In the last lecture we have sketched the general structure and regional differentiation of the firmament of personal minds or egos. What we have sketched, being phenomenological and not metaphysical, has ended by being very much how commonsense conceives the whole field of such intersubjectivity. We have constructed a system of conscious centres, all exposed, on their percipient side, to a common order of bodies manifest through their several senses, and which also have a dynamic side, manifest, not merely in the flow of their interior acts, but in the changes in their bodies, in which changes they exert influence on their common world and also make their existence and character known to each other. Bodies and their changes here play an all-important role in the inner economy of the realm of mind. Their changes are no dispensable, external addition to the states and postures of separated egos, but represent their full final carrying out, whether they display what these states ultimately point to in actually confronting bodily situations, or carry out the drifts present in the mind's internal postures into overt bodily movements. But in a direction away from all this public carrying out of the ego's intentions into bodily situations and movements, its life extends ‘inwards’ into states in which the personality, unity and separateness of the ego are ever more strongly emphasized, till we reach the internal pole of unillustrated meanings, insights and resolutions, which are so close in their unity, and so little set apart from the ego, as to count practically as its own personal, incommunicable, immanent phases or moods.
There is, however, a continuous transition from the most inward and personal condition to the most overt and public illustration of the same, and this transition is of an internal and logical, and not merely factual, sort, so that we cannot enter deeply into either side without feeling ourselves pushed towards the other: we understand behaviour and public situations through the nutshell moods of soul that sum them up, and we understand the nutshell moods of soul through the behaviour and public situations that represent their unfolding or full expansion. It is in this sense that there are no private states without public criteria, but also, we may add, no public expressions that make sense without corresponding private states. In virtue of this continuous transition, and in virtue of our unlearnt understanding of mental otherness which is part of our sense of our own self-identity, even the most intimate, secret states of other egos as ‘there’ for us, and often ‘there’ in their detailed manner and intent, as much as our own are. There will and must be something lacking, something distant and surrogative, in this knowledge of other minds, as there is in our knowledge of bodies through maps and models, but it remains a genuine, even an intuitive form of presentation. So all-pervasive is it, that every intimate personal narrative, even if worked out only for one's own benefit, is, in principle, a story about everyman for everyman, and that not only in its public aspects, but even in its last accesses of interiority. Everyone is in a sense always with everyone else even in his most absolute personal solitude.
The prime states of egos are interior rather than bodily, and it is only because the states and movements of bodies represent a last carrying out of inner stirrings, feelings and insights that they achieve ego-belongingness. They are, if one likes, the periphery of the ego's circle of states, and while we can conceive of an ego living imperfectly, but still genuinely, without any full bodily carrying out, we cannot conversely conceive of an ego as active in a body, but without interior feelings, references and other states of consciousness. In the same manner, it is in the governance or lack of governance of its interior presentations, of their order and sequence, that the active, dynamic side of an ego is primarily revealed. The further expansion of its influence over the acts and movements of the body is likewise secondary and peripheral. One could conceive of an ego having the former alone but not the latter alone: a conscious ego could not be manifest in an unconscious sequence of merely bodily states. The interior states of egos were, further, divided by us into cases of sentience or implicit reference, and cases of presentative or explicit reference: in respect of the latter we drew distinctions of the focal and marginal, of the illustrated and the empty, and of varying pro-positional or conceptual ‘lights’ or ‘angles’. In addition to all these we distinguished thetic acts, in which the hesitations due to a recognized subjectivity are discounted, and the unhesitant attitude of unbracketed presentation re-endorsed. And finally we held that all the dynamic aspects of ego-life had a reflection in the field of pure consciousness: we not only tended towards this or that mental of bodily state, but we also sometimes felt or perceived our tendency, and in such conscious feeling or perception of tendency, emotion or impulse as an experience consisted.
An ego, we saw further, had an extraordinary openness of character that in a sense differentiated it from all of its states of sentience, reference, belief and dynamic tendency, for while it was manifest in all these states, it could understandably have been manifest in other, quite different ones. Its identity was a ‘deep matter’, that was not exhaustively fixed by surface features, and this depth of identity revealed itself in an understandable power to persist through time, not merely abstractly or in name, and to do so in a manner that completely conditioned, though it was not itself completely conditioned by, the various connections of memory, causality and affinity among its successive states. We could for instance, quite well conceive of personal identity without memory, and it might be a very living and practical issue in regard to our own future well-being. To go to hell, e.g., would be a very terrible prospect even if in hell we no longer were going to remember, and knew now that we should no longer remember, what we were sent there for.
