another in relations of ‘before’ and ‘after’ or ‘together’. But this conclusion has no warrant. For there is no valid objection to the existence of any number of independent time-series. In these, the internal events would be interrelated temporarily, but each series, as a series and as a whole, would have no temporal connection with anything outside. I mean that in the universe we might have a set of diverse phenomenal successions. The events in each of these would, of course, be related in time, but the series themselves need not have temporal relation to one another. The events, that is, in one need not be after, or before, or together with, the events in any other. In the Absolute they would not have a temporal unity or connection; and, for themselves, they would not possess any relations to other series.

I will illustrate my meaning from our own human experience. When we dream, or when our minds go wandering uncontrolled, when we pursue imaginary histories, or exercise our thoughts on some mere supposed sequence — we give rise to a problem. There is a grave question, if we can see it. For within these successions the events have temporal connection, and yet, if you consider one series with another, they have no unity in time. And they are not connected in time with what we call the course of our ‘real’ events. Suppose that I am asked how the occurrences in the tale of Imogen are related in time to each adventure of Sindbad the Sailor, and how these latter |187| stand to my dream-events both of last night and last year — such questions surely have no meaning. Apart from the chance of local colour we see at once that between these temporal occurrences there is no relation of time. You cannot say that one comes before, or comes after, the other. And again to date these events by their appearance in my mental world would be surely preposterous. It would be to arrange all events, told of by books in a library, according to the various dates of publication — the same story repeating itself in fact with every edition, and today’s newspaper and history simultaneous throughout. And this absurdity perhaps may help us to realize that the successive need have no temporal connection.

‘Yes, but’, I may be told, ‘all these series, imaginary as well as real, are surely dated as events in my mental history. They have each their place there, and so beyond it also in the one real time-series. And, however often a story may be repeated in my mind, each occasion has its own date and its temporal relations’. Indubitably so, but such an answer is quite insufficient. For observe first that it admits a great part of what we urge. It has to allow plainly that the times within our ‘unreal’ series have no temporal interrelation. Otherwise, for instance, the time-succession, when a story is repeated, would infect the contents, and would so make repetition impossible. I wish first to direct notice to this serious and fatal admission.

But, when we consider it, the objection breaks down altogether. It is true that, in a sense and more or less, we arrange all phenomena as events in one series. But it does not follow that in the universe, as a whole, the same tendency holds good. It does not follow that all phenomena are related in time. What is true of my events need not hold good of all other events; nor again is my imperfect way of unity the pattern to which the Absolute is confined.

What, to use common language, I call ‘real’ events are the phenomena which I arrange in a continuous time series. This has its oneness in the identity of my personal existence. What is presented is ‘real’, and from this basis I construct a time-series, both backwards and forwards; |188| and I use as binding links the identical points in any content suggested.3 This construction I call the "real" series, and whatever content declines to take its place in my arrangement, I condemn as unreal. And the process is justifiable within limits. If we mean only that there is a certain group of phenomena, and that, for reality within this group, a certain time-relation is essential, that doubtless is true. But it is another thing to assert that every possible phenomenon has a place in this series. And it is once more another thing to insist that all time-series have a temporal unity in the Absolute.

Let us consider the first point. If no phenomenon is "real," except that which has a place in my temporal arrangement, we have, first, left on our hands the whole world of ‘Imagination’. The fact of succession there becomes ‘unreal’, but it is not got rid of by the application of any mere label. And I will mention in passing another difficulty, the disruption of my ‘real’ series in mental disease. But — to come to the principle — it is denied that phenomena can exist unless they are in temporal relation with my world. And I am able to find no ground for this assumption. When I ask why, and for what reason, there cannot be changes of event, imperceptible to me and apart from my time-series, I can discover no answer. So far as I can see, there may be many time-series in the Absolute, not related at all for one another, and for the Absolute without any unity of time.

And this brings us to the second point. For phenomena to exist without inter-connection and unity, I agree is impossible. But I cannot perceive that this unity must either be temporal or else nothing. That would be to take a way of regarding things which even we find imperfect, and to set it down as the one way which is possible for the Absolute. But surely the Absolute is not shut up within our human limits. Already we have seen that its harmony is something beyond relations. And, if so, surely a number of temporal series may, without any relation in time to one another, find a way of union within its all-inclusive |189| perfection. But, if so, time will not be one, in the sense of forming a single series. There will be many times, all of which are at one in the Eternal — the possessor of temporal events and yet timeless. We have, at all events, found no shred of evidence for any other unity of time.

2. I will pass now to another point, the direction of time. Just as we tend to assume that all phenomena form one series, so we ascribe to every series one single direction. But this assumption too is baseless. It is natural to set up a point in the future towards which all events run, or from which they arrive, or which may seem to serve in some other way to give direction to the stream. But examination soon shows the imperfection of this natural view. For the direction, and the distinction between past and future, entirely depends experience.4 That side, on which fresh sensations come in, is what we mean by the future. In our perception of change elements go out, and something new comes to us constantly; and we construct the time-series entirely with reference to this experience. Thus, whether we regard events as running forwards from the past, or as emerging from the future, in any case we use one method of taking our bearings. Our fixed direction is given solely by the advent of new arrivals.

But, if this is so, then direction is relative to our world. You may object that it is fixed in the very nature of things, and so imparts its own order to our special sphere. Yet how this assumption can be justified I do not understand. Of course there is something not ourselves which makes this difference exist in our beings, something too which compels us to arrange other lives and all our facts in one order. But must this something, therefore, in reality and in itself, be direction? I can find no reason for thinking so. No doubt we naturally regard the whole world of phenomena as a single time-series; we assume that the successive contents of every other finite being are arranged |190| in this construction, and we take for granted that their streams all flow in one direction. But our assumption clearly is not defensible. For let us suppose, first, that there are beings who can come in contact in no way with that world which we experience. Is this supposition self-contradictory, or anything but possible? And let us suppose, next, that in the Absolute the direction of these lives runs opposite to our own. I ask again, is such an idea either meaningless or untenable? Of course, if in any way I could experience their world, I should fail to understand it. Death would come before birth, the blow would follow the wound, and all must seem to be irrational. It would seem to me so, but its inconsistency would not exist except for my partial experience. If I did not experience their order, to me it would be nothing. Or, if I could see it from a point of view beyond the limits of my life, I might find a reality which itself had, as such, no direction. And I might there perceive characters, which for the several finite beings give direction to their lives, which, as such, do not fall within finite experience, and which, if apprehended, show both directions harmoniously combined in a consistent whole.

To transcend experience and to reach a world of Things-in-themselves, I agree, is impossible. But does it follow that the whole universe in every sense is a possible object of my experience? Is the collection of things and persons, which makes my world, the sum total of existence? I know no ground for an affirmative answer to this question. That many material systems should exist, without a material central-point, and with no relation in space — where is the self-contradiction?5 That various worlds of experience should be distinct, and, for themselves, fail to enter one into the other — where is the impossibility? That arises only when we endorse, and take our stand upon, a prejudice. That the unity in the Absolute is merely our kind of unity, that spaces there must have a spatial centre, and times a temporal point of meeting these assumptions are based on nothing. The opposite is possible, and we have seen that it is also necessary.

|191| It is not hard to conceive a variety of time-series existing in the Absolute. And the direction of each series, one can understand, may be relative to itself, and may have, as such, no meaning outside. And we might also imagine, if we pleased, that these directions run counter, the one to the other. Let us take, for example, a scheme like this:

a  b  c  d
b  a  d  c
c  d  a  b
d  c  b  a

Here, if you consider the contents, you may suppose the whole to be stationary. It contains partial views, but, as a whole, it may be regarded as free from change and succession. The change will fall in the perceptions of the different series. And the diverse directions of these series will, as such, not exist for the whole. The greater or less number of the various series, which we may imagine as present, the distinct experience which makes each, together with the direction in which it runs — this is all matter, we may say, of individual feeling. You may take, as one series and set of lives, a line going any way you please, up or down or transversely. And in each case the direction will be given to it by sensation peculiar to itself. Now without any question these perceptions must exist in the whole. They must all exist, and in some way they all must qualify the Absolute. But, for the Absolute, they can one counterbalance another, and so their characters be transmuted. They can, with their successions, come together in one whole in which their special natures are absorbed.

And, if we chose to be fanciful, we might imagine something more. We might suppose that, corresponding to each of our lives, there is another individual. There is a man who traverses the same history with ourselves, but in the opposite direction. We may thus imagine that the successive contents, which make my being, are the lives also of one or more other finite souls.6 The distinctions between us would remain, and would consist in an additional element, different in each case. And it would be these differences which would add to each its own way of succession, and make it a special personality. The differences, of course, would have existence; but in the Absolute, once more, in some way they might lose exclusiveness. And, with this, diversity of direction, and all succession itself, would, as such, disappear. The believer in second sight and witchcraft might find in such a view a wide field for his vagaries. But I note this merely in passing, since to myself fancies of this sort are not inviting. My purpose here has been simple. I have tried to show that neither for the temporal unity of all time-series, nor for the community of their direction, is there one shred of evidence. However great their variety, it may come together and be transformed in the Absolute. And here, as before, possibility is all we require in order to prove reality.

The Absolute is above relations, and therefore we cannot construct a relational scheme which could exhibit its unity. But that eternal unity is made sure by our general principle. And time itself, we have now seen, can afford no presumption that the universe is not timeless.7

There is a remaining difficulty on which perhaps I may add a few remarks. I may be told that in causation a succession is involved with a direction not reversible. It will be urged that many of the relations, by which the world is understood, involve in their essence time sequent or coexistent. And it may be added that for this reason time conflicts with the Absolute. But, at the point which we have reached, this objection has no weight.

Let us suppose, first, that the relation of cause and effect is in itself defensible. Yet we have no knowledge of a causal unity in all phenomena. Different worlds might very well run on together in the universe, side by side and not in one series of effects and causes. They would have a unity in the Absolute, but a unity not consisting in cause and effect. This must be considered possible until |193| we find some good argument in favour of causal unity. And then, even in our own world, how unsatisfactory the succession laid down in causation! It is really never true that mere a produces mere b. It is true only when we bring in the unspecified background, and, apart from that, such a statement is made merely upon sufferance. (Chapters vi, xxiii, xxiv). And the whole succession itself, if defensible, may admit of transformation. We assert that (X)b is the effect which follows on (X)a, but perhaps the two are identical. The succession and the difference are perhaps appearances, which exist only for a view which is isolated and defective. The successive relation may be a truth which, when filled out, is transmuted, and which, when supplemented, must lose its character in the Absolute. It may thus be the fragment of a higher truth not prejudicial to identity.

Such considerations will turn the edge of any objection directed against our Absolute from the ground of causation. But we have seen, in addition, in our sixth chapter that this ground is indefensible. By its own discrepancy causation points beyond itself to higher truth; and I will briefly, here once more, attempt to make this plain. Causation implies change, and it is difficult to know of what we may predicate change without contradiction. To say ‘a becomes b, and there is nothing which changes’, is really unmeaning. For, if there is change, something changes; and it is able to change because something is permanent. But then how predicate the change? ‘Xa becomes Xb’; but, if X is a and afterwards b, then, since a has ceased to qualify it, a change has happened within X. But, if so, then apparently we require a further permanent. But if, on the other side, to avoid this danger, we take Xa not to change, we are otherwise ruined. For we have somehow to predicate of X both elements at once, and where is the succession? The successive elements coexist unintelligibly within X, and succession somehow is degraded to mere appearance.

To put it otherwise, we have the statement ‘X is first Xa, and later also Xb.’ But how can ‘later also b’ be the |194| truth, if before mere a was true? Shall we answer ‘No, not mere a; it is not mere Xa, but Xa (given c) which is later also b’? But this reply leaves us still face to face with a like obstacle; for, if Xa (c) is X later b, then how separate these terms? If there is a difference between them, or if there is none, our assertion in either case is untenable. For we cannot justify the difference if it exists, or our making it, if it does not exist. Hence we are led to the conclusion that subject and predicate are identical, and that the separation and the change are only appearance. They are a character assuredly to be added to the whole, but added in a way beyond our comprehension. They somehow are lost except as elements in a higher identity.

Or, again, say that the present state of the world is the cause of that total state which follows next on it. Here, again, is the same self-contradiction. For how can one state a become a different state b? It must either do this without a reason, and that seems absurd; or else the reason, being additional, forthwith constitutes a new a and so on forever. We have the differences of cause and effect, with their relation of time, and we have no way in which it is possible to hold these together. Thus we are drawn to the view that causation is but partial, and that we have but changes of mere elements within a complex whole. But this view gives no help until we carry it still further, and deny that the whole state of the world can change at all. So we glide into the doctrine that partial changes are no change, but counterbalance one another within a whole which persists unaltered. And here certainly the succession remains as an appearance, the special value of which we are unable to explain. But the causal sequence has drifted beyond itself and into a reality which essentially is timeless. And hence, in attempting an objection to the eternity of the Absolute, causation would deny a principle implied in its own nature.

At the end of this chapter, I trust, we may have reached a conviction. We may be convinced, not merely as before, that time is unreal, but that its appearance also is compatible with a timeless universe. It is only when misunderstood |195| that change precludes a belief in eternity. Rightly apprehended it affords no presumption against our doctrine. Our Absolute must be; and now, in another respect, again, it has turned out possible. Surely therefore it is real.

I shall conclude this chapter with a few remarks on the nature of space.8 In passing to this from time, we meet with no difficulties that are new, and a very few words seem all that is wanted. I am not attempting here to explain the origin of space; and indeed to show how it comes to exist seems to me not possible. And we need not yet ask how, on our main view, we are to understand the physical world. That necessary question is one which it is better to defer. The point here at issue is this, Does the form of space make our reality impossible? Is its existence a thing incompatible with the Absolute? Such a question, in my judgment, requires little discussion.

If we could prove that the spatial form were a development, and so secondary, that would give us little help. The proof could in no degree lessen the reality of a thing which, in any case, does exist. It would at most serve as an indication that a further growth in development might merge the space-form in a higher mode of perception. But it is better not to found arguments upon that which, at most, is hardly certain.

What I would stand upon is the essential nature of space. For that, as we saw in our First Book, is entirely inconsistent It attempts throughout to reach something which transcends its powers. It made an effort to find and to maintain a solid self-existence, but that effort led it away into the infinite process both on the inside and externally. And its evident inability to rest within itself points to the solution of its discords. Space seeks to lose itself in a higher perception, where individuality is gained without forfeit of variety.9

|196| And against the possibility of space being in this way absorbed in a non-spatial consummation, I know of nothing to set. Of course how in particular this can be, we are unable to lay down. But our ignorance in detail is no objection against the general possibility. And this possible absorption, we have seen, is also necessary.


1^ On these points see my Principles of Logic, and, below, Chapter xxiii.

2^ On this point see Chapter xxiii.

3^ For this construction see p. 84, and Principles of Logic, Chapter ii.

4^ See on this point Mind, xii. 579-82. We think forwards, one may say, on the same principle on which fish feed with their heads pointing up the stream.

5^ See Chapter xxii.

6^ On the possibility of this compare Chapter xxiii.

7^ I shall make some remarks on Progress in Chapter xxvi.

8^ I must here refer back to Chapter iv.

9^ The question as to whether, and in what sense, space possesses a unity, may be deferred to Chapter xxii. A discussion on this point was required in the case of time. But an objection to our Absolute would hardly be based on the unity of space.

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Chapter XIX. The This and the Mine

|197-212| Their general nature, 197. They are positive and negative, 197. Feeling as immediate experience of reality, 199-201. The This as feeling of reality, and as positive fragmentariness, 201-02. The This as negative. It transcends itself, 201-02. The This as unique and as Self-will, 203-05. Is there more than content in the This? 206. Does any content stick in the This? 233. No, it only seems to do so through our failure, 206-12. The ‘merely mine’, what, 209.

We have seen that the forms of space and time supply no good objection to the individuality of the Absolute. But we have not yet faced a difficulty which perhaps may prove more serious. There is the fact which is denoted by the title of the present chapter. The particularity of feeling, it may be contended, is an obstacle which declines to be engulfed. The ‘this’ and the ‘mine’ are undeniable; and upon our theory, it may be said, they are both inexplicable.

The ‘this’ and the ‘mine’ are names which stand for the immediacy of feeling, and each serves to call attention to one side of that fact. There is no ‘mine’ which is not ‘this’, nor any ‘this’ which fails, in a sense, to be ‘mine’. The immediate fact must always come as something felt in an experience, and an experience always must be particular, and, in a sense, must be ‘unique’. But I shall not enter on all the problems implied in the last word. I am not going to inquire here how we are able to transcend the ‘this-mine’, for that question will engage us hereafter (Chapter xxi), and the problem now before us is confined to a single point. We are to assume that there does exist an indefinite number of ‘this-mines’, of immediate experiences of the felt. And, assuming this fact, we are to ask if it is compatible with our general view.

The difficulty of this inquiry arises in great part from vagueness. The ‘this’ and ‘mine’ are taken as both positive and negative. They are to possess a singular reality, and they are to own in some sense an exclusive character. And from this shifting basis a rash conclusion is hastily drawn. But the singular reality, after all, may not be single and self-existent. And the exclusive character, perhaps, may be included and taken up in the Whole. And it is these questions which we must endeavour to clear up and discuss. I will begin with what we have called the positive aspect.

|198| The ‘this’ and the ‘mine’ express the immediate character of feeling, and the appearance of this character in a finite centre. Feeling may stand for a psychical stage before relations have been developed, or it may be used generally for an experience which is not indirect (Chapters ix, xxvi, and xxvii). At any time all that we suffer, do, and are, forms one psychical totality. It is experienced all together as a coexisting mass, not perceived as parted and joined by relations even of coexistence. It contains all relations, and distinctions, and every ideal object that at the moment exists in the soul. It contains them, not specially as such and with exclusive stress on their content as predicated, but directly as they are and as they qualify the psychical ‘that’. And again any part of this coexistence, to which we attend, can be viewed integrally as one feeling.

Now whatever is thus directly experienced — so far as it is not taken otherwise — is ‘this’ and ‘mine’. And all such presentation without doubt has peculiar reality. One might even contend that logically to transcend it is impossible, and that there is no rational way to a plurality of ‘this-mines’. But such a plurality we have agreed for the present to assume. The ‘this’, it is however clear, brings a sense of superior reality, a sense which is far from being wholly deceptive and untrue. For all our knowledge, in the first place, arises from the ‘this’. It is the one source of our experience, and every element of the world must submit to pass through it. And the ‘this’, secondly, has a genuine feature of ultimate reality. With however great imperfection and inconsistency it owns an individual character. The ‘this’ is real for us in a sense in which nothing else is real.

“Reality is being in which there is no division of content from existence, … Reality, in short, means what it stands for, and stands for what it means.”

Reality is being in which there is no division of content from existence, no loosening of ‘what’ from ‘that’. Reality, in short, means what it stands for, and stands for what it means. And the ‘this’ possesses to some extent the same wholeness of character. Both the ‘this’ and reality, we may say, are immediate. But reality is immediate because it includes and is superior to mediation. It develops, and |199| it brings to unity, the distinctions it contains. The ‘this’ is immediate, on the other side, because it is at a level below distinctions. Its elements are but conjoined, and are not connected. And its content, hence, is unstable, and essentially tends to disruption, and by its own nature must pass beyond the being of the ‘this’. But every ‘this’ still shows a passing aspect of undivided singleness. In the mental background specially such a fused unity remains a constant factor, and can never be dissipated (Chapters ix, x, xxvii). And it is such an unbroken wholeness which gives the sense of individual reality. When we turn from mere ideas to sensation, we experience in the ‘this’ a revelation of freshness and life. And that revelation, if misleading, is never quite untrue.1

We may, for the present, take ‘this’ as the positive feeling of direct experience. In that sense it will be either general or special. It will be the character which we feel always, or again in union with some particular content. And we have to ask if, so understood, the ‘this’ is incompatible with our Absolute.

The question, thus asked, seems to call for but little discussion. Since for us the Absolute is a whole, the sense of immediate reality, we must suppose, may certainly qualify it. And, again, I find no difficulty when we pass to the special meaning of ‘this’. With every presentation, with each chance mixture of psychical elements, we have the feeling of one particular datum. We have the felt existence of a peculiar sensible whole. And here we find beyond question a positive content, and a fresh element which has to be included within our Absolute. But in such a content there is, so far, nothing which could repel or exclude. There is no feature there which could resist embracement and absorption by the whole.

|200| The fact of actual fragmentariness, I admit, we cannot explain. That experience should take place in finite centres, and should wear the form of finite ‘thisness’, is in the end inexplicable (Chapter xxvi). But to be inexplicable, and to be incompatible, are not the same thing. And in such fragmentariness, viewed as positive, I see no objection to our view. The plurality of presentations is a fact, and it, therefore, makes a difference to our Absolute. It exists in, and it, therefore, must qualify the whole. And the universe is richer, we may be sure, for all dividedness and variety. Certainly in detail we do not know how the separation is overcome, and we cannot point to the product which is gained, in each case, by that resolution. But our ignorance here is no ground for rational opposition. Our principle assures us that the Absolute is superior to partition, and in some way is perfected by it. And we have found, as yet, no reason even to doubt if this result is possible. We have discovered, as yet, nothing which seems able from any side to stand out. There is no element such as could hesitate to blend with the rest and to be dissolved in a higher unity.

If the whole could be an arrangement of mere ideas, if it were a system barely intellectual, the case would be altered. We might combine such ideas, it would not matter how ingeniously; but we could not frame, and we should not possess, a product containing what we feel to be imparted directly by the ‘this’. I admit that inability, and I urge it, as yet another confirmation and support of our doctrine. For our Absolute was not a mere intellectual system. It was an experience overriding every species of one-sidedness, and throughout it was at once intuition and feeling and will. But, if so, the opposition of the ‘this’ becomes at once unmeaning. For feelings, each possessing a nature of its own, may surely come together, and be fused in the Absolute. And, so far is such a resolution from appearing impossible, that I confess to me it seems most natural and easy. That partial experiences should run together, and should unite their deliverances to produce one richer whole — is there anything here incredible? It |201| would indeed be strange if bare positive feelings proved recalcitrant and solid, and stood out against absorption. For their nature clearly is otherwise, and they must be blended in the one experience of the Absolute. This consummation evidently is real, because on our principle it is necessary, and because again we have no reason to doubt that it is possible. And with so much, we may pass from the positive aspect of the ‘this’.

For the ‘this’ and ‘mine’, it is clear, are taken also as negative. They are set up as in some way opposed to the Absolute, and they are considered, in some sense, to own an exclusive character. And that their character, in part, is exclusive cannot be denied; but the question is in what sense, and how far, they possess it. For, if the repulsion is relative and holds merely within the one whole, it is compatible at once with our view of the universe.

An immediate experience, viewed as positive, is so far not exclusive. It is, so far, what it is, and it does not repel anything. But the ‘this’ certainly is used also with a negative bearing. It may mean ‘this one’, in distinction from that one and the other one. And here it shows obviously an exclusive aspect, and it implies an external and negative relation. But every such relation, we have found, is inconsistent with itself (Chapter iii). For it exists within, and by virtue of an embracing unity, and apart from that totality both itself and its terms would be nothing. And the relation also must penetrate the inner being of its terms. ‘This’, in other words, would not exclude ‘that’, unless in the exclusion "this," so far, passed out of itself. Its repulsion of others is thus incompatible with self-contained singleness, and involves subordination to an including whole. But to the ultimate whole nothing can be opposed, or even related.

And the self-transcendent character of the "this" is, on all sides, open and plain. Appearing as immediate, it, on the other side, has contents which are not consistent with themselves, and which refer themselves beyond. Hence the inner nature of the ‘this’ leads it to pass outside itself |202| towards a higher totality. And its negative aspect is but one appearance of this general tendency. Its very exclusiveness involves the reference of itself beyond itself, and is but a proof of its necessary absorption in the Absolute.2

And if the ‘this’ is asserted to be all-exclusive because it is ‘unique’, the discussion of that point need not long detain us. The term may imply that nothing else but the ‘this-mine’ is real, and, in that case, the question has been deferred to Chapter xxi. And, if ‘unique’ means that what is felt once can never be felt again, such an assertion, taken broadly, seems even untrue. For if feelings, the same in character, do in fact not recur, we at least hardly can deny that their recurrence is possible. The ‘this’ is unique really so far as it is a member in a series, and so far as that series is taken as distinct from all others.3 And only in this sense can we call its recurrence impossible. But here with uniqueness once more we have negative relations, and these relations involve an inclusive unity. Uniqueness, in this sense, does not resist assimilation by the Absolute. It is, on the other hand, itself incompatible with exclusive singleness.

Into the nature of self-will I shall at present not enter. This is opposition attempted by a finite subject against its proper whole. And we may see at once that such discord and negation can subserve unity, and can contribute towards the perfection of the universe. It is connection with the central fire which produces in the element this burning sense of selfness. And the collision is resolved within that harmony where centre and circumference are one. But I shall return in another place to the discussion of this matter (Chapter xxv).

|203| We have found that the ‘this’, taken as exclusive, proclaims itself relative, and in that relation forfeits its independence. And we have seen that, as positive, the ‘this’ is not exclusive at all. The ‘this’ is inconsistent always, but, so far as it excludes, so far already has it begun internally to suffer dissipation. We may now, with advantage perhaps, view the matter in a somewhat different way. There is, I think, a vague notion that some content sticks irremovably within the ‘this’, or that in the ‘this’, again, there is something which is not content at all. In either case an element is offered, which, it is alleged, cannot be absorbed by the Whole. And an examination of these prejudices may throw some light on our general view.

In the ‘this’, it may appear first, there is something more than content. For by combining qualities indefinitely we seem unable to arrive at the ‘this’. The same difficulty may be stated perhaps in a way which points to its solution. The ‘this’ on one hand, we may say, is nothing at all beside content, and, on the other hand, the ‘this’ is not content at all. For in the term ‘content’ there lies an ambiguity. It may mean a ‘what’ that is, or again, is not, distinct from its ‘that’. And the ‘this’, we have already seen, has inconsistent aspects. It offers, from one aspect, an immediate undivided experience, a whole in which ‘that’ and ‘what"’ are felt as one. And here content, as implying distinction, will be absent from the ‘this’. But such an undivided feeling, we have also seen, is a positive experience. It does not even attempt to resist assimilation by our Absolute.

If, on the other hand, we use content generally, and if we employ it in the sense of ‘what’ without distinction from ‘that’ — if we take it to mean something which is experienced, and which is nothing but experience — then, most emphatically, the ‘this’ is not anything but content. For there is nothing in it or about it which can be more than experience. And in it there is further no feature which cannot be made a quality. Its various aspects can all be separated by distinction and analysis, and, one after another, can thus be brought forward as ideal predicates. |204| This assertion holds of that immediate sense of a special reality, which we found above in the character of each felt complex. There is, in brief, no fragment of the ‘this’ such that it cannot form the object of a distinction. And hence the ‘this’, in the first place, is mere experience throughout; and, in the second place, throughout it may be called intelligible. It owns no aspect which refuses to become a quality, and in its turn to play the part of an ideal predicate.4

But it is easy here to deceive ourselves and to fall into error. For taking a given whole, or more probably selecting one portion, we begin to distinguish and to break up its confused coexistence. And, having thus possessed ourselves of definite contents and of qualities in relation, we call on our ‘this’ to identify itself with our discrete product. And, on the refusal of the ‘this’, we charge it with stubborn exclusiveness. It is held to possess either in its nature a repellent content, or something else, at all events, which is intractable. But the whole conclusion is fallacious. For, if we have not mutilated our subject, we have at least added a feature which originally was not there — a feature, which, if introduced, must of necessity burst the ‘this’, and destroy it from within. The ‘this’, we have seen, is a unity below relations and ideas; and a unity, able to develop and to harmonize all distinctions, is not found till we arrive at ultimate Reality. Hence the ‘this’ repels our offered predicates, not because its nature goes beyond, but rather because that nature comes short. It is not more, we may say, but less than our distinctions.

And to our mistake in principle we add probably an error in practice. For we have failed probably to exhaust the full deliverance of our ‘this’, and the residue, left there by our mere failure, is then assumed blindly to stand out as an irreducible aspect. For, if we have confined our ‘this’ to but one portion of the felt totality, we have omitted from our analysis, perhaps, the positive aspect of its special unity. But our analysis, if so, is evidently incomplete and misleading. And then, perhaps again, |205| qualifying our limited ‘this’ by exclusive relations, we do not see that in these we have added a factor to its original content. And what we have added, and have also overlooked, is then charged to the native repellence of the ‘this’. But if again, on the other hand, our ‘this’ is not taken as limited, if it is to be the entire complex of one present, viewed without relation even to its own future and past — other errors await us. For the detail here is so great that complete exhaustion is hardly possible. And so, setting down as performed that which is in fact impracticable, we once more stumble against a residue which is due wholly to our weakness. And we are helped, perhaps, further into mistake by another source of fallacy. We may confuse the feeling which we study with the feeling which we are. Attempting, so far as we can, to make an object of some (past) psychical whole, we may unawares seek there every feature which we now are and feel. And we may attribute our ill success to the positive obstinacy of the resisting object.5

The total subject of all predicates, which we feel in the background, can be exhausted, we may say in general, by no predicate or predicates. For the subject holds all in one, while predication involves severance, and so inflicts on its subject a partial loss of unity. And hence neither ultimate Reality, nor any ‘this,’ can consist of qualities. That is one side of the truth, but the truth also has another side. Reality owns no feature or aspect which cannot in its turn be distinguished, none which cannot in this way become a mere adjective and predicate. The same conclusion holds of the "this," in whatever sense you take it. There is nothing there which could form an intractable crudity, nothing which can refuse to qualify and to be merged in the ultimate Reality.

|206| We have found that, in a sense, the ‘this’ is not, and does not own, content. But, in another sense, we have seen that it contains, and is, nothing else. We may now pass to the examination of a second prejudice. Is there any content which is owned by and sticks in the ‘this’, and which thus remains outstanding, and declines union with a higher system? We have perceived, on the contrary, that by its essence the ‘this’ is self-transcendent But it may repay us once more to dwell and to enlarge on this topic. And I shall not hesitate in part to repeat results which we have gained already.

If we are asked what content is appropriated by the ‘this’, we may reply that there is none. There is no inalienable content which belongs to the ‘this’ or the ‘mine’. My immediate feeling, when I say ‘this’, has a complex character, and it presents a confused detail which, we have seen, is content But it has no ‘what’ which belongs to it as a separate possession. It has no feature identified with its own private exclusivity. That is first a negative relation which, in principle, must qualify the internal from outside. And in practice we find that each element contained can refer itself elsewhere. Each tends naturally towards a wider whole outside of the ‘this’. Its content, we may say, has no rest till it has wandered to a home elsewhere. The mere ‘this’ can appropriate nothing.

The ‘this’ appears to retain content solely through our failure. I may express this otherwise by calling it the region of chance; for chance is something given and for us not yet comprehended.6 So far as any element falls outside of some ideal whole, then, in relation with that whole, this element is chance. Contingent matter is matter regarded as that which, as yet, we cannot connect and include. It has not been taken up, as we know that it must be, within some ideal whole or system. Thus, one and the same matter both is, and is not, contingent. It is chance for one system or end, while in relation with another it is necessary. All chance is relative; and the |207| content which falls in the mere ‘this’ is relative chance. So far as it remains there, that is through our failure to refer it elsewhere. It is merely ‘this’ so far as it is not yet comprehended; and, so far as it is taken as a feature in any whole beyond itself, it has to change its character. It is, in that respect at least, forthwith not of the ‘this’, but only in it, and appearing there. And such appearance, of course, is not always presentation to outer sense. All that in any way we experience, we must experience within one moment of presentation. However ideal anything may be, it still must appear in a ‘now’. And everything present there, so far as in any respect it is not subordinated to an ideal whole — no matter what that whole is — in relation to that defect is but part of the given. It may be as ideal otherwise as you please, but to that extent it fails to pass beyond immediate fact. Such an element so far is still immersed in the ‘now’, ‘mine’, and ‘this’. It remains there, but, as we have seen, it is not owned and appropriated. It lingers, we may say, precariously and provisionally.

But at this point we may seem to have encountered an obstacle. For in the given fact there is always a coexistence of elements; and with this coexistence we may seem to ascribe positive content to the ‘this’. Property, we asserted, was lacking to it, and that assertion now seems questionable. For coexistence supplies us with actual knowledge, and none the less it seems given in the content of the ‘this’. The objection, however, would rest on misunderstanding. It is positive knowledge when I judge that in a certain space or time certain features coexist. But such knowledge, on the other hand, is never the content of the mere ‘this’. It is already a synthesis, imperfect no doubt, but still plainly ideal. And, at the cost of repetition, I will point this out briefly.

(a) The place or time, first, may be characterised by inclusion within a series. We may mean that, in some sense, the place or time is ‘this one’, and not another. But, if so, we have forthwith transcended the given. We are using a character which implies inclusion of an element within a whole, with a reference beyond itself to other |208| like elements. And this of course goes far beyond immediate experience. To suppose that position in a series can belong to the mere ‘this’, is a misunderstanding.7

(b) And more probably the objection had something else in view. It was not conjunction in one moment, as distinct from another moment, which it urged was positive and yet belonged to the ‘this’. It meant mere coincidence within some ‘here’ or some ‘now’, a co-presentation immediately given without regard to any ‘there’ or ‘then’. Such a bare conjunction seems to be something possessed by the "this," and yet offering on the other side a positive character. But again, and in this form, the objection would rest on a mistake.

The bare coincidence of the content, if you take it as merely given within a presentation, and if you consider it entirely without any further reference beyond, is not a coexistence of elements. I do not mean, of course, that a whole of feeling is not positive at all. I mean that, as soon as you have made assertions about what it contains, as soon as you have begun to treat its content as content, you have transcended its felt unity. For consider a ‘here’ or ‘now’, and observe anything of what is in it, and you have instantly acquired an ideal synthesis (Chapter xv). You have a relation which, however impure, is at once set free from time. You have gained an universal which, so far as it goes, is true always, and not merely at the present moment; and this universal is forthwith used to qualify reality beyond that moment. And thus the coexistence of a and b, we may say, does not belong to the mere ‘this’, but it is ideal, and appears there. Within mere feeling it has doubtless a positive character, but, excluding distinctions, it is not, in one sense, coincidence at all. In observing, we are compelled to observe in the form of relations. But these internal relations properly do not belong to the ‘this’ itself. For its character does not admit of separation and distinction. Hence, to distinguish elements within this whole, and to predicate a relation of coexistence, is self-contradictory. Our operation, in its |209| result, has destroyed what it acted on; and the product which has come out, was, as such, never there. Thus, in claiming to own a relation of coexistence and a distinction of content, the mere ‘this’ commits suicide.

From another point of view, doubtless, the observed is a mere coincidence, when compared, that is, with a purer way of understanding. The relation is true, subject to the condition of a confused context, which is not comprehended. And hence the connection observed is, to this extent, bare conjunction and mere coexistence. Or it is chance, when you measure it by a higher necessity. It is a truth conditioned by our ignorance, and so contingent and belonging to the ‘this’. But, upon the other side, we have seen that the ‘this’ can hold nothing. As soon as a relation is made out, that is universal knowledge, and has at once transcended presentation. For within the merely ‘this’ no relation, taken as such, is possible. The content, if you distinguish it, is to that extent set free from felt unity. And there is no ‘what’ which essentially adheres to the bare moment. So far as any element remains involved in the confusion of feeling, that is but due to our defect and ignorance. Hence, to repeat, the ‘this’, considered as mere feeling, is certainly positive. As the absence of universal relations, the ‘this’ again is negative. But, as an attempt to make and to retain distinctions of content, the ‘this’ is suicidal.

It is so too with the ‘mere mine’. We hear in discussions on morality, or logic, or aesthetics, that a certain detail is ‘subjective’, and hence irrelevant. Such a detail, in other words, belongs to the ‘mere mine’. And a mistake may be made, and we may imagine that there is matter which, in itself, is contingent.8 It may be supposed that an element, such perhaps as pleasure, is a fixed part of something called the ‘this-me’. But there is no content which, as such, can belong to the ‘mine’. The ‘mine’ is my existence taken as immediate fact, as an integral whole of psychical elements which simply are. It is my content, so far as not |210| freed from the feeling moment. And it is merely my content, because it is not subordinate to this or that ideal whole. If I regard a mental fact, say, from the side of its morality, then whatever is, here and now, not relevant to this purpose, becomes bare existence. It is something which is not the appearance of the ideal matter in hand. And yet, because it exists somehow, it exists as a fact in the mere ‘mine’. The same thing happens also, of course, with aesthetics, or science, or religion. The same detail which, in one respect, was essential and necessary, may, from another point of view, become immaterial. And then at once, so far, it falls back into the merely felt or given. It exists, but, for the end we are regarding, it is nothing.

This is still more evident, perhaps, from the side of psychology. No particle of my existence, on the one hand, falls outside that science; and yet, on the other hand, for psychology the mere ‘mine’ remains. When I study my events so as to trace a particular connection, no matter of what kind, then at any moment the psychical ‘given’ contains features which are irrelevant. They have no bearing on the point which I am endeavouring to make good. Hence, the fact of their coexistence is contingent, and it is by chance that they accompany what is essential. They exist, in other words, for my present aim, in that self which is merely given, and which is not transcended. On the other hand, obviously, these same particulars are essential and necessary, since (at the least) somehow they are links in the causal sequence of my history. Every particular in the same way has some end beyond the moment. Each can be referred to an ideal whole whose appearance it is; and nothing whatever is left to belong merely to the ‘this-mine’. The simplest observation of what coexists removes it from that region, and chance has no positive content, except in relation to our failure and ignorance.

And any psychology, which is not blind or else biased by false doctrine, forces on our notice this alienation of content. Our whole mental life moves by a transcendence |211| of the ‘this’, by sheer disregard of its claim to possess any property. The looseness of some feature of the ‘what’ from its fusion with the ‘that’ — its self-reference to, and its operation on, something beyond — if you leave out this, you have lost the mainspring of psychical movement But this is the ideality of the given, its non-possession of that character with which it appears, but which only appears in it. And Association — who could use it as mere coexistence within the ‘this’? But, if anything more, it is at once the union of the ideal, the synthesis of the eternal. Thus, the ‘mine’ has no detail which is not the property of connections beyond. The merest coincidence, when you observe it, is a distinction which couples universal ideas. And, in brief, the ‘mine’ has no content except that which is left there by our impotence. Its character in this respect is, in other words, merely negative.

Hence, to urge such a character against our Absolute would be unmeaning. It would be to turn our ignorance of system into a positive objection, to make our failure a ground for the denial of possibility. We have no basis on which to doubt that all content comes together harmoniously in the Absolute. We have no reason to think that any feature adheres to the ‘this’, and is unable to transcend it. What is true is that, for us, the incomplete diversity of various systems, the perplexing references of each same feature to many ideal wholes, and again that positive special feeling, which we have dealt with above — all this detail is not made one in any way which we can verify. That it all is reconciled we know, but how, in particular, is hid from us. But because this result must be, and because there is nothing against it, we believe that it is.

We have seen that in the ‘this’, on one side, there is no element but content, and we have found that no content, on the other side, is the possession of the ‘this’. There is none that sticks within its precincts, but all tends to refer itself beyond. What remains there is chance, if chance is used in the sense of our sheer ignorance. It is not opposition, |212| but blank failure in regard to the claim of an idea.9 And opposition and exclusiveness, in any sense, must transcend the bare ‘this’. For their essence always implies relation to a something beyond self; and that relation makes an end of all attempt at solid singleness. Thus, if chance is taken as involving an actual relation to an idea, the ‘this’ already has, so far, transcended itself. The refusal of something given to connect itself with an idea is a positive fact. But that refusal, as a relation, is evidently not included and contained in the ‘this’. On the other hand, entering into that relation, the internal content has, so far, set itself free. It has already transcended the ‘this’ and become universal. And the exclusiveness of the ‘this’ everywhere in the same way proves self-contradictory.

And we had agreed before that the mere ‘this’ in a sense is positive. It has a felt self-affirmation peculiar and especial, and into the nature of that positive being we entered at length. But we found no reason why such feelings, considered in any feature or aspect, should persist self-centred and aloof. It seemed possible, to say the least, that they all might blend with one another, and be merged in the experience of the one Reality. And with that possibility, given on all sides, we arrive at our conclusion. The ‘this’ and ‘mine"’ are now absorbed as elements within our Absolute. For their resolution must be, and it may be, and so certainly it is.


1^ It is mere thoughtlessness that finds in Resistance the one manifestation of reality. For resistance, in the first place, is full of unsolved contradictions, and is also fixed and consists in that very character. And in the second place, what experience can come as more actual than sensuous pain or pleasure?

2^ The above conclusion applies emphatically to the ‘this’ as signifying the point in which I am said to encounter reality. All contact necessarily implies a unity, in and through which it takes place, and my self and the reality are, here, but partial appearances. And the ‘mine’ never, we may say, could strike me as ‘not-mine’, unless, precisely so far as it does so, it is a mere factor in my experience. I have spoken above on the true meaning of that sense of reality which is given by the ‘this’.

3^ On this point compare Principles of Logic, Chapter ii.

4^ Compare here p. 175, and Principles of Logic, chapter ii.

5^ Success here is impossible because, apart from the difficulty of analysis and exhaustion, our present observing attitude forms a new and incompatible feature. It is an element in our state now, which (ex hypothesi) was absent from our state then. In this connection I may remark that to observe a feeling is, to some extent, always to alter it. For the purpose in hand that alteration may not be material, but it will in all cases be there. I have touched on this subject in Principles of Logic, p. 65, note.

6^ For a further discussion of the meaning of Chance see Chapter xxiv.

7^ See above, and compare also Chapter xxi.

8^ Or again, having no clear ideas, we may try to help ourselves with such phrases as ‘the individuality of the individuals’.

9^ Chance, in this sense of mere unperceived failure and privation, can hardly, except by a license, be called chance. It cannot, at all events, be taken as qualifying the ‘this.’

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Chapter XX. Recapitulation

|213-217| Result so far, 213-14. Individuality and Perfection, are they merely negative? 214-16. Perfection and quantity, 216-17. There is but one perfect being, 217.

It may be well at this point perhaps to look back on the ground which we have traversed. In our First Book we examined some ways of regarding reality, and we found that each of them contained fatal inconsistency. Upon this we forthwith denied that, as such, they could be real. But upon reflection we perceived that our denial must rest upon positive knowledge. It can only be because we know, that we venture to condemn. Reality therefore, we are sure, has a positive character, which rejects mere appearance and is incompatible with discord. On the other hand it cannot be a something apart, a position qualified in no way save as negative of phenomena. For that leaves phenomena still contradictory, while it contains in its essence the contradiction of a something which actually is nothing. The Reality, therefore, must be One, not as excluding diversity, but as somehow including it in such a way as to transform its character. There is plainly not anything which can fall outside of the Real. That must be qualified by every part of every predicate which it rejects; but it has such qualities as counterbalance one another’s failings. It has a superabundance in which all partial discrepancies are resolved and remain as higher concord.

And we found that this Absolute is experience, because that is really what we mean when we predicate or speak of anything. It is not one-sided experience, as mere volition or mere thought; but it is a whole superior to and embracing all incomplete forms of life. This whole must be immediate like feeling, but not, like feeling, immediate at a level below distinction and relation. The Absolute is immediate as holding and transcending these differences. And because it cannot contradict itself, and does not suffer a division of idea from existence, it has therefore a balance of pleasure over pain. In every sense it is perfect.

Then we went on to enquire if various forms of the |214| finite would take a place within this Absolute. We insisted that nothing can be lost, and yet that everything must be made good, so as to minister to harmony. And we laid stress on the fact that the how was inexplicable. To perceive the solution in detail is not possible for our knowledge. But, on the other hand, we urged that such an explanation is not necessary. We have a general principle which seems certain. The only question is whether any form of the finite is a negative instance which serves to overthrow this principle. Is there anything which tends to show that our Absolute is not possible? And, so far as we have gone, we have discovered as yet nothing. We have at present not any right to a doubt about the Absolute. We have got no shred of reason for denying that it is possible. But, if it is possible, that is all we need seek for. For already we have a principle upon which it is necessary; and therefore it is certain.

In the following chapters I shall still pursue the same line of argument. I shall enquire if there is anything which declines to take its place within the system of our universe. And, if there is nothing that is found to stand out and to conflict, or to import discord when admitted, our conclusion will be attained. But I will first add a few remarks on the ideas of Individuality and Perfection.

We have seen that these characters imply a negation of the discordant and discrepant, and a doubt, perhaps, may have arisen about their positive aspect. Are they positive at all? When we predicate them, do we assert or do we only deny? Can it be maintained that these ideas are negative simply? It might be urged against us that reality means barely non-appearance, and that unity is the naked denial of plurality. And in the same way individuality might be taken as the barren absence of discord and of dissipation. Perfection, again, would but deny that we are compelled to go further, or might signify merely the failure of unrest and of pain. Such a doubt has received, I think, a solution beforehand, but I will point out once more its cardinal mistake.

|215| In the first place a mere negation is unmeaning (p. 121-2). To deny, except from a basis of positive assumption, is quite impossible. And a bare negative idea, if we could have it, would be a relation without a term. Hence, some positive basis must underlie these negations which we have mentioned. And, in the second place, we must remember that what is denied is, none the less, somehow predicated of our Absolute. It is indeed because of this that we have called it individual and perfect.

1. It is, first, plain that at least the idea of affirmative being supports the denial of discrepancy and unrest. Being, if we use the term in a restricted sense, is not positively definable. It will be the same as the most general sense of experience. It is different from reality, if that, again, is strictly used. Reality (proper) implies a foregone distinction of content from existence, a separation which is overcome. Being (proper), on the other hand, is immediate, and at a level below distinctions;1 though I have not thought it necessary always to employ these terms in a confined meaning. However, in its general sense of experience, being underlies the ideas of individuality and perfection. And these, at least so far, must be positive.

2. And, in the second place, each of them is positively determined by what it excludes. The aspect of diversity belongs to the essence of the individual, and is affirmatively contained in it. The unity excludes what is diverse, so far only as that attempts to be anything by itself, and to maintain isolation. And the individual is the return of this apparent opposite with all its wealth into a richer whole. How in detail this is accomplished I repeat that we do not know; but we are capable, notwithstanding, of forming the idea of such a positive union (Chapters xiv and xxvii). Feeling supplies us with a low and imperfect example of an immediate whole. And, taking this together with the idea of qualification by the rejected, and together with the idea of unknown qualities which come in to help |216| — we arrive at individuality. And, though depending on negation, such a synthesis is positive.

And, in a different way, the same account is valid of the Perfect. That does not mean a being which, in regard to unrest and painful struggle, is a simple blank. It means the identity of idea and existence, attended also by pleasure. Now, so far as pleasure goes, that certainly is not negative. But pleasure is far from being the only positive element in perfection. The unrest and striving, the opposition of fact to idea, and the movement towards an end — these features are not left outside of that Whole which is consummate. For all the content, which the struggle has generated, is brought home and is laid to rest undiminished in the perfect. The idea of a being qualified somehow, without any alienation of its ‘what’ from its ‘that’ — a being at the same time fully possessed of all hostile distinctions, and the richer for their strife — this is a positive idea. And it can be realized in its outline, though certainly not in detail.

I will advert in conclusion to an objection drawn from a common mistake. Quantity is often introduced into the idea of perfection. For the perfect seems to be that beyond which we cannot go, and this tends naturally to take the form of an infinite number. But, since any real number must be finite, we are at once involved here in a hopeless contradiction. And I think it necessary to say no more on this evident illusion; but will pass on to the objection which may be urged against our view of the perfect. If the perfect is the concordant, then no growth of its area or increase of its pleasantness could make it more complete. We thus, apparently, might have the smallest being as perfect as the largest; and this seems paradoxical. But the paradox really, I should say, exists only through misunderstanding. For we are accustomed to beings whose nature is always and essentially defective. And so we suppose in our smaller perfect a condition of want, or at least of defect; and this condition is diminished by alteration in quantity. But, where a being is really perfect, our |217| supposition would be absurd. Or, again, we imagine first a creature complete in itself, and by the side of it we place a larger completion. Then unconsciously we take the greater to be, in some way, apprehended by the smaller; and, with this, naturally the lesser being becomes by contrast defective. But what we fail to observe is that such a being can no longer be perfect. For an idea which is not fact has been placed by us within it; and that idea at once involves a collision of elements, and by consequence also a loss of perfection. And thus a paradox has been made by our misunderstanding. We assumed completion, and then surreptitiously added a condition which destroyed it. And this, so far, was a mere error.

But the error may direct our attention to a truth. It leads us to ask if two perfections, great and small, can possibly exist side by side. And we must answer in the negative. If we take perfection in its full sense, we cannot suppose two such perfect existences. And this is not because one surpasses the other in size; for that is wholly irrelevant. It is because finite existence and perfection are incompatible. A being, short of the Whole, but existing within it, is essentially related to that which is not-itself. Its inmost being is, and must be, infected by the external. Within its content there are relations which do not terminate inside. And it is clear at once that, in such a case, the ideal and the real can never be at one. But their disunion is precisely what we mean by imperfection. And thus incompleteness, and unrest, and unsatisfied ideality, are the lot of the finite. There is nothing which, to speak properly, is individual or perfect, except only the Absolute.


1^ Compare here p. 225, and for the stricter meaning of some other phrases see p. 317.

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Chapter XXI. Solipsism

|218-30| Problem stated, 218. The Experience appealed to is Direct or Indirect, 219. Direct Experience does not give my self as sole substantive, 219-21. But can we transcend direct experience at all? Or is the this-mine "unique"? No, not in sense of ‘exclusive,’ and we are forced to go beyond, 221-24. Then, if so, can we stop at our past and future self, or must we conclude also to other souls? 224-25. Neither can be demonstrated, but both depend on the same argument, 255-28. Nor would unreality of other selves prove Solipsism, 228. Everything is, and also is not, my experience, 228-29. Truths contained in Solipsism, 229-30.

Note 21

In our First Book we examined various ways of taking facts, and we found that they all gave no more than appearance. In the present Book we have been engaged with the nature of Reality. We have been attempting, so far, to form a general idea of its character, and to defend it against more or less plausible objections. Through the remainder of our work we must pursue the same task. We must endeavour to perceive how the main aspects of the world are all able to take a place within our Absolute. And, if we find that none refuses to accept a position there, we may consider our result secure against attack. I will now enter on the question which gives its title to this chapter.

“Solipsism, in philosophy, an extreme form of subjective idealism that denies that the human mind has any valid ground for believing in the existence of anything but itself. The British idealist F.H. Bradley, in Appearance and Reality (1893), characterized the solipsistic view as follows: ‘I cannot transcend experience, and experience must be my experience. From this it follows that nothing beyond my self exists; for what is experience is its [the self’s] states’. Presented as a solution of the problem of explaining human knowledge of the external world, it is generally regarded as a reductio ad absurdum.” – Encyclopedia Britannica

Have we any reason to believe in the existence of anything beyond our private selves? Have we the smallest right to such a belief, and is it more than literally a self-delusion? We, I think, may fairly say that some metaphysicians have shown unwillingness to look this problem in the face. And yet it cannot be avoided. Since we all believe in a world beyond us, and are not prepared to give this up, it would be a scandal if that were something which upon our theory was illusive. Any view which will not explain, and also justify, an attitude essential to human nature, must surely be condemned. But we shall soon see, upon the other hand, how the supposed difficulties of the question have been created by false doctrine. Upon our general theory they lose their foundation and vanish.

The argument in favour of Solipsism, put most simply, is as follows. ‘I cannot transcend experience, and experience must be my experience. From this it follows that nothing beyond my self exists; for what is experience is its states’.

The argument derives its strength, in part, from false theory, but to a greater extent perhaps from thoughtless obscurity. I will begin by pointing out the ambiguity |219| which lends some colour to this appeal to experience. Experience may mean experience only direct, or indirect also. Direct experience I understand to be confined to the given simply, to the merely felt or presented. But indirect experience includes all fact that is constructed from the basis of the ‘this’ and the ‘mine’. It is all that is taken to exist beyond the felt moment. This is a distinction the fatal result of which Solipsism has hardly realized; for upon neither interpretation of experience can its argument be defended.

I. Let us first suppose that the experience, to which it appeals, is direct. Then, we saw in our ninth chapter, the mere ‘given’ fails doubly to support that appeal. It supplies, on the one hand, not enough, and, on the other hand, too much. It offers us a not-self with the self, and so ruins Solipsism by that excess. But, upon the other side, it does not supply us with any self at all, if we mean by self a substantive the possessor of an object or even its own states. And Solipsism is, on this side, destroyed by defect. But, before I develop this, I will state an objection which by itself might suffice.

My self, as an existence to which phenomena belong as its adjectives, is supposed to be given by a direct experience. But this gift plainly is an illusion. Such an experience can supply us with no reality beyond that of the moment. There is no faculty which can deliver the immediate revelation of a self beyond the present (Chapter x). And so, if Solipsism finds its one real thing in experience, that thing is confined to the limits of the mere ‘this’. But with such a reflection we have already, so far, destroyed Solipsism as positive, and as anything more than a sufficient reason for total scepticism. Let us pass from this objection to other points.

