Is a plain watch, and without figures winds
All ages up.
We have decided, for reasons stated in our last lecture, that it is permissible to look to our personal experience of the life of aspiration after the good for indications of the true character of the actual. What is actual, we hold, must at least have such a character, the So-sein of the Seiendes must be such, that I can say, What I ought to be, that I can be. This, as we see at once, is what Kant meant by his famous saying that I ought implies I can. But Kant’s formula is in one way defective. He is thinking, as he too often is throughout his ethical writings, rather of the single performance than of the So-sein which reveals itself in the performance. He means primarily What I ought, at this juncture, to do, that I can do, if I choose. Hence it is on my own nature as a morally responsible being that the principle, as Kant conceives it, throws a direct light; any consequences it may have for the understanding of the realm of the real as a whole are only reached, in the second Critique, “with windlasses and with assays of bias”. But when we remember that on Kant’s own theory, no less than in actual fact, deeds are only prized as having intrinsic and absolute worth so far as they can be taken to be effects revelatory of a character or quality of the doer who is their “free cause,” we see that the ultimate moral imperative is not “do this,” but rather, “be this”; the tree must first be a good tree, if it is to bring forth genuinely good fruit. Hence the second of the supreme human problems is misstated in Kant’s well-known enumeration of them;1 its true form is not, What acts ought I to do, but What manner of man ought I to be? Indeed, we might fairly say that Nietzsche has given the perfect expression for the supreme “categorical imperative” in his injunction Werde der du bist, if only we are careful to remember from the first that I do not, at the outset, know wer or was ich bin; I am a riddle to myself, and it is only through the process of the Werden that I, slowly and painfully, gain some insight into my Sein. Even in the artificially isolated “physical realm” of natural science, what we study is never a mere Werden, a mere succession of barely particular events which just “happen”; we are dealing everywhere with successions which exhibit pervasive “universal” characters, or patterns, events in which, in the terminology of Whitehead2, objects, that is “universals in re,” are situated, “becomings” which, in the significant language of Plato,3 are γενέσεις εἰς οὐσίαν. Still less is any morally significant act a mere event which happens. The piquancy of the disparaging epigram that human life is “one damned thing after another” is wholly due to its glaring falsity as a description of any life but one which would be morally worthless.
There is a famous passage in Plato’s Timaeus in which this point is made very strikingly. The Pythagorean Timaeus is there giving a pictorial account of the “soul” which, as he teaches, animates the whole physical universe. God, he says, made it by mixing certain ingredients, as the master of a feast mingles the wine and the water for his guests, in the great mixing-bowl. The ultimate ingredients of the mixture are two, the same, “the being which is undivided and always self-same,” and the other, “the being which becomes and is divisible in bodies” (Tim. 35 A 2). They are, in fact, just object and event, the eternal and the temporal. In the great world-soul, according to Timaeus, these ingredients are wrought into a perfectly stable compound. Our souls contain the same elements, but the brew is not of the same quality; we are made of the “seconds” and “thirds” (ib. 41 D). We may certainly take the meaning to be that in our case the resulting compound is always more or less unstable. In the world-soul, he means to say, eternity and temporality are together, in permanent interpenetration and equilibrium; in our human spiritual life there is a tension between them, more or less acute according to the quality of the individual life.
These remarks of Timaeus, divested of their trappings of imagery, may furnish a suitable text for some reflections on what, as I take it, is the most patent and universal characteristic of explicitly moral life where-ever it is found. As morality becomes conscious of itself, it is discovered to be always a life of tension between the temporal and the eternal, only possible to a being who is neither simply eternal and abiding, nor simply mutable and temporal, but both at once. The task of living rightly and worthily is just the task of the progressive transmutation of a self which is at first all but wholly mutable, at the mercy of all the gusts of circumstance and impulse, into one which is relatively lifted above change and mutability. Or, we might say, as an alternative formula, it is the task of the thorough transfiguration of our interests, the shifting of interest from temporal to non-temporal good. It is this which gives the moral life its characteristic colouring as one of struggle and conflict never finally overcome. When the conflict has not yet begun, or at any rate has not become conscious struggle, there is as yet only the pre-moral, or incipiently and unconscious moral, life of the natural or animal man; if it finds completion in the entire transformation of the self and its interests from temporality into the supra-temporal, the strictly ethical level of life has been passed, and with it the merely human level. Es strebt der Mensch, so lang er lebt, and we may add that, so lang er lebt, man is always striving towards something which he not merely has not reached, but of which he only knows in the dimmest and vaguest way what it is. The “Form of Good” may be “the master-light of all our seeing,” but if we are asked what it is, though the better men we are, the less hopelessly vague our answer may be expected to be, the best of us has nothing like a “clear and distinctidea” of what he would be at. Really to say what “the good” is, we should need to be in fruition of it, and if we had the fruition, our life would have become, in Aristotle’s language,4 no longer that of man, but that of the “divine something” in man. Or to speak more Christianly, to know what “glory” is, we should need to be ourselves already “in glory”.
“Now,” says an apostolic writer, “we are sons of God, and we know not what we shall be.” The thought finds an unexpected echo when our great master of human experience, without any trace of theological prepossession, wants to bring home to us the mingled pathos and comedy of a distracted mind. “They say the owl was a baker’s daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be!” Its philosophical form is the thesis on which T. H. Green has so much to say in the Prolegomena to Ethics,5 that in all moral progress to a better, the driving force is aspiration after a best of which we can say little more, at any stage of the process, than that it lies ahead of us on the same line of advance along which the already achieved progress from the less to the more good has been made. As usual, when we are trying not to rubricate knowledge already won, but to anticipate, poetry has here the advantage over technical philosophy as a medium of expression, for the reason that poetry can convey so perfectly the sense of the tentativeness with which we have to grope our way in the half-light which is, after all, our “master-light”.
Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb;
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.
I know not what my secret is;
I know but it is mine:
I know to live for it were bliss,
To die for it divine.
Yet the not uncommon experience is misread when, as seems to be the case in Professor’s Alexander’s surrogate for theology,6 it is interpreted simply as evidence that the life of the mind is a stage on the way to the evolution of something of which we can say nothing whatever, except that it is, and must always remain, the blankly inconceivable. The point of the experience is precisely that though we could never say articulately what the goal of the journey is without having reached it, yet at every fresh step we are finding ourselves in a land which is no mere “strange country”; as the familiar hymn puts it, we are getting “a day’s march nearer home,” losing ourselves, quite literally, to find ourselves. It is not altogether true that manhood is etwas das überwunden werden muss; it is rather true that it is something which has to be won. So at least the moralist who really believes in morality must hold; if science or metaphysics profess to prove anything else, he can only retort, “so much the worse for them”. That is the moralist’s special way of becoming “a fool for Christ’s sake”.
Let me devote the rest of this lecture to an attempt to make my meaning clearer. And, first of all, let me offer some remarks—at a later stage we may find it necessary to return upon them—on the most tormenting of philosophical questions, the meaning of the notions of time and eternity. I begin, as “better known to ourselves,” with Time, or, as I would rather say in this connection, Temporality.
Temporality.—We must begin by an attempt to get our minds clear on some important distinctions. Nothing I have to say at this stage has any bearing on the puzzles which may be raised about methods of measuring intervals of duration, or locating events temporally. It is with duration and succession as features of human moral life, not with the question of their measures or magnitude, that I am now concerned. Again, what we have to consider is not the mere fact of successiveness, the relation of “earlier” and its converse “later,” as we find them in the course of physical events, but something very different, the distinction between past, present, and future. If we confine our attention to the events of the physical order taken, by an artificial and legitimate abstraction, apart from all reference to the way in which they affect the emotional and conative life of individual experients, we may fairly say that though there are in “nature,” as thus conceived, everywhere relations of before and after, there is neither past, present, nor future. To introduce these distinctions is to make explicit or concealed reference to the individual experient and his interior life of action and purpose, exactly as the same reference is introduced whenever we speak of “right” and “left,” “before” and “behind,” “above” and “below”. In a purely physical world where there were no experients, there might be earlier and later events, but no event would ever be present, past, or future. Again, within the experience of an individual experient, there may be a before which is not properly to be called a past, and an after which cannot rightly be called a future. I must at least register my own conviction that the purely “instantaneous” present, the “knife-edge,” as it has been called, is a product of theory, not an experienced actuality. The briefest and most simple and uniform experiences we have “last,” even if they only last for a fraction of a second, and they are never merely “static”; there is transition, and thus the before and after, within them. For example, whenever we listen to music, there is a before and after relating any two immediately successive notes;7 if there were not, or if the relation were not actually constitutive of the experience but merely “inferred” somehow “on the basis of” the experience, we should have no apprehension of melody. But, equally certainly, we should have no apprehension of it if we could not apprehend the two notes and their successiveness, with its “sense” as an ascending or descending interval, in a single pulse of present experience. And I should say that when we are listening to music in the proper mood, and with the right kind of appreciation, we appear to take in a considerable stretch of the successive as all alike there in one apprehended present, in spite of our definite awareness of elaborate relations of before and after between its constituents. If it were not so, I do not see how we could ever have come by awareness of a musical phrase—for example, any characteristic theme or motiv of Beethoven or Wagner—as a whole and a unit.8 And more generally, though I cannot argue the point here, I should assert the change is actually “sensed,” not, as some suppose, merely “inferred” from a succession of experiences all internally “static”. It is, then, with the distinction of past from future and both from present, not with that of before from after, that we are now concerned. The point for us is not merely that events can be contrasted as earlier and later, but that they can be contrasted as “no longer” and “not yet”.
