THE purpose of the present work is to enquire into the bearing of ethical ideas upon the view of reality as a whole which we are justified in forming. The argument begins with a discussion of values and ends with the idea of God. In this way it reverses the traditional order of procedure which seeks first for an interpretation of reality, founded upon scientific generalisations or upon the conceptions involved in knowledge, and then goes on to draw out the ethical consequences of the view that has been reached. This traditional method has some advantage on the ground of simplicity. It concerns itself at first solely with what is and does not allow itself to be disturbed by the intrusion of the alien conception of value or of what ought to be. It is true also that the idea a man forms of the nature of things as a whole can hardly fail to affect his view as to what is of highest worth and thus lead on to ethical consequences. But, for this very reason, it is necessary that the basis of our theory of reality should be as broad and complete as possible; and it will lack breadth and completeness if moral facts and ideas have been excluded at the outset. The facts of morality as they appear in the world, and the ideas of good and evil found in man's consciousness, are among the data of experience. If we overlook them in constructing our theory of reality, we do so at the risk of leaving out something that is required for a view of the whole, and we shall probably find that our base is too narrow for the structure we build upon it. On this account it is desirable to fix attention on certain data which it has been customary to disregard in forming a philosophical theory and to enquire how far these data have a contribution to make towards determining our ultimate view of reality.
This way of approach is not altogether new. The impulse towards philosophy has often come from morality or religion rather than from science. In Plato's Republic, for instance, the argument rests upon an examination of ethical conceptions and terminates in the idea of the Good as the source of all reality and power. In most systems of philosophy, however, ethical enquiry has been postponed until the fundamental conceptions of reality have been fully elaborated; and, even where this is not the case, ethical ideas have not been worked methodically into the structure of the system, but have remained suggestions merely or influences which in some degree modified its general character. There was novelty, therefore, in Kant's assertion of the primacy of the practical reason in dealing with the ideas of God, freedom, and immortality. But his view was founded on a contrast between the speculative and the practical reason, which left the former free, or rather compelled, to disregard the data of moral experience as something which lay outside the range of its application, and made the practical reason simply its supplement and corrective. This characteristic has persisted with most of the thinkers who have been influenced by Kant's demand for a view of reality which will satisfy the moral consciousness. They have recognised ethical ideas as providing an additional test of the adequacy of a view of the world, not as forming an essential portion of the data from which such a view should be derived. Perhaps this holds even of Lotze, though, in a remarkable passage, he has formulated a doctrine which proclaims a complete break with the traditional method.
In the concluding section of his treatise on Metaphysic—the last book which he lived to write—Lotze repeats a dictum with which he had closed his first philosophical book—a book which bears the same title as his latest. “The true beginning of metaphysics lies in ethics,” he asserts. “I admit,” he goes on to say, “that the expression is not exact; but I still feel certain of being on the right track, when I seek in that which should be the ground of that which is.” The reflexions on the world and human life contained in his Mikrokosmus show the importance of this thought for Lotze's philosophy. They give some indication also of the way in which ideas of worth or value and, in particular, ethical ideas may be used in interpreting the world, and of the relations of this mode of interpretation to the account of the connexion of things arrived at by means of scientific conceptions. But he never worked out the system of ethical metaphysics which he adumbrated. He looked forward to a future occasion to justify his view against objections; but even for this justification opportunity was denied him.
His expression of opinion has thus come down to us in questionable shape. It has all the impressiveness that belongs to a belief that, from first to last, informed the thinking of a philosopher who was careful to respect and carry out the methods and results of science. But it has not been worked into his system, and his words remain the record of a personal belief whose logical position is uncertain. We may be tempted to ask whether we are to take them for anything more than this—an expression of the author's individuality, which we may accept or reject as our subjective preferences dictate? If this were all, it would be useless to pursue the matter further. Yet Lotze himself sometimes encourages us to take this view; and the connexion in which the dictum makes its appearance raises a question. His argument is over when he says that the true beginning of metaphysics lies in ethics; and it was not from ethics that his own beginning was made. He began with the difficulties and contradictions that confront the thinker when he tries to understand the connexion of things; and he overcame these difficulties by postulating an inner substantial unity of all reality which solves the contradiction of transeunt causation. It is not until the end of his work that he throws out the suggestion that the secret of reality can be revealed only by the ethical ‘ought,’ and that this should form the starting-point of a metaphysical enquiry.
