We are now to attack the first of the questions we have proposed for examination. Does morality, if its claims are to be justified to the critical intelligence, involve any presuppositions which point beyond itself? Does it supply its own raison d’être? If not, does it receive its missing completion in the activities, however we define them, which are commonly called religious? To ask the question is to make the assumption that we are starting on our inquiry with some provisional definition, or at least description, both of morality and of religion. Such an initial statement may be highly tentative, as all “definitions in use” are bound to be. It will certainly need illumination, and probably need correction, as our discussion proceeds, since the distinctive characters of the merely ethical and the specifically religious attitudes towards life can only emerge gradually in the course of the argument. Thus any formula from which we may start must appear, in the first instance, more or less arbitrary; its true significance and its justification, like that of “real” definitions in general, can only be discovered from the use to which it is put. No harm will be done if we consciously follow the practice, so often adopted by Aristotle, of beginning with a current definition which needs immediate correction, if only it leads us directly to the raising of a problem relevant to our purpose. Accordingly, I propose to make such a start on the present occasion from a brief and trenchant saying of the late Professor Bosanquet which has the double merit of setting the contrast between mere morals and religion in high relief and of leading straight up to what is, in principle, the most formidable issue we shall be called on to encounter.
“In morality,” says Bosanquet, “we know that the good purpose is real, in religion we believe that nothing else is real.”1 On the face of it, the sentence calls for a certain amount of interpretation. There is, for instance, apparently an intentional contrast, of which the precise character is left unexplained, between the “knowledge” said to be characteristic of morality and the “faith” distinctive of religion. On this we need not dwell, since we find on consulting the context of the sentence that morality also is held by the writer to depend on a kind faith. It is plain, again, that neither “knowledge” nor “faith,” as the words are being employed by Bosanquet, means mere intellectual assent to a proposition as true. No one would call a man virtuous on the strength of his mere speculative assent to the statements that lewdness and cruelty are bad, generosity to a successful rival, and fairness to a formidable antagonist good. Nor should we think a man religious simply because he believed it to be true that God exists and that God’s kingdom will some day come, in the same way in which he believes that there is a President of the Argentine Republic, or that cancer will some day be suppressed by medical science. The knowledge and the belief spoken of must both be taken to mean a scientia or a fides sapida, a knowledge and a belief which affirm themselves in practice by dominating and regulating the whole lives of those who are in earnest with them, a knowledge and a belief operative to “good works”.
Once more, the second half of the statement might be criticised on grounds which appeal with special force to many of those whom we all recognise as most sincerely religious. To say that nothing but the “good purpose” is real at least seems inconsistent with any vivid sense of the tremendous actuality and vitality of sin, as well as of fruitless physical and moral pain, and it might be urged that the influence of the various religions on life and character has been, and is, purifying and elevating precisely in proportion to their insistence on the reality of these antagonists of the “good purpose” and the duty of consecrating life to a “holy war” against them. And manifestly a “holy war” is something very different from a sham fight. If there is “really” no enemy to be overcome, the injunction to put on the “whole armour of righteousness” must appear no more than a dull and impious jest. It would seem that any religion which affirms the exclusive reality of the “good purpose” must lead to some indifferentist or antinomian apotheosis of “things as they are”. Such a religion, as we see in the cases of the merely lewd or cruel nature-worships of the ancient and modern East, may be potent for deadly moral and spiritual mischief; at its most harmless, as I think we see from the working of what is quaintly miscalled “Christian Science,” it is powerless as an inspiration to active moral good. In short, we might be asked whether, on the proposed definition, we should not have to give the name religion to the unethical eroticism of a Persian Sufi and refuse it to the faith of a Paul or an Augustine.
This is a difficulty felt keenly by others than the merely unspeculative. It lies at the root of the lifelong polemic of my honoured and lamented friend Dr. Rash-dall against the traditional conception of divine infinitude, and largely explains the violent revolt of so acute a thinker as Antonio Aliotta against Theism itself.2 To admit the existence of God, according to the brilliant Italian philosopher, is equivalent to converting the “good fight” into a mere parade manœuvre, since if God is, the issue of the combat is already decided, and hence history becomes a mere pageant. Thus Aliotta’s reason for renouncing the Theism with which he began his career is precisely that Theism implies the very conviction with which Bosanquet at least seems to identify religion. It is true, to be sure, that Bosanquet’s real meaning was probably not quite what some of his critics have taken it to be. Whatever may be the case with some of the recent Italian Absolutists, Bosanquet cannot be supposed by those who knew him to have intended to deny the actuality of evil, or to belittle the significance of those experiences of struggle and conflict which have led moralists and saints to speak so constantly in metaphors borrowed from the battlefield.3 Whether, in the end, his statement may be not so understood as to be true we may have to consider later on. At present I am concerned only to maintain that, like the saying of Parmenides about the impossibility of thinking of “what is not,” it is a dark and a hard saying, not to be taken at its “face-value”. If there is a sense in which whatever falls outside the “good purpose” can be said to be unreal, it must also be true that “what is unreal is in a sense real,” as Plato4 maintained that, with all respect for Parmenides, “what is not in some sense also is”.
The value of Bosanquet’s antithesis for my own purpose is independent of these obvious strictures. I quote it because it leads directly to a criticism which goes much deeper. By the use of the word real it raises the whole familiar problem of the relation between fact and value. Relgion, it might be said, at any. rate so far answers to the proposed definition that it certainly rests on the conviction that something is absolutely real, or, in plainer language, is “bed-rock fact”. It may be hard to say just what that something is, but it is clear that some existential proposition or propositions must be at the foundation of every religious faith. Every such faith is a faith in someone or something, and so presupposes at least certain conviction that this someone or something is, and is a very active reality. And this is where a religion differs from a morality.5 Morality, we are often told, has to do exclusively with values or ideals and is unconcerned with fact or reality. It deals entirely with what “ought to be” to the complete exclusion of what is. A moral conviction is a belief not in the actuality or reality of anything, but a belief in the goodness of certain things, or, if you prefer the alternative form of statement, in the rightness of certain kinds of conduct. What the moral conviction affirms is not a Sein but a So-sein, or perhaps we should even say, a So-sein-sollen. Hence it is never allowable to reason from the admitted goodness or rightness, the moral value, of any state of things, to its actuality, nor from its admitted badness to its unreality, any more than we may reason from “this is the only right thing to do” to “this is always done,” or from “this is abominably wrong” to “this is never done”. In a word, no ethical proposition is ever existential and no existential proposition ever ethical, and the one serious fault of Bosanquet’s antithesis is its identification of morality with a knowledge of an existential proposition, “the good purpose is real”. It may quite well be the case that whatever is is very bad indeed. Mephis-topheles may be right in asserting that
alles was entsteht,
Ist werth—dass es zu Grunde geht,
and Kant may even have been justified in his uneasy suspicion that the history of the world has never recorded the performance of a single act of genuine moral value.
If this absolute and rigid divorce between fact and value can be maintained, it must follow at once that there can be no religious, and a fortiori no theological, implications of morality. It might still be the case that some or all of the propositions asserted by natural theologians are true and capable of being proved, or at least rendered probable, but knowledge of the moral nature of man will yield no grounds for believing in any of them, nor will any of them assert anything about the unseen which has significance for the personal moral and spiritual life of man. Natural theology, at best, will give us indications only of an “architect of the universe,” not of a just judge of men, still less of an unseen friend and father. For, on the hypothesis, premisses drawn from ethics, being wholly non-existential, can never yield an existential conclusion, nor premisses drawn from the natural sciences, since none of them are assertions of value, any conclusion which asserts goodness or value. Hence, even if the philosopher finds himself able to assert any convictions about the being of God or the destiny of man, these convictions cannot be expected to dignify life by opening new vistas of spiritual values to be achieved. His natural theology will be at most Deism, in Kant’s sense of the word, not Theism.