Direct experience is unable to transcend the mere ‘this’. But even in what that gives we are, even so far, not supplied with the self upon which Solipsism is founded. We have always instead either too much or too little. For the distinction and separation of subject and object is not original at all, and is, in that sense, not a datum. And hence |220| the self cannot, without qualification, be said to be given (ibid.). I will but mention this point, and will go on to another. Whatever we may think generally of our original mode of feeling, we have now verifiably some states in which there is no reference to a subject at all (ibid.). And if such feelings are the mere adjectives of a subject-reality, that character must be inferred, and is certainly not given. But it is not necessary to take our stand on this disputable ground. Let us admit that the distinction of object and subject is directly presented — and we have still hardly made a step in the direction of Solipsism. For the subject and the object will now appear in correlation; they will be either two aspects of one fact, or (if you prefer it) two things with a relation between them. And it hardly follows straight from this that only one of these two things is real, and that all the rest of the given total is merely its attribute. That is the result of reflection and of inference, a process which first sets up one half of the fact as absolute, and then turns the other half into an adjective of this fragment And whether the half is object or is subject, and whether we are led to Materialism, or to what is called sometimes {subjective} ‘Idealism’, the process essentially is the same. It equally consists, in each case, in a vicious inference. And the result is emphatically not something which experience presents. I will, in conclusion, perhaps needlessly, remark on another point. We found (Chapter ix) that there prevailed great confusion as to the boundaries of self and not-self. There seemed to be features not exclusively assignable to either. And, if this is so, surely that is one more reason for rejecting an experience such as Solipsism would suppose. If the self is given as a reality, with all else as its adjectives, we can hardly then account for the supervening uncertainty about its limits, and explain our constant hesitation between too little and too much.

What we have seen so far is briefly this. We have no direct experience of reality as my self with its states. If we are to arrive at that conclusion, we must do so indirectly and through a process of inference. Experience |221| gives the ‘this-mine’. It gives neither the ‘mine’ as an adjective of the "this," nor the "this" as dependent on and belonging to the ‘mine’. Even if it did so for the moment, that would still not be enough as a support for Solipsism. But experience supplies the character required, not even as existing within one presentation, and, if not thus, then much less so as existing beyond. And the position, in which we now stand, may be stated as follows. If Solipsism is to be proved, it must transcend direct experience. Let us then ask, (a) first, if transcendence of this kind is possible, and, (b) next, if it is able to give assistance to Solipsism. The conclusion, which we shall reach, may be stated at once. It is both possible and necessary to transcend what is given. But this same transcendence at once carries us into the universe at large. Our private self is not a resting-place which logic can justify.

II. (a) We are to enquire, first, if it is possible to remain within the limits of direct experience. Now it would not be easy to point out what is given to us immediately. It would be hard to show what is not imported into the ‘this’, or, at least, modified there by transcendence. To fix with regard to the past the precise limit of presentation, might at times be very difficult. And to discount within the present the result of ideal processes would, at least often, be impossible. But I do not desire to base any objection on this ground. I am content here to admit the distinction between direct and indirect experience. And the question is whether reality can go beyond the former? Has a man a right to say that something exists, beside that which at this moment he actually feels? And is it possible, on the other side, to identify reality with the immediate present?

This identification, we have seen, is impossible; and the attempt to remain within the boundary of the mere ‘this’ is hopeless. The self-discrepancy of the content, and its continuity with a ‘what’ beyond its own limits, at once settle the question. We need not fall back for conviction upon the hard shock of change. The whole movement of the mind implies disengagement from the mere ‘this’; and |222| to assert the content of the latter as reality at once involves us in contradictions. But it would not be profitable further to dwell on this point. To remain within the presented is neither defensible nor possible. We are compelled alike by necessity and by logic to transcend it (Chapters xv and xix).

But, before proceeding to ask whither this transcendence must take us, I will deal with a question we noticed before (Chapter xix). An objection may be based on the uniqueness of the felt; and it may be urged that the reality which appears in the ‘this-mine’ is unique and exclusive. Whatever, therefore, its predicates may seem to demand, it is not possible to extend the boundaries of the subject. That will, in short, stick hopelessly forever within the confines of the presented. Let us examine this contention.

It will be more convenient, in the first place, to dismiss the word ‘unique’. For that seems (as we saw) to introduce the idea of existence in a series, together with a negative relation towards other elements. And, if such a relation is placed within the essence of the ‘this’, then the ‘this’ has become part of a larger unity.

The objection may be stated better thus.1 ‘All reality must fall within the limits of the given. For, however much the content may desire to go beyond, yet, when you come to make that content a predicate of the real, you are forced back to the ‘this-mine’, or the ‘now-felt’, for your subject. Reality appears to lie solely in what is presented, and seems not discoverable elsewhere. But the presented, on the other hand, must be the felt ‘this’. And other cases of ‘this’, if you mean to take them as real, seem also to fall within the ‘now-mine’. If they are not indirect predicates of that, and so extend it adjectivally, then they directly will fall within its datum. But, if so, they themselves become distinctions and features there. Hence we have the ‘this-mine’ as before, but with an increase of special internal particulars. And so we still remain within the confines of one presentation, and to have two at once seems impossible’.

|223| Now in answer, I admit that, to find reality, we must betake ourselves to feeling. It is the real, which there appears, which is the subject of all predicates. And to make our way to another fact, quite outside of and away from the ‘this’ which is ‘mine’, seems out of the question. But, while admitting so much, I reject the further consequence. I deny that the felt reality is shut up and confined within my feeling. For the latter may, by addition, be extended beyond its own proper limits. It may remain positively itself, and yet be absorbed in what is larger. Just as in change we have a ‘now’, which contains also a ‘then’; just as, again, in what is mine there may be diverse features, so, from the opposite side, it may be with my direct experience. There is no opposition between that and a wider whole of presentation. The ‘mine’ does not exclude inclusion in a fuller totality. There may be a further experience immediate and direct, something that is my private feeling, and also much more. Now the Reality, to which all content in the end must belong, is, we have seen, a direct all-embracing experience. This Reality is present in, and is my feeling; and hence, to that extent, what I feel is the all-inclusive universe. But, when I go on to deny that this universe is more, I turn truth into error. There is a ‘more’ of feeling, the extension of that which is ‘now mine’; and this whole is both the assertion and negation of my ‘this’. That extension maintains it together with additions, which merge and override it as exclusive. My ‘mine’ becomes a feature in the great ‘mine’, which includes all ‘mines’. Note 22

Now, if within the ‘this’ there were found anything which could stand out against absorption — anything which could refuse to be so lost by such support and maintenance — an objection might be tenable. But we saw, in our nineteenth chapter, that a character of this kind does not exist. My incapacity to extend the boundary of my ‘this’, my inability to gain an immediate experience of that in which it is subordinated and reduced — is my mere imperfection. Because I cannot spread out my window until all is transparent, and all windows disappear, this |224| does not justify me in insisting on my window-frame’s rigidity. For that frame has, as such, no existence in reality, but only in our impotence (Chapter xix). I am aware of the miserable inaccuracy of the metaphor, and of the thoughtless objection which it may call up; but I will still put the matter so. The one Reality is what comes directly to my feeling through this window of a moment; and this, also and again, is the only Reality. But we must not turn the first ‘is’ into ‘is nothing at all but’, and the second ‘is’ into ‘is all of’. There is no objection against the disappearance of limited transparencies in an all-embracing clearness. We are not compelled merely, but we are justified, when we follow the irresistible lead of our content.

(b) We have seen, so far, that experience, if you take that as direct, does not testify to the sole reality of my self. Direct experience would be confined to a ‘this’, which is not even pre-eminently a ‘mine’, and still less is the same as what we mean by a ‘self’. And, in the second place, we perceived that reality extends beyond such experience. And here, once more, Solipsism may suppose that it finds its opportunity. It may urge that the reality, which goes beyond the moment, stops short at the self. The process of transcendence, it may admit, conducts us to a ‘me’ which embraces all immediate experiences. But, Solipsism may argue, this process cannot take us on further. By this road, it will object, there is no way to a plurality of selves, or to any reality beyond my private personality. We shall, however, find that this contention is both dogmatic and absurd. For, if you have a right to believe in a self beyond the present, you have the same right to maintain also the existence of other selves.

I will not enquire how, precisely, we come by the idea of other animates’ existence. Metaphysics has no direct interest in the origin of ideas, and its business is solely to examine their claim to be true. But, if I am asked to justify my belief that other selves, beside my own, are in the world, the answer must be this. I arrive at other souls by |225| means of other bodies, and the argument starts from the ground of my own body. My own body is one of the groups which are formed in my experience. And it is connected, immediately and specially, with pleasure and pain, and again with sensations and volitions, as no other group can be.2 But, since there are other groups like my body, these must also be qualified by similar attendants.3 With my feelings and my volitions these groups cannot correspond. For they are usually irrelevant and indifferent, and often even hostile; and they enter into collision with one another and with my body. Therefore, these foreign bodies have, each of them, a foreign self of its own. This is briefly the argument, and it seems to me to be practically valid. It falls short, indeed, of demonstration in the following way. The identity in the bodies is, in the first place, not exact, but in various degrees fails to reach completeness. And further, even so far as the identity is perfect, its consequence might be modified by additional conditions. And hence the other soul might so materially differ from my own, that I should hesitate, perhaps, to give it the name of soul.4 But still the argument, though not strict proof, seems sufficiently good.

It is by the same kind of argument that we reach our own past and future. And here Solipsism, in objecting to the existence of other selves, is unawares attempting to commit suicide. For my past self, also, is arrived at only by a process of inference, and by a process which also itself is fallible.

We are so accustomed each to consider his past self as his own, that it is worth while to reflect how very largely it may be foreign. My own past is, in the first place, incompatible with my own present, quite as much as my present can be with another man’s. Their difference in time could not permit them both to be wholly the same, |226| even if their two characters are taken as otherwise identical. But this agreement in character is at least not always found. And my past not only may differ so as to be almost indifferent, but I may regard it even with a feeling of hostility and hatred. It may be mine mainly in the sense of a persisting incumbrance, a compulsory appendage, joined in continuity and fastened by an inference. And that inference, not being abstract, falls short of demonstration.

My past of yesterday is constructed by a redintegration from the present.Note 23 Let us call the present X (B-C), with an ideal association x (a-b). The reproduction of this association, and its synthesis with the present, so as to form X (a-B-C), is what we call memory. And the justification of the process consists in the identity of x with X.5 But it is a serious step not simply to qualify my present self, but actually to set up another self at the distance of an interval. I so insist on the identity that I ride upon it to a difference, just as, before, the identity of our bodies carried me to the soul of a different man. And it is obvious, once more here, that the identity is incomplete. The association does not contain all that now qualifies X; x is different from X, and b is different from B. And again, the passage, through this defective identity to another concrete fact, may to some extent be vitiated by unknown interfering conditions. Hence I cannot prove that the yesterday’s self, which I construct, did, as such, have an actual existence in the past. The concrete conditions, into which my ideal construction must be launched, may alter its character. They may, in fact, unite with it so that, if I knew this unknown fact, I should no longer care to call it my self. Thus my past self, assuredly, is not demonstrated. We can but say of it that, like other selves, it is practically certain. And in each case the result, and our way to it, is in principle the same. Both other selves and my own self are intellectual constructions, each as secure |227| as we can expect special facts to be. But, if any one stands out for demonstration, then neither is demonstrated. And, if this demand is pressed, you must remain with a feeling about which you can say nothing, and which is, emphatically, not the self of any one at all. On the other hand, if you are willing to accept a result which is not strictly proved, both results must be accepted. For the process, which conducts you to other selves, is not weaker sensibly, if at all, than the construction by which your own self is gained. On either alternative the conclusion of Solipsism is ruined.

And if memory, or some other faculty, is appealed to, and is invoked to secure the preeminent reality of my self, I must decline to be persuaded. For I am convinced that such convenient wonders do not exist, and that no one has any sufficient excuse for accepting them. Memory is plainly a construction from the ground of the present. It is throughout inferential, and is certainly fallible; and its gross mistakes as to past personal existence should be very well known (pp. 71-72, 187). I prefer, in passing, to notice that confusion as to the present limits of self, which is so familiar a feature in hypnotic experiments. The assumption of a suggested foreign personality is, I think, strong evidence for the secondary nature of our own. Both, in short, are results of manufacture; and to account otherwise for the facts seems clearly impossible.6

We have seen, so far, that direct experience is no foundation for Solipsism. We have seen further that, if at all we may transcend that experience, we are no nearer Solipsism. For we can go to foreign selves by a process no worse than the construction which establishes our own self. And, before passing on, I will call attention to a minor point Even if I had secured a right to the possession of my past self, and no right to the acceptance of |228| other selves as real, yet, even with this, Solipsism is not grounded. It would not follow from this that the not-myself is nothing, and that all the world is merely a state of my self. The only consequence, so far, would be that the not-myself must be inanimate. But between that result and Solipsism is an impassable gulf. You can not, starting from the given, construct a self which will swallow up and own every element from which it is distinguished.

I will briefly touch on another source of misunderstanding. It is the old mistake in a form which is slightly different. All I know, I may be told, is what I experience, and I can experience nothing beyond my own states. And it is argued that hence my own self is the one knowable reality. But the truth in this objection, once more, has been pressed into falsehood. It is true that all I experience is my state — so far as I experience it. Even the Absolute, as my reality, is my state of mind. But this hardly shows that my experience possesses no other aspect. It hardly proves that what is my state of mind is no more, and must be taken as real barely from that one point of view. The Reality certainly must appear within my psychical existence; but it is quite another thing to limit its whole nature to that field.

My thought, feeling, and will are, of course, all phenomena; they all are events which happen. From time to time, as they happen, they exist in the felt ‘this,’ and they are elements within its chance congeries. And they can be taken, further, as states of that self-thing which I construct by an inference. But, if you look at them merely so, then, unconsciously or consciously, you mutilate their character. You use a point of view which is necessary, but still is partial and one-sided. And we shall see more clearly, hereafter, the nature of this view (Chapters xxiii and xxvii). I will here simply state that the import and content of these processes does not consist in their appearance in the psychical series. In thought the important feature is not our mental state, as such; and the same truth, if less palpable, is as certain with volition. My will is mine, but, |229| none the less, it is also much more. The content of the idea willed (to put the matter only on that ground) may be something beyond me; and, since this content is effective, the activity of the process cannot simply be my state. But I will not try to anticipate a point which will engage us later on. It is sufficient here to lay down generally, that, if experience is mine, that is no argument for what I experience being nothing but my state. And this whole objection rests entirely on false preconceptions. My private self is first set up, as a substantive which is real independent of the Whole; and then its palpable community with the universe, which in experience is forced on us, is degraded into the adjective of our miserable abstraction. Bur, when these preconceptions are exposed, Solipsism disappears.

Considered as the apotheosis of an abstraction, Solipsism is quite false. But from its errors we may collect aspects of truth, to which we sometimes are blind. And, in the first place, though my experience is not the whole world, yet that world appears in my experience, and, so far as it exists there, it is my state of mind. That the real Absolute, or God himself, is also my state, is a truth often forgotten and to which later we shall return. And there is a second truth to which Solipsism has blindly borne witness. My way of contact with Reality is through a limited aperture. For I cannot get at it directly except through the felt "this," and our immediate interchange and transfluence takes place through one small opening. Everything beyond, though not less real, is an expansion of the common essence which we feel burningly in this one focus. And so, in the end, to know the Universe, we must fall back upon our personal experience and sensation.

But beside these two truths there is yet another truth worth noticing. My self is certainly not the Absolute, but, without it, the Absolute would not be itself. You cannot anywhere abstract wholly from my personal feelings; you cannot say that, apart even from the meanest of these, anything else in the universe would be what it is. And |230| in asserting this relation, this essential connection, of all reality with my self, Solipsism has emphasized what should not be forgotten. But the consequences, which properly follow from this truth, will be discussed hereafter.7


1^ On this whole matter compare my Principles of Logic, Chapter ii.

2^ Compare Mind, xii. 370 foll. (No. 47). It is hardly necessary for present purposes to elaborate this argument.

3^ This step rests entirely on the principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles.

4^ Compare Chapter xxvii.

5^ For the sake of simplicity I have omitted the process of correcting memory. This is of course effected by the attempt to get a coherent view of the past, and by the rejection of everything which cannot be included.

6^ It is of course the intervention of the foreign body which prevents my usually confusing foreign selves with my own. Another’s body is, in the first place, not immediately connected throughout with my pleasure and pain. And, in the second place, its states are often positively incompatible with mine.

7^ I shall deal in Chapter xxvii with the question whether, in refuting Solipsism, we have removed any ground for our conclusion that the Absolute is experience.

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Chapter XXII. Nature

|231-60| Nature — meaning of, and origin of for us, 231-32. In its essence there is an Antinomy. It is relation of unknown to unknown, 232-35. It is a mere system of the conditions of some phenomena, and an inconsistent abstraction, 235-36. Is all Nature extended? 236-38. Is any part of Nature inorganic? 239-41. Is it all relative to finite souls? 241-47. These questions not important, 227-48. Identity of Nature, 248-50. Position of physical science, 250-53. Unity of Nature, 253-54. Solidity, 255-56. Infinity of Nature, 257-58. Its Uniformity, 258-59. Nature is contingent, in what sense, 250-60.

The word Nature has of course more meanings than one. I am going to use it here in the sense of the bare physical world, that region which forms the object of purely physical science, and appears to fall outside of all mind. Abstract from everything psychical, and then the remainder of existence will be Nature. It will be mere body or the extended, so far as that is not psychical, together with the properties immediately connected with or following from this extension. And we sometimes forget that this world, in the mental history of each of us, once had no existence. Whatever view we take with regard to the psychological origin of extension, the result will be the same. There was a time when the separation of the outer world, as a thing real apart from our feeling, had not even been begun. The physical world, whether it exists independently or not, is, for each of us, an abstraction from the entire reality. And the development of this reality, and of the division which we make in it, requires naturally some time. But I do not propose to discuss the subject further here.1

Then there comes a period when we all gain the idea of mere body. I do not mean that we always, or even habitually, regard the outer world as standing and persisting in divorce from all feeling. But, still, at least for certain purposes, we get the notion of such a world, consisting both of primary and also of secondary qualities. This world strikes us as not dependent on the inner life of anyone. We view it as standing there, the same for every soul with which it comes into relation. Our bodies with their organs are taken as the instruments and media, which should convey it as it is, and as it exists apart from them. And we find no difficulty in the idea of a bodily reality remaining still and holding firm when every self has been removed. Such a supposition to the average man |232| appears obviously possible, however much, for other reasons, he might decline to entertain it. And the assurance that his supposition is meaningless nonsense he rejects as contrary to what he calls common sense.

And then, to the person who reflects, comes in the old series of doubts and objections, and the useless attempts at solution or compromise. For Nature to the common man is not the Nature of the physicist; and the physicist himself, outside his science, still habitually views the world as what he must believe it cannot be. But there should be no need to recall the discussion of our First Book with regard to secondary and primary qualities. We endeavoured to show there that it is difficult to take both on a level, and impossible to make reality consist of one class in separation from the other. And the unfortunate upholder of a mere physical nature escapes only by blindness from hopeless bewilderment. He is forced to the conclusion that all I know is an affection of my organism, and then my organism itself turns out to be nothing else but such an affection. There is in short no physical thing but that which is a mere state of a physical thing, and perhaps in the end even (it might be contended) a mere state of itself. It will be instructive to consider Nature from this point of view.

We may here use the form of what has been called an Antinomy, (a) Nature is only for my body; but, on the other hand, (b) My body is only for Nature.

(a) I need say no more on the thesis that the outer world is known only as a state of my organism. Its proper consequence (according to the view generally received) appears to be that everything else is a state of my brain. For that (apparently) is all which can possibly be experienced. Into the further refinements, which would arise from the question of cerebral localization, I do not think it necessary to enter.

(b) And yet most emphatically, as we have seen at the beginning of this work, my organism is nothing but appearance to a body. It itself is only the bare state of a natural object. For my organism, like all else, is but what is experienced, and I can only experience my organism in relation to its own organs. Hence the whole body is a mere state of these; and they are states of one another in indefinite regress.

How can we deny this? If we appeal to an immediate experience, which presents me with my body as a something extended and solid, we are taking refuge in a world of exploded illusions. No such peculiar intuition can bear the light of a serious psychology. The internal feelings which I experience certainly give nothing of the sort; and again, even if they did, yet for natural science they are no direct reality, but themselves the states of a material nervous system. And to fall back on a supposed wholesale revelation of Resistance would be surely to seek aid from that which cannot help. For the revelation in the first place (as we have already perceived in Chapter x), is a fiction. And, in the second place, Resistance could not present us with a body independently real. It could supply only the relation of one thing to another, where neither thing, as what resists, is a separate body, either apart from, or again in relation to, the other. Resistance could not conceivably tell us what anything is in itself. It gives us one thing as qualified by the state of another thing, each within that known relation being only for the other, and, apart from it, being unknown and, so far, a nonentity.

“Nature is the phenomenal relation of the unknown to the unknown.”

And that is the general conclusion with regard to Nature to which we are driven. The physical world is the relation between physical things. And the relation, on the one side, presupposes them as physical, while apart from it, on the other side, they certainly are not so. Nature is the phenomenal relation of the unknown to the unknown; and the terms cannot, because unknown, even be said to be related, since they cannot themselves be said to be anything at all. Let us develop this further.

That the outer world is only for my organs appears inevitable. But what is an organ except so far as it is known? And how can it be known but as itself the state of an organ? If then you are asked to find an organ which is a physical object, you can no more find it than a body |234| which itself is a body. Each is a state of something else, which is never more than a state — and the something escapes us. The same consequence, again, is palpable if we take refuge in the brain. If the world is my brain-state, then what is my own brain? That is nothing but the state of some brain, I need not proceed to ask whose.2 It is, in any case, not real as a physical thing, unless you reduce it to the adjective of a physical thing. And this illusive quest goes on for ever. It can never lead you to what is more than either an adjective of, or a relation between, — what you cannot find.

There is no escaping from this circle. Let us take the instance of a double perception of touch, a and b. Then a is only a state of the organ C, and b is only a state of the organ D. And if you wish to say that either C or D is itself real as a body, you can only do so on the witness of another organ E or F. You can in no case arrive at a something material existing as a substantive; you are compelled to wander without end from one adjective to another adjective. And in double perception the twofold evidence does not show that each side is body. It leads to the conclusion that neither side is more than a dependent, on we do not know what.

And if we consult common experience, we gain no support for one side of our antinomy. It is clear that, for the existence of our organism, we find there the same evidence as for the existence of outer objects. We have a witness which, with our body, gives us the environment as equally real. For we never, under any circumstances, are without some external sensation. If you receive, in the ordinary sense, the testimony of our organs, then, if the outer world is not real, our organs are not real. You have both sides given as on a level, or you have neither side at all. And to say that one side is the substantive, to which the other belongs, as an appendage or appurtenance, seems quite against reason. We are, in brief, confirmed in the conclusion we had reached. Both Nature |235| and my body exist necessarily with and for one another. And both, on examination, turn out to be nothing apart from their relation. We find in each no essence which is not infected by appearance to the other.

And with this we are brought to an unavoidable result.3 The physical world is an appearance; it is phenomenal throughout. It is the relation of two unknowns, which, because they are unknown, we cannot have any right to regard as really two, or as related at all. It is an imperfect way of apprehension, which gives us qualities and relations, each the condition of and yet presupposing the other. And we have no means of knowing how this confusion and perplexity is resolved in the Absolute. The material world is an incorrect, a one-sided, and self-contradictory appearance of the Real. It is the reaction of two unknown things, things, which, to be related, must each be something by itself, and yet, apart from their relation, are nothing at all. In other words it is a diversity which, as we regard it, is not real, but which somehow, in all its fulness, enters into and perfects the life of the Universe. But, as to the manner in which it is included, we are unable to say anything.

But is this circular connexion, this baseless interrelation between the organism and Nature, a mistake to be set aside? Most emphatically not so, for it seems a vital scheme, and a necessary way of happening among our appearances. It is an arrangement among phenomena by which the extended only comes to us in relation with another extended which we call an organism. You cannot have certain qualities, of touch, or sight, or hearing, unless there is with them a certain connection of other qualities. Nature has phenomenal reality as a grouping and as laws of sequence and coexistence, holding good within a certain section of that which appears to us. But, if you attempt to make it more, you will re-enter those mazes from which |236| we found no exit. You are led to take the physical world as a mere adjective of my body, and you find that my body, on the other hand, is not one whit more substantival. It is itself for ever the state of something further and beyond. And, as we perceived in our First Book, you can neither take the qualities, that are called primary, as real without the secondary, nor again the latter as existing apart from my feeling. These are all distinctions which, as we saw, are reduced, and which come together in the one great totality of absolute experience. They are lost there for our vision, but survive most assuredly in that which absorbs them. Nature is but one part of the feeling whole, which we have separated by our abstraction, and enlarged by theoretical necessity and contrivance. And then we set up this fragment as self-existing; and what is sometimes called ‘science’ goes out of its way to make a gross mistake. It takes an intellectual construction of the conditions of mere appearance for independent reality. And it would thrust this fiction on us as the one thing which has solid being. But thus it turns into sheer error a relative truth. It discredits that which, as a working point of view, is fully justified by success, and stands high above criticizm.

We have seen, so far, that mere Nature is not real. Nature is but an appearance within the reality; it is a partial and imperfect manifestation of the Absolute. The physical world is an abstraction, which, for certain purposes is properly considered by itself, but which, if taken as standing in its own right, becomes at once self-contradictory. We must now develop this general view in some part of its detail.

But, before proceeding, I will deal with a point of some interest. We, so far, have treated the physical world as extended, and a doubt may be raised whether such an assumption can be justified. Extension, I may be told, is not essential to Nature; for the extended need not always be physical, nor again the physical always extended. And it is better at once to attempt to get clear on this point. It is, in the first place, quite true that not all of the extended |237| forms part of Nature. For I may think of, and may imagine, things extended at my pleasure, and it is impossible to suppose that all these psychical facts take a place within our physical system. Yet, upon the other hand, I do not see how we can deny their extension. That which for my mind is extended, must be so as a fact, whether it does, or does not, belong to what we call Nature. Take, for example, some common illusion of sense. In that we actually may have a perception of extension, and to call this false does not show that it is not somehow spatial. But, if so, Nature and extension will not coincide. Hence we are forced to seek the distinctive essence of Nature elsewhere, and in some non-spatial character.Note 24

In its bare principle I am able to accept this conclusion. The essence of Nature is to appear as a region standing outside the psychical, and as (in some part) suffering and causing change independent of that. Or, at the very least, Nature must not be always directly dependent on soul. Nature presupposes the distinction of the not-self from the self. It is that part of the world which is not inseparably one thing in experience with those internal groups which feel pleasure and pain. It is the attendant medium by which selves are made manifest to one another. But it shows an existence and laws not belonging to these selves; and, to some extent at least, it appears indifferent to their feelings, and thoughts, and volitions. It is this independence which would seem to be the distinctive mark of Nature.

And, if so, it may be urged that Nature is perhaps not extended, and I think we must admit that such a Nature is possible. We may imagine groups of qualities, for example sounds or smells, arranged in such a way as to appear independent of the psychical. These qualities might seem to go their own ways without any, or much, regard to our ideas or likings; and they might maintain such an order as to form a stable and permanent not-self. These groups, again, might serve as the means of communication between souls, and, in short, might answer |238| every known purpose for which Nature exists. Even as things are, when these secondary qualities are localized in outer space, we regard them as physical; and there is a doubt, therefore, whether any such localization is necessary. And, for myself, I am unable to perceive that it is so. Certainly, if I try to imagine an unextended world of this kind, I admit that, against my will, I give it a spatial character. But, so far as I see, this may arise from mere infirmity; and the idea of an unextended Nature seems, for my knowledge at least, not self-contradictory.

But, having gone as far as this, I am unable to go farther. A Nature without extension I admit to be possible, but I can discover no good reason for taking it as actual. For the physical world, which we encounter, is certainly spatial; and we have no interest in trying to seek out any other. If Nature on our view were reality, the case would be altered; and we should then be forced to entertain every doubt about its essence. But for us Nature is appearance, inconsistent and untrue; and hence the supposition of another Nature, free from extension, could furnish no help. This supposition does not remove the contradictions — from actual extension, which in any case is still a fact. And, again, even within itself, the supposition cannot be made consistent with itself. We may, therefore, pass on without troubling ourselves with such a mere possibility. We cannot conclude that all Nature essentially must have extension. But, since at any rate our physical world is extended, and since the hypothesis of another kind of Nature has no interest, that idea may be dismissed. I shall henceforth take Nature as appearing always in the form of space.4

Let us return from this digression. We are to consider Nature as possessed of extension, and we have seen that |239| mere Nature has no reality. We may now proceed to a series of subordinate questions, and the first of these is about the world which is called inorganic. Is there in fact such a thing as inorganic Nature? Now, if by this we meant a region or division of existence, not subserving and entering into the one experience of the Whole, the question already would have been settled. There cannot exist an arrangement which fails to perfect, and to minister directly to, the feeling of the Absolute. Nor again, since in the Absolute all comes together, could there be anything inorganic in the sense of standing apart from some essential relation to finite organisms. Any such mutilations as these have long ago been condemned, and it is in another sense that we must inquire about the inorganic.

By an organism we are to understand a more or less permanent arrangement of qualities and relations, such as at once falls outside of, and yet immediately subserves, a distinct unity of feeling. We are to mean a phenomenal group with which a felt particularity is connected in a way to be discussed in the next chapter. At least this is the sense in which, however incorrectly, I am about to use the word. The question, therefore, here will be whether there are elements in Nature, which fail to make a part of some such finite arrangement. The inquiry is intelligible, but for metaphysics it seems to have no importance.

The question in the first place, I think, cannot be answered. For, if we consider it in the abstract, I find no good ground for either affirmation or denial. I know no reason why in the Absolute there should not be qualities, which fail to be connected, as a body, with some finite soul. And, upon the other hand, I see no special cause for supposing that these exist. And when, leaving the abstract point of view, we regard this problem from the side of concrete facts, then, so far as I perceive, we are able to make no advance. For as to that which can, and that which cannot, play the part of an organism, we know very little. A sameness greater or less with our own bodies is the basis from which we conclude to other bodies and souls. And what this inference loses in exactitude |240| (Chapter xxi), it gains on the other hand in extent, by acquiring a greater range of application. And it would seem almost impossible, from this ground, to produce a satisfactory negative result. A certain likeness of outward form, and again some amount of similarity in action, are what we stand on when we argue to psychical life. But our failure, on the other side, to discover these symptoms is no sufficient warrant for positive denial.5 There may surely beyond our knowledge be strange arrangements of qualities, which serve as the condition of unknown personal unities. Given a certain degree of difference in the outward form, and a certain divergence in the way of manifestation, and we should fail at once to perceive the presence of an organism. But would it, therefore, always not exist? Or can we assume, because we have found out the nature of some organisms, that we have exhausted that of all? Have we an ascertained essence, outside of which no variation is possible? Any such contention would seem to be indefensible. Every fragment of visible Nature might, so far as is known, serve as part in some organism not like our bodies. And, if we consider further how much of Nature may be hid from our view, we shall surely be still less inclined to dogmatism. For that which we see may be combined in an organic unity with the invisible; and, again, one and the same element might have a position and function in any number of organisms. But there is no advantage in trying to fill the unknown with our fancies. It should be clear, when we reflect, that we are in no condition on this point to fix a limit to the possible.6 Arrangements, apparently quite different from our own, and expressing themselves in what seems a wholly unlike way, might be directly connected with finite centres of feeling. And our result here must be this, that, except in relation to our ignorance, we cannot call the least portion of Nature inorganic. For some practical purposes, of course, |241| the case is radically altered. We of course there have a perfect right to act upon ignorance. We not only may, but even must, often treat the unseen as non-existent. But in metaphysics such an attitude cannot be justified.7 We, on one side, have positive knowledge that some parts of Nature are organisms; but whether, upon the other side, anything inorganic exists or not, we have no means of judging. Hence to give an answer to our question is impossible.

But this inability seems a matter of no importance. For finite organisms, as we have seen, are but phenomenal appearance, and both their division and their unity is transcended in the Absolute. And assuredly the inorganic, if it exists, will be still more unreal. It will, in any case, not merely be bound in relation with organisms, but will, together with them, be included in a single and all-absorbing experience, It will become a feature and an element in that Whole where no diversity is lost, but where the oneness is something much more than organic. And with this I will pass on to a further inquiry.

“No part of Nature can fall outside of the Absolute’s perfection. … Is there any Nature not experienced by a finite subject?”

We have seen that beyond experience nothing can exist, and hence no part of Nature can fall outside of the Absolute’s perfection. But the question as to the necessity of experience may still be raised in a modified sense. Is there any Nature not experienced by a finite subject? Can we suppose in the Absolute a margin of physical qualities, which, so to speak, do not pass through some finite percipient? Of course, if this is so, we cannot perceive them. But the question is whether, notwithstanding, we may, or even must, suppose that such a margin exists, (a) Is a physical fact, which is not for some finite sentient being, a thing which is possible? And (b), in the next place, have we sufficient ground to take it also as real?Note 25

(a) In defence, first, of its possibility there is something to be said. ‘Admitted’, we shall be told, ‘that relation to a finite soul is the condition under which Nature appears to us, it does not follow that this condition is indispensable. To assert that those very qualities, which we meet under |242| certain conditions, can exist apart from them, is perhaps going too far. But, on the other side, some qualities of the sort we call sensible might not require (so to speak) to be developed on or filtered through a particular soul. These qualities in the end, like all the rest, would certainly, as such, be absorbed in the Absolute; but they (so to speak) might find their way to this end by themselves, and might not require the mediation of a finite sentience’. But this defence, it seems to me, is insufficient. We can think, in a manner, of sensible quality apart from a soul, but the doubt is whether such a manner is really legitimate. The question is, when we have abstracted from finite centres of feeling, whether we have not removed all meaning from sensible quality And again, if we admit that in the Absolute there may be matter not contained in finite experience, can we go on to make this matter a part of Nature, and call it physical? These two questions appear to be vitally distinct.

A margin of experience, not the experience of any finite centre, we shall find (Chapter xxvii) cannot be called impossible. But it seems another thing to place such matter in Nature. For Nature is constituted and upheld by a division in experience. It is, in its essence, a product of distinction and opposition. And to take this product as existing outside finite centres seems indefensible. The Nature that falls outside, we must insist, may perhaps not be nothing, but it is not Nature. If it is fact, it is fact which we must not call physical.

But this whole enquiry, on the other hand, seems unimportant and almost idle. For, though unperceived by finite souls, all Nature would enter into one experience with the contents of these souls. And hence the want of apprehension by, and passage through, a particular focus would lose in the end its significance. Thus, even if we admit fact, not included in finite centres of sentience, our view of the Absolute, after all, will not be altered. But such fact, we have seen, could not be properly physical.

(b) A part of Nature, not apprehended by finite mind, we have found in some sense is barely possible. But we may be told now, on the other hand, that it is necessary to assume it. There are such difficulties in the way of any other conclusion that we may seem to have no choice. Nature is too wide, we may hear, to be taken in by any number of sentient beings. And again Nature is in part not perceptible at all. My own brain, while I am alive, is an obvious instance of this. And we may think further of the objects known only by the microscope, and of the bodies, intangible and invisible, assured to us by science. And the mountains, that endure always, must be more than the sensations of short-lived mortals, and indeed were there in the time before organic life was developed. In the face of these objections, it may be said, we are unable to persist. The necessity of finite souls for the existence of Nature cannot possibly be maintained. And hence a physical world, not apprehended by these perceiving centres, must somehow be postulated.

The objections at first may seem weighty, but I will endeavour to show that they cannot stand criticizm. And I will begin by laying down a necessary distinction. The physical world exists, of course, independent of me, and does not depend on the accident of my sensations. A mountain is, whether I happen to perceive it or not This truth is certain; but, on the other hand, its meaning is ambiguous, and it may be taken in two very different senses. We may call these senses, if we please, categorical and hypothetical. You may either assert that the mountain always actually is, as it is when it is perceived. Or you may mean only that it is always something apart from sensible perception; and that whenever it is perceived, it then develops its familiar character. And a confusion between the mountain, as it is in itself, and as it becomes for an observer, is perhaps our most usual state of mind. But such an obscurity would be fatal to the present enquiry.

(i.) I will take the objections, first, as applying to what we have called the categorical sense. Nature must be in itself, as we perceive it to be; and, if so, Nature must fall partly beyond finite minds — this is, so far, the argument urged against our view. But this argument surely would |243| be based upon our mere ignorance. For we have seen that organisms unlike our own, arrangements pervading and absorbing the whole extent of Nature, may very well exist. And as to the modes of perception which are possible with these organisms, we can lay down no limit. But if so, there is no reason why all Nature should not be always in relation to finite sentience. Every part of it may be now actually, for some other mind, precisely what it would be for us, if we happened to perceive it And objects invisible like my brain, or found only by the microscope, need not cause us to hesitate. For we cannot deny that there may be some faculty of sense to which at all times they are obvious. And the mountains that endure may, for all that we know, have been visible always. They may have been perceived through their past as we perceive them today. If we can set no bounds to the existence and the powers of sentient beings, the objection, so far, has been based on a false assumption of knowledge.8

(ii.) But this line of reply, perhaps, may be carried too far. It cannot be refuted, and yet we feel that it tends to become extravagant. It may be possible that Nature throughout is perceived always, and thus always is, as we should perceive it; but we need not rest our whole weight on this assumption. Our conclusion will be borne out by something less. For beyond the things perceived by sense there extends the world of thought. Nature will not merely be the region that is presented and also thought of, but it will, in addition, include matter which is only thought of. Nature will hence be limited solely by the range of our intellects. It will be the physical universe apprehended in any way whatever by finite souls.

Outside of this boundary there is no Nature. We may employ the idea of a pre-organic time, or of a physical world from which all sentience has disappeared. But, with the knowledge that we possess, we cannot, even in a relative sense, take this result as universal. It could hold only with respect to those organisms which we know, and, if |245| carried further, it obviously becomes invalid. And again, such a truth, where it is true, can be merely phenomenal. For, in any case, there is no history or progress in the Absolute (Chapter xxvi). A Nature without sentience is, in short, a mere construction for science, and it possesses a very partial reality.9 Nor are the imperceptibles of physics in any better case. Apart from the plain contradictions which prove them to be barely phenomenal, their nature clearly exists but in relation to thought. For, not being perceived by any finite, they are not, as such, perceived at all; and what reality they possess is not sensible, but merely abstract.

Our conclusion then, so far, will be this. Nature may extend beyond the region actually perceived by the finite, but certainly not beyond the limits of finite thought In the Absolute possibly there is a margin not contained in finite experiences (Chapter xxvii), but this possible margin cannot properly be taken as physical. For, included in Nature, it would be qualified by a relation to finite mind. But the existence of Nature, as mere thought, at once leads to a difficulty. For a physical world, to be real, must clearly be sensible. And to exist otherwise than for sense is but to exist hypothetically. If so, Nature, at least in part, is not actually Nature, but merely is what becomes so under certain conditions. It seems another fact, a something else, which indeed we think of, but which, merely in itself and merely as we think of it, is not physical reality. Thus, on our view, Nature to this extent seems not to be fact; and we shall have been driven, in the end, to deny part of its physical existence.

This conclusion urged against us, I admit, is in one sense inevitable. The Nature that is thought of, and that we assume not to be perceived by any mind, is, in the strict sense, not Nature.10

Yet such a result, rightly interpreted, need cause us no trouble. We shall understand it better when we have discussed the meaning of conditional existence (Chapter xxiv); I will however attempt |246| to deal here with the present difficulty. And what that comes to is briefly this. Nature on the one side must be actual, and if so, must be sensible; but, upon the other hand, it seems in part to be merely intelligible. This is the problem, and the solution is that what for us is intelligible only, is more for the Absolute. There somehow, we do not know how, what we think is perceived. Everything there is merged and re-absorbed in an experience intuitive, at once and in itself, of both ideas and facts.

What we merely think is not real, because in thinking there is a division of the ‘what’ from the ‘that’. But, none the less, every thought gives us actual content; and the presence of that content is fact, quite as hard as any possible perception. And so the Nature, that is thought of, to that extent does exist, and does possess a certain amount of positive character. Hence in the Absolute, where all content is re-blended with existence, the Nature thought of will gain once more an intuitional form. It will come together with itself and with other sides of the Universe, and will make its special contribution to the riches of the Whole. It is not as we think of it, it is not as it becomes when in our experience thought is succeeded by perception. It is something which, only under certain conditions, turns to physical fact revealed to our senses. But because in the Absolute it is an element of reality, though not known, as there experienced, to any finite mind, — because, again, we rightly judge it to be physical fact, if it became perceived by sense — therefore already it is fact, hypothetical but still independent. Nature in this sense is not dependent on the fancies of the individual, and yet it has no content but what is relative to particular minds. We may assume that without any addition there is enough matter in these centres to furnish a harmonious experience in the Absolute. There is no element in that unknown unity, which cannot be supplied by the fragmentary life of its members. Outside of finite experience there is neither a natural world nor any other world at all.11

|247| But it may be objected that we have now been brought into collision with common sense. The whole of nature, for common sense, is; and it is what it is, whether any finite being apprehends it or not On our view, on the other hand, part of the physical world does not, as such, exist. This objection is well founded, but I would reply, first, that common sense is hardly consistent with itself. It would perhaps hesitate, for instance, to place sweet and bitter tastes, as such, in the world outside of sense. But only the man who will go thus far, who believes in colours in the darkness, and sounds without an ear, can stand upon this ground. If there is any one who holds that flowers blush when utterly unseen, and smell delightfully when no one delights in their odour — he may object to our doctrine and may be invited to state his own. But I venture to think that, metaphysically, his view would turn out not worth notice. Any serious theory must in some points collide with common sense; and, if we are to look at the matter from this side, our view surely is, in this way, superior to others. For us Nature, through a great part, certainly is as it is perceived. Secondary qualities are an actual part of the physical world, and the existing thing sugar we take to be, itself, actually sweet and pleasant. Nay the very beauty of Nature, we shall find hereafter (Chapter xxvi), is, for us, fact as good as the hardest of primary qualities. Everything physical, which is seen or felt, or in any way experienced or enjoyed, is, on our view, an existing part of the region of Nature; and it is in Nature as we experience it. It is only that portion which is but thought of, only that, of which we assume that no creature perceives it — which, as such, is not fact. Thus, while admitting our collision with common sense, I would lay stress upon its narrow extent and degree.

We have now seen that inorganic Nature perhaps does not exist. Though it is possible, we are unable to say if it is real. But with regard to Nature falling outside all finite subjects our conclusion is different. We failed to discover any ground for taking that as real, and, if strictly |248| understood, we found no right to call it even possible. The importance of these questions, on the other hand we urged, is overrated. For they all depend on distinctions which, though not lost, are transcended in the Absolute. Whether all perception and feeling must pass through finite souls, whether any physical qualities stand out and are not worked up into organisms — into arrangements which directly condition such souls — these enquiries are not vital. In part we cannot answer them, and in part our reply gives us little that possesses a positive value. The interrelation between organisms, and their division from the inorganic, and, again, the separation of finite experiences, from each other and from the whole — these are not anything which, as such, can hold good in the Absolute. That one reality, the richer for every variety, absorbs and dissolves these phenomenal limitations. Whether there is a margin of quality not directly making part of some particular experience, whether, again, there is any physical extension outside the arrangements which immediately subserve feeling centres — in the end these questions are but our questions. The answers must be given in a language without meaning for the Absolute, until translated into a way of expression beyond our powers. But, if so expressed, we can perceive, they would lose that importance our hard distinctions confer on them. And, from our own point of view, these problems have proved partly to be insoluble. The value of our answers consists mainly in their denial of partial and one-sided doctrines.

There is an objection which, before we proceed, may be dealt with. ‘Upon your view’, I may be told, ‘there is really after all no Nature. For Nature is one solid body, the images of which are many, and which itself remains single. But upon your theory we have a number of similar reflections; and, though these may agree among themselves, no real thing comes to light in them. Such an appearance will not account for Nature’. But this objection rests on what must be called a thoughtless prejudice. It is founded on the idea that identity in the contents of |249| various souls is impossible. Separation into distinct centres of feeling and thought is assumed to preclude all sameness between what falls within such diverse centres. But, we shall see more fully hereafter (Chapter xxiii), this assumption is groundless. It is merely part of that blind prejudice against identity in general which disappears before criticizm. That which is identical in quality must always, so far, be one; and its division, in time or space or in several souls, does not take away its unity. The variety of course does make a difference to the identity, and, without that difference and these modifications, the sameness is nothing. But, on the other hand, to take sameness as destroyed by diversity, makes impossible all thought and existence alike. It is a doctrine, which, if carried out, quite abolishes the Universe. Certainly, in the end, to know how the one and many are united is beyond our powers. But in the Absolute somehow, we are convinced, the problem is solved.

This apparent parceling out of Nature is but apparent. On the one side a collection of what falls within distinct souls, on the other side it possesses unity in the Absolute. Where the contents of the several centres all come together, there the appearances of Nature of course will be one. And, if we consider the question from the side of each separate soul, we still can find no difficulty. Nature for each percipient mainly is what to the percipient it seems to be, and it mainly is so without regard to that special percipient. And, if this is so, I find it hard to see what more is wanted.12 Of course, so far as any one soul has peculiar sensations, the qualities it finds will not exist unless in its experience. But I do not know why they should do so. And there remains, I admit, that uncertain extent, through which Nature is perhaps not sensibly perceived by any soul. This part of Nature exists beyond me, but it does not exist as I should perceive it. And we saw clearly that, so far, common sense cannot be satisfied. |250| But, if this were a valid objection, I do not know in whose mouth it would hold good.13 And if any one, again, goes on to urge that Nature works and acts on us, and that this aspect of force is ignored by our theory, we need not answer at length. For if ultimate reality is claimed for any thing like force, we have disposed, in our First Book, of that claim already. But, if all that is meant is a certain behaviour of Nature, with certain consequences in souls, there is nothing here but a happen, and in our view of Nature I see nothing inconsistent with this arrangement From the fact of such an orderly appearance you cannot infer the existence of something not contained in finite experiences.14

We may now consider a question which several times we have touched on. We have seen that in reality there can be no mere physical Nature. The world of physical science is not something independent, but is a mere element in one total experience. And, apart from finite souls, this physical world, in the proper sense, does not exist. But, if so, we are led to ask, what becomes of natural science? Nature there is treated as a thing without soul and standing by its own strength. And we thus have been apparently forced into collision with something beyond criticizm. But the collision is illusive, and exists only through misunderstanding. For the object of natural science is not at all the ascertainment of ultimate truth, and its province does not fall outside phenomena. The ideas, with which it works, are not intended to set out the |251| true character of reality. And, therefore, to subject these ideas to metaphysical criticizm, or, from the other side, to oppose them to metaphysics, is to mistake their end and bearing. The question is not whether the principles of physical science possess an absolute truth to which they make no claim. The question is whether the abstraction, employed by that science, is legitimate and useful And with regard to that question there surely can be no doubt In order to understand the co-existence and sequence of phenomena, natural science makes an intellectual construction of their conditions. Its matter, motion, and force are but working ideas, used to understand the occurrence of certain events. To find and systematize the ways in which spatial phenomena are connected and happen — this is all the mark which these conceptions aim at. And for the metaphysician to urge that these ideas contradict themselves, is irrelevant and unfair. To object that in the end they are not true, is to mistake their pretensions.

And thus when matter is treated of as a thing standing in its own right, continuous and identical, metaphysics is not concerned. For, in order to study the laws of a class of phenomena, these phenomena are simply regarded by themselves. The implication of Nature, as a subordinate element, within souls has not been denied, but in practice, and for practice, ignored. And, when we hear of a time before organisms existed, that, in the first place, should mean organisms of the kind that we know; and it should be said merely with regard to one part of the Universe. Or, at all events, it is not a statement of the actual history of the ultimate Reality, but is a convenient method of considering certain facts apart from others. And thus, while metaphysics and natural science keep each to its own business, a collision is impossible. Neither needs defence against the other, except through misunderstanding.

But that misunderstandings on both sides have been too often provoked I think no one can deny. Too often the science of mere Nature, forgetting its own limits and false to its true aims, attempts to speak about first principles. It becomes transcendent, and offers us a dogmatic |252| and uncritical … metaphysics. Thus to assert that, in the history of the Universe at large, matter came before mind, is to place development and succession within the Absolute (Chapter xxvi), and is to make real outside the Whole a mere element in its being. And such a doctrine not only is not natural science, but, even if we suppose it otherwise to have any value, for that science, at least, it is worthless. For assume that force matter and motion are more than mere working ideas, inconsistent but useful — will they, on that assumption, work better? If you, after all, are going to use them solely for the interpretation of spatial events, then, if they are absolute truth, that is nothing to you. This absolute truth you must in any case apply as a mere system of the conditions of the occurrence of phenomena; and for that purpose anything, which you apply, is the same, if it does the same work. But I think the failure of natural science (so far as it does fail) to maintain its own position, is not hard to understand. It seems produced by more than one cause. There is first a vague notion that absolute truth must be pursued by every kind of special science. There is inability to perceive that, in such a science, something less is all that we can use, and therefore all that we should want. But this unfortunately is not all. For metaphysics itself, by its interference with physical science, has induced that to act, as it thinks, in self-defence, and has led it, in so doing, to become metaphysical. And this interference of metaphysics I would admit and deplore, as the result and the parent of most injurious misunderstanding. Not only have there been efforts at construction which have led to no positive result, but there have been attacks on the sciences which have pushed into abuse a legitimate function. For, as against natural science, the duty of metaphysics is limited. So long as that science keeps merely to the sphere of phenomena and the laws of their occurrence, metaphysics has no right to a single word of criticizm. Criticism begins when what is relative — mere ways of appearance — is, unconsciously or consciously, offered as more. And I do not doubt that there are doctrines, now made use of |253| in science, which on this ground invite metaphysical correction, and on which it might here be instructive to dwell. But for want of competence and want of space, and, more than all perhaps from the fear of being misunderstood, I think it better to pass on. There are further questions about Nature more important by far for our general enquiry.

Is the extended world one, and, if so, in what sense? We discussed, in Chapter xviii, the unity of time, and it is needful to recall the conclusion we reached. We agreed that all times have a unity in the Absolute, but, when we asked if that unity itself must be temporal, our answer was negative. We found that the many time-series are not related in time. They do not make parts of one series and whole of succession; but, on the contrary, their interrelation and unity falls outside of time. And, in the case of extension, the like considerations produce a like result. The physical world is not one in the sense of possessing a physical unity. There may be any number of material worlds, not related in space, and by consequence not exclusive of, and repellent to, each other.

It appears, at first, as if all the extended was part of one space. For all spaces, and, if so, all material objects, seem spatially related. And such an interrelation would, of course, make them members in one extended whole. But this belief, when we reflect, begins instantly to vanish. Nature in my dreams (for example) possesses extension, and yet spatially it is not one with my physical world. And in imagination and in thought we have countless existences, material and extended, which stand in no spatial connection with each other or with the world which I perceive. And it is idle to reply that these bodies and their arrangements are unreal, unless we are sure of the sense which we give to reality. For that these all exist is quite clear; and, if they have not got extension, they are all able, at least, to appear with it and to show it. Their extension and their materiality is, in short, a palpable fact, while, on the other hand, their several arrangements are not |254| interrelated in space. And, since in the Absolute these, of course, possess a unity, we must conclude that the unity is not material. In coming together their extensional character is transmuted. There are a variety of spatial systems, independent of each other, and each changed beyond itself, when absorbed in the one non-spatial system. Thus, with regard to their unity, Space and Time have similar characters (pp. 185-9).

That which for ordinary purposes I call ‘real’ Nature, is the extended world so far as related to my body. What forms a spatial system with that body has ‘real’ extension. But even ‘my body’ is ambiguous, for the body, which I imagine, may have no spatial relation to the body which I perceive. And perception too can be illusive, for my own body in dreams is not the same thing with my true ‘real’ body, nor does it enter with it into any one spatial arrangement. And what in the end I mean by my ‘real’ body, seems to be this. I make a spatial construction from my body, as it comes to me when awake. This and the extended which will form a single system of spatial relations together with this, I consider as real.15 And whatever extension falls outside of this one system of interrelation, I set down as ‘imaginary’. And, as a mere subordinate point of view, this may do very well. But it is quite another thing on such a ground to deny existence in the Absolute to every other spatial system. For we have the ‘imaginary’ extension on our hands as a fact which remains, and which should cause us to hesitate. And, when we reflect, we see clearly that a variety of physical arrangements may exist without anything like spatial interrelation. They will have their unity in the Whole, but no connections in space each outside its own proper system of |255| matter. And Nature therefore cannot properly be called a single world, in the sense of possessing a spatial unity.

