Popular Philosophy in its Relation to Life

By Thomas Hill Green

In the controversy as to the true character of the Sophists, raised by the publication of Mr. Grote's History of Greece, much stress was laid upon the distinction that the Sophists were not a sect holding a mischievous system of philosophical doctrine, but a profession. It was found, however, that the distinction did not materially affect the view formed of them by students of Plato and Aristotle, for their profession was to teach rhetoric, and a'rhetoric that used philosophy as its instrument.' That rhetoric should thus use philosophy implies that the latter has become popular, and popular philosophy, however various its doctrines, has yet by the necessity of its nature a uniformity of type, than which the system of the straitest sect is not more unmistakable. It fixes in coarse lineaments the antithetical ideas, which genuine speculation leaves fluid and elastic, and on the strength of them gives a positive answer, Yes or No, to questions as to the world of thought, which, because asked in terms of sense, true philosophy must either leave unanswered or answer by both Yes and No. It abhors the analysis of knowledge. It takes certain formal conceptions ready-made, without criticism of their origin or validity. These — which, because familiar, are apparently intelligible — it employs to cast a reflex intelligibility on the general world of knowledge. By their aid it can always distinguish and divide, and the matter in which we can make distinctions seems already intelligible and our own. Such philosophy must needs ultimately be both sceptical and destructive: sceptical, because, too much in a hurry to be consistent, it finds its dogmatic 'Yes' contradicted by its equally dogmatic 'No,' and its uncritical distinctions, which seemed at first to convey such delightful clearness, turn out to have merely made darkness visible; destructive, because, while its existence -93- implies a conscious claim on the part of the human spirit to comprehend that which it obeys, its dichotomous formulae are inadequate to comprehend the real world of morals, religion, and law.

The parallel between our own age and that of the Sophists has been often drawn. The historian of philosophy, indeed, finds the modern counterpart to the epoch of Protagoras some way further back, in the so-called Aufklärung of the last century. The popular philosophy, whose parent was Locke, no doubt asked the same questions that were in debate among the companions of Socrates; it set them in the same glory of rhetoric, concealing a depth which it could not penetrate, that provoked the irony of the Socratic dialogue. Its sceptical and revolutionary result, as represented by Hume, Rousseau, and Priestley, has an aspect familiar to the readers of Plato; and the question, 'How are experience and moral action possible?' which Kant set himself to answer, recalls the more simple, 'What is justice, and how do we come by the idea of it?' which forms the text of The Republic. But modes of philosophy do not really supersede each other 'as Amurath to Amurath succeeds.' Philosophy does but interpret, with full consciousness and in system, the powers already working in the spiritual life of mankind, and as these powers at every stage gather a strength which they never finally lose, so the philosophical expression which they have found in one age, is not lost, however it may be qualified, in the ages that follow. In Greece, as the elements of life were far more simple, so the various forms of philosophy followed each other more rapidly than in modern Christendom. Yet the sophistical mode of thought, having once found a home, was only dislodged with philosophy itself. The doctrine that man, the sensitive man, is the measure of all things, which as being par excellence the doctrine that fits philosophy to be an instrument of rhetoric, may be taken as characteristic of the Sophists, survived the criticism of Plato and Aristotle. It was virtually common to all the popular and practical schools so long as Greek philosophy lasted. So in the modern world, the doctrines of the Aufklärung are not to be supposed dead and done with, because Kant outgrew them nearly a hundred years ago. From the pulpit and the senate, from the newspaper and the journal of science, from saint and from sage, the disciple of Kant finds them smite him in -94- the face whichever way he look. Nor can he account for this experience by the complaint that 'our tardy apish nation' has not yet appropriated the highest thought of Europe. In Germany itself the people now venture to assert a philosophy of their own, and it is not the philosophy of the German philosophers, but of the school of Locke. The truth is, that the doctrines of the Aufklärung are as much of the essence of the modern world as the principles of the Reformation, or the ideas of 1789. They are as old as the Renaissance, as old as the epoch when the citizens of Christendom, slowly emerging from the painful discipline by which the new civilisation was wrought out of the chaos of the old, first ventured to look with open eyes on their surroundings, and to ask why they should not move freely, and take their pleasure in a world that was very good.

To be free, to understand, to enjoy, is the claim of the modern spirit. It is a claim which is constantly becoming more articulate and conscious of itself. It is constantly being heard from new classes of society, and penetrating more deeply into the circumstances of life. At the same time, it is constantly finding new expression in practical contradictions of thought, which rhetoric, itself the child of the claim, is always at hand to manipulate, to entangle, to inweave into the feelings and interests of men. The result is the diffusion over society of a state of mind analogous to that which we sometimes experience when discussion has carried us a long way from our principles, and we find ourselves maintaining inconsistent propositions, which to us are mere words, yet confuse our views and weaken our hold of the principles from which they seem to follow. The age, we may say, has over-talked itself: yet to prescribe a regimen of silence is but to mock the disease. Definite thought is already speech. That a thought, when spoken, has lost half its power, is as false as the notion that the will, so soon as we act, ceases to be free, because under the incipient control of habit. The power in the one case, like the freedom in the other, except so far as it is expressed, is a mere indefinite possibility. As freedom is freedom to do something only so far as it gains a body and reality from habit, so it is only through speech that the thinking spirit can know what is in itself and in the world. Only through the process of naming and metaphor, from the stage where it is nearest the sense to that where it is most -95- remote, are phenomena held together, distinguished, and wrought into an intelligible universe. Only, again, as uttered can thought know or act upon itself. Spoken thought is thus the medium through which the individual man at once receives his intellectual being from without, and develops it from within. The greater its fulness, the wider the range of its distinguishing and comprehending energy, the more completely is the world transformed from a brute matter to a rational organism, to which the spirit of man answers as closely and immediately as feeling to the nervous currents.

To the world, so far as it is thus transformed, man no longer stands in the attitude of blind terror at the unknown. But he is not therefore at peace. By names and theory, by distinction and comparison, by substantiating relations and bringing substances into relation, he has penetrated nature, and in penetrating it has sown himself broadcast over it. It is by no avoidable error, as in the effort to escape from himself he may sometimes imagine, that he has infected nature with his theology or metaphysic. Its relation to himself is the condition alike of the impulse to know it and of the possibility of its being known. It is in vain that he seeks to place himself in the attitude of pure receptivity. Without being active, without origination, he cannot judge, and he must needs give an account to himself of his activity. He must theorise upon his judgments, must seek for a science of his sciences, for the unity of principle which must be in that which he knows as it is in himself. He is as metaphysical when he talks of body or matter as when he talks of force, of force as when he talks of mind, of mind as when he talks of God. He goes beyond sense as much when he pronounces that he can only know things individual, or phenomena, as when he claims to know substances and the universal. That which he calls nature, therefore, is traversed by the currents of his intellect, and where intellect has gone sentiment has followed. The outward world, about which he speculates, has become an object of interest to him, inseparable from his interest in himself. If his speculation might run smooth and evenly, he would be at peace. Being, as it is, forever thwarted and baffled — leading his thoughts along paths which diverge before he is aware of it, and at length seem so far apart that he cannot see the common ground whence they come and to which they converge — it gives him -96- the privilege of a sorrow, intense in proportion to the range of his intellectual sympathy. He is no longer, like the barbarian, afraid of nature, as of an unknown power, but oppressed by it as by the excess of his own activity. It is a labyrinth in which he has wandered at will till he has lost the clue, and which at the same time is so much his own that in its perplexities he seems at war with himself.