An illustration may be taken from the philosophy of the late Dr. Mc Taggart.6 McTaggart was notoriously attached to one of the great traditional doctrines of Platonic natural theology, the dogma of the native immortality of the human soul, and much of his work is devoted to a gallant attempt to establish its truth. But he accepted, at the same time, the other, very un-Platonic, dogma of the irreducible antithesis between fact and value. Hence he contended that all “moral” arguments for man’s immortality—all, that is, which are based on analysis of the “good for man” and the conditions of its attainability—are merely irrelevant. His own highly ingenious arguments are drawn entirely from metaphysics, metaphysics being considered simply as a body of true assertions of matter of fact about the structure of the existent. The practical consequences of this attitude are curious and instructive. The immortality which McTaggart’s reasoning establishes, if we accept that reasoning as valid, and as the only valid ground for any conclusion on the matter, is virtually equivalent to a mere unending survival of numerically identical human persons, and the prospect opened up to us by the demonstration seems not to be of a kind likely to make any difference for the better in the quality of our interior life.7
Eternal life, conceived in the Christian sense, as a life in which human personality is transformed as it gazes on the living and perfect good, into the likeness of that which it beholds, immortality, conceived after the fashion of Plato, as a life in which we are united by a complete interpenetration of mind by mind, with the best of our fellows, these are visions of a life which is not merely “future,” or “endless,” but of ever ascending quality, a “new” or “changed” life; it is to such transfigured life, not to an indefinite more and more of an existence which men of high purpose have already weighed in the balance and found wanting, that the “divine something” in man has always aspired. McTaggart’s purely non-ethical arguments, even if we accept them as demonstrative, really hold out no hope that this aspiration can ever be realised. Death-lessness might be no more than a condemnation to the weary burden of mutability and temporality without even the hope of release, to say nothing of escape into worthier life. In his earlier work the one definite promise McTaggart holds out to us is no more than the prospect of an infinite sum of pleasures, a prospect which to many of us suggests boredom rather than felicity, and if it is true, as is urged in his later writings, that “nothing is too bad to exist,” it would seem that, after all, pure metaphysics cannot guarantee even the Hedonist’s sorry substitute for human good.
If there is none but an accidental conjunction between reality and value, the Is and the Ought, any conceivable theology must share this fate, since every theology will be a mere statement of fact, a theology for the irreligious. Where there is nothing to adore, there is no religion, and no man can adore a bald fact as such, irrespective of its quality, any more than he can really adore an ideal admitted to be a mere figment of his own imagination. The possibility of genuine worship and religion is absolutely bound up with a final coincidence of existence and value in an object which is at once the most real of beings and the good “so good that none better can be conceived,” at once the Alpha, the primary and absolute source of being, and the Omega, the ultimate goal of desire and endeavour. Only such an object can be adequate to the worship of a rational creature, for no other can rightly make the demand for the last and utter surrender which is worship in the spirit. Qualify the reality of the worshipper’s numen, and his self-surrender becomes properly and necessarily hedged about by reservations and conditions; worship degenerates into an unhealthy admiration for the work his own hands or his own brains. Take away the value, or set limits to it, and worse happens. We can at least admire or respect a mere ideal which we know to be our own creation, or at least we can admire or respect the exalted mood in which we created it, by contrast with the more common-place moods of every day. But in mere fact as fact what is there to respect? Mr. Russell, to be sure, once wrote a too-much-belauded essay on the Worship of a Free Man whose freedom is based on emancipation from the belief in any intrinsic connection between worth and fact. But I suspect that the title of the essay was only one of Mr. Russell’s little ironies. In truth, his “free man” worships nothing, or, if anything, himself. He despises fact for its brutal stupidity and revenges himself on it by becoming the Narcissus of his own dreams.8 The masters of the interior life would have told the writer that the one way to find yourself, no less than to find God, is to look away from yourself, and that “disdain” is a poison, not a food for the “free” soul.
Our very first step in our discussion, then, must be to show, if we can, that the supposed rigid disjunction of fact from value is, after all, a mere prejudice, too hastily conceived by philosophers who neglect the true business of “dialectic,” repeated and thorough criticism of their own assumptions. It is worth while to remind ourselves how very modern this dogma is. We may trace it back, in the first instance, historically, to Kant’s first Critique, where the purpose of the smashing assault on speculative theology, and, indeed, of the whole Dialectic of Pure Reason, is to divorce value completely from fact by denying that the “ideals” of speculative reason have any contact whatever with genuine knowledge.9 Of course, in making this denial Kant is consciously rejecting the convictions which had been at the heart of the two great traditions which had dominated earlier philosophical thought, the Socratic doctrine that the ảγαθὸν καὶ δέον, “the good and the ought,” the supreme principle of valuation, is also the cement, so to say, by which the structure of the existent is held together, and the Christian doctrine that God, the source from which all creatures proceed, is also the good to which all aspire and in which all find their justification. We all remember Kant’s own dismay at the apparent success of his undertaking, and his strenuous efforts, after putting asunder what “God and nature” had joined, to bring the disconsolate halves together again by invoking reason “as practical” to undo the work of reason “as speculative”. Perhaps some of us, however, are not careful enough to observe that this reconstruction of a broken bridge is no “second thought,” but is carefully prepared in the Kdr V. itself; the whole critical philosophy was never intended to be learned from the “transcendental Dialectic” alone and the interpretations of Kant based primarily on the Dialectic are all misinterpretations. If we are in error in denying the severance of fact and value, then we are, at least, erring in very good company and may take heart from the reflection.
Now what is the substance of the case we have to meet, when the problem is reduced to its simplest terms, and freed from all false dialectical subtleties? I will try to state it in my own words, but as fairly and forcibly as I can. It amounts, so far as I can see, to this. Plainly (a) we cannot argue straight away from the actuality of the actual to its goodness. The world is full of bad conduct, bad science, bad art. It is arguable—though I do not know how proof or disproof could be reached—that bad men and bad deeds are more common than good, and it is, at least, certain that very good deeds and very good men are both rare. We all understand how Mr. Pecksniff’s mind worked when, as his biographer tells us, he said of anything very bad that it was “very natural”. At any period we like to consider, there has been more bad art of every kind than good, more loose reasoning than accurate; great moral, scientific, artistic achievement is not common. If we consider the cursus ordinarius of nature when all allowance has been made for sentimental exaggeration, it is undeniable that it is attended by a great deal of suffering and wretchedness, and much of this, we must agree, is decidedly bad. The bad obviously is an actual feature in the products both of nature and of human art, no less than the good. Nor can we assume, with the light-hearted optimism of some of the eminent “Victorians,” that the bad is regularly instrumental to a greater good, or that the normal trend or bias of nature and of human society is towards the steady minimising of the bad, possibly to its elimination. We do not, indeed, see enough of the actual to be able to deny this as a possibility, but we see too much to be able to affirm it as a probability.) At most the advance of “evolutionary” science may perhaps have shown that it is probable that, in the region of the actual directly accessible to our own observation, there has been “progress” in the neutral sense of fairly steady development along continuous lines, but we cannot assume that the same thing has been true in regions of unexplored space and unrecorded past time inaccessible to our investigation, nor that the proposition will hold good of the unknown future. It might further be urged that much of the progress we can detect is only progress in this neutral sense of accelerated movement in the same direction. It has not been proved, and there is much to make us doubt, that it has equally been progress in the sense of advance towards the better. Our own experience of the life of Europe since the opening of the present century might, indeed, suggest an uneasy doubt whether the “advance of civilisation” may not have been progressive only in the sense in which a physician speaks of a patient’s progress towards dissolution or a moralist of the “rake’s” progress in debauchery.