Thus we might have any number of physical systems, standing independent of spatial relations with each other. And we may go on from this to consider another point of interest. Such diverse worlds of matter might to any extent still act on and influence one another. But, to speak strictly, they could not interpenetrate at any point. Their interaction, however intimate, could not be called penetration; though, in itself and in its effects, it might involve a closer unity. Their spaces always would remain apart, and spatial contact would be impossible. But inside each world the case, as to penetration, might be different. The penetration of one thing by another might there even be usual; and I will try to show briefly that this presents no difficulty.

The idea of a Nature made up of solid matter, interspaced with an absolute void, has been inherited, I presume, from Greek metaphysics. And, I think, for the most part we hardly realize how entirely this view lies at the mercy of criticizm. I am speaking, not of physics and the principles employed by physics, but of what may be called the metaphysics of the literary market-place. And the notion common there, that one extended thing cannot penetrate another, rests mainly on prejudice. For whether matter, conceivably and possibly, can enter into matter or not, depends entirely on the sense in which matter is taken. Penetration means the abolition of spatial distinction, and we may hence define matter in such a way that, with loss of spatial distinction, itself would be abolished. If, that is to say, pieces of matter are so one thing with their extensions as, apart from these, to keep no individual difference — then these pieces obviously cannot penetrate; but, otherwise, they may. This seems to me clear, and I will go on to explain it shortly.

It is certain first of all that two parts of one space cannot penetrate each other. For, though these two parts must have some qualities beside their mere extension |256| (Chapter iii), such bare qualities are not enough. Even if you suppose that a change has forced both sets of qualities to belong to one single extension, you will after all have not got two extended things in one. For you will not have two extended things, since one will have vanished. And, hence, penetration, implying the existence of both, has become a word without meaning. But the case is altered, if we consider two pieces of some element more concrete than space. Let us assume with these, first, that their other qualities, which serve to divide and distinguish them, still depend on extension — then, so far, these things still cannot penetrate each other. For, as before, in the one space you would not have two things, since (by the assumption) one thing has lost separate existence. But now the whole question is whether with matter this assumption is true, whether in Nature, that is, qualities are actually so to be identified with extension. And, for myself, I find no reason to think that this is so. If in two parts of one extended there are distinctions sufficient to individualize, and to keep these two things still two, when their separate spaces are gone — then clearly these two things may be compenetrable. For penetration is the survival of distinct existence notwithstanding identification in space. And thus the whole question really turns on the possibility of such a survival. Cannot, in other words, two things still be two, though their extensions have become one?

We have no right then (until this possibility is got rid of) to take the parts of physical world as essentially exclusive. We may without contradiction consider bodies as not resisting other bodies. We may take them as standing towards one another, under certain conditions, as relative vacua, and as freely compenetrable. And, if in this way we gain no positive advantage, we at least escape from the absurdity, and even the scandal, of an absolute vacuum.16

|257| We have seen that, except in the Absolute in which Nature is merged, we have no right to assert that all Nature has unity. I will now add a few words on some other points which may call for explanation. We may be asked, for example, whether Nature is finite or infinite; and we may first endeavour to clear our ideas on this subject. There is of course, as we know, a great difficulty on either side. If Nature is infinite, we have the absurdity of a something which exists, and still does not exist. For actual existence is, obviously, all finite. But, on the other hand, if Nature is finite, then Nature must have an end; and this again is impossible. For a limit of extension must be relative to extension beyond. And to fall back on empty space, will not help us at all. For this (itself a mere absurdity) repeats the dilemma in an aggravated form. It is itself both something and nothing, is essentially limited and yet, on the other side, without end.

But we cannot escape the conclusion that Nature is infinite. And this will be true not of our physical system alone, but of every other extended world which can possibly exist. None is limited but by an end over which it is constantly in the act of passing. Nor does this hold only with regard to present existence, for the past and future of these worlds has also no fixed boundary in space. Nor, once again, is this a character peculiar to the extended. Any finite whole, with its incomplete conjunction of qualities and relations, entails a process of indefinite transition beyond its limits as a consequence. But with the extended, more than anything, this self-transcendence is obvious. Every physical world is, essentially and necessarily, infinite.

But, in saying this, we do not mean that, at any given moment, such worlds possess more than a given amount of existence. Such an assertion once again would have no |258| meaning. It would be once more the endeavour to be something and yet nothing, and to find an existence which does not exist. And thus we are forced to maintain that every Nature must be finite. The dilemma stares us in the face, and brings home to us the fact that all Nature, as such, is an untrue appearance. It is the way in which a mere part of the Reality shows itself, a way essential and true when taken up into and transmuted by a fuller totality, but, considered by itself, inconsistent and lapsing beyond its own being. The essence of the relative is to have and to come to an end, but, at the same time, to end always in a self-contradiction. Again the infinity of Nature, its extension beyond all limits, we might call Nature’s effort to end itself as Nature. It shows in this its ideality, its instability and transitoriness, and its constant passage of itself into that which transcends it. In its isolation as a phenomenon Nature is both finite and infinite, and so proclaims itself untrue. And, when this contradiction is solved, both its characters disappear into something beyond both. And it is perhaps not necessary to dwell further on the infinity of Nature.

And, passing next to the question of what is called Uniformity, I shall dismiss this almost at once. For there is, in part, no necessity for metaphysics to deal with it, and, in part, we must return to it in the following chapter. But, however uniformity is understood, in the main we must be sceptical, and stand aloof. I do not see how it can be shown that the amount of matter and motion, whether in any one world or in all, remains always the same. Nor do I understand how we can know that any world remains the same in its sensible qualities. As long as, on the one side, the Absolute preserves its identity, and, on the other side, the realms of phenomena remain in order, all our postulates are satisfied. This order in the world need not mean that, in each Nature, the same characters remain. It implies, in the first place, that all changes are subject to the identity of the one Reality. But that by itself seems consistent with almost indefinite variation in the several |259| worlds. And, in the second place, order must involve the possibility of experience in finite subjects. Order, therefore, excludes all change which would make each world unintelligible through want of stability. But this stability, in the end, does not seem to require more than a limited amount of identity, existing from time to time in the sensations which happen. And, thirdly, in phenomenal sequence the law of Causation must remain unbroken. But this, again, comes to very little. For the law of Causation does not assert that in existence we have always the same causes and effects. It insists only that, given one, we must inevitably have the other. And thus the Uniformity of Nature cannot warrant the assumption that the world of sense is uniform. Its guarantee is in that respect partly non-existent, and partly hypothetical.17

There are other questions as to Nature which will engage us later on, and we may here bring the present chapter to a close. We have found that Nature by itself has no reality. It exists only as a form of appearance within the Absolute. In its isolation from that whole of feeling and experience it is an untrue abstraction; and in life this narrow view of Nature (as we saw) is not consistently maintained. But, for physical science, the separation of one element from the whole is both justifiable and necessary. In order to understand the coexistence and sequence of phenomena in space, the conditions of these are made objects of independent study. But to take such conditions for hard realities standing by themselves, is to deviate into uncritical and barbarous metaphysics.

Nature apart from and outside of the Absolute is nothing. It has its being in that process of intestine division, through which the whole world of appearance consists. And in this realm, where aspects fall asunder, where being is distinguished from thought, and the self from the not-self, Nature marks one extreme. It is the aspect most opposed to self-dependence and unity. It is the world of those particulars which stand furthest from possessing |260| individuality, and we may call it the region of externality and chance. Compulsion from the outside, and a movement not their own, is the law of its elements; and its events seem devoid of an internal meaning. To exist and to happen, and yet not to realize an end, or as a member to subserve some ideal whole, we saw (Chapter xix) was to be contingent. And in the mere physical world the nearest approach to this character can be found. But we can deal better with such questions in a later context. We shall have hereafter to discuss the connection of soul with body, and the existence of a system of ends in Nature. The work of this chapter has been done, if we have been able to show the subordination of Nature as one element within the Whole.


1^ For some further remarks see Mind, No. 47 (Vol. XII).

2^ For me my own brain in the end must be a state of my own brain, p. 263.

3^ This result (the reader must remember) rests, not merely on the above, but on the discussions of our First Book. The titles of some chapters there should be a sufficient reference.

4^ I may perhaps add that ‘resistance’ is no sufficient answer to the question ‘What is Nature?’ A persisting idea may in the fullest sense ‘resist’; but can we find in that the essence of what we mean by the physical world? The claims of ‘resistance’ have, however, been disposed of already, pp. 100, 199, 233.

5^ It is natural in this connection to refer to Fechner’s vigorous advocacy.

6^ If we consider further the possibility of diverse material systems, and of the compenetrability of bodies within each system, we shall be even less disposed to dogmatize; see below, pp. 287, 289.

7^ On the main principle see Chapter xxvii.

8^ ‘Tis ignorance that makes a barren waste
  Of all beyond itself.
  – John Keats, Sonnet to the Nile.

9^ See more below, p. 250.

10^ That is, of course, so long as Nature is confined to actual physical fact.

11^ The question whether any part of the contents of the Universe not contained in finite centres, is discussed in Chapter xxvii.

12^ If Nature were more in itself, could it be more to us? And is it for our sake, or for the sake of Nature, that the objector asks for more? Clearness on these points is desirable.

13^ It is possible that some follower of Berkeley may urge that the whole of Nature, precisely as it is perceived (and felt?), exists actually in God. But this by itself is not a metaphysical view. It is merely a delusive attempt to do without one. The unrationalized heaping up of such a congeries within the Deity, with its (partial?) reduplication inside finite centres, and then the relation between these aspects (or divisions?) of the whole — this is an effort surely not to solve a problem but simply to shelve it.

14^ I admit that I cannot explain how Nature comes to us as an order (Chapters xxiii and xxvi), but then I deny that any other view is in any better case. The subject of Ends in Nature will be considered later.

15^ With regard to the past and future of my ‘real’ body and us ‘real’ world, it is hard to say whether, and in what sense, these are supposed to have spatial connection with the present. What we commonly think on this subject is, I should say, a mere of inconsistency. There is another point, on which it would be interesting to develop the doctrine of the text, by asking how we distinguish our waking state. But an answer to this question is, I think, not called for here. I have also not referred to insanity and other abnormal states. But their bearing here is obvious.

16^ I would repeat that in the above remarks I am not trying to say anything against the ideas used in physics, and against the apparent attempt there to compromise between something and nothing. In a phenomenal science it is obvious that no more than a relative vacuum is wanted. More could not possibly be used, supposing that in fact more existed. In any case for metaphysics an absolute vacuum is nonsense. Like a mere piece of empty Time, it is a sheer self-contradiction; for it presupposes certain internal distinctions, and then in the same breath denies them.

17^ For a further consideration of these points see Chapter xxiii.

Top ↑

Chapter XXIII. Body and Soul

|261-317| They are phenomenal and furnish no ground for an objection, 261-62. Body, what, 263. Soul, what, 263-64. It is not the same as experience. This shown from point of view of the individual, 264-69; and of the Absolute, 269-71. Objections discussed. (1) If phenomenal, is the soul a mere appendage to the organism? Problem of continuity and of dispositions. The soul an ideal construction, 272-79. (2) Does the series imply a transcendent Ego? 279. (3) Are there psychical facts which are not events? 280-85. Relation of Body and Soul 285-317. They are not one thing, 286-88. They are causally connected, 288-93. One is not the idle adjective of the other, 294-97. The true view stated, 297-98; but the connection remains inexplicable, 297-98. How far can body or soul be independent? 298-303. Communication between Souls, its nature, 303-07. Identity of diverse souls, its nature and action, 307-12. Identity within one soul, and how far it transcends the mechanical view, 312-16.

With the subject of this chapter we seem to have arrived at a hopeless difficulty. The relation of body to soul presents a problem which experience seems to show is really not soluble. And I may say at once that I accept and endorse this result. It seems to me impossible to explain how precisely, in the end, these two forms of existence stand one to the other. But in this inability I find a confirmation of our general doctrine as to the nature of Reality. For body and soul are mere appearances, distinctions set up and held apart in the Whole. And fully to understand the relation between them would be, in the end, to grasp how they came together into one. And, since this is impossible for our knowledge, any view about their connection remains imperfect.

But this failure to comprehend gives no ground for an objection against our Absolute. It is no disproof of a theory (I must repeat this) that, before some questions as to ‘How’, it is forced to remain dumb. For you do not throw doubt on a view till you find inconsistency. If the general account is such that it is bound to solve this or that problem, then such a problem, left outside, is a serious objection. And things are still worse where there are aspects which positively collide with the main conclusion. But neither of these grounds of objection holds good against ourselves. Upon the view which we have found to be true of the Absolute, we can see how and why some questions cannot possibly be answered. And in particular this relation of body and soul offers nothing inconsistent with our general doctrine. My principal object here will be to make this last point good. And we shall find that neither body nor soul, nor the connection between them, can furnish any ground of objection against our Absolute.

The difficulties, which have arisen, are due mainly to one cause. Body and soul have been set up as independent realities. They have been taken to be things, whose kinds |262| are different, and which have existence each by itself, and each in its own right. And then, of course, their connection becomes incomprehensible, and we strive in vain to see how one can influence the other. And at last, disgusted by our failure, we perhaps resolve to deny wholly the existence of this influence. We may take refuge in two series of indifferent events, which seem to affect one another while, in fact, merely running side by side. And, because their conjunction can scarcely be bare coincidence, we are driven, after all, to admit some kind of connection. The connection is now viewed as indirect, and as dependent on something else to which both series belong. But, while each side retains its reality and self-subsistence, they, of course, cannot come together; and, on the other hand, if they come together, it is because they have been transformed, and are not things, but appearances. Still this last is a conclusion for which many of us are not prepared. If soul and body are not two ‘things’, the mistake, we fancy, has lain wholly on the side of the soul. For the body at all events seems a thing, while the soul is unsubstantial. And so, dropping influence altogether, we make the soul a kind of adjective supported by the body. Or, since, after all, adjectives must qualify their substantives, we turn the soul into a kind of immaterial secretion, ejected and, because ‘out’, making no difference to the organ. Nor do we always desert this view when ‘matter’ has itself been discovered to be merely phenomenal. It is common first to admit that body is mere sensation and idea, and still to treat it as wholly independent of the soul, while the soul remains its non-physical and irrelevant secretion.

But I shall make no attempt to state the various theories as to the nature and relations of body and soul, and I shall not criticize in detail views, from most of which we could learn nothing. It will be clear at once, from the results of preceding chapters, that neither body nor soul can be more than appearance. And I will attempt forthwith to point out the peculiar nature of each, and the manner in which they are connected with, and influence, each other. |263| It would be useless to touch the second question, until we have endeavoured to get our minds clear on the first.

What is a body? In our last chapter we have anticipated the answer. A body is a part of the physical world, and we have seen that Nature by itself is wholly unreal. It was an aspect of the Whole, set apart by abstraction, and, for some purposes, taken as independent reality. So that, in saying that a body is one piece of Nature, we have at once pointed out that it is no more than appearance. It is an intellectual construction out of material which is not self-subsistent. This is its general character as physical; but, as to the special position given to the organic by natural science, I prefer to say nothing. It is, for us, an (undefined) arrangement possessing temporal continuity,1 and a certain amount of identity in quality, the degree and nature of which last I cannot attempt to fix. And I think, for metaphysics, it is better also to make relation to a soul essential for a body (Chapter xxii). But what concerns us at this moment is, rather, to insist on its phenomenal character. The materials, of which it is made, are inseparably implicated with sensation and feeling. They are divorced from this given whole by a process, which is necessary, but yet is full of contradictions. The physical world, taken as separate, involves the relation of unknown to unknown, and of these makeshift materials the particular body is built. It is a construction riddled by inconsistencies, a working point of view, which is of course quite indispensable, but which cannot justify a claim to be more than appearance.

And the soul is clearly no more self-subsistent than the body. It is, on its side also, a purely phenomenal existence, an appearance incomplete and inconsistent, and with no power to maintain itself as an independent ‘thing’. The criticizm of our First Book has destroyed every claim of |264| the self to be, or to correspond to, true reality. And the only task here before us is, accepting this result, to attempt to fix clearly the meaning of a soul. I will first make a brief statement, and then endeavour to explain it and to defend it against objections. The soul2 is a finite centre of immediate experience, possessed of a certain temporal continuity of existence, and again of a certain identity in character. And the word ‘immediate’ is emphatic. The soul is a particular group of psychical events, so far as these events are taken merely as happening in time. It excludes consideration of their content, so far as this content (whether in thought or volition or feeling) qualifies something beyond the serial existence of these events. Take the whole experience of any moment, one entire ‘this-now’, as it comes, regard that experience as changed and as continued in time, consider its character solely as happening, and, again, as further influencing the course of its own changes — this is perhaps the readiest way of defining a soul.3 But I must endeavour to draw this out, and briefly to explain it.

It is not enough to be clear that the soul is phenomenal, in the sense of being something which, as such, fails to reach true reality. For, unless we perceive to some extent how it stands towards other sides of the Universe, we are likely to end in complete bewilderment. And a frequent error is to define what is ‘psychical’ so widely as to exclude any chance of a rational result. For all objects and aims, which come before me, are in one sense the states of my soul. Hence, if this sense is not excluded, my body and the whole world become ‘psychical’ phenomena; and amid this confusion my soul itself seeks an unintelligible place as one state of itself. What is most important is to distinguish the soul’s existence from what fills it, and yet there are few points, perhaps, on which neglect is more common. And we may bring the question home thus. If |265| we were to assume (Chapter xxvii) that in the Universe there is nothing beyond souls, still within these souls the same problem would call for solution. We should still have to find a place for the existence of soul, as distinct both from body and from other aspects of the world.

It may assist us in perceiving both what the soul is, and again what it is not, if we view the question from two sides. Let us look at it, first, from the experience of an individual person, and then, afterwards, let us consider the same thing from outside, and from the ground of an admitted plurality of souls.

If then, beginning from within, I take my whole given experience at any one moment, and if I regard a single ‘this-now’, as it comes in feeling and is ‘mine’, — may I suppose that in this I have found my true soul? Clearly not so, for (to go no farther) such existence is too fleeting. My soul (I should reply) is not merely the something of one moment, but it must endure for a time and must preserve its self-sameness. I do not mean that it must itself be self-conscious of identity, for that assertion would carry us too far on the other side. And as to the amount of continuity and of self-same character which is wanted, I am saying nothing here. I shall touch later on both these questions, so far as is necessary, and for the present will confine myself to the general result. The existence of a soul must endure through more than one presentation; and hence experience, if immediate and given and not transcending the moment, is less than my soul.

But if, still keeping to ‘experience’, we take it in another sense, we none the less are thwarted. For experience now is as much too wide as before it was too narrow. The whole contents of my experience — it makes no difference here whether I myself or another person considers them — cannot possibly be my soul, unless my soul is to be as large as the total Universe. For other bodies and souls, and God himself, are (so far as I know them) all states of my mind, and in this sense make part of my particular being. And we are led at once to the distinction, which we noticed before (Chapter xxi), between the diverse |266| aspects of content and of psychical existence. Our experience in short is, essentially and very largely, ideal. It shows an ideal process which, beginning from the unity of feeling, produces the differences of self and not-self, and separates the divisions of the world from themselves and from me.4 All this wealth, that is, subsists through a divorce between the sides of existence and character. What is meant by any one of the portions of my world is emphatically not a mere fact of experience. If you take it there, as it exists there, it always is something, but this something can never be the object in question. We may use as an example (if you please) my horse or my own body. Both of these must, for me at least, be nothing but ‘experience’; for, what I do not ‘experience’, to me must be nothing. And, if you push home the question as to their given existence, you can find it nowhere except in a state of my soul. When I perceive them, or think of them, there is, so far, no discoverable ‘fact’ outside of my psychical condition. But such a ‘fact’ is for me not the ‘fact’ of my horse or, again, of my body. Their true existence is not that which is present in my mind, but rather, as perhaps we should say, present to it. Their existence is a content which works apart from, and is irreconcilable with, its own psychical being; it is a ‘what’ discrepant with, and transcending its ‘that’. We may put it shortly by saying that the true fact is fact, only so far as it is ideal. Hence the Universe and its objects must not be called states of my soul. Indeed it would be better to affirm that these objects exist, so far as the psychical states do not exist. For such experience of objects is possible, only so far as the meaning breaks loose from the given existence, and has, so regarded, broken this existence in pieces. And we may state the conclusion thus. If my psychical state does not exist, then the object is destroyed; but, again, unless my state could, as such, perish, no object would exist. The two sides of fact, and of content working loose from that fact, are essential to each |267| other. But the essence of the second is disruption of a ‘what’ from a ‘that’, while in the union of these aspects the former has its life.

“A man is not what he thinks of;
yet he is the man he is because of what he thinks of.”

The soul is not the contents which appear in its states, but, on the other hand, without them it would not be itself. For it is qualified essentially by the presence of these contents. Thus a man, we may say, is not what he thinks of; and yet he is the man he is, because of what he thinks of. And the ideal processes of the content have necessarily an aspect of psychical change. Those connections, which have nothing which is personal to myself, cause a sequence of my states when they happen within me. Thus a principle, of logic or morality, works in my mind. This principle is most certainly not a part of my soul, and yet it makes a great difference to the sequence of my states. I shall hereafter return to this point, but it would belong to psychology to develop the subject in detail. We should have there to point out, and to classify, the causes which affect the succession of psychical phenomena.5 It is enough here to have laid stress on an essential distinction. Ideal contents appear in, and affect, my existence, but still, for all that, we cannot call them my soul.

“The soul is essentially ideal. It has transcended the given moment, and has spread out its existence beyond that which is ‘actual’ or could ever be experienced. And by its relations and connections of coexistence and sequence, and by its subjection to ‘laws’, it has raised itself into the world of eternal verity.”

We have now been led to two results. The soul is certainly not all that which is present in experience, nor, on the other hand, can it consist in mere experience itself, It cannot be actual feeling, or that immediate unity of quality and being which comes in the ‘this’ (Chapter xix). The soul is not these things, and we must now try to say what it is. It is one of these same personal centres, not taken at an instant, but regarded as a ‘thing’. It is a feeling whole which is considered to continue in time, and to maintain a certain sameness. And the soul is, therefore, not presented fact, but is an ideal construction which transcends what is given. It is emphatically the result of an ideal process; but this process, on the other hand, has been arbitrarily arrested at a very low point. Take a fleeting moment of your ‘given’, and then, from the basis of a personal identity of feeling, enlarge this moment by |268| other moments and build up a ‘thing’. Idealize ‘experience’, so as to make its past one reality with its present, and so as to give its history a place in the fixed temporal order. Resolve its contingency enough to view it as a series of events, which have causal connections both without and within. But, having gone so far, pause, and call a halt to your process, or, having got to a soul, you will be hurried beyond it. And, to keep your soul, you must remain fixed in a posture of inconsistency. For, like every other ‘thing’ in time, the soul is essentially ideal. It has transcended the given moment, and has spread out its existence beyond that which is ‘actual’ or could ever be experienced. And by its relations and connections of coexistence and sequence, and by its subjection to ‘laws’, it has raised itself into the world of eternal verity. But to persist in this process of life would be suicide. Its advance would force you to lose hold altogether on ‘existence’, and, with that loss, to forfeit individual selfness. And hence, on the other side, the soul clings to its being in time, and still reaches after the unbroken unity of content with reality. Its contents, therefore, are allowed only to qualify the series of temporal events. And this result is a mere compromise. Hence the soul persists through a contrivance, and through the application of matter to a particular purpose. And, because this application is founded on and limited by no principle, the soul in the end must be judged to be rooted in artifice. It is a series, which depends on ideal transcendence, and yet desires to be taken as sensible fact. And its inconsistency is now made man in its use of its contents. These (we have seen) are as wide as the Universe itself, and, on this account, they are unable to qualify the soul. And yet, on the other hand, they must do so, if the soul is to have the quality which makes it itself. Hence these contents must be taken from one side of their being, and the other side, for a particular end, is struck out. In order for the soul to exist, ‘experience’ must be mutilated. It must be regarded so far as it makes a difference to that series of events which is taken as a soul; it must be considered just to that extent to which it serves |269| as the adjective of a temporal series — serves to make the ‘thisness’ of the series of a certain kind, and to modify its past and its future ‘thisness’. But beyond this, experience is taken merely to be present to the soul and operative within it. And the soul exists precisely so far as the abstraction is maintained. Its life endures only so long as a particular purpose holds. And thus it consists in a convenient but one-sided representation of facts, and has no claim to be more than a useful appearance.

In brief, because the existence of the soul is not experienced and not given, because it is made by, and consists in, transcendence of the ‘present’, and because its content is obviously never one with its being, its ‘what’ always in flagrant discrepancy with its ‘that’ — therefore its whole position is throughout inconsistent and untenable. It is an arrangement natural and necessary, but for all that phenomenal and illusive, a makeshift, valuable but still not genuine reality. And, looked at by itself, the soul is an abstraction and mutilation. It is the arbitrary use of material for a particular purpose. And it persists only by refusing to see more in itself than subserves its own existence.

It may be instructive, before we go on, to regard the same question from the side of the Absolute. Let us, for the sake of argument, assume that in the Whole there is no material which is not a state of some soul (Chapter xxvii). From this we might be tempted to conclude that these souls are the Reality, or at least must be real. But that conclusion would be false, for the souls would fall within the realm of appearance and error. They would be, but, as such, they would not have reality. They would require a resolution and a re-composition, in which their individualities would be transmuted and absorbed (Chapter xvi). For we have seen that the Absolute is the union of content and existence. It stands at a level above, and comprehending, those distinctions and relations in which the imperfect unity of feeling is dissipated. Let us then take the indefinite plurality of the ‘this-nows’, or immediate |270| experiences, as the basis and starting-point, and, on the other side, let us take the Absolute as the end, and let us view the region between as a process from the first to the second. It will be a field of struggle in which content is divorced from, and strives once more towards, unity with being. Our assumption in part will be false, since (as we have seen) the immediately given is already inconsistent.6 But, in order to instruct ourselves, let us suppose here that the ‘fact’ of experience is real, and that, above it once more, the Absolute gains higher reality — still where is the soul? The soul is not immediate experience, for that comes given at one moment; and the soul still less can be the perfected union of all being and content. This is obvious, and, if so, the soul must fall in the middle-space of error and appearance. It is the ideal manufacture of one extreme with a view to reach the other, a manufacture suspended at a very low stage, and suspended on no defensible ground. The plurality of souls in the Absolute is, therefore, appearance, and their existence is not genuine. But because the upward struggle of the content to ideal perfection, having made these souls, still rises both in them and above them, they, in themselves, are nearer the level of the lower reality. The first and transitory union of existence and content is, with souls, less profoundly broken up and destroyed. And hence souls, taken as things with a place in the time-series, are said to be facts and actually to exist. Nay on their existence, in a sense, all reality depends. For the higher process is carried on in a special relation with these lower results; and thus, while moving in its way, it affects the souls in their way; and thus everything happens in souls, and everything is their states. And this arrangement seems necessary; but on the other hand, if we view it from the side of the Absolute, it is plainly self-inconsistent. To gain consistency and truth it must be merged, and recomposed in a result in which its specialty must vanish. Souls, like their bodies, are, as such, nothing more than appearance.

And, that we may realize this more clearly, we find ourselves |271| turning in a circular maze. Just as the body was for Nature, and upon the other hand Nature merely through relation to a body, so in a different fashion it is with the soul. For thought is a state of souls, and therefore is made by them, while, upon its side, the soul is a product of thought. The ‘thing’, existing in time and possessor of ‘states’, is made what it is by ideal construction. But this construction itself appears to depend on a psychical centre, and to exist merely as its ‘state’. And such a circle seems vicious. Again, the body is dependent on the soul, for the whole of its material comes by way of sensation, and its identity is built up by ideal construction. And yet this manufacture takes place as an event in a soul, a soul which, further, exists only in relation to a body.7 But, where we move in circles like these, and where, pushing home our enquiries, we can find nothing but the relation of unknown to unknown — the conclusion is certain. We are in the realm of appearance, of phenomena made by disruption of content from being, arrangements which may represent, but which are not, reality. Such ways of understanding are forced on us by the nature of the Universe, and assuredly they possess their own worth for the Absolute (Chapter xxiv). But, as themselves and as they come to us, they are no less certainly appearance. So far as we know them, they are but inconsistent constructions; and beyond our knowledge, they are forthwith beyond themselves. The underlying and superior reality in each case we have no right to call either a body or a soul. For, in becoming more, each loses its title to that name. The body and soul are, in brief, phenomenal arrangements, which take their proper place in the constructed series of events; and in that character, they are both alike defensible and necessary. But neither is real in the end, each is merely phenomenal, and one has no title to fact which is not owned by the other.

We have seen, so far, that soul and body are, each alike, |272| phenomenal constructions, and we must next go on to point out the connection between them. But, in order to clear the ground, I will first attempt to dispose of several objections. (1.) It will be urged against the phenomenal view of the soul that, upon this, the soul loses independent existence. If it is no more than a series of psychical events, it becomes an appendage to the permanent body. For a psychical series, we shall be told, has no inherent bond of continuity; nor is it, even as a matter of fact, continuous; nor, again, does it offer anything of which we can predicate ‘dispositions’ Hence, if phenomenal, the soul sinks to be an adjective of the body. (2.) And, from another side, we shall hear it argued that the psychical series demands, as its condition, a transcendent soul or Ego, and indeed without this is unintelligible. (3.) And, in the third place, we may be assured that some psychical fact is given which contains more than phenomena, and that hence the soul has by us been defined erroneously. I must endeavour to say something on these objections in their order.

(1.) I shall have to show lower down that it is impossible to treat soul as the bare adjective of body, and I shall therefore say nothing on that point at present. ‘But why’, I may be asked, ‘not at least assist yourself with the body? Why strain yourself to define the soul in mere psychical terms? Would it not be better to call a soul those psychical facts from time to time experienced within one organism?’ I am forced to reply in the negative. Such a definition would, in psychology, perhaps not take us wrong, but, for all that, it remains incorrect and indefensible. For, with lower organisms especially, it is not so easy to fix the limits of a single organism. And, again further, we might perhaps wish to define the organism by its relation to a single soul; and, if so, we should have fallen into a vicious circle. Nor is it, once more, even certain that the identities of soul and of body coincide. We, I presume, are not sure that one soul might not have a succession of bodies. And, in any case, we certainly do not know that one organism can be organic to no more than one soul. There might be more than one psychical centre at one time within the same |273| body, and several bodies might be organs to a higher unknown soul. And, even if we disregard these possibilities as merely theoretical, we have still to deal with the facts of mental disease. It seems at best doubtful if in some cases the soul can be said to have continuous unity, or if it ought strictly to be called single. And then, finally, there remains the question, to which we shall return, whether an organism is necessary in all cases for the existence of a soul. We have perhaps with this justified our refusal to introduce body into our definition of soul.8

But without this introduction what becomes of the soul? ‘What’, we shall be asked, ‘at any time can you say that the soul is, more especially at those times when nothing psychical exists? And where will you place the dispositions and acquired tendencies of the soul? For, in the first place, the psychical series is not unbroken, and, in the second place, dispositions are not psychical events. Are you then not forced back to the body as the one continuous substrate?’ This is a serious objection, and, though our answer to it may prove sufficient, I think no answer can quite satisfy.

I must begin by denying a principle, or, as it seems to me, a prejudice with regard to continuity. Real existence (we must allow) either is or is not; and hence I agree also that, if in time, it cannot cease and reappear, and that it must, therefore, be continuous. But, on the other hand, we have proved that reality does not exist in time, but only appears there. What we find in time is mere appearance; and with regard to appearance I know no reason why it |274| should not cease and reappear without forfeiting identity. A phenomenon A is produced by certain conditions, which then are modified. Upon this, A, wholly or partially, retires from existence, but, on another change, shows itself partly or in full. A disappears into conditions which, even as such, need not persist; but, when the proper circumstances are re-created, A exists once again. Shall we assert that, if so, A’s identity is gone? I do not know on what principle. Or shall we insist that, at least in the meantime, A cannot be said to be? But it seems not clear on what ground. If we take such common examples as a rainbow, or a waterfall, or the change of water into ice, we seek in vain for any principle but that of working convenience. We feel sure that material atoms and their motion continue unaltered, and that their existence, if broken, would be utterly destroyed. But, unless we falsely take these atoms and their motion for ultimate reality, we are resting here on no basis beyond practical utility. And even here some of us are too inclined to lapse into an easy-going belief in the ‘potential’. But, as soon as these atoms are left behind, can we even pretend to have any principle? We call an organism identical, though we do not suppose that its atoms have persisted. It is identical because its quality is (more or less) the same, and because that quality has been (more or less) all the time there. But why an interval must be fatal, is surely far from evident. And, in fact, we are driven to the conclusion that we are arguing without any rational ground. As soon as an existence in time is perceived to be appearance, we can find no reason why it should not lapse, and again be created. And with an organism, where even the matter is not supposed to persist, we seem to have deserted every show of principle.9

There is a further point which, before proceeding, we may do well to notice. We saw in the last chapter that part of Nature could hardly be said to have actual existence (p. 245). Some of it seemed (at least at some times) to be only hypothetical or barely potential; and I would urge |275| this consideration here with regard to the organism. My body is to be real because it exists continuously; but, if, on the other hand, that existence must be actual, can we call it continuous? The essential qualities of my body (whatever these are) are certainly not, so far as we know, perceived always. But, if so, and if they exist sometimes not for perception but for thought, then most assuredly sometimes they do not exist as such, and hence their continuity is broken. Thus we have been forced to another very serious admission. We not only are ignorant why continuity in time should be essential, but, so far as the organism goes, we do not know that it possesses such continuity. It seems rather to exist at times potentially and merely in its conditions. This is a sort of existence which we shall discuss in the following chapter, but it is at all events not existence actual and proper.

After these more general remarks we may proceed to the difficulties urged against our view of the soul. We have defined the soul as a series of psychical events, and it has been objected that, if so, we cannot say what the soul is at any one time. But at any one time, I reply, the soul is the present datum of psychical fact, plus its actual past and its conditional future. Or, until the last phrase has been explained, we may content ourselves with saying that the soul is those psychical events, which it both is now and has been. And this account, I admit, qualifies something by adjectives which are not, and to offer it as an expression of ultimate truth would be wholly indefensible. But then the soul, I must repeat, is itself not ultimate fact. It is appearance, and any description of it must contain inconsistency. And, if any one objects, he may be invited to define, for example, a body moving at a certain rate, and to define it without predicating of the present what is either past or future. And, if he will attempt this, he will, I think, perhaps tend to lose confidence.

But we have, so far, not said what we mean by ‘dispositions’. A soul after all, we shall be reminded, possesses a character, if not original, at least acquired. And we |276| certainly say that it is, because of that which we expect of it. The soul’s habits and tendencies are essential to its nature, and, on the other hand, they cannot be psychical events. Hence (the objection goes on to urge) they are not psychical at all, but merely physical facts. Now to this I reply first that a disposition may be ‘physical’, and may, for all that, be still not an actual fact. Until I see it defined so as to exclude reference to any past or future, and freed from every sort of implication with the conditional and potential, I shall not allow that it has been translated into physical fact. But, even in that case, I should not accept the translation, for I consider that we have a right everywhere for the sake of convenience to use the ‘conditional’. Into the proper meaning of this term I shall enquire in the next chapter, but I will try to state briefly here how we apply it to the soul. In saying that the soul has a disposition of a certain kind, we take the present and past psychical facts as the subject, and we predicate of this subject other psychical facts, which we think it may become. The soul at present is such that it is part of those conditions which, given the rest, would produce certain psychical events. And hence the soul is the real possibility of these events, just as objects in the dark are the possibility of colour. Now this way of speaking is, of course, in the end incorrect, and is defensible only on the ground of convenience. It is convenient, when facts are and have been such and such, to have a short way of saying what we infer that in the future they may be. But we have no right to speak of dispositions at all, if we turn them into actual qualities of the soul. The attempt to do this would force us to go on enlarging the subject by taking in more conditions, and in the end we should be asserting of the Universe at large.10 I admit that it is arbitrary and inconsistent to predicate what you cannot say the soul is, but what you only judge about it. But everywhere, in dealing with phenomena, we can find no escape from inconsistency and arbitrariness. We should not lessen these evils, but should greatly increase them, if we took a disposition as |277| meaning more than the probable course of psychical events.

But the soul, I shall be reminded, is not continuous in time, since there are intervals and breaks in the psychical series. I shall not attempt to deny this. We might certainly fall back upon unconscious sensations, and insist that these, in any case and always, are to some extent there. And such an assumption could hardly be shown to be untrue. But I do not see that we could justify it on any sufficient ground, and I will admit that the psychical series either is, or at all events may be broken.11

But, on the other side, this admitted breach seems quite unimportant. I can find no reason why a soul’s existence, if interrupted and resumed, should not be identical. Even apart from memory, if these divided existences showed the same quality, we should call them the same, Note 26 or, if we declined, we should find no reason that would justify our refusal. We might insist that, at any rate, in the interval the soul has lived elsewhere, or that this interval must, at all events, not be too long; but, so far as I see, in both cases we should be asserting without a ground. On the other hand, the amount of qualitative sameness, wanted for psychical identity, seems fixed on no principle (Chapter ix). And the sole conclusion we can draw is this, that breaks in the temporal series are no argument against our regarding it as a single soul.

‘What then in the interim’, I may be asked, ‘do you say that the soul is?’ For myself, I reply, I should not say it is at all, when it does not appear. All that in strictness I could assert would be that actually the soul is not, though it has been, and again may be. And I have urged above, that we can find no valid objection to intervals of nonexistence. But speaking not strictly, but with a view to practical convenience, we might affirm that in these intervals the soul still persists. We might say it is the |278| conditions, into which it has disappeared, and which probably will reproduce it. And, since the body is a principal part of these conditions, we may find it convenient to identify the ‘potential’ soul with the body. This may be convenient, but we must remember that really it is incorrect. For, firstly, conditions are one thing, and actual fact another thing. And, in the second place, the body (upon any hypothesis) is not all the conditions required for the soul. It is impossible wholly to exclude the action of the environment. And there is again, thirdly, a consideration on which I must lay emphasis. If the soul is resolved and disappears into that which may restore it, does not the same thing hold precisely with regard to the body? Is it not conceivable that, in that interval when the soul is ‘conditional’, the body also should itself be dissolved into conditions which afterwards re-create it? But, if so, these ulterior conditions which now, I presume we are to say, the soul is, are assuredly in strictness not the body at all. As a matter of fact, doubtless, this event does not happen within our knowledge. We do not find that bodies disappear and once more are re-made; but, merely on that ground, we are not entitled to deny that it is possible. And, if it is possible, then I would urge at once the following conclusions. You cannot, except as a matter of convenience, identify the conditions of the soul with the body. And you cannot assert that the continuous existence of the body is essentially necessary for the sameness and unity of the soul.12

We have now dealt with the subject of the soul’s continuity, and have also said something on its ‘dispositions’. And, before passing on to objections of another kind, I will here try to obviate a misunderstanding. The soul is an ideal construction, but a construction by whom? Could we maintain that the soul exists only for itself? This would be certainly an error, for we can say that a soul is before memory exists, or when it does not remember. The soul exists always for a soul, but not always for itself. |279| And it is an ideal construction, not because it is psychical, but because (like my body) it is a series appearing in time. The same difficulty attaches to all phenomenal existence. Past and future, and the Nature which no one perceives (Chapter xxii) exist, as such, only for some subject which thinks them. But this neither means that their ultimate reality consists in being thought, nor does it mean that they exist outside of finite souls. And it does not mean that the Real is made by merely adding thought to our actual presentations. Immediate experience in time, and thought, are each alike but false appearance, and, in coming together, each must forego its own distinctive character. In the Absolute there is neither mere existence at one moment nor any ideal construction. Each is merged in a higher and all-containing Reality (Chapter xxiv).

(2.) We have seen, so far, that our phenomenal view of the soul does not degrade it to an adjective depending on the body. Can we reply to objections based on other grounds? The psychical series, we may be told, demands as its condition a something transcendent, a soul or Ego which stands above, and gives unity to, the series. But such a soul, I reply, merely adds further difficulties to those we had before. No doubt the series, being phenomenal, is the appearance of Reality, but it hardly follows from this that its reality is an Ego or soul. We have seen (Chapter x) that such a being, because finite, is infected with its own relations to other finites. And it is so far from giving unity to the series of events, that their plurality refuses to come together with its singleness. Hence the oneness remains standing outside the many, as a further finite unit. You cannot show how the series becomes a system in the soul; and, if you could, you cannot free that soul from its perplexed position as one finite related to other finites. In short, metaphysically your soul or Ego is a mass of confusion, and we have now long ago disposed of it. And if it is offered us merely as a working conception, which does not claim truth, then this conception, as we have seen, will not work in |280| metaphysics. Its alleged function must be confined to psychology, an empirical science, and the further consideration of it here would be, therefore, irrelevant.13

(3.) But our account of the soul, as a series of events, may be attacked perhaps from the ground of psychology itself. There are psychical facts, it may be urged, which are more than events, and these facts, it may be argued, refute our definition. I must briefly deal with this objection, and my reply may be summed up thus. There are psychical facts, which are more than events; but, if they are not also events, they are not facts at all. I will take these two propositions in their order.14

|281| (a) We have seen that my psychical states, and my private experience, can be at the same time what they are, and yet something much more.15 Every distinction that is made in the fact of presentation, every content, or ‘what’, that is loosened from its ‘that’, is at once more than a mere event. Nay an event itself, as one member in a temporal series, is only itself by transcending its own present existence. And this transcendence becomes more obvious, when an identical quality persists unaltered through a succession of changes. There is, to my mind, no question as to our being concerned here with more than mere events. And, far from contesting this, I have endeavoured to insist on the conclusion that everything in time has a quality which passes beyond itself.

(b) But then, if so, have we allowed the force of the objection? Have we admitted that there are facts which are not events in time? This would be a grave misunderstanding, and against it we must urge our second proposition. A fact, or event, is always more than itself; but, if less than itself, it is no longer properly a fact. It has now been taken as a content working loose from the ‘this’, and has, so far, become a mere aspect and abstraction. And yet this abstraction, on the other hand, must have its existence. It must appear, somehow, as, or in a particular event, with a given place and duration in the temporal series. There are, in brief, aspects which, taken apart, are not events; and yet these aspects must appear in psychical existence.

The objection has failed to perceive this double nature of things, and it has hence fallen blindly into a vicious dilemma. Because in our life there is more than events, it has rashly argued that this ‘more’ must be psychical fact. But, if it is psychical fact, and not able to be experienced, I do not know what it could mean, or in what wonderful way we could be supposed to get at it. And, on the other side, to be experienced without happening in the psychical series, or to occur there without taking place as an event among events, seem phrases without meaning. What we experience is a content, which is one with, and which occurs as, a particular mental state. The same content, again, as ideal, is used away from its state, and only appears there. By itself it is not a fact; and, if it were one, |282| it would, so far, cease to be ideal, and would therefore become a mere event among events.

If you take the identity of a series, whether physical or psychical, this identity, considered as such, is not an event which happens.16 But, on the other hand, can we call it a fact of experience? To speak strictly, we cannot, since all identity is ideal. It, as such, is not directly experienced, even as occurring in the facts, and, still less, as something which happens alongside of or between them. It is an adjective which, as separate, could not exist, and its essence, we may say, consists in distinction. But, on the other side, this distinction, and, again the construction of a series, is an event. And it must happen in a soul;17 for where else could it exist? As a mental state, more than its mere content, it also must have a place, and duration, in the psychical series. And, otherwise, it could not be a part of experience. But the identity itself is but an aspect of the events, or event, and is certainly ideal.

‘No’, I shall be told, ‘the identity and continuity of the soul must be more than this. It cannot fall in what is given, for all the given is discrete. And it cannot consist in ideal content, for, in that case, it would not be real. It must therefore come somehow along with phenomena, in such a way that it does not happen as an event within the psychical series’. But, as soon as we consider this claim, its inconsistency is obvious. If anything is experienced, now or always, along with what is given, then this (whatever it is) is surely a psychical event, with a place, or places, in the series. But, if, on the other hand, it has not, in any sense, position or duration in my history, you will hardly persuade me that it makes part of my experience at all. I do not see, in short, how anything can come there, unless it is prepared, from some side, to enter and to take its place there. And, if it is not to be an element in experience, it will be nothing. And I doubt if anyone |283| would urge a claim so suicidal and so absurd, unless for the sake of, and in order to defend, a preconceived doctrine. Because phenomena in time are not real, there must be something more than temporal. But because we wrongly assume that nothing is real, unless it exists as a thing, therefore the element, which transcends time, must be somehow and somewhere beside it. This element is a world, or a soul, or an Ego, which never descends into our series. It never comes down there itself, though we are forced, I presume, to say that it works, and that it makes itself felt. But this irrational influence and position results merely from our false assumption. We are attempting to pass beyond the series, while we, in effect, deny that anything is real, unless it is a member there. For our other world, and our soul, and our Ego, which exist beside temporal events, have been taken themselves as but finite things. They merely reduplicate phenomena, they do but double the world of appearance. They leave on our hands unsolved the problem that vexed us before, and they load us beside with an additional puzzle. We have now, not only another existence no better than the first, but we have to explain also how one of these stands to, or works on, the other. And the result is open self-contradiction or thoughtless obscurity. But the remedy is to purge ourselves of our groundless prejudice, and to seek reality elsewhere than in the existence of things. Continuity and identity, the other world and the Ego, do not, as such, exist. They are ideal, and, as such, they are not facts. But none the less they have reality, at least not inferior to that of temporal events. We must admit that, in the full sense, neither ideality nor existence is real. But you cannot pass, from the one-sided denial of one, to the one-sided assertion of the other. The attempt is based on a false alternative, and, in either case, must result in self-contradiction.

It is perhaps necessary, though wearisome, to add some remarks on the Ego. The failure to see that continuity and identity are ideal, has produced efforts to find the Ego existing, as such, as an actual fact. This Ego is, |284| on the one hand, to be somehow experienced as a fact, and, on the other hand, it must not exist either as one or as a number of events. And the attempt naturally is futile. For most assuredly, as we find it, the self is determinate. It is always qualified by a content.18 The Ego and Non-ego are at any time experienced, not in general, but with a particular character. But such an appearance is obviously a psychical event, with a given place in the series. And upon this I urge the following dilemma. If your Ego has no content, it is nothing, and it therefore is not experienced; but, if on the other hand it is anything, it is a phenomenon in time. But ‘not at all’, may be the answer, ‘since the Ego is outside the series, and is merely related to it, and perhaps acting on it’. I do not see that this helps us. If, I repeat, your Ego has no content, then anywhere it is nothing; and the relation of something to this nothing, and again its action upon anything, are utterly unmeaning. But, if upon the other hand this Ego has a content, then, for the sake of argument, you may say, if you please, that it exists. But, in any case, it stands outside, and it does not come into, experience at all. ‘No, it does not come there itself; it never, so to speak, appears in person; but its relation to phenomena, or its action on them, is certainly somehow experienced, or at least known’. In this answer the position seems changed, but it is really the same, and it does but lead back to our old dilemma. You cannot, in any sense, know, or perceive, or experience, a term as in relation, unless you have also the other term to which it is related. And, if we will but ponder this, surely it becomes self-evident. Well then, either you have not got any relation of phenomena to anything at all; or else the other term, your thing the Ego, takes its place among the rest. It becomes another event among psychical events.19

|285| It would be useless to pursue into its ramifications a view false at the root, and based (as we have seen) on a vicious alternative. That which is more than an event must also, from another side, exist, and must thus appear in, or as, one member of the temporal series. But, so far as it transcends time, it is ideal, and, as such, is not fact. The attempt to take it as existing somehow and somewhere alongside, thrusts it back into the sphere of finite particulars. In this way, with all our struggles, we never rise beyond some world of mere events, and we revolve vainly in a circle which brings us round to our starting-place. If it were possible for us to apprehend the whole series at once, and to take in its detail as one undivided totality, certainly then the timeless would have been experienced as a fact. But in that case ideality on the one side, and events on the other, would have each come to an end in a higher mode of being.

The objections, which we have discussed, have all shown themselves ill-founded. There is certainly nothing experienced which is not an event, though we have seen that in events there is that which transcends them. All continuity is ideal, and the arguments brought against the oneness of a psychical series, we saw, were not valid. Nor could we find that our phenomenal view of the soul brought it down to be an adjective depending on the organism. For the organism itself is also phenomenal. Soul and body are alike in being only appearance, and their connection is merely the relation of phenomena. It is the special nature of this relation that we have next to discuss.

I will begin by pointing out a view from which we must dissent. The soul and body may be regarded as two sides of one reality, or as the same thing taken twice and from two aspects of its being. I intend to say nothing here on the reasons which may lead to this conclusion, nor to |286| discuss the various objections which might be brought against them. I will briefly state the ground on which I am forced to reject the proposed identity. In the first place, even if we confine our attention to phenomena, I do not see that we are justified in thus separating each soul with its body from the rest of the world (p. 316-17). And there is a fatal objection to this doctrine, if carried further. If in the end soul and body are to be one thing, then, with whatever justification, you have concluded to a plurality of finite reals within the Absolute. But we have seen that such a conclusion is wholly indefensible. When soul and body come together in Reality, I utterly fail to perceive any reason why the special nature of each is, as such, to be preserved. It is one thing to be convinced that no element, or aspect of phenomena, can be lost in the Absolute. But it is quite another thing to maintain that every appearance, when there, continues to keep its distinctive character. To be resolved rather and to be merged, each as a factor in what is higher, is the nature of such things as the body and the soul.

And with this we are brought to a well-known and much-debated question. Is there a causal connection between the physical and the psychical, and are we to say that one series influences the other? I will begin by stating the view which prima facie suggests itself, I will then briefly discuss some erroneous doctrines, and will end by trying to set out a defensible conclusion. And, first, the belief which occurs to the unbiased observer is that soul acts upon body and body on soul. I do not mean by this that bare soul seems to work on bare body, for such a distinction is made only by a further reflection. I mean that, if without any theory you look at the facts, you will find that changes in one series (whichever it is) are often concerned in bringing on changes in the other. Psychical and physical, each alike, make a difference to one another. It is obvious that alterations of the soul come from movements in the organism, and it is no less obvious that the latter may be consequent on the former. We may be sure that no one, except to save a theory, would deny that in |287| volition mind influences matter. And with pain and pleasure such a denial would be even less natural. To hold that now in the individual pleasure and pain do not move, but are mere idle accompaniments, to maintain that never in past development have they ever made a difference to anything — surely this strikes the common observer as a wilful paradox. And, for myself, I doubt if most of those, who have accepted the doctrine in general, have fully realized its meaning.

This natural view, that body and soul have influence on each other, we shall find in the end to be proof against attack. But we must pass on now to consider some opposing conclusions. The man who denies the interaction in any sense of body and soul, must choose from amongst the possibilities which remain. He may take the two series as going on independently and side by side, or may make one the subordinate and adjective of the other. And I will begin by making some remarks on the parallel series. But I must ignore the historical development of this view, and must treat it barely as if it were an idea which is offered us today.

I would observe, first, that an assertion or a denial of causation can hardly be proved if you insist on demonstration. You may show that every detail we know points towards one result, and that we can find no special reason for taking this result as false. And, having done so much, you certainly have proved your conclusion. But, even after this, a doubt remains with regard to what is possible. And, unless all other possibilities can be disposed of, you have failed to demonstrate. In the particular doctrine before us we have, I think, a case in point. The mere coincidence of soul and body cannot be shown to be impossible; but this bare possibility is, on the other hand, no good reason for supposing the coincidence to be fact.

Appearance points to a causal connection between the physical and psychical series. And yet this appearance might possibly be a show, produced in the following way. There might on each side be other conditions, escaping |288| our view, which would be enough to account for the changes in each series. And we may even carry our supposition a step further on. There might on both sides be, within each series, no causal connection between its events. A play of unknown conditions might, on either side, present the appearance of a series. The successive facts would in that case show a regular sequence, but they would not actually be members and links of any one connected series. I do not see how such a suggestion can be proved to be impossible; but that is surely no reason for regarding it as fact. And to this same result we are led, when we return to consider the idea of two coinciding series. The idea seems baseless, and I do not think it necessary to dwell further on this point.20

We seem, therefore, driven to regard soul and body as causally connected, and the question will be as to the nature of their connection. Can this be all, so to speak, on one side? Is the soul merely an adjective depending on the body, and never more than an effect? Or is, again, the body a mere accompaniment resulting from the soul? Both these questions must be met by an emphatic negative. The suggested relation is, in each case, inconsistent and impossible. And, since there is no plausibility in the idea of physical changes always coming from, and never reacting on, the soul, I will not stop to consider it. I will pass to the opposite one-sidedness, a doctrine equally absurd, though, at first sight, seeming more plausible.