Now this distinction is manifestly based directly on our own experience of ourselves as striving and active beings. The “future,” the “not yet,” is the direction taken by a conation in working itself out towards satisfaction (or towards being dropped, because it is persistently thwarted). The “not yet” is that towards which I am endeavouring, or reaching out. Its opposite, the “no longer,” is that from which I am turning away. You might, indeed, conceivably try to get rid of the reference to action by distinguishing the two directions as those of anticipation and memory, prospect and retrospect respectively, if it were not that the very use of the familiar words prospect, retrospect, brings back again the very reference on which I am dwelling. Strictly speaking, this antithesis only gets its full meaning within the sphere of effort which is, at least, incipiently moral. In physical nature, as conceived by the “classical” kinematics of the nineteenth century, there is really neither past, present, nor future, no emergence of the not yet into the now, nor fading of the now into the no-longer. (In dehumanising our experience to the “limit of opakeness,” as we have to do if we mean to think in terms of the classical kinematics, we try to think away these distinctions and to retain only a bare sequence of later or earlier, which is neither within the present, nor yet from the past, through the present, to the future. Bare sequence of this kind is not succession as we actually apprehend it in the concrete case, where the “passage of nature” regularly comes to us as one factor in a striving and forward-reaching personal life. Just because such sequence as a science of kinematics can contemplate is bare sequence, thus artificially detached from its setting, it is never even real sequence, and kinematics is a science of abstract possibilities, not of actualities. The “flow of time” contemplated in classical mechanics is not “real” time, and its intervals are no durée réelle. In trying to conceive a world where simple successiveness is everything, we are inevitably driven to imagine a succession which is not real succession and atemporality which is not real time. We talk, indeed, of the “everlasting hills,” and of the “most ancient stars,” but only by an anthropomorphism which a strictly mechanical science is bound to reject. What has no present, and therefore also neither past nor future, cannot properly be said to “last” either a short time or a long time, to be recent or ancient. In a world where there was nothing but movement, or nothing but “matter” and movement, duration would have lost its meaning.
It is with the appearance of something which we can call, by more than a “legal fiction,” effort and purpose that the distinction between past, the direction of that from which effort is moving away, and future, the direction of that to which effort is tending, first becomes really significant, and, in becoming so, gives significance to the motion of the present, the “moment” which is not only “a now” but now. Time, we may say, as it actually is, is the characteristic form of the conative, forward-reaching life. So much, at least, we must all have learned from M. Bergson. This will enable us to understand why, though Spinoza, whose ideal for the sciences of the living organism and the living spirit was that they should all be reduced to the study of complicated kinematical configurations, could insist that it is vital to true thinking to contemplate its object “under a certain form of eternity,” the tendency of an age which, like our own, has derived its ideal of science largely from the modern development of evolutionary biology, is rather to think it obvious that the “essence of true thinking” is to contemplate its object under a form of time, to write the object’s life-history—exactly what Dr. Whitehead is trying to do by introducing the conception of “organism” into physics itself. Spinoza’s thought is that so long as the durational form still affects our results, our thinking is missing its mark. Thinking which was thorough, through and through what thinking professes to be, would see the facies totius universi as something which has no history. The thought more familiar to our contemporaries is that really adequate knowledge, knowledge which is through and through all that knowledge ought to be, would see everything as something that is having a history, and a history which is never complete. We shall have to return to the point in the penultimate lecture of our course, and may then find that both conceptions sin by that commonest of all intellectual errors in philosophy, over-simplification. But for the present the point I want to make is simply this. What Spinoza calls “eternity” is precisely what might more truly be called the bare form of mere sequence, the contemplation of one kinematical pattern or another as the kaleidoscope of the universe turns in a “mathematical time” where there is neither present, past, nor future. He thinks he has eternalised a life-history by merely making it unhistorical. He reduces real action to a string of “configurations,” and a mere configuration has no history, except by a misleading metaphor.
When we come to deal with the sciences of life and mind—I mean these sciences themselves, not the hypothetical kinematics into which they are sometimes sublimated by a crude metaphysics—we are dealing with processes which have a genuine form of temporality just because they disclose the activities of historical individuals, beings whose life is a streben, a reaching out from a past to a future. The route by which a mere configuration of points or of mass-particles has reached a given shape may be immaterial to the further succession of its shapes, the route by which an organism or a personality has become what it is is all-important, for the organism or person is charged with all its past and pregnant with all its future. Of it we may truthfully say, inverting a well-known line of Tennyson, that all it has seen is a part of it. This is why the organism, and still more the person, has a history in a sense in which a mere configuration has none. It may be, of course, and we shall yet have more to say on the point, that there is no actual reality which is a mere configuration of the kind contemplated in text-books of kinematics or dynamics. In that case we should have to say, and we should have the support of eminent living physicists in saying it, that Spinoza’s ideal of knowledge is in principle unattainable, even in the sciences of the “inorganic”; physics and chemistry would be no less irreducible to complicated applications of rational mechanics than physiology and psychology. This is, in fact, precisely what Dr. Whitehead, for one, is saying very eloquently at the present moment. But if actual physical processes really are nothing more than changes of configuration in kinematical systems, or transactions between kinetic systems, then we should have to say that, in principle, when you know what the configuration, or the system of mass-particles, is “at any instant t•,” you know all that it has in itself to become; or, rather, the very motion of “becoming” is too deeply infected with historicity to be applicable to such a pattern. If it seems to us to “change,” that is only because we have mistakenly treated it as having some unity and individuality of its own, whereas it is, in truth, only an arbitrarily selected piece of an indefinitely larger pattern. The more we widen our consideration to take in more of the pattern, the more does the appearance that it exhibits any change or development vanish.
The case is altered the moment we come to deal with the lowliest thing which displays a concrete individuality of its own. The simplest organism, recognisable as such, for example, differs from a mere configuration or a mere kinetic system by the fact that it has an environment, specifically distinguished from and opposed to itself, and lives upon this environment by “assimilating” material drawn from it, whereas the mere configuration or kinetic system has merely “surroundings,” but no true “environment”.9 This duality in unity of organism and environment is fundamental for the understanding of transactions between them. A mere configuration, or a mere assemblage of mass-particles, as I say, has no “environment”; it is always itself a constituent part of a wider configuration or system, singled out for consideration in virtue of some “subjective” interest of our own, theoretical or practical. An organism is not, in like manner, a subjectively selected and artificially isolated constituent of its own environment. The antithesis between the two is significant for the organism itself, as well as for the student of it. A true organism, we might say, is always Athanasius contra mundum. It, as much as the student of it, has its “world” and stands over against that world, not, perhaps, necessarily in the cognitive opposition of knower to known, but at least in the practical opposition of user to used, feeder to thing fed on.10
Without this opposition, significant, as we are saying, in the highest degree for the organism itself, the organism would not have the sort of specific individuality it actually has; to use the terminology of a recent eminent occupant of this platform,11 it would not be the special sort of “substantial unity” of its environment which, in fact, it is. Being the sort of “substantial unity of the environment” which it is, however completely its life may seem to be made up of responses to solicitations directly supplied by the environment, the responses are never completely determined by characters in the environment alone. How the creature will react to these solicitations depends also on the sort of creature it is, on its “particular go,” and its “particular go” never seems to be quite independent of the route by which it has reached its present state, as that of a mere “energetic system” is held to be independent of the route by which it has come to its present condition. Certainly, the higher the creature ranks in the scale of evolutionary development, the more hopeless would it be to attempt to say how it will respond to the situation, on the strength of mere knowledge of its present condition. As we ascend in the scale, what the creature will do now is found to depend increasingly, in more ways than one, on what it may have done before. All that men of science have to teach us about the importance for a creature’s life-history of the formation of routes of special permeability for the transmission of influence from the environment, or for initiated responses to such influence, or, at higher levels, about the importance of the formation of physiological routine and psychological habit, serves to illustrate the point. But it is also illustrated by the apparently antithetic facts which indicate that established routine and habit never become absolutely rigid. We observe apparently casual and unaccountable deviations from the most fixed established routine and habit in the lives of all lower organisms which we can subject to individual examination, as well as in our own, though in their case the interpretation of these deviations is necessarily tentative and ambiguous. (Indeed, I should be curious to know from competent observers whether even the “decapitated” frog of the laboratory is really quite as much of a piece of clockwork in its behaviour as it is made, for a legitimate purpose, to appear in the text-books which condense the results of countless individual observations into a summary formula Are we not dealing, even here, with something like a “journalistic” exaggeration?) In our own case we can often see what the interpretation is.
We are not absolutely under the sway of the most thoroughly organised habit or the most constant of associations. At the lowest level of what we recognise as distinctively human conduct, the line of response which has not been usually followed in the past, the train of associations which has not been common, may sporadically reaffirm itself, as, to take a trivial example from my own experience, I occasionally find myself, for no discoverable reason, heading a letter with an address at which I have not resided for a quarter of a century. It does seem to be a fact of conscious human life, that, thanks to the pervasive omnipresence of memory, the past is real in our human “world” as it is not at lower levels. As F. H. Bradley says somewhere in one of his numerous scattered essays, the mere fact that a conscious response has once been made at some time seems of itself to be a possible cause of repetition. So much seems to be true not only of ourselves but of, at any rate, those higher animals who are at the nearest remove from us. With them, as with us, it is a misleading metaphor to compare the establishment of habitual responses to the demands of the environment with the process by which the river digs out its own bed. Thus, to appeal to the example I have just given, I may perhaps make the mistake of dating a letter from the long-abandoned address twice at an interval of several years. During the interval I had perhaps never once made this mistake, though I had written and dated hundreds, or even thousands, of notes and letters. If the production of a habit, physical and mental, were really on all-fours with the formation of a river-bed, such complete disuse of the old reaction and repeated discharge of the new ought to have made the mistake impossible. The stream may depart from its formed channel because there is a present obstacle which blocks it; it will not diverge merely because there was once in the past a now long-removed obstacle at this particular place. With me, the mere fact that I used, twenty or twenty-five years ago, to date my letters from a particular address seems to be of itself a possible sufficient basis for doing the same thing now, unreasonably and in the teeth of a habit developed by the regular practice of years.