The terms in which the dictum is stated seem precise enough; but they do not pretend to be exact; and, as Lotze himself has not worked out the doctrine, it is unnecessary to lay stress on his form of statement. The view which he indicates is opposed to the prevailing opinion of philosophers, but yet it is sufficiently familiar at the present day. It is, in short, this: that ethical ideas, or, more generally, ideas about value or worth, have a certain primacy for, or at least have an important and legitimate bearing upon, the interpretation of reality. This is the postulate expressed in its most general terms; but, as thus expressed, it might be used, and has been used, to cover various meanings.
One possible meaning may be mentioned, in the first place, which might be accepted without entailing any modification of the traditional data or method of philosophy. The function of ethical ideas in interpreting reality may be very real and important; but it may be in place only after some general view of the nature of the world has been established. It is a consequence of theism, for instance, that the cosmic process is regarded as expressing a divine and therefore good purpose, so that, in the further interpretation of that process, ethical ideas have a legitimate and necessary function. But the function of ethical ideas is, in this case, secondary and consequential: their place and use depend on the prior establishment of theism—to be more precise, of an ethical theism. It would be incorrect to assert that this was all that Lotze meant by his dictum, though it is a view which is definitely suggested by the line of argument in the Metaphysic. But it was not his full meaning; and, if it had been, it would not have been of great significance. It does not put ethics at the beginning of metaphysics; it would not require to be promulgated as marking a divergence from traditional methods; and it would ignore all the difficulties which arise in attempting to establish an ethical theism without a previous enquiry into ethical facts and principles. It is simply to distinguish it from other and more important meanings of the same general statement that this possible meaning of it has to be referred to at all.
The principle, if it is to be significant of a type of philosophy, must mean that ethical ideas are not merely of importance in philosophical construction, but that they have a place at the basis of the structure—that our metaphysics must be founded on ethics, that in our idea of the ‘ought’ we are to discover at least a guide to a true idea of the ‘is.’
This principle has sometimes been taken as implying or justifying what may be called a subjective ground for determining the nature of objective reality. Here, accordingly, we may distinguish a second meaning which has been put upon the dictum. Ethical ideas have a direct bearing upon practice. What we say ought to be becomes for us a demand that it shall be; it is potentially an object of desire and determines our wishes and conduct. In this way the whole inner world not of obligation only but also of desire and wish combines to make a demand upon reality; and no view of reality is accepted as one in which the whole consciousness can find rest unless it commend itself by satisfying this practical need as well as the demands of the reason. On this ground, it is sometimes held, reality must be not merely what we find it to be, or what our reason convinces us that it is, but also what we need or wish or very earnestly desire that it shall be. “Things,” says William James1, “reveal themselves soonest to those who most passionately want them.” The statement is true, and he has also given the true reason for it: “for our need sharpens our wit.” Things are not what they are because we want them so to be; but they are revealed to the man who has wit to discover them, and his wit is often sharpened by his need to know. To go further than this, and to say that reality must satisfy our wants, is to assume beforehand a whole view of the world and of its adaptation to human emotion and desire. It would be to beg the questions which we are setting out to discuss, and it would be to take the less stable factors in human nature as the standard of truth.