The ego's essential freedom and openness, its resemblance to a free mathematical variable rather than a mathematical constant, was further evinced in all those higher feats of imagination, essential to morality and philosophy, in which we conceive ourselves in personal positions utterly unlike our own. And it seemed practically evinced in those acts of free and arbitrary choice in which, while we might have many felt impulses and many rationally determining motives, it was still we ourselves, in what Hegel would call the ‘absolute negativity’ of our being, that decided the issue, and exercised a power that was essentially a power of alternatives or of opposites. Arguments have of course been adduced against what phenomenally stands before us in this case, arguments, that we need not go into here. The idea of an ego is, however, against all such arguments, since an ego is not the sort of thing that could be confined to (though it of course can take on) any first order set of characteristics, to any set of traits, personal features or modes of working whatever. Some things at least we may do, not because we are this or that sort of person, but just because we are persons, and this is the modicum of truth in the existentialist claim that in man existence precedes essence.
We move on our present plane of discourse with great assurance that all the notions, first principles and rules that govern our procedure fit smoothly together and permit of easy elaboration. Numerous deep cracks of discrepancy, however, run through our whole conceptual structure, and it is now our task to reveal these, rather than cement them over. The first of these deep cracks consists in the fact that bodies and their changes are essential to ego-life and ego-communication, and yet bodies also represent something alien, antithetical to the ego-life in question, that cannot simply be taken up into or shown to be a phase of it. The bodies that surround our system of egos, and constitute their common environment and channel of communication, are not given as being dreamt up by the egos in question, nor would it be more than gratuitous to conceive of a dream to which there is no antithesis and from which there is no waking, and which is moreover the commonly concerted dream of a whole system of egos. Such fantasies can be constructed, they have not the total senselessness that ‘criteriological’ confusion attributes to them, they may ever establish valuable conceptual points. None the less hollowness is written on their faces, they are empty logical possibilities which belong to the propaedeutic rather than the maturity of philosophy. It is, moreover, of little interest to bracket the whole world of bodies, if we do not show how this fits into, and accords with, the mental economy we are constructing. No purpose is served by passing from the clean intrusions of a world of bodies into mental life to the stupefying spell of a collective maya, which, if it means anything, affords no basis for rational prediction. Bodies are the very type of the reliable and the credible. They not only provide the necessary foil for our subjectivity, but they provide that subjectivity with the basic materials for all its higher achievements. Through bodies, and the regularity with which they affect us, the possibility of objective references arises; through the same regularity we are first able to distinguish the untrue or merely subjective from the objective and true, and so to rise to the level of belief and judgement. In virtue of the same reliable ways of bodies we are able to act and deliberate and plan and choose. And it is through animated bodies that we know others, and, in relation to, and in contrast with others, know ourselves. Yet the very conditions that make bodies necessary to the realm of personal conscious egos, are also conditions that make them alien and resistant to those egos. We are, as Heidegger says, thrown, cast, geworfen in the bodily world, and must be so if we are to function as communicating conscious beings at all. Yet the necessity does not lose its harshness because it is a necessity: it is not given as some freely chosen means to a valuable goal. It seems the necessity of an accident parasitic upon another accident.
The degree of the dependence of our personal interior life on the bodies around us is a theme not adequately dwelt on by philosophers, though perhaps the empiricists, with their stress on the ultimate origin of all ideas in the deliverances of the senses—reflection plainly presupposes sensation—have been most aware of it. Plainly acts of mind, being second-or higher-order affairs, must busy themselves with something or other, and though they may busy themselves with other acts of mind, or with various abstracta which represent things or situations just in so far as the mind refers to them, and no further, still all such higher-order subject-matters must, on pain of vacuity, ultimately lead back to something of lowest order, and nothing known to us is more essentially of lowest order than a body. While it may stand in many relations, and even be the seat of forces and tendencies pointing to things which do not as yet exist, it has a core to its being which is not at all tendentious or relational, and which is certainly not thought of as capable of anything like conscious reference. That bodies so conceived are absurd does not mean that we do not so conceive them, and that it is with them as so conceived that we ultimately busy ourselves. It is not necessary that we should follow certain empiricists and suppose that all higher-order thoughts are completely reducible to first-order contents, that the whole cogitative pyramid rests securely upon a broad empirical base. The cogitative hierarchy may rather resemble an inverted pyramid resting upon its apex, in which the higher types of thought and their objects always extend beyond the lower ones, and always bring in indefinitely multiplied riches. But even if this is so, the whole pyramid would be impossible without its empirical point d'appui, and this, as we have held, is provided by bodies, the primary and ultimate objects of all cogitative concern.
