Personality and Rationality
IN my last Lecture I took as a provisional definition of Personality the celebrated formula found in the Christological treatise traditionally attributed to Boethius: Naturæ rationabilis individua substantia; and I endeavoured to give some account of the relation of the notion of personality to that of individuality, which enters into this description of its essential nature. I now desire to fix your attention upon another notion which also appears in the same description as an element in Personality, that namely of reason or rationality. As we previously inquired in what respect the individuality of a rational being differs from that of any other, so now we will attempt to discover how reason is modified by being manifested in a personality. But I do not desire by using this expression to commit myself to the implication that Reason in fact exists except as the activity of personal minds.
This inquiry will lead us straight to that part of our discussion in which we shall be concerned with the motives that can be alleged for and the objections that can be brought against ascribing Personality to God. For in examining the discrepancy which we shall presently have to consider between what, as rational and common to all persons or rational beings, takes no account of the distinction of persons, and what on the other hand distinguishes one person or rational being from another, we shall find ourselves dealing with a fact which is the principal inspiration at once of the demand for a personal God and of the reluctance of manyespecially among philosophersto admit the legitimacy of this demand. This I will describe for the moment by a name which, as I hope eventually to show, is in truth inappropriate, but which will notwithstanding serve better perhaps than any other to suggest at the outset the problem which I have in mind. I will call it the irrationality of the personal.
It will, I think, be found most convenient in dealing with this subject not to draw any hard and fast line between the general treatment of it and the special investigation of its bearing on the question of Divine Personality, which is the principal topic of these Lectures.
It will not be denied that many instances may be given of the use of the word personal in our ordinary speechand it is never safe for the philosopher to neglect the testimony of ordinary speechto express what, at least in contrast with something else to which in the context it is opposed, we regard as irrational. Thus we may speak of a personal prejudice which prevents a man agreeing to some plan or approving of some appointment against which he can bring forward no argument based on grounds of reason. No doubt such a personal prejudice is always susceptible of an explanation; it may, for example, be due to some unpleasant association, some instinctive physical repugnance, or what not; but we should not consider these to be in the proper sense reasons for rejecting the plan or refusing to sanction the appointment; though they may be the causes of the prejudiced man's acting as he does. On the other hand, we might say quite naturally that it was a reason for not appointing So-and-so to a certain post that he would not get on with some colleague who had a personal prejudice against him. But the reason here would not be the man's who had the personal prejudice, but somebody else's who was taking that prejudice dispassionately into account.
One can without any difficulty find many similar instances of the use of the word personal for what is, in some particular connexion, to be discounted (like the personal equation in a scientific observation or experiment) before a result can be attained which is fit to form part of the common stock of experience which we call science in the widest sense of this word. We sometimes contrast History with Science as dealing with individuals and for the most part with personswhile science is concerned only with universals, classes, generalities, and so forth. But historians are constantly attracted by the aim of making History scientific and so adding it to the common store of which I have just spoken. The attempt to do this necessarily tends towards the subordination of the personal element or its resolution into what can be represented as intelligible from principles applicable to any person under the circumstances of this one. Thus to the generalizing reason, which is the very breath of what we call Science, Personality is, as it were, a surd; it can at best be represented by a series of characteristics which can never be completed, so as to constitute that very person, and not merely a person of just that kind.
But one may go further. Not only does there thus seem to be something in Personality which refuses to be rationalized by what one may call the scientific understanding with its method of generalization; there may even seem to be something in it irrational from a more strictly philosophical point of view. In my first Lecture, when I was attempting to describe the circumstances which just now specially invited to an investigation of the notion of Personality, I described the embarrassment caused by that notion to the philosophy of an important school of thought, which in recent times has predominated in this country; and I promised that the true reasons of this embarrassment would become more evident at a later stage of our discussion. It is to these reasons that I desire now to call attention.
It was, as I said before, the peculiar task of the school in question to expose the failure of the empirical philosophy which it found in possession and to give such an account of the human mind as would render intelligible its capacity for the very kind of knowledge regarded by that philosophy as the authentic type of genuine and valuable knowledgethat knowledge, namely, which goes by the name of Natural Science. It recalled attention to the relations or principles of synthesis which Kant had designated as forms of sensibility and categories of the understanding, and showed that, apart from these relations or principles of synthesis, the objective validity of which, since the knowledge of them could not be traced to sense-perception, the empirical philosophy could not consistently affirm, there could be for us no nature and therefore no natural science at all.