It is therefore important to point out that the dictum that ethics lies at the basis of metaphysics may be interpreted in a third way, which avoids the apparent subjectivity which attaches to the meaning just mentioned. It may be held that our final view of reality must be based upon experience; that this experience must be taken in its whole range, and must not be arbitrarily limited to the data of perception which intelligence works up into science; that the appreciation of moral worth, or of value generally, is as true and immediate a part of our experience as the judgments of perception; and that it, as well as they, forms a part of the data of metaphysics. Further, it may be contended that, just as the data of sense-experience are found to manifest certain regularities from which ‘laws of nature,’ as they are called, may be inferred, so also in our moral experience a certain law or order can be discovered, with a claim to be regarded as objective, which may be compared with the similar claim made on behalf of natural law. If we take experience as a whole, and do not arbitrarily restrict ourselves to that portion of it with which the physical and natural sciences have to do, then our interpretation of it must have ethical data at its basis and ethical laws in its structure. It is the validity and consequences of this view that I propose to discuss.
Before entering upon this enquiry it may be well to clear the way by a short review of the types of thought to which it is opposed and from which, historically, it is a re-action. Kant's doctrine has led to a number of views which differ from one another in detail and even in fundamental points. But all of them might be described, in his phrase, as asserting and depending upon the primacy, or at least fundamental importance, of the practical reason. In this respect they may be contrasted with the prevalent or orthodox tradition of most philosophical schools. These have attributed primacy to the theoretical reason, and to the practical reason they have assigned a secondary and subsidiary place. In general, the question of the relation of the practical to the theoretical reason has not been discussed. It has been assumed, as something too obvious for defence or even for statement, that we have first to find out the true nature of things, and that the rule and end for conduct and the meaning of value will then be plain. Reason is one, and the theory of reality is expected at the same time to be, or easily to lead to, a theory of goodness. This assumption is not peculiar to one school of philosophy, but is shared by various schools, though each may have a different way of putting the matter. What is common to them all is that an enquiry, which, in data as well as method, is purely theoretical, leads—somehow or other—to ethical results. In this way the ethical principles of Rationalism, of Idealism, and of Naturalism are often arrived at.
At a certain point these theories all pass from propositions about reality or what ‘is’ to propositions about goodness or what ‘ought to be.’ They make a transition to a new predicate; and the difficulty for them lies in justifying this transition. This is the crucial question for the whole class of theories which found their ethical doctrines upon a metaphysics which, at the start and up to a certain point, was not ethical. We may describe these systems generally as systems of metaphysical ethics; and, in seeking to understand them, we have to put the question, how do they pass from being to goodness, from ‘is’ to ‘ought’? The question is not altogether easy to answer, just because as a rule they do not recognise the difficulty of making the transition and even ignore that a transition to a new order of conceptions is being made. But I think that two methods may be distinguished, by which the transition has actually been made or attempted. On one of these methods ethics is regarded as simply an application of theoretical or metaphysical principles to a new material—to the material of conduct or of conscious volition. The relation of ethics to metaphysics is, on this view, similar to the relation of mechanics to mathematics. Mechanics deals with the application of mathematical laws or formulæ to masses and molecules, and in the same way ethics applies metaphysical truths to conduct or volition. Reason is held to become practical by virtue of its new subject-matter, that is to say, by being applied to practice or conduct: the principles remain the same; only the application is different. This is one kind of metaphysical ethics; and it is that which characterises a Rationalist or Intellectualist school of thought, such as Cartesianism. But a similar method is also frequently adopted by the exponents of that form of scientific philosophy called Naturalism. Another way of proceeding from theoretical to ethical conceptions may be traced in Idealisms of the Hegelian type or approximating to that type. According to this method we pass from the non-ethical to ethical conceptions by criticism of the former. This criticism, it is held, brings out a meaning which is really implicit in the conceptions with which we started, though it was not at first seen to be there. The dialectic of the notion compels us to advance from the relatively abstract stage in which no ethical content was apparent to the more concrete stage in which an ethical meaning becomes explicit. It is important to understand how these two methods work, and how they deal with the special difficulties which they encounter. They must therefore be considered separately.