Psychical changes, upon this view, are never causes at all, but are solely effects. They are adjectives depending upon the body, but which at the same time make absolutely |289| no difference to it. They do not quite fall outside causation, for they are events which certainly are produced by physical changes. But they enter the causal series in one character only. They are themselves produced, but on the other hand nothing ever results from them. And this does not merely mean that, for certain purposes, you may take primary qualities as unaffected by secondary, and may consider secondary qualities as idle adjectives which issue from primary. It means that all psychical changes are effects, brought about by what is physical, while themselves absolutely without any influence on the succession of phenomena. I have been forced to state this view in my own terms as, though widely held, I do not find it anywhere precisely expressed. Its adherents satisfy themselves with metaphors, and rest on half worked out comparisons. And all that their exposition, to me, makes clear, is the confusion which it springs from.

The falseness of this doctrine can be exhibited from two points of view. It involves the contradiction of an adjective which makes no difference to its substantive,21 and the contradiction of an event in time, which is an effect but not a cause. For the sake of brevity I shall here confine myself to the second line of criticizm. I must first endeavour, in my own way, to give to the materialistic doctrine a reasonable form; and I will then point out that its inconsistency is inherent and not removable.

If we agree to bring psychical events under the head of what is ‘secondary’, we may state the proposed way of connection as follows:

A – B – C
| | |
α β γ

A, B, C is the succession of primary qualities, and it is taken to be a true causal series. Between the secondary products, α, β, γ, is no causal connection, nor do they make any difference to the sequence of C from B and of B from |290| A, They are, each of them, adjectives which happen, but which produce no consequence. But, though their succession is not really causal, it must none the less appear so, because it is regular. And it must be regular, since it depends on a series which is unalterably fixed by causation. And in this way (it may be urged) the alleged inconsistency is avoided, and all is made harmonious. We are not forced into the conclusion that the self-same cause can produce two different effects. A is not first followed by mere B and then again by


since α is, in fact, irremovable from A. Nor is it necessary to suppose that the sequence A — B must ever occur by itself. For α will, in fact, accompany A, and β will always occur with B. Still this inseparability will in no way affect our result, which is the outcome and expression of a general principle. A–B–C is the actual and sole thread of causation, while α, β, γ are the adjectives which idly adorn it. And hence these latter must seem to be that which really they are not. They are in fact decorative, but either always or usually so as to appear constructional.

This is the best statement that I can make in defence of my unwilling clients, and I have now to show that this statement will not bear criticizm. But there is one point on which I, probably, have exceeded my instructions. To admit that the sequence A – B – C does not exist by itself, would seem contrary to that view which is more generally held. Yet, without this admission, the inconsistency can be exhibited more easily.

The Law of Causation is the principle of Identity, applied to the successive. Make a statement involving succession, and you have necessarily made a statement which, if true, is true always. Now, if it is true universally that B follows A, then that sequence is what we mean by a causal law. If, on the other hand, the sequence is not universally true, then it is not true at all. For B, in that case, must have followed something more or less than A; and hence the judgment A–B was certainly false. Thus |291| a stated fact of succession is untrue, till it has been taken as a fact of causation. And a fact of causation is truth which is, and must be, universal.22 It is an abstracted relation, which is either false always, or always true. And hence, if we are able to say ever that B follows mere A, then this proposition A–B is eternal verity. But, further, a truth cannot be itself and at the same time something different. And therefore once affirm A–B, and you can not affirm also and as well A–B β, if (that is to say) in both cases you are keeping to the same A. For if the event β follows, while arising from no difference, you must assert of mere A both ‘–B’ and ‘–B β’. But these two assertions are incompatible. In the same way, if A α has, as a consequence, mere B, it is impossible that bare A should possess the same consequence. If it seems otherwise, then certainly A was not bare, or else α was not relevant. And any other conclusion would imply two incompatible assertions with regard to B.23

Hence we may come to a first conclusion about the view which makes an idle adjective of the soul. If it asserts that these adjectives both happen, and do not happen, for no reason at all, if it will say that the physical sequence is precisely the same, both without them and with them, then such a view flatly contradicts itself. For it not only supposes differences, which do not make any difference — a supposition which is absurd; but it also believes in a decoration, which at one time goes with, and at another time stays away from its construction, and which is an event which, equally in either case, is without any reason.24 And, with this, perhaps we may pass on.

|292| Let us return to that statement of the case which appeared to us more plausible. There is a succession

A – B – C
| | |
α β γ

and in this the secondary qualities are inseparable from the primary. A–B–C is, in fact, never found by itself, but it is, for all that, the true and the only causal sequence. We shall, however, find that this way of statement does but hide the same mistake which before was apparent. In the succession above, unless there really is more than we are supposed to take in, and unless α, β, γ are connected with something outside, we have still the old inconsistency. If A–B–C is the truth, then the succession, which we had, is in fact impossible; and, if the sequence is modified, then A–B–C cannot possibly be true. I will not urge that, if it were true, it would at least be undiscoverable, since, by the hypothesis, α is inseparable from A. I admit that we may postulate sometimes where we cannot prove or observe; and I prefer to show that such a postulate is here self-contradictory. It is assumed that α is an adjective indivisible from A, but is an adjective which at the same time makes no difference to its being. Or α, at any rate, makes no difference to the action of A, but is perfectly inert. But, if so, then, as before, A possesses two predicates incompatible with each other. We cannot indeed say, as before, that in fact it is followed first by mere B, and then again by Bβ. But we, none the less, are committed to assertions which clash. We hold that A produces B, and that A produces Bβ; and one of these judgments must be false. For, if A produces mere B, then it does not produce Bβ. Hence β is either an event which is a gratuitous accident, or else a must have somehow (indirectly or directly) made this difference in B. But, if so, a is not inert, but is a part-cause of B; and therefore the sequence of B from mere A is false.25 The plausibility of our statement has proved illusory.

|293| I am loath to perplex the question by subtleties, which would really carry us no further; but I will notice a possible evasion of the issue. The secondary qualities, I may be told, do not depend each on one primary, but are rather the adjectives of relations between these. They attend on certain relations, yet make no difference to what follows. But here the old and unresolved contradiction remains. It cannot be true that any relation (say of A to E) which produces another relation (say of B to F), should both produce this latter naked, and also attended by an adjective, β. One of these assertions must be false, and, with it, your conclusion. It is in short impossible to have differences which come without a difference, or which make no difference to what follows them. The attempt involves a contradiction, explicit or veiled, but in either case ruinous to the theory which adopts it.

We have now finished our discussion of erroneous views.26 We have seen that to deny the active connection |294| of body and soul is either dangerous or impossible. It is impossible, unless we are prepared to contradict ourselves, to treat the soul as a mere adjective not influencing the body. And to accept, on the other hand, two coinciding and parallel series Note 27 is to adopt a conclusion opposed to the main bulk of appearance. Nor for such a desertion of probability can I find any warrant. The common view, that soul and body make a difference to one another, is in the end proof against objection. And I will endeavour now to set it out in a defensible form.

Let me say at once that, by a causal connection of mind with matter, I do not mean that one influences the other when bare. I do not mean that soul by itself ever acts upon body, or that mere bodily states have an action on bare soul. Whether anything of the kind is possible, I shall enquire lower down; but I certainly see no reason to regard it as actual. I understand that, normally, we have an event with two sides, and that these two sides, taken together, are the inseparable cause of the event which succeeds. What is the effect? It is a state of soul going along with a state of body, or rather with a state of those parts of our organism which are considered to be in immediate relation with mind. And what are we to say is the cause? It is a double event of the same kind, and the two sides of it, both in union, produce the effect. The alteration of mind, which results, is not the effect of mind or body, acting singly or alone, but of both working at once. And the state of body, which accompanies it, is again the product of two influences. It is brought about neither by bare body, nor yet again by bare soul. Hence a difference, made in one side, must make a difference to the other side, and it makes a difference also to both sides of what follows. And, though this statement will receive later some qualification (p. 298), the causal connection of the soul’s events, in general, is inseparably double.

In physiology and in psychology we, in practice, disregard this complication. We for convenience sake regard as the cause, or as the effect, what is in reality but a prominent condition or consequence. And such a mutilation of phenomena is essential to progress. We speak of an intellectual sequence, in which the conclusion, as a psychical event, is the effect of the premises. We talk as if the antecedent mental state were truly the cause, and were not merely one part of it. Where, in short, we find that on either side the succession is regular, we regard it as independent. And it is only where irregularity is forced on our attention, that we perceive body and mind to interfere with one another. But, at this point, practical convenience has unawares led us into difficulty. We are puzzled now to comprehend how that which was independent has been induced to leave its path. We begin to seek the cause which forces it to exert and to suffer influence; and, with this, we are well on the road to false theory and ruinous error.

But the truth is that no mere psychical sequence is a fact, or in any way exists. With each of its members is conjoined always a physical event, and these physical |296| events enter into every link of causation. The state of mind, or body, is here never more than part-cause, or again more than part-effect. We may attend to either of the sides, which for our purpose is prominent; we may ignore the action of the other side, where it is constant and regular; but we cannot deny that both really contribute to the effect. Thus we speak of feelings and of ideas as influencing the body. And so they do, since they make a difference to the physical result, and since this result is not the consequence from a mere physical cause. But feelings and ideas, on the other hand, neither act nor exist independent of body. The altered physical state is the effect of conditions, which are, at once, both psychical and physical. We find the same duplicity when we consider alterations of the soul. An incoming sensation may be regarded as caused by the body; but this view is, taken generally, one-sided and incorrect. The prominent condition has been singled out, and the residue ignored. And, if we deny the influence of the antecedent psychical state, we have pushed allowable, licence once more into mistake.

The soul and its organism are each a phenomenal series. Each, to speak in general, is implicated in the changes of the other. Their supposed independence is therefore imaginary, and to overcome it by invoking a faculty such as Will — is the effort to heal a delusion by means of a fiction. In every psychical state we have to do with two sides, though we disregard one. Thus in the "Association of Ideas" we have no right to forget that there is a physical sequence essentially concerned. And the law of Association must itself be extended, to take in connections formed between physical and psychical elements. The one of these phenomena, on its re-occurrence, may bring back the other. In this way a psychical state, once conjoined with a physical, may normally restore it; and hence this psychical state can be treated as the cause. It is not properly the cause, since it is not the whole cause; but it is most certainly an effective and differential condition. The physical event is not the result from a mere physical |297| state. And if the idea or feeling had been absent, or if again it had not acted, this physical event would not have happened.

I am aware that such a statement is not an explanation, but I insist that in the end no explanation is possible. There are many enquiries which are legitimate. To ask about the ‘seat’ of the soul, and about the ultimate modes of sequence and coexistence, both physical and psychical, is proper and necessary. We may remain incapable, in part, of resolving these problems; but at all events the questions they put are essentially answerable, however little we are called upon to deal with them here. But the connection of body and soul is in its essence inexplicable, and the further enquiry as to the ‘how’ is irrational and hopeless. For soul and body are not realities. Each is a series, artificially abstracted from the whole, and each, as we have seen, is self-contradictory. We cannot in the end understand how either comes to exist, and we know that both, if understood, would, as such, have been transmuted. To comprehend them, while each is fixed in its own untrue character, is utterly impossible. But, if so, their way of connection must remain unintelligible.

And the same conclusion may be reached by considering the causal series. In this normally the two sides are inseparable from each other, and it was by a licence only that we were permitted ever to disregard one side. But, with this result, still we have not reached the true causal connection. It is only by a licence that in the end both sides taken together can be abstracted from the universe. The cause is not the true cause unless it is the whole cause; and it is not the whole cause unless in it you include the environment, the entire mass of unspecified conditions in the background. Apart from this you have regularities, but you have not attained to intelligible necessity. But the entire mass of conditions is not merely inexhaustible, but also it is infinite; and thus a complete knowledge of causation is theoretically impossible.27 Our known causes and effects are held always by a licence and partly on |298| sufferance. To observe regularities, to bring one under the other as far as possible, to remove everywhere what can be taken as in practice irrelevant, and thus to reduce the number of general facts we cannot hope for more than this in explaining concrete phenomena. And to seek for more in the connection of body and soul is to pursue a chimera.

But, before we proceed, there are points which require consideration. A state of soul seems not always to follow, even in part, from a preceding state. And an arrangement of mere physical conditions seems to supply the whole origin of a psychical life. And again, when the soul is suspended and once more reappears, the sole cause of the reappearance seems to lie in the body. I will begin by dealing with the question about the soul’s origin. We must remember, in the first place, that mere body is an artificial abstraction, and that its separation from mind disappears in the Whole. And, when the abstraction is admitted and when we are standing on this basis, it is not certain, even then, that any matter exists unconnected with soul (Chapter xxii). Now, if we bear in mind these considerations, we need not seek to deny that physical conditions can be the origin of a psychical life. We might have at one moment a material arrangement and at the next moment we might find that this arrangement was modified, and was accompanied by a certain degree of soul. Even if this as a fact does not happen, I can find absolutely no reason to doubt that it is possible, nor does it seem to me to clash with our preceding view. But we must beware of misunderstandings. We can hardly believe, in the first place, that a soul, highly developed, arises thus all at once. And we must remember, in the second place, that a soul which is the result of mere matter, on the other hand at once qualifies and reacts on that matter. Mere body will, even here, never act upon bare mind. The event is single at one moment, and is double at the next; but in this twofold result the sides will imply, and will make a difference to one another. They are a joint-effect, and in what |299| follows, whether as passive or active, each is nothing by itself. The soul is never mere soul, and the body, as soon as ever the soul has emerged, is no longer bare body. And, when this is understood, we may assent to the physical origin of mind. But we must remember that the material cause of the soul will be never the whole cause. Matter is a phenomenal isolation of one aspect of reality. And the event which results from any material arrangement, really pre-supposes and depends on the entire background of conditions. It is only through a selection, and by a licence, that a mere physical cause can anywhere be supposed to exist.28

And the same conclusion holds when we consider the suspension of a soul. The psychical life of an organism seems more or less to disappear, and again to be restored, and we have to ask whether this restoration is effected by mere matter. We may distinguish here two questions, one of which concerns fact, and the other possibility. It is first, I think, impossible to be sure that anywhere psychical functions have ceased wholly. You certainly cannot conclude from the absence of familiar phenomena to the absence of everything, however different in degree or in kind. And whether, as a fact, anywhere in an organism its soul is quite suspended, I do not pretend to know. But assume for argument’s sake that this is so, it does not lead to a new difficulty. We have a case once more here, where physical conditions are the origin of a psychical result, and there seems no need to add anything to our discussion of this point And what we are to say the soul is in the interval, during which it has ceased to exist, we have already enquired.

And under this head of suspension may fall all those cases, where a psychical association seems to have become merely physical. In psychology we have connections, which once certainly or possibly were conscious, but now, in part or altogether, and either always or at times, appear to happen without any psychical links. But, however |300| interesting for psychology, these cases have little metaphysical importance.29 And I will content myself here with repeating our former warnings. It is, in the first place, not easy to be sure of our ground, when we wholly exclude an unconscious process in the soul. But, even when this has been excluded, and we are left with bare body, the body will be no more than relatively bare. We shall have reached something where the soul in question is absent, but where we cannot say that soul is absent altogether. For there is no part of Nature, which we can say (Chapter xxii) is not directly organic to a soul or souls. And the merely physical, we saw, is in any case a mere abstraction. It is set apart from, and still depends on, the whole of experience.

I will briefly notice another point. It may be objected that our view implies interference with, or suspension of, the laws of matter or of mind. And it will be urged that such interference is wholly untenable. This objection would rest on a misunderstanding. Every law which is true is true always and forever; but, upon the other hand, every law is emphatically an abstraction. And hence obviously all laws are true only in the abstract. Modify the conditions, add some elements to make the connection more concrete, and the law is transcended. It is not interfered with, and it holds, but it does not hold of this case. It remains perfectly true, but is inapplicable where the conditions which it supposes are absent.

I have dwelt at length on the connection of body and soul, but it presents a series of questions which we have, even yet, not discussed. I must endeavour to dispose of these briefly. Can we say that bare soul ever acts upon body, and can soul exist at all without matter, and if so, in what sense? In our experience assuredly bare soul is not found. Its existence there, and its action, are inseparable from matter; but a question obviously can be asked |301| with regard to what is possible. As to this, I would begin by observing that, if bare soul exists, I hardly see how we could prove its existence. We have seen (Chapter xxii) that we can set no bounds to the variety of bodies. An extended organism might, none the less, be widely scattered and discontinuous; and again organisms might be shared wholly or partially between souls. Further, of whatever extended material a body is composed, there remains the question of its possible functions and properties. I cannot see how, on the one hand, we can fix the limits of these. But upon the other hand, if we fail to do so, I do not understand by what process we even begin to infer the existence of bare soul.30 And our result so far must be this. We may agree that soul, acting or existing in separation from body, is a thing which is possible; but we are still without the smallest reason, further, for regarding it as real.

But is such a soul indeed possible? Or let us rather ask, first, what such a soul would mean. For, if disconnected from all extension, it might even then not be naked. One can imagine an arrangement of secondary qualities, not extended but constant; and this might accompany psychical life and serve as a body (p. 237). We have no reason for seriously entertaining this idea, but, on the other hand, is there any argument which would prove it impossible? And we may come to the same conclusion with regard to bare soul. This would mean a psychical series devoid of every quality that could serve as an organism. Of course if it were a ‘spirit’, immaterial and at the same time localized and extended, it would be inconsistent with itself. But there is no necessity for our falling into such self-contradiction. A psychical series without extension or locality in space, I presume, is conceivable. And this bare series might, for all we know, normally, or on occasion, even influence body. Nay, for all that I can perceive, such a naked soul might do more. Just as we saw that soul can follow from material conditions, so, in the course |302| of events, some matter might itself result from soul. All these things are ‘possible’ in this sense, that, within our knowledge, they cannot any of them be proved to be unreal. But they are mere idle possibilities. We can find no further ground for entertaining them, and in an estimate of probability we could not give them an appreciable value. But surely that which we have no more reason for taking as true, is nothing which we need trouble ourselves to consider. We have in fact no choice but to treat it as wholly nonexistent.31

We have now discussed the general connection of soul with body. We have seen that neither is reality. Each is a phenomenal series, and their members, as events in time, are causally related. The changes on one side in their sequence are inseparable from, and affected by, the changes on the other side. This, so far as body and soul are connected at all, is the normal course of things. But when we went on to investigate, we found a difference. The existence and action of bare soul is a mere possibility. We have no further reason to believe in it; nor, if it were fact, do I see how we should be able to discover it. But the existence of mere body, and the appearance of soul as its consequence, and again the partial absence or abeyance of psychical links, we found much more than possible. When properly interpreted, though we cannot prove that these are facts, they have very great probability. Still there is not, after all, the smallest ground to suppose that mere matter directly acts upon psychical states. To gain an accurate view of this connection in all its features is exceedingly difficult. But what is important for metaphysics, is to realize clearly that the interest of such details is secondary. Since the phenomenal series, in any case, come together in the Absolute, since their special characters must be lost there and be dissolved in what transcends them — the existence by itself of either body or soul is illusory. Their separation may be used for particular |303| purposes, but it is, in the end, an untrue or a provisional abstraction.

It is necessary, before ending this chapter, to say something on the relation of soul to soul. The way of communication between souls, and again their sameness and difference, are points on which we must be careful to guard against error. It is certain, in the first place, that experiences are all separate from each other. However much their contents are identical, they are on the other hand made different by appearing as elements in distinct centres of feeling. The immediate experiences of finite beings cannot, as such, come together; and to be possessed directly of what is personal to the mind of another, would in the end be unmeaning. Thus souls, in a sense at least, are separate; but, upon the other hand, they are able to act on one other. And I will begin by enquiring how, in fact, they exercise this influence.

The direct action of soul on soul is, for all we know, possible; but we have, at the same time, no reason for regarding it as more. That which influences, and that which acts, is, so far as we know, always the outside of our bodies. Nor, even if we admit abnormal perception and influence at a distance, need we modify this result. For here the natural inference would be to a medium extended in space, and of course, like ‘ether’, quite material. And in this way the abnormal connection, if it exists, does not differ in kind from what is familiar. Again the inside of one organism might, I presume, act directly on the inside of another. But, if this is possible, we need not therefore consider it as actual. Nor do such enquiries possess genuine metaphysical interest. For the influence of the internal, whether body or soul, is not less effective because it operates through, and with, the outside; nor would it gain in reality by becoming direct. And with this we may dismiss an idea, misemployed by superstition, but from which no conclusion of the smallest importance could follow. A direct connection between souls we cannot say is impossible, but, on the other hand, we find no good |304| reason for supposing it to exist. The possibility seems, in addition, to be devoid of all interest.

We may assume then that souls do not influence each other, except through their bodies. And hence it is only by thus way that they are able to communicate. Alterations of the phenomenal group which I call my body, produce further changes in the physical environment. And thus, indirectly or directly, other organisms are altered, with consequent effects on the course of their accompanying souls. This account, which is true of my soul, holds good also with others. The world is such that we can make the same intellectual construction. We can, more or less, set up a scheme, in which every one has a place, a system constant and orderly, and in which the relations apprehended by each percipient coincide. Why and how this comes about we in the end cannot understand; but it is such a Uniformity of Nature which makes communication possible.32

But this may suggest to us a doubt. If such alterations of bodies are the sole means which we possess for conveying what is in us, can we be sure in the end that we really have conveyed it? For suppose that the contents of our various souls differed radically, might we not still, on the same ground, be assured of their sameness? The objection is serious, and must be admitted in part to hold good. I do not think we can be sure that the sensible qualities we perceive are for everyone the same. We infer from the apparent identity of our structure that this is so; and our conclusion, though not proved, possesses high probability. And, again, it may be impossible in fact that, while the relations are constant, the qualities should vary; but to assert this would be to pass beyond the limits of our knowledge. What, however, we are convinced of, is briefly this, that we understand and, again, are ourselves understood. There is, indeed, a theoretical |305| possibility that these other bodies are without any souls,33 or that, while behaving as if they understood us, their souls really remain apart in worlds shut up from ours. But, when this bare possibility is excluded, the question stands thus. A common understanding being admitted, how much does that imply? What is the minimum of sameness that we need suppose to be involved in it?

It might be interesting elsewhere to pursue this question at length, but I must content myself here with an attempt briefly to indicate the answer. The fact is that, in the main, we behave as if our internal worlds were the same. But this fact means that, for each one, the inner systems coincide. Through all their detail these several orders must lead to the same result. But, if so, we may go further, and may conclude that each comes to the same thing. What is the amount of variety then which such coinciding orders will admit? We must, I presume, answer that, for all we know, the details may be different, but that the principles cannot vary. There seems to be a point beyond which, if laws and systems come to the same thing, they must be actually the same. And the higher we mount from facts of sense, and the wider our principles have become, the more nearly we have approached to this point of identity. Thus sensible qualities, we may suppose, at one end are largely divergent; while, if we rise high enough at the other end, we must postulate sameness. And, between these two extremes, as we advance, the probability increases that coincidence results from identical character. It is, for example, more likely that we share our general morality with another man, than that we both have the same tastes or odours in common. And with this I will pass from a subject which seems both difficult and interesting, but which for metaphysics possesses but secondary importance. Whatever variety there may be, cannot extend to first principles; and all variety comes together, and is transformed, in the Absolute.

But there is a natural mistake which, perhaps, I should |306| briefly notice. Our inner worlds, I may be told, are divided from each other, but the outer world of experience is common to all; and it is by standing on this basis that we are able to communicate. Such a statement would be incorrect. My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it. With regard to communicability, there is in fact not any difference of kind, but only of degree. In every case the communication must be made indirectly, and through the medium of our outsides. What is true is that, with certain elements, the ways of expression may be shorter and less mistakable; and again the conditions, which secure a community of perception, are, with certain elements, more constant and more subject to our control. So much seems clear, but it is not true that our physical experiences have unity, in any sense which is inapplicable to the worlds we call internal. Nor again, even in practice, is it always more easy to communicate an outer than an inner experience. In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul. But, if on the other hand, you are considering identity of content, and, on that basis, are transcending such particular existences, then there is at once, in principle, no difference between the inner and the outer.34 No experience can lie open to inspection from outside; no direct guarantee of identity is possible. Both our knowledge of sameness, and our way of communication, are indirect and inferential. They must make the circuit, and must use the symbol, of bodily change. If a common ruler of souls could give to any one a message from the inside, such a message could never be handed on but by alterations of bodies. That real identity of ideal content, by |307| which all souls live and move, cannot work in common save by the path of external appearance.

And, with this, we are led to the question of the identity between souls. We have just seen that immediate experiences are separate, and there is probably no one who would desire to advocate a contrary opinion. But there are those, I presume, who will deny the possibility of two souls being, in any respect, really the same. And we must endeavour very briefly to clear our ideas on this matter.

It would be, of course, absurd to argue that two persons are not two but only one, or that, in general, differences are not different, but simply the same; and any such contention would be, doubtless, a wilful paradox. But the principle of what we may call the Identity of Indiscernibles, has quite another meaning. It implies that sameness can exist together with difference, or that what is the same is still the same, however much in other ways it differs. I shall soon attempt to define this principle more clearly, but what I would insist on, first, is that to deny it is to affront common sense. It is, in fact, to use words which could have no meaning. For every process of psychical Association is based on this ground; and, to come to what is plainer, every movement of our intellect rests wholly upon it If you will not assume that identity holds throughout different contexts, you cannot advance one single step in apprehending the world. There will be neither change nor endurance, and still less, motion through space of an identical body; there will neither be selves nor things, nor, in brief, any intelligible fact, unless on the assumption that sameness in differents is real. Apart from this main principle of construction, we should be confined to the feeling of a single moment.Note 28

And to appeal to Similarity or Resemblance would be a futile attempt to escape in the darkness. For Similarity itself, when we view it in the daylight, is nothing in the world but more or less unspecified sameness. I will not dwell here on a point which elsewhere I have possibly |308| pursued ad nauseam.35 No one, perhaps, would ever have betaken himself to mere Resemblance, unless he had sought in it a refuge from the dangers of Identity. And these dangers are the product of misunderstanding.

There is a notion that sameness implies the denial of difference, while difference is, of course, a palpable fact. But really sameness, while in one respect exclusive of difference, in another respect most essentially implies it. And these two "respects" are indivisible, even in idea. There would be no meaning in sameness, unless it were the identity of differences, the unity of elements which it holds together, but must not confound. And in the same way difference, while it denies, presupposes identity. For difference must depend on a relation, and a relation is possible only on a basis of sameness. It is not common sense that has any desire to reject such truths, and blindly to stand upon difference to the exclusion of identity. In ordinary science no one would question the reality of motion, because it makes one thing the same throughout diverse times and spaces. That things to be the same must always be different, and to be different must be, therefore, the same — this is not a paradox, until it is paradoxically stated. It does not seem absurd, unless, wrongly, it is taken to imply that difference and sameness themselves are actually not different.36 And, apart from such |309| misunderstanding, the ground and reason of the antagonism to identity is furnished merely by one-sided and uncritical metaphysics.

This mistaken opposition is based upon a truth, a truth that has been misapprehended and perverted into error. What has been perceived, or dimly felt, is in fact a principle that, throughout this work, has so often come before us. The Real in the end is self-subsistent, and contained wholly in itself; and its being is therefore not relative, nor does it admit a division of content from existence. In short relativity and self-transcendence, or, as we may call it, ideality, cannot as such be the character of ultimate Reality. And, so far as this goes, we are at one with the objectors to identity. But the question really is about the conclusion which follows from this premise. Our conclusion is that finite existence must, in the end, not be real; it is an appearance which, as such, is transformed in the Absolute. But such a result obviously does not imply that, within the world of phenomena, identity is unreal. And hence the conclusion, which more or less explicitly is drawn by our opponents, differs widely from ours. From the self-subsistent nature of the Real they have inferred the reality of diverse existences, beings in any case several and finite, and without community of essence. 37 But this conclusion, as we have seen, is wholly untenable. For plurality and separateness themselves exist only by means of relations (Chapter iii). To be different from another is to have already transcended one’s own being; and all finite existence is thus incurably relative and ideal. Its quality falls, more or less, outside its particular ‘thatness’; and, whether as the same or again as diverse, it is equally made what it is by community with others. Finite elements are joined by what divides, and are divided by what joins them, and their division and their junction alike are ideal. But, if so, and unless some |310| answer is found to this contention, it is impossible to deny that identity is a fact.38 It is not real ultimately, we are agreed, but then facts themselves are not ultimate, and the question is confined to the realm of phenomenal existence. For difference itself is but phenomenal, and is itself assuredly not ultimate. And we may end, I think, with this reply. Show us (we may urge) a region of facts which are neither different nor yet the same; show us how quality without relation, or how mere being, can differentiate; point out how difference is to keep any meaning, as soon as sameness is wholly banished; tell us the way in which sameness and difference can exist, if they may not be ideal; explain how, if identity is not real, the world of experience in any part holds together — at least attempt this, or else admit that identity is ideal and is, at the same time, a fact, and that your objection, in short, had no basis but confusion and traditional prejudice.

But the principle that sameness is real and is not destroyed by differences, demands, as we have seen, some explanation. It would be absurd, for instance, to suppose that two souls really are but one soul, since identity always implies and depends upon difference; and we may now treat this point as sufficiently discussed. Sameness is real amid differences; but we must neither deny that these differences, in one sense, affect it, nor may we assert that sameness is always a working connection. I will take these points in their order.

We may say that what is once true remains true always, or that what is the same in any one context, is still the same in any other context. But, in affirming this, we must be on our guard against a serious mistake. For a difference of conditions, it is obvious, will make a difference to sameness, and it is certain that contexts can modify their identical element If, that is, rushing to the opposite extreme, you go on to immerse wholly your truths in their conditions, if you refuse in any respect to abstract from this total diversity, then the principle of identity becomes inapplicable. You then would not have the same thing |311| under different circumstances, because you would have declined to see anything whatever but difference. But, if we avoid these errors on each side, the principle soon becomes clear. Identity obviously by its essence must be more or less abstract; and when we predicate it, we are disregarding other sides of the whole. We are asserting that, notwithstanding other aspects, this one aspect of sameness persists and is real. We do not say how far it extends, or what proportion it bears to the accompanying diversity; but sameness, so far as it goes, is actually and genuinely the same. Given a fresh instance of a law, and the law still holds good, though in the whole result this one factor may seem overborne. The other conditions here have joined to modify the general consequence, but the law itself has worked fully, and has maintained its selfsame character. And, given two individuals with any part of their content indiscernible, then, while that is so, we are bound, so far, to consider them the same. However much their diversity may preponderate, however different may be the whole effect of each separate compound, yet, for all that, what is the same in them is one and identical. And our principle, thus understood, is surely irrefragable, and wears the air, perhaps, more of triviality than of paradox. Its results indeed often would be trivial, most empty and frivolous. Its significance varies with varying conditions. To know that two souls have an element of their contents in common, may thus be quite unimportant. Such knowledge may, again, assure us of the very gravest and most fundamental truths. But of all this the principle itself, being abstract, tells us nothing.

And as to any working connection our principle is silent. Whether an identical point in two things affects them otherwise, so as to cause other changes to happen, we are unable to learn from it. For how a thing works must depend on its special relations, while the principle, as we have seen, remains perfectly general. Two souls, for example, which live together, may by their identity be drawn into active community. If the same were sundered in time, this, for our knowledge, would be impossible. |312| But, in the latter case, the identity exists actually as much as it exists in the former. The amount of sameness, and the kind of sameness, and what the sameness will bring forth — these points all fall outside of our abstract principle. But if any one bases an objection on this ground, he would seem to be arguing in effect that, because, in fact, diverse identities exist, therefore identity, as a fact, has no actual existence. And such a position seems irrational.

Our result, so far, is that the sameness between souls is a fact. The identity of their content is just as real as is their separate existence. But this identity, on the other hand, need not imply a further relation between them. It need not, so far as we can see, act in any way; and its action, where it acts, appears to be always indirect. Souls seem to influence one another only by means of their bodies.

But this limited view of identity, as a working force, must be modified when we consider the individual soul. In the course of its internal history we must admit that the sameness of its states is an actual mover. In other words the mechanical interpretation, if throughout applicable to Nature, must in dealing with souls be in part given up. And I will end the chapter by pointing out this important distinction.

I mean by Nature here the physical world, considered merely as physical and in abstraction from soul (Chapter xxii). And in Nature sameness and difference may be said everywhere to exist, but never anywhere to work. This would, at least, appear to be the ideal of natural science, however incompletely that ideal has been carried into practice. No element, according to this principle, can be anything to any other, merely because it is the same, or because it is different. For these are but internal characters, while that which works is in every case an outward relation.39 But then, if so, sameness and difference may |313| appear at first sight to have no meaning at all. They may look like idle ornaments of which science, if consistent, should strip itself. Such a conclusion, however, would be premature, since, if these two characters are removed, science bodily disappears. It would be impossible without them ever to ask Why, or any longer to say Because. And the function of sameness and difference, if we consider it, is obvious. For the external relations, which work, are summed up in the laws; and, on the other hand, the internal characters of the separate elements serve to connect them with these universal strings or hinges. And thus, while inoperative, sameness and difference are still effective indirectly, and in fact are indispensable. This would appear to be the essence of the mechanical view. But I am unable to state how far at present, through the higher regions of Nature, it has been in practice applied; and again I do not know how properly to interpret, for example, the (apparent) effect of identity in the case of continued motion through space. To speak generally, the mechanical view is in principle nonsense, because the position of the laws is quite inconsistent and unintelligible. This is indeed a defect which belongs necessarily to every special science (Chapter xi), but in the sphere of Nature it reaches its lowest extreme. The identity of physical elements may thus be said to fall outside their own being, their universality seems driven into banishment and forced to reside solely in laws. And, since these laws on the one hand are not physical, and since on the other hand they seem essential to Nature, the essence of Nature seems, therefore, made alien to itself, and to be on either side unnaturally sundered. However, compulsion from outside is the one working principle which is taken to hold in the physical world. And, at least if we are true to our ideal, neither identity nor difference can act in Nature.

|314| When we come to psychology this is altered. I do not mean that there the mechanical view ceases wholly, nor do I mean that, where it is superseded, as in the working of pleasure and pain, that which operates must be ideal.40 But, to a greater or less extent, all psychology, in its practice, is compelled to admit the working power of Identity. A psychologist may employ this force unwillingly, or may deny that he employs it; but without it he would be quite unable to make his way through the subject. I do not propose here to touch upon Coalescence or Blending, a principle much neglected by English psychologists. I will come at once to Redintegration, or what is more familiar to us as Association by Contiguity. Here we are forced to affirm that what happens now in the soul happens because of something else which took place there before. And it happens, further, because of a point of identity connecting the present with the past.41 That is to say, the past conjunction in the soul has become a law of its being. It actually exists there again because it happened there once, and because, in the present and in the past, an element of content is identical. And thus in the soul we can have habits, while habits that are but physical exist, perhaps, only through a doubtful metaphor. Where present and past functions have not an inner basis of identity, the word habit, if used, has no longer its meaning.42 Hence we may say that to a large extent the soul is itself its own laws, consists, itself, in the identity between its present and its past, and (unlike Nature) has its own ideal essence not quite external to itself. This seems, at all events, the view which, however erroneous, must be employed by every working psychologist.

But I must hasten to add that this view remains gravely imperfect. It is in the end impossible to maintain |315| that anything is because it has been. And with regard to the soul, such an objection can be pressed from two sides. Suppose, in the first place, that another body like my own were manufactured, can I deny that with this body would go everything that I call my self? So long as the soul is not placed in the position of an idle appendage, I have already, in principle, accepted this result. I think that in such a case there would be the same associations and of course the same memory. But we could no longer repeat here that the soul is, because it has been. We should be compelled rather to assert that (in a sense) the soul has been, because it now is. This imaginary case has led us back, in fact, to that problem of ‘dispositions’, which we found before was insoluble. Its solution (so far as we could perceive) would dissolve each of the constructions called body and soul.

And, in the second place, regarded from the inside, the psychological view of identity is no less a compromise. We may perhaps apprehend this by considering the double aspect of Memory. We remember, on the one hand, because of prior events in our existence. But, on the other hand, memory is most obviously a construction from the present, and it depends absolutely upon that which at the moment we are. And this latter movement, when developed, carries us wholly outside the psychological view, and altogether beyond memory. For the main object of thought may be called the attempt to get rid of mere conjunctions in the soul. A true connection, in the end, we see cannot be true because once upon a time its elements happened together. Mere associations, Note 29 themselves always universal from the first,43 are hence by thought deliberately purified. Starting from mere ‘facts’ — from those relations which are perceived in confused union with an irrelevant context — thought endeavours to transform them. Its advance would end in an ideal world where nothing stands by itself, where, in other words, nothing is |316| forced to stand in relation with what is foreign, but where, on the contrary, truth consists in an absolute relativity. Every element here would be because of something other which supports it, in which other, and in the whole, it finds its own identity. I certainly admit that this ideal cannot be fully realized (Chapter xv); but it furnishes the test by which we must judge whatever offers itself as truth. And, measured by this test, the psychological view is condemned.

The entire phenomenal world, as a connected series, and, in this world, the two constructions known as body and soul, are, all alike, imperfect ways of regarding Reality. And these ways at every point have proved unstable. They are arbitrary fixtures which tend throughout to transcend their limits, the limits which, for the sake of practice, we are forced to impose. And the result is everywhere inconsistency. We found that body, attempting to work without identity, became unintelligible. And we saw that the soul, admitting identity as a function in its life, ended also in mere compromise. These things are both appearances, and both are untrue; but still untruth has got degrees. And, compared with the physical world, the soul is, by far, less unreal. It shows to a larger extent that self-dependence in which Reality consists.

But the discussion of degrees in Reality will engage us hereafter. We may now briefly recall the main results of this chapter. We have seen that body and soul are phenomenal constructions. They are each inconsistent abstractions, held apart for the sake of theoretical convenience. And the superior reality of the body we found was a superstition. Passing thence to the relation which seems to couple these two makeshifts, we endeavoured to define it.44 We rejected both the idea of mere concomitance, and of the one-sided dependence of the soul; and we urged that an adjective which makes no difference to anything, is nonsense. We then discussed briefly the possibilities of bare soul and bare body, and we went from this to the relations which actually exist between souls. We concluded that souls affect each other, in fact, only through their bodies, but we insisted that, none the less, ideal identity between souls is a genuine fact. We found, last of all, that, in the psychical life of the individual, we had to recognize the active working of sameness. And we ended this chapter with the reflection which throughout has been near us. We have here been handling problems, the complete solution of which would involve the destruction of both body and soul. We have found ourselves naturally carried forward to the consideration of that which is beyond them.


1^ I shall have to say something more on this point lower down. The bodies which we know have also continuity in space. Whether this is essential will be discussed hereafter.

2^ Mind, XII. 355 (No. 47).

3^ I have for the moment excluded relation to a body. It is better not to define the soul as "the facts immediately experienced within one organism" for several reasons. I shall return to this point.

4^ I have tried to sketch the main development in Mind, as referred to above.

5^ I have said something on this in Mind, XII. 362-3.

6^ Compare Chapters xv, xix, xxi.

7^ I am not denying here the possibility of soul without body; see below, p. 300.

8^ I may be allowed to say here why I think such phrases as ‘individual’, or ‘individualistic point of view’, cannot serve to fix the definition of ‘soul’. To regard a centre of experience from an individualistic point of view may mean to view it as a series of psychical events. But if so, the meaning is only meant, and is certainly not stated. And the term ‘individual’ sins by excess as well as by defect. For it may stand for ‘Monad’ or ‘Ego’; and in this case the soul is at once more than phenomenal, and we have on our hands the relation of its plurality to the one Monad — a difficulty which, as we have seen, is insuperable. On the other hand ‘individualistic’ might imply that the soul’s contents do not, in any sense, transcend its private existence. The term, in short, requires definition, quite as much as does the object which it is used to define.

9^ On the subject of Identity see more below; and compare Chapter ix.

10^ I shall endeavour to explain this in the following chapter.

11^ Unconscious states could also be used to explain ‘dispositions’, in my opinion quite indefensibly. I may add that, within proper limits, I think psychology must make use of unconscious psychical facts.

12^ How far the soul can be said to result from merely physical conditions I shall enquire lower down.

13^ In another place I should be ready to enter on this question. It would, I think, not be difficult to show in psychology that the idea of a soul, or an Ego, or a Will, or an activity beyond events explains nothing at all. It serves only to produce false appearances of explanation, and to throw a mist over what is really left quite unexplained.

14^ There are some distinctions which we must keep in mind. By existence (taken strictly) I mean a temporal series of events or facts. And this series is not throughout directly experienced. It is an ideal construction from the basis of what is presented. But, though partly ideal, such a series is not wholly so. For it leaves its contents in the form of particulars, and the immediate conjunction of being and quality is not throughout broken up. Thisness, or the irrelevant context, is retained, in short, except so far as is required to make a series of events. And, though the events of the whole series are not actually perceived, they must be taken as what is in its character perceptible.
  Any part of a temporal series, no matter how long, can be called an event or fact. For it is taken as a piece, or quantity, made up of perceptible duration.
  By fact I mean either an event, or else what is directly experienced. Any aspect of direct experience, or again of an event, can itself be loosely styled a fact or event, so far as you consider it as a qualifying adjective of one.
  I may notice, last, that an immediate experience, e.g. of succession, can contain that which, when distinguished, is more than one event, and it can contain also an aspect which, as distinguished, is beyond events. But I should add that I have not tried to use any of the above words everywhere strictly.

15^ See above, p. 300, and compare Chapters xix and xxi. And for the relation of existence to thought see, further, Chapter xxiv.

16^ The whole series itself will, in a sense, be one event since it has a place and duration. But it will not be throughout an experienced fact.

17^ That the identity of a soul should be only so far as it exists for some soul, is one of the circles we have pointed out already.

18^ I should add that I am convinced that the Ego is a derivative product (Mind, No. 47). But the argument above is quite independent of this conclusion.)

19^ If action is attributed to the Ego things are made even worse, for activity has been shown to imply a sequence in time (Chapter vii). I may perhaps remind the reader here that to speak of a relation between phenomena and the Reality is quite incorrect. There are no relations, properly, except between things finite. If we speak otherwise, it should be by a licence.

20^ Of course, even on these hypotheses, one link of a series will be a cause of what follows, if you take that link in connection with the rest of the universe. Hence with regard to ‘occasionalism’ we may say that, since every cause must be limited more or less artificially, every cause therefore is able to be called an ‘occasion’. You may take in further and further conditions, until your partial cause seems an item unimportant, and even therefore ineffective. And here we are on the confines of absolute error. If the "occasion" is divided from the whole entire cause, and so held to be without an influence on the effect, that is at once quite indefensible.

21^ The same false principle, which is employed in the materialistic view of the soul, appears in the equally materialistic doctrine of the Real Presence.

22^ The addition of ‘unconditional’ would be surplusage. Cp. Principles of Logic, p. 485.

23^ The judgments, ‘B follows from A’ and ‘B follows from Aα’, are, if pure, not reconcilable. The same effect cannot have two causes, unless ‘cause’ is taken loosely. See Mr. Bosanquet’s Logic, Book I, Chapter vi. I have remarked further on this subject below in Chapter xxiv.

24^ If there were a reason, then mere A would no longer be the cause of both B and Bβ. I shall return to this lower down.

25^ The reader will remember that β (by the hypothesis) cannot follow directly from α. It is taken as dependent solely on B.

26^ I may perhaps, in this connection, be expected to say something on the Conservation of Energy. I am most unwilling to do this. One who, like myself, stands outside the sciences which use this idea, can hardly hope to succeed in apprehending it rightly. He constantly fails to distinguish between a mere working conception and a statement of fact. Thus, for example, ‘energy of position’ and ‘potential energy’ are phrases which in their actual employment, doubtless, are useful and accurate. But, to speak strictly, they are nonsense. If a thing disappears into conditions, which will hereafter produce it, then most assuredly in the interim it does not exist; and it is surely only by a licence that you can call the non-existent ‘in a state of conservation’. And hence, passing on, I will next take the Conservation of Energy to mean that at any moment actual matter and actual motion are an unaltered quantity. And this constancy may hold good either in each of several physical systems, or again in Nature as a whole (Chapter xxii). Now, if the idea is put forward as a hypothesis for working use only, I offer no criticizm of that which is altogether beyond me. But, if it is presented, on the other hand, as a statement of fact, I will say at once that I see no reason to accept it as true; and I am quite sure that it is not provable. If, for the sake of argument however, we accept the quantitative constancy of matter and motion, I do not find that this tells us anything as to the position of the soul. For, although mind influences body and body alters mind, the quantity may throughout remain precisely the same. The loss and gain, on the psychical and physical side, may each, upon the whole, exactly balance the other; and thus the physical energy of the system may be thoroughly preserved. If, however, any one insists that motion always must be taken as resulting from motion, even then he may avoid the conclusion that psychical events are not causes. He may fall back on some form of the two parallel series which only seem to be connected. Or he may betake himself to a hypothesis which still maintains their causal connection. An arrangement is possible, by which soul and body make a difference to each other, while the succession on each side appears, and may be treated, as independent. The losses and gains upon each side amongst the different threads of causal sequence might counterbalance one another. They might hinder and help each other, so that in the end all would look as if they really did nothing, and as if each series was left alone to pursue its own private course. Such an arrangement seems undeniably possible, but I am far from suggesting that it is fact. For I reject the principle which would force us, without any reason, to entertain such subtleties.
  I may be allowed to remark in conclusion that those who hold to the doctrine of ‘Conservation’, and who use this in any way as bearing on our views about the soul, may fairly be expected to make some effort. It seems incumbent on them to try to reconcile the succession of psychical events with the law of Causation. No one is bound to be intelligible outside his own science, I am quite convinced as to that. But such a plea is good only in the mouths of those who are willing to remain inside. And I must venture, respectfully but firmly, to insist on this point.

27^ Compare Chapter vi.

28^ Whether mere soul can act on or produce matter, I shall enquire lower down.

29^ Psychology, I should say, has a right to take the soul as suspended, or generally as absent so far as is convenient. I doubt if there is any other limit.

30^ See further ‘The Evidences of Spiritualism’, Fortnightly Review, No. ccxxviii.

31^ These worthless fancies really possess no kind of interest at all. The continuance of the soul after death will be touched on hereafter. On the general nature of the Possible, see, further, Chapters xxiv and xxvii.

32^ Cf. Chapter xxii. There may, so far as I see, be many systems of souls, each system without a way of communication with the others. On this point we seem to be without any means of judging.

33^ I do not mean that it is possible that my soul should contain all the experience which exists.

34^ It is of course true that outer experience to be properly outer, must already have passed beyond the stage of mere feeling, and that what is called inner experience, need not have done so. But this is, only in part, relevant to the issue.

35^ Principles of Logic, pp. 261-2. Cp. Ethical Studies, p. 151. I do not understand that there is any material difference on this head between myself and Mr, Bosanquet, Knowledge and Reality, pp. 97-108. I would add that in psychology the alternative, between Association by general resemblance and by (explicit) partial identity, is a false one. The feeling that two things are similar need not imply the perception of the identical point, but none the less this feeling is based always on partial sameness. For a confusion on this head see Stumpf, Tonpsychologie, I., 112-114. And now (while revising these words for the press) I regret to have to add to Stumpf’s name that of Professor James. I have examined the above confusion, more in detail, in Mind, No. 5, N. S. For Professor James’ reply, see No. 6.

36^ So long as we avoid this mistake, we may, and even must, affirm that things are different, so far as they are the same, and the same, so far as they are different. To get difference, or sameness, bare would be to destroy its character.

37^ The English writers who have objected to identity have left their principle of atomism and their principle of relativity simply standing side by side. Not one has (so far as I know) made the smallest attempt seriously to explain the position given to relations. Cp. Principles of Logic, p. 96.

38^ Fact in the sense of unseparated adjective of fact; see above, p. 280.

39^ I have not thought it necessary in the text to say anything on the view which finds a solution of all puzzles in impact. For why, in the first place, the working of impact should be self-evident, seems, except by the influence of mere habit, not easy to perceive. And, in the second place, it is sheer thoughtlessness if we imagine that by impact we get rid of the universal. Complete relativity, and an ideal unity which transcends the particulars, are just as essential to impart as to everything else.

40^ On this point, and on what follows, compare Mind, xii., pp. 360 and following.

41^ I have shown, in my Principles of Logic, that Contiguity cannot be explained by mere Similarity. See the chapter there on the Association of Ideas.

42^ The question seems to turn on the amount of inward identity which we are prepared to attribute to a physical thing.

43^ I have endeavoured to prove this point in Principles of Logic, pp. 34 and foll.; 284 and foll.; cp. 507-8. I venture to think that psychology is suffering seriously from want of clearness on this head.

44^ I would append a few words to explain further my attitude towards the view which takes the soul as the ideality of its body. If that view made soul and body together an ultimate reality, I should reject it on this ground. Otherwise certainly I hold that individuality is ideal, and that soul in general realizes individuality at a stage beyond body. But I hesitate to assert that the particular soul and body correspond, so that the first is throughout the fulfillment and inner reality of the second. And I doubt our right generally to take soul and body together as always making or belonging to but one finite individual. Further I cannot admit that the connection of soul and body is really either intelligible or explicable. My attitude towards this whole doctrine is thus in the main sympathetically neutral.

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Chapter XXIV. Degrees of Truth and Reality

|318-54| The Absolute has no degrees, but this not true of Existence, 318-19. Truth — nature of, 319-20. It remains conditional, 320. Hence no total truth or error, only more or less of Validity, 320-21. The Standard, what. It has two features which are essentially connected, 321-23. Approach to this measures degree of relative truth, 323. All thought, even mere imagination, has some truth, 323-27. The Standard further specified, in relation to mere phenomena, 327, and to higher appearances, 327-29. No other standard possible, 329-31. And ours is applicable everywhere, 332-34. The world of Sense, its proper place. Neither mere Sense nor mere Thought is real, 334-37. The truer and more real must appear more; but in what sense? 337-38. Complete conditions not same as Reality, 339. Unseen Nature and psychical Dispositions, 339-40. Potential Existence, what, 340-43. Possibility and Chance and external Necessity, relative and absolute, 343-48. Degrees of Possibility, 348-49. The Ontological Proof, its failure and justification, 349-52. Bastard form of it, 352-54. Existence necessary, in what sense, 354.

Note 30

In our last chapter we reached the question of degrees in Truth and Reality, and we must now endeavour to make clear what is contained in that idea.1 An attempt to do this, thoroughly and in detail, would carry us too far. To show how the world, physical and spiritual, realizes by various stages and degrees the one absolute principle, would involve a system of metaphysics. And such a system I am not undertaking to construct. I am endeavouring merely to get a sound general view of Reality, and to defend it against a number of difficulties and objections. But, for this, it is essential to explain and to justify the predicates of higher and lower. While dealing with this point, I shall develop further the position which we have already assigned to Thought (Chapters xv and xvi).

“The Absolute, considered as such, has of course no degrees; for it is perfect, and there can be no more or less in perfection.”

The Absolute, considered as such, has of course no degrees; for it is perfect, and there can be no more or less in perfection (Chapter xx). Such predicates belong to, and have a meaning only in the world of appearance. We may be reminded, indeed, that the same absoluteness seems also possessed by existence in time. For a thing either may have a place there, or may have none, but it cannot inhabit any interval between presence and absence. This view would assume that existence in time is Reality; and in practice, and for some purposes, that is admissible. But, besides being false, the assumption tends naturally to pass beyond itself. For, if a thing may not exist less or more, it must certainly more or less occupy existence. It may usurp ground by its direct presence, but again, further, by its influence and relative importance. Thus we should find it difficult, in the end, to say exactly what we understand by "having" existence. We should even find a paradox in the assertion, that everything alike has existence to precisely the same degree.

|319| But here, in metaphysics, we have long ago passed beyond this one-sided point of view. On one hand the series of temporal facts has been perceived to consist in ideal construction. It is ideal, not indeed wholly (Chapter xxiii), but still essentially. And such a series is but appearance; it is not absolute, but relative; and, like all other appearance, it admits the distinction of more and less. On the other hand, we have seen that truth, which again itself is appearance, both unconsciously and deliberately diverges from this rude essay. And, without considering further the exploded claim set up by temporal fact, we may deal generally with the question of degrees in reality and truth.

We have already perceived the main nature of the process of thinking.2 Thought essentially consists in the separation of the ‘what’ from the ‘that’. It may be said to accept this dissolution as its effective principle. Thus it renounces all attempt to make fact, and it confines itself to consent. But by embracing this separation, and by urging this independent development to its extreme, thought indirectly endeavours to restore the broken whole. It seeks to find an arrangement of ideas, self-consistent and complete; and by this predicate it has to qualify and make good the Reality. And, as we have seen, its attempt would in the end be suicidal. Truth should mean what it stands for, and should stand for what it means; but these two aspects in the end prove incompatible. There is still a difference, unremoved, between the subject and the predicate, a difference which, while it persists, shows a failure in thought, but which, if removed, would wholly destroy the special essence of thinking.