To recognize this was to acknowledge a unity of consciousness, a spiritual principle, as Green called it, apart from the presence whereof to them all the several sensations, which the empirical philosophers had held to be the sole constitutents of our experience, would each have vanished for ever before another came and so could never have given rise to the perception even of a single object, much less of a world of objects.
There is more than one problem concerning the nature of such a spiritual principle as this which might be raised. But there is only one which I now desire to discuss. And that is the problem of the relation of such a spiritual principle as Green, for example, contended that we must recognize in knowledge to what we call personality.
At first sight, indeed, it might seem that it was just of our personality that Green was speaking. I am a person, not a thing nor yet an animal; for an animal, although conscious, lacks (as we suppose) the capacity to distinguish itself as a permanent consciousness from what to us who observe it are its successive sensations. And it is just because I am thus not a thing, nor merely an animal, but a person that I am aware in myself of this enduring self, which has sensations but is not any one of them nor all of them together, but something of quite another nature than theirs, which is for ever establishing for itself connexions between sensations, and so exhibiting them as factors in its own perception of an enduring world.
But, as one looks closer, it is plain that what Green is thinking of is not personality as I distinguish my personality from that of any of you, but rather the activity which goes on in all minds that think or reason and which, so far as they perceive and reason correctly, must be the same in all. And this does not seem to be what we commonly mean by personality. It seems, indeed, to be a principle of unity in experience, as personality also is, but a different principle, combining experiences in a different order and dividing them into groups on a different plan.
Of these two principles one is the principle which combines premises with the conclusions which follow from them, the thought of causes with the thought of their effects, the members of series with what comes next to them in mathematical or logical order. It distinguishes logical priority from temporal, mere sequence from necessary connexion, one kind of subject or department of knowledge from another, and so forth. It holds together in one system the experience of all rational beings; one such being has no more right in it than another, though one may, so to say, through greater or less vigour of mind, or more or less abundant opportunity, be able to make more or less use of it than his fellows. It is this principle of which Green is, I take it, usually thinking when he speaks of his spiritual principle in experience. No one would deny to this principle the name of Reason.
The other principle combines and disjoins experiences on quite a different plan. It combines all sensations, perceptions, thoughts which I call mine together, as mine, no matter how little logical or generally intelligible connexion they may have with one another. It divides all sensations, perceptions, thoughts of yours from all of mine, no matter how closely they may resemble mine. If, by communication through speech or writing or otherwise, my thoughts are conveyed to you, or yours to me, according to this principle they must be reckoned twice over, as yours and as mine, although their content be identical. Now we must not ignore the fact that a person's thoughts and actions are at any rate no less personal when they are guided by reason, and from grounds which all thinking men would understand and approve, than when they are most whimsical and capricious or depend upon considerations of purely private concern. But we are apt to use the word personal most often as an epithet for motives or interests which are merely personalthat is, where the explanation of them lies in connexions determined only by the second of the two principles I have just described and not in connexions established by the former.
It is with the word personal
here as with the phrase association of ideas
, When we reason we may of course be said to associate ideas, though to explain reason by the association of ideas, as a famous school of thinkers attempted to do, is to put the cart before the horse. But a quite natural instinct has tended to appropriate the phrase to those cases where the association of ideas implied by an action is not what we should usually call rational, but depends upon some individual habit or private memory, as when (to take a trivial instance) a man waking in the night at an hotel feels for the switch of the electric light not where he had found it when about to turn it off on going to bed, but in the place corresponding to that of the switch in his bedroom at home. Here, to account for what he does, he must revert to an association of ideas which is not
rational; and it is in the same way just for what is not
rational in men's proceedings that we often use the word personal
, because we seek the explanation of them in their personal
history and not in any system of connexions to be found in the great world which is common to us allin mundo majore sive communi
, as Bacon quotes from Heraclitus.1
In this way there springs up an antithesis of the personal and the rational, which will deserve our close attention. But in attending to it we must constantly bear in mind that it will mislead us if we forget that only in the minds of persons do there take place movements of thought from ground to consequent, from cause to effect, from premises to conclusion or vice versa, such as are determined by principles of reason; that it is only minds in which we suppose such movements of thought may take place that we should describe as personal; and lastly, that the world wherein we trace the connexion which we call rational is a world of which persons are a part and, to us at any rate, the most interesting part. Thus, as I hinted before, the expression irrationality of the personal upon which I fixed as conveniently suggesting the problem with which I am now concerned is not really an appropriate one. For it is persons only that reason, and reasoning beings only that are persons; and Reason is not unconcerned with persons though it is not concerned with persons only. Yet the personal principle of unity or organization in experience does appear to be distinct from the rational; and in cases where the latter affords no ground for a particular connexion, but we find one in the former, we come to institute a contrast and opposition between them which suggests that irrationality is characteristic of what is merely personal.