The point may also be approached psychologically, as we did in a previous lecture. We may consider the series in which bodies and their states are replaced by physical models or pictures, then by physical combinations of symbols, then by combinations of images or imagined symbols, and finally by pure noeses or nutshell states of understanding. In such a series the higher levels of the hierarchy obviously depend upon the lower ones. Much the same applies if we consider the differentiation of egos or personal minds from one another. A number of egos minding precisely the same bodies from the same bodily viewpoint are certainly conceivable: it is part of the idea of an ego that this should be so. There may be an infinity of egos nesting undiscoverably in the same body, and always coinciding precisely in their use of it. Such a fantasy merely explicates a concept, and does not tell us what can really be the case. Egos can accordingly only be genuinely different, in a manner that represents more than a gratuitous supposition, in so far as they intend and employ bodies differently, a demand most naturally satisfied if each ego has, as we say, its own body, in and through which it acts, and through which it is sensitive to the common world around it. Even in the most attenuated, paradisal condition of such egos, there must be some reminiscence, some backward reference to some traits of their bodily being, a demand recognized in Thomist theories of disembodied psychic existence and in Indian theories of subtle bodies. A state of affairs such as that contemplated in the classical Indian Yoga system, where a set of pure egos, purged of reference to alien objects by a long course of meditation, and so only numerically different, have at length achieved, each their separate goal of transparent, jewel-like, subject-objectivity, is at once a really impossible and a heart-rending fantasy. Rather the river of light and the still white rose of Dante, where there is so much more of the sensuous and the bodily.
The dependence of our intentional conscious life on the alien existence of bodies shows itself yet further in ways considered in a previous lecture, though from another angle than the present. There we considered this dependence from the angle of bodies, now we are considering it from the angle of personal egos and their mental intentions. The conscious life of an ego, we may hold, is intrinsically fragmentary: it presupposes something which holds it together and which bridges its gaps, and which is and must be unthinking, but which yet, from another point of view, must have many of the properties of thinking mind. To be conscious, to refer, is a condition which cannot be total and unchanging: it is essentially a condition in which an object or theme is before the conscious person, but in which the treatment of that object or theme continually changes and develops, in which new items or aspects are constantly coming into view or receiving full notice, while other items or aspects fade into the background, in which an object or matter is first seen in this light, and then in that, and so on. True, there is a synthetic as well as a fragmented aspect to the ego's conscious life; a unified outcome is always emerging from its manifold divagations. This unified outcome is, however, itself as variable as the items or aspects which come into it and fade out of it.
It may be suggested that such variability is merely contingent, and reference may be made to various trance-like conditions in which it ceases, but it may be doubted whether such cessation is not rather a limit towards which conscious life may tend, but which it cannot actually reach. Such doubts are increased by the fact that those who assert the existence of such trance-like states also say that the most trance-like of them are not states of consciousness at all. Beyond the trances which involve penetration, discernment, are the yet more profound trances which are undiscerning (asamprajñata samādhi.) It looks, in fact, as if a wholly arrested immobile state cannot be one of consciousness, nor directed upon anything as its object. An object must stand forth, insist, be relieved from a background, and it can only maintain its insistence or relief by appearing in varied angles and in varying conceptual lights: perennial novelty is as essential to conscious life as thematic permanence and continuity. In ecstatic collection the variations of consciousness may become as minimal as the deep breathing of sleep. But blessed and glorious as such ecstatic conditions may well be, and though reliably esteemed the best phenomena in the human cave, they cannot be wholly undifferentiated and unchanging. They must involve at least the sense of all that one is blessedly free from, as well as the contrasted sense of one's own blessed freedom and purity therefrom, and the mind must undoubtedly shuttle from one to the other. If this last vestige of change and difference is shed, one will plainly have an unconsciousness as unbeatific as the stertorous sleep of the drunkard or the frozen calm of death.