Meanwhile his relations to God, his fellow-men, and his own desires, which at first wrapped him round too closely to be contemplated, became objects of his curiosity. He separates himself from them to reappropriate them by the intellectual consciousness. They, too, become recognised elements in the world of knowledge, which thus gains at once an infinite complexity and an absolute dominion over the happiness of civilised mankind. As a theory of being, or of merely speculative thought, philosophy scarcely touches what we call the popular mind. It has pleasures and pains of its own, but its uncertainties, being the burden of a few, do not diffuse themselves into that general sympathetic atmosphere of scepticism, through which alone it becomes oppressive to peace of mind. It is not until it approaches the moral life that it can become popular, and in consequence can be rhetoricised. This further plunge into the concrete it must inevitably make. The question, 'What is the world that man knows, and how does he know it?' cannot long remain apart from the question, 'What is the world that he has made for himself, and how has he been able to make it?' The interest in the moral world, and the interest in the so-called world of nature, tend more and more to fusion with each other. In the Greek age of sophistry, as it is presented to us by Plato and Aristotle, the unsettlement of practical ideas resulted from the application to 'the good, the beautiful, and the just' of the Democritean theory of nature and our knowledge of it, and it was by a counter theory on the same subjects that Plato sought to achieve the reconstruction of morals and politics. In modern times it is the philosophy of nature and knowledge inherited from Bacon and Locke that appears in the numerous 'Natural Histories of Ethics' with which the world has been beset during the last century and a half; and, conversely, it was a moral interest — the desire to find room for freedom and immortality — that moved Kant to attempt a more profound analysis of knowledge. The moral -97- philosophy which he set himself to reform is still the popular philosophy. It was not, nor is it, an harmonious system. It is divided by the current opposition between intuition and experience, between the 'moral sense' and the 'principle of utility.' But an element of identity pervades it, implied in its being the popular philosophy. It is the uncritical expression of the claim to be free, to enjoy, and to understand. It is an abstract or result of the various methods, poetic, religious, metaphysical, by which man has sought to account to himself for the world of his experience, as they apply directly to human life. Inconsistent with all the inconsistencies of these methods, which it takes not as criticism would reconstruct but as rhetoric has overlaid them, it brings its contradictions home to the average man at the most vital points, and is the natural parent of the modern 'unsettlement.' It is proposed here to trace the history of its more importunate questions, and to inquire how far a philosophy, not yet, if ever it can become, popular, has already met them.

The ethical theories of popular philosophy, however various, have this in common, that they rest wholly on feeling. Of feeling, as such, they give no account. As in the popular theory of knowledge, no distinction is made between sensation itself and the intellectual judgment of which sensation is the occasion or accompaniment, so in the corresponding theory of morals, feeling is treated as the exhaustive account of all modes of consciousness with which it is associated. Taken thus ready-made, with 'reflection' for its servant, it is the principle of construction in all the doctrines by which English and French philosophers, from Hobbes downwards, have accounted for 'conscience,' the rational will, and the actual fabric of moral custom and law. These systems vary as the import of feeling itself varies, and according to the range of the service which reflection is supposed to do it. With Hobbes, the feeling on which morality rests is the mere animal appetite, the sense of want, with the impulse to appropriate that which will satisfy the want. This appetite, however, has to lose its merely animal character before it will account even for the state of universal warfare in which, according to Hobbes, society begins. 'Homo homini lupus,' but the wolf eats when he is hungry, and has done with it. The wolfish appetite is not the permanent impulse to get as much as he can for himself, which Hobbes supposes as the source of the wolfish -98- or primary state of society. Having made this covert introduction of self-consciousness into the primary appetite, and supposing a faculty of calculating means to ends as its instrument, it is not difficult to represent the strife of appetites as ending in a balance, which the calculating faculty of the many perceives to afford the maximum of possible gratification, and fixes in positive law. Nor does it require any great ingenuity to trace in the 'social affections' secondary forms of the selfish appetite, taught by accumulated calculation to anticipate its own satisfaction or apprehend its own loss in the pleasure and pain of others, and disciplined by long habit to do so instinctively.

The origin, then, of the judgment 'I ought,' Hobbes finds simply in the command of a ruler, and the ruling power in the last resort turns out to be the appetite of some one strong enough to enforce its satisfaction, in submission to which the appetites of others gain more than they lose. Appetite, transformed (it is not explained how) into deliberate self-interest, is thus the source at once of the idea of duty, and of the 'moral sentiments,' or the affections which dispose us to realise the idea. This was good hearing for the courtiers of Charles II, and, to judge from Butler's sermons, it appears to have continued the fashionable philosophy during the first part of the eighteenth century. A superficial analysis of composite feeling was clearly to the taste of the age. As if exulting in deliverance from the idea of an absolute divine law, expressed either in the Church, or the Bible, or the conscience, which had haunted the thoughts and troubled the peace of the previous age, men would not only please themselves (as they had always done), but take credit and account to themselves for their pleasure. As the talk of a woman or a child is tedious from the iteration of 'I like' and 'I don't like,' so the literature of that time nauseates with the description of agreeable sensations and reflections, and with easy theories of their production. In particular, fashionable controversy busied itself with the question of the element of self-interest in the social affections. Throughout his sermons, Butler stands in an attitude of defence against 'that scorn which one sees rising upon the faces of people who are said to know the world, when mention is made of a disinterested action.' He meets them, it is to be observed, by treating the actions in question, not as the realisation of an idea of duty from which all merely personal interests are -99- excluded, but as issuing from an immediate spontaneous affection, which self-love does not generate any more than it generates hunger, but for whose gratification, as a source of happiness, it may and ought to provide. Of self-love itself he gives no consistent account. Sometimes it appears as one affection among others, coordinate with benevolence or resentment; sometimes as a reflective desire for one's good as a whole, regulating the other affections (benevolence among them), the harmonious satisfaction of which constitutes the good that it seeks.

Benevolence, in its turn, is treated sometimes as a natural affection, sometimes as a 'principle of virtue.' The relation between its two forms is nowhere intelligibly explained, for an explanation of it supposes a theory of the will, as the condition of moral in distinction from merely natural action, which nowhere appears in Butler. The failure to trace benevolence to its source in the active reason necessarily leads to a difficulty as to its relation to self-love. Generally in Butler we find a coordination between love of self and love of one's neighbour, as separate 'principles of our nature,' the proper balance between which constitutes virtue. If, dissatisfied with such dichotomy of the individual man, we ask for an ultimate unity which may account for the two opposite principles, Butler can give us no sufficient answer. Ultimately he abandons the coordination, and claims for benevolence by itself the prerogative of being the spring of all virtue. But in so doing he transfers to it without explanation, a supremacy previously assigned to self-love. The essential identity of the two he cannot explain, for he has no formula elastic enough to suit the reality of the rational will, which, in making itself its own object, takes others into itself. No one, indeed, insists more strongly on the unity of constitution of the individual nature. It is necessary to his stoical conception of virtue as the life according to nature. Now, since the moral nature, as a single whole, is the self, to live for the satisfaction of one's nature as a whole must be to live for self. According to this view, then, self-love must be the ultimate, the ruling moral principle, and such, in the sermons on 'Human Nature,' Butler admits it to be. But on this admission, unless the self be regarded as at once individual and universal, according to a conception beyond the reach of his popular logic, it becomes difficult to maintain the 'disinterested' -100- character of benevolence. As a simple 'propension' no doubt, like every other, it rests in its immediate object as an end, and this object may be the gratification of another. But in order to become a 'principle of virtue,' to hold its proper place in the moral system of man, it must be reflected on. Its satisfaction must be relative to that of the entire man or self. This being so, it becomes 'selfish' or interested, in the ordinary sense, except so far as the self, to which it is relative, is consciously identified with something beyond the mere individual, with a public cause, duty, or the will of God. This identification, however, popular philosophy, clinging to material divisions, and treating the spiritual self as a thing exclusive of other things, will not trouble itself to apprehend, and Butler either had no conception of it himself, or did not attempt to explain it to the men of the world who listened to him in the Rolls Chapel. He never represents self-love as anything more than the reasonable desire for personal happiness; and personal happiness, desired as such, is none the less a selfish or interested motive because the gratification of others is one of its constituents. Thus, in the sermons on the 'Love of Our Neighbour,' to save the credit of such love for disinterestedness, he has to take refuge in the unphilosophical representation of it noticed above, as parallel, not subordinate to self-love, and, in the good man, justly proportioned to it. He lapses, that is, into the raw empiricism of popular philosophy, which explains the moral man as a ready-made compound, not as the many-sided development of a single spiritual principle.