This contrast and opposition we have next to observe at a higher level of experience than that to which we have so far been going for our examples. We have now to observe it as it appears in the sphere of Morality. And here we shall have the great advantage of seeing it emphasized in the ethical systems of two great philosophers, by whom moreover it is so exhibited as to display those theological bearings for the sake of which we are now studying it. These two great philosophers are Kant and Fichte.
It is, as is well known, the doctrine of Kant that nothing can be morally right but what can be regarded as law universal, as obligatory, that is to say, upon all rational beings. This does not, of course, mean that every one's duty is the same as every one else's; that what is right for the judge is right for the criminal, what is right for the parent right for the child, what is right for the physician right for his patient. But it does imply that every one's duty is always what would be any one else's under those circumstances. Every personal
interest and personal
preference must be discounted in ascertaining what is right
. The presence of a personal inclination to what is right makes it possible that what seems to be a morally right action is after all due merely to this inclination and not to the consciousness that it is our duty
. Thus the absence of inclination or the presence of positive repugnance to a certain course which is notwithstanding adopted becomes the one certain test of genuine morality: for the consciousness of duty alone could have moved us to act thus clean contrary to our liking. And so Kant comes sometimes to use language such as could provoke the celebrated epigram in which the poet Schiller laughed at the notion of our never fulfilling the moral law except when we do so with horror.2
Now in Kant's use of the words personal
there is certainly an ambiguity; or perhaps it would be more correct to say that he does not clear up an ambiguity involved in our ordinary use of the words, now for what is private and peculiar to this or that individual, now for knowledge and morality, which distinguish human beings not only from inanimate things but from the lower animals; for these, although they possess life and consciousness, we do not call persons because they lack that capacity. Hence he sometimes calls by the name of Personality that very rational nature in virtue of which we can will to do what we see to be right for all who share that nature, whether we as individuals, with private feelings and interests unshared by our fellows, chance to like it or not; sometimes, on the other hand, that from which in ascertaining the universal laws of morality we have to abstract is called by him the personal
distinction between rational beings.3
It is the use of the word personal
in this second connexion which corresponds with that employment of it of which I spoke before which contrasts the personal
with the rational
; although every one would allow that rational beings within our experience are personal, nor should we call any beings personal which we did not take to be rational.
The ambiguity which, as we have just seen, was left in Kant's use of personality
in respect of ourselves, reappears in his theology. The representation of moral duties as commanded by God he approves,4
although we are always to remember that we can only legitimately regard them as commanded by God because we are independently conscious of their obligatoriness; we cannot otherwise ascertain them to be commanded by God, and then regard ourselves as in consequence obliged to perform them. Nor does his approval of this way of representing them appear to be merely a concession to the demand for an imaginative representation of what is strictly unimaginable For he holds that reverence
, which is our proper attitude towards the moral law, can only be felt towards persons
and this would seem to suggest that the representation of moral laws as divine commands may be something more than an imaginative personification. Nor do I suppose that to Kant himself it was no more than this. But he could have scarcely developed the theistic implications of the sentiment of reverence as, for example, Martineau does in his Types of Ethical Theory
and its sequel A Study of Religion
For the principles of the Critical Philosophy, which debarred the human mind from any knowledge of things as they are in themselves, combined with that stern aversion from the least compromise with sentiment in matters of conduct which was so characteristic of Kant's moral temperament to hinder him from admitting the legitimacy of that personal intercourse with God in the experience of whichor at least in the desire for itthe affirmation of Personality in God is founded. Hence, although while he could not in mature life bring himself, except when it was his official duty as Rector of the University of Königsberg, to take part in public worship7
he could nevertheless allow of it as the expression to one another by the members of the congregation of a common resolution to order their lives according to the Moral Law8
; for private
prayer as distinct from such a resolution on the individual's part, to which when alone he would not need to give outward expression, he could find no room at all. He held that a man who was properly instructed in the nature of Moralityas bound up with the autonomous freedom of the individual will, which yet in willing made no account of its individual distinction from other rational beingscould not but be ashamed to be found by a stranger upon his knees alone.9
Such an attitude would imply at once a superstitious neglect of the limits of human experience, as though God could be sensibly present, and an immoral attempt to claim divine aid in the performance of our duty otherwise than by the right attitude of will which alone could deserve such aid. Nor was there a place left in Kant's religion for any love of God other than the cheerful performance of his commandments; any more than in his ethics he could ascribe moral value to any love of our neighbour other than the practical love shown in the cheerful performance of our duty towards him.10
We find thus that Kant ascribes moral value solely to the Good Will, which, although the capacity for exercising it constitutes the essence of our personality, yet abstracts altogether from the features that distinguish one person from another, and belongs in common to all rational beings. We find also that, in close connexion with this aspect of his teaching, he eliminates from his theology everything suggestive of the possibility of a communion with God that could bring into play any part of our nature except this same Good Will, which wills only what can be law universal for all rational beings, and takes no account of what is peculiar to this or that individual, save as an external circumstance affecting the special mode in which the Good Will is exhibited in a particular instance.