“All our judgments, to be true, must become conditional. … Judgments are conditional in … that what they affirm is incomplete.”

We may put this otherwise by laying down that any categorical judgment must be false. The subject and the predicate, in the end, cannot either be the other. If however we stop short of this goal, our judgment has failed to reach truth; while, if we attained it, the terms and their relation would have ceased. And hence all our judgments, |320| to be true, must become conditional. The predicate, that is, does not hold unless by the help of something else. And this ‘something else’ cannot be stated, so as to fall inside even a new and conditional predicate.3

It is however better, I am now persuaded, not to say that every judgment is hypothetical.4 The word, it is clear, may introduce irrelevant ideas. Judgments are conditional in this sense, that what they affirm is incomplete. It cannot be attributed to Reality, as such, and before its necessary complement is added. And, in addition, this complement in the end remains unknown. But, while it remains unknown, we obviously cannot tell how, if present, it would act upon and alter our predicate. For to suppose that its presence would make no difference is plainly absurd, while the precise nature of the difference falls outside our knowledge. But, if so, this unknown modification of our predicate may, in various degrees, destroy its special character. The content in fact might so be altered, be so redistributed and blended, as utterly to be transformed. And, in brief, the predicate may, taken as such, be more or less completely untrue. Thus we really always have asserted subject to, and at the mercy of, the unknown.5 And hence our judgment, always but to a varying extent, must in the end be called conditional.

But with this we have arrived at the meeting-ground of error and truth. There will be no truth which is entirely |321| true, just as there will be no error which is totally false. With all alike, if taken strictly, it will be a question of amount, and will be a matter of more or less. Our thoughts certainly, for some purposes, may be taken as wholly false, or again as quite accurate; but truth and error, measured by the Absolute, must each be subject always to degree. Our judgments, in a word, can never reach as far as perfect truth, and must be content merely to enjoy more or less of Validity. I do not simply mean by this term that, for working purposes, our judgments are admissible and will pass. I mean that less or more they actually possess the character and type of absolute truth and reality. They can take the place of the Real to various extents, because containing in themselves less or more of its nature. They are its representatives, worse or better, in proportion as they present us with truth affected by greater or less derangement. Our judgments hold good, in short, just so far as they agree with, and do not diverge from, the real standard. We may put it otherwise by saying that truths are true, according as it would take less or more to convert them into reality. Note 31

“What is the standard of truth and reality?”

We have perceived, so far, that truth is relative and always imperfect. We have next to see that, though failing of perfection, all thought is to some degree true. On the one hand it falls short of, and, on the other hand at the same time, it realizes the standard. But we must begin by enquiring what this standard is.

Perfection of truth and of reality has in the end the same character. It consists in positive, self-subsisting individuality; and I have endeavoured to show, in Chapter xx, what individuality means. Assuming that the reader has recalled the main points of that discussion, I will point out the two ways in which individuality appears. Truth must exhibit the mark of internal harmony, or, again, the mark of expansion and all-inclusiveness. And these two characteristics are diverse aspects of a single principle. That which contradicts itself, in the first place, jars, because the whole, immanent within it, drives its parts |322| into collision. And the way to find harmony, as we have seen, is to redistribute these discrepancies in a wider arrangement. But, in the second place, harmony is incompatible with restriction and finitude. For that which is not all-inclusive must by virtue of its essence internally disagree; and if we reflect, the reason of this becomes plain. That which exists in a whole has external relations. Whatever it fails to include within its own nature, must be related to it by the whole, and related externally. Now these extrinsic relations, on the one hand, fall outside of itself, but, upon the other hand, cannot do so. For a relation must at both ends affect, and pass into, the being of its terms. And hence the inner essence of what is finite itself both is, and is not, the relations which limit it. Its nature is hence incurably relative, passing, that is, beyond itself, and importing, again, into its own core a mass of foreign connections. Thus to be defined from without is, in principle, to be distracted within. And, the smaller the element, the more wide is this dissipation of its essence — a dissipation too thorough to be deep, or to support the title of an intestine division.6 But, on the contrary, the expansion of the element should increase harmony, for it should bring these external relations within the inner substance. By growth the element becomes, more and more, a consistent individual, containing in itself its own nature; and it forms, more and more, a whole inclusive of discrepancies and reducing them to system. The two aspects, of extension and harmony, are thus in principle one, though (as we shall see later) for our practice they in some degree fall apart And we must be content, for the present, to use them independently.

“Of two given appearances the one more wide, or more harmonious, is more real.”

Hence to be more or less true, and to be more or less real, is to be separated by an interval, smaller or greater, from all-inclusiveness or self-consistency. Of two given appearances the one more wide, or more harmonious, is more real. |323| It approaches nearer to a single, all-containing, individuality. To remedy its imperfections, in other words, we should have to make a smaller alteration. The truth and the fact, which, to be converted into the Absolute, would require less re-arrangement and addition, is more real and truer. And this is what we mean by degrees of reality and truth. To possess more the character of reality, and to contain within oneself a greater amount of the real, are two expressions for the same thing.

And the principle on which false appearance can be converted into truth we have already set forth in our chapter on Error. The method consists, as we saw, in supplementation and in re-arrangement; but I will not repeat here our former discussion. A total error would mean the attribution of a content to Reality, which, even when redistributed and dissolved, could still not be assimilated. And no such extreme case seems possible. An error can be total only in this sense that, when it is turned into truth, its particular nature will have vanished, and its actual self be destroyed. But this we must allow, again, to happen with the lower kinds of truth. There cannot for metaphysics be, in short, any hard and absolute distinction between truths and falsehoods. With each assertion the question is, how much will be left of that assertion, if we suppose it to have been converted into ultimate truth? Out of everything that makes its special nature as the predication of this adjective, how much, if anything, will survive? And the amount of survival in each case, as we have already seen, gives the degree of reality and truth.

But it may perhaps be objected that there are judgments without any real meaning, and that there are mere thoughts, which do not even pretend to attribute anything to Reality. And, with these, it will be urged that there can no longer remain the least degree of truth. They may, hence, be adjectives of the Real, but are not judgments about it. The discussion of this objection falls, perhaps, outside the main scope of my work, but I should like briefly to point out that it rests on a mistake. In the first |324| place every judgment, whether positive or negative, and however frivolous its character, makes an assertion about Reality.7, Note 32 And the content asserted cannot, as we have seen, be altogether an error, though its ultimate truth may quite transform its original meaning. And, in the second place, every kind of thought implies a judgment, in this sense that it ideally qualifies Reality. To question, or to doubt, or to suggest, or to entertain a mere idea, is not explicitly to judge. So much is certain and obvious. But, when we enquire further into what these states necessarily imply, our conclusion must be otherwise. If we use judgment for the reference, however unconscious and indefinite, of thought to reality, then without exception to think must be, in some sense, to judge. Thought in its earliest stage immediately modifies a direct sensible presentation; and, although, on one side, the qualification becomes conditional, and although the reality, on the other side, becomes partly non-sensuous, thought’s main character is still preserved. The reference to reality may be, in various degrees, undefined and at large. The ideal content may be applied subject to more or less transformation; its struggling and conditional character may escape our notice, or may again be realized with less or more consciousness. But to hold a thought, so to speak, in the air, without a relation of any kind to the Real, in any of its aspects or spheres, we should find in the end to be impossible.8

This statement, I am aware, may seem largely paradoxical. The merely imaginary, I may be told, is not referred to reality. It may, on the contrary, be even with consciousness held apart. But, on further reflection, we should find that our general account will hold good. The imaginary always is regarded as an adjective of the real. |325| But, in referring it, (a) we distinguish, with more or less consciousness, the regions to which it is, and to which it is not, applicable. And (b) we are aware, in different degrees, of the amount of supplementation and rearrangement, which our idea would require before it reached truth. These are two aspects of the same principle, and I will deal briefly with each.

(a) With regard to the first point we must recall the want of unity in the world, as it comes within each of us. The universe we certainly feel is one, but that does not prevent it from appearing divided, and in separate spheres and regions. And between these diverse provinces of our life there may be no visible connection. In art, in morality and religion, in trade or politics, or again in some theoretical pursuit, it is a commonplace that the individual may have a world of his own. Or he may rather have several worlds without rational unity, conjoined merely by coexistence in his one personality. And this separation and disconnectedness (we may fail to observe) is, in some degree, normal. It would be impossible that any man should have a world, the various provinces of which were quite rationally connected, or appeared always in system. But, if so, no one, in accepting or rejecting ideas, can always know the precise sense in which he affirms or denies. He means, from time to time, by reality some one region of the Real, which habitually he fails to distinguish and define. And the attempt at distinction would but lead him to total bewilderment. The real world, perhaps consciously, may be identified with the spatial system which we construct. This is ‘actual fact’, and everything else may be set apart as mere thought, or as mere imagination or feeling, all equally unreal. But, if so, against our wills these banished regions, nevertheless, present themselves as the worlds of feeling, imagination, and thought. However little we desire it, these form, in effect, actual constituent factors in our real universe. And the ideas, belonging to these several fields, certainly cannot be entertained without an identification, however vague, of each with its department of the Real. We treat the imaginary |326| as existing somehow in some world, or in some by-world, of the imagination. And, in spite of our denial, all such worlds are for us inevitably the appearances of that whole which we feel to be a single Reality.9

And, even when we consider the extreme cases of command and of wish, our conclusion is unshaken. A desire is not a judgment, but still in a sense it implies one. It might, indeed, appear that what is ordered or desired is, by its essence, divorced from all actual reality. But this first impression would be erroneous. All negation, we must remember, is relative. The idea, rejected by reality, is none the less predicable, when its subject is altered. And it is predicable again, when (what comes to the same thing) itself is modified. Neglecting this latter refinement, we may point out how our account will hold good in the case of desire. The content wished for certainly in one sense is absent from reality; and the idea, we must be able to say, does not exist. But real existence, on the other hand, has been taken here in a limited meaning. And hence, outside that region of fact which repels the idea, it can, at the same time, be affirmatively referred to reality. It is this reference indeed which, we may say, makes the contradiction of desire intolerable. That which I desire is not consciously assumed to exist, but still vaguely, somehow and in some strange region, it is felt to be there; and, because it is there, its non-appearance excites painful tension. Pursuing this subject we should find that, in every case in the end, to be thought of is to be entertained as, and so judged to be, real.

(b) And this leads us to the second point. We have seen that every idea, however imaginary, is, in a sense, referred to reality. But we saw also that, with regard to the various meanings of the real subject, and the diverse provinces and regions in which it appears, we are all, more or less, unconscious. This same want of consciousness, in varying |327| amounts, is visible also in our way of applying the predicate.10 Every idea can be made the true adjective of reality, but, on the other hand (as we have seen), every idea must be altered. More or less, they all require a supplementation and rearrangement. But of this necessity, and of the amount of it, we may be totally unaware. We commonly use ideas with no clear notion as to how far they are conditional, and are incapable of being predicated downright of reality. To the suppositions implied in our statements we usually are blind; or the precise extent of them is, at all events, not distinctly realized. This is a subject upon which it might be interesting to enlarge, but I have perhaps already said enough to make good our result. However little it may appear so, to think is always, in effect, to judge. And all judgments we have found to be more or less true, and in different degrees to depart from, and to realize, the standard. With this we may return from what has been, perhaps, to some extent a digression.

Our single standard, as we saw above, wears various aspects, and I will now proceed briefly to exemplify its detail, (a) If we take, first, an appearance in time, and desire to estimate the amount of its reality, we have, on one side, to consider its harmoniousness. We have to ask, that is, how far, before its contents can take their place as an adjective of the Real, they would require rearrangement. We have to enquire how far, in other words, these contents are, or are not, self-consistent and systematic. And then, on the other side, we must have regard to the extent of time, or space, or both, which our appearance |328| occupies.11 Other things being equal, whatever spreads more widely in space, or again lasts longer in time, is therefore more real. But (b), beside events, it is necessary to take account of laws. These are more and less abstract or concrete, and here our standard in its application will once more diverge. The abstract truths, for example, of mathematics on one side, and, on the other side, the more concrete connections of life or mind, will each set up a varying claim. The first are more remote from fact, more empty and incapable of self-existence, and they are therefore less true. But the second, on the other hand, are narrower, and on this account more false, since clearly they pervade, and hold good over, a less extent of reality. Or, from the other side, the law which is more abstract contradicts itself more, because it is determined by exclusion from a wider area. Again the generalization nearer sense, being fuller of irrelevancy, will, looked at from this point of view, be more internally discordant. In brief, whether the system and the true individual is sought in temporal existence, or in the realm standing above events, the standard still is the same. And it is applied always under the double form of inclusiveness and harmony. To be deficient in either of these aspects is to fall short of perfection; and, in the end, any deficiency implies failure in both aspects alike.

And we shall find that our account still holds good when we pass on to consider higher appearances of the universe. It would be a poor world which consisted merely of phenomenal events, and of the laws that somehow reign above them. And in our everyday life we soon transcend this unnatural divorce between principle and fact. (c) We reckon an event to be important in proportion to its effectiveness, so far as its being, that is, spreads in influence beyond the area of its private limits. It is obvious that here the two features, of self-sufficiency and self- |329| transcendence, are already discrepant. We reach a higher stage where some existence embodies, or in any way presents in itself, a law and a principle. However, in the mere example and instance of an universal truth, the fact and the law are still essentially alien to each other, and the defective character of their union is plainly visible. Our standard moves us on towards an individual with laws of its own, and to laws which form the vital substance of a single existence. And an imperfect appearance of this character we were compelled, in our last chapter, to recognize in the individual habits of the soul. Further in the beauty which presents us with a realized type, we find another form of the union of fact with principle. And, passing from this to conscious life, we are called on still for further uses and fresh applications of our standard. In the will of the individual, or of the community, so far as adequately carried out and expressing itself in outward fact, we have a new claim to harmonious and self-included reality. And we have to consider in each case the consistency, together with the range and area, of the principle, and the degree up to which it has mastered and passed into existence. And we should find ourselves led on from this, by partial defect, to higher levels of being. We should arrive at the personal relation of the individual to ends theoretical and practical, ends which call for realisation, but which from their nature cannot be realized in a finite personality. And, once more here, our standard must be called in when we endeavour, as we must, to form a comparative estimate. For, apart from the success or failure of the individual’s will, these ideas of ultimate goodness and reality themselves possess, of course, very different values. And we have to measure the amount of discordancy and limitation, which fixes the place to be assigned, in each case, to these various appearances of the Absolute.

To some of these provinces of life I shall have to return in later chapters. But there are several points to which, at present, I would draw attention. I would repeat, first, |330| that I am not undertaking to set out completely the different aspects of the world; nor am I trying to arrange these according to their comparative degrees of reality and truth. A serious attempt to perform this would have to be made by any rational system of first principles, but in this work I am dealing solely with some main features of things. However, in the second place, there is a consideration which I would urge on the reader. With any view of the world which confines known reality to existence in time, and which limits truth to the attempt to reproduce somehow the series of events — with any view for which merely a thing exists, or barely does not exist, and for which an idea is false, or else is true — how is it possible to be just to the various orders of appearance? For, if we are consistent, we shall send the mass of our chief human interests away to some unreal limbo of undistinguished degradation. And, if we are not consistent, yet how can we proceed rationally without an intellectual standard? And I think we are driven to this alternative. We must either be incapable of saying one word on the relative importance of things; we can tell nothing of the comparative meaning, and place in the world, owned by art, science, religion, social life or morality; we are wholly ignorant as to the degrees of truth and reality which these possess, and we cannot even say that for the universe any one of them has any significance, makes any degree of difference, or matters at all. Either this, or else our one-sided view must be revolutionized. But, so far as I see, it can be revolutionized only in one of two ways. We may accept a view of truth and reality such as I have been endeavouring to indicate, or we must boldly subordinate everything to the test of feeling. I do not mean that, beside our former inadequate ideal of truth, we should set up, also and alongside, an independent standard of worth. For this expedient, first, would leave no clear sense to ‘degrees of truth’ or ‘of reality’; and, in the second place, practically our two standards would tend everywhere to clash. They would collide hopelessly without appeal to any unity above them. Of some religious belief, for example, or of some aesthetic |331| representation, we might be compelled to exclaim, ‘How wholly false, and yet how superior to truth, and how much more to us than any possible reality!’ And of some successful and wide-embracing theory we might remark that it was absolutely true and utterly despicable, or of some physical facts, perhaps, that they deserved no kind of attention. Such a separation of worth from reality and truth would mutilate our nature, and could end only in irrational compromise or oscillation. But this shifting attitude, though common in life, seems here inadmissible; and it was not this that I meant by a subordination to feeling. I pointed to something less possible, but very much more consistent. It would imply the setting up of feeling in some form as an absolute test, not only of value but also of truth and reality. Here, if we took feeling as our end, and identified it with pleasure, we might assert of some fact, no matter how palpable. This is absolutely nothing; or, because it makes for pain, it is even worse, and is therefore even less than nothing. Or because some truth, however obvious, seemed in our opinion not favourable to the increase of pleasure, we should have to treat it at once as sheer falsehood and error. And by such an attitude, however impracticable, we should have at least tried to introduce some sort of unity and meaning into our world.12

But if to make mere feeling our one standard is in the end impossible, if we cannot rest in the intolerable confusion of a double test and control, nor can relapse into the narrowness, and the inconsistency, of our old mutilated view — we must take courage to accept the other revolution. We must reject wholly the idea that known reality consists in a series of events, external or inward, and that truth merely is correspondence with such a form of existence. We must allow to every appearance alike its own |332| degree of reality, if not also of truth,13 and we must everywhere estimate this degree by the application of our single standard. I am not here attempting even (as I have said) to make this estimate in general; and, in detail, I admit that we might find cases where rational comparison seems hopeless. But our failure in this respect would justify no doubt about our principle. It would be solely through our ignorance and our deficiency that the standard ever could be inapplicable. And, at the cost of repetition, I may be permitted to dwell briefly on this head.

Our standard is Reality in the form of self-existence; and this, given plurality and relations, means an individual system. Now we have shown that no perfect system can possibly be finite, because any limitation from the outside infects the inner content with dependence on what is alien. And hence the marks of harmony and expansion are two aspects of one principle. With regard to harmony (other things remaining the same), that which has extended over and absorbed a greater area of the external, will internally be less divided.14 And the more an element is consistent, the more ground, other things being equal, is it likely to cover. And if we forget this truth, in the case of what is either abstracted for thought or is isolated for sense, we can recall it by predicating these fragments, as such, of the Universe. We are then forced to perceive both the inconsistency of our predicates, and the large extent of outer supplement which we must add, if we wish to make them true. Hence the amount of either wideness or consistency gives the degree of reality and also of truth. Or, regarding the same thing from the other side, you may estimate by what is lacking. You may measure the reality of anything by the relative amount of transformation, which would follow if its defects were made good. The more an appearance, in being corrected, is transmuted and destroyed, the |333| less reality can such an appearance contain; or, to put it otherwise, the less genuinely does it represent the Real. And on this principle we succeeded in attaching a clear sense to that nebulous phrase ‘Validity’.

And this standard, in principle at least, is applicable to every kind of subject-matter. For everything, directly or indirectly, and with a greater or less preservation of its internal unity, has a relative space in Reality. For instance, the mere intensity of a pleasure or pain, beside its occupancy of consciousness, has also an outer sphere or halo of effects. And in some low sense these effects make a part of, or at least belong to, its being. And with facts of perception their extent both in time, and also in space, obviously gives us a point of comparison between them. If, again, we take an abstract truth, which, as such, nowhere has existence, we can consider the comparative area of its working influence. And, if we were inclined to feel a doubt as to the reality of such principles, we might correct ourselves thus. Imagine everything which they represent removed from the universe, and then attempt to maintain that this removal makes no real difference. And, as we proceed further, a social system, conscious in its personal members of a will carried out, submits itself naturally to our test. We must notice here the higher development of concrete internal unity. For we find an individuality, subordinating to itself outward fact, though not, as such, properly visible within it. This superiority to mere appearance in the temporal series is carried to a higher degree as we advance into the worlds of religion, speculation, and art. The inward principle may here become far wider, and have an intenser unity of its own; but, on the side of temporal existence, it cannot possibly exhibit itself as such. The higher the principle, and the more vitally it, so to speak, possesses the soul of things, so much the wider in proportion must be that sphere of events which in the end it controls. But, just for this reason, such a principle cannot be handled or seen, nor is it in any way given to outward or inward perception. It |334| is only the meaner realities which can ever be so revealed, and which are able to be verified as sensible facts.

And it is only a standard such as ours which can assign its proper rank to sense-presentation. It is solely by accepting such a test that we are able to avoid two gross and opposite mistakes. There is a view which takes, or attempts to take, sense-perception as the one known reality. And there is a view which endeavours, on the other side, to consider appearance in time as something indifferent. It tries to find reality in the world of insensible thought. Both mistakes lead, in the end, to a like false result, and both imply, and are rooted in, the same principle of error. In the end each would force us to embrace as complete reality a meager and mutilated fraction, which is therefore also, and in consequence, internally discrepant. And each is based upon one and the same error about the nature of things. We have seen that the separation of the real into idea and existence is a division admissible only within the world of appearance. In the Absolute every such distinction must be merged and disappears. But the disappearance of each aspect, we insisted also, meant the satisfaction of its claims in full. And hence, though how in detail we were unable to point out, either side must come together with its opposite in the Whole. There thought and sense alike find each its complement in the other. The principle that reality can wholly consist in one of these two sides of appearance, we therefore reject as a fundamental error.

Let us consider more closely the two delusions which have branched from this stem. The first of these, perceiving that the series of events is essential, concludes from this ground that mere sense, either outward or inward, is the one reality. Or, if it stops short of this, it still argues that to be real is to be, as such, perceptible. Because, that is, appearance in the temporal series is found necessary for reality15 — a premise which is true — an unconscious passage is made, from this truth, to a vicious conclusion. To appear is construed to imply appearance |335| always, so to speak, in person. And nothing is allowed to be real, unless it can be given bodily, and can be revealed, within one piece of the series. But this conclusion is radically erroneous. No perception ever, as we have seen clearly, has a character contained within itself. In order to be fact at all, each presentation must exhibit ideality, or in other words transcendence of self; and that which appears at any one moment, is, as such, self-contradictory. And, from the other side, the less a character is able, as such, to appear — the less its necessary manifestation can be narrowed in time or in space — so much the more is it capable of both expansion and inner harmony. But these two features, as we saw, are the marks of reality.

And the second of the mistakes is like the first. Appearance, once more, is falsely identified with presentation, as such, to sense; and a wrong conclusion is, once more, drawn from this basis. But the error now proceeds in an opposite direction. Because the highest principles are, obviously and plainly, not perceptible by sense, they are taken to inhabit and to have their being in the world of pure thought. And this other region, with more or less consistency, is held to constitute the sole reality. But here, if excluded wholly from the serial flow of events, this world of thought is limited externally and is internally discordant; while, if, further, we attempt to qualify the universe by our mere ideal abstract, and to attach this content to the Reality which appears in perception, the confusion becomes more obvious. Since the sense-appearance has been given up, as alien to truth, it has been in consequence set free, and is entirely insubordinate. And its concrete character now evidently determines, and infects from the outside, whatever mere thought we are endeavouring to predicate of the Real. But the union in all perception of thought with sense, the co-presence everywhere in all appearances of fact with ideality — this is the one foundation of truth. And, when we add to this the saving distinction that to have existence need not mean to exist, and that to be realized in time is not always to be visible by any sense, we have made ourselves secure against |336| the worst of errors. From this we are soon led to our principle of degrees in truth and reality. Our world and our life need then no longer be made up arbitrarily. They need not be compounded of the two hemispheres of fact and fancy. Nor need the Absolute reveal itself indiscriminately in a chaos where comparison and value are absent. We can assign a rational meaning to the distinctions of higher and lower.16 And we have grown convinced that, while not to appear is to be unreal, and while the fuller appearance marks the fuller reality, our principle, with but so much, is only half stated. For comparative ability to exist, individually and as such, within the region of sense, is a sign everywhere, so far as it goes, of degradation in the scale of being.

Or, dealing with the question somewhat less abstractly, we may attempt otherwise to indicate the true position of temporal existence. This, as we have seen, is not reality, but it is, on the other hand, in our experience one essential factor. And to suppose that mere thought without facts could either be real, or could reach to truth, is evidently absurd. The series of events is, without doubt, necessary for our knowledge,17 since this series supplies the one source of all ideal content. We may say, roughly and with sufficient accuracy, that there is nothing in thought, whether it be matter or relations, except that which is derived from perception. And, in the second place, it is only by starting from the presented basis that we construct our system of phenomena in space and time. We certainly perceived (Chapter xviii) that any such constructed unity was but relative, imperfect, and partial. But, none the less, a building up of the sense-world from the ground of actual presentation is a condition of all our knowledge. It is not true that everything, even if temporal, has a place in our one ‘real’ order of space or time. But, indirectly or directly, every known element must be connected with its sequence of events, and, at least in some sense, must |337| show itself even there. The test of truth after all, we may say, lies in presented fact.

We should here try to avoid a serious mistake. Without existence we have perceived that thought is incomplete; but this does not mean that, without existence, mere thought in itself is complete fully, and that existence to this super-adds an alien but necessary completion. For we have found in principle that, if anything were perfect, it would not gain by an addition made from the outside. And, here in particular, thought’s first object, in its pursuit of actual fact, is precisely the enlarging and making harmonious of its own ideal content. And the reason for this, as soon as we consider it, is obvious. The dollar, merely thought of or imagined, is comparatively abstract and void of properties. But the dollar, verified in space, has got its place in, and is determined by, an enormous construction of things. And to suppose that the concrete context of these relations in no sense qualifies its inner content, or that this qualification is a matter of indifference to thought, is quite indefensible.

A mere thought would mean an ideal content held apart from existence. But (as we have learnt) to hold a thought is always somehow, even against our will, to refer it to the Real. Hence our mere idea, now standing in relation with the Real, is related also to the phenomenal system of events in time. It is related to them, but without any connection with the internal order and arrangements of their system. But this means that our mere idea is determined by that system entirely from the outside. And it will therefore itself be permeated internally, and so destroyed, by the contingency forced into its content through these chaotic relations. Considered from this side, a thought, if it actually were bare, would stand at a level lower than the, so-called, chance facts of sense. For in the latter we have, at least, some internal connection with the context, and already a fixed relation of universals, however impure.

All reality must be revealed in the world of events; and that is most real which, within such an order or orders, finds least foreign to itself. Hence, if other things remain |338| equal, a definite place in, and connection with, the temporal system gives increase of reality. For thus the relations to other elements, which must in any case determine, determine, at least to some extent, internally. And thus the imaginary, so far, must be poorer than the perceptible fact; or, in other words, it is compulsorily qualified by a wider area of alien and destructive relations. I have emphasized ‘if other things remain equal’, for this restriction is important. There is imagination which is higher, and more true, and most emphatically more real, than any single fact of sense. And this brings us back to our old distinction. Every truth must appear, and must subordinate existence; but this appearance is not the same thing as to be present, properly and as such, within given limits of sense-perception. With the general principles of science we may perhaps See this at once. And again, with regard to the necessary appearances of art or religion, the same conclusion is evident. The eternal experience, in every case, fails to enter into the series of space or of time; or it enters that series improperly, and with a show which in various ways contradicts its essence. To be nearer the central heart of things is to dominate the extremities more widely; but it is not to appear there except incompletely and partially through a sign, an unsubstantial and a fugitive mode of expression. Nothing anywhere, not even the realized and solid moral will, can either be quite real, as it exists in time, or can quite appear in its own essential character. But still the ultimate Reality, where all appearance as such is merged, is in the end the actual identity of idea and existence. And, throughout our world, whatever is individual is more real and true; for it contains within its own limits a wider region of the Absolute, and it possesses more intensely the type of self-sufficiency. Or, to put it otherwise, the interval between such an element and the Absolute is smaller. We should require less alteration, less destruction of its own special nature, in order to make this higher element completely real.

We may now pass from this general principle to notice |339| various points of interest, and, in the first place, to consider some difficulties handed on to this chapter. The problems of unperceived Nature, of dispositions in the soul, and the meaning in general of ‘potential’ existence, require our attention. And I must begin by calling attention to an error. We have seen that an idea is more true in proportion as it approaches Reality. And it approaches Reality in proportion as it grows internally more complete. And from this we possibly might conclude that thought, if completed as such, would itself be real; or that the ideal conditions, if fully there, would be the same as actual perfection. But such a conclusion would not hold; for we have found that mere thought could never, as such, be completed; and it therefore remains internally inconsistent and defective. And we have perceived, on the other side, that thought, completed, is forced to transcend itself. It has then to become one thing with sense and feeling. And, since these conditions of its perfection are partly alien to itself, we cannot say either that, by itself, it can arrive at completion, or that, when perfected, it, as such, any longer exists.

And, with this, we may advance to the consideration of several questions. We found (Chapter xxii) that parts of the physical world might exist, and yet might exist, for us, only in the shape of thought. But we realized also that in the Absolute, where the contents of all finite selves are fused, these thought-existences must, in some way, be recombined with sense. And the same conclusion held good also with psychical dispositions (Chapter xxiii). These, in their proper character, have no being except in the world of thought. For they, as we saw, are conditional; and the conditional, as such, has not actual existence. But once more here the ideas — how in detail we cannot say — must find their complement in the Whole. With the addition of this other side they will make part of the concrete Reality.

Our present chapter, perhaps, may have helped us to see more clearly on these points. For we have found that ideal conditions, to be complete and in this way to become |340| real, must transcend themselves. They have to pass beyond the world of mere thought. And we have seen, in the second place, that every idea must possess a certain amount both of truth and reality. The ideal content must appear in the region of existence; and we have found that we have no right ever to regard it as unreal, because it is unable, as such, to show itself and to occupy a place there. We may now apply this principle both to the capacities of the soul, and to the unseen part of Nature. The former cannot properly exist, and the latter (so far as we saw) certainly need not do so. We may consider them each to be, as such, incapable of appearance. But this admission (we now have learnt) does not weaken, by itself, their claim to be real. And the amount of their reality, when our standard is applied, will depend on their importance, on the influence and bearing which each of them possesses in the universe.

Each of them will fall under the head of ‘potential existence’, and we may pass on to consider the meaning of this phrase. The words ‘potential’, ‘latent’, and ‘nascent’, and we may add ‘virtual’ and ‘tendency’, are employed too often. They are used in order to imply that a certain thing exists; and this, although either we ought to know, or know, that the thing certainly does not exist. It would be hard to overestimate the service rendered by these terms to some writers on philosophy. But that is not our business here. Potential existence means a set of conditions, one part of which is present at a certain point of space or time, while the other part remains ideal. It is used generally without any clear perception as to how much is wanted in order to make these conditions complete. And then the whole is spoken of, and is regarded, as existing at the point where actually but a portion of its factors are present. Such an abuse clearly is indefensible.

‘Potential existence’ is fairly applicable in the following sense. We may mean by it that something somehow appears already in a given point of time, although it does not as yet appear fully or in its own proper character. I |341| will try to show later the positive conditions required for this use, but it is better to begin by pointing out where it is quite inadmissible. We ought not to speak of potential existence where, if the existence were made actual, the fact given now would be quite gone. That part of the conditions which appears at present, must produce causally the rest; and, in order for this to happen, foreign matter must be added. But, if so much is added that the individuality of this first appearance is wholly destroyed, or is even overwhelmed and swamped — ‘potential existence’ is inapplicable. Thus the death of a man may result from the lodgment of a cherry-stone; but to speak of every cherry-stone as, therefore, the potential death of a man, and to talk of such a death as appearing already in any and every stone, would surely be extravagant. For so large an amount of foreign conditions must contribute to the result, that, in the end, the condition and the consequence are joined externally by chance. We may perhaps apprehend this more clearly by a grosser instance of misuse. A piece of bread, eaten by a poet, may be a condition required for the production of a lyrical poem. But would any one place such a poem’s existence already virtually in each piece of food, which may be considered likely by any chance to make its way into a poet?

These absurdities may serve to suggest the proper employment of our term. It is applicable wherever the factor present is considered capable of producing the rest; and it must effect this without the entire loss of its own existing character. The individuality, in other words, must throughout the process be continuous; and the end must very largely be due to the beginning. And these are two aspects of one principle. For clearly, if more than a certain amount of external conditions are brought in, the ideal identity of the beginning and of the end is destroyed. And, if so, obviously the result itself was not there at the first, and could in no rational sense have already appeared there. The ordinary example of the egg, which itself later becomes a fowl, is thus a legitimate application of potential existence. On the other hand to |342| call every man, without distinction, a potential case of scarlet fever, would at least border on inaccuracy. While to assert that he now is already such products as can be produced only by his own disintegration, would be obviously absurd. Potential existence can, in brief, be used only where ‘development’ or ‘evolution’ retains its proper meaning. And by the meaning of evolution I do not understand that arbitrary misuse of the term, which has been advocated by a so-called ‘System of Philosophy’.

Under certain conditions, then, the idea of potential being may be employed. But I must add at once that it can be employed nowhere with complete truth and accuracy. For, in order for anything to evolve itself, outer conditions must come in; and it is impossible in the end to assign a limit to the extent of this foreign matter. The genuine cause always must be the whole cause, and the whole cause never could be complete until it had taken in the universe.18 This is no mere speculative refinement, but a difficulty experienced in working; and we met it lately while enquiring into the body and soul (Chapter xxiii). In strictness you can never assert that a thing will be, because of that which it is; but, where you cannot assert this, potential existence is partly inaccurate. It must be applied more or less vaguely, and more or less on sufferance. We are, in brief, placed between two dangers. If, with anything finite, you refuse wholly to predicate its relations — relations necessarily in part external, and in part, therefore, variable — then your account of this thing will fall short and be empty. But, otherwise, you will be affirming of the thing that which only it may be.

And, once driven to enter on this course, you are hurried away beyond all landmarks. You are forced indefinitely to go on expanding the subject of your predicates, until at last it has disappeared into something quite different. And hence, in employing potential existence, we are, so to speak, on an inclined plane. We start by saying, ‘A is such that, under probable conditions, its nature will develop into B; and therefore, because of this, |343| I venture already to call it B.’ And we end by claiming that, because A may possibly be made to pass into another result C, C may, therefore, on this account, be predicated already. And we have to hold to this, although C, to but a very small extent, has been produced by A, and although, in the result, A itself may have totally vanished.

We must therefore admit that potential existence implies, to some extent, a compromise. Its use, in fact, cannot be defined upon a very strict principle. Still, by bearing in mind what the term endeavours to mean, and what it always must be taken more or less to involve, we may, in practice, succeed in employing it conveniently and safely. But it will remain, in the end, a widespread source of confusion and danger. The more a writer feels himself led naturally to have recourse to this phrase, the better cause he probably has for at least attempting to avoid it.

It may throw light on several problems, if we consider further the general nature of Possibility and Chance.19 We touched on this subject above, when we enquired if complete possibility is the same as reality (p. 339). Our answer to that question may be summed up thus: Possibility implies the separation of thought from existence; but, on the other hand, since these two extremes are essentially one, each, while divided from the other, is internally defective. Hence if the possible could be completed as such, it would have passed into the real. But, in reaching this goal, it would have ceased altogether to be mere thought, and it would in consequence, therefore, be no longer possibility.

The possible implies always the partial division of idea from reality. It is, properly, the consequence in thought from an ideal antecedent. It follows from a set of conditions, a system which is never complete in itself, and which is not taken to be real, as such, except through part of its area. But this last qualification is necessary. The possible, itself, is not real; but its essence partly transcends ideas, |344| and it has no meaning at all unless it is possible really. It must be developed from, and be relative to, a real basis. And, hence, there can be no such thing as unconditional possibility. The possible, in other words, is always relative. And, if it attempts to be free, it ceases to be itself.

We shall understand this, perhaps, better, if we recall the nature of relative chance (Chapter xix). Chance is the given fact which falls outside of some ideal whole or system. And any element, not included within such a universal, is, in relation to that universal, bare fact, and so relative chance. Chance, in other words, would not be actual chance, if it were not also more. It is viewed in negative relation to some idea, but it could not exist in relation unless in itself it were ideal already. And with relative possibility, again, we find a counterpart implication. The possible itself would not be possible, if it were not more, and if it were not partially real. There must be an actual basis in which a part of its conditions is realized, though, by and in the possible, this actual basis need not be expressed, but may be merely understood. And, since the conditions are manifold, and since the part which is taken as real is largely variable, possibility varies accordingly. Its way of completing itself, and in particular the actual basis which it implies, are both capable of diversity. Thus the possibility of an element is different, according as it is understood in these diverse relations. Possibility and chance, we may say, stand to one another thus. An actual fact more or less ignores the ideal complement which, within its own being, it involves. And hence, if you view it merely in relation to some system which falls outside itself, the actual fact is, so far, chance. The possible, on the other hand, explicitly isolates one part of the ideal complement, and, at the same time, implies, more or less vaguely, its real completion. It fluctuates, therefore, with the various conditions which are taken as necessary to complete it. But of these conditions part must have actual existence, or must, as such, be real.

And this account still holds good, when we pass to the lowest grade of possibility. I take an idea, which, in the |345| first place, I cannot call unmeaning. And this idea, secondly, I do not see to contradict itself or the Reality. I therefore assume that it has not this defect. And, merely on the strength of this, I go on to call such an idea possible. It might seem as if here we had passed from relative to unconditional possibility; but that view would be erroneous. The possible here is still a consequence from conditions, part of which is actual. For, though of its special conditions we know nothing, we are not quite ignorant. We have assumed in it more or less of the general character, material and formal, which is owned by Reality. This character is its actual basis and real ground of possibility. And, without this, the idea would cease altogether to be possible.

What are we to say then about the possibility, or about the chance, which is bare, and which is not relative, but absolute and unconditional? We must say of either that it presents one aspect of the same fundamental error. Each expresses in a different way the same main self-contradiction; and it may perhaps be worth while to exhibit this in detail. With mere possibility the given want of all connection with the Real is construed into a ground for positive predication. Bare chance, again, gives us as a fact, and gives us therefore in relation, an element which it still persists is unrelated. I will go on to explain this statement.

I have an idea, and, because in my opinion I know nothing about it, I am to call it possible. Now, if the idea has a meaning, and is taken not to contradict itself, this (as we have seen) is, at once, a positive character in the idea. And this gives a known reason for, at once so far, regarding it as actual. And such a possibility, because in relation with an attribute of the Real, we have seen, is still but a relative possibility. In absolute possibility we are supposed to be without this knowledge. There, merely because I do not find any relation between my idea and the Reality, I am to assert, upon this, that my idea is compatible. And the assertion clearly is inconsistent. |346| Compatible means that which in part is perceived to be true; it means that which internally is connected with the Real. And this implies assimilation, and it involves penetration of the element by some quality or qualities of the Real. If the element is compatible it will be preserved, though with a greater or less destruction of its particular character. But in bare possibility I have perverted the sense of compatible. Because I find absence of incompatibility, because, that is, I am without a certain perception, I am to call my idea compatible. On the ground of my sheer ignorance, in other words, I am to know that my idea is assimilated, and that, to a greater or less extent, it will survive in Reality. But such a position is irrational.

That which is unconditionally possible is viewed apart from, and is supposed to remain undetermined by, relation to the Real. There are no seen relations, and therefore none, and therefore no alien relations which can penetrate and dissolve our supposed idea. And we hold to this, even when the idea is applied to the Real. But a relation to the Real implies essentially a relation to what the Real possesses, and hence to have no relations of one’s own means to have them all from the outside. Bare possibility is therefore, against its will, one extreme of relatedness. For it is conjoined de facto with the Reality, as we have that in our minds; and, since the conjunction is external, the relatedness is given by outer necessity. But necessary relation of an element to that which is outside means, as we know, the disruption of this element internally. The merely possible, if it could exist, would be, therefore, for all we know, sheer error. For it would, so far as we know, be an idea, which, in no way and to no extent, is accepted by Reality. But possibility, in this sense, has contradicted itself. Without an actual basis in, and without a positive connection with, Reality, the possible is, in short, not possible at all.20

|347| There is a like self-contradiction in absolute chance. The absolutely contingent would mean a fact which is given free from all internal connection with its context. It would have to stand without relation, or rather with all its relations outside. But, since a thing must be determined by the relations in which it stands, the absolutely contingent would thus be utterly determined from the outside. And so, by consequence, chance would involve complete internal dissipation. It would hence implicitly preclude the given existence which explicitly it postulates. Unless chance is more than mere chance, and thus consents to be relative, it fails to be itself. Relative chance implies inclusion within some ideal whole, and, on that basis, asserts an external relation to some other whole. But chance, made absolute, has to affirm a positive existence in relation, while insisting that all relations fall outside this existence. And such an idea contradicts itself.

Or, again, we may bring out the same discrepancy thus. In the case of a given element we fail to see its connection with some system. We do not perceive in its content the internal relations to what is beyond it — relations which, because they are ideal, are necessary and eternal. Then, upon the ground of this failure, we go on to a denial, and we insist that no such internal relations are present. But every relation, as we have learnt, essentially penetrates the being of its terms, and, in this sense, is intrinsical; or, in other words, every relation must be a relation of content. And hence the element, deprived by bare chance of all ideal relations, is unrelated altogether. But, if unrelated and undetermined, it is no longer any separate element at all. It cannot have the existence ascribed to it by absolute chance.

Chance and possibility may be called two different |348| aspects of one complex. Relative chance stands for something which is, but is, in part, not connected and understood. It is therefore that which exists, but, in part, only somehow. The relatively possible is, on the other hand, what is understood incompletely, and yet is taken, more or less only somehow, to be real. Each is thus an imperfect way of representing reality. Or we may, if we please, repeat the distinction in another form. In bare chance something is to be given, and therefore given in a connection of outer relations; and it yet is regarded as not intrinsically related. The abstractly possible, again, is the not-related; but it is taken, at the same time, in relation with reality, and is, therefore, unawares given with external relations. Chance forgets, we may say, the essential connection; and possibility forgets its de facto relation to the Real, that is, its given external conjunction with context. Chance belongs to the world of existence and possibility to thought; but each contains at bottom the same defect, and each, against its will, when taken bare, becomes external necessity.21 If the possible could be given, it would be indifferently chance or fate. If chance is thought of, it is at once but merely possible; for what is contingent has no complete connection with Reality.

With this I will pass from a subject, on which I have dwelt perhaps too long. There is no such thing as absolute chance, or as mere external necessity, or as unconditional possibility. The possible must in part be really, and that means internally, necessary. And the same, again, is true of the contingent. Each idea is relative, and each lays stress on an opposite aspect of the same complex. And hence each, forced to a one-sided extreme, disappears altogether.

We are led from this to ask whether there are degrees of possibility and contingency, and our answer to this question must be affirmative. To be more or less possible, and to be more or less true, and intrinsically necessary, |349| — and, from the other side, to be less or more contingent, are, in the end, all the same. And we may verify here, in passing, the twofold application of our standard. That which is more possible is either internally more harmonious and inclusive; it is, in other words, nearer to a complete totality of content, such as would involve passage into, and unity with, the Real. Or the more possible is, on the other hand, partly realized in a larger number of ideal groups. Every contact, even with a point in the temporal series, means ideal connection with a concrete group of relations. Hence the more widely possible is that which finds a smaller amount of content lying wholly outside its own area. It is, in other words, the more individual, the truer, and more real. And, since it contains more connections, it has in itself more internal necessity. For a like reason, on the other side, increase of contingency means growth in falseness. That which, so far as it exists, has more external necessity — more conjunction from the outside with intelligible systems — has, therefore, less connection with any. It is hence more empty, and, as we have seen, on that account less self-contained and harmonious. This brief account, however incorrect to the eye of common sense, may perhaps, as part of our main thesis, be found defensible.

It will throw a light on that thesis, if we end by briefly considering the ‘ontological’ proof. In Chapter xiv we were forced to deal with this in one of its bearings, and here we may attempt to form an estimate of its general truth. As an argument, it is a conclusion drawn from the presence of some thought to the reality of that which the thought contains. Now of course anyone at a glance can see how futile this might be. If you identify reality with spatial or even temporal existence, and understand by thought the idea of some distinct finite object, nothing |350| seems more evident than that the idea may be merely ‘in my head’. When, however, we turn from this to consider the general nature of error, then what seemed so evident becomes obscure and presents us with a puzzle. For what is ‘in my head’ must, after all, be surely somewhere in the universe. And when an idea qualifies the universe, how can it be excluded from reality? The attempt to answer such a question leads to a distinction between reality and finite existence. And, upon this, the ontological proof may perhaps seem better worth examining.

Now a thought only ‘in my head’, or a bare idea separated from all relation to the real world, is a false abstraction. For we have seen that to hold a thought is, more or less vaguely, to refer it to Reality. And hence an idea, wholly un-referred, would be a self-contradiction. This general result at once bears upon the ontological proof. Evidently the proof must start with an idea referred to and qualifying Reality, and with Reality present also and determined by the content of the idea. And the principle of the argument is simply this, that, standing on one side of such a whole, you find yourself moved necessarily towards the other side. Mere thought, because incomplete, suggests logically the other element already implied in it; and that element is the Reality which appears in existence. On precisely the same principle, but beginning from the other end, the ‘Cosmological’ proof may be said to argue to the character of the Real. Since Reality is qualified by thought, it therefore must possess whatever feature thought’s essence involves. And the principle underlying these arguments that, given one side of a connected whole, you can go from this to the other sides — is surely irrefragable.

The real failure of the ontological proof lies elsewhere. For that proof does not urge merely that its idea must certainly somehow be real. It goes beyond this statement, and qualifies it by ‘real as such’. And here the argument seems likely to deviate into error. For a general principle that every predicate, as such, is true of Reality, is evidently false. We have learnt, on the contrary, that truth and |351| reality are matter of degree. A predicate, we may say, in no case is, as such, really true. All will be subject to addition, to qualification and rearrangement. And its truth will be the degree up to which any predicate, when made real, preserves its own character. In Chapter xiv, when dealing with the idea of perfection, we partly saw how the ontological argument breaks down. And the general result of the present chapter should have cleared away difficulties. Any arrangement existing in my head must qualify the absolute Reality. But, when the false abstraction of my private view is supplemented and made good, that arrangement may, as such, have completely disappeared. The ontological proof then should be merely another way of insisting on this doctrine. Not every idea will, as such, be real, or, as such, have existence. But the greater the perfection of a thought, and the more its possibility and its internal necessity are increased, so much more reality it possesses. And so much the more necessarily must it show itself, and appear somehow in existence.

But the ontological argument, it will be rightly said, makes no pretence of being applicable to every finite matter. It is used of the Absolute, and, if confined to that, will be surely legitimate. We are, I think, bound to admit this claim. The idea of the Absolute, as an idea, is inconsistent with itself; and we find that, to complete itself, it is internally driven to take in existence. But even here we are still compelled to keep up some protest against the addition of ‘as such’. No idea in the end can, strictly as such, reach reality; for, as an idea, it never includes the required totality of conditions. Reality is concrete, while the truest truth must still be more or less abstract. Or we may put the same thing otherwise by objecting to the form of the argument. The separation, postulated in the premise, is destroyed by the conclusion; and hence the premise itself could not have been true. This objection is valid, and it is not less valid because it holds, in the end, of every possible argument. But the objection disappears when we recognize the genuine character of the process. This consists in the correction by the Whole of an |352| attempted isolation on the part of its members. And, whether you begin from the side of Existence or of Thought, the process will remain essentially the same. There is a subject and a predicate, and there is the internal necessity, on each side, of identity with the other side. But, since in this consummation the division as such is transcended, neither the predicate nor the subject is able to survive. They are each preserved, but transmuted.

There is another point on which, in conclusion, it is well to insist. If by reality we mean existence as a presented event, then to be real, in this sense, marks a low type of being. It needs no great advance in the scale of reality and truth, in order to make a thing too good for existence such as this. And I will illustrate my meaning by a kind of bastard use of the ontological proof.22 Every idea, it is certain, possesses a sensible side or aspect. Beside being a content, it, in other words, must be also an event. Now to describe the various existences of ideas, as psychical events, is for the most part a task falling outside metaphysics.23 But the question possesses a certain bearing here. The existence of an idea can be, to a greater or to a less degree, incongruous with its content; and to predicate the second of the first would involve various amounts of inconsistency. The thought of a past idea, for example, is a present state of mind; the idea of a virtue may be moral vice; and the horse, as judged to exist, cannot live in the same field with the actual horse-image.24, Note33 On the other hand, at least in most cases, to think of anger is, to however slight an extent, to be angry; and, usually, ideas of pleasures and pains are, as events, themselves pleasures and pains in fact. Wherever the idea can be merely one aspect of a single presentation, there we can say that the ideal content exists, and is an actual event. |353| And it is possible, in such cases, to apply a semblance of the ontological proof. Because, that is, the existence of the fact is necessary, as a basis and as a condition, for the idea, we can go from the presence of the idea to the presence of the fact. The most striking instance would be supplied by the idea of ‘this’ or ‘mine’. Immediate contact with Reality can obviously, as a fact, never fail us; and so, when we use the idea of this contact, we take it always from the fact as, in some form, that appears. It is therefore impossible that, given the idea, its existence should be lacking.

But, when we consider such a case more closely, its spuriousness is manifest. For (a), in the first place, the ideal content is not moved from within. It does not of itself seek completion through existence, and so imply that by internal necessity.25, Note 32 There is no intrinsic connection, there is but a mere found conjunction, between the two sides of idea and existence. And hence the argument, to be valid here, must be based on the mediation of a third element, an element coexisting with, but of itself extraneous to, both sides. But with this the essence of the ontological argument is wanting. And (b), in the second place, the case we are considering exhibits another gross defect. The idea, which it predicates of the Real, possesses hardly any truth, and has not risen above the lowest level of worth and reality. I do not mean merely that the idea, as compared with its own existence, is abstract, and so false. For that objection, although valid, is relatively slight I mean that, though the argument starting from the idea may exhibit existence, it is not able to show either truth or reality. It proves on the other hand, contrary to its wish, a vital failure in both. Neither the subject, nor again the predicate, possesses really the nature assigned to it. The subject is taken as being merely a sensible event, and the predicate is taken as one feature included in that fact. And in each of these assumptions the argument is grossly mistaken. For the genuine subject is Reality, while the genuine predicate asserts of this every character |354| contained in the ostensible predicate and subject. The idea, qualified as existing in a certain sensible event, is the predicate, in other words, which is affirmed of the Absolute. And since such a predicate is a poor abstraction, and since its essence, therefore, is determined by what falls outside its own being, it is, hence, inconsistent with itself, and contradicts its proper subject. We have in brief, by considering the spurious ontological proof, been led once more to the conclusion that existence is not reality.

Existence is not reality, and reality must exist. Each of these truths is essential to an understanding of the whole, and each of them, necessarily in the end, is implied in the other. Existence is, in other words, a form of the appearance of the Real. And we have seen that to appear, as such, in one or in many events, is to show therefore a limited and low type of development. But, on the other hand, not to appear at all in the series of time, not to exhibit one’s nature in the field of existence, is to be false and unreal. And to be more true, and to be more real, is, in some way or other, to be more manifest outwardly. For the truer always is wider. There is a fair presumption that any truth, which cannot be exhibited at work, is for the most part untrue. And, with this understanding, we may take our leave of the ontological proof. Our inspection of it, perhaps, has served to confirm us in the general doctrine arrived at in our chapter. It is only a view which asserts degrees of reality and truth, and which has a rational meaning for words such as ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ — it is only such a view which can do justice alike to the sides of idea and existence.


1^ I may mention that in this chapter I am, perhaps even more than elsewhere, indebted to Hegel.

2^ Chapters xv. and xvi.; compare Mind, No. 47.

3^ I may, perhaps, refer here to my Principles of Logic. Even metaphysical statements about the Absolute, I would add, are not strictly categorical. See below Chapter xxvii.

4^ This term often implies the reality of temporal existence, and is also, apart from that, objectionable. See Mr. Bosanquet’s admirable Logic, I., Chapter vi.

5^ Hence in the end we must be held to have asserted the unknown. It is however better not to call this the predication of an unknown quality (Principles of Logic, p. 87), since ‘quality’ either adds nothing, or else adds what is false. The doctrine of the text seems seriously to affect the reciprocity of ground and consequence, of cause and effect. I certainly agree here that, if the judgments are pure, the relation holds both ways (Bosanquet. Logic, I., pp. 261-4. But, if in the end they remain impure, and must be qualified always by an unspecified background, that circumstance must be taken into consideration.

6^ It may seem a paradox to speak of the distraction, say, of a material particle. But try to state what that is, without bringing into it what it is not. Its distraction, of course, is not felt. But the point is that self-alienation is here too extreme for any feeling, or any self, to exist.

7^ I may refer the reader here to my Principles of Logic, or, rather, to Mr. Bosanquet’s Logic, which is, in many points, a great advance on my own work. I have, to a slight extent, modified my views on Judgment. Cf. Mind, N. S., No. 60.
  [Explanatory Note pg. 560: I may remark here that I am still persuaded that there is in the end no such thing as the mere entertainment of an idea, and that I, for example, went wrong when in my book on Logic I took this to exist. It seems to be, on the contrary, the abstraction of an aspect which by itself does not exist. See Mind, N. S., No. 60.]