Our verdicts, indeed, are inevitably passed on short views, whereas to pronounce on such a question with confidence, we should need to take the long view of spectators to whom the whole recorded history of man, or even the whole definitely ascertained physical history of our solar system, would be as yesterday by comparison with the vast immensity of pre-history. This is true; but we know enough to forbid any hasty inference from the actuality of a feature of the existent to its goodness. And it may be added that we are no less debarred from arguing in the reverse way that what is not actual and never will be actual cannot be good, and better than anything which is, or will be, actual. The best in what is actual has its recognisable defects; were there no other, its very impermanency would be a defect. Even when good only passes away to give place to better, we must always think how much better still it would have been if we could have had both goods—e.g., the ardour of youth and the wisdom of age—at once. The flower may fall only to give place to the fruit, and we may perhaps confess that, since we cannot have both, it is better to have the fruit without the flower than the flower without the fruit. Yet when autumn comes, we miss the flower. The Callipolis of Socrates’ dream never existed in history, and there is no ground to suppose that it ever will, but a man would have to be an extreme Real-politiker if he took this as proof that its institutions and life are inferior to those of London, Paris, Berlin, or Chicago. We should understand, if we did not accept, the view that all our “ideals” are no more than dreams, if it were added that the dream is often nobler than waking life, where it is too frequently the ugly or sordid dreams that “come true”.
This, so far as I can see, is really the whole of the case in support of the alleged rigid separation of fact from value. It should, of course, be noted that the most such arguments allow us to assert is that the conjunction of fact with value is “accidental,” that there is no inherent reason why what is actual should also be good, or what is good also actual. Nothing in what has been said compels us to go to the further length of pessimism, to hold that the good, from its very nature, must be unreal, and the actual by an intrinsic necessity, evil or imperfect. As I have said, I regard it as the most important problem in the whole range of philosophy to examine this alleged want of connection between reality, actuality, existence, or being, and goodness or value in a spirit of thorough criticism. I can do no more here than offer very imperfect and tentative hints towards such a truly critical examination, but I dare not do less. I cannot reconcile myself to the view that philosophy is a simple pastime for the curious, with the same attractiveness, and the same remoteness from all the vital interests of humanity, as the solution of a highly ingenious chess problem. If philosophy were really that and no more, I confess I should have small heart for the devotion of life to such “fooling”. I am content, with Plato and Kant, to be so much of a “common fellow” as to feel that the serious questions for each of us are “What ought I to do?,” “What may I hope for?,” and that it is the duty of philosophy to find answers to them, if she can. If none can be found, so much the worse for philosophy, but her incompetence is not to be assumed lightly. I proceed, then, to offer some considerations which may fairly suggest that the connection between existence (or actuality) and value is not accidental (or extrinsic). Even if these considerations fall short of demonstration they may still have a real work as tentative “aggressions,” and indicate the lines along which abler thinkers than myself may yet be able to reach a true solution of the problem.
(i.) It seems clear, to begin with, that most of the writers who insist on the radical separation of value from actuality are victims of an insidious fallacy of diction, a false abstraction due to convenient but am-biguous habits of speech. This particular point has been argued with admirable fullness and lucidity by Professor Sorley in his work Moral Values and the Idea of God,10 but I may be allowed, in view of its importance, to dwell on it again. When we speak of virtue, art, science, health, as having value, it is never virtue, art, science, health, “in the abstract” to which we mean to refer, but always the actual virtuous conduct, artistic production, true thinking, healthy bodily functioning of persons conceived as existent, either in fact or ex hypothesi. The candid utterances, generous acts and impulses, the creation or appreciation of beauty, the comprehension of truth, the vigorous performance of the physical functions of life by existents—in fact by persons—are the real objects to which we are ascribing the possession of value; we are not predicating value of the logical “concepts,” virtue, beauty, knowledge, or health. These, as the logician studies them, have been mentally isolated from all relation to the concrete individual existents in whose lives they appear, but it should be evident that in this process of abstraction they have been deprived of their specific value by being, legitimately enough for the logician’s special purpose, cut loose from “existence”. In fact, the concept virtue, for example, has no specific ethical value; the value it has is merely that of being a “clear and distinct idea,” and this value for classificatory purposes is common to it with the concept vice. So the health which has a value not shared by disease is not the “concept” health, but health exhibited in the functioning of existent organisms.
No one could seriously maintain that there would be intelligible meaning in the statement that health has a value not shared by disease, if there were no actual living organisms. It is only a system which contains living organisms of which we can say that it is “better” if these are healthy and enjoy the exercise of their organic functions than if they are diseased and only perform the vital functions with pain. Health is good is only an abbreviated way of saying that it is good that organisms should live in a state of health, bad that they should live in a state of disease. Pleasure is good means nothing, or means that pleasure enjoyed by existents who can feel is good. So the knowledge we pronounce good means the active discovery and contemplation of truth by intelligent minds. And if it is suggested that not only knowledge but truth is good, I would reply thus. On the supposition that it is logically possible that there might have been a purely physical universe, containing no minds as constituents and contemplated ab extra by no transcendent mind from without, it would still be the case that some relations and interactions subsist between the constituents of such a universe and some do not, and if, as the common materialist holds, there was once a time in the past of the actual world when there were no minds, still there were certain events, and no others, which were then happening, and the common materialist believes it possible, in a general way, to say what those events were, e.g. to reconstruct in outline the story of the formation of our solar system. In a sense, then, if there could be, or ever has been, a world without minds or persons, there is a truth about that world. But this is not the “truth” of which we can intelligibly say that it has value.
What is really meant when truth is called a value is that knowledge of the true is good, the lack of that knowledge bad, the false conceit of it, acceptance of the false as true, worst of all. And by calling knowledge good, we do not mean that a particular pattern of black marks on a white surface, or a particular sequence of articulate noises, as such, is good. There would be no reason to ascribe any special value to a printed copy of Newton’s Principia surviving in a world where there were not, and never would be, any minds to apprehend the meaning of the printed marks, or to the noises made by a gramophone repeating the propositions of the Principia on a mindless planet. If we could suppose the gramophone to be started on its work and all existent minds then to be annihilated, we should, I take it, not judge that it made any difference to the goodness or badness of such a state of things whether the event which annihilated the minds also affected the working of the gramophone or not. It would be as reasonable to ascribe “economic value” to a mass of precious metal supposed to be located somewhere on an uninhabited and wholly inaccessible planet.
We can, indeed, call one hypothetically assumed system in which mind is not actually present better than another, but I feel sure that when we speak in this way it is always with reference to the future of the two imagined systems. We judge that in which feeling and thought are expected to “emerge” and to get fair play better than that which either leaves no room for their appearance, or provides no chance of their adequate development. In a word—to condense my point into a formula—the knowledge we value as good is primarily always “knowledge in act,” the life of an existent individual intelligence discovering or contemplating truth. It is only in a secondary sense that we go on to ascribe value also to knowledge in proximate or remote “potency to act,” as when we speak of value in connection with knowledge a man has acquired but is not actually using, or even in connection with the contents of a library not actually accessible to the student. We say it is good that the library should still exist, because we trust that its stores will yet be utilised by someone, and will incite to fresh actual pursuit and enjoyment of knowledge. Hence the notoriously low value we set even on knowledge actually before the mind, when it is mere “erudition” which does not stimulate to further intellectual activity. To quote some pertinent words of Professor Eddington, “if we consider a world entirely devoid of consciousness… there is, so far as we know, no meaning whatever in discriminating between the worlds A and B. The mind is the referee who decides in favour of A against B. The actuality of the world is a spiritual value. The physical world at some point or indeed throughout impinges on the spiritual and derives its actuality solely from this contact.”11
Now what is true in this case is equally true in the less obvious cases of the values we ascribe to great art and good moral practice. What we commend is not courage or temperance “in the abstract,” an “universal” concept, but the characteristic life of a courageous or temperate man. What we condemn is not cruelty or adultery “in the abstract,” but the characteristic acts and desires of cruel or adulterous men. Adultery “in the abstract” is good with the only goodness an “abstraction” can have; it is an admirable example of a “clear and distinct idea,” and that is all there is to be said about it.