But it is in Fichte that we find this same point of view adopted with a full realization of its paradoxical results and a vehement insistence on the necessity of accepting them which are absent from the elder thinker.
Thus he says: The utter annihilation of the individual and submission thereof in the absolute and pure form of reason, or in God, is most certainly the final end of finite reason.11
It is true that he admits that this end cannot be attained in any finite time, and that it is the error of mysticism to treat it as though it could be. I am never to act, he says again, without having first referred my act to this conception of duty. Hence there are no indifferent acts at all, It is absolutely immoral, he tells us, to take care of our body without the conviction that it is thus trained and preserved for moral activityin short, for conscience sake. Eat and drink for the glory of God. If any one thinks this morality to be austere and painful we cannot help him, for there is no other.12
Like Kant, he insists that the love of our neighbour which is a duty cannot be a love of the feelings. He adds, indeed, that it would be wrong to suppose that therefore it requires no internal affection, but merely external conduct towards him, for no act can be moral which does not proceed from an inner disposition. It is not sufficient to act, for example, as if we loved our enemy, no matter how much we may hate him in point of fact. I must love him: that is to say, must believe him capable of reform.13
Now, whether or no it is possible to love an enemy whom one does not believe capable of ceasing to be one's enemy, it is surely hard not to feel that to believe a man capable of reform is a very different thing from loving him in any natural sense of that word.
It is only the logical sequel to such statements as I have quoted that God should become for Fichte nothing else than the Moral Order of the universe, beside which there is no God.14
Now I do not wish to denyI would rather insist uponthe attraction of this vigorous type of ethical doctrine, exemplified by the two great thinkers of whose teaching I have reminded you, to any one who has at any time heard in the depths of his soul with a full understanding of its unconditional claim upon his obedience the august voice of Duty, and has cried with all his heart to that stern daughter of the voice of God in the words of the poet:
The confidence of Reason give,
And in the light of Truth thy bondman let me live.15
If, as Fichte implies in one of the passages which I have just cited, and as the spirit of self-sacrifice, of which Wordsworth speaks in the same poem, may suggest to generous and enthusiastic souls, any appeal for a fuller recognition of a claim for consideration on the part of what we should call the personal feelings of individuals were but a declension from the true standpoint of Reason, at which it is our privilege as persons
to be able to take up our position, we could scarcely without shame allow ourselves to join in such an appeal. But we may with a good conscience so join, if we do it in the profound conviction that these personal feelings have themselves an intrinsic worth to which the rigorism of Kant and Fichte does not do full justice; that it is this intrinsic worth of what is sacrificed to duty which makes the value of the sacrificeas the hand cut off, the eye plucked out, in the Gospel saying,16
are things not contemptible but most precious; and that a Moral Order in which persons are sacrificed to what is itself impersonal is really robbed of that claim to reverence which only when envisaged as God, as a Being with whom persons can stand in personal relations, it can in full measure possess.