1. The most characteristic of all systems of Rationalism is that of Descartes and his followers. According to him knowledge is one, and its method is always the same. “All knowledge,” he says, “is of the same nature throughout, and consists solely in combining what is self-evident2.” The type to which every kind of knowledge must conform, if it is to be truly knowledge, is, in his opinion, mathematical demonstration. In mathematics we start with self-evident propositions and pass from one proposition to another by means of a chain of reasoning, each link in which is clearly a true proposition. The chain cannot be endless; that is why a special class of self-evident propositions is needed at the outset. All our ordinary scientific or philosophical propositions depend ultimately upon some primary proposition or propositions, assumed as self-evident; but each step which connects the later proposition with the earlier must also be equally evident. We accept the proposition p because it is evident that it follows from q; and we accept q because it is evident that it follows from r, and so on; but sooner or later we must reach a proposition whose truth does not depend on its implication by any other proposition. Descartes speaks sometimes as if there were only one such proposition—the assertion by the thinker of his own conscious existence; and this was certainly for him the only self-evident proposition which had existence as its predicate. But it is clear that he admits as ultimate and self-evident a number of other propositions, such as the mathematical axioms and the axiom of causality. From these self-evident propositions every other scientific truth is arrived at by means of clear and evident steps.
What then are we to say of the first ethical proposition that enters into a system of thought of this kind—the first proposition, that is to say, that has ‘good’ or some similar ethical concept as its predicate? Of two things one: either this proposition is self-evident and without dependence on a preceding proposition, or else it is implied by some preceding proposition which, ex hypothesi, is not an ethical proposition. If the former is the case, then the ethical proposition marks a new beginning, and is not derived from any set of purely theoretical propositions; and it must be recognised as having independent validity, if not necessarily primacy or control over others, when the thinker proceeds to unify or systematise his knowledge and attempt an interpretation of things as a whole. In the latter case—if it is held to be evident that a certain ethical proposition follows from a non-ethical proposition—further questions arise.
Now the former of these alternatives is adopted by many writers who, by reason of their method, may be counted among the Rationalists. It is the prevailing doctrine of the Intuitional moralists and may be found in the Scholastics before them. Certain ethical propositions—such as those that affirm that justice, veracity, and the common welfare are good—are held to be self-evident, not derived from mathematical, causal, or any other purely theoretical propositions. When this position is taken up ethics as a science is not made dependent upon metaphysics. It is allowed a place of its own. Ethical truths and truths of theoretical philosophy will be regarded as arrived at in the same way, and they will be dealt with by the same rational methods; but there will be no primacy of one over the other; if metaphysics is not a result of ethics, neither is ethics derived from metaphysics. And this method, so far as regards ethics, has been often employed by writers like Richard Price, who have not worked out any metaphysical system, as well as by others—Reid, for example—whose ethical doctrine is part of a general philosophical view. Such theories do not derive their ethical principle from an antecedent and non-ethical metaphysics, though any comprehensive or philosophical view of this kind must show in what way ethical and theoretical propositions can be combined into a system.
If, on the other hand, we take the latter line of thought, and derive ethical truths from non-ethical premisses—as the Cartesians generally, and Geulincx in particular, seem to have wished to do—then also our ethical propositions must begin somewhere. There must be some proposition which, in our system, contains for the first time an ethical notion; and we shall accept this proposition not because, standing by itself, it is self-evident, but because it is implied by a preceding proposition which, ex hypothesi, does not contain any ethical notion. How is it possible for this to be? Where are the non-ethical premisses which, of themselves, justify an ethical conclusion?