These a priori necessities have, however, at the level of discourse at which we now are, dismaying consequences not only for certain forms of mysticism, but also for the ego's ordinary conscious life. For they mean that the conscious life of the ego depends for its continuity of theme and attitude on factors which are in the last resort unconscious, or only dispositionally conscious, and this means, at the level of discourse where we are now treading, that it depends on the only non-conscious, first-order essence we know, i.e. the body. The position of the brain, or some organ like it, as the storehouse of conscious traces, is thus no empirical accident, but involved in the very nature of conscious life. Disembodied spirits, if such there be, have subtle bodies or attenuations of bodies of some sort, so that disembodied spirits must have subtle brains or attenuations of brains of some sort. We are driven to this bizarre opinion by a firm series of considerations. For it is plain that, as new items or aspects come into the forefront of ego-experience, other items and aspects must slip into the background, and it is plain, further, that while the background of consciousness may be held to contain much that is present in varying degrees of obscurity, it cannot, without a descent into meaninglessness, be held to contain infinitely many elements in infinitely many degrees of obscurity. The Leibnizian ocean in which we undiscriminatingly hear the plash of each individual wave is not merely a false but an absurd fantasy. As the focus of conscious life is selective, so too must the background be, if it is to have any definiteness of character, and to serve as a true foil to the focus. Much of what we were aware must therefore not merely pass into some obscure margin of consciousness but into its readily available, dispositional fringe, and beyond this into the storehouse of what is not readily available at all. A conscious ego, whose actuality is nothing but a flux of conscious states, whether focal or marginal, has nothing stable and abiding to which such dispositions could attach, and in which they could, as it were, be laid up. We are therefore driven back to the organized body, or to some special centre of its organization, as the fit receptacle for these otherwise homeless, and in that form not credible, dispositions.
Not only is this so, but it is plain that the direction of the course of consciousness which is so important an aspect of ego-life, and which at times is fully voluntary, is not one that can be carried out entirely at a conscious level, but requires co-operation at levels which are wholly unconscious. Out of the vast range of facts and circumstances that we say we ‘know’, those matters must come to consciousness and those alone, that fit in with the task in hand, that are relevant to the line of our conscious voluntary activity. Now it is plain empirically that selections are made, and solutions arrived at, in manners of which we have no ordinary awareness: in this sense the requirement of unconscious co-operation is indeed met. But it is tempting to indulge in argument, and to say that such selections and such solutions are merely unconscious in the sense that they lie apart from these our official waking experiences, that while they are in themselves conscious selections or solutions, they are carried out by unofficial or subconscious parts of ourselves, or that, though they are our own conscious selections or solutions, they are not selections or solutions of which there is or can be a reflective awareness. We in short consciously perform all these difficult piecings and siftings, but we manage to keep this conscious performance apart from its useful outcome, or we keep it away from the reflection which otherwise lightly supervenes on a conscious performance. In such arguments there is nothing intrinsically offensive: ego-life, being given as a ‘deep’ life, may very well underlie separated states that are as it were the states of different persons, and there is nothing intrinsically unacceptable in the notion of a state of mind that systematically evades reflection. There may very well be goings-on in our ego-life which answer to the popular notion of the subconscious, and which can perhaps be brought to mind by hypnotism and by other techniques. What the argument fails to note is that this recourse to the subconscious, if used in principle and systematically, readily leads to a non-explanatory, infinite regress. For if there are low-grade clerks who search the files for suitable references and precedents, then these in their turn will need other still lower-grade clerks who do the file-searching for them, and so on ad infinitum. Subconsciousness, quite as much as consciousness, must select out of a pre-existent background, and this readily brings in an infinity of subconsciousnesses. We are willy-nilly forced back to the body or the brain, or to something not given to changing, ‘angular’ approaches, if we are to have an adequate background and a preparatory elaboration for the moves of the conscious ego. The ego in its conscious state would seem to be of necessity somewhat fainéant and parasitic, it lies languidly in its palanquin and does little more than sign, or refuse to sign, the well-prepared minutes that come before it. This will be true not only at the upper but also at the lower end of our life. Every time a word catches our ear or a sight our eye, a selective agency has been at work whose results alone are consciously presented. And we have only to think of the remarkable, seemingly lengthy dreams, built in an instant to provide a rational framework for some intrusive stimulus that often only seems to come after them, to see how an agent has been at work in a task involving both selection and creative explanation, and all carried out far more rapidly than any daylight act of consciousness could be. Yet the situation we are in in all this is neither acceptable nor intelligible: the preparatory work done by unconscious bodily agencies is not work that such agencies can be properly held to perform. It involves an intentionality, a reference to entities as embodying various highly general characters, of which a bodily agent must be incapable. If the programmed performances of computers are unintelligible, the self-revising performances of the brain are more incredible still. More and more are we forced to attribute the higher forms of rationality to a matter which affords it no place and no purchase, a situation which may be of comfort to Marxists but hardly to anyone else. A world of communicating egos in which bodies are more or less a peripheral necessity is an ideal of thought, an appearance, which breaks down on examination.