Further, as we all know, it is just this possibility which makes the conquest and control of habit by intelligent purpose and precept also possible. In the life of a reasonable man we find neither random spontaneity nor servitude to habit dominant. What we do find is a combination of habit and spontaneity, and a combination with a definite character. (Though we must not call this character a “law,” if we mean by law anything for which we could supply a general “blank” formula.) We find habit everywhere, but habit subservient to foresight. What a man does at this present juncture, if and so far as he is a reasonable man, is primarily designed to meet the individual demand of this individual situation, and the demand of the situation must be taken to mean the call made on the agent in this situation by a coherent plan of purposive living. (Thus the “demand of the situation” will be different for different agents.) The character of the plan itself, as I have tried to indicate, is not known, even to the agent, fully and definitely from the outset; it reveals itself progressively as he meets and faces successive situations. An upright man has a certain “ideal” before him. His purpose is, in all situations—what they will be is largely unknown to him—to conform himself to the “holy” will of God, to promote the true good of his social group, to “keep his honour untarnished,” or something of that kind. In spite of all that Kant has said about the clear and infallible guidance afforded by the categorical imperative of duty, no man knows in advance what particular line of conduct will, in some unrehearsed contingency, most surely conform to God’s will or keep a man’s honour bright. That is precisely what you can only discover, with any approach to certainty, when the contingency is upon you. Hence it is that, even of those with whom we are most intimate, we so often can say no more, if we are asked how we suppose they will act in some difficult position, than that we do not know what they will do, but are sure that their act, whatever it is, will be the act befitting a true Christian, or a high-minded man. We are sure that they will do nothing common, or mean, or unbefitting, and we are sure of no more. And when we say this, we do not mean to be uttering a triviality, or giving expression to the non-moral partiality which is ready to approve anything done by a friend because it is done by him. We mean that when the act in question has been done (and it may prove to be a complete surprise to us) we shall be able to see that it was the right and reasonable thing to do. Our judgement of approval is genuinely ethical and genuinely “synthetic”.12
There is thus perpetual novelty, adjustment to the requirements of the moral ideal in a changing and unforeseeable environment, in all typically moral action, and, as I have said, even the precise character of the ideal itself only becomes partially and gradually clear to us in the very act of meeting the demands it makes upon us. What demands it would make in a totally unfamiliar situation—as, for example, if I, with my special past history, should suddenly be called upon to exercise judicial functions on my own sole responsibility for some social group, I cannot even guess. But the point is that all that is ever handed over to the control of mere habit is the execution of the details of my act; the combination of the details, which is the important thing, is exactly what is always more or less novel and unique. If, for example, I have to write a letter of instructions to a subordinate about the way in which some practical task is to be executed, the mere formation of the marks on the paper is matter of habit, and the more completely so the better. The less I need give my attention to the spelling of the different words, or the grammar of the different sentences, the more fully can I concentrate my mind on the main problem of making my instructions reasonable and indicating them promptly, unambiguously, courteously and in the way likely to obtain hearty and willing co-operation from this particular subordinate. But the command over spelling and grammar which makes this concentration of attention on the main problem possible is itself dependent on memory, and so only itself possible in virtue of the fact that, in conscious human life, we are not at the mercy of mere “customary association,” that standing source of irrelevancy. Everything depends on the principle that what has once been present may be present again, or perhaps it would be more exact to say, that what has once been operative may be operative again, apparently for no reason beyond the fact that it has once been operative and that it is relevant that it should be operative once more; recollection is not a mere function either of the recovery or of the frequency of experienced conjunction. To put the matter in a sentence, a human past may sometimes be a “dead” past; it is never safe to say of it, as we can perhaps say of the past of the lower animals, that it is dead and buried. This consideration has its important bearing on the quality of our moral life. Whether we like it or not, there are no more characteristic or common features of our human moral life than remorse and repentance. It may reasonably be doubted whether an “animal” is capable of either.
One might, indeed, possibly suggest that a well-behaved dog does exhibit something which looks like remorse, when it commits a fault for which it has usually been punished in the past. It is uneasy and shows its uneasiness; apparently, too, it has some kind of expectation of punishment. But I would take the opportunity to utter a humble protest against the over-hasty making of inferences about the mental life of animals in general from the behaviour of the few which we have not merely domesticated, but admitted to special intimacy with ourselves. It seems to me quite possible that the association of the house-dog, for example, with man may go a long way to humanise and moralise the dog and may make it something more than “only a dog”. Before trusting confidently to conclusions about the capacities of animals based on the behaviour of our domestic friend I should like to be satisfied that the same behaviour is found, in some degree, in the dog in a state of nature, or the dog who has only associated with men markedly less moralised than ourselves. And even our most highly humanised dogs seem, at any rate, incapable of rising above the level of a rather crude remorse to anything like what we call, in the language of morality and religion, genuine repentance. Contrition—the first step to a true repentance—seems hardly to enter into their lives.13 They may feel very uneasy until they have first been punished for an offence and then treated once more with the old friendliness. But when the offence has been “paid for,” no dog seems to trouble himself about it. The mere fact of having offended does not seem to be felt as a man feels a past misdeed, a past stain on his honour, and often, ridiculously enough, a mere past piece of social gaucherie, as something which remains, after all “payment,” a living and uneffaceable reality. “What I did is worked out and paid for” is a phrase we think characteristic of the attitude of the habitual criminal to his crimes; pereunt et imputantur is the language of morality; “my misdeeds prevail against me” is the cry of spiritual religion.
I might go on to illustrate my point further by dwelling on the way in which, in virtue of our possession of social tradition and history, the course of life of any one of us may be determined by a past which is neither, strictly speaking, his own, nor that of his own ancestors. Here we have a real difference between human and animal life, which remains real even if we take the most generous and least critical view of the facts which are sometimes alleged to prove the efficacy of so-called “racial memories” in the life of the animal. Our possession of recorded tradition, in the widest sense of that phrase, makes it possible for us, as it is for none of the lower animals, to be guided in the shaping of our own present and future by almost any record from the past, even from a past that goes back into “geological time”. It might be rash to say of any event known to have occurred in the earth’s past that it is really over and done with, that it will never again be relevant to the shaping of the future. In the merely inanimate world, according at least to the conceptions of “orthodox” mechanics, the past seems to shape the future only in so far as it has not passed, but has persisted during the interval. In the merely animate world, the past which shapes a future seems to do so by the persistence of its contribution in the way of a series of effects through an interval. In the world of intelligent human action, the remembered past seems to be able to mould the future directly and immediately, striking, so to say, out of its own remote pastness, even though there has been no continuous persistence of itself or its effects through the interval. When remembered, it lives again in “ideal revival” in a more real sense than the makers of the old psychological terminology ever intended. In a purely physical world there would be no past, because there would be no present; in a world of mere perceptions, impulses, and instincts there would be only a dead past holding the present in the mortmain of habit; in the life of men, as intelligent and moral persons, and not at any lower level, we have a living past. The outward and visible sign of this is that man, at his lowest, has traditions where the animals seem to have only instincts.
I fear I have dwelt only too long on what must seem painfully obvious and familiar. But I have done so for a purpose. I would make it the more fully clear what is implied by saying that time is the characteristic form of the life of moral endeavour. It is plain, I hold, that apart from our personal experiences of endeavour and its gradual satisfaction, we should know nothing of past and future, though we might still be able to distinguish before and after. The past, let me say it once more, means that from which we are turning away, the future that to which we are turning. And I think, though to say this is to anticipate a little, if we were asked what a present, or “now,” is, as it is actually lived and experienced, we should not be far wrong in saying that whatever we experience as one satisfaction of endeavour is experienced by us as one “now,” as a present in which the before has not sunk into the past, and the after is not waiting beyond the threshold of the future.
But if the temporal is strictly and properly the form of the life of conscious appetition, it should follow that in being so much as aware of our life as temporal at all, we are already beginning to transcend the form of temporality. For what is it we are endeavouring to do in even the humblest and most rudimentary striving after a positive end? As the psychologist says, we are endeavouring to keep before consciousness, and, if we can, to intensify, an experience we find agreeable to ourselves. If there really is a still lower level of conation where the endeavour is only to banish from consciousness an experience found disagreeable,14 we may, at least, fairly say that this level is passed by the human baby at a very early stage in its career, and does not concern us as students of morals. Now to endeavour even to keep an agreeable condition of bodily well-being, like that of the cat before the fire, steadily in consciousness, is already to be trying to transcend the merely temporal form of the experience. We want to have the pleasant sense of warmth, to have it thoroughly, and to have it in a “now” where there may be a before and an after, but where we are not conscious of a no longer or a not yet. If we are aware of the not yet, that means that the thorough satisfaction of our endeavour has not been reached; if we are aware of a no longer, satisfaction is palling or fading. When satisfaction is at its height and fills our being, the sense of past and future is lost in a rapture which is all present, so long as it lasts.