We may, indeed, say in a sense which is both true and important that in our moral judgements we are ascribing values to universals, and that the judgements would not be genuinely ethical unless this were so. But if the statement is not to prove a source of dangerous error, we must at once add that the “universal” which has value—other than the merely logical value of a “clear and distinct idea”—is always the universal embodied in rebus, not the universal post res of the nominalist logicians. “Mercy is good” does indeed mean more than “this, that, and the other merciful acts are good”; it means that these acts are good not incidentally, because, for example, they happen to have been also pleasant or profitable, but because they are merciful, and for no other reason. But the statement does not mean that mercy is good, apart from its exercise in act. What is good is, in Aristotelian language, the universal mercy as constituting the “form” of the merciful man’s acts, not as detached, for the purpose of the logician, from its function as the form of those acts, and “informing” the intellectus possibilis in the logician. As the great schoolmen of the thirteenth century were rightly careful not to make nonsense of the doctrine of perception by confusing the “form of lapideity” as it exists in the stone I see or touch with the “form of lapideity” as it exists in the eye which sees the stone, or the intellect which has “collected” the concept of a stone from sense-experiences, so we need, no less imperatively, to distinguish between the mode of being of moral “universals” as they are the “forms” of virtuous acts and their mode of being per abstractionem in the thought of the student of ethics contemplating the virtuous conduct of another party. It is as “forms” of the good acts of virtuous agents, and only as such, that they can be said to have specific moral value, and as such forms they are not “abstracted” from their setting of concrete individuality. The abstracting is done by the contemplating intellect and affects only the universal post rem. In short, the primary meaning of mercy is good is that the mercy shown by the merciful man is good, not that mercy as contemplated by the “disinterested spectator” is good. If the act of contemplating and approving mercifulness, performed by such a spectator, who is not himself at the time engaged in the exercise of mercy, is good, as it is, it is only good because showing mercy is good. The “disinterested spectator” recognises the already existing goodness of the act he rightly approves, he does not bestow the value on the act by his approving contemplation.
The same thing appears to me no less true of all the values of art. What we really regard as so very good is beauty as constituting the characteristic form of the beautiful thing, beauty as existing in the poem, or symphony, or portrait, not beauty as a “concept,” detached from the individual things of beauty in which it is embodied. Here, once more, those of our contemporaries who are insistent in denying that “universals” exist, while they are equally sure that “value” belongs to the non-existent universal, seem to me mere victims of a vicious logical nominalism. A character in one of Mr. Lowes Dickinson’s books suggests that it would make no difference to the value of a great picture if it were painted by an artist in a state of complete unconsciousness, and sunk, as soon as it had been painted, to the bottom of the sea.12 It would be hard to find a better example of the double view that the universal, and only the universal, has value, but that it also has no actuality. And yet it is noticeable that the example does not succeed in that complete separation of value from actuality at which the speaker is manifestly aiming. What is spoken of here as beautiful is after all not “beauty in the abstract,” but beauty as “informing” a particular picture. And we note too, that though the speaker is careful to exclude any reference to the enjoyment of a possible spectator of the picture, he has not eliminated all reference to individual persons and their activities, as he should have done; he has kept the artist and his activity, though he reduces this to the minimum by imagining the activity to be unconscious.
Now why, we may ask, should the artist be brought into the illustration at all? For the purpose of the argument would not an arrangement of colours, or of light and shade, effected by unguided natural processes, have served as well, or better? Why, then, is a painter to be brought into the hypothesis, though an unconscious one, unless the writer secretly feels that the beauty we value as good must be the characteristic “form” of a personal activity, even though the activity is, inconsistently, imagined to be entirely “unconscious”? I seem to detect here an involuntary confession that the good beautiful thing must be a thing made by someone, a concession which might lead to some far-reaching consequences, if we went on to bring it into connection with the undeniable fact that a situation not brought about by any known human, or even animal activity, such as a sunset or a thunderstorm, may be exceedingly beautiful. I trust I shall not be misunderstood here. I am not for a moment defending what I regard as the wholly untenable view that truth, or beauty, or moral goodness is “subjective,” in the sense that we can make propositions true, things beautiful, acts right, by thinking them so. I am not denying that there are truths which no man knows, truths which, it may be, no man ever will know, beauties which have no human spectator, heroisms and delicacies which no man’s actual conduct has exhibited. I should be the first to admit that truth, beauty, goodness are not created but discovered by their spectators. My point is a different one and has a double edge. It is (1) that the truth, beauty, goodness to which we ascribe worth are in all cases “concreted,” embodied in individuals of which they are the constitutive forms, and that our ascription of worth is only significant in view of this embodiment of the “universal” in the individual; (2) that in all such judgements of value the reference to personal activities is always more or less explicitly present.
This is clearest in the case of judgements about moral worth, where it is always explicit personal activity that is pronounced good or bad. Even Mr. Lowes Dickinson’s Dennis has not suggested that the character or conduct of a man going through the business of life and performing “good works” in a state of complete somnambulism could intelligibly be said to have moral worth. He apparently allows that the somnambulist would have neither virtues nor vices, though he conceives that he might paint a beautiful picture, forgetting perhaps that it seems to be of the essence of all art to be mimetic, or representative of something. As for aesthetic values themselves, as I said, the introduction of the “unconscious” artist seems to imply that the same consideration holds good, though not so obviously. For it seems to be implied that we cannot properly call “natural objects” beautiful unless we think of them also as the works of a divine artist, or at least allow ourselves to imagine “nature” as an artist, though an “unconscious” one. In the case of truth, which is commonly classed along with beauty and moral goodness as a “value,” reference to personal activity might seem to be absent, but this absence is only apparent. For (1), as I have said, what we really mean by calling truth a value is that the knowledge of truth is good, ignorance or error bad. If we are to speak of truth at all in a mindless universe, manifestly we cannot mean truth in what Aristotle calls the primary sense of the word, the sense in which we call judgements true. We must mean truth in that very vague sense in which the mediaeval logicians reckon truth, along with unity and goodness as one of the “transcendentals,” when they lay it down that quodlibet ens est unum, verum, bonum. Even so, we have not really got away from the reference to mind, since, as St. Thomas explains13 what is expressed in the statement that any ens is verum is convenientia entis ad intellectum, the intrinsic knowability of being. This is actually presupposed by the formula itself, when it treats verum as a predicate of ens. The formula, in fact, asserts just what the philosophers who detach value from existence are anxious to deny. “Values” not concreted in actuality would not be entia, and therefore, according to the Thomistic doctrine, would be entitled neither to be called vera nor to be called bona.