The same want of ultimate analysis confuses his conception of self-love in relation to 'conscience.' Here again we find an unexplained coordination of two separate principles, instead of a twofold relation of one and the same. 'Conscience,' indeed, with him is scarcely, as with Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, a mere sense. It is an authoritative faculty of judgment. He seems constantly on the verge of identifying it with reason or thought, as that which creates its own object and constitutes the unity of the self-conscious man. But he never actually does so. Human nature, he holds, is an organic system, in which 'the faculty of reflex approbation and disapprobation' has a proper supremacy. Because of this authority, an act which does not accord with conscience is wrong in itself, apart from any consequence in the way of -101- unhappiness. How this comes to be so, however, he does not — perhaps it should be said that to an audience believing in Locke he could not — explain. He was, in fact, the victim of the current psychology, which, as in regard to knowledge it assigned to thought no other office than that of combining the perceptions of things given complete by sense, so in regard to action, left it merely to balance against each other, and find means to attain, objects of desire given independently of it. On such a theory the 'authority' of conscience, which as a faculty of judgment can be no other than thought, is unaccountable, and therefore unreal. Conscience is not supposed to constitute the man; it is 'a part of our nature,' alongside of another part, called appetite or affection. Why should it claim supremacy over the other part, when, after all, it can only be from this other part that it derives the object with reference to which it judges? What meaning can there be in saying that what is 'against conscience' is wrong in itself, apart from resulting unhappiness, unless conscience as a creative idea gives an object to itself? If it does so, — a conception, for better or worse, beyond the reach of Butler's psychology, — then adaptation to the attainment of this object may render an action right in itself. If, on the other hand, the object of man's action is necessarily given by desires which thought may regulate, but can in no way constitute, then conscience in itself can give no measure of Tightness; and that which is merely right in itself as consistent with conscience, not as satisfying desires or causing pleasure, is that which is right with reference to nothing, i.e. a nonentity. Thus Butler, when he wants to find some reality corresponding to the right in itself, has to seek it in happiness. He has to represent interest and duty as coinciding, which really means that conscience approves or disapproves with reference to an object given by self-love. This, however, in the absence of any adequate conception of the self as the reason which can 'spread undivided,' and make a universal good its own, is to make conscience the servant of enlightened selfishness. From such a result Butler shrinks, but he only escapes it by keeping conscience and self-love apart, as separate though alike supreme principles of our nature, a separation which in effect makes conscience objectless and unreal, and reduces self-love from the position of the practical reason to that of an animal instinct of self-preservation.

While benevolence, self-love, and conscience thus stand -102- over against each other, according to Butler's moral psychology, in unexplained relation and unreconciled competition for supremacy, athwart them all conies 'the love of God.' His sermons on this topic are the most interesting part of his writings. It would appear from the accounts of his life that he had some tendency to find in mystical piety an escape from the limitations of a philosophy inadequate to the expression of the spiritual life; and certainly in his sermons his thoughts seem to breathe more freely, and his intellectual pulse to be less sluggish, when he can adopt from the received language of religion ideas for which the philosophy of the time could scarcely afford legitimate place. But the conception which thus inspires him, though it may make his view more adequate to the reality, is a further element of confusion in it. According to his general doctrine, reason and feeling remain asunder as separate parts of our compound nature. The love of our neighbour is treated throughout, even when its end is said to be something so general as the public good, as an 'affection' with the constitution or creation of which reason has nothing to do. The office of reason is merely to consider how the benevolent propension may be best satisfied on the whole. It calculates the means to an end given independently of it. But over and above the virtuous affections, according to Butler, there is an affection for these affections, as they are thought upon. The merciful man loves mercy. This must be an affection which reason not only directs but creates, and with which it remains in absolute fusion. Its object, as Butler describes it, is nothing sensible. It is evoked indeed by the contemplation of such goodness as we actually experience among men, but is only satisfied by the idea of the perfect goodness that is in God. It takes us not out of ourselves; it is as much our own as the most vulgar appetite; yet through it 'our will may be lost and resolved up into God's.' Such 'resolution' or 'resignation' of the will is the parent of all high thinking and acting. It carries with it hope and fear and love in their purest spiritual form; it involves all virtue, for it is the recognition of the divine order of the world which it is our privilege to enact.

The above is quite a fair condensation of Butler's language on this high theme. Yet here we find strangely reappearing, in the midst of a moral theory adapted to the psychology -103- according to Locke, a conception which is none other than that of the beatific vision; of Spinoza's Amor Intellectualis; of the Platonic idea of good, the contemplation of which is the final goal of love, and which, once seen, transforms the actions of men to its likeness. How is such an intrusive conception to adjust itself to its surroundings? The love of perfect goodness, or God, if real, can clearly hold no second place in the nature of man. Is it to be added as one more 'superior principle' alongside of the other three to which that title has already been given? or is it one in which the other three are reconciled? We may say, indeed, that the intellectual love for goodness, as such, can be only another form of 'conscience,' as the faculty which approves or disapproves of actions; that in this new form 'conscience' is no longer liable to the dilemma that it either is void of an object with reference to which it may approve and disapprove, or finds one in personal pleasure, for it has the required object in the idea of completeness, which, as reason, it presents to itself, and which, as desire, it seeks to realise in action. We may say, further, that the 'love of goodness' includes at once self-love and the love of our neighbour, which in it become identical with each other; for in its perfection, according to Butler, it means the resolution of the individual will into the divine, which is a will for the good of all men; and when this consummation is attained, since the will is the self, consciously to love and live for God must be consciously to love and live for at once one's-self and humanity. We have but to take one step more to discern that this resolution of the love of self into the love of others or of goodness, is not a result suddenly or exceptionally achieved, but that man, as self-loving, or an object to himself, i.e. as rational, ever tends to inform the world which his desires constitute or create with a unity like his own; that thus he becomes the author of custom and law, of families, nations, and states, which make the good of one the good of all, and the interest in which is identical with the interest in one's self. If this be so, the weakness that seemed to attach to conscience in its abstraction, as an inert faculty of judgment, is done away. It need no longer be wailed over, in Butler's language, as that which, 'if only it had strength, as it has authority, would rule the world.' As the self-seeking reason which creates order as its own expression, it has actually constructed the system of the social and moral world, which, though the consciousness of it -104- in the individual be but as a remote unheeded voice, yet works through him when he seems to be following his own lust and imagination.

In saying this for Butler, however, we are crediting him with a unity of system which is not in him. He was content to leave the moral nature a cross of unreconciled principles. To trace them to a unity, either of source or of result, was impossible to one who presupposed the psychology of Locke, unless on condition of ignoring the true character of their opposition. By reducing the idea of duty, and the love of God and man, to a disguised selfishness, he might have done it, but from this his religion saved him. His value as an ethical writer is due to the same cause which makes his speculation perplexed and self-contradictory. A shallower and narrower view of the moral life would have fitted more neatly into the received theory of knowledge of the soul, which alone he had at command. Popular philosophy was too strong for him. Its division of the soul into reason and feeling as mutually exclusive 'parts,' its doctrine that the reality of spiritual processes may be known by observing what goes on 'within one's own breast,' are incompatible with any just view of the process by which the actual moral world has been created, and which it involves; for it is of the essence of this process that, in a true sense, the whole is in every part of it, and the 'heart' of the individual, though the deposit of its results, belies the source whence they come.