At a higher level than that of mere animal enjoyment, such as we may get from basking before a good fire, or giving ourselves up to the delight of a hot bath, we know how curiously the consciousness of past and future falls away, when we are, for example, spending an evening of prolonged enjoyment in the company of wholly congenial friends. The past may be represented for us, if we stay to think of it at all, by whatever happened before the party began, the future—but when we are truly enjoying ourselves we do not anticipate it—by what will happen when the gathering is over. The enjoyment of the social evening has, of course, before and after within itself; the party may last two or three hours. But while it lasts and while our enjoyment of it is steady and at the full, the first half-hour is not envisaged as past, nor the third as future, while the second is going on. It is from timepieces, or from the information of others, who were not entering into our enjoyment, that we discover that this single “sensible present” had duration as well as order. If we were truly enjoying ourselves, the time passed, as we say, “like anything”. I have heard that the late R. L. Nettleship was in the habit of dwelling on this familiar expression as indicating the real meaning of “eternity”. The same thing appears to be true of the “aesthetic pleasures,” and of the enjoyment of unimpeded intellectual activity. When our thought is moving readily and successfully, without being brought to a halt by any baffling obstacles, towards the solution of a problem which interests us and to which we are equal, the experience of advance from the statement of the problem to its solution is, of course, an experience of before and after, or it could not be a conscious advance, but it is a movement within a conscious present, from a before which has not faded into the past, to an after which is not felt as belonging to the future.
So again, if I may trust my own experience, which is not that of a connoisseur with any very special aptitude, but is, perhaps, all the more significant for our present purpose on that account, when our consciousness is really filled, as it can be, with the movement of a piece of music, so that the music is, for the time, our “universe”. The “movement” is movement, and we apprehend it as such, but within limits which presumably vary with personal responsivity to the special “appeal” of music, the apprehension of a musical unit is sensibly simultaneous It is not an attending first to one note or chord, then to the next, but an attentive awareness of the form of a whole phrase which is taken in as a whole, and felt as all now here. Everyone, I take it, apprehends a short and striking phrase of two or three notes or chords in this way, as a unit; most men can apprehend a larger phrase with a really marked form of its own, a “theme” from one of Beethoven’s symphonies, for example, in the same way; a real musician, I suppose, would have the same apprehension of a whole “movement” as all present at once as a characteristic of his normal experience. It is, I imagine, experiences of this kind which Nietzsche had in mind when he said that alle Lust will Ewigkeit, and whatever the meaning of that verse may have been, it has always seemed to me that experiences of this kind—they are most common, I believe, in an intense form, when one is listening to music which really masters one, but they are found also in the enjoyment of drama and other forms of art15—it has always seemed to me that they give us the key to the famous and classic definition of eternity by Boethius, that it is interminabilis vitae tota simul et perfecta possessio, “whole, simultaneous, and complete fruition of a life without bounds”.16 What the definition excludes, as being proper to temporality, we note, is not the before and after, but the not yet and no longer which would mark an experience as not the “whole and complete” satisfaction of endeavour.
We all know the sort of criticism which has been directed against this language by Hobbes, and by numberless smaller men than Hobbes, the objection that the “nunc stans of the schoolmen”—Boethius uses no such words—is an unmeaning phrase. I should reply that the sort of experiences of which we have been speaking, while they last, conform exactly to the definition. When, for example, we are enjoying the music with heart and soul, in the first place we are engrossed by it; it is the total field of awareness, or, at least, of full awareness;17 next we have a satisfaction of endeavour which not only fills the whole soul, but is also at once (simul) and complete (perfecta). And there is a further feature of the experience which corresponds to the clause interminabilis vitae. While the experience lasts, one really does seem to have been “translated” into a world of beautiful sound which is “without bounds”; one has a sense that one always has been, and always will be, floating on the tide of harmony. (I trust my language will not sound affected; it is the best I can find to render a not unfamiliar experience faithfully.) There is, to be sure, illusion here, because, in the first place, we all have other interests than those which are satisfied by listening to music, so that we cannot get a perfecta vitae possessio in that way, and, in the next place we are embodied intelligences, with nervous systems subject to fatigue and exhaustion; the flesh proves itself weak, even when the spirit continues ardently willing. But we can at least imagine the removal of these limitations. We can imagine a kind of life in which all our various aims and interests should be so completely unified by reference to a supreme and all-embracing good that all action had the same character of completeness which is imperfectly illustrated by our enjoyment of a musical pattern; we can also imagine that nervous fatigue and its consequence, the necessity for the alternation between attention and remission of attention, were abolished. And in both cases, the method by which we succeed in imagining such a state of things is the legitimate, and often indispensable, one of “passing to the limit” of a series of which the law of formation is familiar and the initial terms known. If the limit were reached, experience as a whole would be a single enjoyment, at once completely centralised and steadily advancing; would it not thus have lost the elements of the no longer and the not yet? Would not “whole and complete life,” really analogous to a “movement” in some great symphony, be the entrance into “the joy of the Lord,” the real achievement of that complete and simultaneous fruition of a life without bounds of which Boethius spoke?18 I think it would, and the further point I would make is that in the specific experience of the moral life we already have to do with endeavour which, from first to last, is directed upon the attainment of such a form of fruition, and yet, while it retains its specific character, can never finally reach its goal. If we are justified in treating our own existence and peculiar So-sein as moral beings as capable of throwing any light whatever on the character of the actual and real as a whole, we might then reasonably infer that we may argue, here as elsewhere, from the existence of a function to the reality of an environment in which the function can find adequate exercise. If the pursuit of temporal and secular good must inevitably fail to satisfy moral aspiration itself, we may fairly infer that there is a non-secular good to which moral endeavour is a growing response. In so far as such a good can be apprehended and enjoyed at all, temporality, with its antithesis of not yet and no longer, is itself progressively relegated to a secondary place in the life of enjoyment, time is actually swallowed up in eternity, the natural life in one which is, in the strict and proper sense of the word, supernatural, morality in religion. The conception of a realm of “grace” as transforming and completing the realm of “nature,” so characteristic of Christianity, will then appear as suggested, and indeed necessitated, by the known facts of our moral being themselves.
Now, is secular good, obtainable under strictly temporal conditions, an object really adequate to evoke and to sustain this aspiration which gives the moral life its specific character as moral? In plain words, can a satisfactory morality be anything but what is sometimes called by way of disparagement an other-worldly morality? And if not, how precisely ought we to conceive the relation of the this-worldly to the other-worldly? In principle, I believe, the greatest moralists have always answered the first of these questions in one way. If there could be such a thing as a life of purely secular or temporal enjoyment, its special and characteristic feature as temporal would be precisely that its various goods or objects of aspiration cannot be had all together by anyone. They must be had one after another, on the condition that some are always not yet, and others no longer. This is the point of the familiar epigram already mentioned which describes a strictly worldly life as “one damned thing after another”. (For reasons which will appear immediately, I make no apology for the vulgar, but really relevant epithet.) The delights of childhood, of youth, of mature manhood, of an honoured old age, are all good. Some of each class are among the best goods we know, but some must always be forfeited that others may be gained.
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past;
There’s something comes to us in life,
But more is taken quite away,
and utterances like these may not be the whole of the truth, but there is only too much bitter truth in them. We cannot have the ripe wisdom, assured judgement, and reflective serenity of maturity at its best without leaving behind the ardours and impetuosities and adventures of act which belong to youth, and these, again, you cannot have without losing much of the naïf wonder, the readiness to be delighted by little things, the divine thoughtlessness of childhood. All are good, yet none can be enjoyed except in the season of life appropriate to each, and the enjoyment is always tinged at once by regret for what has had to be given up and unsatisfied aspiration after what cannot yet be. One could not be happy, as the fable of Tithonus was devised to teach, in an immortality of elderliness, but one would be no less unsatisfied with an immortality of childhood, or youth, or mid-manhood. It would be as bad to be Peter Pan as it would be to be Tithonus, and even an unending prime would hardly be more desirable. To a deathless Olympian the sage might reasonably give the counsel of our own poet—
The best is yet to be:
Grow old along with me,
and, from the nature of the case, the counsel would be impossible to adopt.
We may say the same thing of the common, or social, good. In our generation it should be superfluous to insist that men as groups, or even humanity as a whole, always have to pay the price of temporal good won by the loss of temporal good. However much we gain in the way of good by what we call advance in civilisation, something which is also good has to be surrendered. Life is made more secure, but, in the course of becoming more secure, it loses its quality of adventure, and becomes tame and commonplace. Order is won, but at the cost of some real loss of individuality and initiative. International understanding and good feeling are promoted, but the “good European” has lost the passionate devotion to the patria which could inspire an Athenian of the age of Pericles, or a Florentine of the age of Dante. Even those of us who, like myself, are keenly alive to the necessity and the duty of being “good Europeans” can hardly feel that the thought of Europe makes us, as the thought of England made Wordsworth’s ideal warrior, “happy as a lover”. Science “grows from more to more,” and at each stage in the growth it becomes increasingly harder for the man who gives himself to the scientific life to be more than a specialist with a range of vision as lamentably contracted as the field of a powerful microscope. And so it is everywhere.
We say that repose has fled
For ever the course of the river of time,
That cities will crowd to its edge
In a blacker incessanter line,
That the din will be more on its banks,
Denser the trade on its stream,
Flatter the plain where it flows,
Fiercer the sun overhead.
That never will those on its breast
See an ennobling sight,
Drink of the feeling of quiet again.
It is simply not the case that
The old order changeth, giving place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
in the sense in which the words seem to have been understood when they were uttered. The new order does not simply take up into itself all that was good in the old and enrich it with further good, merely letting the bad slip away; it is won by the definite surrender of positive good, not by the mere elimination of defects, and the surrendered good is not reconquered. No doubt the vulgar epithet in the saying about life I have twice quoted is prompted by the sense that there is always this element of surrender clinging to every stage of what we call progress. A more sentimental temperament reacts to the same situation by the development of the décadent pessimism which tries to find the secret of the goodness of the mutable in its very mutability—
the very reason why
I clasp them is because they die!