Also (2) it would be a paradox to say that all truths, because equally true, are equally valuable. By this I do not mean merely that a proposition may be true and yet be unimportant from its want of relevance to the special interests of a particular person. Thus, for example, the statement of Mr. F.’s aunt in Little Dorrit, “there’s milestones on the Dover road,” was irrelevant to the immediate concerns of the hearers, though it might have been important enough to any one on the Dover road with a day’s walk before him, who had to decide where he would break it for a meal. Quite apart from this difference in accidental importance for particular individuals, there is an intrinsic difference between propositions, all equally true, in respect of their purely theoretical significance. Some of them throw a flood of light on a wide range of the knowable, others do not. Every branch of knowledge has its illuminating truths and its merely curious truths; the value of the two is widely different, though they stand on the same footing in respect of being true. Reference to the highly personal activity of understanding is implicit in this inevitable distinction between knowledge which, apart from its so-called “practical” consequences, is valuable as highly illuminating and knowledge which has not this value. But if value always involves some kind of reference to the activities of persons, it cannot be true that value and existence (or actuality) are only accidentally conjoined. Indeed, it should be a truism to say that ex vi termini a value must be a good, and that, again ex vi termini, a good must be something that can be possessed and enjoyed by someone or something. In this respect it is with all values as with those of the economist; an article cannot intelligibly be said to be “worth” so much if there is no one to whom it is worth that price. Ice, for example, is valueless in the solitudes of Antarctica. St. Thomas (loc. cit.) may again be allowed to illustrate the point for us. He explains that quodlibet ens est bonum is meant to express the appropriateness of entia to appetition, as quodlibet ens est verum expresses their appropriateness to intellection. Hence both dicta convey a reference to mind, which unites in itself the vis cognitiva and the vis appetitiva. If there were no intelligence, nothing could have “truth-value,” if there were no appetition, nothing could have value at all.14
(ii.) Again, consider some of the consequences which seem to follow immediately from the admission of either truths or the knowledge of them into the list of values. A truth, even a truth as yet undiscovered, is a proposition,15 and it should have been quite evident, ever since Plato wrote the Sophistes, that to be significant at all, and therefore to be a proposition, an utterance must always be, directly or indirectly, an assertion about τὸ ὄν, what is. Everyone can see that this is so with singular propositions, and with “particular” propositions, which are equivalent to groups of singular propositions whose subjects are as yet unspecified. That “some men are mathematicians” is only significant because the statements that “this man (say Legendre) is a mathematician” and that “that man (say Gauss) is a mathematician” are also significant. And the subject of a singular proposition, being a “this,” can never be simply non-existent; “this nothing” would be an unmeaning noise. (Hence the universal recognition that singular and particular propositions have always “existential import,” with its necessary corollary that in strict logic a “subalternate” proposition can never be inferred simply from its subalternans.)
It is true that everyone who tries to treat logic seriously finds himself driven to deny that the universal proposition has direct existential import. But the consequence is that, if we consider closely, the “universal” reduces to something less than an actual proposition. It becomes what Russell and Whitehead call a “formal implication” not between propositions but between “propositional functions”. That is, the true meaning of the statement “all men are mortal” can only be given without excess or defect in the form “that x is a man implies that x is mortal”. This again means, to state it more precisely, that “is mortal” is true of any subject of which “is a man” is true. To make a genuine proposition out of this blank form it is necessary that we should replace the symbol x, on both its appearances, by one and the same name or denoting phrase, indicating one individual this. Only when we have done so have we passed from asserting a relation between mere “propositional functions” to asserting a relation between propositions. And when we take this step, the propositions which figure in the (now “material”) implication are seen at once to have existential import.
Thus, though we often utter the words that man is mortal, we never really mean no more nor less than we say. As Russell has remarked, we should not expect to find the decease of Man recorded in the Deaths columns of the Times or the Morning Post. On the other hand, we mean more than was supposed by Mill when he took the statement to be no more than the assertion of “is mortal” about each and every individual man who has actually lived in the past, is living now, or will live hereafter.16 When I say that all men are mortal, I may not know that Botticelli is the name of a man and a Florentine; like the young gentlemen in Punch, I may believe that Botticelli is the name of a wine or a cheese. Yet I mean my assertion to cover the statement that if Botticelli is a man—which I hold not to be the case—Botticelli is also mortal. The subject of which something is asserted in the universal proposition is thus neither a definite collection of determined individuals, nor yet the “universal” or “concept” of which such individuals are “instances”. It is any individual, known or unknown, of whom a certain statement is true, and what I assert is that a second statement also will be true of such an individual. If there should be no such individual, if, for example, there never should be any actual man, the statement (in this case, that all men are mortal) seems to me to lose its claim to be regarded as true. I see no way of successfully disputing the old dictum nullius sunt nullae proprietates.
The statement, often made by formal logicians, that all assertions are equally true of the “null-class” seems to me only a disguised way of making this admission. If you can assert a pair of contraries of the same subject, the distinction between truth and falsity loses its meaning so far as that subject is concerned; truth and falsehood cease to be opposed values, and so cease to be values at all. A genuine assertion with a meaning always makes a “claim,” well-founded or not, to be true and not to be false. For that reason, I should say, it is impossible to make a genuine assertion about the merely non-existent. If that is not “the expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” what is? I confess I cannot enter into the state of mind of those agreeable and entertaining persons who suppose themselves to be recapturing the spirit of Plato’s philosophy when they discuss propositions about the “round square” and other such impossible “objectives”. My own conviction is that Plato would have dismissed the topic with the single remark that, since there are no round squares, nothing can be significantly said about the “round square,” and that human life is too short to be further curtailed by an expenditure of breath with no meaning behind it. Even the statement that there are no round squares is not, properly speaking, a statement about round squares, but rather a confession that we have tried hard to make such a statement and found it impossible. We can make no statement which proves on analysis to be, in the terminology of Frege, all “function” without any “argument”. Here again scholasticism puts the point excellently: “Being is in a certain way affirmed about not-being, in so far as not-being is apprehended by the intellect. Hence the Philosopher says in the Fourth of the Metaphysics that the negation or privation of being is in one sense called being; hence also Avicenna says, at the beginning of his Metaphysics, that no enunciation can be made except about what is. For that about which the proposition is made must have been apprehended in the intellect.”17
At the cost of a seeming digression I should like here to explain what I take to be the source of confusion in the minds of those who think that the merely non-existent can be the subject of a significant judgement of value. It is the old and deadly error of supposing that a word must be either simply univocal or merely equivocal, the same fatal error which Spinoza commits when he assumes that either will and understanding, when they are ascribed to God, mean precisely the same thing as will and understanding in ourselves, or the double employment of the same words is as purely accidental as the double use of the vocable dog for the friend of man who guards our houses and a group of stars in the nightly sky.18 In exactly the same way, it is often assumed that “existence” or “actuality” must either mean exactly what it does when we discuss the question whether the sea-serpent exists, or whether Prester John actually existed, that is, occupation of a definite region in the historical series of spatio-temporal events, or mean nothing at all. Then, since “ideals” clearly must not be said to exist in this sense, it is asserted that “ideals” or “values” simply do not exist at all. Under the baneful influences of an evil nominalistic tradition, inherited from the senility of a scholasticism which had lost its vigour, the great Aristotelian conception of the “analogous” use of predicates has been allowed to fall out of our modern thought, with disastrous consequences. It is simply not true that the alternatives, univocal predication—equivocal predication, form a complete disjunction. This is plain from the elementary examples produced by Aristotle himself, when he wants to illustrate the meaning of analogy. When I say that a wise adviser and director is a physician of the soul, I am manifestly not predicating “physician” of such a man in the same sense in which I say of Mr. Jones, or Mr. Smith, Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons, that they are able and experienced physicians. But it is equally plain that the use of the word “physician” here is no mere historical accident of language, as it is a mere historical accident that I call a certain group of stars “the Dog,” rather than “the Cat” or “the Dodo”. My soul is, indeed, not a body, and it is not dieted with albuminoids or carbohydrates, nor dosed with tonics or aperients. But there is a real appositeness in the metaphor I use. But for an historical accident I might call the group of stars a cat, a dodo, a hyena, or anything you please, as appropriately as I call them a dog; all that matters is that, whatever word I use, it should be understood which group I have in mind. But it is a happy well-chosen metaphor I am using when I speak of a physician of souls, or call the wise statesman who brings his country safely through perils and disorder the “pilot who weathers the storm”. The one is not κυρίως, in the strict sense, a medical man, nor the other a seaman, but it is true that the one stands to his “penitent” as the physician to his patient, the other to the nation as the pilot to the vessel and its company. Analogy in the strict sense, “analogy of proportionality,” is a genuine feature in the structure of things. So again is analogy in the looser sense. As Aristotle observes, a surgical implement is not surgical in the precise sense in which an eminent operator is surgical, but again, it is no accident of language that we use the same epithet in both cases.