Man reads back into himself, so to speak, the distinctions which have issued from him, and which he finds in language. In this retranslation he changes the fluidity which belongs to them in language, where they represent ever-shifting attitudes of thought and perpetually cross each other, for the fixedness of separate things. He has suffered, and said 'I feel'; has contrived means to escape his suffering, and said 'I think'; but it has been the 'I' that has felt as well as thought, and has thought in its feeling. Otherwise the suffering, itself transitory, could not have been retained as a permanent object of consciousness, and, as such, named. The man, in suffering, has at once distinguished the suffering self from, and held it in relation to, himself; i.e. has thought. In other words, the feeling has been that of a subject reflecting on himself, and in no other form can man know it. But -105- the privilege of self-consciousness brings with it the privilege of self-deception. It is only as fixed by relation to a permanent subject, that passing acts and sufferings are substantiated in language, but as thus substantiated they seem to have a separate reality of their own apart from this relation.

Then, when man has reached the further or philosophic stage of reflection on self, when he begins to ask himself what his own nature is, he observes and classifies them as he might things in the outward world, in fancied separation from the self-conscious activity in virtue of which alone they are there to be observed. They are put on one side as 'feelings,' thought or reason on the other, and it is asked what is the function of each according to our inward experience. The feelings are taken as they are given in this experience, which means, since this experience is an intelligent one, that they are taken as already formed by thought, or (in technical language) as already subject to the categories. Thus, as constituents of knowledge, they are assumed either to be copies of, or to be themselves, permanent cognisable things. As sources of moral action ('passions' or 'emotions'), they are taken to be either permanent objects of consciousness, or to be consciously caused by such objects, or to involve the idea ofvthem.1 Of intelligent experience itself no analysis is made, and hence it is not seen that, thus taken, the feelings are already transformed from the merely natural or animal state, that they already involve reason, and that it is only because they do so that we can have an intelligent experience of them. So much having been unawares assigned to the feelings, and it being assumed that what is done by them is not done by reason, there remains no office for reason but in speculation to combine them, and in action so to adjust them in relation to each other and the natural world, as to secure their being pleasant on the whole; or, as Hume announced in a formula that sticks to one, 'reason is and ought to be only the slave of the passions.'

Hume had the true philosophic instinct of consistency, and the ambition to do for the unsorted principles of the current ethics what Copernicus had done for the intricacies of the Ptolemaic astronomy. In him the doctrines of the popular philosophy are made consistent with themselves, and -106- thoroughly worked out. For that very reason, probably, his doctrine has never been itself popular, since to make such philosophy consistent with itself is to make it offensive to the 'heart,' to destroy its adaptation to the many sides of practical life, to render it unavailable as rhetoric. His greatest and only systematic work on philosophy, The Treatise of Human Nature, fell, as he tells us, 'dead-born from the press,' and has always been better known in Germany than in England. Yet it is absolutely the last word of the philosophy of Locke. If in any of its doctrines as to knowledge or virtue it has been considerably added to or modified by the subsequent disciples of the same school, this result, however practically desirable, has only been attained at the cost of speculative confusion and inconsistency.

Good and evil, according to Hume, always mean pleasure and pain, either as actually felt or as anticipated. Pleasure and pain, again, are ultimately impressions on the bodily organs, or, in Hume's technical language, impressions of sensation. Of these 'copies are taken by the mind,' called ideas; and as thus copied, the primary impressions of sensation give rise to 'impressions of reflection,' to the 'direct passions' of desire and aversion, hope and fear. These, again, may be copied, or converted into ideas, by memory and imagination, and so cause new impressions of reflection. Meanwhile there is gradually formed the idea of self, which means simply 'that succession of related ideas and impressions of which we have an intimate memory and consciousness.' This causes a further modification of the 'direct passions.' If the object which excites them be one closely related to or forming part of ourselves, there result 'indirect passions'; of pride, if the direct passion be desire or hope; of humility, if the direct passion be aversion or fear. In like manner, 'ideas' of other 'thinking persons' having been copied on the mind, if the object exciting the direct passion be one closely related to some other thinking person, there results the indirect passion of love or hatred. In these indirect passions, however, the direct passions, though qualified, are not lost, but intensified.

These passions, according to Hume, either as simple or as complicated with each other, and having their range indefinitely extended by sympathy and the association of ideas, are the causes of all the actions of men. Reason neither has anything to do with their constitution, nor can it conflict -107- with them. It gives nothing, originates nothing. As in regard to knowledge it merely has to do with the relation of given 'ideas' to each other, either in the way of agreement and disagreement or of cause and effect, so in regard to action it merely has to calculate the means to a pleasure that is desired or hoped for, and discover the cause of a pain that is disliked or feared. The mere passion can never be either reasonable or unreasonable, and is always the ultimate cause of the action, which, however, may become unreasonable through a mistake in some mediate judgment. The will is merely a passion consciously related to an act.2 Because a mere passion, it (and through it the act) is determined as necessarily by pain or pleasure as any so-called physical effect by its cause. Since neither in the one case nor the other has the cause any compulsive power in relation to the effect, this necessity in the operation of passion is quite compatible with the 'spontaneity' of which we are conscious.

So much for an account of the way in which we do act. How do we come to speak of a way in which we ought to act, of rights and obligations? The answer is quite consistent. Pain and pleasure are the primary causes of vice and virtue. 'By a primary constitution of nature' certain characters and passions, and certain acts as the expression of character and passion, 'by the very view and contemplation produce a pain, and others, in like manner, excite a pleasure.' It is solely in virtue of this pleasure or pain which character or acts excite 'upon the mere survey,' that they are either virtuous or vicious. The pain and pleasure 'are not only inseparable from vice and virtue, but constitute their very nature and essence.' The faculty through which they are felt is the moral sense. A further question, however, arises: Are the pain and pleasure under consideration primary, and therefore unaccountable, or can they be accounted for by any uniform property in the acts and passions, the mere survey of which excites them? Hume adopts the latter alternative. It is always the pleasure or pain caused mediately or immediately by the act or passion that makes us feel pleasure or pain in the survey of it; i.e. that makes it virtuous or vicious. -108-

There are many acts, it is true, arising from obedience to laws, which the moral sense approves, and which yet cause no apparent pleasure to any one. These are acts 'artificially virtuous.' The selfishness of man, as Hobbes had said and Hume agreed, made the state of nature unbearable. Thus laws, states, and sovereignties were formed, which, though a limitation on the pleasures of each, secure a maximum of pleasure for all. An act of disobedience to law, therefore, though causing no pain in itself, is disapproved by the moral sense, because known to be in conflict with an institution the maintenance of which is known to be the condition of the greatest pleasure consistent with the limited generosity of men. If the pain resulting from the act of disobedience seem at first too indirect and remote to account for our sense of disapprobation, we must remember the influence of 'sympathy with a general uneasiness,' such uneasiness as is caused by violation of law, and of the artifice of politicians in fostering that and kindred sympathies. No such explanation is needed with regard to acts 'naturally virtuous.' These are acts which cause immediate pleasure to the doer or to others, and, in consequence, excite pleasure on the contemplation. The contemplator of the act, it is to be observed, whose moral sense is gratified by it, is always supposed by Hume, as by his disciple Adam Smith, to be other than the doer of it; the special reference to one's own acts, which other writers had ascribed to conscience, being thus precisely reversed. As, in order that an act may cause satisfaction on the contemplation, the pleasure arising from it must be not exceptional, but general, the contemplator regards not the pleasure which it produces, or is calculated to produce to himself, which may be unlike its effect on others, but that which it produces to the doer or those connected with him, this being one which appears uniform to the spectators of the act, though it may be quite otherwise to the doer himself. In brief, its pleasantness makes an act or character virtuous; not, however, directly, but through the medium of a further pleasure arising on contemplation of the first. In other words, the pleasure which makes an act virtuous must not be one arising from it merely in this case or that, but one generally associated with it in the contemplation of a being who 'looks before and after.'