The logic here is, however, manifestly at fault. If the summer’s rose withers, so does the “stinking weed”; the worth of the perfume cannot really lie in that which is common to it with the stench.
It might, of course, be said, that since all temporal good is thus only “for a time,” and it is not evident that there is any good but that which is temporal, the reasonable attitude to life is that of the Epicurean; we should live in the moment while it lasts, giving ourselves no concern with what is beyond our immediate reach: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. “Let us enjoy the good things that are present, and let us speedily use the creatures, like as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wines and ointments, and let no flower of the spring pass us by.” “Remove sorrow from thy heart and put away evil from thy flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity.”
ὁ δαίμων, ὁ Διὸς παῖς …
μισεῖ δ' ᾧ μὴ ταῦτα μέλει,
κατὰ φάος νύκτας τε φίλας
But we only adopt such an attitude at the cost of a breach with both morality and rationality, and since men are, after all, moral and reasonable beings at heart, “looking before and after,” it is not surprising that the Epicurean never is consistent. Lucretius may assert in round words that, because we are merely ephemeral creatures, our concern is only with the moment, but he finds it necessary to preach on the text nil igitur ad nos mors est with a vehemence and at a length which shows that the sermon is delivered to himself as much as to Memmius. Horace never succeeds in disguising the fact that Lalage and the cask of Massic are the merest vain devices for concealing a “skeleton in the cupboard”. A man, being a man, must “look before and after”; he cannot be really indifferent to the claims of the good that has to be left behind, or the lack of the good which is not yet to be had. Just in so far as he takes life seriously, his whole aim is to find and enjoy a good which is never left behind and never to be superseded. What his heart is set on is actually that simultaneous and complete fruition of a life without bounds of which Boethius speaks. As he grows more and more intelligent and moralises his life more and more completely, the nature of this underlying ethical purpose becomes increasingly apparent. As compared with the man who has no definite aim beyond getting the satisfaction of the moment, the man who has concern for what Butler calls his “interest in this world,” even if that interest is taken to be limited to the securing of long life, health and comfort, has gone some way in the direction of overcoming the mere successiveness and temporality of incipient experience; the man who has learned to care for the well-being of a family or a house, still more the man who cares for the good of a wider, richer and more permanent community, or the man who cares first and foremost for the great so-called “impersonal” goods, art, science, morality, which can survive the extinction of a nation, an empire, a race, has proceeded further along the same road.
Yet it should be plain that even the last-named never really reaches the end of the road, if all he really achieves can be adequately described in terms of mere successiveness and temporality. So long as there is wrong to be put right, error and ugliness to be banished from life, the individual or the community is still only on the way to the possession of the heart’s desire, and has not yet entered on the enjoyment of the inheritance. The best men often contrive to reconcile themselves to the prospect of spending their life in the arduous effort to make the pursuit of the unattained good a little less difficult for their successors. It is enough for us, they say, if those who are to come after us start on the pursuit at a point not quite so remote from the goal as that where our own efforts began. But to make this acquiescence seriously possible, it seems necessary to forget that, in a human history dominated by the form of successiveness, the result is still to leave every succeeding generation infinitely far from attainment.
The best type of Utilitarian, who makes his good in practice of the removal of abuses, is a fine type of man, but it is hard to think that human history as a whole could have much value, or a human life much interest, if nothing is ever achieved beyond the removal of abuses. If our moral achievement always ends only in the attainment of the slightly better, that of itself is proof that we never attain the good. A good which is to give life all its value cannot simply be a goal which lies ahead of us at every step of our path and, in fact, recedes indefinitely as we approach it. It must be something which is actually being had in fruition through a present which does not become past. And just in proportion as such abiding fruition of good is a feature in our actual experience, that experience is taking on a form which transcends the moral, if by the moral we mean, as Kant, for example, did, the sphere where endeavour is always towards the simply future and unrealised, and the dominant attitude is that of struggle. If human life, under the most favourable of circumstances, were a mere succession of increments of “betterment,” it would be, in principle, a failure to achieve good; “meliorism” is only a foolish alias for pessimism.20 If life is not a failure, then it cannot be an adequate account of the moral life to say that it is one of advance towards a future fruition which never becomes present. There must be another side to the facts. “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp.” Our experience must be something more than a progress in which the best we can say of every stage is only “not yet good, but rather better”. There must be a sense in which we can be really in fruition, permanently established in a good beyond which there is no better. In the measure in which this can be truly said of any life, we may also say of that life that it is already shot through with the distinctive character of eternity and is an abiding now.
The distinctively ethical life, then, falls somewhere between these limits. It is not merely successive; if it were it would not even be a life of serious endeavour towards good. It is not simply a life of present and eternal fruition, from which succession and conflict have fallen away, for then it would be something more than ethical. In proportion to its moral worth, it is a life which is undergoing a steady elevation and transmutation from the mere successiveness of a simply animal existence to the whole and simultaneous fruition of all good which would be the eternity of the divine. As we rise in the moral scale, under the drawing of conceptions of good more and more adequate to sustain intelligent aspiration, living itself steadily takes on more and more a “form of eternity”. For, in proportion to the level we have attained, each of our achievements becomes more and more the reaction of a personality at once richer and more unified to the solicitation of a good, itself presented as richer and more thoroughly unified. As we rise in the moral scale, we more and more cease to have many goods with rival claims upon us, and come nearer to having one ever-present good, just as—we have learned it long ago from Socrates and Plato—we cease to exhibit a plurality of virtues, or excellences, relatively independent of one another, and come to display the “unity of virtue” in every single act. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.
Here we make a contact with the sphere of religion. There is the closest correspondence between our character and the quality of the good to which we respond in action. So long as we are moved to respond only to goods which must be had one after another, our character itself must show a corresponding want of unity; it must fall apart into phases and moods with no profound underlying unity. To the old Platonic question whether the soul is one or many we can only reply, as in effect Plato does, that it is as its desired good is. If it has many goods, it is itself many, its personality is loose-knit and incipient. It will only have a real, and not a merely ideal, inner unity of personality when its good is one and all-embracing, a real and living single good which is the source of all goodness and leaves nothing of the good outside itself. That is to say, unity of personality and interest will only be attained, if at all, by a soul which has come to find its principal good in God. If God, the concrete unity of all good in its one source, is not real, the complete unification of personality in ourselves, the very goal of all education of character and all moral effort, cannot be real either, and the supreme purpose of the moral life will be a self-baffling purpose. That “intrinsic goods,” as they have been called, are an ultimate and irreducible plurality is just now something of a popular thesis with moralists, and there is great excuse for it as a salutary reaction against the view that all good is of some one kind.21 But if the plurality is really ultimate, it should be an inevitable corollary that genuine moral personality is unattainable. Our growth, as we enrich our lives with more and more that is good, should be in the direction of multiplication and dissociation of the self. Such a view seems flatly at variance with the known facts of the moral life which fully bear out the familiar Socratic-Platonic contention that it is bad for character to exhibit the dexterity of the “quick-change artiste”. It is only under the influence of the “pathetic fallacy” that we allow ourselves to think of the world as a stage “where every man must play a part”; to treat it as a stage where the best man is the man who has the widest repertory of different parts would be to invite practical shipwreck. In the world of life, to be “everything by turns and nothing long” is to be at the bottom, not at the top, of the ladder.
I conceive, in fact, that this doctrine of an ultimate irreducible plurality of goods would never have been maintained but for the prevalence of the logical error we have already had occasion to mention, the error of ignoring the reality of “analogical unity”. Since it is clear that we can say of such very different things as bodily health, mental distinctions, self-forgetful virtue, that they are all good, it has been inferred, on one side, that the goodness we ascribe to them must be some one identical common quality, present alike in all of them, though in different degrees of “intensity,” or with some further specific differentia in each case, so that the various goods form a plurality of irreducible, and perhaps co-ordinate, species of a genus good. This assumption is easily shattered by criticism, and the critic is thus prone to suppose that he has shown that good has no unity at all, and must be a merely equivocal term. Both positions rest on the uncriticised assumption that predication must either be universal, as when I call both rodents and ruminants mammals, or merely equivocal, as when I call the domestic animal and the constellation both by the name “dog”. In the first case, the rodents and the ruminants have in common not only a name, but a group of characters which the name indicates. Both are, for example, vertebrates, red-blooded, four-limbed. In the second, the household animal and the constellation have nothing in common but the name, and that they have even this in common is due to a mere historical accident. Now, these alternatives are not exhaustive, as we might all have learned from Aristotle, if we had not been blinded by bad nominalistic traditions to the force of his doctrine of analogical predication. Virtue and health are both called good, not because they have a core of identical “common characters,” further specially determined in each case, but because virtue is related to one term x1 in the same way as health to a different term x2. Virtue is the efficient living of the social and intelligent life, just as health is the efficient discharge of physiological function. There need be no further correspondence in character between social function and physiological function to make the ascription of goodness in both cases highly significant. In fact we see that the very qualities which justify us in calling one thing good may equally provide the justification for calling a second bad, and, again, may be wholly irrelevant to the goodness or badness of a third. A good knife must be sharp, but a good poker blunt, a good mattress must be hard, a good pillow soft.