To take a less trivial illustration, the very word life itself, or, as Aristotle says in this connection, “existence,” is not strictly univocal. When we say that what the best type of friend desires is neither entertainment nor advantage to be derived from his friend, but that friend’s existence, that he prizes that friend’s existence, I even if he is henceforth to exist in conditions which preclude all possibility of further intercourse, what we mean, as Aristotle says, is that the good man finds a high intrinsic value in his friend’s thinking and perceiving. Even the “Waring” whom we expect never to see again has not vanished, the world has not lost the value it gets for us from his presence in it as an alert and benign intelligence: “In Vishnu-land what avatar?” It would be another matter if our friend’s mental activities of all kinds were irreparably annihilated. In a sense he might still be, but not in the sense in which our affections find their satisfaction in his being. Such being as he might still retain if he only continued to breathe, to be nourished and the like, in a state of complete “paralysis of the higher centres,” would not be what we mean by the life of a man. In the case of a man, to be means to be alive, and to be alive in the special way in which “human beings”—the very phrase bears witness to the soundness of Aristotle’s contention—are said to be alive. The hopelessly demented or paralysed are not what we mean by the very expressive slang phrase “live men”. The man who only is in the sense in which a log or a stone is, if there is such a man, may fairly be said to “be no longer”.19
If the existence, then, which we ascribe to the individual as a proprium is not an univocal word, is it merely a word which has an accidental plurality of unconnected senses, like box, or dog? Clearly it is something more than this. We can say of whatever is an individual and of nothing else, that it is actual, exists, or has existence, as the logicians recognise when they assert that the universal proposition differs from the singular or particular in not having “existential import”. And if we ask what we mean by individual here, I can find no answer but that implied in the Aristotelian account of “primary substance,” that the individual is that which can figure in propositions as subject, but never as predicate, or, to use Frege’s terminology, that which is an argument of functions, but never itself a function of any argument. Clearly we have no right to assume without examination that only what we commonly call “fact,” that which can be located and dated by reference to an interval in the spatio-temporal series, is thus individual. If we meditate the reasons which have led Professor Whitehead to make a sharp distinction between events and objects and to insist that location and date belong properly to events, to objects only secondarily, in virtue of their “ingredience” into events,20 we might even be led to the very different view that individuality is precisely the feature in things which resists our attempts to locate and date it. It is at least clear that the assumption that the individual must always mean that which occupies a definite, i.e. a delimited, spatial and temporal interval has no real claim to be admitted as true without careful and searching criticism. It is conceivable that individuals may be of many types and that “existence,” as asserted of them, may have as many shades of meaning as there are types of individual. This possibility forbids us to assume that the existent is simply that which can be located and dated, and consequently forbids us also to assert that “values” and “ideals,” since they have admittedly no date or location, must merely be non-existent, not-actual, “what is not”.
(iii.) These considerations, however, are only preliminary to the point on which I would rest the main weight of the case for refusing to admit the ultimate severance of value from existence. The point on which I would lay the chief stress is that any such severance falsifies the facts of real life, where existence and value appear always as distinguishable, but always as conjoined. The moral life is inevitably misconceived and its suggestions misread, if we start by thinking of the attitude of the man who is ordering his life as Mensch mit Menschen on the analogy of the attitude of a super-physicist or super-chemist to a laboratory problem. If we make this mistake of confusing the man who is seeking a rule of life to live by with that of a theorist speculating about the activities of the good life as lived by someone else, it is not unnatural to imagine such a theorist as first having the facts of life given, “thrown on the screen,” “presented for his observation,” and then bringing to them a scheme of valuation freely imposed by himself from the outside. Thus we come to think of the facts, or realities, as one thing, the valuation put on the facts by the “observer” as another independent thing, and so the question arises whether the valuation is not wholly personal to the observer, and so arbitrary, and devoid of all foundation in the facts, as we call them. But when we are addressing ourselves to the primary moral problem of living, facts and valuations do not present themselves in this neat antithetical fashion, as the given on one side, and the interpretation subjectively put on that given on the other. In life as we all, including the laboratory worker himself, live it, all is given, facts and valuations together, in an un-divided whole. We find ourselves not passive spectators of a scene presented to our contemplation, but actors in the drama, taking our part in response to the suggestions of our environment, which is at least human, moral and social, as well as biological and physical. The living moral tradition of our community, the equally living tradition of the scientific, artistic, or religious group into which we have been initiated, are embodied schemes of valuation, but they are also as much facts and part of the given to which we have to make our response as the pressure of the atmosphere, or the gravitational “pull” of the earth. Our respect for our parents, our love for our friends, our loyalty to our country, our adoration of the divine, all are specific responses to specific features in an actual whole which is, in the first instance, given and not made. We are from the first creatures with a moral as well as a physical “environment,” and the values of the moral life are themselves the constituents of the environment, not afterthoughts, or “psychic additions,” of our own personal creation.
I may perhaps illustrate my meaning by a reference to the similar status of the so-called “secondary” qualities of sensible things, and again to what Professor Alexander and his admirers call “tertiary” characters. In spite of the utterances of a whole series of eminent philosophers, from Galileo and Descartes down to our own age, it ought to be patent that, whatever the ontological status of the greenness of the leaf and the redness of the rose-petals, they are no “psychic addition” made by the percipient subject to a given consisting simply of so-called primary qualities. The green colour of the grass, the crimson of the rose, are there in the world as it is given to us through the eye, no less than the shape of the blade or the petal. It is not my mind which, in knowing the grass or the rose, puts into it a green or a red which was not there; on the contrary, it is from an indefinitely rich and complex given that I come to single out these particular elements for separate contemplation. In this matter, once more, the greatest scholastics, I think, showed themselves better analysts of the facts than their successors of the more modern world. St. Thomas, for example, if I understand him rightly, as very possibly I do not, teaches a doctrine of perception which a thoroughgoing realist might accuse of containing the germ of the later heresy of representative perception. He holds to the Aristotelian formula that when I see, for example, a rose there is an actual presence of the “form” of the rose in my own sensibility, the species sensibilis. But he is very careful to avoid the mistake of supposing that the rose I see is the same thing as this “sensible species”. The “species” plays a necessary part in the work of perception, but it is the instrument by which seeing is effected the quo videtur, not the object seen (the quod videtur). What I see is the “form of the rose” embodied in the actual rose, not the “form of the rose” as present in my eye or my mind. This “form” is present there, or there would be no vision, but of the “form” as present in me I have no perception at all; I perceive, through its instrumentality, the corresponding “form” as existing in the rose. The sensible species is thus, in the causal order, a mediating link between me and the rose; in the order of perception and knowledge I apprehend the rose itself without awareness of any intervening tertium quid whatever.21 Now this may not be a wholly satisfactory analysis. I own I am tempted to say, with what a Thomist would probably regard as a leaning to an outré realism, that there is really no evidence that anything psychical intervenes in the causal order between the physiological processes in retina, optic nerve, and cerebral centres, and the perception of the rose. But at any rate the recognition that the “sensible species,” if it is a psychical reality, is not itself apprehended by sense, would have been enough to keep the theory of knowledge off the false track on which it has been sent for so many generations by the unhappy influences of Descartes and Locke. We may at least say that a sound theory must retain as a minimum of realism the Thomist distinction between the quod and the quo of perception.