This question is never faced, so far as I can make out. Goodness is found in different directions by different thinkers of the same school. Sometimes, as by Geulincx, it is held to belong only to the will, which is powerless to effect changes in the world of sense but is supreme in its own narrow field. Sometimes, as by Spinoza, it is regarded as belonging to the knowledge and realisation of one's own being as a mode of the ultimate reality. But, whatever the subject of our proposition when we say “this being, or this kind of life, or this attitude, is good,” the predicate ‘good’ enters as a new notion which is superadded to, and not derived from, the logical or mathematical or causal relations already involved. Self-evidence may be claimed for the ethical proposition itself, but it is never shown to be logically implied by the antecedent propositions. They have been on a different plane of thought. The assertion of goodness is not really arrived at by deduction from any assertions about existence; it marks the beginning of a new line of thought. Thus it was that the Rationalists of the seventeenth century failed to get to ethics by way of logical deduction from principles about knowledge and reality which were not themselves ethical, and by a method which was imitated from mathematical proof.
In very much the same way, the Naturalists of the nineteenth century failed in their attempt to reach ethical propositions by an extension of causal propositions. If we take Spencer as representing this view, we may find in him the promise of a new and scientific doctrine in which ethical principles shall have their true place in a universal and systematic philosophy, wherein everything is to be deduced from the doctrine of the persistence of force. But the promise of proof is not kept: it is broken just at the point where its fulfilment would have been of the greatest interest—when consciousness emerges from the play of competing physiological reflexes. After this point the pretence of deduction is cast aside. Causation, however, is still the clue; and we look for the transition from the causal to the ethical judgment. The chain of causation is crossed, however, in Spencer's exposition by a new line of argument, when he quietly assumes as self-evident a proposition which is not causal at all, but strictly ethical—the proposition that pleasure and pleasure alone is good. The line of cause and effect is not altogether deserted by him; and other exponents of evolutionary ethics keep to it more consistently. In all their expositions, however, one truth becomes apparent: that, as long as the argument is logical, it has no ethical consequences; and that, when ethical propositions enter, they have not been reached by any logical process. It is not always that writers are content, with the naïveté of Sir Francis Galton, to formulate the ‘new duty’ of following evolution3; they more frequently pass from the assertion of a certain evolutionary tendency to the assumption that it has ethical value, without stopping to reflect on the audacious leap they have taken over a logical fence4. Nevertheless, their service to clear thought on this subject has been none the less real because it has been unintentional. Their exposition has made clearer than ever the distinction which they have so palpably ignored—the distinction between ‘is’ and ‘ought,’ between existence and value or goodness. And unwittingly they have done the good service of drawing attention to the tendency to overlook this distinction—a tendency shown in other systems of philosophy as well as in their own.
2. Ethical ideas, we may therefore assert, are not due simply to the application of metaphysical or theoretical conceptions to the subject-matter of conduct. This method of metaphysical ethics will not work. There remains the other and more promising method. According to it the purely theoretical conceptions with which metaphysics begins are inadequate to the interpretation of reality, but criticism of them reveals a content which was not present, or at least was not explicit, at the outset. In this way these initial conceptions lead on by a logical process to the conceptions which express the ethical nature of reality.
This method has its classical expression in Hegel's dialectic. He passes, by successive steps, from the most formal and empty of all conceptions to the fullest and most concrete. The logical evolution of the notion begins with a conception completely void of content and, by its own characteristic logic, advances to mind or spirit. “This,” says Hegel, “is the supreme definition of the Absolute.” But “the essential feature of mind or spirit is liberty,” and this free mind expresses itself in morality and law5. Questions of difficulty arise at each step of the long argument by which this result is reached. But the method followed is, at least, a conceivable method; and, as it shows the derivation of the ethical notion, it might appear that an independent study of the latter and of its implications would be unnecessary, and that its meaning is to be ascertained by examining the logical conditions which determine its place in the evolution of the notion.