8^ See Mr. Bosanquet’s Logic, Introduction, and the same author’s Knowledge and Reality, pp. 148-155.

9^ The reader may compare here the discussion on the unity of nature in Chapter xxii. The want of unity in the self, a point established by general psychology, has been thrown into prominence by recent experiments in hypnotism.

10^ As was before remarked, these two points, in the end, are the same. Since the various worlds, in which reality appears, cannot each stand alone, but must condition one the other, hence that which is predicated categorically of one world, will none the less be conditional, when applied to the whole. And, from the other side, a conditional predicate of the whole will become categorical, if made the adjective of a subject which is limited and therefore is conditional. These ways of regarding the matter, in the end, are but one way. And, in the end, there is no difference between conditional and conditioned. On this point see farther Chapter xxvii.

11^ The intensity of the appearance can be referred, I think, to two heads, (i.) that of extent, and (ii.) that of effectiveness. But the influence of a thing outside of its own limits will fall under an aspect to be mentioned lower down (p. 333).

12^ Such an attitude, beside being impracticable, would however still be internally inconsistent. It breaks down in the position which it gives to truth. The understanding, so far as used to judge of the tendencies of things, is still partly independent. We either then are forced back, as before, to a double standard, or we have to make mere feeling the judge also with regard to these tendencies. And this is clearly to end in mere momentary caprice, and in anarchy.

13^ Whether, and in what sense, every appearance of the Reality has truth, is a point taken up later in Chapter xxvi.

14^ The reader must not forget here that the inconsistency and distraction, which cannot be felt, is therefore the greatest (p. 322). Feeling is itself a unity and a solution, however incomplete.

15^ Compare here Chapters xix and xxiii.

16^ The position which, in estimating value, is to be assigned to pleasure and pain will be discussed in Chapter xxv.

17^ The series, in its proper character, is, of course, an ideal construction. But we may disregard that here.

18^ And this is impossible; see Chapters vi and xviii.

19^ On Possibility compare Chapter xxvii, and Principles of Logic, Book I, Chap. vii.

20^ It may be worth while to notice that Possibility, if you try to make it unconditional, is the same thing as one sense of Inconceivability or Impossibility. The Impossible really is that which contradicts positive knowledge (Chapter xxvii). It is never that which you merely fail to connect with Reality. But, if you wrongly took it in this sense, and if you based it on mere privation, it would unawares have turned round into the unconditionally possible. For that is actually incompatible with the Reality, as de facto we have the Reality in our minds. Each of these ideas, in short, is viciously based on privation, and each is a different aspect of the same self-contradictory complex.

21^ The identity, in the end, of possibility with chance, and of chance with external or brute necessity, has instructive consequences. It would obviously give the proper ground for an estimate of that which vulgarly is termed Free Will. This doctrine may in philosophy be considered obsolete, though it will continue to flourish in popular Ethics. As soon as its meaning is apprehended, it loses all plausibility. But the popular moralist will always exist by not knowing what he means.

22^ Principles of Logic, pp. 67-9.

23^ The question is one for psychology, and I may perhaps be permitted to remark that, with regard to abstract ideas, it seems still in a very unsatisfactory condition. To fall back on Language, after all, will not tell us precisely how much passes through the mind, when abstract ideas are made use of.

24^ Compare Mind, xxxiv, pp. 286-90, and xliii, pp. 313-14. {Explanatory Note pg. |560|: To the references given here add Mind, N. S., iv, pp. 20, 21 and pp. 225, 226.}

25^ So far as it did this, it would have to expand itself to its own destruction.

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Chapter XXV. Goodness

|355-402| Good and Evil and their degrees are not illusions, but still are appearances, 355-56. Goodness, what, 356. The merely pleasant, why not good, 356-57. Pleasure by itself not good, 357-60. Good is not the satisfied will, but is in general the approved, 360-61. How far is it ‘desirable’? 361-62. Goodness is a one-sided inconsistent aspect of perfection, 362-63. The Absolute both is and is not good, 363-65. Goodness, more specially, as Self-realization, 365-66, Its double aspect as Self-sacrifice and Self-assertion, 366-67. What these are, 367-70. They come together but are transcended in the Absolute, 371. But popular Ethics asserts each as ultimate, and hence necessarily fails, 372-80. Relativity of Goodness, 3800-81. Goodness as inner Morality, 381-83, is inconsistent and ends in nothing or in evil, 383-86. The demands of Morality carry it beyond itself into Religion, 386-88. What this is, and how it promises satisfaction, 389-91. It proves inconsistent, and is an appearance which passes beyond itself, 391-97; but it is no illusion, 397-99. The practical problem as to religious truth, 399-401. Religion and Philosophy, 402-02.

In a former chapter I tried to show, briefly, that the existence of evil affords no good ground for an objection against our Absolute. Evil and good are not illusions, but they are most certainly appearances. They are one-sided aspects, each overruled and transmuted in the Whole. And, after the discussions of our last chapter, we should be better able to appreciate their position and value. As with truth and error, so with good and bad, the opposition is not absolute. For, to some extent and in some manner, perfection is everywhere realized. And yet, upon the other hand, the distinction of degrees is no less vital. The interval which exists between, and which separates, the lower and the higher, is measured by the idea of perfect Reality. The lower is that which, to be made complete, would have to undergo a more total transformation of its nature. And viewed from the ground of what is higher — of what they fail to reach or even oppose — the lower truth and lower goodness become sheer error and evil. The Absolute is perfect in all its detail, it is equally true and good throughout. But, upon the other side, each distinction of better and more true, every degree and each comparative stage of reality is essential. They are made and justified by the all-pervasive action of one immanent perfection.

And guided by this twofold principle we might approach without misgiving the diverse worlds of appearance. But in this work I am endeavouring merely to defend a general view. And so, both on the whole and here in particular with regard to goodness, I cannot attempt to deal fully with any aspect of the Absolute. It is mainly the common prejudice in favour of the ultimate truth of morality or religion, that has led me to give to them here a space which perhaps is undue. But, even with this, I can but touch on certain features of the subject; |356| and I must deal chiefly with those which are likely to be urged as objections to our doctrine.1

We may speak of the good, generally, as that which satisfies desire. It is that which we approve of, and in which we can rest with a feeling of contentment. Or we may describe it again, if we please, as being the same as worth. It contains those elements which, also, we find in truth. Truth and goodness are each the correspondence, or rather each the identity, of idea and existence. In truth we start with existence, as being the appearance of perfection, and we go on to complete ideally what really must be there. In goodness, on the other hand, we begin with an idea of what is perfect, and we then make, or else find, this same idea in what exists. And the idea also I take to be desired. Goodness is the verification in existence of a desired ideal content, and it thus implies the measurement of fact by a suggested idea. Hence both goodness and truth contain the separation of idea and existence, and involve a process in time. And, therefore, each is appearance, and but a one-sided aspect of the Real.2

But the good (it may be objected) need involve no idea. Is not the pleasant, as such, good? Is not at any rate any feeling in which we rest with satisfaction, at once good in itself? I answer these questions in the negative. Good, in the proper sense, implies the fulfilment of desire; at least, if you consider anything apart from the realisation of a suggested idea, it is at a stage below goodness. Such |357| an experience would be, but it would not, properly, have yet become either good or true. And on reflection, perhaps, we should not wish to make use of these terms. For, at our level of mental life, whatever satisfies and contents us can hardly fail to have some implication with desire. And, if we take it where as yet it suggests nothing, where we have no idea of what we feel, and where we do not realize, however dimly, that ‘it is this which is good’ — then it is no paradox to refuse to such a stage the name of goodness. Such a feeling would become good, if for a moment I were so to regard it; for I then should possess the idea of what satisfies, and should find that idea given also in fact. But, where ideas are absent, we should not speak of anything as being actually good or true. Goodness and truth may be there potentially, but as yet neither of them is there.

And that an idea is required for goodness seems fairly clear, but with regard to desire there is more room for doubt. I may approve, in the sense of finding a pleasant idea realized, and yet, in some cases, desire appears to be absent For, in some cases, existence does not oppose my idea, and there is, hence, no place open for the tension of desire. This assertion might be combated, but, for myself, I am prepared to admit it. And the inclusion of desire in the idea of good, to this extent I allow, may be called arbitrary. But it seems justifiable, because (as things are) desire must be developed. Approval without desire is but an extreme and a passing condition. There cannot fail to come a wavering, and so an opposition, in my state; and with this at once we have the tension required for desire. Desire, I thus admit, may, for the moment, be absent from approval; but, because it necessarily must ensue, I take it as essential. Still this point, in my opinion, has little importance. What is important is to insist that the presence of an idea is essential to goodness.

And for this reason we must not admit that the pleasant, as such, is good. The good is pleasant, and the better, also, is in proportion more pleasant. And we may add, again, that the pleasant is generally good, if we will leave |358| out ‘as such’. For the pleasant will naturally become desired, and will therefore on the whole be good. But we must not assert that everything pleasant is the satisfaction of a desire, or even always must imply desire or approval. And hence, since an idea may be absent, the pleasant sometimes may be not properly good.

And against the identification of bare pleasure, as such, with the good we may unhesitatingly pronounce. Such a view separates the aspect of pleasure, and then denies that anything else in the world is worth anything at all. If it merely asserted that the more pleasant and the better were one, its position would be altered. For, since pleasure goes with everything that is free from discord, or has merged discord in fuller harmony, naturally the higher degree of individuality will be therefore more pleasant.3 And we have included pleasure as an essential element in our idea of perfection (Chapter xx). But it will hardly follow from this that nothing in the universe except pleasure is good, and that, taking this one aspect as the end, we may regard all else as mere means. Where everything is connected in one whole, you may abstract and so may isolate any one factor. And you may prove at your ease that, without this, all the rest are imperfect and worthless; and you may show how, this one being added, they all once more gain reality and worth. And hence of everyone alike you may conclude that it is the end for the sake of which all the others exist. But from this to argue, absolutely and blindly, that some one single aspect of the world is the sole thing that is good, is most surely illogical. It is to narrow a point of view, which is permissible only so long as it is general, into a one-sided mistake. And thus, in its denial that anything else beside pleasure is good, Hedonism must be met by a decided rejection.

Is a thing desired always, because it is first pleasant, or is it ever pleasant rather, on the other hand, because we desire it?4 And we may ask the same question as to the |359| relation of the desired to the good. But, again, is anything true because I am led to think it, or am I rather led to think it because of its truth? And, once more, is it right because I ought, or does the ‘because’ only hold in the opposite direction? And is an object beautiful because it affects me, or is, on the other hand, my emotion the result of its beauty? In each of these cases we first have made a separation which is too rigid, and on this foundation are built questions which threaten us with a dilemma. We set down upon each side, as a fact and as presupposed, what apart from the other side, at least sometimes, would have no existence. If good is the satisfaction of desire, you may take desire as being its condition; but, on the other hand, you would desire hardly anything at all, unless in some sense it had given satisfaction already. Certainly the pleasant, as we have seen, may, for a time and at a low level, be not approved of or desired. But it is another thing to assert that goodness consists in, or is a mere result from, pleasure.

That which consistent Hedonism would, at least by implication, deny, is the direction of desire in the end towards anything but pleasure. Something is pleasant as a fact, and solely for that cause it is desired; and with this the whole question seems forthwith settled. But pleasure itself, like every other fact, cannot be something which just happens. Upon its side also, assuredly, it is not without a reason. And, when we ask, we find that pleasure coexists always with what we call perfection or individuality. But, if so, then surely the ‘because’ holds as firmly in one way as in the other. And, so far as I see, if we have a right to deny that a certain character is necessary for pleasure, we should have the same right to repudiate the |360| connection between pleasure and desire. If the one coexistence is mere accident and a conjunction which happens, then why not also, and as much, the other? But, if we agree that the connection is two-sided, and that a degree of relative perfection is essential to pleasure, just as pleasure, on its side, is an element in perfection, then Hedonism, at once, is in principle refuted. The object of desire will never fail, as such, to contain more than pleasure; and the idea that either pleasure, or any other aspect, is the single End in the universe must be allowed to be untenable (Chapter xxvi). I may perhaps put this otherwise by urging that, even if Hedonism were true, there would be no possible way in which its truth could be shown.5, Note 34

Passing from this mistake I will notice another doctrine from which we must dissent. There is a temptation to identify goodness with the realisation of the Will; and, on the strength of a certain assumption, this conclusion would, taken broadly, be right. But we shall see that this assumption is not tenable (Chapter xxvi), and, without it, the conclusion cannot stand. We have noticed that the satisfaction of desire can be found as well as made by the individual. And where experienced existence is both pleasant and satisfies desire, I am unable to see how we can refuse to call it good. Nor, again, can pleasure be limited so as to be the feeling of the satisfied will, since it clearly seems to exist in the absence of volition.6

|361| I may perhaps express our general view by saying that the good is coextensive with approbation. But I should add that approbation is to be taken in its widest sense. To approve is to have an idea in which we feel satisfaction, and to have or imagine the presence of this idea in existence. And against the existence which, actually or in imagination, fails to realize the idea, the idea becomes an ‘is to be’, a ‘should’ or an ‘ought’. Nor is approbation in the least confined to the realm of morality proper, but is found just as much in the worlds of speculation or art. Wherever a result, external or inward, is measured by an idea which is pleasant, and is seen to correspond, we can, in a certain sense, be said to approve. And, where we approve, there certainly we can be said also to find the result good.7

The good, in general, is often identified with the desirable. This, I think, is misleading. For the desirable means that which is to be, or ought to be, desired. And it seems, hence, to imply that the good might be good, and |362| yet not be desired, or, again, that something might be desired which is not good. And, if good is taken generally, these assertions at least are disputable. The term "desirable" belongs to the world of relative goods, and has a clear meaning only where we can speak of better and worse. But to good in general it seems not strictly applicable. A thing is desirable, when to desire it is better. It is not desirable, properly, when you can say no more than that to desire it is good. 8

The good might be called desirable in the sense that it essentially has to be desired. For desire is not an external means, but is contained and involved in goodness, or at least follows from it necessarily. Goodness without desire, we might say, would not be itself, and it is hence desirable (p. 357). This use of "desirable" would call attention to an important point, but, for the reason given above, would be misleading. At any rate it clearly separates for the moment desire from goodness.

We have attempted now to fix generally the meaning of goodness, and we may proceed from this to lay stress on its contradictory character. The good is not the perfect, but is merely a one-sided aspect of perfection. It tends to pass beyond itself, and, if it were completed, it would forthwith cease properly to be good. I will exhibit its incompleteness first by asking what it is that is good, and will then go on briefly to point out the self-contradiction in its essence.

If we seek to know what is goodness, we find it always as the adjective of something not itself. Beauty, truth, pleasure, and sensation are all things that are good. We desire them all, and all can serve as types or ‘norms’ by |363| which to guide our approbation. And hence, in a sense, they all will fall under and be included in goodness. But when we ask, on the other hand, if goodness exhausts all that lies in these regions, the answer must be different. For we see at once that each possesses a character of its own; and, in order to be good, the other aspects of the universe must also be themselves. The good then, as such, is obviously not so wide as the totality of things. And the same conclusion is at once forced on us, if we go on to examine the essence of goodness. For that is self-discrepant, and is therefore appearance and not Reality. The good implies a distinction of idea from existence, and a division which, in the lapse of time, is perpetually healed up and remade.

And such a process is involved in the inmost being of the good. A satisfied desire is, in short, inconsistent with itself. For, so far as it is quite satisfied, it is not a desire; and, so far as it is a desire, it must remain at least partly unsatisfied. And where we are said to want nothing but what we have, and where approbation precludes desire, we have, first, an ideal continuance of character in conflict with change. But in any case, apart from this, there is implied the suggestion of an idea, distinct from the fact while identified with it. Each of these features is necessary, and each is inconsistent with the other. And the resolution of this difference between idea and existence is both demanded by the good, and yet remains unattainable. Its accomplishment, indeed, would destroy the proper essence of goodness, and the good is therefore in itself incomplete and self-transcendent. It moves towards an other and a higher character, in which, becoming perfect, it would be merged.

Hence obviously the good is not the Whole, and the Whole, as such, is not good. And, viewed thus in relation to the Absolute, there is nothing either bad or good, there is not anything better or worse. For the Absolute is not its appearances. But (as we have seen throughout) such a truth is itself partial and false, since the Absolute appears in its phenomena and is real nowhere outside them. We |364| indeed can only deny that it is any one, because it is all of them in unity. And so, regarded from this other side, the Absolute is good, and it manifests itself throughout in various degrees of goodness and badness. The destiny of goodness, in reaching which it must itself cease to be, is accomplished by the Whole. And, since in that consummation idea and existence are not lost but are brought into harmony, the Whole therefore is still good. And again, since reference to the perfect makes finite satisfactions all higher and lower, the Absolute is realized in all of them to different degrees. I will briefly deal with this latter point.

We saw, in our last chapter, the genuine meaning of degrees in reality and truth. That is more perfect which is separated from perfection by a smaller interval. And the interval is measured by the amount of rearrangement and of addition required in order to turn an appearance into Reality. We found, again, that our one principle has a double aspect, as it meets two opposite defects in phenomena. For an element is lower as being either more narrow or less harmonious. And we perceived, further, how and why these two defects are essentially connected. Passing now to goodness, we must content ourselves by observing in general that the same principle holds. The satisfaction which is more true and more real, is better. And we measure, here again, by the double aspect of extension and harmony.9 Only the perfect and complete would, in the end, content our desires. And a satisfaction more consistent with itself, or again wider and fuller, approaches more nearly to that consummation in which we could rest. Further the divergence of these two aspects is itself but apparent, and consists merely in a one-sided confinement of our view. For a satisfaction determined from the outside cannot internally be harmonious, while on the other hand, if it became all-inclusive, it would have become also concordant. In its application this single |365| principle tends naturally to fall apart into two different standards. Still, for all that, it remains in essence and at bottom the same, and it is everywhere an estimation by the Absolute.

In a sense, therefore, the Absolute is actually good, and throughout the world of goodness it is truly realized in different degrees of satisfaction. Since in ultimate Reality all existence, and all thought and feeling, become one, we may even say that every feature in the universe is thus absolutely good.

I have now briefly laid down the general meaning and significance of goodness, and may go on to consider it in a more special and restricted sense. The good, we have seen, contains the sides of existence and idea. And the existence, so far, has been found to be in accordance with the idea, but the idea itself, so far, has not necessarily produced or realized itself in the fact. When, however, we take goodness in its narrower meaning, this last feature is essential. The good, in short, will become the realized end or completed will. It is now an idea which not only has an answering content in fact, but, in addition also, has made, and has brought about, that correspondence. We may say that the idea has translated or has carried itself out into reality; for the content on both sides is the same, and the existence has become what it is through the action of the idea. Goodness thus will be confined to the realm of ends or of self-realisation. It will be restricted, in other words, to what is commonly called the sphere of morality.

For we must here take self-realisation to have no meaning except in finite souls; and of course every soul is finite, though certainly not all are human. Will, implying a process in time, cannot belong, as such, to the Absolute; and, on the other side, we cannot assume the existence of ends in the physical world. I shall return in the next chapter to this question of teleology in Nature, but, for the sake of convenience, we must here exclude it from our view. There is to be, in short, no self-realisation except that of souls.

“There is … no self-realisation except that of souls. … Goodness then … is the realisation of its idea by a finite soul. It is not perfection simply, but perfection as carried out by a will.”

|366| Goodness {relative} then, at present, is the realisation of its idea by a finite soul. It is not perfection simply, but perfection as carried out by a will. We must forget, on the one hand, that, as we have seen, approbation goes beyond morality; and we must, as yet, be blind to that more restricted sense in which morality is inward. Goodness is, here, to be the carrying out by the individual of his idea of perfection. And we must go on to show briefly how, in this sense also, the good is inconsistent. It is a point of view which is compelled perpetually to pass beyond itself.

If we enquire, once more, ‘What is good?’ in the sense of asking for some element of content which is special, we must answer, as before, ‘There is nothing’. Pleasure, we have seen, is by itself not the essence of goodness; and, on the other hand, no feature of the world falls outside of what is good. Beauty, truth, feeling, and sensation, every imaginable matter must go to constitute perfection. For perfection or individuality is a system, harmonious and thus inclusive of everything. And goodness we have now taken to be the willed reality of its perfection by a soul. And hence neither the form of system by itself, nor again, any one matter apart from the whole, is either perfect or good.10

But, as with truth and reality, so with goodness our one standard becomes double, and individuality falls apart into the aspects of harmony and extent. In principle, and actually in the end, these two features must coincide (Chapter xxiv); but in judging of phenomena we are constantly forced to apply them separately. I propose to say nothing about the various concrete modes in which this two-fold perfection has been realized in fact. But, solely with a view to bring out the radical vice of all goodness, I will proceed to lay stress on this divergence in application. The aspects of extent and of harmony come together in the end, but no less certainly in that end goodness, as such, will have perished.

I am about, in other words, to invite attention to what |367| is called self-sacrifice. Goodness is the realisation by an individual of his own perfection, and that perfection consists, as we have seen, in both harmony and extent. And provisionally these two features will not quite coincide. To reduce the raw material of one’s nature to the highest degree of system, and to use every element from whatever source as a subordinate means to this object, is certainly one genuine view of goodness. On the other hand to widen as far as possible the end to be pursued, and to realize this through the distraction or the dissipation of one’s own individuality, is certainly also good. An individual system, aimed at in one’s self, and again the subordination of one’s own development to a wide-embracing end, are each an aspect of the moral principle. So far as they are discrepant, these two pursuits may be called, the one, self-assertion, and the other, self-sacrifice. And, however much these must diverge, each is morally good; and, taken in the abstract, you cannot say that one is better than the other.

I am far from suggesting that in morality we are forced throughout to make a choice between such incompatible ideals. For this is not the case, and, if it were so, life could hardly be lived. To a very large extent by taking no thought about his individual perfection, and by aiming at that which seems to promise no personal advantage, a man secures his private welfare. We may, perhaps, even say that in the main there is no collision between self-sacrifice and self-assertion, and that on the whole neither of these, in the proper sense, exists for morality. But, while admitting or asserting to the full the general identity of these aspects, I am here insisting on the fact of their partial divergence. And that, at least in some respects and with some persons, these two ideals seem hostile no sane observer can deny.

In other words, we must admit that two great divergent forms of moral goodness exist. In order to realize the idea of a perfect self, a man may have to choose between two partially conflicting methods. Morality, in short, may dictate either self-sacrifice or self-assertion, and it is |368| important to clear our ideas as to the meaning of each. A common mistake is to identify the first with the living for others, and the second with living for oneself. Virtue upon this view is social, either directly or indirectly, either visibly or invisibly. The development of the individual, that is, unless it reacts to increase the welfare of society, can certainly not be moral. This doctrine I am still forced to consider as a truth which has been exaggerated and perverted into error.11 There are intellectual and other accomplishments, to which I at least cannot refuse the title of virtue. But I cannot assume that, without exception, these must all somehow add to what is called social welfare; nor, again, do I see how to make a social organism the subject which directly possesses them. But, if so, it is impossible for me to admit that all virtue is essentially or primarily social. On the contrary, the neglect of social good, for the sake of pursuing other ends, may not only be moral self-assertion, but again, equally under other conditions, it may be moral self-sacrifice. We can even say that the living ‘for others’, rather than living ‘for myself’, may be immoral and selfish.

And you can hardly make the difference between self-sacrifice and self-assertion consist in this, that the idea pursued, in one case, falls beyond the individual and, in the other case, fails to do so. Or, rather, such a phrase, left undefined, can scarcely be said to have a meaning. Every permanent end of every kind will go beyond the individual, if the individual is taken in his lowest sense. And, passing that by, obviously the content realized in an individual’s perfection must be also above him and beyond him. His perfection is not one thing apart from the rest of the universe, and he gains it only by appropriating, and by reducing to a special harmony, the common substance of all. It is obvious that his private welfare, so far as he is social, must include to some extent the welfare of others. And his intellectual, aesthetic, and moral development, in short the whole ideal side of his nature, is clearly built |369| up out of elements which he shares with other souls. Hence the individual’s end in self-advancement must always transcend his private being. In fact, the difference between self-assertion and self-sacrifice does not lie in the contents which are used, but in the diverse uses which are made of them; and I will attempt to explain this.

In moral self-assertion the materials used may be drawn from any source, and they may belong to any world. They may, and they must, largely realize ends which visibly transcend my life. But it is self-assertion when, in applying these elements, I am guided by the idea of the greatest system in myself. If the standard used in measuring and selecting my material is, in other words, the development of my individual perfection, then my conduct is palpably not self-sacrifice, and may be opposed to it. It is self-sacrifice when I pursue an end by which my individuality suffers loss. In the attainment of this object my self is distracted, or is diminished, or even dissipated. I may, for social purposes, give up my welfare for the sake of other persons; or again I may devote myself to some impersonal pursuit, by which the health and harmony of my self is injured. Wherever the moral end followed is followed to the loss of individual well-being, then that is self-sacrifice, whether I am living ‘for others’ or not.12 But self-sacrifice is also, and on the other hand, a form of self-realisation. The wider end, which is aimed at, is, visibly or invisibly, reached; and in that pursuit and that attainment I find my personal good.

It is the essential nature of my self, as finite, equally to assert and, at the same time, to pass beyond itself; and hence the objects of self-sacrifice and of self-advancement are each equally mine. If we are willing to push a metaphor far beyond its true and natural limits, we may perhaps state the contrast thus. In self-assertion the organ considers first its own development, and for that purpose it draws material from the common life of all organs. But in self-sacrifice the organ aims at realising some feature |370| of the life larger than its own, and is ready to do this at the cost of injury to its own existence. It has foregone the idea of a perfection, individual, rounded, and concrete. It is willing to see itself abstract and mutilated, over-specialized, or stunted, or even destroyed. But this actual defect it can make up ideally, by an expansion beyond its special limits, and by an identification of its will with a wider reality. Certainly the two pursuits, thus described, must in the main coincide and be one. The whole is furthered most by the self-seeking of its parts, for in these alone the whole can appear and be real. And the part again is individually bettered by its action for the whole, since thus it gains the supply of that common substance which is necessary to fill it. But, on the other hand, this general coincidence is only general, and assuredly there are points at which it ceases. And here self-assertion and self-sacrifice begin to diverge, and each to acquire its distinctive character.

Each of these modes of action realizes the self, and realizes that which is higher; and (I must repeat this) they are equally virtuous and right. To what then should the individual have any duty, if he has none to himself? Or is it, again, really supposed that in his perfection the whole is not perfected, and that he is somewhere enjoying his own advantage and holding it apart from the universe? But we have seen that such a separation between the Absolute and finite beings is meaningless. Or shall we be assured, upon the other side, that for a thing to sacrifice itself is contrary to reason? But we have found that the very essence of finite beings is self-contradictory, that their own nature includes relation to others, and that they are already each outside of its own existence. And, if so, surely it would be impossible, and most contrary to reason, that the finite, realising itself, should not also transcend its own limits. If a finite individual really is not self-discrepant, then let that be argued and shown. But, otherwise, that he should be compelled to follow two ideals of perfection which diverge, appears natural and necessary. And each of these pursuits, in general and in the abstract, |371| is equally good. It is only the particular conditions which in each case can decide between them.

Now that this divergence ceases, and is brought together in the end, is most certain. For nothing is outside the Absolute, and in the Absolute there is nothing imperfect. And an unaccomplished object, implying discrepancy between idea and existence, is most surely imperfection. In the Absolute everything finite attains the perfection which it seeks; but, upon the other hand, it cannot gain perfection precisely as it seeks it. For, as we have seen throughout, the finite is more or less transmuted, and, as such, disappears in being accomplished. This common destiny is assuredly the end of the Good. The ends sought by self-assertion and self-sacrifice are, each alike, unattainable. The individual never can in himself become an harmonious system. And in the wider ideal to which he devotes himself, no matter how thoroughly, he never can find complete self-realisation. For, even if we take that ideal to be perfect and to be somehow completely fulfilled, yet, after all, he himself is not totally absorbed in it. If his discordant element is for faith swallowed up, yet faith, no less, means that a jarring appearance remains. And, in the complete gift and dissipation of his personality, he, as such, must vanish; and, with that, the good is, as such, transcended and submerged. This result is but the conclusion with which our chapter began. Goodness is an appearance, it is phenomenal, and therefore self-contradictory. And therefore, as was the case with degrees of truth and reality, it shows two forms of one standard which will not wholly coincide. In the end, where every discord is brought to harmony, every idea is also realized. But there, where nothing can be lost, everything, by addition and by rearrangement, more or less changes its character. And most emphatically no self-assertion nor any self-sacrifice, nor any goodness or morality, has, as such, any reality in the Absolute. Goodness is a subordinate and, therefore, a self-contradictory aspect of the universe.

And, with this, it is full time that we went forward; but, |372| for the sake of some readers, I will dwell longer on the relative character of the Good. Too many English moralists assume blindly that goodness is ultimate and absolute. For as regards metaphysics they are incompetent, and that in the religion which probably they profess or at least esteem, morality, as such, is subordinate — such a fact suggests to them nothing. They are ignorant of the view for which all things finite in different degrees are real and true, and for which, at the same time, not one of them is ultimate. And they cannot understand that the Whole may be consistent, when the appearances which qualify it conflict with one another. For holding on to each separate appearance, as a thing absolute and not relative, they fix these each in that partial character which is unreal and untrue. And such one-sided abstractions, which in coming together are essentially transformed, they consider to be ultimate and fundamental facts. Thus in goodness the ends of self-assertion and of self-sacrifice are inconsistent, each with itself and each with the other. They are fragmentary truths, neither of which is, as such, ultimately true. But it is just these relative aspects which the popular moralist holds to, each as real by itself; and hence ensues a blind tangle of bewilderment and error. To follow this in detail is not my task, and still less my desire, but it may be instructive, perhaps, briefly to consider it further.

There is first one point which should be obvious, but which seems often forgotten. In asking whether goodness can, in the end, be self-consistent and be real, we are not concerned merely with the relation between virtue and selfishness. For suppose that there is no difference between these two, except merely for our blindness, yet, possessing this first crown of our wishes, we have still not solved the main problem. It will certainly now be worth my while to seek the good of my neighbour, since by no other course can I do any better for myself, and since what is called self-sacrifice, or benevolent action, is in fact the only possible way to secure my advantage. But then, upon the other hand, a mere balance of advantage, |373| however satisfactory the means by which I come to possess it, is most assuredly not the fulfilment of my desire. For the desire of human beings (this is surely a commonplace) has no limit. Goodness, in other words, must imply an attempt to reach perfection, and it is the nature of the finite to seek for that which nothing finite can satisfy. But, if so, with a mere balance of advantage I have not realized my good. And, however much virtue may be nothing in the world but a refined form of self-seeking, yet, with this, virtue is not one whit the less a pursuit of what is inconsistent and therefore impossible. And goodness, or the attainment of such an impossible end, is still self-contradictory.

Further, since it seems necessary for me not to be ashamed of platitude, let me call the attention of the reader to some evident truths. No existing social organism secures to its individuals any more than an imperfect good, and in all of them self-sacrifice marks the fact of a failure in principle. But even in an imaginary society, such as is foretold to us in the New Jerusalem of Mr. Spencer, it is only for thoughtless credulity that evil has vanished. For it is not easy to forget that finite beings are physically subject to accident, or easy to believe that this their natural essence is somehow to be removed. And, even so and in any case, the members of an organism must of necessity be sacrificed more or less to the whole. For they must more or less be made special in their function, and that means rendered, to some extent, one-sided and narrow. And, if so, the harmony of their individual being must inevitably in some degree suffer. And it must suffer again, if the individual devotes himself to some aesthetic or intellectual pursuit. On the other side, even within the New Jerusalem, if a person aims merely at his own good, he, none the less, is fore-doomed to imperfection and failure. For on a defective and shifting natural basis he tries to build a harmonious system; and his task, hopeless for this reason, is for another reason more hopeless. He strives within finite limits to construct a concordant whole, when the materials which he is forced to use have no natural |374| endings, but extend themselves indefinitely beyond himself into an endless world of relations. And, if so, once more we have been brought back to the familiar truth, that there is no such possibility as human perfection. But, if so, then goodness, since it must needs pursue the perfect, is in its essence self-discrepant, and in the end is unreal. It is an appearance one-sided and relative, and not an ultimate reality.

But to this idea of relativity, both in the case of goodness and every other order of phenomena, popular philosophy remains blind. Everything, for it, is either a delusion, and so nothing at all, or is on the other hand a fact, and, because it exists, therefore, as such, real. That reality can appear nowhere except in a system of relative unrealities; that, taken apart from this system, the several appearances are in contradiction with one another and each within itself; that, nevertheless, outside of this field of jarring elements there neither is nor can be anything; and that, if appearances were not irremediably self-discrepant, they could not possibly be the appearances of the Real — all this to popular thought remains meaningless. Common sense openly revolts against the idea of a fact which is not a reality; or again, as sober criticizm, it plumes itself on suggesting cautious questions, doubts which dogmatically assume the truth of its coarsest prejudices. Nowhere are these infirmities illustrated better than by popular Ethics, in the attitude it takes towards the necessary discrepancies of goodness. That these discrepancies exist because goodness is not absolute, and that their solution is not possible until goodness is degraded to an appearance — such a view is blindly ignored. Nor is it asked if these opposites, self-assertion and self-sacrifice, are not each internally inconsistent and so irrational. But the procedure is, first, tacitly to assume that each opposite is fixed, and will not pass beyond itself. And then, from this basis, one of the extremes is rejected as an illusion; or else, both being absolute and solid, an attempt is made to combine them externally or to show that somehow they coincide. I will add a few words on these developments.

|375| (i.) The good may be identified with self-sacrifice, and self-assertion may, therefore, be totally excluded. But the good, as self-sacrifice, is clearly in collision with itself. For an act of self-denial is, no less, in some sense a self-realisation, and it inevitably includes an aspect of self-assertion. And hence the good, as the mere attainment of self-sacrifice, is really unmeaning. For it is in finite selves, after all, that the good must be realized. And, further, to say that perfection must be always the perfection of something else, appears quite inconsistent For it will mean either that on the whole the good is nothing whatever, or else that it consists in that which each does or may enjoy, yet not as good, but as a something extraneously added unto him. The good, in other words, in this case will be not good; and in the former case it will be nothing positive, and therefore nothing. That each should pursue the general perfection, should act for the advantage of a whole in which his self is included, or should add to a collection in which he may share — is certainly not pure self-sacrifice. And a maxim that each should aim purely at his neighbour’s welfare in separation from his own, we have seen is self-inconsistent. It can hardly be ultimate or reasonable, when its meaning seems to end in nonsense.13

(ii.) Or, rejecting all self-transcendence as an idle word, popular Ethics may set up pure self-assertion as all that is good. It may perhaps desire to add that by the self-seeking of each the advantage of all is best secured, but this addition clearly is not contained in self-assertion, and cannot properly be included. For by such an addition, if it were necessary, the end at once would have been essentially modified. It was self-assertion pure, and not qualified, which was adopted as goodness; and it is this alone which we must now consider. And we perceive first (as we saw above) that such a good is unattainable, since perfection cannot be realized in a finite being. Not |376| only is the physical basis too shifting, but the contents too essentially belong to a world outside the self; and hence it is impossible that they should be brought to completion and to harmony within it. One may indeed seek to approach nearer to the unattainable. Aiming at a system within oneself, one may forcibly abstract from the necessary connections of the material used. We may consider this and strive to apply it one-sidedly, and in but a single portion of its essential aspects. But the other aspect inseparably against our will is brought in, and it stamps our effort with inconsistency. Thus even to pursue imperfectly one’s own advantage by itself is unreasonable, for by itself and purely it has no existence at all. It was a trait characteristic of critical Common Sense when it sought for the individual’s moral end by first supposing him isolated. For a dogmatic assumption that the individual remains what he is when you have cut off his relations, is very much what the vulgar understand by criticizm. But, when such a question is discussed, it must be answered quite otherwise. The contents, asserted in the individual’s self-seeking, necessarily extend beyond his private limits. A maxim, therefore, merely to pursue one’s own advantage is, taken strictly, inconsistent. And a principle which contradicts itself is, once more, not reasonable.14

(iii.) In the third place, admitting self-assertion and self-denial as equally good, popular thought attempts to bring them together from outside. Goodness will now consist in the coincidence of these independent goods. The two are not to be absorbed by and resolved into a third. Each, on the other hand, is to retain unaltered the character which it has, and the two, remaining two, are somehow to be |377| conjoined. And this, as we have seen throughout our work, is quite impossible. If two conflicting finite elements are anywhere to be harmonized, the first condition is that each should forego and should transcend its private character. Each, in other words, working out the discrepancy already within itself, passes beyond itself and unites with its opposite in a product higher than either. But such a transcendence can have no meaning to popular Ethics. That has assumed without examination that each finite end, taken by itself, is reasonable; and it therefore demands that each, as such, should together be satisfied. And, blind to theory, it is blind also to the practical refutation of its dogmas by everyday life. There a man can seek the general welfare in his own, and can find his own end accomplished in the general; for goodness there already is the transcendence and solution of one-sided elements. The good is already there, not the external conjunction, but the substantial identity of these opposites. They are not coincident with, but each is in, and makes one aspect of, the other. In short, already within goodness that work is imperfectly begun, which, when completed, must take us beyond goodness altogether. But for popular Ethics, as we saw, not only goodness itself, but each of its one-sided features is fixed as absolute. And, these having been so fixed in irrational independence, an effort is made to find the good in their external conjunction.

Goodness is apparently now to be the coincidence of two ultimate goods, but it is hard to see how such an end can be ultimate or reasonable. That two elements should necessarily come together, and, at the same time, that neither should be qualified by this relation, or again that a relation in the end should not imply a whole, which subordinates and qualifies the two terms — all this in the end seems unintelligible. But, again, if the relation and the whole are to qualify the terms, one does not understand how either by itself could ever have been ultimate.15 |378| In short, the bare conjunction of independent reals is an idea which contradicts itself. But of this naturally Common Sense has no knowledge at all, and it therefore blindly proceeds with its impossible task.

That task is to defend the absolute character of goodness by showing that the discrepancies which it presents disappear in the end, and that these discrepant features, none the less, survive each in its own character. But by popular Ethics this task usually is not understood. It directs itself therefore to prove the coincidence of self-seeking and benevolence, or to show, in other words, that self-sacrifice, if moral, is impossible. And with this conclusion reached, in its opinion, the main problem would be solved. Now I will not ask how far in such a consummation its ultimate ends would, one or both, have been subordinated; for by its conclusion, in any case, the main problem is not touched. We have already seen that our desires, whether for ourselves or for others, do not stop short of perfection. But where each individual can say no more than this, that it has been made worth his while to regard others interests, perfection surely may be absent. And where the good aimed at is absent, to affirm that we have got rid of the puzzle offered by goodness seems really thoughtless. It is, however, a thoughtlessness which, as we have perceived, is characteristic; and let us pass to the external means employed to produce moral harmony.

Little need here be said. We may find, thrust forward or indicated feebly, a well-worn contrivance. This is of course the deus ex machina, an idea which no serious student of first principles is called on to consider. A God which has to make things what otherwise, and by their own nature, they are not, may summarily be dismissed as an exploded absurdity. And that perfection should exist in the finite, as such, we have seen to be even directly contrary to the nature of things. A supposition that it may |379| be made worth my while to be benevolent — especially when an indefinite prolongation of my life is imagined — cannot, in itself and for our knowledge, be called impossible. But then, upon the other hand, we have remarked that such an imagined improvement is not a solution of the actual main problem. The belief may possibly add much to our comfort by assuring us that virtue is the best, and is the only true, selfishness. But such a truth, if true, would not imply that both or either of our genuine ends is, as such, realized. And, failing this, the wider discrepancy has certainly not been removed from goodness. We may say, in a word, that the deus ex machina refuses to work. Little can be brought in by this venerable artifice except a fresh source of additional collision and perplexity. And, giving up this embarrassing agency, popular Ethics may prefer to make an appeal to ‘Reason’. For, if its two moral ends are each reasonable, then, if somehow they do not coincide, the nature of things must be unreasonable. But we have shown, on the other hand, that neither end by itself is reasonable; and if the nature of things were to bring together elements discordant within themselves and conflicting with one another, and were to attempt, without transforming their character, to make these coincide, — the nature of things would have revealed itself as an apotheosis of unreason or of popular Ethics. And, baffled by its failure to find its dogmas realized in the universe, this way of thinking at last may threaten us with total scepticism. But here, once more, it is but speaking of that of which it knows really nothing; for an honest scepticism is a thing outside its comprehension. An honest and truth-seeking scepticism pushes questions to the end, and knows that the end lies hid in that which is assumed at the beginning. But the scepticism (so-called) of Common Sense from first to last is dogmatic. It takes for granted, first, without examination that certain doctrines are true; it then demands that this collection of dogmas should come to an agreement; and, when its demand is rejected by the universe, it none the less persists in reiterating its old assumptions. And this dogmatism, simply |380| because it is baffled and perplexed, gets the name of scepticism. But a sincere scepticism, attacking without fear each particular prejudice, finds that every finite view, when taken by itself, becomes inconsistent. And borne on this inconsistency, which in each case means a self-transcendence, such a scepticism is lifted to see a whole in which all finites blend and are resolved. But when each fact and end has foregone its claim, as such, to be ultimate or reasonable, then reason and harmony in the highest sense have begun to appear. And scepticism in the end survives as a mere aspect of constructive metaphysics. With this we may leave the irrational dogmas of popular Ethics.

The discussion of these has been wearisome, but perhaps not uninstructive. It should have confirmed us in our general conclusion as to the nature of the good. Goodness is not absolute or ultimate; it is but one side, one partial aspect, of the nature of things. And it manifests its relativity by inconsistency, by a self-contradiction in principle, and by a tendency shown towards separation in that principle’s working, an attempted division, which again is inconsistent and cannot rest in itself. Goodness, as such, is but appearance which is transcended in the Absolute. But, upon the other hand, since in that Absolute no appearance is lost, the good is a main and essential factor in the universe. By accepting its transmutation it both realizes its own destiny and survives in the result.

“Goodness, as such, is but appearance which is transcended in the Absolute. But, upon the other hand, since in that Absolute no appearance is lost, the good is a main and essential factor in the universe. By accepting its transmutation it both realizes its own destiny and survives in the result.”

We might reach the same conclusion briefly, perhaps, by considering the collision of ends. In the Whole every idea must be realized; but, on the other hand, the conflict of ends is such that to combine them mechanically is quite impossible. It will follow then that, in their attainment, their characters must be transmuted. We may say at once that none of them, and yet that each of them, is good. And among these ends must be included what we rightly condemn as Evil (Chapter xvii). That positive object which is followed in opposition to the good, will unite with, and will conduce to, the ultimate goal. And the |381| conduct which seems merely bad, which appears to pursue no positive content and to exhibit no system, will in the same way become good. Both by its assertion and its negation it will subserve an overruling end. Good and evil reproduce that main result which we found in our examination of truth and error. The opposition in the end is unreal, but it is, for all that, emphatically actual and valid. Error and evil are facts, and most assuredly there are degrees of each; and whether anything is better or worse, does without any doubt make a difference to the Absolute. And certainly the better anything is, the less totally in the end is its being overruled. But nothing, however good, can in the end be real precisely as it appears. Evil and good, in short, are not ultimate; they are relative factors which cannot retain their special characters in the Whole. And we may perhaps now venture to consider this position established.

But, bearing in mind the unsatisfactory state of current thought on these topics, I think it well to follow the enquiry into further detail. There is a more refined sense in which we have not yet dealt with goodness.16 The good, |382| we may be informed, is morality, and morality is inward. It does not consist in the attainment of a mere result, either outside the self or even within it. For a result must depend on, and be conditioned by, what is naturally given, and for natural defects or advantages a man is not responsible. And therefore, so far as regards true morality, any realized product is chance; for it must be infected and modified, less or more, by nonmoral conditions. It is, in short, only that which comes out of the man himself which can justify or condemn him, and his disposition and circumstances do not come from himself. Morality is the identification of the individual’s will with his own idea of perfection. The moral man is the man who tries to do the best which he knows. If the best he knows is not the best, that is, speaking morally, beside the question. If he fails to accomplish it, and ends in an attempt, that is once more morally irrelevant. And hence (we may add) it will be hard to find a proper sense in which different epochs can be morally compared, or in which the morality of one time or person stands above that of others. For the intensity of a volitional identification with whatever seems best appears to contain and to exhaust the strict essence of goodness. On this alone are based moral responsibility and desert, and on this, perhaps, we are enabled to build our one hope of immortality.

This is a view towards which morality seems driven irresistibly. That a man is to be judged solely by his inner will seems in the end undeniable. And, if such a doctrine contradicts itself and is inconsistent with the very notion of goodness, that will be another indication that the good is but appearance. We may even say that the present view takes a pride in its own discrepancies. It might, we must allow, contradict itself more openly. For it might make morality consist in the direct denial of that very element of existence, without which it actually is nothing.17 But |383| the same inconsistency, if more veiled, is still inherent in our doctrine. For a will, after all, must do something and must be characterized by what it does; while, on the other hand, this very character of what it does must depend on that which is ‘given’ to it. And we shall have to choose between two fatal results; for either it will not matter what one does, or else something beyond and beside the bare ‘will’ must be admitted to be good.

I will begin by saying a few words on what is called ‘moral desert’. If this phrase implies that for either good or bad there is any reward beyond themselves, it is at once inconsistent. For, if between virtue and happiness there is an essential connection, then virtue must be redefined so as to take in all its essence. But if, on the other hand, the connection is but external, then in what proper sense are we to call it moral? We must either give up or alter the idea of desert, or else must seriously modify our extreme conception of moral goodness. And with this I will proceed to show how in its working that conception breaks down.

It is, first, in flat contradiction with ordinary morality. I am not referring to the fact that in common life we approve of all human qualities which to us seem desirable. Beauty, riches, strength, health and fortune — everything, and, perhaps, more than everything, which could be called a human excellence — we find admirable and approve of. But such approbations, together with their counterpart disapprovals, we should probably find ourselves unwilling to justify morally. And, passing this point by for the present, let us attend solely to those excellencies which would by all be called moral. These, the common virtues of life by which individuals are estimated, obviously depend to a large extent on disposition and bringing up. And to discard them utterly, because, or in so far as, you cannot attribute them to the individual’s will, is a violent paradox. Even if that is correct, it is at least opposed to everyday morality.

And this doctrine, when we examine it further, is found to end in nothing. Its idea is to credit a man merely with |384| what comes out of his will, and that in fine is not anything. For in the result from the will there is no material which is not derived from a ‘natural’ source; and the whole result, whether in its origin, its actual happening, or its end, is throughout conditioned and qualified by ‘natural’ factors. The moral man is allowed not to be omnipotent or omniscient. He is morally perfect, if only he will but do what he knows. But how can he do it when weakness and disease, either bodily or mental, opposes his effort? And how can he even make the effort, except on the strength of some ‘natural’ gift? Such an idea is psychologically absurd. And, if we take two different individuals, one dowered with advantages external and inward, and the other loaded with corresponding drawbacks, and if, in judging these, we refuse to make the very smallest allowance — in what have we ended? But to make an allowance would be to give up the essence of our doctrine, for the moral man no longer would be barely the man who wills what he knows. The result then is that we are unable to judge morally at all, for, otherwise, we shall be crediting morality with a foreign gift or allowance. Nor, again, do we find a less difficulty, when we turn to consider moral knowledge. For one man by education or nature will know better than another, and certainly no one can possibly know always the best.18 But, once more, we cannot allow for this, and must insist that it is morally irrelevant. In short, it matters nothing what any one knows, and we have just seen that it matters as little what any one does. The distinction between evil and good has in fact disappeared. And to fall back on the intensity of the moral struggle will not help us.19 For that intensity is determined, in the first place, by natural conditions, and, in the next |385| place, goodness would be taken to consist in a struggle with itself. To make a man better you would in some cases have to add to his badness, in order to increase the division and the morality within him. Goodness, in short, meant at the beginning that one does what one can, and it has come now to mean merely that one does what one does. Or rather, whatever one does and whatever one wills, it is all alike infected by nature and morally indifferent. There is, in plain words, no difference left between goodness and badness.

But such a conclusion, we may possibly yet be told, is quite mistaken. For, though all the matter of goodness must be drawn from outside, yet the self, or the will, has a power of appropriation. By its formal act it works up and transforms that given matter, and it so makes its own, and makes moral, the crude natural stuff. Still, on the other side, we must insist that every act is a resultant from psychical conditions.20 A formal act which is not determined by its matter, is nonsense, whether you consider that act in its origin or in its outcome. And, again, if the act is not morally characterized and judged by its matter, will there in the end be a difference between the good and the bad? Whether you look at its psychical genesis or at its essential character, the act, if it is to be possible, cannot be merely formal, and it will therefore vitally depend on that which has been called non-moral.

A form independent of matter is certainly nothing, and, as certainly therefore, it cannot be morality. It can at most be offered as such, and asserted to be so, by a chance content which fills it and professes to be moral. Morality |386| has degenerated into self-approbation which only is formal, and which therefore is false. It has become the hollow conscience for which acts are good because they happen to be its own, or merely because somehow it happens to like them. Between the assertion and the fact there is here no genuine connection. It is empty self-will and self-assurance, which, swollen with private sentiment or chance desire, wears the mask of goodness. And hence that which professes itself moral would be the same as mere badness, if it did not differ, even for the worse, by the addition of hypocrisy.21 For the bad, which admits not only that others but that itself is not good, has, in principle at least, condemned vain self-sufficiency and self-will. The common confession that the self in itself is worthless, has opened that self to receive worth from a good which transcends it. Morality has been driven to allow that goodness and badness do not wholly depend on ourselves, and, with this admission, it has now finally passed beyond itself. We must at last have come to the end, when it has been proclaimed a moral duty to be non-moral.

That it is a moral duty not to be moral wears the form of a paradox, but it is the expression of a principle which has been active and has shown itself throughout. Every separate aspect of the universe, if you insist on it, goes on to demand something higher than itself. And, like every other appearance, goodness implies that which, when carried out, must absorb it. Yet goodness cannot go back; for to identify itself, once more, with the earlier stage of its development would be, once more, to be driven forward to the point we have reached. The problem can be solved only when the various stages and appearances of morality are all included and subordinated in a higher form of being. In other words the end, sought for by morality, is above it and is super-moral. Let us gain a general view of the moral demands which call for satisfaction.

|387| The first of these is the suppression of the divorce between morality and goodness. We have seen that every kind of human excellence, beauty, strength, and even luck, are all undeniably good. It is idle pretence if we assert that such gifts are not desired, and are not also approved of. And it is a moral instinct after all for which beauty counts as virtue. For, if we attempt to deny this and to confine virtue to what is commonly called moral conduct, our position is untenable. We are at once hurried forward by our admitted principle into further denials, and virtue recedes from the world until it ceases to be virtue. It seeks an inward centre not vitiated by any connection with the external, or, in other words, as we have seen, it pursues the unmeaning. For the excellence which barely is inner is nothing at all. We must either allow then that physical excellences are good, or we must be content to find virtue not realized anywhere.22 Hence there will be virtues more or less outward, and less or more inward and spiritual. We must admit kinds and degrees and different levels of virtue. And morality must be distinguished as a special form of the general goodness. It will be now one excellence among others, neither including them all, nor yet capable of a divorced and independent existence. Morality has proved unreal unless it stands on, and vitally consists in, gifts naturally good. And thus we have been forced to acknowledge that morality is a gift; since, if the goodness of the physical virtues is denied, there is left, at last, no goodness at all. Morality, in short, finds it essential that every excellence should be good, and it is destroyed by a division between its own world and that of goodness.