The world of communicating egos is beset with yet other troubles which threaten to bring it down. Of these the most remarkable is the a priori knowledge which we have at every point been characterizing and on which we have been throughout building. The system of minds is such as to make itself known to its members, and to make itself known as a condition of anything else being known, and to make itself known not immediately but in and through a shared world of bodies. Yet the cogs which enter into the machinery of this strange system of communication have so many marks of rude independence written on them, as to make their mutual collaboration seem curious and prodigious. For while it would be gratuitous to suppose the existence of a real system of communicating minds if the machinery in question were absent, this does not make the presence of that machinery less remarkable, since we have no reason to hold that beings so utterly self-enclosed as separate egos are given as being, should be able to make themselves known in this fashion: either they are not so independent as they give themselves out to be, or the remarkable communication among them should not have existed. And, considered from the point of view of their mere independence, it is even more remarkable that they should not have been able to communicate directly—the interior life of one making some direct dint, as it were, on the interior life of another—but that they should rather effect their communication through a set of bodily changes which, while they may have an inherent affinity with their changes, none the less represent a strange, difficult, out-of-character exercise for mere body. It is as if, to use a poor analogy, two Englishmen elected to communicate with one another through a Chinese interpreter who translated their utterances stumblingly back and forth. There seems something devious, circuitous, gratuitous in the whole interchange via bodies, as if bodies, the things less cognate to personal egos, were the things of which they might the most readily have cognizance and assurance, whereas their own intelligent kith and kin were more problematic and mysterious to them. The points we are making are certainly deeply silly since they voice queries and dissatisfactions regarding arrangements which we do not know how to alter or to better, but their silliness points to some unifying factor that would bring all these disparate factors together and explain their curious mutual dependence-in-independence. There must be some light in which all these matters can be seen in which they will not at one moment claim as blood-brothers what they at the next moment repudiate as strangers.
Here too is the place to dwell on the remarkable impossibility of fulfilling our references to the interior life of others, of having that interior life displayed before us, as our own interior life often is, in maddening and vanishing glimpses, displayed. Fulfilment, intuitive carrying out, having a subject-matter before one and knowing what it is really like, are not things that belong contingently to our references to objects: they represent the completion, the full realization of references which in a sense establish that they were references at all. Cognitive efforts which are a mere groping towards definite termini of reference, as when we try to conceive, e.g., of moments next to other moments, or of dispositions which belong to nothing, are in a sense not references at all: they are only thwarted attempts to refer. Verificationism, criteriology, pragmatism and similar thought-movements have done some service to philosophy in stressing the need for cashing our references in actual encounters, in confrontations. They have freed us from the dreadful freedom to multiply insoluble, because not clearly oriented, difficulties. If in their zeal to pour strength into cases of undoubted understanding and knowledge, they have often substituted superficial criteria for objects or meanings of which our grasp is as plain as its basis is obscure, they have none the less disposed of many false puzzles and explanations. And if they have confused two quite different, basically important notions—the notion of the circumstances which fulfil or show forth the sense of an assertion and the circumstances which validate that assertion or establish its truth, they have at least the justification that those circumstances often coincide. A cat sitting on a mat shows what it is for a cat to sit on a mat, but it also proves that a cat is actually doing so. What it is for a cat to sit upon a mat could, however, be almost equally well shown by a picture or model or mental image, and that a cat is actually sitting on a mat could be almost equally well shown by hearing someone's reliable testimony or by other circumstances into which neither cat nor mat nor sitting enter.
The difficulty about references to the interior life of others is not that we cannot illustrate or fulfil them, and not that we cannot validate them, but that the manner in which we do either cannot coincide, as is possible in the case of the cat sitting on the mat, and yet that it seems to point to some further coincidence which the very nature of the case also rules out. How you are feeling, or how things look to you is something that I can very well imagine. I can even put myself imaginatively into your body and feel pains in your limbs and see sights through your eyes. That you are feeling in this or that manner, or that things look to you in this or that way, are likewise things that I can know very fully, in so far as I pass through your behaviour to the inner experiences to which I have an a priori key. But I none the less feel it to be a defect that I cannot have your actual feelings or actual awarenesses, though I cannot have them only because they are the way in which things are brought home to you, and are your personal way of experiencing the matters in question. And I feel there to be something fallible and surrogative about my approach to your experience, since, however much I may enter into your position and feel things as you do, I am still, I feel, constructing my own personal model or image of your interior state, a model that certainly reflects my own limitations and that I can moreover never straightforwardly compare with the original. And though my reflection on my inner state is not inerrant, and while it is often hard, moreover, to find the right notions with which to map it, it at least does not involve anything like the representation by a personal image or model. It does not meet the case to say that it would be absurd to desire any closer approach in the case of the experiences of what is confessedly another person: we still feel it to be a limitation, a restriction. Or alternatively we feel it to be incredible that we should be able to advance so far, or in fact any distance, along a route whose goal is so hopelessly blocked.