Moreover when we ask ourselves whether we could be content with the ideal which Fichte, while admitting it to be unattainable in any finite time,17
confesses to be in his view the ideal to which our moral aspirations point, must we not hesitate to reply in the affirmative? Must we not admit that the picture of a moral character which should be the mere embodiment of indifferent Reason would be unlovely and unvenerable? Morality, though claiming to be the rule of life
according to reason, when it is thus set in sharp opposition to all that is personal
, tends itself to assume a strange resemblance to what we call mechanism
. Now mechanism, though the work of Reason, is merely
mechanical just because Reason does not any longer live
in it, so that for any fresh initiative we should have to resort to a new act of Reason from without, and take the watch back to the watchmaker.
Thus, if it is the element of seeming irrationality in what is personal that makes it difficult, as we see from the example of Fichte, to attribute Personality to God, it is the absence from Reason, when divorced from Personality, of what makes Reason a possible object of religious reverence which excites our discontent with the representation of God as an impersonal Reason.
Now it is precisely because, as Fichte points out, Morality, conceived as he conceives it, implies an ideal proposed to a finite being which is yet unattainable in any finite time, that later thinkers have objected to Fichte's view of Morality as the essential feature of the supreme system of Reality. They hold the absence of contradiction
to be our one criterion of the fitness of any features of our experience to persist unchanged as an element of that supreme system.18
And so in their view neither Morality, which, by the admission of its great champion, has a contradiction at its heart, nor yet Personality, which as the subject of Morality is always in Morality striving to be that which yet it cannot be without ceasing to be Personality, can assert a claim to final and ultimate reality.19
Such is the position taken up, for example, by Mr. Bosanquet. The Absolute of Mr. Bosanquet's philosophy may be said to be, like Fichte's, an order or system which determines the true mutual relations of all things, and therefore, among the rest, of all persons, but which is not itself a person or persons. It differs from Fichte's in that it cannot be called a moral
order; since it is not in Morality that its true nature is most perfectly exhibited. The proper name of the principle or spirit of this system is, as Mr. Bosanquet tells us, non-contradiction.20
The name of a Moral Order might indeed seem to be a more inspiring designation for it than this negative and highly abstract phrase. But, on the other hand, it is easier to translate non-contradiction by Love than so to translate Morality which seems at first, as is shown by the interpretations placed by Kant and Fichte upon the Gospel precept to love one's neighbour, to leave no room for much that the word Love
must naturally suggest. Thus Mr. Bosanquet can represent his philosophy of life as fundamentally the same with that of the great poet of mediæval Christendom. But though this identification, to which he often recurs, is plainly very near to Mr. Bosanquet's heart, I find it impossible not to think that there is really a wide difference between Dante's view of the world and his own, a difference which is very closely connected with the absence from Mr. Bosanquet's theology, if theology we may call it, of the notion of Divine Personality.
Mr. Bosanquet would probably regard the obvious unlikeness between the two as due rather to the use by Dante of a traditional phraseology and imagery which for us of the modern world has no longer the significance that it had for him, than to a real divergence in his own view from the fundamental convictions which found expression in the Divine Comedy.
I think myself that some of what Mr. Bosanquet would thus consider to be unessential to the deepest meaning of Dante belonged in fact to the substance of Dante's faith, and that the failure to recognize this is the cause of what I venture to regard as Mr. Bosanquet's mistake respecting the relation of his own philosophy to the poet's. But upon this I shall not dwell at present; we shall find ourselves returning to the subject later on in other connexions. For the present I am concerned only with Mr. Bosanquet's account of the true system of Reality which makes it more than a merely moral
order, but which still leaves it, though embracing persons and determining those mutual relations in and through which they possess their personality, yet itself without personality of its own. And here I would call your attention to a remarkable passage in the Gifford Lectures on The Principle of Individuality and Value
which, unless I am greatly mistaken, reveals, as it were by accident, the defect in this account. We mightso we find Mr. Bosanquet sayingcompare the Absolute to
Dante's mind as uttered in the Divine Comedy
The whole poetic experience is single and yet includes a world of space and persons.21
Is it not clear that this analogy would naturally lead up to the conception of a personal
Absolute? For the mind of Dante to which the Absolute is here compared is certainly a personal
mind. No doubt it is not fair to press too far an analogy admittedly introduced only to illustrate a particular point. And so I will resist the temptation to do more than ask whether in Dante's introduction of himself among the characters of his Comedy
we may not find an analogue to that personal intercourse with human souls which Religion ascribes to God, but which it seems to philosophers of Mr. Bosanquet's school impossible to ascribe to the Absolute, because human souls are included within the Absolute. And no doubt one would not even have been tempted to put this question if Mr. Bosanquet had happened to choose the mind of Shakespeare instead of the mind of Dante for his comparison. But in that case, too, the inclusive mind would still have been personal, although in none of his plays is Shakespeare himself a dramatis persona
The denial of personality to the system within which we finite persons are included, not only as respects some particular aspect of our being, but wholly and throughout, wherein, to use familiar words, we live and move and have our being,22
in such accounts of its nature as we have just been reviewing, presupposes in truth that contrast or antithesis of Personality and Reason to the consideration of which this Lecture has been devoted. Just because the supreme system, which the authors of these accounts are endeavouring to describe, is to be the complete expression of Reason, it can include
but cannot itself possess
Personality. Reason is indeed the characteristic constituent of Personality; but there is always in Personality something which falls short of the universality of Reason, and therefore it cannot without self-contradiction be ascribed to the universal
Reason; for so to ascribe it would be to speak in effect of a particular universal
. Particulars must always be particulars of
a universal; but the universal itself is by definition not a particular.