It is a moral demand then that every human excellence should genuinely be good, while at the same time a high rank should be reserved for the inner life. And it is a moral demand also that the good should be victorious |388| throughout. The defects and the contradiction in every self must be removed, and must be succeeded by perfect harmony. And, of course, all evil must be overruled and so turned into goodness. But the demand of morality has also a different side. For, if goodness as such is to remain, the contradiction cannot quite cease, since a discord, we saw, was essential to goodness. Thus, if there is to be morality, there cannot altogether be an end of evil. And, so again, the two aspects of self-assertion and of self-sacrifice will remain. They must be subordinated, and yet they must not have entirely lost their distinctive characters. Morality in brief calls for an unattainable unity of its aspects, and, in its search for this, it naturally is led beyond itself into a higher form of goodness. It ends in what we may call religion.23

|389|In this higher mode of consciousness I am not suggesting that a full solution is found. For religion is practical, and therefore still is dominated by the idea of the Good; and in the essence of this idea is contained an unsolved contradiction. Religion is still forced to maintain unreduced aspects, which, as such, cannot be united; and it exists in short by a kind of perpetual oscillation and compromise. Let us however see the manner in which it rises above bare morality.

|390|For religion all is the perfect expression of a supreme will,24 and all things therefore are good. Everything imperfect and evil, the conscious bad will itself, is taken up into and subserves this absolute end. Both goodness and badness are therefore good, just as in the end falsehood and truth were each found to be true. They are good alike, but on the other hand they are not good equally. That which is evil is transmuted and, as such, is destroyed, while the good in various degrees can still preserve its own character. Goodness, like truth, we saw was supplemented rather than wholly overruled. And, in measuring degrees of goodness, we must bear in mind the double aspect of appearance, and the ultimate identity of intenseness and extent. But in religion, further, the finite self does attain its perfection, and the separation of these two aspects is superseded and overcome. The finite self is perfect, not merely when it is viewed as an essential organ of the perfect Whole, but it also realizes for itself and is aware of perfection. The belief that its evil is overruled and its good supplemented, the identity in knowledge and in desire with the one overmastering perfection, this for the finite being is self-consciousness of itself as perfect. And in the others it finds once more the same perfection realized. For where a whole is complete in finite beings, which know themselves to be elements and members of its system, this is the consciousness in such individuals of their own completeness. Their perfection is a gift without doubt, but there is no reality outside the giver, and the separate receiver of the gift is but a false appearance.

But, on the other hand, religion must not pass wholly beyond goodness, and it therefore still maintains the opposition required for practice. Only by doing one’s best, only by the union of one’s will with the Good, can one attain to perfection. In so far as this union is absent, the evil remains; and to remain evil is to be overruled, and, as such, to perish utterly. Hence the ideal perfection of the self serves to increase its hostility towards its own imperfection and evil. The self at once struggles to be |391| perfect, and knows at the same time that its consummation is already worked out. The moral relation survives as a subordinate but an effective aspect.

The moral duty not to be moral is, in short, the duty to be religious. Every human excellence for religion is good, since it is a manifestation of the reality of the supreme Will. Only evil, as such, is not good, since in its evil character it is absorbed; and in that character it really is, we may say, something else. Evil assuredly contributes to the good of the whole, but it contributes something which in that whole is quite transformed from its own nature. And while in badness itself there are, in one sense, no degrees, there are, in another sense, certainly degrees in that which is bad. In the same way religion preserves intact degrees and differences in goodness. Every individual, in so far as he is good, is perfect. But he is better, first in proportion to his contribution to existing excellence, and he is better, again, according as more intensely he identifies his will with all-perfecting goodness.

I have set out, baldly and in defective outline, the claim of religion to have removed contradiction from the Good. And we must consider now to what extent such a claim can be justified. Religion seems to have included and reduced to harmony every aspect of life. It appears to be a whole which has embraced, and which pervades, every detail. But in the end we are forced to admit that the contradiction remains. For, if the whole is still good, it is not harmonious; and, if it has gone beyond goodness, it has carried us also beyond religion. The whole is at once actually to be good, and, at the same time, is actually to make itself good. Neither its perfect goodness, nor yet its struggle, may be degraded to an appearance. But, on the other hand, to unite these two aspects consistently is impossible. And, even if the object of religion is taken to be imperfect and finite, the contradiction will remain. For if the end desired by devotion were thoroughly accomplished, the need for devotion and, therefore, its reality would have ceased. In short, a self other than the |392| object must, and must not, survive, a vital discrepancy to be found again in intense sexual love. Every form of the good is impelled from within to pass beyond its own essence. It is an appearance, the stability of which is maintained by oscillation, and the acceptance of which depends largely on compromise.

The central point of religion lies in what is called faith. The whole and the individual are perfect and good for faith only. Now faith is not mere holding a general truth, which in detail is not verified; for that attitude, of course, also belongs to theory. Faith is practical, and it is, in short, a making believe; but, because it is practical, it is at the same time a making, none the less, as if one did not believe. Its maxim is, Be sure that opposition to the good is overcome, and nevertheless act as if it were there; or, Because it is not really there, have more courage to attack it. And such a maxim, most assuredly, is not consistent with itself; for either of its sides, if taken too seriously, is fatal to the other side. This inner discrepancy however pervades the whole field of religion. We are tempted to exemplify it, once again, by the sexual passion. A man may believe in his mistress, may feel that without that faith he could not live, and may find it natural, at the same time, unceasingly to watch her. Or, again, when he does not believe in her or perhaps even in himself, then he may desire all the more to utter, and to listen to, repeated professions. The same form of self-deception plays its part in the ceremonies of religion.

This criticizm might naturally be pursued into indefinite detail, but it is sufficient for us here to have established the main principle. The religious consciousness rests on the felt unity of unreduced opposites; and either to combine these consistently, or upon the other hand to transform them is impossible for religion. And hence self-contradiction in theory, and oscillation in sentiment, is inseparable from its essence. Its dogmas must end in one-sided error, or else in senseless compromise. And, even in its practice, it is beset with two imminent dangers, and it has without clear vision to balance itself between rival |393| abysses. Religion may dwell too intently on the discord in the world or in the self. In the former case it foregoes its perfection and peace, while, at the same time, it may none the less forget the difference between its private will and the Good. And, on the other side, if it emphasizes this latter difference, it is then threatened with a lapse into bare morality. But again if, flying from the discord, religion keeps its thought fixed on harmony, it tends to suffer once more. For, finding that all is already good both in the self and in the world, it may cease to be moral at all, and becomes at once, therefore, irreligious. The truth that devotion even to a finite object may lift us above moral laws, seduces religion into false and immoral perversions. Because, for it, all reality is, in one sense, good alike, every action may become completely indifferent. It idly dreams its life away in the quiet world of divine inanity, or, forced into action by chance desire, it may hallow every practice, however corrupt, by its empty spirit of devotion. And here we find reproduced in a direr form the monstrous births of moral hypocrisy. But we need not enter into the pathology of the religious consciousness. The man who has passed, however little, behind the scenes of the religious life, must have had his moments of revolt. He must have been forced to doubt if the bloody source of so many open crimes, the parent of such inward pollution can possibly be good.

“Like morality, religion is not ultimate. It is a mere appearance, and is therefore inconsistent with itself. And it is hence liable on every side to shift beyond its own limits.”

But if religion is, as we have seen, a necessity, such a doubt may be dismissed. There would be in the end, perhaps, no sense in the enquiry if religion has, on the whole, done more harm than good. My object has been to point out that, like morality, religion is not ultimate. It is a mere appearance, and is therefore inconsistent with itself. And it is hence liable on every side to shift beyond its own limits. But when religion, balancing itself between extremes, has lost its balance on either hand, it becomes irreligious. If it was a moral duty to find more than morality in religion, it is, even more emphatically, a religious duty still to be moral. But each of these is a mode and an expression at a different stage of the good; and the |394| good, as we have found, is a self-contradictory appearance of the Absolute.

It may be instructive to bring out the same inconsistency from another point of view. Religion naturally implies a relation between Man and God. Now a relation always (we have seen throughout) is self-contradictory. It implies always two terms which are finite and which claim independence. On the other hand a relation is unmeaning, unless both itself and the relateds are the adjectives of a whole. And to find a solution of this discrepancy would be to pass entirely beyond the relational point of view. This general conclusion may at once be verified in the sphere of religion.

“Religion is … the unity of man and God, which, in various stages and forms, wills and knows itself throughout.”

Man is on the one hand a finite subject, who is over against God, and merely ‘standing in relation’. And yet, upon the other hand, apart from God man is merely an abstraction. And religion perceives this truth, and it affirms that man is good and real only through grace, or that again, attempting to be independent, he perishes through wrath. He does not merely ‘stand in relation’, but is moved only by his opposite, and indeed, apart from that inward working, could not stand at all. God again is a finite object, standing above and apart from man, and is something independent of all relation to his will and intelligence. Hence God, if taken as a thinking and feeling being, has a private personality. But, sundered from those relations which qualify him, God is inconsistent emptiness; and, qualified by his relation to an Other, he is distracted finitude. God is therefore taken, again, as transcending this external relation. He wills and knows himself, and he finds his reality and self-consciousness, in union with man. Religion is therefore a process with inseparable factors, each appearing on either side. It is the unity of man and God, which, in various stages and forms, wills and knows itself throughout. It parts itself into opposite terms with a relation between them; but in the same breath it denies this provisional sundering, and it asserts and feels in either term the inward presence of |395| the other. And so religion consists in a practical oscillation, and expresses itself only by the means of theoretical compromise. It would shrink perhaps from the statement that God loves and enjoys himself in human emotion, and it would recoil once more from the assertion that love can be where God is not, and, striving to hug both shores at once, it wavers bewildered. And sin is the hostility of a rebel against a wrathful Ruler. And yet this whole relation too must feel and hate itself in the sinner’s heart, while the Ruler also is torn and troubled by conflicting emotions. But to say that sin is a necessary element in the Divine self-consciousness — an element, however, emerging but to be forthwith absorbed, and never liberated as such — this would probably appear to be either nonsense or blasphemy. Religion prefers to put forth statements which it feels are untenable, and to correct them at once by counter-statements which it finds are no better. It is then driven forwards and back between both, like a dog which seeks to follow two masters. A discrepancy worth our notice is the position of God in the universe. We may say that in religion God tends always to pass beyond himself. He is necessarily led to end in the Absolute, which for religion is not God. God, whether a ‘person’ or not, is, on the one hand, a finite being and an object to man. On the other hand, the consummation, sought by the religious consciousness, is the perfect unity of these terms. And, if so, nothing would in the end fall outside God. But to take God as the ceaseless oscillation and changing movement of the process, is out of the question. On the other side the harmony of all these discords demands, as we have shown, the alteration of their finite character. The unity implies a complete suppression of the relation, as such; but, with that suppression, religion and the good have altogether, as such, disappeared. If you identify the Absolute with God, that is not the God of religion. If again you separate them, God becomes a finite factor in the Whole. And the effort of religion is to put an end to, and break down, this relation — a relation which, none the less, it essentially presupposes. Hence, short of the |396| Absolute, God cannot rest, and, having reached that goal, he is lost and religion with him. It is this difficulty which appears in the problem of the religious self-consciousness. God must certainly be conscious of himself in religion, but such self-consciousness is most imperfect.25 For if the external relation between God and man were entirely absorbed, the separation of subject and object would, as such, have gone with it. But if again the self, which is conscious, still contains in its essence a relation between two unreduced terms, where is the unity of its selfness? In short, God, as the highest expression of the realized good, shows the contradiction which we found to be inherent in that principle. The falling apart of idea and existence is at once essential to goodness and negated by Reality. And the process, which moves within Reality, is not Reality itself. We may say that God is not God, till he has become |397| all in all, and that a God which is all in all is not the God of religion. God is but an aspect, and that must mean but an appearance, of the Absolute.

Through the remainder of this chapter I will try to remove some misunderstandings. The first I have to notice is the old confusion as to matter of fact; and I will here partly repeat the conclusions of our foregoing chapters. If religion is appearance, then the self and God, I shall be told, are illusions, since they will not be facts. This is the prejudice which everywhere Common Sense opposes to philosophy. Common Sense is persuaded that the first rude way, in which it interprets phenomena, is ultimate truth; and neither reasoning, nor the ceaseless protests of its own daily experience, can shake its assurance. But we have seen that this persuasion rests on barbarous error. Certainly a man knows and experiences everywhere the ultimate Reality, and indeed is able to know and experience nothing else. But to know it or experience it, fully and as such, is a thing utterly impossible. For the whole of finite being and knowledge consists vitally in appearance, in the alienation of the two aspects of existence and content. So that, if facts are to be ultimate and real, there are no facts anywhere or at all. There will be one single fact, which is the Absolute. But if, on the other hand, facts are to stand for actual finite events, or for things the essence of which is to be confined to a here or a now — facts are then the lowest, and the most untrue, form of appearance. And in the commonest business of our lives we rise above this low level. Hence it is facts themselves which, in this sense, should be called illusory.

In the religious consciousness, especially, we are not concerned with such facts as these. Its facts, if pure inward experiences, are surcharged with a content which is obviously incapable of confinement within a here or a now. And, in the seeming concentration within one moment of all Hell or all Heaven, the incompatibility of our ‘fact’ with its own existence is forced on our view. The same truth holds of all external religious events. |398| These are not religious until they have a significance which transcends their sensible finitude. And the general question is not whether the relation of God to man is an appearance, since there is no relation, nor any fact, which can possibly be more. The question is, where in the world of appearance is such a fact to be ranked. What, in other words, is the degree of its reality and truth?

To enter fully into such an enquiry is impossible here. If however we apply the criterion gained in the preceding chapter, we can see at once that there is nothing more real than what comes in religion. To compare facts such as these with what is given to us in outward existence, would be to trifle with the subject. The man, who demands a reality more solid than that of the religious consciousness, seeks he does not know what. Dissatisfied with the reality of man and God as he finds them there in experience, he may be invited to state intelligibly what in the end would content him. For God and man, as two sensible existences, would be degraded past recognition. We may say that the God which could exist, would most assuredly be no God. And man and God as two realities, individual and ultimate, ‘standing’ one cannot tell where, and with a relation ‘between’ them — this conjunction, we have seen, is self-contradictory, and is therefore appearance. It is a confused attempt to seize and hold in religion that Absolute, which, if it really were attained, would destroy religion.26 And this attempt, by its own inconsistency, and its own failure and unrest, reveals to us once more that religion is not final and ultimate.

But, if so, what, I may be asked, is the result in practice? That, I reply at once, is not my business; and insistence on such a question would rest on a hurtful prejudice. The task of the metaphysician is to enquire into ultimate truth, and he cannot be called on to consider anything else, however important it may be. We have but |399| little notion in England of freedom either in art or in science. Irrelevant appeals to practical results are allowed to make themselves heard. And in certain regions of art and science this sin brings its own punishment; for we fail through timidity and through a want of singleness and sincerity. That a man should treat of God and religion in order merely to understand them, and apart from the influence of some other consideration and inducement, is to many of us in part unintelligible, and in part also shocking. And hence English thought on these subjects, where it has not studied in a foreign school, is theoretically worthless. On my own mind the effect of this prejudice is personally deterrent. If to show theoretical interest in morality and religion is taken as the setting oneself up as a teacher or preacher, I would rather leave these subjects to whoever feels that such a character suits him. And, if I have touched on them here, it was because I could not help it.

And, having said so much, perhaps it would be better if I said no more. But with regard to the practical question, since I refuse altogether to answer it, I may perhaps safely try to point out what this question is. It is clear that religion must have some doctrine, however little that may be, and it is clear again that such doctrine will not be ultimate truth. And by many it is apparently denied that anything less can suffice. If however we consider the sciences, we find them too in a similar position. For their first principles, as we have seen, are in the end self-contradictory. Their principles are but partially true, and yet are valid, because they will work. And why then, we may ask, are such working ideas not enough for religion? There are several serious difficulties, but the main difficulty appears to be this. In the sciences we know, for the most part, the end which we aim at; and, knowing this end, we are able to test and to measure the means. But in religion it is precisely the chief end upon which we are not clear. And, on the basis of this confused disagreement, a rational discussion is not possible. We want to get some idea as to the doctrines really requisite for |400| religion; and we begin without having examined the end for which the doctrines are required, and by which obviously, therefore, they must be judged From time to time this or that man finds that a certain belief, or set of beliefs, seems to lie next his heart. And on this at once he cries aloud that, if these particular doctrines are not true, all religion is at an end. And this is what the public admires, and what it calls a defence of religion.

But if the problem is to be, I do not say solved, but discussed rationally at all, we must begin by an enquiry into the essence and end of religion. And to that enquiry, I presume, there are two things indispensable. We must get some consistent view as to the general nature of reality, goodness, and truth, and we must not shut our eyes to the historical facts of religion. We must come, first, to some conclusion about the purpose of religious truths. Do they exist for the sake of understanding, or do they subserve and are ancillary to some other object? And, if the latter is true, what precisely is this end and object, which we have to use as their criterion? If we can settle this point we can then decide that religious truths, which go beyond and which fall short of their end, possess no title to existence. If, in the second place again, we are not clear about the nature of scientific truth, can we rationally deal with any alleged collision between religion and science? We shall, in fact, be unable to say whether there is any collision or none; or again, supposing a conflict to exist, we shall be entirely at a loss how to estimate its importance. And our result so far is this. If English theologians decline to be in earnest with metaphysics, they must obviously speak on some topics, I will not say ignorantly, but at least without having made a serious attempt to gain knowledge. But to be in earnest with metaphysics is not the affair of perhaps one or two years; nor did any one ever do anything with such a subject without giving himself up to it. And, lastly, I will explain what I mean by attention to history. If religion is a practical matter, it would be absurd wholly to disregard the force of continuous occupancy and possession. But history, on the other hand, |401| supplies teachings of a different order. If, in the past and the present, we find religion appearing to flourish in the absence of certain particular doctrines, it is not a light step to proclaim these doctrines as essential to religion. And to do this without discussion and dogmatically, and to begin one’s work by some bald assumption, perhaps about the necessity of a ‘personal’ God, is to trifle indecently with a subject which deserves some respect.

What is necessary, in short, is to begin by looking at the question disinterestedly and looking at it all round. In this way we might certainly expect to arrive at a rational discussion, but I do not feel any right to assume that we should ever arrive at more. Perhaps the separation of the accidental from the essential in religion can be accomplished only by a longer and a ruder process. It must be left, perhaps, to the blind competition of rival errors, and to the coarse struggle for existence between hostile sects. But such a conclusion, once more, should not be accepted without a serious trial. And this is all that I intend to say on the practical problem of religion.

I will end this chapter with a word of warning against a dangerous mistake. We have seen that religion is but appearance, and that it cannot be ultimate. And from this it may be concluded, perhaps, that the completion of religion is philosophy, and that in metaphysics we reach the goal in which it finds its consummation. Now, if religion essentially were knowledge, this conclusion would hold. And, so far as religion involves knowledge, we are again bound to accept it. Obviously the business of metaphysics is to deal with ultimate truth, and in this respect, obviously, it must be allowed to stand higher than religion. But, on the other side, we have found that the essence of religion is not knowledge. And this certainly does not mean that its essence consists barely in feeling. Religion is rather the attempt to express the complete reality of goodness through every aspect of our being. And, so far as this goes, it is at once something more, and therefore something higher, than philosophy.

|402| Philosophy, as we shall find in our next chapter, is itself but appearance. It is but one appearance among others, and, if it rises higher in one respect, in other ways it certainly stands lower. And its weakness lies, of course, in the fact that it is barely theoretical. Philosophy may be made more undoubtedly, and incidentally it is more; but its essence clearly must be confined to intellectual activity. It is therefore but a one-sided and inconsistent appearance of the Absolute. And, so far as philosophy is religious, to that extent we must allow that it has passed into religion, and has ceased, as such, any longer to be philosophy. I do not suggest to those who, dissatisfied with religious beliefs, may have turned seriously to metaphysics, that they will not find there what they seek. But they will not find it there, or anywhere else, unless they have brought it with them. Metaphysics has no special connection with genuine religion, and neither of these two appearances can be regarded as the perfection of the other. The completion of each is not to be found except in the Absolute.


1^ My Ethical Studies, 1876, a book which in the main still expresses my opinions, contains a further discussion on many points. For my views on the nature of pleasure, desire, and volition, I must refer to Mind, No. 49. My former volume would have been reprinted, had I not desired to rewrite it. But I feel that the appearance of other books, as well as the decay of those superstitions against which largely it was directed, has left me free to consult my own pleasure in this matter.

2^ In the main, what is true is good, because the good has to satisfy desire, and, on the whole, we necessarily desire to find the more perfect What is good is true, in the main, because the idea desired, being, in general, more perfect, is more real. But on the relation of these aspects further see the next chapter.

3^ I must refer here to Mind, No. 49.

4^ The object of any idea has a tendency to become desired, if held over against fact, although, beforehand and otherwise, it has not been, and is not pleasant. Every idea, as the enlargement of self, is, in the abstract and so far, pleasant. And the pleasantness of an idea, as my psychical state, can be transferred to its object We have to ask always what it is that fixes an idea against fact Is it there because its object has been pleasant or because it or its object is now pleasant? And can we not say 1sometimes that it is pleasant only because it is there? The discussion of these matters would lead to psychological subtleties, which here we may neglect.

5^ I have noticed above (p. 331) the want of thoroughness displayed by Hedonism in its attitude towards the intellect. See more below, p. 384. For further criticizm of details I may refer to my Ethical Studies, and again to a pamphlet that was called Mr. Sidgwick’s Hedonism. Compare Mind, 49, p. 36. [Explanatory Note, pg. 560: On the subject of Hedonism I would add references to the International Journal of Ethics, Vol iv, pp. 384-6 and Vol. v, pp. 225-226.]

6^ I may add that in time it precedes the development of will. Will and thought, proper, imply the distinction of subject from object, and pain and pleasure seem prior to this distinction, and indeed largely to effect it. I may emphasize my dissent from certain views as to the dependence of pleasure on the Will, or the Self, or the Ego, by stating that I consider these to be products and subsequent to pleasure. To say that they are made solely by pleasure and pain would be incorrect. But it would be much more correct than to take the latter always as being a reaction from them.

7^ For the sake of convenience I assume that approval implies desire, but in certain cases the assumption would hardly be correct (p. 357). But approval always must imply that the idea is pleasant. Apart from, or in abstraction from, that feature, we should have mere recognition. And, though recognition tends always to become approval, yet in idea they are not the same; and again in fact recognition, I think, is possible where approval is absent.
  We approve, of course, not always absolutely, but from some one point of view. Even where the result is most unwelcome we may still approve theoretically; and to find what we are looking for, however bad, is an intellectual success, and may, so far, be approved of. It will then be good, so far as it is regarded solely from this one aspect. The real objection against making approval coextensive with goodness is that approval implies usually a certain degree of reflection, and suggests the judging from an abstracted and impersonal point of view. In this way approbation may be found, for instance, to be, so far, incompatible with love, and so also with some goodness. But if approbation is taken at a low level of development, and is used to mean no more than the finding anything to be that which gives satisfaction, the objection disappears. The relation of practical to theoretical approval will be touched on further in Chapter xxvi. Approval, of course, is practical where the idea is of something to be done.

8^ If pleasure were the only thing that could be desired, it would, hence, not follow straight from this that pleasure is desirable at all, or that, further, it is the sole desirable. These conclusions might follow, but in any case not directly; and the intermediate steps should be set out and discussed. The word ‘desirable’ naturally lends itself to misuse, and has on this account been of service to some Hedonistic writers. It veils a covert transition from ‘is’ to ‘is to be’.

9^ In estimating pains and pleasures we consider not merely their degree and extent, but also their effects, and generally all those qualities with which they are inseparably connected.

10^ This applies emphatically to any specific feeling of goodness or morality.

11^ See Ethical Studies, pp. 222-4; and compare here below, p. 381-2, and p. 469.

12^ I am, for the present purpose, taking no account of immorality or of the self-sacrifice which seems failure.

13^ It may be as well perhaps to add that, neither in this sense nor in any other, can the good be defined negatively. At that point, in any definition, where a negative term is introduced, the reader should specially look for a defect.

14^ The same conclusion holds if for ‘advantage’ one writes ‘pleasure’. For pleasure is necessarily connected with other content, and is not isolated, or again conjoined haphazard and accidentally. One may of course pursue ‘merely one’s own’ pleasure, in the sense that one tries to aim at and to consider this partial end by itself. But, if you assert that this end has not another aspect which contradicts ‘merely one’s own’, the assertion is false. And it is, I presume, a moral platitude that selfish action always must concern more than the actor.

15^ The same difficulty will appear if an attempt is made to state the general maxim. Both ends are to remain and to be ultimate, and hence neither is to be qualified by the other or the whole, for to be so qualified is to be transcended. I may add that a negative form of statement, here as everywhere, serves no purpose but to obscure the problem. This is, however, a reason why it may be instinctively selected.

16^ This view of morality is of course a late development, but I do not propose to say anything on its origin. With regard to the origin of morality, in general, I will only say this, that one may lay too much stress on its directly social aspect. Certainly to isolate the individual is quite indefensible. But, upon the other hand, it is wrong to make the sole root of morality consist in the direct identification of the individual with the social will. Morality, as we have remarked, is not confined to that in its end; and in the same way, we must add, it is not merely that in its beginning. I am referring here to the facts of self-esteem and self-disapprobation, or the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of a creature with itself. This feeling must begin when that creature is able to form an idea of itself, as doing or enjoying something desired, and can bring that idea into relation with its own actual success or failure. The dissatisfied brooding of an animal that tor example, missed its prey, is, we may be sure, not yet moral. But it will none the less contain in rudiment that judgment of one’s self which is a most important factor of morality. And this feeling attaches itself indifferently to the idea of every sort of action or performance, success in which is desired. If I feel or consider myself to correspond with such an idea, I am at once pleased with myself; and, even if it is only for luck at cards, I approve of and esteem myself. For approbation, as we saw, is not all moral; nor is it, even in its origin, all directly social. But this subject deserves treatment at a length which here is impossible.

17^ Ethical Studies, Essay IV.

18^ On the common Hedonistic view we may say that he never can hope to do this, or know when he has done it. What it would call ‘objective Tightness’ seems in the end to be not ascertainable humanly, or else to be the opinion of the subject, however wrong that may be. But an intelligent view of the connection between goodness and truth is not a thing which we need expect from common Hedonism (p. 407).

19^ Compare Ethical Studies, pp. 213-217.

20^ This would be denied by what is vulgarly called Free Will. That attempts to make the self or will, in abstraction from concrete conditions, the responsible source of conduct As however, taken in that abstraction, the self or will is nothing, ‘Free Will’ can merely mean chance. If it is not that, its advocates are at least incapable of saying what else it is; and how chance can assist us towards being responsible, they naturally shrink from discussing (see Ethical Studies, Essay I., and Mr. Stephen’s Science of Ethics, pp. 282-3). Considered either theoretically or practically, ‘Free Will’ is, in short, a mere lingering chimera. Certainly no writer, who respects himself, can be called on any longer to treat it seriously (p. 348).

21^ We may note here that our country, the chosen land of Moral Philosophy, has the reputation abroad of being the chief home of hypocrisy and cant.

22^ If we take such a virtue as courage, and deny its moral goodness where it is only physical, we shall be forced in the end to deny its goodness everywhere. We may see, again, how there may be virtues which, in a sense, rise above mere goodness. This from the view of morality proper is of course impossible.

23^ The origin of religion is a question which does not concern us here. Religion appears to have two roots, fear and admiration or approval. The latter need not be taken as having a high or moral sense. Wonder or curiosity seems not to be religious, unless it is in the service of these other feelings. And, of the two main roots of religion, one will be more active at one time and place, and the other at another. The feelings also will attach themselves naturally to a variety of objects. To enquire about the origin of religion as if that origin must always be one, seems fundamentally erroneous.
  It concerns us more to know what religion now means among ourselves. I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to answer this question, unless we realize that religion, in the end, has more meanings than one. Part of this variety rests no doubt on mere misunderstanding. That which is mainly intellectual, or mainly aesthetic, would probably be admitted in the end to fall outside religion. But we come at last, I should say, to a stubborn discrepancy. There are those who would call religious any kind of practical relation to the ‘other world’, or to the supersensible generally. The question, for instance, as to life after death, or as to the possibility of communication with what are called ‘spirits’, seems to some essentially religious. And they might deny that religious feeling can exist at all towards an object in ‘our world’. Another set of minds would insist that, in order to have religion, you must have a relation of a special and particular kind. And they would add that, where you have this relation, whether towards an object of the ‘other world’ or not, you have got religion. The question as to life after death, or as to the possibility of spirit-rapping or witchcraft, is really not in itself in the very least religious. And it is only, they would urge, because per accidens our feelings to the unseen are generally (not always) religious, that religion has been partly narrowed and partly extended without just cause. I consider this latter party to be wholly right, and I shall disregard from this point forward the opposing view.
  What then in general is religion? I take it to be a fixed feeling of fear, resignation, admiration or approval, no matter what may be the object, provided only that this feeling reaches a certain strength, and is qualified by a certain degree of reflection. But I should add, at once, that in religion fear and approval to some extent must always combine. We must in religion try to please, or at least to submit our wills to, the object which is feared. That conduct towards the object is approved of, and that approbation tends again to qualify the object. On the other side in religion approval implies devotion, and devotion seems hardly possible, unless there is some fear, if only the fear of estrangement.
  But in what degree must such a feeling be present, if we are to call it religion? Can the point be fixed exactly? I think we must admit that it cannot be. But it lies generally there where we feel that our proper selves, in comparison, are quite powerless or worthless. The object, over against which we find ourselves to be of no account, tends to inspire us with religion. If there are many such objects, we are polytheists. But if, in comparison with one only, all the rest have no weight, we have arrived at monotheism.
  Hence any object, in regard to which we feel a supreme fear or Approval, will engage our devotion, and be for us a Deity. And this object, most emphatically, in no other sense need possess divinity. It is a common phrase in life that one may make a God of this or that person, object, or pursuit; and in such a case our attitude, it seems to me, must be called religious. This is the case often, for example, in sexual or in parental love. But to fix the exact point at which religion begins, and where it ends, would hardly be possible.
  In this chapter I am taking religion only in its highest sense. I am using it for devotion to the one perfect object which is utterly good. Incomplete forms of religion, such as the devotion to a woman or to a pursuit, can exist side by side. But in this highest sense of religion there can be but one object. And again, when religion is fully developed, this object must be good. For towards anything else, although we feared it, we should now entertain feelings of revolt, of dislike, and even of contempt. There would not any longer be that moral prostration which is implied in all religion.

24^ As to the ultimate truth of this belief, see the following chapter.

25^ The two extremes in the human-divine self-consciousness cannot wholly unite in one concordant self. It is interesting to compare such expressions as —

  ‘I am the eye with which the Universe
  Beholds itself and knows itself divine,
  ‘They reckon ill who leave me out;
   When me they fly, I am the wings;
  I am the doubter and the doubt,
  And I the hymn the Brahmin sings’,


  ‘Die Sehnsucht du, und was sie stillt’,


  Ne suis-je pas un faux accord
  Dans la divine symphonie,
  Grace a la vorace Ironie
  Qui me secoue et qui me mord?

  Elle est dans ma voix, la criarde!
  Cest tout mon sang, ce poison noir!
  Je suis le sinistre miroir
  Ou la megere se regarde!

  Je suis la plaie et le couteau!
  Je suis le soufflet et la joue!
  Je suis les membres et la roue,
  Et la victime et le bourreau!

26^ It leads to the dilemma, If God is, I am not, and, if I am, God is not. We have not reached a true view until the opposite of this becomes self-evident. Then without hesitation we answer that God is not himself, unless I also am, and that, if God were not, I certainly should be nothing.

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Chapter XXVI. The Absolute and its Appearances

|403-452| Object of this Chapter, 403-05. The chief modes of Experience; they all are relative, 405-06. Pleasure, Feeling, the Theoretical, the Practical, and the Æsthetic attitude are each but appearance, 406-12. And each implies the rest, 413-14. But the Unity is not known in detail. Final inexplicabilities, 414-16. The universe cannot be reduced to Thought and Will, 415. This shown at length, 416-26. The universe how far intelligible, 426-27. The primacy of Will a delusion, 427-29. Appearance, meaning of the term, 429-30. Appearances and the Absolute, 430-34. Nature, is it beautiful and adorable? 434-39. Ends in Nature — a question not for Metaphysics, 439-40. Philosophy of Nature what, 439-42. Progress, is there any in the Absolute, 442-44; or any life after death, 444-52?

We have seen now that Goodness, like Truth, is a one-sided appearance. Each of these aspects, when we insist on it, transcends itself. By its own movement each develops itself beyond its own limits and is merged in a higher and all-embracing Reality. It is time that we endeavoured to close our work by explaining more fully the character of this real unity. We have certainly not attempted to do justice to the various spheres of phenomena. The account which we have given of truth and goodness is but a barren outline, and this was the case before with physical Nature, and with the problem of the soul. But to such defects we must resign ourselves. For the object of this volume is to state merely a general view about Reality, and to defend this view against more obvious and prominent objections. The full and proper defence would be a systematic account of all the regions of appearance, for it is only the completed system which in metaphysics is the genuine proof of the principle. But, unable to enter on such an undertaking, I must none the less endeavour to justify further our conclusion about the Absolute.

“Take anything, no matter what it is, which is less than the Absolute, and the inner discrepancy at once proclaims that what you have taken is appearance.”

There is but one Reality, and its being consists in experience. In this one whole all appearances come together, and in coming together they in various degrees lose their distinctive natures. The essence of reality lies in the union and agreement of existence and content, and, on the other side, appearance consists in the discrepancy between these two aspects. And reality in the end belongs to nothing but the single Real. For take anything, no matter what it is, which is less than the Absolute, and the inner discrepancy at once proclaims that what you have taken is appearance. The alleged reality divides itself and falls apart into two jarring factors. The ‘what’ and the ‘that’ are plainly two sides which turn out not to be the same, and this difference inherent in every finite fact entails its disruption. As long as the content stands for |404| something other than its own intent and meaning, as long as the existence actually is less or more than what it essentially must imply, so long we are concerned with mere appearance, and not with genuine reality. And we have found in every region that this discrepancy of aspects prevails. The internal being of everything finite depends on that which is beyond it. Hence everywhere, insisting on a so-called fact, we have found ourselves led by its inner character into something outside itself. And this self-contradiction, this unrest and ideality of all things existing is a clear proof that, though such things are, their being is but appearance.

But, upon the other hand, in the Absolute no appearance can be lost. Each one contributes and is essential to the unity of the whole. And hence we have observed (Chapter xxv) that any one aspect, when viewed by itself, may be regarded as the end for which the others exist. Deprived of any one aspect or element the Absolute may be called worthless. And thus, while you take your stand on some one valuable factor, the others appear to you to be means which subserve its existence. Certainly your position in such an attitude is one-sided and unstable. The other factors are not external means to, but are implied in, the first, and your attitude, therefore, is but provisional and in the end untrue. It may however have served to indicate that truth which we have here to insist on. There is nothing in the Absolute which is barely contingent or merely accessory. Every element, however subordinate, is preserved in that relative whole in which its character is taken up and merged. There are main aspects of the universe of which none can be resolved into the rest. Hence from this ground we cannot say of these main aspects that one is higher in rank or better than another. They are factors not independent, since each of itself implies and calls in something else to complete its defects, and since all are over-ruled in that final whole which perfects them. But these factors, if not equal, are I not subordinate the one to the other, and in relation to the Absolute they are all alike essential and necessary.

|405| In the present chapter, returning to the idea of the Absolute as a whole of experience, I will from this point of view survey briefly its main aspects. Of the attitudes possible in experience I will try to show that none has supremacy. There is not one mode to which the others belong as its adjectives, or into which they can be resolved. And how these various modes can come together into a single unity must remain unintelligible. Reserving to the next chapter a final discussion on the positive nature of this Unity, I will lay stress here on another side. The Absolute is present in, and, in a sense, it is alike each of its special appearances; though present everywhere again in different values and degrees. I shall attempt in passing to clear up some questions with regard to Nature, and I will end the chapter with a brief enquiry as to the meaning of Progress, and as to the possibility of a continuance? of personal life after death.

Everything is experience, and also experience is one. In the next chapter I shall once more consider if it is possible to doubt this, but for the present I shall assume it as a truth which has held good. Under what main aspects then, let us ask, is experience found? We may say, speaking broadly, that there are two great modes, perception and thought on the one side, and will and desire on the other side. Then there is the aesthetic attitude, which will not fall entirely under either of these heads; and again there is pleasure and pain which seem something distinct from both. Further we have feeling, a term which we must take in two senses. It is first the general state of the total soul not yet at all differentiated into any of the preceding special aspects. And again it is any particular state so far as internally that has undistinguished unity. Now of these psychical modes not any one is resolvable into the others, nor can the unity of the Whole consist in one or another portion of them. Each of them is incomplete and one-sided, and calls for assistance from without. We have had to perceive this in great part already through former discussions, but I will briefly resume and in some |406| points supplement that evidence here. I am about to deal with the appearances of the Absolute mainly from their psychical side, but a full psychological discussion is impossible, and is hardly required. I would ask the reader, whose views in certain ways may be divergent from mine, not to dwell on divergencies except so far as they affect the main result. Note 35

(1) If we consider first of all the aspect of pleasure and pain, it is evident that this cannot be the substance or foundation of Reality. For we cannot regard the other elements as adjectives of, or dependents on, this one; nor again can we, in any way or in any sense, resolve them into it. Pleasure and pain, it is obvious, are not the one thing real. But are they real at all, as such, and independently of the rest? Even this we are compelled to deny. For pleasure and pain are antagonistic; and when in the Whole they have come together with a balance of pleasure, can we be even sure that this result will be pleasure as such?1 There is however a far more serious objection to the reality of pleasure and pain. For these are mere abstractions which we separate from the pleasant and the painful; and to suppose that they are not connected with those states and processes, with which they are always conjoined, would be plainly irrational. Indeed pleasure and pain, as things by themselves, would contradict their known character. But, if so, clearly they cannot be real in themselves, and their reality and essence will in part fall beyond their own limits. They are but appearances and one-sided adjectives of the universe, and they are real only when taken up into and merged in that totality.

(2) From mere pleasure and pain we may pass on to feeling, and I take feeling in the sense of the immediate unity of a finite psychical centre. It means for me, first, the general condition before distinctions and relations have been developed, and where as yet neither any subject nor object exists. And it means, in the second place, anything which is present at any stage of mental life, in |407| so far as that is only present and simply is.2 In this latter sense we may say that everything actual, no matter what, must be felt; but we do not call it feeling except so far as we take it as failing to be more. Now, in either of these senses, is it possible to consider feeling as real, or as a consistent aspect of reality? We must reply in the negative.

Feeling has a content, and this content is not consistent within itself, and such a discrepancy tends to destroy and to break up the stage of feeling. The matter may be briefly put thus — the finite content is irreconcilable with the immediacy of its existence. For the finite content is necessarily determined from the outside; its external relations (however negative they may desire to remain) penetrate its essence, and so carry that beyond its own being. And hence, since the ‘what’ of all feeling is discordant with its ‘that,’ it is appearance, and, as such, it cannot be real. This fleeting and untrue character is perpetually forced on our notice by the hard fact of change. And, both from within and from without, feeling is compelled to pass off into the relational consciousness. It is the ground and foundation of further developments, but it is a foundation that bears them only by a ceaseless lapse from itself. Hence we could not, in any proper sense, call these products its adjectives. For their life consists in the diremption {separation} of feeling’s unity, and this unity is not again restored and made good except in the Absolute.

(3) We may pass next to the perceptional or theoretic, and again, on the other side, to the practical aspect. Each of these differs from the two foregoing by implying distinction, and, in the first place, a distinction between subject and object.3 The perceptional side has at the outset, of course, no special existence; for it is given at first in |408| union with the practical side, and is but slowly differentiated. But what we are concerned with here is to attempt to apprehend its specific nature. One or more elements are separated from the confused mass of feeling, and stand apparently by themselves and over against this. And the distinctive character of such an object is that it seems simply to be. If it appeared to influence the mass which it confronts, so as to lead that to act on it and alter it, and if such a relation qualified its nature, the attitude would be practical. But the perceptional relation is supposed to fall wholly outside the essence of the object. It is in short disregarded, or else is dismissed as a something accidental and irrelevant For the reality, as thought of or as perceived, in itself simply is. It may be given, or again sought for, discovered or reflected on, but all this — however much there may be of it — is nothing to it. For the object only stands in relation, and emphatically in no sense is the relation in which it stands.

This is the vital inconsistency of the real as perception or thought. Its essence depends on qualification by a relation which it attempts to ignore. And this one inconsistency soon exhibits itself from two points of view. The felt background, from which the theoretic object stands out, is supposed in no way to contribute to its being. But, even at the stage of perception or sensation, this hypothesis breaks down. And, when we advance to reflective thinking, such a position clearly is untenable. The world can hardly stand there to be found, when its essence appears to be inseparable from the process of finding, and when assuredly it would not be the whole world unless it included within itself both the finding and the finder. But, this last perfection once reached, the object no longer could stand in any relation at all; and, with this, its proper being would be at once both completed and destroyed. The perceptional attitude would entirely have passed beyond itself.

We may bring out again the same contradiction if we begin from the other side. As perceived or thought of the reality is, and it is also itself. But its self obviously, on the other hand, includes relation to others, and it is |409| determined inwardly by those others from which it is distinguished. Its content therefore slides beyond its existence, its ‘what’ spreads out beyond its ‘that’. It thus no longer is, but has become something ideal in which the Reality appears. And, since this appearance is not identical with reality, it cannot wholly be true. Hence it must be corrected, until finally in its content it has ceased to be false. But, in the first place, this correction is merely ideal. It consists in a process throughout which content is separated from existence. Hence, if truth were complete, it would not be truth, because that is only appearance; and in the second place, while truth remains appearance, it cannot possibly be complete. The theoretic object moves towards a consummation in which all distinction and all ideality must be suppressed. But, when that is reached, the theoretic attitude has been, as such, swallowed up. It throughout on one hand presupposes a relation, and on the other hand it asserts an independence; and, if these jarring aspects are removed or are harmonized, its proper character is gone. Hence perception and thought must either attempt to fall back into the immediacy of feeling, or else, confessing themselves to be one-sided and false, they must seek completion beyond themselves in a supplement and counterpart.

(4) With this we are naturally led to consider the practical aspect of things. Here, as before, we must have an object, a something distinct from, and over against, the central mass of feeling. But in this case the relation shows itself as essential, and is felt as opposition. An ideal alteration of the object is suggested, and the suggestion is not rejected by the feeling centre; and the process is completed by this ideal qualification, in me, itself altering, and so itself becoming, the object. Such is, taken roughly, the main essence of the practical attitude, and its one-sidedness and insufficiency are evident at once. For it consists in the healing up of a division which it has no power to create, and which, once healed up, is the entire removal of the practical attitude. Will certainly produces, not mere ideas, but actual existence. But it depends on ideality and |410| mere appearance for its starting-point and essence; and the harmony which it makes is for ever finite, and hence incomplete and unstable. And if this were not so, and if the ideal and the existing were made one, the relation between them would have disappeared, and will, as such, must have vanished. Thus the attitude of practice, like all the rest, is not reality but is appearance.4, Note 36 And with this result we may pass onwards, leaving to a later place the consideration of certain mistakes about the will. For since the will implies and presupposes the distinction made in perception and idea, we need hardly ask if it possesses more reality than these.

(5) In the aesthetic attitude we may seem at last to have transcended the opposition of idea to existence, and to have at last surmounted and risen beyond the relational consciousness. For the aesthetic attitude seems to retain the immediacy of feeling. And it has also an object with a certain character, but yet an object self-existent and not merely ideal. This aspect of the world satisfies us in a way unattainable by theory or practice, and it plainly |411| cannot be reduced and resolved into either. However, when we consider it more narrowly, its defects become patent. It is no solution of our problems, since it fails to satisfy either the claims of reality or even its own.

That which is aesthetic may generally be defined as the self-existent emotional. It can hardly all fall properly under the two heads of the beautiful and ugly, but for my present purpose it will be convenient to regard it as doing so. And since in the Absolute ugliness, like error and evil, must be overpowered and absorbed, we may here confine our attention entirely to beauty.

Beauty is the self-existent pleasant. It is certainly not the self-existent which enjoys its own pleasure, for that, so far as one sees, need not be beautiful at all. But the beautiful must be self-existent, and its being must be independent as such. Hence it must exist as an individual and not merely in idea. Thoughts, or even thought-processes, may be beautiful, but only so if they appear, as it were, self-contained, and, in a manner, for sense. But the beautiful, once more, must be an object. It must stand in relation to my mind, and again it must possess a distinguished ideal content. We cannot say that mere feeling is beautiful, though in a complex whole we may find at once the blended aspects of feeling and of beauty. And the beautiful, last of all, must be actually pleasant. But, if so, then once more it must be pleasant for someone.5

Such an union of characters is inconsistent, and we require no great space to point out its discrepancy. Let us first abstract from the pleasantness and from the relation to me, and let us suppose that the beautiful exists independently. Yet even here we shall find it in contradiction with itself. For the sides of existence and of content must be concordant and at one; but, on the other hand, because the object is finite, such an agreement is impossible. And thus, as was the case with truth and goodness, there is a partial divergence of the two aspects of extension |412| and harmony. The expression is imperfect, or again that which is expressed is too narrow. And in both ways alike in the end there is want of harmoniousness, there is an inner discrepancy and a failure in reality. For the content — itself in any case always finite, and so always inconsistent with itself — may even visibly go beyond its actual expression, and be merely ideal. And, on the other side, the existing expression must in various ways and degrees fall short of reality. For, taken at its strongest, it after all must be finite fact. It is determined from the outside, and so must internally be in discord with itself. Thus the beautiful object, viewed as independent, is no more than appearance.6

But to take beauty as an independent existence is impossible. For pleasure belongs to its essence, and to suppose pleasure, or any emotion, standing apart from some self seems out of the question. The beautiful, therefore, will be determined by a quality in me. And in any case, because (as we have seen) it is an object for perception, the relation involved in perception must be essential to its being. Either then, both as perceived and as emotional, beauty will be characterized internally by what falls outside itself; and obviously in this case it will have turned out to be appearance. Or, on the other hand, it must include within its own limits this external condition of its life. But, with that total absorption of the percipient and sentient self, the whole relation, and with it beauty as such, will have vanished.

The various aspects, brought together in the aesthetic object, have been seen to fall apart. Beauty is not really immediate, or independent, or harmonious in itself. And, attempting to satisfy these requirements, it must pass beyond its own character. Like all the other aspects this also has been shown to be appearance.

We have now surveyed the different regions of experience, |413| and have found each to be imperfect. We certainly cannot say that the Absolute is any one of them. On the other hand each can be seen to be insufficient and inconsistent, because it is not also, and as well, the rest. Each aspect to a certain extent, already in fact, implies the others in its existence, and in order to become Reality would have to go on to include them wholly. And hence Reality seems contained in the totality of these its diverse provinces, and they on their side each to be a partial appearance of the universe. Let us once more briefly pass them in review.

With pleasure or pain we can perceive at once that its nature is adjectival. We certainly cannot, starting with what we know of pleasure and pain, show that this directly implies the remaining aspects of the world. We must be satisfied with the knowledge that pain and pleasure are adjectives, adjectives, so far as we see, attached to every other aspect of experience. A complete insight into the conditions of these adjectives is not attainable; but, if we could get it, it doubtless would include every side of the universe. But, passing from pleasure and pain to Feeling, we can verify there at once the principle of discord and development in its essence. The sides of content and existence already strive to diverge. And hence feeling changes not merely through outer force but through internal defect. The theoretical, the practical, and the aesthetic aspect of things are attempts to work out and make good this divergence of existence and idea. Each must thus be regarded as a one-sided and special growth from feeling. And feeling still remains in the background as the unity of these differences, a unity that cannot find its complete expression in any or in all of them. Defect is obvious at once in the aesthetic attitude. Beauty both attempts and fails to arrive at immediate reality. For, even if you take it as real apart from relation to a percipient, there is never entire accordance between its two demands for completeness and harmony. That which is expressed in fact remains too narrow, and that which is wider remains imperfectly expressed. And hence, to be entirely |414| beautiful, the object would have also to be completely good and wholly true. Its idea would require to be self-contained, and so all-embracing, and to be carried out in an existence no less self-sufficient. But, if so, the distinctive characters of truth and goodness and beauty would have vanished. We reach again the same result if we turn to the theoretical aspect of the world. Perception or theory, if it were but true, must also be good. For the fact would have to be so taken that it exhibited no difference from the thought. But such a concord of idea and existence would certainly also be goodness. And again, being individual, it would as certainly no less be beautiful. But on the other hand, since all these divergences would have been absorbed, truth, beauty and goodness, as such, would no longer exist. We arrive at the same conclusion when we begin from the practical side. Nothing would content us finally but the complete union of harmony and extent. A reality that suggested any idea not existing actually within its limits, would not be perfectly good. Perfect goodness would thus imply the entire and absolute presence of the ideal aspect. But this, if present, would be perfect and absolute truth. And it would be beautiful also, since it would entail the individual harmony of existence with content. But, once again, since the distinctive differences would now have disappeared, we should have gone beyond beauty or goodness or truth altogether.7

We have seen that the various aspects of experience imply one another, and that all point to a unity which comprehends and perfects them. And I would urge next that the unity of these aspects is unknown. By this I certainly do not mean to deny that it essentially is experience, |415| but it is an experience of which, as such, we have no direct knowledge. We never have, or are, a state which is the perfect unity of all aspects; and we must admit that in their special natures they remain inexplicable. An explanation would be the reduction of their plurality to unity, in such a way that the relation between the unity and the variety was understood. And everywhere an explanation of this kind in the end is beyond us. If we abstract one or more of the aspects of experience, and use this known element as a ground to which the others are referred, our failure is evident. For if the rest could be developed from this ground, as really they cannot be, they with their differences can yet not be predicated of it. But, if so, in the end the whole diversity must be attributed as adjectives to a unity which is not known. Thus no separate aspect can possibly serve as an explanation of the others. And again, as we have found, no separate aspect is by itself intelligible. For each is inconsistent with itself, and so is forced to take in others. Hence to explain would be possible only when the whole, as such, was comprehended. And such an actual and detailed comprehension we have seen is not possible.

Resting then on this general conclusion, we might go forward at once. We might assume that any reduction of the Absolute to one or two of the special modes of experience is out of the question, and we might forthwith attempt a final discussion of its nature and unity. It may however be instructive to consider more closely a proposed reduction of this kind. Let us ask then if Reality can be rightly explained as the identity of Thought and Will. But first we may remind ourselves of some of those points which a full explanation must include.

In order to understand the universe we should require to know how the special matter of sense stands everywhere to its relations and forms, and again how pleasure and pain are connected with these forms and these qualities. We should have to comprehend further the entire essence of the relational consciousness, and the connection between its unity and its plurality of distinguished terms. We |416| should have to know why everything (or all but everything) comes in finite centres of immediate feeling, and how these centres with regard to one another are not directly pervious. Then there is process in time with its perpetual shifting of content from existence, a happening which seems certainly not all included under will and thought. The physical world again suggests some problems. Are there really ideas and ends that work in Nature? And why is it that, within us and without us, there is a knowable arrangement, an order such that existence answers to thought, and that personal identity and a communication between souls is possible? We have, in short, on one side a diversity and finitude, and on the other side we have a unity. And, unless we know throughout the universe how these aspects stand the one to the other, the universe is not explained.

But a partial explanation, I may here be reminded, is better than none. That in the present case, I reply, would be a serious error. You take from the whole of experience some element or elements as a principle, and you admit, I presume, that in the whole there remains some aspect unexplained and outstanding. Now such an aspect belongs to the universe, and must, therefore, be predicated of a unity not contained in your elements. But, if so, your elements are at once degraded, for they become adjectives of this unknown unity. Hence the objection is not that your explanation is incomplete, but that its very principle is unsound. You have offered as ultimate what in its working proclaims itself appearance. And the partial explanation has implied in fact a false pretence of knowledge.

We may verify this result at once in the proposed reduction of the other aspects of the world to intelligence and will. Before we see anything of this in detail we may state beforehand its necessary and main defect. Suppose that every feature of the universe has been fairly brought under, and included in these two aspects, the universe still remains unexplained. For the two aspects, however much one implies and indeed is the other, must in some sense still be two. And unless we comprehend how their |417| plurality, where they are diverse, stands to their unity, where they are at one, we have ended in failure. Our principles after all will not be ultimate, but will themselves be the twofold appearance of a unity left unexplained. It may however repay us to examine further the proposed reduction.