The difficulties of adequately fulfilling references to other people's experiences are certainly uniquely baffling. In the case of individual bodily realities it is impossible a priori that we should ever fulfil our references to them completely, since references to bodies are fulfilled in sense-perceptions, and no series of sense-perceptions, however varied or prolonged, could show us all that a material object is thought of as being. The idea of a material object, as Husserl maintained, and as most pragmatists and criteriologists have agreed, is to be capable of inexhaustible probing and illustration. The idea of an experience wholly adequate to it is a transcendental idea in the sense of Kant, one that we may use for regulative inspiration but that we cannot hope to exemplify. The notion of a complete independence of perception which is likewise part of the idea of a material object is also something that we can never see illustrated, since it is part of what realist philosophers have recognized as our ‘predicament’ that we cannot ‘catch’ a material object without being ourselves present and percipient. Yet it is at least possible to move continuously in the direction of complete fulfilment of our references to material objects, and it is at least possible to treat the ego-centric predicament as a trivial personal embarrassment, that we can see round even if we cannot practically get round it. For the percipient can be held to be as evidently irrelevant to the being of the perceived as he is essential to the perception of it. In the case of references to the past there are likewise limitations to fulfilment: we can reconstruct or relive the past, but the prefix re-indicates that there is something analogous to the use of a model or image in our proceedings. Our reliving of the past now, is distinct from the living of it then, and may in principle misrepresent it. We have, however, in this case at least a one-sided openness to fulfilment: references to the past may be imperfectly fulfillable in the present, but references from the past are just what are fulfillable now. What we only dreamt of yesterday may come true and stand before us today. If we turn, finally, to the notion of the transfinite which despite modern criticism we regard, with Descartes, as the very type of a luminous and lucid idea, we again have a notion essentially unfulfillable, or at least certainly so in an experience of number that depends on counting and remains successive. A non-successive apprehension of number and of infinite number is, of course, arguably quite conceivable. It may, however, be argued that in not fulfilling our idea of the infinite we in a sense do fulfil it: in going on without let or hindrance in a manner that we intend to have neither let nor hindrance, we in a sense exemplify the infinite in the only way in which it can be exemplified in finite, successive experience. Our references to the interior life of other persons, however, presents difficulties that we do not encounter in the references we have been considering. There is in them something like a blank wall to further fulfilment which cannot be pushed back, which is not open at one side, and which cannot be regarded as a trivial personal embarrassment. What I cannot here get rid of is not my personal cognitive apparatus, but myself and my difference from you. And yet my whole approach to the issue makes no sense except in the context of the absurd aspiration to be someone else.
Wittgenstein curiously says that the difficulty in my sharing your experiences is basically a grammatical difficulty: if it were this, it could be easily surmounted. There are countless situations in which it can be said, with a good sense, that I share your experiences, that what I observe as happening to me is known to be also something that is happening to you. It is when we pass to what Wittgenstein calls the ‘deep grammar’ of the situation, and what we should rather call its phenomenology, that such suggestions are to be rejected. My experience is my personal way of having something brought home to me, and however much it may be like your personal way of having something brought home to you, and however much it may be of the same matters, it remains obdurately distinct. It will occur further in the context of other feelings and memories, and in the realm of experience it never makes sense to wrench one part of a total experience free from the whole in which it occurs, and to identify it with an experience which occurs outside of that whole. The togetherness, the non-separateness of the elements in a total experience means that the character of the whole is built into, and dyes the character of all the parts: it is only by an abstraction that we can treat any side of such a total experience as being capable of existing outside of it. Your experience as refracted and reflected in mine is not, therefore, to be identified with your experience as you yourself have it, and there is a suggestion of the representation or model about it which makes both fulfilment and validation inadequate.