On the other hand, a rejoinder may be made to this argument, and this rejoinder will presuppose the same antithesis as did the argument to which it is a reply. The thought of the universe as a whole, as a single system wherein we live and move and have our being, primarily presents itself, both in the history of mankind at large and normally in that of the individual, as a religious
thought, and is associated with the characteristically religious emotions of awe and reverence.23
Such thinkers as those I have instanced in this Lecture as denying Personality to this Supreme System, Fichte and Mr. Bosanquet, have certainly no intention of dissociating these emotions from that thought. But I am not satisfied that such dissociation is not in the long run inevitable, unless our relation to the universe is conceived as essentially of the same nature as our relation to a person; and that it is not in fact merely postponed by the circumstance that the language in which the philosophers who deny personality to the Absolute find themselves driven to speak of it is permeated by the suggestion of that which they explicitly deny.
It will no doubt be said that, when such thinkers deny Personality to the Absolute, they do not intend to assimilate it to what is confessedly less than personalfor example, to a force like electricitybut to emphasize the necessity of regarding it as free from the limitations of finite Personality, as more than personal. And I should most certainly not hesitate to allow that, if we may ascribe Personality to God, it must be only in a sense which will admit of a great difference between what we call Personality in ourselves and what, for want of a better term, we call Personality in him. What, however, I think even the most cautious maintainers of Divine Personality must assert against such a critic of their view as Mr. Bosanquet is the capacity of finite persons for what can only be called a personal relation to the Supreme Realityand therefore the presence in the Supreme Reality of whatever is necessary for the existence of such a relation thereto.
It will throw, unless I am mistaken, some light upon this matter if we inquire why the man in the street is disposed, if told of the idealism of Berkeley, to dismiss it with a kind of incredulous contempt as a visionary paradox, while a report of the speculations of physicists as to the electrical constitution of matter he is ready to receive with surprise indeed, but yet with respect. I think that this difference of attitude towards two doctrines which might at first sight seem to be equally subversive of ordinary preconceptions is to be thus explained. Berkeley seems to treat our everyday experience of a material world as an illusion, while the physicist is taken to be merely telling us that, while genuine enough as far as it goes, this same everyday experience has brought us but a very little way in the knowledge of what we are dealing with; so that, if we knew more about it, we should find it to be something very different from what it strikes one as being at first sight. I am of course well aware that Berkeley insists that he is denying nothing to which the senses bear witness; and on the other hand, I do not forget the difficult problems which may be propounded about the relation of the theories of physicists to the sensible facts on which they are supposed to be based. But I am now speaking only of the impression made by these two types of speculation upon the ordinary man on his first acquaintance with them. I do not think that it can be denied that it is on the whole such as I have described. It is then because, rightly or wrongly, Berkeley is thought to aim in his argument at proving that we are mocked in our deep-seated conviction of being constantly, as we say, up against a world of bodies which are there, independently of us, whether we are aware of them or not, while the physicists, without casting any doubt upon the reality of this world, do but concern themselves with the discovery of further facts about it, with which we have no particular business, that the teaching of the former is at once repudiated, but that of the latter accepted without demur.