This system is perfectly neat and easy. It is the necessary result of the Epicurean principle, ἐν τῷ πάθει ὁ κανών. But -109- it raises awkward questions. The virtue of an act or character, according to it, is nothing in the act or character itself, any more than sound or colour, or other 'secondary qualities,' are in things themselves. Their 'esse' consists in the 'percipi'; and that not a 'percipi' by the doer of the act, or the owner of the character, but by others. As Berkeley had previously shown, a mere feeling gives nothing beyond itself. It represents no quality in things, though, on reflection, we may refer it to such a quality as its cause. Thus the mere feeling of satisfaction in the beholder, which constitutes an act virtuous, represents nothing in the act itself. The quality in the act itself that causes the 'moral' feeling, is the pleasure known to result from it to the doer or to others. This pleasure, not the virtuousness of the act — not, that is, the other pleasure which it causes upon the mere survey, and which supposes it to have been previously done — is the actual motive to the doer for doing it. To represent the virtuous act as done because it is so, or 'for virtue's sake,' is either nonsense, as supposing that to be the motive of the act which can only follow it, or else means that the act is done for the sake of the impression it makes on spectators, i.e. for reputation's sake.

We must cease then to speak of an idea of duty as a possible motive to or even restraint upon action, if we mean anything more by it than a regard to reputation, and to this only as a source of pleasure. It will not help us out of the difficulty to say, that the fulfillment of duty is itself a pleasure. to the good man, and thus, like any other pleasure, an object of desire, and in consequence a motive of action. Something must have induced the man to do his duty, before he could find pleasure in doing it. What was this? Not any idea originated by the reason, for of that the psychology of Locke does not allow, but a desired good or pleasure, which must have been either a simple sensuous impression, or the result of such impression. When the act has been done and been found to give pleasure to others on the contemplation, it may be done again for the sake of the pleasure to himself, which the doer derives from this secondary pleasure, i.e. from the satisfaction of his own love of approbation, and this he calls finding pleasure in doing his duty. How then, according to Hume, are we to account for our doing acts unpleasant in themselves 'from a sense of obligation'? Simply thus; such acts are obligatory as being'artificially virtuous' in the sense -110- explained above. It is not, however, for their obligatoriness that we do them, but from a sense of interest, more or less distinct, and desire for ultimate pleasure, strengthened by a sympathy with the feeling of society about them, which makes their omission painful.

The virtuous act, then, being never done for the sake of its virtue, which is a quality relative to the contemplator, not to the doer, but always either to obtain a pleasure or avert a pain, whether immediate or remote, the question arises, How is vice possible? The viciousness, according to Hume, of an act, like its virtue, lies not in the 'esse' but the 'percipi.' It is vicious, because it gives pain on the contemplation, and the reason why it does so, is that in the doing, or its results, it causes pain or prevents pleasure to the doer or to others. How is such an act possible, on the supposition (necessary to Hume's philosophy) that every act results from the desire for pleasure, or aversion to pain? The only answer can be, that the particular present pleasure is an object of stronger desire than the general and more remote; and that the pleasure desired is always one's own, though through the action of sympathy it may sometimes involve that of others. If, then, the present pleasure happens to be inconsistent with the more general or remote, or one's own with that of other men, a vicious act ensues. If the doer of it asks, 'Why should I not prefer the present pleasure, which I violently desire, to the remote which I scarcely desire at all, and my own pleasure to another's?' the answer must be, 'You inevitably do so prefer it, and the phrase ought or ought not does not express any relation of the act to you, but its relation to the beholders.' In short, we must get rid of the notion that it is essential to a vicious act to be done in conscious violation of the law within the doer's self, which he is free to obey. A similar purgation must be applied to our notions of the selfish and unselfish. If a selfish act means one done from an idea of one's own general good, then no acts are selfish. If it means one done for the sake of some pleasure accruing from it to one's-self, then all acts are selfish. The distinction between the selfish and unselfish, in fact, only finds its way at all into Hume's system at the cost of marring its unity. Selfishness is treated as the opposite of benevolence, or the desire for the happiness of others, and the latter, he sometimes admits, must be taken as 'an original -111- principle of our nature,' not to be reduced to the desire for pleasure or aversion from pain. Sympathy, however (another 'principle of our nature' which does duty whenever it is wanted), may be represented as identifying the pleasure of another with one's own, and will thus account for acts, which, as not done for one's own pleasure merely, may be called unselfish.

Such results may be unlovely, but they are the logical consequence of a psychology which, separating reason and feeling, regards feeling as the sole originator of action, and reason as its minister. Adam Smith only made them more palatable by disguising them, by introducing more 'original principles of our nature,' such as the sense of propriety, and giving a further loose to the already indefinite range of 'sympathy.' Though Hume's original statement of them, in scientific simplicity, met with little recognition, they were virtually the received doctrines of the educated classes in France and England during the last century. Adapted to the requirements of public spirit, and illogically modified in the adaptation, they have become, under the name 'Utilitarianism,' the permanent practical theory of men of the world. In confused conflict with other principles, more elevated perhaps, but less able to account for themselves, while the appeal is still to the 'heart,' they have been wrought into the rhetoricised philosophy of the press, the pulpit, and the platform, to become the source of much undemonstrative agony at the times when speculation comes home to life.

So far then the claim of the modern spirit to enjoy life with understanding results in the conviction 'I always do what pleases me because it pleases me, and it is impossible that I should do otherwise.' Unfortunately this result comes into necessary conflict with its other claim to be free. The burden of moral obligation is got rid of in the philosophy of Hume, but only to be replaced by that of natural necessity. Man does as he pleases, but so does a horse out of harness; the pleasure in each case is, or naturally results from, a natural sensation. He acts spontaneously, as the horse when it races 'from emulation'; not under compulsion, as a horse when it is driven. He has 'ideas,' as well as impressions, he knows what will please him, but it is as the ass knows his master's crib. He has a natural sympathy, which makes another's pleasure as his own, but dogs show the same -112- in the chase. 'Interrogate consciousness' which way you will, according to Hume, make the primary principles as many as you will, they still 'answer mere nature.' Such an answer, however, gives the lie to the very impulse that caused the question to be asked, too strongly to be acquiesced in. Unless man had consciously detached himself from nature, no 'Treatise of Human Nature' could have been written. He would not be trying to account to himself for his own moral life, even by reducing it to a natural one; would not be asking what nature is to him or he to nature, if he were merely the passive receptacle of natural impressions, and not at the same time constructive and free.

There is of course some justification for regarding the knowledge of nature in the received way as simply an analysis of a given material, though the critical philosophy has shown that, inasmuch as nature can only be known under categories supplied by thought, even in this knowledge we are not properly receptive, but constructive. But in seeking to know the moral world, man is dealing with a world which he has made for himself. No one asserts this more strongly than Hume, when he is maintaining the 'artificial' character of the most essential social virtues. Everything that makes human life human, the institutions by which 'Relations dear, and all the charities Of husband, son, and brother first were known'; which create honour and dishonour, loyalty and disloyalty, justice and injustice; which make it possible to die for one's country or be false to it; to sacrifice one's self to a cause or a cause to one's self, to defraud the fatherless and widow or befriend them, — all these the animals know not. They are not primary but derived, not given by nature but constituted by man. We say, indeed, that laws are not made, but grow. This, however, merely means that they are the expression of previously existing relations. These relations themselves are only possible to a being that can consciously make new conditions for itself, and is therefore not properly 'natural.' The 'natural' is determined to motion either from without, or if (as in the case of animals) from within, yet by a principle within which it cannot distinguish from and present to itself. The development of man, on the other hand, necessarily implies that he is determined by a self at once individual and all-capacious, like nothing in nature, and which he can detach from its actual condition to present to himself -113- as a form for which a new content, a power for which a new realisation, may be won in the future. The moral world, therefore, cannot be truly known by an imaginary analysis of 'natural' feelings and faculties. To know it must mean to reconstruct it in thought, i.e. to take the bare principle of self-consciousness, which has alike made our feelings what they are, and set us upon knowing them, and follow its gradual realisation in actual morality.