The mistake of thinking otherwise would hardly have been made if philosophers and men of science had always drawn the important distinction, on which John Grote used rightly to insist,22 between the philosopher’s attitude to his given and that of the positive sciences to theirs. The philosopher interested in analysing knowledge as a whole must inevitably take as his ultimate antithesis that between the knower-agent, on the one side, and the whole, as yet undifferentiated, continuum of the known-and-interacted with, on the other. And there can be no doubt on which side of the antithesis the colour of the grass or the rose falls. It is not a knowing, or an acting, but a fact known and reacted to, a feature in the continuum; not a response, but a percept which may provoke responses of different kinds, according as the percipient finds the colour pleasing or unpleasing, stimulating or depressing. It can only be mistaken for something else when we have first committed the blunder of confusing this most elementary antithesis of knower and known with the entirely different antithesis between the constituent of the known which I gradually learn to recognise as my own body and those constituents which I call foreign bodies. Then it becomes possible to argue, plausibly but fallaciously, that since the mechanical interactions between bodies can be understood without taking their differences in colour into account, and since, in the interests of exact science, we should like, if we can, to reduce all interactions between bodies, even in the case where one of them at least is alive and sentient, to the mechanical type, the colour which can be disregarded by “rational mechanics” is not really there, and must therefore be an “addition” made by the mind to the given. Or it is argued by philosophers of a different school, with equal disregard of concrete realities, that since we can for various special purposes, break up the given into small fragments of simple and homogeneous quality, it was given in that form, and we get the really monstrous doctrine that the real or given consists primarily of detached sensa which knowledge somehow pieces together; the awkward problem then arises, with what justification the piecing together is done. If we would only look at the facts of life without this artificial distortion of perspective, we might see at once that what is given is neither a configuration devoid of sensible quality, nor a number of qualitatively definite disconnected sensa, but a single most imperfectly discriminated whole, in which shape, colour, size, odour, sound, are all present from the outset, and that progress in knowledge means, not making unauthorised additions to this whole, but becoming increasingly sensitive to distinctions within it.
In the same way the “presentation-continuum” itself is not the whole of what, in the first instance, is given. It is given itself as one with its setting, all of a piece with elements which will be afterwards detached for separate consideration as making up our specifically human and social milieu. The mother’s protecting care is given in infancy along with and in the same sense as the mother’s features, or the bloom on her cheeks. And to myself it seems clear, again, that the beauty of the rose is no more read into, or added to, the fact of the rose than its colour. Both are, in the first instance, found, not brought, though, as the colour seems not to be found except by creatures with eyes, so the beauty, too, is not found by the man who has not the “inner eye” by which beauty is discerned. At least the artists of the world have commonly spoken and borne themselves as if it would be the death of artistic endeavour to discover that their work has been a process of inventing and not one of finding.
Now all this seems to be no less true of our moral “ideals”. As I do not add either the tints or the beauty of the rose or the sunset de meo to a rose or a sunset “given” without beauty, or even without colour, but find the colour or the beauty in the given, so I do not, by an “act of valuation,” make Jonathan’s affection for David or the self-devotion of Marcus Curtius, the humility of St. Francis, or the patient labour of Darwin good; I find the goodness there in them. Presumably, I should have had no moral “ideals” at all if I had not begun in childhood by accepting “as a little child” the moral tradition of my community with its witness to the fact that qualities like these are “objectively” good, exactly as iron is hard and lead soft. And any tradition of living would soon cease to be a living tradition if men could be persuaded that it consists of “valuations” manufactured by themselves and imposed on the “real facts” of life from outside. A tradition thus degraded would lose all its power of inspiring to fresh endeavour and better action. The ideals of good which in actual history move men to great efforts only move so powerfully because they are not taken to be an addition imposed on the facts of life, but to be the very bones and marrow of life itself. Behind every living morality there is always the conviction that the foundation of its valuations is nothing less than the “rock of ages,” the very bed-rock out of which the whole fabric of things is hewn. The mere suspicion, phrase it as we will, that “divinity gives itself no concern about men’s matters,” that “the universe is sublimely indifferent to our human distinctions of right and wrong,” that “facts are thoroughly non-moral,” when it comes to be entertained seriously, regularly issues in a lowering of the general standard of human seriousness about life. Serious living is no more compatible with the belief that the universe is indifferent to morality than serious and arduous pursuit of truth with the belief that truth is a human convention or superstition. In short, if one is thoroughly in earnest with the attempt to separate the given, the fact, from the superadded value, one will discover, on the one hand, that what one has left on one’s hands as the bald fact has ceased to be fact at all by the transference of every item of definite content to the account of the added, and, on the other, that the “value” has lost all its value by its rigorous exclusion from the given. What confronts us in actual life is neither facts without value nor values attached to no facts, but fact revealing value, and dependent, for the wealth of its content, on its character as thus revelatory, and values which are realities and not arbitrary fancies, precisely because they are embedded in fact and give it its meaning. To divorce the two would be like trying to separate the sounds of a great symphony from its musical quality.
The point I am anxious to make, then, is one which would be generally admitted, so far as the mere epistemological problem is concerned. I do not believe that anyone who has seriously faced that problem will be disposed to deny that in our knowledge of the actual world it is quite impossible to make a hard-and-fast distinction between a kernel of reality or fact which is given as such once for all, and an interpretation, more or less doubtful, superadded by the apprehending mind. There is no specific datum of sense which can be isolated in this fashion, any more than it is possible, in the study of biological development, to mark off a primitive datum, as the given and original endowment of the organism, from the effects of interaction between this datum and its environment. Whatever we assign, in some specific investigation, to the organism as originally there, antecedently to a particular process of development through interaction, itself, on further examination, turns out to presuppose earlier processes of development by which it has come to be what it is. Everywhere in our biological science we are confronted by the distinction between developing organism and conditioning environment; but I suppose it is never possible, on either side, to accept any feature of a situation as simply given material for development, with no history of internal development of its own. So in the genetic study of the growth of our knowledge of the corporeal world around us. However far back you trace a man’s cognitive relation to this world, you find in it the two relatively opposed factors of passive reception of given data and active interpretation of the data, but their apparent independency is only apparent. We never reach any actual stage in the mental growth of the individual man or the society so primitive that we could say of it, “here all is passive reception of a given with no element of disturbing interpretation,” any more than we can expect, at the other end of the process, ever to achieve a “scientific understanding of nature” in which everything should be interpretation, and nothing uninterpreted given fact. There is no reason to believe that even the simplest beginnings of anything we could recognise as human cognition present us with purely passive reception of the merely given. Recognition, comparison, discrimination, whereever they show themselves, are already incipient interpretation, and even the crudest human apprehension of the bodily world involves them all. We may fairly doubt whether some such processes are not characteristic of the perception of the lowest organisms to which we can attribute any perceptiveness. If they are not, then we have, at least, to say that so-called “perception,” in creatures to whom it is a purely passive receptivity, must be so radically different from the perception of man that the development of such organisms belongs, like the formation of the earth’s crust, to the prehistory, not to the history, of intelligence, and that with the first dawn of human perception we have a real discontinuity on the psychical side, a genuine emergence of something wholly novel, which is only very superficially masked by the mere temporal continuity of the sequence of physical and biological events.