And yet the various goods of life are not simply a collection or aggregate; they form a hierarchy. What at one stage of mental and moral development seems complete satisfaction22 of aspiration sinks, for the man who is living at a higher level, to the position of a mere pre-condition of getting satisfaction it cannot itself provide, or may become indifferent, or even a positive hindrance. At the highest attainable levels of human personal activity what we find in the moral heroes of our race is not diffusion of attention and endeavour over a vast multiplicity of radically incongruous objects of aspiration, but an intensely unified and concentrated endeavour towards a unified good. Ends not capable of finding their place in this unity have sunk to the level of mere pre-conditions, or of things which may, or perhaps must, be dispensed with, though at a lower and less human level any one of them may have been, in its time, a temporary substitute for the actual summum bonum. Mere dispersion is the characteristic moral condition of the amateur in living, as mere concentration on the partial is that of the fanatic. This is why I cannot but feel that, when all is said, the life of a man like Goethe, with its manifold but imperfectly co-ordinated and hierarchised responses to so many of the aspects of the total human environment, must be pronounced second-rate by comparison with the life of a man like Socrates. It is not only the specifically saintly man who can truly say of himself “One thing have I desired of the Lord”.
It is clear that the implications of this tendency to unity and concentration of aim are double, according as we fix our attention on the character of the good aspired to, or on the aspiration itself. On the one hand, full achievement of the aspiration which lies behind all moral advance is only possible if there really is a good by the quest and attainment of which human endeavour will be finally unified and made single of aim. The moral quest will be self-defeating unless there is an object to sustain it which embodies in itself good complete and whole, so that in having it we are possessing that which absolutely satisfies the heart’s desire and can never be taken from us. The possession must be possession of a “thing infinite and eternal,” and this points to the actuality of God, the absolute and final good, as indispensably necessary if the whole moral effort of mankind is not to be doomed ab initio to frustration. On the other hand, if the effort is to reach its goal, the possession of the supreme good on our part must also be itself final; we must be able to look forward to having the infinite good, and to having it in perpetuity. But in such a fruition our own being would have been lifted above the level of successiveness; we should ourselves have passed from temporality to eternity, and the life we know as characteristic of morality, the of effort, struggle, defeat and renewed endeavour, would have been transfigured into one of rest and enjoyment. Thus morality itself seems to imply, as a condition of being something more than a mere crying for the moon, an eternal destiny for the human person, and so far as life becomes an endeavour to adjust the self to such a destiny, it would be ceasing to be merely ethical and taking on a specifically religious character. It would become our moral duty, and our highest moral duty, to aim at being something more than merely good neighbours and loyal citizens of the State.
This statement must, of course, not be misinterpreted. To say that a life which aims at nothing more than being a good moral life is itself morally defective is not to say that we can be content with less than this. I suppose there is no moralist of the first order who has not preached the supreme duty of cultivating a right detachment from the best and dearest of temporal goods. Even family affections, the “dear love of comrades,” or selfless devotion to the cause of our class or our country, become snares, if we elevate family, friends, class, or country into goods to which all and every consideration must be sacrificed. From the point of view of religion this is to make them into “idols”; from the most strictly ethical point of view there are always things we must not do, even for the sake of wife and son, friend or country. I may lay down my life for my friend or my country; I shall not, if I am a truly virtuous man, think myself free to serve my friend by a perjury, or my country by an assassination. The mere admission that there are such limits to all temporal loyalties is a confession that no object of such loyalties is the supreme and final good. But this is not to say that these loyalties are not, in their place, imperative. There is no moral right to set a limit to loyalty to good, except on the ground that the limit is demanded by loyalty to better good. And thus the true detachment is not cultivated by simply turning our backs on secular good and temporal duties, but by service and fulfilment, always with the condition that we make the discharge of the duty and the enjoyment of the good instrumental to the attainment of the non-temporal highest good of all, that we serve and enjoy temporal good without losing our hearts to it. Half this lesson is well and wisely preached by T. H. Green, when he ends his Introduction to Hume23 with the warning not to despise Hume’s doctrine because of the secular character of the morality recommended by that philosopher, since “there is no other genuine enthusiasm of humanity” than one which has travelled the common highway of reason—the life of the good citizen and honest neighbour—and can never forget that it is still only “a further stage of the same journey”. The other and equally indispensable side of the same truth is that the moral aim of humanity always is to be something more than a mere good citizen and honest neighbour, and that the man who has seen no glimpses of the way beyond is not likely even to get as far on the way as thorough good citizenship and honest neighbourliness. Indeed, the metaphor of the journey, as Green uses it, is not quite adequate, for the true business of man is not to pursue the temporal good first and the non-temporal afterwards, but, as Green would, no doubt, have agreed, to pursue both at once and all through his life, to be something more than citizen and neighbour in the act of being both, and to be both all the more efficiently that he is all the time aiming at the something more. It is just this impossibility of really making the right service of temporal good and the right detachment from it fall apart into two successive stages of a journey which, more than anything else, makes worthy moral living the hard thing it is, and, by making it hard, saves it from degenerating into a mere routine and gives it something of the character of perennial adventure.24
A few final words on a difficulty of fundamental principle. It may be said that life itself can only be thought of as a process of never completed “adjustment of organism to environment”. If the adjustment were ever complete and no new readjustment ever demanded by variation of the environment, would not life cease automatically? Without the impulsion supplied by the pain or discomfort due to disturbance of adjustment, and the support of the effort towards better adjustment by attendant pleasure, what would there be to keep life, or at any rate conscious life, going? The thought is one which has been often expressed, but never better than by Hobbes in the famous words in which he denies the very possibility of a summum bonum. “Nor can a man any more live, whose Desires are at an end, than he whose Senses and Imagination are at a stand”.25 The obvious inference would be that the “eternity” of which we have spoken is only another name for nothing. Everything is “becoming”; nothing is “being”; things are always in the making, nothing is ever finally made. What have we to say to this highly popular way of thinking?
All I need say at the present point is that the reasoning rests on a grave petitio principii long ago exposed by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics.26 Aristotle, it may be remembered, has there to consider the bearing of a similar theory on the question of the worth of pleasure. It was an argument of the anti-Hedonists in the Platonic Academy that pleasure cannot be “the good,” because pleasures arise always and only in connection with γενέσεις, processes of transition. We feel pleasure, it was said, whenever the organism is in process of recovery from a preceding disturbance of its normal vital equilibrium; when the equilibrium has been re-established, the pleasure drops. We feel it, then, not when we are, physically, “at our best,” but only while we are getting back towards our “best” from a condition in which we are “not ourselves”. This thesis was then generalised into the statement that what we enjoy is never fruition, but always movement towards a still unreached fruition. When good is actually attained, full enjoyment ceases. Though the argument was originally meant only to prove that feelings of pleasure are not “the good,” it can obviously be used equally to support the view that life itself, in any sense of the word in which life has value and interest for us, is incompatible with full fruition, “man never is, but always to be, blest”. Aristotle counters the argument, as you may recollect, by insisting on the radical difference between “becoming” (γένεσις), the process by which “adjustment to environment” is effected, and “activity” (ἐνέργεια), the exercise of a fully formed function, and actually maintains that, even in such cases as the enjoyment of appeasing felt hunger—the very cases which might seem to give the strongest support to the theory he is rejecting—the facts have been misread. Even in these cases, he urges, what directly occasions pleasure and is enjoyed is not the “recovery” from disturbance of the organic equilibrium, but the underlying discharge of function, which has not been inhibited or disturbed. He means that, for example, the “gusto” with which the hungry man relishes his meal is only indirectly dependent on previous “depletion”. It is, strictly and directly, simply enjoyment of the normal vital functioning, which has persisted unimpaired all through, though masked by the superimposed special local inhibition of hunger.27 Hence, on Aristotle’s own theory, the connection between enjoyment and processes of transition to more satisfactory “adjustment” is incidental and indirect; such transitions are only attended by enjoyment because they involve the gradual removal of an inhibition. An activity, a vigorously discharged functioning, with no inhibition to be overcome, would be much more enjoyed. This is why Aristotle speaks of the life of God, a life liable to no inhibitions of function and never involving improved “adjustments,” and thus including no experience of “transition,” as the supreme example of enjoyment absolute and unbroken (χαίρει ἀεὶ μίαν καὶ ἁπλὴν ἡδονήν, he says, whereas our human pleasures are never pleasures unmixed28). As psychologists know, there is no theory of the conditions of pleasure-pain which does not encounter grave difficulties,29 but the Aristotelian type of theory, which connects pleasure, and enjoyment generally, with unimpeded functioning, or activity (ἐνέργεια ἀνεμπόδιστος), seems, at any rate, to be attended with fewer difficulties than any other, and may prove to be absolutely right. (The only serious difficulty I feel about it myself is that it is hard to say what “unimpeded activity” we can suppose to account for the intense enjoyment of “sweets” which seems to be generally characteristic of palates not artificially schooled. And, for anything I, who am a layman in such matters, know, the physiologists may have discovered, or may yet discover, a complete answer to the question.) If the Aristotelian theory of enjoyment should be the true one, it would follow that enjoyment is not bound up with “becoming”;30 Spinoza’s assertion—wholly inconsistent, by the way, with his own famous doctrine of the intellectual love wherewith God loves Himself—that we can enjoy nothing but becoming, “transition to greater activity,” will become simply false.31 The transcendence of the form of successiveness involved in fruition of the good simple and eternal will be also entrance upon the one experience which would be, through and through, “pure delight”. “They do rest from their labours and their works follow them” will be neither more nor less than the literal truth.
SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE TO III
DR. McTAGGART’S DOCTRINE OF TIME
As has been already explained the references in the preceding pages to McTaggart’s views were written before the publication of the posthumous part ii. of The Nature of Existence; (the essay of 1908, referred to in that volume (p. 23, n. 1) as expounding McTaggart’s doctrine, much in its final stage, I had no doubt read at the time of its appearance, but not subsequently). It is therefore necessary to consider how far the comments of the text are affected by the full publication of McTaggart’s view.