This difference of attitude on the part of the ordinary man towards Berkeley and the physicists respectively in regard of the material world, may help us to understand a like difference of attitude on the part of the ordinary religious man toward two distinct kinds of theological speculation which agree in proclaiming the inadequacy of the anthropomorphic imagery implied in the common language of religious devotion. The ordinary religious man, at any rate among ourselves, is, one may say, perfectly willing to allow that the nature of God must infinitely transcend the reach of his understanding, and that any description he can give of it undoubtedly falls so far short of what it truly is, that from the standpoint of a fuller knowledge, it would seem scarcely to convey any information at all. Hence if, on other grounds, he is disposed to accept, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity set forth in the Athanasian Creed as authoritative, he will not be deterred from doing so and regarding it with veneration merely by the fact that it very likely conveys to his mind no distinct idea, or by inability to say what difference it would make to his conduct or to his religious feelings if he had never known it. But, if a view like Mr. Bosanquet's were put before him, I feel little doubt that he would interpret it as dissolving what he had taken for an experience of reciprocal intercourse, as with another person, between himself and God into illusion, and would regard it as leaving him no real God at all, just as the Berkeleian philosophy is commonly interpreted as leaving us no real material world at all. On the other hand, just as the physicist is taken, even where his speculations seem most remote from our everyday apprehension, to be merely telling us that the real material world is very different, when you come to know it better, from what it seems at first sight, so a theology like that of the Athanasian Creed may discover as many mysteries as it pleases in the nature of God so long as it does not deny that God is real, as a person is real with whom we may enjoy a reciprocal personal intercourse.
It is upon the possibility of this reciprocal intercourse that the whole question turns. A child will offer sweets from its pocket to an elder friend with the intent to give him the pleasure the like offer would give to the child himself. He may feel disappointed that his sweets are not appreciated, or baffled by the inexplicable preoccupations which divert the attention of his elders from his own concerns; but, whatever momentary distress these things may cause, he is sure that he has to do with a real person, who, however strange his tastes and pursuits may be to the child's apprehension, can answer the child and understand him and perhaps care for him. It would be a very different thing if he came to find that there was not really any person there at all, that he was no more in communication with any one other than himself than when talking to himself and consciously making believe.
So too, in the course of the religious development of our race, we may not only come to say No to the question put by the prophet in God's name, Thinkest thou that I will eat bull's flesh and drink the blood of goats?24
but may even doubt whether we can suppose that the thanksgiving and vows which the Psalmist would have us offer in their place will be accepted by God exactly as a mighty king might accept them. Yet it is fallacious to infer that because there is in one sense no limit to the process in which we lay aside in turn every imaginary picture of God as inadequate to his infinite perfection, therefore a transformation which leaves no Being to whom we can intelligibly ascribe a reciprocation of our personal address to him is but a further extension of this same process. There was after all a true instinct in the tradition which saw in Spinoza, God-intoxicated as he has been called (and only a very unsympathetic reader of the last book of his Ethics
can deny his claim to the epithet), the great standard-bearer of atheism. For when he said that, while we could have an intellectual love of God and God could love himself in our love of him, yet God could not be said to love us
, he did, after all, condemn the religious man to the doom of Ixion, who found in his embrace not a goddess but a cloud.
No, it will be replied, this similitude does not do justice to those whom you are criticizing. Ixion's cloud lacked all that made the goddess desirable; but in the Absolute Mr. Bosanquet would have us acknowledge all that piety seeks in God and more. I do not know whether I am right in detecting a certain distinction here between the views of Mr. Bosanquet and Mr. Bradley. It appears to me that on the whole Mr. Bosanquet, though holding that to think of a God with whom we could be in personal relations is to think of a merely finite being and not of the Absolute, yet finds in the contemplation of the Absolute the satisfaction of his religious aspirations, while Mr. Bradley dwells rather on the thought that philosophy must recognize the God to whom religious devotion is directed to be not the Absolute but, like all else in our experience, an appearance of the Absolute. God, he would say, the object of religion, must be finite, and therefore cannot be the Absolute; but Religion is a real experience; there is an intercourse between oneself and God; yet neither in oneself nor in God can one find ultimate reality; both are appearances of that which is ultimately real, but it, the Absolute, transcends them both. We have here suggested to us the thought, which is urged upon us also by writers of a very different school to Mr. Bradley, of a finite God. By recognizing that God is finite it has seemed to many that we can escape from the difficulties which came to light in considering the relations of Personality to the supreme system of Reality. God is a person, so that personal relations with him are possible; but he is not the supreme system of Reality; for he and we are alike included within it. It is to the consideration of this suggestion that I propose to devote my next Lecture.