What is thus generally allowed to be true of cognition is, I would contend, equally true of all the reactions of man against the wider world in which he finds himself placed. Our moral “ideals” are not something added by the mind de suo to “facts” or “things-as-they-are”. As all human perception is already intellectual interpretation, so all human practice is already reaction guided by the light of a tradition, however rudimentary, of the good, and all human art production inspired by recognition of beauty as a character of things. The conception of our ideals of good as simply derived from an earlier life of merely blind appetition, so that primarily “good” means only “what a man happens to be lusting after,” is thoroughly unhistorical. So far as our personal memories carry us back in the reconstruction of individual experience, or our historical researches in the reconstruction of human experience at large, we never reach a stage at which appetition is more than relatively “blind,” i.e. uncontrolled by a tradition of the good which presupposes intelligence. If we could get real evidence that in fact there was a time in the life of the individual or the community when the blindness was absolute, once more we should have to regard this time as belonging to individual or communal prehistory, and to recognise that there has been, with the dawn of guided appetition, in each of ourselves, or in humanity at large, a real, though masked, discontinuity. Purely blind appetition, if it exists at all, is qualitatively infra-human. The history of humanity, as T. H. Green rightly insisted, is a history of developing intelligence, not of the production of intelligence out of something else. The really given is a whole situation which includes ourselves, with our definite endowment of more or less coherent schemes of value, our hopes and fears, our choices and avoidances. The history of man is no tale of the superimposition of an edifice of “mental construction” on a basis of mere givenness; it is the story of the gradual clarification and progressive definition of apprehensions, contacts with the “given,” cognitive and practical alike, which have been there all along in vague and implicit form, in any life we can recognise as being qualitatively of a piece with our own.
If this is so, it is merely arbitrary to assume that while our physical structure and its history throw real light on the general character of the system of realities which includes human organisms among its constituents, our moral, aesthetic, religious being throws no light whatever on the nature of this reality. We have every right to hold that, however we conceive of the real, we must not think of it in terms which could make the actuality of this richly diversified life a mere unintelligible mystery. There must be at least as much to learn about the inmost character of the real from the fact that our actual spiritual life is controlled by such-and-such definite conceptions of good and right, such-and-such hopes and fears, as there is to learn from the fact that the laws of motion are what they are, or that the course of biological development on our planet has followed the lines it has followed. It may be that this is a grave understatement. Without prejudice to the issues which are still ground of dispute between the mechanist and the vitalist, we may, I take it, fairly say that there is no likelihood that science will ever return to the point of view of the best seventeenth-century thinking, the point of view from which the one and only thing of first-rate importance to be said about the real is that it is a geometrical system. The development of evolutionary biology has at least had the result that we now recognise that it is more illuminative to know that the real exhibits itself as a realm where there is room for life and sentience than to know that it forms a kinematical system. It is such a system, but the important thing is that it is the kind of kine-matical system in which living organisms can find a home. May it not well be even more important to know that it is a system in which moral, artistic, and religious aspiration can flourish and find adequate scope? On any theory the real must always remain very mysterious to our apprehension, but it may be that we come nearer to understanding its character when we know that it is the environment of organic life than when we merely know—if we do know it—that it is a closed energetic system, and nearest of all when we know that it is at once the stage and inspiration of the artist, the hero, and the saint. Our geometrical knowledge may be very much clearer and more articulate than our knowledge of life and sentience, and this again much clearer and better articulated than our knowledge of our own moral being, which is, as Shelley said, a “mystery, even to ourselves”; the knowledge we can have of God may be still more unclear and inarticulate. And yet it may well be that, for all its dimness, it is just this knowledge which brings us most directly into contact with the very heart of reality. Spinoza’s ideal of a “theology” demonstrated, after the fashion of Euclid, as a consequence of self-evident premises may be the supreme vanity of vanities, and yet it may still be true that perfecta scientia Deum scire, that the knowledge of God is the most real knowledge we have.
“The Kingdom of God on Earth” (Science and Philosophy, p. 346).
See Aliotta, La guerra eterna (ed. 1), pp. 156 ff.
Though I think it true that, judged from a Christian standpoint, his “sense of sin” is inadequate.
Sophistes, 258 D 5 ff.
As Baron von Hügel was fond of observing, morality deals with an “Ought,” religion with an “Is,” and no amount of “Ought-ness” will make “Is-ness”.
The remarks which follow were written long before the appearance of The Nature of Existence, vol. ii., and are necessarily based on two earlier books, Studies in Hegelian Cosmology and Some Dogmas of Religion. I do not see that the case is substantially altered by the publication of the posthumous second volume of The Nature of Existence.
Some Dogmas of Religion, pp. 16 ff. I do not think the truth of the criticism affected by the fuller exposition of McTaggart’s theory in The Nature of Existence, vol. ii.
Cf. B. Russell, Philosophical Essays, 66, 70.
I think we may take it as a result finally established by the work of Adickes and other scholars on the structure of the Kdr V. that the Dialectic, as a whole, is the earliest and crudest section of the whole book. For the really fruitful ideas of the critical philosophy we must go elsewhere, to the ripest paragraphs of the Analytic. See the results of investigation as summed up in the Commentary of my colleague, Prof. N. Kemp Smith. The Dialectic is, in fact, vitiated throughout by the persistence of the Cartesian devotion to “clear and distinct ideas”.
Op. cit. pp. 139 ff.
A. S. Eddington in Science, Religion and Reality, p. 211. It may seem, at first, as though we have been confusing two theses: (a) value belongs only to the individual and existent; (b) value always involves reference to mind. The sentences quoted from Dr. Eddington indicate the intimate connection between the two apparently distinct theses. It is precisely because the two “physical worlds” A, B, of which the writer speaks, are purely constructions of the physicist and therefore consist of de-individualised “concepts” that existence and value are both meaningless when predicated of them. We shall have much more to say on this point in the sequel.
G. Lowes Dickinson, The Meaning of Good, p. 110.
De Veritate, q. 1, art. 1, resp. “Convenientiam vero entis ad intellectum ex-primit hoc nomen verum. Omnis autem cognitio perficitur per assimilationem cognoscentis ad rem cognitam. … Prima ergo comparatio entis ad intellectum est ut ens intellectui correspondeat: quae quidem correspondentia adaequatio rei et intellectus dicitur, et in hoc formaliter ratio veri perficitur.”
Loc. cit. “alio modo secundum convenientiam unius entis ad aliquid; et hoc quidem non potest esse nisi accipiatur aliquid quod natum sit convenire cum omni ente. Hoc autem est anima quae quodammodo est omnia, sicut dicitur in iii. De anima. In anima autem est vis cognitiva et appetitiva. Convenientiam ergo entis ad appetitum exprimit hoc nomen bonum.”
At least this is the case with the truths contemplated by the philosophers who have most to say of truth as a “value”. On the possibility of non-propositional truth and knowledge there will be some remarks to be made in our final lecture.
Logic, bk. i. c. v. § 2: “When we say, all men are mortal, the meaning of the proposition is, that all beings which possess the one set of attributes possess also the other”. Cf. bk. ii. c. iv. § 3: “ A general truth is but an aggregate of particular truths; a comprehensive expression, by which an indefinite number of individual facts are affirmed or denied at once”.
St. Thomas, De Veritat. q. 1, art. 1, ad sept.
Ethicai i. 17 Scholium.
Cf. Aristot. E.N. 1170 a 32, τὸ δ ὅτι αίσθανόμεθα ῆ νοοῦμεν, ὅτι ἐσμέν (τὸ γὰρ εῖναι ήν αἰσθάνεσθαι ῆ νοεῖν).
See Concept of Nature, c. vii. pp. 143 ff.
Cf. De Veritat. q. 10, art. 8, ad sec. “in visione corporali aliquis intuetur corpus, non ita quod inspiciat aliquam corporis similitudinem, quamvis per aliquam corporis similitudinem inspiciat.”
Exploratio Philosophica, pt. i. c. I.