It was not, however, from any explicit discovery of the radical flaw in its method that the natural philosophy of man got into difficulties, but from the action within it of the free self-consciousness which it really expressed, but ostensibly ignored. The great name which represents this action is that of Rousseau. His philosophic nurture was solely that of the school of Locke. Of other philosophy his ignorance was either absolute, or at least the secondary ignorance of antipathy. 'I abhor Spinoza,' he said of himself, and the abhorrence of Spinoza meant an abhorrence of the whole system of thought which absorbs sentiment in reason. But in him the philosophy of feeling became the food of a spirit which dealt with it in a way quite unknown to the healthy men of the world, who discussed the difference between their 'impressions of reflection' with the same calmness as the distinct flavours of the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux, to which they assimilated them. It was now the heritage of a brooding eremite, subject to no vows of abstinence or obedience, and whose hermitage was the world. This, however, was the legitimate, the necessary fate of a system which, itself the product of a high-wrought self-consciousness, pronounced the self 'a succession of sensations'; and which, while it reasoned upon the world of duties and obligations, derationalised it by making the satisfaction of an appetite or a sentiment its origin and end. Self-consciousness believing itself to be a mode of passion, becomes passionate, and, as such, willful, exclusive, indecent, defiant of gods and men, 'savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust.'

The simple passions, on the other hand, wrought by this self-belying self-consciousness into a system which, if not a harmony, must be a discord, become morbid, contradictory, 'in having still in quest to have.' The man who, in following the mere motion of nature, has asked himself the question, 'Why should I not?' has proved that he is not the child of nature by the -114- most fatal gift of thinking humanity. Henceforth he is at once self-asserting and self-condemned, insolent and unhappy. If his pleasure is merely that of the most gifted of the animals, his misery is a peculiar and absolutely original privilege. The Confessions of Rousseau are thus not to be regarded merely as the expression of an idiosyncrasy. In virtue of his idiosyncrasy and genius he stood to the philosophy of feeling in the same relation in which the great men of action are said to stand to their several ages. He expressed it in its clearest essence and its fullest force, and, at the same time, to the eye of the historian of philosophy, he wound it up. It has retained, indeed, as we have already said, a permanent hold on popular thought, but, since Rousseau, philosophy proper has left it behind, and is interested in it only as an element in the past, which it has itself absorbed. The 'good, sound, roundabout sense' of Locke has its legitimate child in the sentimentality of Rousseau, and this sentimentality in indecency; but the grave of them all is the recognition of the constructive energy of reason. It was because this recognition, though but in abstract glimpses,3 had forced itself on the introspective gaze of Rousseau, that he was a heretic among the contemporary philosophes, yet contributed directly to the new birth of speculation that was gathering shape in the brain of the remote professor at Königsberg. On his sentimental and indecent side, Rousseau does not outwardly differ from other French philosophes, save that his sentiment is more real and his indecency less gross. But in him,

'An apprehension clear, intense,
Of his mind's work, had made alive
The things it wrought on; I believe
Wakening a sort of thought in sense.'

Or rather the thought that is always in sense, as man knows it, had in him attained the utmost intensity of self-consciousness, yet still believing individual sentiment to be its sole source and object, it became monstrous as a drunken god. Instead of recognising in the objective world of art and of religious and moral institutions its sole adequate realisation, it sought to find it in mere personal feelings, where yet its misery proclaimed that its rest was not. Thus it grew loud in its -115- licence, and glorified itself in grossness. For true art it substituted that which modern newspaper critics call the 'photography of passion,' — not, however, of simple passion, for that, properly speaking, has no features by which to be photographed, but of passion warped and subtilised by a misdirected self-consciousness. In this aberration, it became the fountain of the modern poetry of indecency, which, if denounced by the popular philosophy, can always reply to it with a stone from its own sling. If mere feeling has a value or reality, if, as that philosophy supposes, it is the ultimate spring of our inward life, why should not all its varieties be photographed in their nakedness? De sensibus non est disputandum. If that which is to you a stink is to me a savour of delight, why should I not utter my delight before all Israel and the sun, shaking a puny fist at all who would silence me? Custom is against me, but is itself the child of sense and sympathy: my altered sense, winning a new sympathy, may beget another custom. A different philosophy indeed might answer that art has no meaning except as the realisation of an idea of perfection, to which sense only supplies the material; that to represent the passions in naked simplicity is impossible, for as such they are at once dumb themselves and indescribable, nor can the attempt to do so produce anything but the mean or the monstrous; that not in themselves, but only as absorbed in will or thought or spiritualised nature — only either as issuing in heroic act, or as making way in collision with each other and destiny for a peace that is not in them, or as breathed into the life of nature and from it taking beauty and repose — are the passions fit material for art at all; that thus not passion but the 'high reason of his fancies' makes the poet.

Such an answer, however, the philosophy that makes 'reason the slave of passion' cannot give. Nor can it supply any effective defence of established manners against the willfulness of self-conscious sentiment. Such sentiment finds itself girt about with the results of what its masters have taught it to call 'artifice,' whose domain seems to reach further and further back as reflection extends itself, till the 'natural virtues disappear.' For this artifice it cannot satisfactorily account. The free principle of construction, which is the source of the 'artifice' of morals, is the same as that which, converting simple passion into self-will, conies into -110- inevitable collision with its own artificial creation. Just because it is a principle of construction it is also one of negation, and from the war in the members which results there is no escape, till from the denial of the authority of an alien law it goes on to deny its own mere individuality, and to find its own expression in the law which it had before resented. To this double denial, however, the philosophy of Rousseau was inadequate. Custom lay upon him with a weight, not 'almost' but altogether 'deep' as the moral life. No sentiment could comprehend it; the reason which underlay it could be 'envisaged' by no definite act of imagination. His antithetical logic did not allow him to conceive that the very individuality which he hugged was unreal, except so far as generalised by the relations to others which custom embodies. But self-consciousness, when it has reached such strength as it had in Rousseau, will tolerate no 'mystery.' That to which its logic is inadequate, that which it cannot rationalise, is alien and a bondage. The coil of custom, therefore, was to be shuffled off, and nature left to herself. The dearest ties of family were to be got rid of as much as the swaddling-bands which restrain the free motion of infancy. Some moral desert was to be found or created, where the pure personality might develop itself in mere abstraction.

Rousseau thus became the father of Jacobinism. The philosophy of feeling which to Hume had been the vindication of absolutism, had by a necessary process recoiled upon itself. Feeling having been pronounced the sole principle of action, had turned out inadequate to account for law and morality. 'Artifice,' itself unaccounted for, had been introduced to account for them, but to it feeling, being really self-consciousness under the limitations of sentiment, could not adjust itself, and proceeded to assert its admitted supremacy by tearing artifice to pieces. Before the trumpet-blast of natural right 'temple and tower went to the ground.' Burke pleaded the ancient rights in vain, though with a power which has made all subsequent conservative writing superfluous and tedious. Notwithstanding his violence and one-sidedness, he had so much of the true philosophic insight that he almost alone among the men of his time caught the intellectual essence of the system which provoked him. He saw that it rested on a metaphysical mistake, on an attempt to abstract the individual from his universal essence, i.e. from -117- the relations embodied in habitudes and institutions which make him what he is; and that thus to unclothe man, if it were possible, would be to animalise him. He saw this without any of the qualifying haze which makes ordinary men 'moderate' except when their private interests are concerned, and let fly at the delusion with a speculative fury which to unspeculative persons at the time, who feared Jacobinism for their estates, seemed almost inspired, but has led persons of the same sort since to pronounce him mad. He did not indeed reflect, as a deeper philosopher might have done, that there is a wisdom in the world wiser than the world itself wots of, and that the wild outburst of willfulness, which seemed to be tearing up the clothes of humanity, was really powerless to destroy, and was but refashioning the old order into one thai reason could more easily recognise as its own. The present generation can see this result, but speculatively seems little the wiser for it. The fabric of European society stands apparently square and strong on a basis of decent actual equity, but no adequate rationale of this equity is generally recognised. The hedonism of Hume has been turned into utilitarianism, the Jacobinism of Rousseau into a gentle liberalism, but neither ism could save the 'culture' of England, in the great struggle between willfulness and social right across the Atlantic, from taking sides with the willfulness. Whatever might be the case practically, it had not learnt speculatively that freedom means something else than doing what one likes. A philosophy based on feeling was still playing the anarch in its thoughts.