Our difficulties are not, therefore, removed by the introduction of such things as telepathy. Ouite apart from the fact that the true transcendance of soi-disant telepathy is, in our experience, verified by consultations of fleshey persons, documents, visits to sites, etc., it is plain that the inherent difficulties just mentioned would make it not amount to a wholly adequate fulfilment. It would always be an experience in which a foreign experience was brought home to us, was modelled in the context of our own background of personal attitudes and feelings, and this would prevent us from identifying it with the actual experience thus brought home. Nor would our problems vanish if we accepted the significance and possibility of a genuine confluence of egos or of the removal of a merely apparent separateness. These possibilities would remove the difficulties of referring to the states of other minds by destroying the otherness of those minds, by liquidating the problem altogether. Such an outcome would, further, be trivial, since in transcending myself in this manner I should in effect only have extended myself and widened my lonely egoism. Lovers who like Tristan and Isolde in Wagner yearn for some ultimate mergence of their persons, should reflect that this mergence would only create a new epicene person, who would presumably have to look for comfort and solace to some further merger.
Nothing in all the difficulties we have been dealing with would be met by introducing a God who would only be another magnified conscious person carrying the diremption which puzzles and pains us a stage further. Nor would it be solved, at least at our present level of discourse, by the facile introduction of a Fichtean or Schellingian or Advaitist Self, which only thought of itself as separated and differentiated into a number of distinct and opposed persons. What we have before us in the phenomena is a pre-established harmony, or even, if you like, a pre-established conflict, without anything, material or spiritual, to bring the agreeing or disagreeing parties together. We shall not solve the basic problems of personal selfhood by merely reinstating them at some supposedly higher or deeper level. A Divine Ego that merely adds one more member to the total ego-population, or which liquidates that population, and itself in the process, by eliminating the antithesis essential to personal being, solves nothing whatever. The system of communicating egos, even as evinced in the most ordinary conversation concerning the most mundane things, is therefore infected with a deep vein of the absurd, and we shall arguably only remove that absurdity by rising above it altogether, perhaps to modes of conceiving and explaining not fully exemplified nor graspable in this present life.
Before we go on to such a radical attempt to transcend or transform the human cave, we shall for a time first linger over another alternative. This will occupy us for at least half of the time of our second series of lectures, while the radical transformation just mentioned will extend over the second half, and will represent our truly controversial contribution. What we shall linger over will be the ideas of the greatest of all philosophers, which will be a fit prelude to our own inadequate suggestions. We shall at least take off for a Jenseits, a beyond, from the best of philosophical runways, tied to our present experience by the best of philosophical links, and not arbitrarily and quasi-empirically knitted on to it. The best of philosophers of my reference is Hegel, and Hegel as I understand him, which is not quite the way that he is understood by many of his interpreters. The concept which I here wish to rise to, and for which I feel a need at the present pass in my exposition, is the Hegelian conception of Geist, Spirit or Mind. This concept is that of a common rational life, whose typical activity is the ordering of diverse items or materials under the dominance of simplifying universals, and whose Ego, whose self, if the word be appropriate at all, lies in rational categories and rational goals and common rational norms of procedure, and which is not a life peculiar to this individual conscious person or that one, but a life in which all conscious individual persons may share, to the extent that they employ the common categories, norms and standards in which that rational life consists. Spirit, Geist, is no particular person's spirit, but neither is it some magisterial spirit beyond particular conscious spirits: it is the common rationality, the impersonal thoughtfulness, the deeply penetrating imagination, that particular conscious beings can in different degrees come to share. There is, of course, a temptation to treat this common rationality as a mere abstraction, a mere feature which conscious, socialized persons tend increasingly to present, as they have fuller and fuller intercourse with each other and the world, a feature much like the smooth roundness of the pebbles that have been much rubbed on each other by the waves. The essence of the point of view we are considering is, however, to look on this common rationality as the centrally explanatory feature in terms of which the development and interactions of individual persons are to be understood, rather than the other way round. And the reason for this reversal of point of view lies in considerations like those we have dealt with in our lecture, the absurdity of any undoctored, untransformed view of material realities and of the conscious persons who live among them. It is so-called concrete particulars or individuals that really represent the vanishing abstractions, the dark limits, the things utterly dependent on other things for their existence and intelligibility, whereas so seemingly nebulous and abstract a matter as our common rationality demands rather to be taken as the truly self-sustaining, self-developing reality of which they represent the unsubstantial frothings and offshoots.