I admit at once that the position adopted throughout the posthumous volume is more in accord with what seem to me to be the implications of a sound religion and morality than that commonly favoured by idealists who pronounce time “unreal”. For McTaggart holds strongly that, though time is itself “unreal,” it is not a mere illusion. There is a real ordered series (the C-series as McTaggart calls it) of which the temporal order is a “mis-perception”; evil also is a reality. And McTaggart believes himself able to show further that the “C-series” has a sense corresponding to the temporal direction from past to future, and a “last term”. This last term is a state of personal existence from which all evil, except the “sympathetic pain” arising from awareness of the evil which has preceded in “pre-final stages,” has disappeared. (Op. cit. c. 65, p. 431.) Moreover, though this “final stage,” when attained, is experienced as non-temporal, it inevitably appears from outside itself as something yet to be attained in the future, and as duration which has a beginning, but not an end. Hence, as against the usual versions of Spinozist and Hegelian doctrine, the Christian conceptions of the blessed hereafter are the truer; the Christian conception of Heaven is as nearly true as it is possible for any conception of the “final stage” on the part of persons who are not enjoying it to be, whereas the rival view—that the universe, in its “pre-final stages,” is, and can be seen to be, perfectly good—is false, and makes ethics unmeaning. Christians, in fact, have been right all along, only that they are bad metaphysicians, and therefore cannot see why they are right. (Op. cit. c. 61, pp. 367–371.)
It will be seen that McTaggart thus concedes a great deal of what is contended for in the present volume. But there are important reserves which indicate that his position is by no means so “Christian” as he supposed it to be. Thus (op. cit. p. 432) we find the love of God specified, by the side of the pleasure of swimming, as a good which may exist in any of the “pre-final stages,” but must disappear in the final; God can be loved everywhere except “in Heaven”. (This is because, according to McTaggart, belief in the existence of God is an error, just as belief in the existence of water is an error. In the “final stage” there are no errors left. Consequently, in that stage, no one believes in the existence either of God or of water, and therefore no one can enjoy either swimming or loving God.) Since Christianity is not the only considerable religion which makes the essentia of the joy of Heaven to consist in the vision and love of God, McTaggart clearly overrates the support religion can give to his conceptions.
Now I think it not difficult to see that the divergence between McTaggart’s anticipations for mankind and those of the greater ethical religions, is determined in advance by his general attitude towards Time. On McTaggart’s view, successiveness is itself an illusion, though an inevitable one. The illusion arises from “mis-perceiving” as successivenes what is really a logical relation of incluson between the consequent terms of the “C series” and their anfecedents. (See op. cit. c. 60.) It follows that each of us is really an “eternal” being, in his own right, though it is only in the “final stage” that he becomes fully aware of his own eternity. There is no difference in reality, in this respect, between any one person and any other, and therefore, in McTaggart’s scheme, there can be no God, no one who is the “eternal” being “who only has immortality”. In the great ethical religions, on the other hand, the distinction between the one strictly eternal being and all others is fundamental, however we express it, and consequently it is fundamental that “passage” should be a real characteristic of the “creature”. Successiveness, therefore, cannot be a mere “misperception” of a logical relation; it must be something inherently real in the constitution of the “creature,” like “unactualised potentiality” in the philosophy of St. Thomas This makes it desirable to re-examine McTaggart’s final statement of his reasons for pronouncing Time “unreal”. We need to do this carefully, all the more because McTaggart holds (p. 4) that whereas the positive results of the volume are only highly probable, the negative conclusions are demonstrated.32
McTaggart begins by distinguishing carefully between the distinctions earlier-later and past-present-future. A set of terms related only as earlier-later forms what he calls a B-series; terms related as past-present-future form an A-series. Time, if there is Time, requires the reality of both A- and B-series, and of the two the A-series (past, present, future) is the more important. On these points, as will have been seen, I am in full agreement with him. From these premises McTaggart develops a reductio ad impossibile. If there really is a temporal series, its generating relation cannot be simply before-after; it must be an A-series. An A-series is inherently self-contradictory and so impossible. The proof of the minor is sought in the ancient ἀπορίαι connected with the notion of change. This is the general character of the argument; we must now examine it rather more in detail.
As its author presents it, the argument consists of two stages: (1) There cannot be time without an A-series; a B-series by itself would not be sufficient to constitute Time. (2) And there cannot be an A-series. Ergo.
(1) is proved as follows. There could be no Time if nothing changed.33 But if there is no past, present or future, nothing changes. The “earlier” and “later” events of a B-series always have been, are, and always will be, in precisely the same unchanging relations of priority and posteriority to one another. Each term in the series “from the dawn of time,” as we say, to its close (if it has a close), occupies just one and the same position in the series. Change can mean only one thing, that a certain term in the B-series is differently determined by the terms of the A-series. E.g. the death of Queen Anne was once in the remote future, then in the near future, then in the present, then in the near past, and it is still becoming more and more remotely past. We conclude, then, that the B-series alone, if it exists, must be temporal, since its generating relation, before-after, is temporal, but it is not enough to constitute time, since it does not contain the sufficient conditions of change, which are to be found in the A-series.34 This establishes our first proposition.35
(2) The second is established by considering what the generating relation of an A-series would have to be. In the first place, it must be a relation to some term which itself is not a member of the series, since, “the relations of the A-series (past, present, future) are changing relations,” but the relation of a term of the series itself to other terms of it is unchanging. The A-series would thus be defined by the fact that each of its terms has, to an X which is not a term of the series, one, and only one, of the three relations of being past, being present, being future. All the terms of the A-series which have to X the relation of being present fall between all those which have to X the relation of being past, and all those which have to X the relation of being future. And it seems not easy to identify any term which fulfils the conditions thus required of X. But the still more fatal difficulty, the difficulty which forbids us to assume that there may be an X with which we are unacquainted, and which plays the required part, is that the characteristics of being past, being present, being future, are incompatible, and that every term of an A-series would have to possess them all. All of them are successively in the future, in the present, in the past. The only exceptions would be for the first and last terms of the series, if it is held that it has such terms. And even they would need to have at once two incompatible determinations. If there ever was a first event, or first moment of time, it was once present, and is past; if there can be a last, it is future, and will some day be present. To put it crudely, the present event is distinguished from past and future events by being at the present moment, but presentness is a characteristic of every moment. To try to distinguish this moment from any other by saying that it is the present “present moment” lands us at once in a “vicious infinite regress”. An A-series is thus intrinsically impossible, and therefore temporality is an illusion.36
Now with some part of this criticism, as I have said, I should myself agree. I agree with McTaggart that Time cannot be reduced to a mere relation of before and after, the mere ghost of time. If our experience could be reduced to a “knife-edge,” from which the relation before-after were merely absent, I agree that the very word “time” would be meaningless, because we should have no acquaintance with succession, and also, I should add, an experience of before and after in which the before did not fade into the past, nor the after “emerge” into presentness, would not be what we mean by “experienced” or “lived” time. There would indeed be successiveness within the content experienced, but not within the experiencer. We should be looking on at something we could call the “history” of the world around us, but we should have no history of our own. And I think I should further agree that McTaggart is right in saying that the determination of the terms of his A-series can only be effected by relation to an X which is not itself a member of the series. But with this my agreement ceases. I think it possible to say what this all-important X is; it is the living, percipient, finite subject of experience. The now present, or “present” present, is whatever enters as a constituent into my act. I do not pronounce it actual because it is determined as present, but present because it is actual. It is the distinction between “act” and “potentiality” which must be taken as fundamental, and as the source of the temporality of our human experience.
What is more, if I were all “act,” without any unrealised potentiality, I might observe a succession in things around me, but the succession would fall entirely within a “present”. I could then say of myself, “Before Abraham was, I am”. The secret of the puzzle which McTaggart goes on to develop is precisely that I do not merely observe the successiveness of events; my own being is immersed in successiveness. I am a γιγνόμενον, but a γιγνόμενον conscious that the end to which I aspire is γιγνεσθαι εἰς οὐσίαν. This, as I see the matter, is just the fundamental “surd” or “irrationality” involved in the existence of beings with a real history. That it cannot be “rationalised” away, that is, cannot be analysed into a complex of “clear and distinct ideas,” is not, as McTaggart seems to suppose, a proof that successiveness is an illusion. On the contrary, it is the proof that the historical world of individuals is not a methodical fiction but a genuine fact. The contradiction McTaggart finds in the fact that what was present becomes past, and what was future present, would exist if the X by relation to which these distinctions are made were itself something all “act,” without any “potentiality,” but the X is myself, and I am not actus purus. All that McTaggart really proves is that if I were the supra-historical God, there would be no past or future for me, because there would be none in me.
I conceive that it may be objected that the distinction between potentiality and act cannot be the foundation of the threefold distinction, past, present, future. It might serve to distinguish present from not-present, but how is it to distinguish past from future within the not-present, since the actual becomes potential, no less than the potential actual? May we not reply that this is never a complete account of the matter? The actual which is reduced to potentiality is not reduced to the same potentiality which was there before the actuality. We say that a very old man has fallen back into a “second childhood,” but the “second” childhood is not an identical recurrence of the former. It is a “potentiality” with a difference. And the growing domination of physics by the “principle of Carnot” seems to show that, on a closer view, nothing in the history of the universe ever repeats itself identically. At most there are partial imperfect repetitions which may be treated as identical recurrences, relatively to some particular human purpose. The traces of the past are really ineffaceable, and it is fully compatible with such indeterminacy as is requisite for morality that they should be so. Saul’s past neither constrains him to disobey the heavenly vision, nor forces him to obey it. But whether he disobeys or obeys, in neither case will he be the same character he would have been if he had not been a party to the death of Stephen. The act may “make him a worse man,” or a better; what in any case is false, is that “it will make no difference”.