Burke was not a prophet, and died protesting against the inevitable. He saw the rottenness in which the 'metaphysics' of the eighteenth century resulted, but had nothing with which to replace them. The practical reconstruction of moral ideas in England was to come, not directly from a sounder philosophy, but from the deeper views of life which the contemplative poets originated, from the revival of evangelical religion, and from the conception of freedom and right, which Rousseau himself popularised, and which even in his hands had a constructive as well as an anarchical import. These three influences, however superficially unlike, have yet this in common, that they tend to rid the consciousness of its self-imposed individual limitations. The man to whom nature has become human, who has recognised either -118- a kingdom of God or a power of eternal death within him, who has found in a free state not a mere organisation for satisfying his wants, but an object of interest identical with his interest in himself, such an one has escaped by the true 'solvitur ambulando' from the hard lines within which sophists would confine him. He has already for himself answered the question whether it is he that is natural, or nature that is unconsciously spiritual; has practically decided that he is not the passive result of outward impressions, but self-determined, and therefore partaker of the divine infinity; has universalised his individual self up to the measure of the universe of man's affairs. But he still needs the theory of his own greatness. If in a theoretic age like ours such a theory is not achieved, the very fulness of moral and artistic life only thickens the speculative chaos.

In England, it was specially Wordsworth who delivered literature from bondage to the philosophy that had naturalised man. This may at first sight seem a paradoxical statement of the relation between one known popularly as the 'poet of nature' and a system which had magnified 'artifice.' It is not so really. It was because the natural philosophy of man, anatomising him into an aggregate of passions served by intelligence, had ignored the principle of construction, regular at once and free, within him, that as it reduced morals to artifice, so it reduced art to a device for producing agreeable sensations. It could as little account for the device as find any law of beauty in its results. For some time, however, it might disguise its incompetence. While the plastic arts alone, or even epic and dramatic poetry, were in question, it might shelter itself under the sonorous absurdity that man is an 'imitative and inventive species,' to whom the artificial copying of sensations has a pleasure of its own. For a criticism of the beautiful, while the fingering of sensations still retained some freshness of interest, the 'I like' and 'I don't like,' under many variations, might still do plausible duty. Even in this region of art, however, the rise of a real artist, who has reflected on his art, of one who, like Reynolds, was conscious of an ideal, 'which eye had not seen nor tongue spoken, which he was always labouring to express, but must die at last without expressing,' made the theory of mere taste and imitation palpably inadequate. The reawakening of the lyric interest in nature with that intensity of self-reflection -119- which belonged to Wordsworth, gave it the final quietus. It was a proof not to be gainsaid that nature was something more to man than nature would herself explain. The natural man is the passive man, and it is not to the passive man that nature has herself passion, much less beauty and greatness in her passion, but to the creative.

The creative power in Wordsworth had neither a wide range nor a happy spontaneity. But it was deep and strong, and thoroughly understood its own depth and strength. With the nameless poetic inspiration,

'The spirit that like wind doth blow,
As it listeth, to and fro,'

such understanding might be scarcely consistent; but it supplied an inexhaustible fund of antagonism to the philosophy which wrapped the soul up in a 'sensual fleece' against the universe, and an art which only set it free by artifice. He knew the wealth of his own spirit, giving when it received and receiving when it gave; that it had kindliness to waste on stocks or stones or the vacant air, yet fed itself in passiveness; that through eye and ear it drank the soul of things, yet in doing so came to that which was its own. Thus for him the fusion of the outward and inward was already consciously achieved, and thought released from self-imposed bondage to the metaphor of impression and the abstraction of individuality. It was not 'within his own breast' that he had read what he was, but in the open scroll of the world, of the world, however, as written within and without by a self-conscious and self-determining spirit. To say this of him is, of course, saying no more than that he was a true poet, and poets quite as true might not have effected the practical revolution in thought which he did. That which specially fitted him for this work was the explicitness with which, in contemplative detachment, he recognised the nature of his own power and wrought its creations into definite ideas. A fuller or more rushing inspiration might have been less able to account for itself or appreciate its own philosophic import. As it was, he clearly saw that the philosophy resting on the mere passivity and individuality of man gave no room for his own poetic achievement, and met it with the answer of a fait accompli: -120-

'His verse was clear, and came
Announcing from the frozen hearth
Of a cold age, that none might tame
The soul of that diviner flame
It augured to the earth.'

It was not, however, properly an augury, but an interpretation. It led man up to the recognition of his own greatness, as universalised by communion with nature and intercourse with his kind. It was conversant, not with subtleties of the imagination, but with the great, the obvious, the habitual, with the common earth, the universal sky, the waters rolling evermore, the abiding social powers that lift man out of his animal self, and render him 'magnanimous to correspond with heaven'; with these restored to the ancient glory that belongs to them in their intelligible relations, but from which the prone and poring gaze of a false philosophy had during a century of conceit been diverted. Hence the clearness and strength of the new utterance; hence the response more free and full than itself which it elicited from Shelley; hence, too, the value which it still retains in a society that mistakes sophistication for thought.

An evangelical Christian will commonly sum up his objections to philosophy in the statement that the philosopher does not know what sin, or, by consequence, what the righteousness of God, is.There is a sense, no doubt, in which this is true of philosophy in every form. To believe is not the same thing as to account for one's belief, any more than to be an artist or to be moral is the same thing as to give an account of one's art or morality. Thus the practical religious experience, in vibration between its two poles of conscious sin and foretasted righteousness, is distinct from that interpretation of the experience, as not a mere unaccountable feeling of individuals, but a necessary result of the manifestation of the divine spirit in time, which it is the office of philosophy to give. But as the interpretation presupposes the experience, so, unless interpreted, the experience is liable to self-limitation and self-deceit. It is only a false abstraction of one from the other, reducing religion to an emotion and philosophy to a formula, that brings them into antagonism. The high function claimed for philosophy by Plato, Spinoza, or Hegel, seems ridiculous or blasphemous to an ordinary man, because he thinks of it as a mere intellectual exercise of this or that -121- person's brain, which, may be pursued in as complete independence of religion as a geometrical problem. Regard religion in the same way as the experience of this or that individual 'heart,' and it must seem not necessarily to rt suit in any philosophical theory of itself. Regarded, however, in their truth, in that fulness of their tendencies and relations which can be seen only in the history of thought, while religion is found constantly interpreting itself into philosophy through a middle stage of theology, philosophy on its part is seen to be the effort towards self-recognition of that spiritual life of the world, which fulfills itself in many ways but most completely in the Christian religion, and to be thus related to religion as the flower to the leaf.