The manner in which our common rationality is, however, to be taken to be explanatory of the phenomena in our world, is not causal, but teleological. Not only are we required to give something nebulous and seemingly abstract explanatory precedence over soi-disant concrete realities, but we are also required to regard an explanation in terms of a ‘for the sake of’, an immanent finality, as more fundamental than an explanation in terms of the factors and principles out of which things originate. We require to take up the point of view of the Phaedo and regard ‘the best’ as a superior explanation to airs, ethers, and, let us add, separated, social persons. It is for the sake of engendering conscious rationality such as we enjoy, that the various puzzling arrangements of cave-life are as they are, that there are opaque, alien, inertly functioning bodily realities before us, on which we may try our wits, growing ever subtler as we proceed, and which we can remould practically for our purposes, and it is likewise for the sake of engendering conscious rationality that conscious life is parcelled out among separated personal egos, each with its own body and place in the world, with its distinctive and perhaps eccentric view of things, and with brutally conflicting, often mutually cancelling interests. These things are all there to be transcendent, to be rationally, humanely remodelled, and they can only be so remodelled if they are really there, and if they remain really there. Spiritual, rational being demands ‘the seriousness, the anguish, the patience, and the labour of the negative’: this phrase, the translation into the mature dialect of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit of the ‘They are only sent to try us’ which Hegel doubtless heard again and again from his pious parents, also represents his central philosophical assertion. The paradox, the misfit, the opposition and maladjustment of factors that we encounter everywhere in the cave, are not things that can be ironed out and removed in some smooth, non-paradoxical restatement: they are ironed out and removed in seeing them to be necessary conditions of the rationality which uses them and transforms them, and as therefore existing only ‘for its sake’.
The ideological idealism we are considering involves a strong and essential vein of realism and materialism which fits in with the accounts of bodily phenomena given in earlier chapters. As opposed to Fichte and Schelling, who wrote long prologues in heaven, in which the construction of nature by the pure subject is expounded in a mysterious series of phases or epochs, the idealism we are considering believes only in our own conscious rational reconstruction of the natural world, whether undertaken cognitively in science, or practically in personal, social, technological and political action. True, nature permits of such a rational reconstruction, and is in fact ready to be transformed into a ‘second nature’ when solicited in the right manner, which is, however, much more forceful than the Sleeping Beauty's kiss. Its phenomena harbour the possibility of Newtonian, Darwinian and Einsteinian reinterpretations, but they do not yield up their secrets till after a prolonged struggle, in which no alien residuum dare be left unaccounted for. Natural forms are likewise elaborately graded in a mannner which leads up from the inert and mechanical to the unified, purposive and personal, but the dominance of the higher, purposive forms of being is never an easy, straightforward matter: they have always to master the rigidities of more mechanical levels of being. Above all, the development of rational life in man is no ready-made possibility: it must come out of a long, anguishing, historical struggle between various only partially rational forces, and its ultimate achievement, a rational society in which all merely natural forces and existences are remodelled in the service and for the delight of man, who also respects his own rationality in the rationality of others, represents the hardest and most fragile of consummations. The historical materialism of Marx, of course, represents a much garbled dilution of the teleological idealism we have been setting forth.
The teleological idealism we are considering must also work itself out in the detailed development of the rational categories, prescriptions and values which we have already recognized as the subtler, suspended furnishings of the human cave. It is the task of such an idealism to show how and why such categories and values develop, and what their connection is with the bodily and other furnishings that we have hitherto been studying. It is here that we must consider the presiding norms and values of scientific reasoning, of aesthetic appreciation, religious dedication and philosophical illumination.
For the sort of teleological idealism we have been considering there is no end beyond rational conscious activity, which aims primarily at perpetuating and maintaining and enriching itself, and ultimately at becoming clearly conscious that it is itself its own aim and the aim of all other things. For Hegelianism the Idea, the final, all-explanatory goal of everything, is simply rationality which sees itself to be the goal of everything. These Hegelian ideas do not so much, therefore, point out a way beyond the cave in which we are immured, and whose arrangements we find so absurd, as that they seek to transform our life in the cave. We transform the cave in seeing everywhere in its arrangements the rationality that they secretly subserve. Whether this sort of pure immanentalism, if so we may call it, is satisfactory, and whether its basic concepts are acceptable—its notion of a mind that is not anyone's individual mind of a rationality characterized by so simple a feature as a search for pure universality, of a teleology which is not anyone's special purpose, and which includes in itself anything which is a necessary, even if hostile, presupposition, and whose goal, moreover, is merely itself, and the full consciousness of itself, rather than anything external—all these are points that we shall have to consider carefully in our next series of lectures. It may be that the final inadequacies of this, the best thought-out transformation of the phenomena of the human cave, will afford us the best taking-off place for a final flight beyond it.