I should take objection to the whole conception of Time as we are familiar with it in our experience as being an “A-series” of momentary events which are successively present, as I should to the conception of change as some kind of “relation” between an event M and another event N, upon which McTaggart’s whole chapter is founded. Change, I should say, is not a relation between one experienced event and another; the change is the event, and I hold that we have a direct and “irrationalisable” experience of change itself. We do not “experience M,” then “experience N,” and infer that there has been a change; “M changing into N” is a formula which is the first attempt at rationalising a refractory experience which is sui generis. (M persisting as M is itself one form of this experience.) “Becoming” is falsified by the attempt to rationalise it into a string of tiny atoms of “being”; it is not “being mis-perceived,” and therefore the attempt to find the reality of it in a purely logical relation, made by McTaggart, is wrong in principle. That becoming is not being, and yet is not an illusion, any more than being is, is, in fact, the consideration which seems to me fatal to every form of “panlogism” in philosophy, and if the rejection of panlogism is what is meant by “irrationalism,” I suppose I must be content to accept the name of irrationalist.
It may be said that, by this account, it follows that each of us has his own individual “personal” Time. I should admit this, and frankly concede that a “universal” Time is an impossibility, and a “common Time” a makeshift, devised for specific necessary purposes, like a common creed, or a common party programme. The “lived” Time of each of us is a “perspective” peculiar to himself; but the point I want to insist on here is that it is a perspective of a becoming, not of a stable being. That is to say, with Whitehead, and against McTaggart, I want to make a real distinction between the super-individual fact, “passage,” or “becoming,” and its “measure”. McTaggart’s arguments are formally directed to disproving the existence of the measure; what he really needs to do, if Time is to be made a “misperception” of a series generated by a purely logical relation, is to disprove the reality of “passage” itself. And that “passage” is real each of us is a living proof to himself, since he also “passes”.
Kdr V.1 805 (=KdrV.2 833).
Principles of Natural Knowledge, pp. 82 ff.
Philebus, 26 D 8.
N.E. 1177 b, 27–28.
Green, Prolegomena, pp. 178 ff.
Alexander, Space, Time and Deity, bk. iv. passim.
And, for the matter of that, the individual single note, as heard, has always its characteristic “protensity,” as it has been called. We no more hear instantaneous sound than we see “mathematical points”.
The apprehension of a spoken syllable will, of course, illustrate the point equally well.
And consequently Goethe’s well-known thesis that “Natur hat weder Kern noch Schale” is not true of “organic nature”.
And, be it noted, the relation of organism to environment is not, like that of one kinematical system to another with which it interacts, a one-level relation; the transaction is not a mere “exchange”. The organism “assimilates” what it receives from the environment; the environment receives excreta from the organism, but does not “assimilate” them.
Dr. C. Lloyd Morgan. The reference here is to language used in Dr. Morgan’s spoken Gifford Lectures. For the thought see Life, Mind and Spirit, lecture iii.
Of course I am not denying the obvious fact that the lessons of the past all through play a part of fundamental importance in directing intelligence to the response demanded by the new situation. If the situation presented no recognisable analogy with anything in the agent’s past history, intelligence would presumably be helpless to cope with it. But the lesson of the past is not one which can be got “by rote”.
It is important not to confuse contrition, as Mill seems to do in his language about the “internal sanction” of morality, with regret or remorse. Regret may be felt for mere unfortunate circumstances. I may, for example, regret that I am not well enough off to do someone a social service which I should like to render, or that I have not the social influence which would procure him some advantage. It, to use Butler’s distinction, concerns our “condition” rather than our conduct. Remorse, in our language, seems to mean exclusively dissatisfaction with one’s own conduct, but it is a dissatisfaction which need have nothing to do with the moral quality of the conduct. Genuine contrition involves absolute and unqualified self-condemnation of one’s conduct, and of one’s personality, so far as expressed in that conduct, as evil or sinful. Hence its connection with the second stage of repentance—confession. The essence of confession is that it is recognition that an act which is absolutely to be condemned is my personal responsible act, and that, in condemning the act, I am condemning myself, so far as the act expressed myself as guilty and evil without excuse.
But the truth rather seems to be, as is stated in Stout’s Manual of Psychology4, p. 113, that “appetition is primary and aversion derivative”; aversion arises “with regard to any situation incompatible with the desired end”.
Notably when we are following the movement of a powerfully wrought scene in a drama as actual spectators in the theatre.
De Consolatione Philosophiae, v., pros. 6. Cf.
“Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss;
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood.”
“I have no life, Constantia, now but thee,
Whilst, like the world-surrounding air, thy song
Flows on, and fills all things with melody.”
I may be allowed to remind the reader of the great classic exposition of the thought in St. Augustine (Confessions, ix., x. 23–26, the scene at the window in Ostia).
Euripides, Bacchae, 416 ff.
Le meilleur est l’ennemi du bien.
I am thinking, it will be seen, largely of the type of doctrine made popular by Prof. G. E. Moore’s Principia Ethica.
May I take the opportunity of explaining that by using the notion of “satisfaction” I do not mean to suggest that everything which is actually desired by anyone is good, and good because he desires it. I know only too well that most of our desires are vain desires, desires for that which will not satisfy. When I speak of the good as the “satisfactory,” I mean that it is that which contents men who are what they ought to be, and will content me when I am what I ought to be. (This is my reply to the old criticism of Professor G. E. Moore, who accused me (Principia Ethica, p. 160) of the “vulgar mistake” which he has taught us to call the “naturalistic fallacy”. Unless Prof. Moore would regard it as “fallacy” to deny the unsupported allegation that there is no connection between “existence” and “value,” I think I may confidently plead not guilty to the accusation, though I own I should have expressed myself more carefully if I had anticipated the misinterpretation. I am not anxious to defend a passage written thirty years ago, but the whole purpose of the argument of which Prof. Moore quotes a part was to deny that to enjoy and to approve are the same thing.)
T. H. Green, Works, i. 371.
I do not deny that there may be, for some persons, a vocation and a duty to renounce temporal good which it may equally be a duty for others to use. I am not denying, for example, that it may be right for some persons to give themselves to lifelong celibacy and poverty, though I am sure that such persons are a minority. What I do mean can be illustrated by a simple example. Suppose a man feels in early life a strong attraction to the life of a religious order, I should say that the attraction, however strong it is, is not of itself sufficient proof of “vocation”. Before a man decides that it is his duty to follow it, he ought most earnestly to consider whether his action may not be a disguised shirking of moral obligations which no one is at liberty to disregard. If he has parents who are likely in their old age to need support and tendance which there is no one but himself to supply, he cannot ask himself too seriously whether for him the adoption of the so-called “religious life” may not be no more than the making void of the commandment to honour father and mother. This need not be so, of course; but there is always the danger of self-deception on the point. It is true that Christ calls on men “to leave father and mother,” if need be, for His sake. But one needs to be quite clear that, in one’s own case, the act really is done for His sake, not as a yielding to the tendency to do what demands the minimum of effort. The “conventual life,” I should say, is all the more likely to be a man’s real vocation if he does not find the prospect of it too attractive to “flesh and blood”. Cf. the sober judgement of St. Thomas (S.T.iiaii.ae q. 101, art. 4 ad 4tum) that—contrary to the opinion of certain persons—to enter a monastery, leaving one’s parents without proper support, is to “tempt God,” cum habens ex humano consilio quid ageret, periculo parentes exponeret sub spe divini auxilii).
Leviathan, c. II.
E.N. 1158 a, 7 ff.
E.N. 1157 b, 35.
Ib. 1154 b, 26.
See the discussion in Stout, Analytic Psychology, ii. pp. 268 ff.
Cf. Stout, Manual of Psychology4, p. 118.
Ethica, iii. ad fin. Affectuum definitiones, 3. Si enim homo cum perfectione ad quam transit nasceretur, eiusdem absque laetitiae affectu compos esset. (Cf. iii. II schol. per laetitiam … intelligam passionem qua mens ad maiorem perfectionem transit.) It might be urged that the definition is expressly given as that of laetitia as a passio, and should not therefore be extended to cover the “active” laetitia of iii. 58 and later propositions. But it should be observed that in iii. 58 itself the existence of this “active” laetitia is inferred from iii. 53, and that the proof of iii. 53 depends immediately on the definition in question.
I think myself that this is an exaggerated confidence. Negative conclusions based on the incompatibility of a proposition with the principle of “Determining Correspondence” explained in vol. i. do not appear to me demonstrated, since—though I cannot argue the point here—I believe it can be shown that there can be no such relation as that described by McTaggart. The reasons alleged for regarding Time as “unreal” (op. cit. c. 33), however, are entirely independent of the theory of “Determining Correspondence,” and thus might be demonstrative, even if that theory prove false or insignificant. Proof that there is no such relation would thus be fatal to McTaggart’s reasons for holding that whatever is real is a self, or a part of a self, but would not affect his proofs that there is really no time.
McTaggart adds that, if anything changes, everything else changes with it, since the relations of every other thing to the changing thing are in some way modified by the change. But this further contention is irrelevant to the immediate argument.
Op. cit. p. 13.
In order to state the argument succinctly, I pass over here some five pages of polemic, directed merely against Mr. Russell.
Op. cit. pp. 19–22.