The formulae of the self-recognition, however, may be inadequate to the life. They may confine instead of expressing it. Such was the relation of eighteenth-century philosophy — the philosophy par excellence in popular apprehension — to the religious life as it had been actually realised by mankind. It was not merely, as theoretical, a different attitude of the spirit from the religious life, as practical; it was incapable of a theory of that life. Its 'moral sense,' however construed, could account for nothing beyond distaste at an observed predominance of unsympathetic over generous passions, or regret for a mistaken calculation of the balance between possible pains and pleasures. Between such distaste or regret, and the consciousness of sin, the chasm is immeasurable. It is of the very essence of this consciousness, as exhibited in the history of religion, to be quite independent of definite acts of vice. It is the consciousness of an infinite vacancy only possible to a being capable of an infinite fulness, and either this must be accounted for, or the whole history of religion from St. Paul downwards erased. Only if we recognise in man a spirit properly infinite, because an object to itself, but which has gradually and with perpetual incompleteness to realise its infinite capacity, does this form of religious experience, of which all other forms are modifications, become explicable. We then understand the spiritual hunger which, trying to satisfy itself with 'works of the law,' with a special and limited righteousness, does but quicken the consciousness of vacancy, till it opens the soul to the anticipatory appropriation of that righteousness of God, which is being gradually enacted in the world. When -122- in western Christendom the spiritual form of religion began to emerge again from the shell of ecclesiasticism, it naturally resumed to some extent the Pauline vesture. A spiritual religion is of necessity a religion of the individual, and as such it was recognised at the Reformation. With this recognition St. Paul's language regained for a time some of its meaning. But how does the individual interpret himself? As a succession of pains and pleasures gathered into unity, or as the dwelling-place of a spirit that filleth and searcheth all things? On the answer given to this question depends, in an age of reflection, the possibility of reading the New Testament in any of its original significance. Among the countrymen of Luther, the latter interpretation was never wholly lost sight of; but it was otherwise in England. When, in the last part of the seventeenth century, upon the final triumph of individual right, there came the great outburst of personal enjoyment theorising upon itself, the logic of limitation and exclusion silenced the groanings unutterable of the spirit. For a century or more it had its way. When the consciousness of sin, with its corollaries, again took hold on men's minds, it came into inevitable collision with the current philosophy. 'The dislike of men of taste to evangelical religion,' which John Forster wrote a treatise to remove, rested on a deeper ground than any eccentricities in the religion, or any misapprehension of it on the part of men of taste. It had a real connection with the outcry from men of the same sort against the new lyrical poetry. Each arose from the impossibility of adjusting the conception of man as a bundle of tastes, and therefore passive, to the real activity of his spirit. If man as an artist, and man as himself a hell or heaven, practically contradicts the philosophy that would confine him within the dark chamber of passive sense, not less certainly, though in more familiar ways, does he do so as a citizen. It is the very familiarity of the contradiction in the latter case that makes it possible for it to be ignored. A theory like Hume's, which derives society and social obligation from passions served by artifice, owes its plausibility to the assumption of the passions as already related to a conscious self and other thinking persons. Only as thus related can they issue even in the most primitive social bonds. The assumption escapes notice, because the utmost investigation of 'one's own breast' can never show them to us in any other -123- character. The relation really presupposes the action of a principle for which sensation, as passive and merely individual, cannot account, but this action, from its very primariness, from its involution in the simplest possible intelligent experience, is ignored, and the formation of civil society, as of personal character, explained as a process of necessity, not rational, but natural. Against such a necessity, however, self-consciousness, when wrought to a certain pitch of intensity, inevitably rebels; and the issue of the rebellion is the recognition of its own work in the system which before oppressed it. Rousseau, as we have seen, represents the rebellion, and in him also the recognition first appears. It was involved in his conception of the state as the result of a volonté générale. This will is distinct, as he conceived it, from the volonté de tons. It is always rational and for good, however imperfectly actual government and law may express it. It is the moi commun from which alone the individual derives the capacity for right, freedom, and duty. As thus in the individual, but not of him, as beyond him in such a way as to be an object of his reverence and love, yet constituting his moral and rational self, it reconciles the three principles — love of self, love of our neighbour, and love of God — which Butler had left asunder. It is a valid principle of construction for that human world of which social relation and self-consciousness are the correlative differentise. Its recognition means that the individual man, after detachment from implicit unity with the social organism into an imaginary self-isolation, has again found himself in it with a new consciousness of its origin and authority. It is true that in Rousseau himself, this conception is only 'shot from a pistol.' It would not, any more than Butler's highest ideas, adjust itself to a logic which treated the 'universal' as a fiction of thought. He saw that the moi commun was the only possible basis for free society, yet the current logic forbade him to regard any such community as other than a kind of invention. Hence his derided doctrine of the Social Pact. Instead of recognising the moi commun as the primary principle, whose operation, however immersed in sense, will alone account for the transformation of animal wants into abiding affections, and thus for the family or any other form of society, he treats it as the result of a contract among 'individual egos,' which yet manifestly presupposes it. Notwithstanding this contradiction, -124- however, and with all its lack of logical apparatus, Rousseau's conception was a power that would work. The quickened consciousness of national life, whose era dates from the declaration of American Independence, has taken from it a form, and given it a reality. The German revival in the days of the 'Tugendbund' was perhaps the clearest proof we have yet had that the modern spirit is being schooled out of its individual egoism, but that revival has reproduced itself, though in more questionable shapes, in all the countries of Europe. Even the English epicureanism has felt the change. To its formula of the 'greatest happiness,' as the object of the moral life, it has added, 'of the greatest number.' If this be construed (as, to secure consistency, it must be) to mean merely that the individual, in living for his own pleasure, is to take account of the pleasure of others as the condition of his own, it is, of course, no essential modification of the doctrine of Hume. But the modern English utilitarian is generally better than his logic. In defiance of Hume and Bentham, he distinguishes higher and lower pleasures by some other criterion than that of quantity, and takes as the object to which 'expediency' is relative a 'good of others,' which involves his own. He is not practically the worse for failing to perceive that to live for such an object is to live, not for the attainment of any sum of agreeable sensations, but for the realisation of an idea, of which the philosophy that starts from feeling can give no account.

'Not practically the worse,' — but man, above all the modern man, must theorise his practice, and the failure adequately to do so, must cripple the practice itself. Hitherto, except from a school of German philosophers, which did not make itself generally intelligible, no adequate theory has been forthcoming, and hence that peculiar characteristic of our times, the scepticism of the best men. Art, religion, and political life have outgrown the nominalistic logic and the psychology of individual introspection; yet the only recognised formulae by which the speculative man can account for them to himself, are derived from that logic and psychology. Thus the more fully he has appropriated the results of the spiritual activity of his time, the more he is baffled in his theory, and to him this means weakness, and the misery of weakness. Meanwhile, pure motive and high aspiration are going for nothing, or issuing only in those wild and fruitless outbursts -125- into action, with which speculative misery sometimes seeks to relieve itself. The prevalence of such a state of mind might be expected at least to excite an interest in a philosophy like that of Hegel, of which it was the professed object to find formulae adequate to the action of reason as exhibited in nature and human society, in art and religion.


1^ One or other of these alternatives it will be found that Hume assumes, in the case alike of the emotions and the direct passions.

2^ The will, with Hume, is 'the internal impression we feel and are conscious of when we knowingly give rise to any new motion of the body or perception of our mind.' Since, according to him, only a passion can give rise to such new motion, the result is that stated above.

3^ See, in particular, the first part of the Profession de Foi du Vicaire Savoyard.

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Thomas Hill Green
British philosopher and social theorist,
an early leader of the British Idealists.
Elected a Fellow of Balliol College, Uiversity of Oxford, 1860, Whyte's Professor of Moral Philosophy, 1878, he died at the young age of 45.



Green, Thomas Hill. Works of Thomas Hill Green, "Miscellanies and Memoir," vol. 3 of 3. K. L. Nettleship, ed., London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1888, pp. 92-125. This work is in the public domain.