The plausibility of this consists very largely in vagueness, and its strength lies in the uncertain sense given to will and intelligence. We seem to know these terms so well that we run no risk in applying them, and then imperceptibly we pass into an application where their meaning is changed. We have to explain the world, and what we find there is a process with two aspects. There is a constant loosening of idea from fact, and a making — good once more in a new existence of this recurring discrepancy. We find nowhere substances fixed and rigid. They are relative wholes of ideal content, standing on a ceaselessly renewed basis of two-sided change. Identity, permanence, and continuity, are everywhere ideal; they are unities forever created and destroyed by the constant flux of existence, a flux which they provoke, and which supports them and is essential to their life. Now, looking at the universe so, we may choose to speak of thought wherever the idea becomes loose from its existence in fact; and we may speak of will wherever this unity is once more made good. And, with this introduction of what seems self-evident, the two main aspects of the world appear to have found an explanation. Or we possibly might help ourselves to this result by a further vagueness. For everything, at all events, either is, or else happens in time. We might say then that, so far as it happens, it is produced by will, and that, so far as it is, it is an object for perception or thought. But, passing this by without consideration, let us regard the process of the world as presenting two aspects. Thought must then be taken as the idealizing side of this process, and will, on the other hand, must be viewed as the side which makes ideas to be real. And let us, for the present, also suppose that will and thought are in themselves more or less self-evident.

|418| Now it is plain, first, that such a view compels us to postulate very much more than we observe. For ideality certainly does not appear to be all produced by thought, and actual existence, as certainly, does not all appear as the effect of will. The latter is obvious whether in our own selves, or in the course of Nature, or again in any other of the selves that we know. And, with regard to ideality or the loosening of content from fact, this is everywhere the common mark of appearance. It does not seem exclusively confined to or distinctive of thinking. Thought does not seem co-extensive in general with me relational form, and it must be said to accept, as well as to create, ideal distinctions. Ideality appears, in short, often as the result of psychical changes and processes which do not seem, in the proper sense, to imply any thinking. These are difficulties, but still they may perhaps be dealt with. For, just as we could set no limits to the possible existences of souls, so we can fix no bounds to the possible working of thought and will. Our mere failure to discover them here or there, and whether within ourselves or again outside us, does not anywhere disprove their existence. And as souls to an unknown extent can have their life and world in common, so the effects of will and thought may show themselves there where the actual process is not experienced. That which comes to me as a mechanical occurrence, or again as an ideal distinction which I have never made, may none the less, also and essentially, be will and thought. And it may be experienced as such, completely or partly, outside me. My reason and my plan to other finite centres may only be chance, and their intelligible functions may strike on me as a dark necessity. But for a higher unity our blind entanglement is lucid order. The world discordant, half-completed, and accidental for each one, is in the Whole a compensated system of conspiring particulars. Everything there is the joint result of two functions which in their working are one, and every least detail is still the outcome of intelligence and will. Certainly such a doctrine is a postulate, in so far as its particulars cannot be verified. But taken in |419| general it may be urged also as a legitimate inference and a necessary conclusion.

Still in the way of this conclusion, which I have tried to set out, we find other difficulties as yet unremoved. There is pleasure and pain, and again the facts of feeling and of the aesthetic consciousness. Now, if thought and will fail to explain these, and they, along with thought and will, have to be predicated unexplained of the Unity, the Unity after all is unknown. Feeling, in the first place, cannot be regarded as the indifferent ground of perception and will; for, if so, this ground itself offers a new fact which requires explanation. Feeling therefore must be taken as a sort of confusion, and as a nebula which would grow distinct on closer scrutiny. And the aesthetic attitude, perhaps, may be regarded as the perceived equilibrium of both our functions. It must be admitted certainly that such an attitude if the unity alike of thought and will, remains a source of embarrassment. For it seems hardly derivable from both as diverse; and, taken as their unity, it, upon the other side, certainly fails to contain or account for either. And, if we pass from this to pleasure and pain, we do but gain another difficulty. For the connection of these adjectives with our two functions seems in the end inexplicable, while, on the other hand, I do not perceive that this connection is self-evident. We seem in fact drifting towards the admission that there are other aspects of the world, which must be referred as adjectives to our identity of will and thought, while their inclusion within will or thought remains uncertain. But this is virtually to allow that thought and will are not the essence of the universe.

Let us go on to consider internal difficulties. Will and understanding are to be each self-evident, but on the other hand each evidently, apart from the other, has lost its special being. For will presupposes the distinction of idea from fact — a distinction made actual by a process, and presumably itself due to will. And thought has to start from the existence which only will can make. Hence it presupposes, and again as an existing process seems |420| created by, will, although will on its side is dependent on thought. We must, I presume, try to meet this objection by laying stress on the aspect of unity. Our two functions really are inseparable, and it therefore is natural that one should imply and should presuppose the other. Certainly hitherto we have found everywhere that an unresting circle of this kind is the mark of appearance, but let us here be content to pass on. Will and thought everywhere then are implicated the one with the other. Will without an idea, and thought that did not depend upon will, would neither be itself. To a certain extent, then, will essentially is thought; and, just as essentially, all thought is will. Again the existence of thought is an end which will calls into being, and will is an object for the reflections and constructions of theory. They are not, then, two clear functions in unity, but each function, taken by itself, is still the identity of both. And each can hardly be itself, and not the other, as being a mere preponderance of itself; for there seems to be no portion of either which can claim to be, if unsupported and alone. Will and thought then differ only as we abstract and consider aspects one-sidedly; or, to speak plainly, their diversity is barely appearance.

If however thought and will really are not different, they are no longer two elements or principles. They are not two known diversities which serve to explain the variety of the world. For, if their difference is appearance, still that very appearance is what we have most to explain. We are not to go outside will and thought, in order to seek our explanation; and yet, keeping within them, we seem unable to find any. The identity of both is no solution, unless that identity explains their difference; for this difference is the very problem required to be solved. We have given us a process of happening and finitude, and in this process we are able to point out two main aspects. To explain such a process is to say why and how it possesses and supports this known diversity. But by the proposed reduction to will and thought we have done little more than give two names to two unexplained aspects. For, ignore every other difficulty, and you have still on your |421| hands the main question, Why is it that thought and will diverge or appear to diverge? It is in this real or apparent divergence that the actual world of finite things consists.

Or examine the question from another side. Will and thought may be appealed to in order to explain the given process in time, and certainly each of them contains in its nature a temporal succession. Now a process in time is appearance, and not, as such, holding of the Absolute. And, if we urge that thought and will are twin processes reciprocal and compensating, that leaves us where we were. For, as such, neither can be a predicate of the real unity, and the nature of that unity, with its diversity of appearance, is left unexplained. And to place the whole succession in time on the side of mere perception, and to plead that will, taken by itself, is not really a process, would hardly serve to assist us. For if will has a content, then that content is perceptible and must imply temporal lapse, and will, after all, surely can stand no higher than that which it wills. And, without an ideal content, will is nothing but a blind appeal to the unknown. It is itself unknown, and of this unknown something we arc forced now to predicate as an adjective the unexplained world of perception. Thus, in the end, will and thought are two names for two kinds of appearance. Neither, as such, can belong to the final Reality, and, in the end, both their unity and their diversity remains inexplicable. They may be offered as partial and as relative, but not as ultimate explanations.

But if their unity is thus unknown, should we call it their unity? Have they any right to arrogate to themselves the whole field of appearance? If we are to postulate thought and will where they are not observed, we should at least have an inducement. And, if after all they fail to explain our world, the inducement seems gone. Why should we strain ourselves to bring all phenomena under two heads, if, when we have forced them there, these heads, with the phenomena, remain unexplained? It would be surely better to admit that appearances are of more kinds, and have more aspects, than only two and |422| to allow that their unity is a mode of experience not directly accessible. And this result is confirmed when we recall some preceding difficulties. Pleasure and pain, feeling, and the aesthetic consciousness would hardly fall under any mere unity of intelligence and will; and again the relation of sensible qualities to their arrangements, the connection of matter with form, remained entirely inexplicable. In short, even if the unity of thought and will were by itself self-evident, yet the various aspects of the world can hardly be reduced to it. And, on the other side, even if this reduction were accomplished, the identity of will and thought, and their diversity, are still not understood. If finitude and process in time is reduced to their divergence, how is it they come to diverge? The reduction cannot be final, so long as the answer to such a question falls somewhere outside it.

The world cannot be explained as the appearance of two counterpart functions, and with this result we might be contented to pass on. But, in any case, such functions could not be identified with what we know as intelligence and will; and it may be better perhaps for a little to dwell on this point. We assumed above that will and thought were by themselves self-evident. We saw that there was a doubt as to how much ground these two functions covered. Still the existence of an idealizing and of a realising function, each independent and primary, we took for granted. But now, if we consider the facts given to us in thinking and willing, we shall have to admit that the powers required are not to be found. For, apart from the question of range, will and thought are nowhere self-evident or primary. Each in its working depends on antecedent connections, connections which remain always in a sense external and borrowed. I will endeavour briefly to explain this.

Thought and will certainly contain transitions, and these transitions were taken above as self-evident. They were regarded as something naturally involved in the very essence of these functions, and we hence did not admit |423| a further question about their grounds. But, if we turn to thought and will in our experience, such an assumption is refuted. For in actual thinking we depend upon particular connections, and, apart from this given matter, we should be surely unable to think. These connections cannot be taken all as inherent in the mere essence of thought, for most of them at least seem to be empirical and supplied from outside. And I am entirely unable to see how they can be regarded as self-evident. This result is confirmed when we consider the making of distinctions. For, in the first place, distinctions largely seem to grow up apart from our thinking, in the proper sense; and next, a distinguishing power of thought, where it exists, appears to rest on, and to work from, prior difference. It is thus a result due to acquired and empirical relations.8 The actual transitions of thinking are, in short, not self-evident, or, to use another phrase, they cannot be taken as immanent in thought. Nor, if we pass to volition, do we find its processes in any better case; for our actions neither are self-evident nor are they immanent in will. Let us abstract from the events in Nature and in our selves with which our will seems not concerned. Let us confine our attention wholly to the cases where our idea seems to make its existence in fact. But is the transition here a thing so clear that it demands no explanation? An idea desired in one case remains merely desired, in another case it turns into actual existence. Why then the one, we enquire, and not also the other? ‘Because in the second place’, you may reply, ‘there is an action of will, and it is this act which explains and accounts for the transition’. Now I will not answer here that it is the transition which, on the other hand, is the act. I will for the moment accept the existence of your preposterous faculty. But I repeat the question, why is one thing willed and not also the other? Is this difference self-evident, and self-luminous, and a feature immediately revealed in the plain essence of will? For, if it is not so, it is certainly also not explained by volition. It will be something external to the function, and given |424| from outside. And thus, with will and thought alike, we must accept this same conclusion. There is no willing or thinking apart from the particular acts, and these particular acts, as will and thought, are clearly not self-evident. They involve in their essences a connection supplied from without. And will and thought therefore, even where without doubt they exist, are dependent and secondary. Nothing can be explained in the end by a reduction to either of these functions.

This conclusion, not dependent on psychology finds itself supported and confirmed there. For will and thought, in the sense in which we know them, clearly are not primary. They are developed from a basis which is not yet either, and which never can fully become so. Their existence is due to psychical events and ways of happening, which are not distinctive of thought or will. And this basis is never, so to speak, quite absorbed by either. They are differentiations whose peculiar characters never quite specialize all their contents. In other words will and thought throughout depend on what is not essentially either, and, without these psychical elements which remain external, their processes would cease. There is, in brief, a common substance with common laws; and of this material will and thought are one-sided applications. Far from exhausting this life, they are contained within it as subordinate functions. They are included in it as dependent and partial developments.

Fully to work out this truth would be the business of psychology, and I must content myself here with a brief notice of some leading points. Thought is a development from a ground of preceding ideality. The division of content from existence is not created but grows. The laws of Association and Blending already in themselves imply the working of ideal elements; and on these laws thought stands and derives from them its actual processes. It is the blind pressure and the struggle of changed sensations, which, working together with these laws, first begins to loosen ideal content from psychical fact. And hence we may say that thought proper is the outcome, and not the |425| creator, of idealizing functions. I do not mean that the development of thought can be fully explained, since that would imply a clear insight into the general origin of the relational form. And I doubt if we can follow and retrace in detail the transition to this from the stage of mere feeling. But I would insist, none the less, that some distinguishing is prior to thought proper. Synthesis and analysis, each alike, begin as psychical growths; each precedes and then is specialized and organized into thinking. But, if so, thought is not ultimate. It cannot for one moment claim to be the sole parent and source of ideality.9

And if thought is taken as a function primary, and from the first implied in distinction and synthesis, even on this mistaken basis its dependent character is plain. For the connections and distinctions, the ideal relations, in which thought has its being — from where do they come? As particular they consist at least partly in what is special to each, and these special natures, at least partly, can be derived from no possible faculty of thinking. Thought’s relations therefore still must depend on what is empirical. They are in part the result of perception and mere psychical process. Therefore (as we saw above) thought must rest on these foreign materials; and, however much we take it as primary and original, it is still not independent. For it never in any case can absorb its materials into essential functions. Its connections may be familiar and unnoticed, and its sequences may glide without a break. Nay even upon reflection we may feel convinced that our special arrangement is true system, and may be sure that somehow its connections are not based on mere conjunction. But if we ask, on the other hand, if this ideal system can come out of bare thought, or can be made to consist in it, the answer must be different. Why connections in particular are just so, and not more or less otherwise — this can be explained in the end by no faculty of thinking. And thus, if thought in its origin is not secondary, its essence remains so. In its ideal matter it is a result from mere psychical growth, its ideal connections in part will |426| throughout be pre-supposed and not made by itself. And a connection, supposed to be made, would even be disowned as a fiction. Hence, on any psychological view, these connections are not inherent and essential. But for the truer view, we have seen above, thought altogether is developed. It grows from, and still it consists in, processes not dependent on itself. And the result may be summed up thus; certainly all relations are ideal, and as certainly not all relations are products of thinking.10

If we turn to volition, psychology makes clear that this is developed and secondary. An idea, barely of itself, possesses no power of passing over into fact, nor is there any faculty whose office it is to carry out this passage. Or, for the sake of argument, suppose that such a faculty exists, yet some ideas require (as we saw) an extraneous assistance. The faculty is no function, in short, unless specially provoked. But that which makes will, or at least makes it behave as itself, is surely a condition on which the being of will is dependent. Will, in brief, is based on associations, psychical and physical at once, or, again, upon mere physiological connections. It pre-supposes these, and throughout its working it also implies them, and we are hence compelled to consider them as part of its essence. I am quite aware that on the nature of will there is a great diversity of doctrine, but there are some views which I feel justified in not considering seriously. For any sane psychology will must pre-suppose, and must rest on, junctions physical and psychical, junctions which certainly are not will. Nor is there any stage of its growth at which will has absorbed into a special essence these presupposed workings. But, if so, assuredly will cannot be taken as primary.11

The universe as a whole may be called intelligible. It |427| may be known to come together in such a way as to realize, throughout and thoroughly, the complete demands of a perfect intellect. And every single element, again, in the world is intelligible, because it is taken up into and absorbed in a whole of this character.12 But the universe is not intelligible in the sense that it can throughout be understood: nor, starting from the mere intellect, could you anticipate its features in detail For, in answering the demands of the intellect the Whole supplements and makes good its characteristic defects, so that the perfected intellect, with these, has lost its own special nature. And this conclusion holds again of every other aspect of things. None of them is intelligible, as such, because, when become intelligible, they have ceased also, as such, to be. Hence no single aspect of the world can in the end be explained, nor can the world be explained as the result either of any or all of them. We have verified this truth above in the instance of thought and of will. Thought is not intelligible because its particular functions are not self-evident, and because, again, they cannot be derived from, or shown to be parts immanent in itself. And the same defect once more belongs also to will. I do not mean merely that will’s special passages are not intellectual I mean that they are not intelligible, nor by themselves luminous, nor in any sense self-evident. They are occurrences familiar more or less, but never containing each in itself its own essence and warrant That essence, as we have seen, remains a fact which is conditioned from without, and it therefore remains everywhere partly alien. It is futile to explain the whole as the unity of two or more factors, when none of these can by itself be taken as evident, and when the way, in which their variety is brought together, remains in detail unintelligible.

With this result it is time that we went forward, but I feel compelled, in passing, to remark on the alleged supremacy of Will. In the first place, if will is Reality, it |428| is incumbent on us to show how appearance is related to this ground. And, on our failure, we have an unknown unity behind this relation, and will itself must take the place of a partial appearance But, when we consider will’s character, the same conclusion is in any case plain. What we know as will implies relation and a process, and an unsolved discrepancy of elements. And the same remark holds of energy or activity, or of anything else of the kind. Indeed, I have dwelt so often on this head that I must consider it disposed of. I may, however, be told perhaps that this complexity is but the appearance of will, and that will itself, the real and supreme, is something other and different. But if so, the relation of appearance to this reality is once more on our hands. And, even apart from that, such an appeal to Will-in-itself is futile. For what we know as will contains the process, and what we do not know as will has no right to the name. It may be a mere physical happening, or may imply a metaphysical Reality, and in either case we have already dealt with it so tar as is required. In short, an appeal to will, either in metaphysics or in psychology, is an uncritical attempt to make play with the unknown. It is the pretence of a ground or an explanation, where the ground is not understood or the explanation discovered. And, so far as metaphysics is concerned, one can perhaps account for |484| such a barren self-deception. The mere intellect has shown itself incompetent to explain all phenomena, and so naturally recourse is had to the other side of things. And this unknown reality, called in thus to supply the defects of mere intellect, is blindly identified with the aspect which appears most opposed. But an unknown Reality, more than intellect, a something which appears in will and all appearance, and even in intellect itself — such a reality is not will or any other partial aspect of things. We really have appealed to the complete and all-inclusive totality, free from one-sidedness and all defect. And we have called this will, because in will we do not find one defect of a particular kind. But such a procedure is not rational.

An attempt may perhaps be made from another side |429| to defend the primacy of will. It may be urged that all principles and axioms in the end must be practical, and must accordingly be called the expression of will. But such an assertion would be mistaken. Axioms and principles are the expression of diverse sides of our nature, and they most certainly cannot all be considered as practical. In our various attitudes, intellectual, aesthetic, and practical, there are certain modes of experience which satisfy. In these modes we can repose, while, again, their absence brings pain, and unrest, and desire. And we can of course distinguish these characters and set them up as ideals, and we can also make them our ends and the objects of will. But such a relation to will is, except in the moral end, not inherent in their nature. Indeed the reply that principles are willed because they are, would be truer than the assertion that principles are just because they are willed. And the possible objection that after all these things are objects to will, has been anticipated above (p. 419-20). The same line of argument obviously would prove that the intelligence is paramount, since it reflects on will and on every other aspect of the world. With this hurried notice, I must dismiss finally the alleged pre-eminence of will. This must remain always a muddy refuge for the troubled in philosophy. But its claims appear plausible so long only as darkness obscures them. They are plainly absurd where they do not prefer to be merely unintelligible.

We have found that no one aspect of experience, as such, is real. None is primary, or can serve to explain the others or the whole. They are all alike appearances, all one-sided, and passing away beyond themselves. But I may be asked why, admitting this, we should call them appearances. For such a term belongs solely of right to the perceptional side of things, and the perceptional side, we agreed, was but one aspect among others. To appear, we may be told, is not possible except to a percipient, and an appearance also implies both judgment and rejection. I might certainly, on the other side, enquire whether all implied metaphors are to be pressed, and if so, how many |430| phrases and terms would be left us. But in the case of appearance I admit at once that the objection has force. I think the term implies without doubt an aspect of perceiving and judging, and such an aspect, I quite agree, does not everywhere exist. For, even if we conclude that all phenomena pass through psychical centres, yet in those centres most assuredly all is not perception. And to assume that somehow in the Whole all phenomena are judged of, would be again indefensible. We must, in short, admit that some appearances really do not appear, and that hence a license is involved in our use of the term.

Our attitude, however, in metaphysics must be theoretical. It is our business here to measure and to judge the various aspects of things. And hence for us anything which comes short when compared with Reality, gets the name of appearance. But we do not suggest that the thing always itself is an appearance. We mean its character is such that it becomes one, as soon as we judge it. And this character, we have seen throughout our work, is ideality. Appearance consists in the looseness of content from existence; and, because of this self-estrangement, every finite aspect is called an appearance. And we have found that everywhere throughout the world such ideality prevails. Anything less than the Whole has turned out to be not self-contained. Its being involves in its very essence a relation to the outside, and it is thus inwardly infected by externality. Everywhere the finite is self-transcendent, alienated from itself, and passing away from itself towards another existence. Hence the finite is appearance because, on the one side, it is an adjective of Reality, and because, on the other side, it is an adjective which itself is not real. When the term is thus defined, its employment seems certainly harmless.

We have in this Chapter been mainly, so far, concerned with a denial. All is appearance, and no appearance, nor any combination of these, is the same as Reality. This is half the truth, and by itself it is a dangerous error. We must turn at once to correct it by adding its counterpart |431| and supplement. The Absolute is its appearances, it really is all and every one of them. That is the other half-truth which we have already insisted on, and which we must urge once more here. And we may remind ourselves at this point of a fatal mistake. If you take appearances, singly or all together, and assert barely that the Absolute is either one of them or all — the position is hopeless. Having first set these down as appearance, you now proclaim them as the very opposite; for that which is identified with the Absolute is no appearance but is utter reality. But we have seen the solution of this puzzle, and we know the sense and meaning in which these half-truths come together into one. The Absolute is each appearance, and is all, but it is not any one as such. And it is not all equally, but one appearance is more real than another. In short the doctrine of degrees in reality and truth is the fundamental answer to our problem. Everything is essential, and yet one thing is worthless in comparison with others. Nothing is perfect, as such, and yet everything in some degree contains a vital function of Perfection. Every attitude of experience, every sphere or level of the world, is a necessary factor in the Absolute. Each in its own way satisfies, until compared with that which is more than itself. Hence appearance is error, if you will, but not every error is illusion.13 At each stage is involved the principle of that which is higher, and every stage (it is therefore true) is already inconsistent. But on the other hand, taken for itself and measured by its own ideas, every level has truth. It meets, we may say, its own claims, and it proves false only when tried by that which is already beyond it And thus the Absolute is immanent alike through every region of appearances. There are degrees and ranks, but, one and all, they are alike indispensable.

We can find no province of the world so low but the Absolute inhabits it Nowhere is there even a single fact so fragmentary and so poor that to the universe it does not matter. There is truth in every idea however false, there |432| is reality in every existence however slight; and, where we can point to reality or truth, there is the one undivided life of the Absolute. Appearance without reality would be impossible, for what then could appear? And reality without appearance would be nothing, for there certainly is nothing outside appearances. But on the other hand Reality (we must repeat this) is not the sum of things. It is the unity in which all things, coming together, are transmuted, in which they are changed all alike, though not changed equally. And, as we have perceived, in this unity, relations of isolation and hostility are affirmed and absorbed. These also are harmonious in the Whole, though not of course harmonious as such, and while severally confined to their natures as separate. Hence it would show blindness to urge, as an objection against our view, the opposition found in ugliness and in conscious evil. The extreme of hostility implies an intenser relation, and this relation falls within the Whole and enriches its unity. The apparent discordance and distraction is overruled into harmony, and it is but the condition of fuller and more individual development. But we can hardly speak of the Absolute itself as either ugly or evil. The Absolute is indeed evil in a sense and it is ugly and false, but the sense, in which these predicates can be applied, is too forced and unnatural. Used of the Whole each predicate would be the result of an indefensible division, and each would be a fragment isolated and by itself without consistent meaning. Ugliness, evil, and error, in their several spheres, are subordinate aspects. They imply distinctions falling, in each case, within one subject province of the Absolute’s kingdom; and they involve a relation, in each case, of some struggling element to its superior, though limited, whole. Within these minor wholes the opposition draws its life from, and is overpowered by the system which supports it. The predicates evil, ugly, and false must therefore stamp whatever they qualify, as a mere subordinate aspect, an aspect belonging to the province of beauty or goodness or truth. And to assign such a position to the sovereign Absolute would be plainly |433| absurd. You may affirm that the Absolute has ugliness and error and evil, since it owns the provinces in which these features are partial elements. But to assert that it is one of its own fragmentary and dependent details would be inadmissible.

It is only by a licence that the subject-systems, even when we regard them as wholes, can be made qualities of Reality. It is always under correction and on sufferance that we term the universe either beautiful or moral or true. And to venture further would be both useless and dangerous at once.

If you view the Absolute morally at all, then the Absolute is good. It cannot be one factor contained within and overpowered by goodness. In the same way, viewed logically or aesthetically, the Absolute can only be true or beautiful. It is merely when you have so termed it, and while you still continue to insist on these preponderant characters, that you can introduce at all the ideas of falsehood and ugliness. And, so introduced, their direct application to the Absolute is impossible. Thus to identify the supreme universe with a partial system may, for some end, be admissible. But to take it as a single character within this system, and as a feature which is already overruled, and which as such is suppressed there, would, we have seen, be quite unwarranted. Ugliness, error, and evil, all are owned by, and all essentially contribute to the wealth of the Absolute. The Absolute, we may say in general, has no assets beyond appearances; and again, with appearances alone to its credit, the Absolute would be bankrupt. All of these are worthless alike apart from transmutation. But, on the other hand once more, since the amount of change is different in each case, appearances differ widely in their degrees of truth and reality. There are predicates which, in comparison with others, are false and unreal.

To survey the field of appearances, to measure each by the idea of perfect individuality, and to arrange them in an order and in a system of reality and merit — would be the task of metaphysics. This task (I may repeat) is not |434| attempted in these pages. I have however endeavoured here, as above, to explain and to insist on the fundamental principle. And, passing from that, I will now proceed to remark on some points of interest. There are certain questions which at this stage we may hope to dispose of.

Let us turn our attention once more to Nature or the physical world. Are we to affirm that ideas are forces, and that ends operate and move there? And, again, is Nature beautiful and an object of possible worship? On this latter point, which I will consider first, I find serious confusion. Nature, as we have seen, can be taken in various senses (Chapter xxii). We may understand by it the whole universe, or again merely the world in space, or again we may restrict it to a very much narrower meaning. We may first remove everything which in our opinion is only psychical, and the abstract residue — the primary qualities — we may then identify with Nature. These will be the essence, while all the rest is accessory adjective, and, in the fullest sense, is immaterial. Now we have found that Nature, so understood, has but little reality. It is an ideal construction required by science, and it is a necessary working fiction. And we may add that reduction to a result, and to a particular instance, of this fiction, is what is meant by a strictly physical explanation. But in this way there grows up a great confusion. For the object of natural science is the full world in all its sensible glory, while the essence of Nature lies in this poor fiction of primary qualities, a fiction believed not to be idea but solid fact Nature then, while unexplained, is still left in its sensuous splendour, while Nature, if explained, would be reduced to this paltry abstraction. On one side is set up the essence — the final reality — in the shape of a bare skeleton of primary qualities; on the other side remains the boundless profusion of life which everywhere opens endlessly before our view. And these extremes then are confused, or are conjoined, by sheer obscurity or else by blind mental oscillation. If explanation reduces facts to be adjectives of something which they do not qualify at |435| all, the whole connection seems irrational, and the process robs us of the facts. But if the primary essence after all is qualified, then its character is transformed. The explanation, in reducing the concrete, will now also have enriched and have individualized the abstract, and we shall have started on our way towards philosophy and truth. But of this latter result in the present case there can be no question. And therefore we must end in oscillation with no attempt at an intelligent unity of view. Nature is, on the one hand, that show whose reality lies barely in primary qualities. It is, on the other hand, that endless world of sensible life which appeals to our sympathy and extorts our wonder. It is the object loved and lived in by the poet and by the observing naturalist. And, when we speak of Nature, we have often no idea which of these extremes, or indeed what at all, is to be understood. We in fact pass, as suits the occasion, from one extreme unconsciously to the other.

I will briefly apply this result to the question before us. Whether Nature is beautiful and adorable will depend entirely on the sense in which Nature is taken. If the genuine reality of Nature is bare primary qualities, then I cannot think that such a question needs serious discussion. In a word Nature will be dead. It could possess at the most a kind of symmetry; and again by its extent, or by its practical relation to our weaknesses or needs, it might excite in us feelings of a certain kind. But these feelings, in the first place, would fall absolutely within ourselves. They could not rationally be applied to, nor in the very least could they qualify Nature. And, in the second place, these feelings would in our minds hardly take the form of worship. Hence when Nature, as the object of natural science, is either asserted to be beautiful, or is set up before us as divine, we may make our answer at once. If the reality of the object is to be restricted to primary qualities, then surely no one would advocate the claims we have mentioned. If again the whole perceptible world and the glory of it is to be genuinely real, and if this splendour and this life are of the very essence of Nature, |436| then a difficulty will arise in two directions. In the first place this claim has to get itself admitted by physical science. The psychical has to be adopted as at least co-equal in reality with matter. The relation to the organism and to the soul has to be included in the vital being of a physical object. And the first difficulty will consist in advancing to this point. Then the second difficulty will appear at once when this point has been reached. For, having gone so far, we have to justify our refusal to go further. For why is Nature to be confined to the perceptible world? If the psychical and the ‘subjective’ is in any degree to make part of its reality, then upon what principle can you shut out the highest and most spiritual experience? Why is Nature viewed and created by the painter, the poet, and the seer, not essentially real? But in this way Nature will tend to become the total universe of both spirit and matter. And our main conclusion so far must be this. It is evidently useless to raise such questions about the object of natural science, when you have not settled in your mind what that object is, and when you supply no principle on which we can decide in what its reality consists.

But turning from this confusion, and once more approaching the question from, I trust, a more rational ground, I will try to make a brief answer. Into the special features and limits of the beautiful in |493| Nature I cannot enter. And I cannot discuss how far, and in what sense, the physical world is included in the true object of religion. These are special enquiries which fall without the scope of my volume. But whether Nature is beautiful or adorable at all, and whether it possesses such attributes really and in truth, to the question, asked thus in general, we may answer, Yes. We have seen that Nature, regarded as bare matter, is a mere convenient abstraction (Chapter xxii). The addition of secondary qualities, the included relation to a body and to a soul, in making Nature more concrete makes it thereby more real.14 The sensible life, |437| the warmth and colour, the odour and the tones, without these Nature is a mere intellectual fiction. The primary qualities are a construction demanded by science, but, while divorced from the secondary, they have no life as facts. Science has a Hades from which it returns to interpret the world, but the inhabitants of its Hades are merely shades. And, when the secondary qualities are added, Nature, though more real, is still incomplete. The joys and sorrows of her children, their affections and their thoughts how are we to say that these have no part in the reality of Nature? Unless to a mind restricted by a principle the limitation would be absurd, and our main principle on the other hand insists that Nature, when more full, is more real. And this same principle will carry us on to a further conclusion. The emotions, excited by Nature in the considering soul, must at least in part be referred to, and must be taken as attributes of Nature. If there is no beauty there, and if the sense of that is to fall somewhere outside, why in the end should there be any qualities in Nature at all? And if no emotional tone is to qualify Nature, how and on what principle are we to attribute to it anything else whatever? Everything there without exception is ‘subjective’, if we are to regard the matter so; and an emotional tone cannot, solely on this account, be excluded from Nature. And, otherwise, why should it not have reality there as a genuine quality? For myself I must follow the same principle and can accept the fresh consequence. The Nature that we have lived in, and that we love, is really Nature. Its beauty and its terror and its majesty are no illusion, but qualify it essentially. And hence that in which at our best moments we all are forced to believe, is the literal truth.

This result however needs some qualification from another side. It is certain that everything is determined by the relations in which it stands. It is certain that, with increase of determinateness, a thing becomes more and more real. On the other hand anything, fully determined, would be the Absolute itself. There is a point where increase of reality implies passage beyond self. A thing |438| by enlargement becomes a mere factor in the whole next above it; and in the end, all provinces and all relative wholes cease to keep their separate characters. We must not forget this while considering the reality of Nature. By gradual increase of that reality you reach a stage at which Nature, as such, is absorbed. Or, as you reflect on Nature, your object identifies itself gradually with the universe or Absolute. And the question arises at what point, when we begin to add psychical life or to attribute spiritual attributes to Nature, we have ceased to deal with Nature in any proper sense of that term. Where do we pass from Nature, as an outlying province in the kingdom of things, to Nature as a suppressed element in a higher unity? These enquiries are demanded by philosophy, and their result would lead to clearer conclusions about the qualities of Nature. I can do no more than allude to them here, and the conclusion, on which I insist, can in the main be urged independently. Nothing is lost to the Absolute, and all appearances have reality. The Nature studied by the observer and by the poet and painter, is in all its sensible and emotional fulness a very real Nature. It is in most respects more real than the strict object of physical science. For Nature, as the world whose real essence lies in primary qualities, has not a high degree of reality and truth. It is a mere abstraction made and required for a certain purpose. And the object of natural science may either mean this skeleton, or it may mean the skeleton made real by blood and flesh of secondary qualities. Hence, before we dwell on the feelings Nature calls for from us, it would be better to know in what sense we are using the term. But the boundary of Nature can hardly be drawn even at secondary qualities. Or, if we draw it there, we must draw it arbitrarily, and to suit our convenience. Only on this ground can psychical life be excluded from Nature, while, regarded otherwise, the exclusion would not be tenable. And to deny aesthetic qualities in Nature, or to refuse it those which inspire us with fear or devotion, would once more surely be arbitrary. It would be a division introduced for a mere working theoretical purpose. Our |439| principle, that the abstract is the unreal, moves us steadily upward. It forces us first to rejection of bare primary qualities, and it compels us in the end to credit Nature with our higher emotions. That process can cease only where Nature is quite absorbed into spirit, and at every stage of the process we find increase in reality.

And this higher interpretation, and this eventual transcendence of Nature lead us to the discussion of another point which we mentioned above. Except in finite souls and except in volition may we suppose that Ends operate in Nature, and is ideality, in any other sense, a working force there? How far such a point of view may be permitted in aesthetics or in the philosophy of religion, I shall not enquire. But considering the physical world as a mere system of appearances in space, are we on metaphysical grounds to urge the insufficiency of the mechanical view? In what form (if in any) are we to advocate a philosophy of Nature? On this difficult subject I will very briefly remark in passing.

The mechanical view plainly is absurd as a full statement of truth. Nature so regarded has not ceased at all (we may say) to be ideal, but its ideality throughout falls somewhere outside itself (Chapters xxii and xxiii). And that even for working purposes this view can everywhere be rigidly maintained, I am unable to assert. But upon one subject I have no doubts. Every special science must be left at liberty to follow its own methods, and, if the natural sciences reject every way of explanation which is not mechanical, that is not the affair of metaphysics. For myself, in other ways ignorant, I venture to assume that these sciences understand their own business. But where, quite beyond the scope of any special science, assertions are made, the metaphysician may protest. He may insist that abstractions are not realities, and that working fictions are never more than useful fragments of truth. And on another point also he may claim a hearing. To adopt one sole principle of valid explanation, and to urge that, if phenomena are to be explicable, they must be |440| explained by one method — this is of course competent to any science. But it is another thing to proclaim phenomena as already explained, or as explicable, where in certain aspects or in certain provinces they clearly are not explained, and where, perhaps, not even the first beginning of an explanation has been made. In these lapses or excursions beyond its own limits natural science has no rights. But within its boundaries I think every wise man will consider it sacred. And this question of the operation of Ends in Nature is one which, in my judgment, metaphysics should leave untouched.

Is there then no positive task which is left to metaphysics, the accomplishment of which might be called a philosophy of Nature? I will briefly point out the field which seems to call for occupation. All appearances for metaphysics have degrees of reality. We have an idea of perfection or of individuality; and as we find that any form of existence more completely realizes this idea, we assign to it its position in the scale of being. And in this scale (as we have seen) the lower, as its defects are made good, passes beyond itself into the higher. The end, or the absolute individuality, is also the principle. Present from the first it supplies the test of its inferior stages, and, as these are included in fuller wholes, the principle grows in reality. Metaphysics in short can assign a meaning to perfection and progress. And hence, if it were to accept from the sciences the various kinds of natural phenomena, if it were to set out these kinds in an order of merit and rank, if it could point out how within each higher grade the defects of the lower are made good, and how the principle of the lower grade is carried out in the higher — metaphysics surely would have contributed to the interpretation of Nature. And, while myself totally incapable of even assisting in such a work, I cannot see how or on what ground it should be considered unscientific. It is doubtless absurd to wear the airs of systematic omniscience. It is worse than absurd to pour scorn on the detail and on the narrowness of devoted specialism. But to try to give system from time to time to the results of the sciences, |441| and to attempt to arrange these on what seems a true principle of worth, can be hardly irrational.

Such a philosophy of Nature, if at least it were true to itself, could not intrude on the province of physical science. For it would, in short, abstain wholly and in every form from speculation on genesis. How the various stages of progress come to happen in time, in what order or orders they follow, and in each case from what causes, these enquiries would, as such, be no concern of philosophy. Its idea of evolution and progress in a word should not be temporal. And hence a conflict with the sciences upon any question of development or of order could not properly arise. ‘Higher’ and ‘lower’, terms which imply always a standard and end, would in philosophy be applied solely to designate rank. Natural science would still be free, as now, to use, or even to abuse, such terms at its pleasure, and to allow them any degree of meaning which is found convenient. Progress for philosophy would never have any temporal sense, and it could matter nothing if the word elsewhere seemed to bear little or no other. With these brief remarks I must leave a subject which deserves serious attention.

In a complete philosophy the whole world of appearance would be set out as a progress. It would show a development of principle though not a succession in time. Every sphere of experience would be measured by the absolute standard, and would be given a rank answering to its own relative merits and defects. On this scale pure Spirit would mark the extreme most removed from lifeless Nature. And, at each rising degree of this scale, we should find more of the first character with less of the second. The ideal of spirit, we may say, is directly opposite to mechanism. Spirit is a unity of the manifold in which the externality of the manifold has utterly ceased. The universal here is immanent in the parts, and its system does not lie somewhere outside and in the relations between them. It is above the relational form and has absorbed it in a higher unity, a whole in which there is no division between elements and laws. And, since this |442| principle shows itself from the first in the inconsistencies of bare mechanism,15 we may say that Nature at once is realized and transmuted by spirit. But each of these extremes, we must add, has no existence as fact. The sphere of dead mechanism is set apart by an act of abstraction, and in that abstraction alone it essentially consists. And, on the other hand, pure spirit is not realized except in the Absolute. It can never appear as such and with its full character in the scale of existence. Perfection and individuality belong only to that Whole in which all degrees alike are at once present and absorbed. This one Reality of existence can, as such, nowhere exist among phenomena. And it enters into, but is itself incapable of, evolution and progress.

It may repay us to discuss the truth of this last statement. Is there, in the end and on the whole, any progress in the universe? Is the Absolute better or worse at one time than at another? It is clear that we must answer in the negative, since progress and decay are alike incompatible with perfection. There is of course progress in the world, and there is also retrogression, but we cannot think that the Whole either moves on or backwards. The Absolute has no history of its own, though it contains histories without number. These, with their tale of progress or decline, are constructions starting from and based on some one given piece of finitude. They are but partial aspects in the region of temporal appearance. Their truth and reality may vary much in extent and in importance, but in the end it can never be more than relative. And the question whether the history of a man or a world is going forwards or back, does not belong to metaphysics. For nothing perfect, nothing genuinely real, can move. The Absolute has no seasons, but all at once bears its leaves, fruit, and blossoms.16 Like our globe it always, and it never, has summer and winter.

|443| Such a point of view, if it disheartens us, has been misunderstood. It is only by our mistake that it collides with practical belief. If into the world of goodness, possessing its own relative truth, you will directly thrust in ideas which apply only to the Whole, the fault surely is yours. The Absolute’s character, as such, cannot hold of the relative, but the relative, unshaken for all that, holds its place in the Absolute. Or again, shutting yourself up in the region of practice, will you insist upon applying its standards to the universe? We want for our practice, of course, both a happening in time and a personal finitude. We require a capacity for becoming better, and, I suppose too, for becoming worse. And if these features, as such, are to qualify the whole of things, and if they are to apply to ultimate reality, then the main conclusions of this work are naturally erroneous. But I cannot adopt others until at least I see an attempt made to set them out in a rational form. And I can not profess respect for views which seem to me in many cases insincere. If progress is to be more than relative, and is something beyond a mere partial phenomenon, then the religion professed most commonly among us has been abandoned. You cannot be a Christian if you maintain that progress is final and ultimate and the last truth about things. And I urge this consideration, of course not as an argument from my mouth, but as a way of bringing home perhaps to some persons their inconsistency. Make the moral point of view absolute, and then realize your position. You have become not merely irrational, but you have also, I presume, broken with every considerable religion. And you have been brought to this by following the merest prejudice.

Philosophy, I agree, has to justify the various sides of our life; but this is impossible, I would urge, if any side is made absolute. Our attitudes in life give place ceaselessly the one to the other, and life is satisfied if each in its own field is allowed supremacy. Now to deny progress of the universe surely leaves morality where it was. A man has his self or his world, about to make an advance (he may hope) through his personal effort, or in any case (he |444| knows well) to be made the best of. The universe is, so far, worse through his failure; it is better, so far, through his success. And if, not content with this, he demands to alter the universe at large, he should at least invoke neither reason nor religion nor morality. For the improvement or decay of the universe seems nonsense, unmeaning or blasphemous. While, on the other hand, faith in the progress or persistence of those who inhabit our planet has nothing to do with metaphysics. And I may perhaps add that it has little more to do with morality. Such faith cannot alter our duties; and to the mood in which we approach them, the difference, which it makes, may not be wholly an advantage. If we can be weakened by despondence, we can, no less, be hurried away by stupid enthusiasm and by pernicious cant. But this is no place for the discussion of such matters, and we may be content here to know that we cannot attribute any progress to the Absolute.

I will end this chapter with a few remarks on a subject which lies near. I refer to that which is commonly called the Immortality of the Soul. This is a topic on which for several reasons I would rather keep silence, but I think that silence here might fairly be misunderstood. It is not easy, in the first place, to say exactly what a future life means. The period of personal continuance obviously need not be taken as endless. And again precisely in what sense, and how far, the survival must be personal is not easy to lay down. I shall assume here that what is meant is an existence after death which is conscious of its identity with our life here and now. And the duration of this must be taken as sufficient to remove any idea of unwilling extinction or of premature decease. Now we seem to desire continuance (if we do desire it) for a variety of reasons, and it might be interesting elsewhere to set these out and to clear away confusions.17 I must however pass at once to the question of possibility.

|445| There is one sense in which the immortality of souls seems impossible. We must remember that the universe is incapable of increase. And to suppose a constant supply of new souls, none of which ever perished, would clearly land us in the end in an insoluble difficulty. But it is quite unnecessary, I presume, to hold the doctrine in this sense. And, if we take the question generally, then to deny the possibility of a life after death would be quite ridiculous. There is no way of proving, first, that a body is required for a soul (Chapter xxiii). And though a soul, when bodiless, might (for all we know) be even more subject to mortality, yet obviously here we have passed into a region of ignorance. And to say that in this region a personal continuance could not be, appears simply irrational. And the same result holds, even if we take a body as essential to every soul, and, even if we insist also (as we cannot) that this body must be made of our everyday substance. A future life is possible even on the ground of common crude Materialism.18 After an interval, no matter how long, another nervous system sufficiently like our own might be developed; and in this case memory and a personal identity must arise. The event may be as improbable as you please, but I at least can find no reason for calling it impossible. And we may even go a step further still. It is conceivable that an indefinite number of such bodies should exist, not in succession merely, but all together and all at once. But, if so, we might gain a personal continuance not single but multiform, and might secure a destiny on which it would be idle to enlarge. In |446| ways like the above it is clear that a future life is possible, but, on the other hand, such possibilities are not worth much.

A thing is impossible absolutely when it contradicts the known nature of Reality.19 It is impossible relatively when it collides with some idea which we have found good cause to take as real. A thing is possible, first, as long as it is not quite meaningless. It must contain some positive quality belonging to the universe; and it must not at the same time remove this and itself by some destructive addition. A thing is possible further, according as its meaning contains without discrepancy more and more of what is held to be real. We, in other words, consider anything more possible as it grows in probability. And ‘Probability’, we are rightly told, ‘is the guide of life’. We want to know, in short, not whether a thing is merely and barely possible, but how much ground we have for expecting it and not something else.

In a case like the present, we cannot, of course, hope to set out the chances, for we have to do with elements the value of which is not known. And for probability the unknown is of different kinds. There is first the unknown utterly, which is not possible at all; and this is discounted and treated as nothing. There is next something possible, the full nature of which is hidden, but the extent and value of which, as against some other ‘events’, is clear. And so far all is straightforward. But we have still to deal with the unknown in two more troublesome senses. It may stand for a mere possibility about which we know nothing further, and for entertaining which we can find no further ground. Or again, the unknown may cover a region where we can specify no details, but which still we can judge to contain a great diversity of possible events.

We shall soon find the importance of these dry distinctions. A bodiless soul is possible because it is not meaningless, or in any way known to be impossible. But I fail to find any further and additional reason in its favour. And, next, would a bodiless soul be immortal? And, again, |447| why after death should we, in particular, have any bodiless continuance? The original slight probability of a future life seems not much increased by these considerations. Again, if we take body to be essential — a body, that is, consisting of matter either familiar or strange — what, on this ground, is our chance of personal continuance after death? You may here appeal to the unknown, and, where our knowledge seems nothing, you may perhaps urge, ‘Why not this event, just as much as its contrary and opposite?’ But the question would rest on a fallacy, and I must insist on the distinction which above we laid down. In this unknown field we certainly cannot particularize and set out the chances, but in another sense the field is not quite unknown.20

We cannot say that, of the combinations possible there, one half is, for all we know, favourable to a life after death. For, to judge by actual experience, the combinations seem mostly unfavourable. And, though the character of what falls outside our experience may be very different, yet our judgment as to this must be affected by what we do know. But, if so, while the whole variety of combinations must be taken as very large, the portion judged favourable to continued life, whether multiform or simple, must be set down as small. Such will have to be our conclusion if we deal with this unknown field. But, if we may not deal with it, the possibility of a future life is, on this ground, quite unknown; and, if so, we have no right to consider it at all. And the general result to my mind is briefly this. When you add together the chances of a life after death a life taken as bodiless, and again as diversely embodied — the amount is not great. The balance of hostile probability seems so large that the |448| fraction on the other side to my mind is not considerable. And we may repeat, and may sum up our conclusion thus. If we appeal to blank ignorance, then a future life may even have no meaning, and may fail wholly to be possible. Or if we avoid this worst extreme, a future life may be but barely possible. But a possibility, in this sense, stands unsupported face to face with an indefinite universe. And its value, so far, can hardly be called worth counting. If, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to use what knowledge we possess, and if we judge fairly of future life by all the grounds we have for judging, the result is not much modified. Among those grounds we certainly find a part which favours continuance; but, taken at its highest, that part appears to be small. Hence a future life must be taken as decidedly improbable.

But in this way, it will be objected, the question is not properly dealt with. ‘On the grounds you have stated’, it will be urged, ‘future life may be improbable; but then those grounds really lie outside the main point. The positive evidence for a future life is what weighs with our minds; and this is independent of discussions as to what, in the abstract, is probable’. The objection is fair, and my reply to it is plain and simple. I have ignored the positive evidence because for me it has really no value. Direct arguments to show that a future life is, not merely possible, but real, seem to me unavailing. The addition to general probability, which they make, is to my mind trifling; and, without examining these arguments in detail, I will add a few remarks.21

|449| Philosophy, I repeat, has to justify all sides of our nature; and this means, I agree, that our main cravings must find satisfaction. But that every desire of every kind must, as such, be gratified — this is quite a different demand, and it is surely irrational. At all events it is opposed to the results of our preceding discussions. The destiny of the finite, we saw everywhere, is to reach consummation, but never wholly as such, never quite in its own way. And as to this desire for a future life, what is there in it so sacred? How can its attainment be implied in the very principles of our nature? Nay, is there in it, taken by itself, anything moral in the least or religious at all? I desire to have no pain, but always pleasure, and to continue so indefinitely. But the literal fulfilment of my wish is incompatible with my place in the universe. It is irreconcilable with my own nature, and I have to be content therefore with that measure of satisfaction which my nature permits. And am I, on this account, to proclaim philosophy insolvent, because it will not listen to demands really based on nothing?

But the demand for future life, I shall be told, is a genuine postulate, and its satisfaction is implicated in the very essence of our nature. Now, if this means that our religion and our morality will not work without it — so much the worse, I reply, for our morality and our religion. The remedy lies in the correction of our mistaken and immoral notions about goodness. ‘But then’, it will be exclaimed, ‘this is too horrible. There really after all will be self-sacrifice; and virtue and selfishness after all will not be identical’. But I have already explained, in Chapter xxv, why this moving appeal |450| finds me deaf. ‘But then strict justice is not paramount’. No, I am sure that it is not so. There is a great deal in the universe, I am sure, beyond mere morality; and I have yet to learn that, even in the moral world, the highest law is justice. ‘But, if we die, think of the loss of all our hard-won gains’. But is a thing lost, in the first place, because I fail to get it or retain it? And, in the second place, what seems to us sheer waste is, to a very large extent, the way of the universe. We need not take on ourselves to be anxious about that. ‘But without endless progress, how reach perfection?’ And with endless progress (if that means anything) I answer, how reach it? Surely perfection and finitude are in principle not compatible. If you are to be perfect, then you, as such, must be resolved and cease; and endless progress sounds merely like an attempt indefinitely to put off perfection.22 And as a function of the perfect universe, on the other hand, you are perfect already. ‘But after all we must wish that pain and sorrow should be somewhere made good’. On the whole, and in the whole, if our view is right, this is fully the case. With the individual often I agree it is not the case. And I wish it otherwise, meaning by this that my inclination and duty as a fellow-creature impels me that way, and that wishes and actions of this sort among finite beings fulfil the plan of the Whole. But I cannot argue, therefore, that all is wrong if individuals suffer. There is in life always, I admit, a note of sadness; but it ought not to prevail, nor can we truly assert that it does so. And the universe in its attitude towards finite beings must be judged of not piecemeal but as a system. ‘But, if hopes and fears are taken away, we shall be less happy and less moral’. Perhaps, and perhaps again both more moral and more happy. The question is a large one, and I do not intend to discuss it, but I will say so much as this. Whoever argues that belief in a future life has, on the whole, brought evil to humanity, has at least a strong case. But the question here seems irrelevant. If it could indeed be urged that the essence of |451| a finite being is such, that it can only regulate its conduct by keeping sight of another world and of another life — the matter, I agree, would be altered. But if it comes merely to this, that human beings now are in such a condition that, if they do not believe what is probably untrue, they must deteriorate — that to the universe, if it were the case, would be a mere detail. It is the rule that a race of beings so out of agreement with their environment should deteriorate, and it is well for them to make way for another race constituted more rationally and happily. And I must leave the matter so.23

All the above arguments, and there are others, rest on assumptions negatived by the general results of this volume. It is about the truth of these assumptions, I would add, that discussion is desirable. It is idle to repeat, ‘I want something’, unless you can show that the nature of things demands it also. And to debate this special question, apart from an enquiry into the ultimate nature of the world, is surely unprofitable.

Future life is a subject on which I had no desire to speak. I have kept silence until the subject seemed forced before me, and until in a manner I had dealt with the main problems involved in it. The conclusion arrived at seems the result to which the educated world, on the whole, |452| is making its way. A personal continuance is possible, and it is but little more. Still, if anyone can believe in it, and finds himself sustained by that belief, after all it is possible. On the other hand it is better to be quit of both hope and fear, than to lapse back into any form of degrading superstition. And surely there are few greater responsibilities which a man can take on himself, than to have proclaimed, or even hinted, that without immortality all religion is a cheat and all morality a self-deception.


1^ See above Chapter xvii and below Chapter xxvii.

2^ Compare Chapters ix, xix, xx and xxvii, and Mind, N. S. 6. I had hoped elsewhere to write something on the position to be given to Feeling in psychology. But for the purpose of this volume I trust, on the whole, to have said enough.

3^ This distinction, I have no doubt, is developed in time (Mind, No. 47); but, even if we suppose it to be original, the further conclusion is in no way affected.

4^ In the foregoing chapter we have already dealt with the contradictions of Goodness. For the nature of Desire and Volition see Mind, No. 49. Compare also No. 43, where I have said something on the meaning of Resolve. There are, indeed, instances where the idea does not properly pass into existence, and where yet we are justified in speaking of will, and not merely of resolve. Such are the cases where I will something to take place after my death, or where again, as we say, I will now to do something which I am incapable of performing. The process here is certainly incomplete, but still can be rightly called volition, because the movement of the idea towards existence has actually begun. It has started on its course, external or inward, so as already to be past recall. In the same way when the trigger is pressed, and the hammer has also perhaps fallen, a miss-fire leaves the act incomplete, but we still may be said to have fired. In mere Resolve, on the other hand, the incompatibility of the idea with any present realisation of its content is recognized. And hence Resolve not aiming straight at present fact, but satisfied with an ideal filling-out of its idea, should not be called volition. The process is not only incomplete, but it also knowingly holds back and diverges from the direct road to existence. Resolve may be taken as a case of internal volition, if you consider it as the bringing about of a certain state of mind. But the production of the resolve, and not the resolve itself, is, in this case, will.

5^ The possibility of some margin of pleasure falling outside all finite centres, seems very slight (Chapter xxvii). So far as that pleasure is an object, the relation is certainly essential.

6^ The question of degrees in beauty, like that of degrees in truth and goodness, would be interesting. But it is hardly necessary for us to enter on it here.

7^ I have not thought it necessary here to point out how in their actual existence these aspects are implicated with one another. All the other aspects are more or less the objects of, and produced by, will; and will itself, together with the rest, is an object to thought. Thought again depends on all for its material, and will on all for its ideas. And the same psychical state may be indifferently will or thought, according to the side from which you view it (p. 419-20). Every state again to some extent may be considered and taken as feeling.

8^ On this point see Mind, No. 47.

9^ With the above compare, again, Mind, No. 47.

10^ How what seems a faculty of analysis can be developed I have endeavoured to point out in the article referred to above.

11^ I have left out of the account those cases where what works is mainly Blending. Obviously the same conclusion follows here.

12^ It is intelligible also, I hare remarked above in Chapter xix, i