It is, however, only on one of the possible interpretations of a dialectic process that this view of the matter can be maintained. With Hegel himself, we may lay stress on what may be called the intellectual character of the process, and assert that the development of thought is a purely inner development: the might of the notion will then be looked upon as producing from its own nature the whole fulness of the life of the spirit. ‘Being’ logically equates with ‘nothing,’ and yet there is a transition from one to the other, and this transition is ‘becoming’: and so through the whole gamut of categories until we reach the morality and law of civilised society. Now, if it is the mere might of the notion that is at work here, the last stage must be from the first implicit in the earliest. We shall be compelled to regard the whole process of evolution traced in the dialectic as the philosophical analogue of the old biological notion of preformation, according to which the germ contains within itself, in ultra-microscopic minuteness, all the wealth of the organism with which it is continuous. Evolution, as interpreted by the preformation theory in contrast with the theory of epigenesis, is simply the expansion of characters and parts always present but too small at first to be visible. In this sense the full-grown organism was supposed to be implicit in the cell from which it originated. Does ‘implicit’ have the same meaning when the term is used of the logical evolution? Are the spirits of just men made perfect implicit, in this sense, in the bare notion ‘being’ with which Hegel starts? Is their essence already contained in it, however indistinctly, and however much in need of the microscopic power of the Logic to bring it to light? If it is, then it is impossible that this ‘being’ so full of character can be the same as nothing: and the dialectic refuses to march.
That this view of the dialectic is “a mere caricature” of all that is valuable in Hegel may well be admitted. Hegel himself tried to distinguish his method from the preformation theory of evolution. It is “only ideally or in thought,” he said, “that the earlier stage virtually involves the later6.” “Before the mind,” says Mr Bradley, “there is a single conception, but the whole mind itself, which does not appear, engages in the process, operates on the datum, and produces the result7.” In this operation the mind must surely impart something from its own fulness; and in the process it is always receiving new data which affect its operation. The mind never has simply a single conception before it, any more than it has ever a simple idea of the Locke-Hume variety. We admit, in this way, that the evolution of the notion resembles epigenesis—that the development of thought includes the assimilation of new experience. And if we do this, we give up the old view of logical evolution, as much as the biologists of to-day have given up the old view of organic evolution. We admit the fact of epigenesis. The development of an organism is not a process of unrolling or expanding material which has been present all along. The organism is related to its environment by give and take, and its growth is conditioned by this interaction. Does not something similar hold true of the process by which thought advances to new and more adequate conceptions of reality?
If we adopt this view a dialectical development of concepts will still be possible; but it will not claim to be determined at each stage simply by the mere content of the preceding concepts. The concept will be regarded as having for its function the knowledge of an object, and its nature will lie in this function. As we ascend from less to more adequate concepts, our test of adequacy will be not merely inner freedom from contradiction, but also ability to describe and interpret reality; and our concepts will be formed for the purpose of including the new material which experience presents. From this point of view the relation of concepts and of the sciences becomes intelligible. Mathematical concepts, for example, do not pretend to exhaust the nature of the real world. They exhibit certain abstract relations only, and are in this way inadequate to knowledge of reality, and indeed professedly inadequate. But this inadequacy is not the result of an inherent contradiction or of any defect in the concepts themselves. On the contrary they admit of indefinite elaboration without falling into contradiction. It is only if we use them for a purpose for which they are not fitted—if we attempt through them alone to understand any concrete situation—that there is discrepancy between what is to be explained and what is explained. Neither the wish of a man nor the fall of a pebble can be accounted for by mathematics alone. And, while they make plain their own inadequacy to describe the full nature of the concrete, they give no hint as to the kind of concepts by which they have to be supplemented in order to serve this purpose. In the same way, when it is argued that mechanism is inadequate to account for vital processes, it is not meant that mechanism is a self-contradictory system, but only that it is insufficient for the explanation of certain facts or of certain aspects of facts. And so at each step where one concept is replaced by another. Throughout our procedure intellect never works in vacuo; it is an effort after the understanding of an object, of reality. For a fuller view of reality new concepts are needed, and these new concepts are not derived, dialectically or otherwise, merely from antecedent concepts. In no case do concepts appear out of the empty intellect independently of the material of experience. They are a way of dealing with and ordering such material, and their entry into consciousness is determined thereby. Our intellectual concepts of cause and purpose, for instance, are based upon experiences in our own activity; and the same is true of our ethical concepts.
These reflexions are not put forward as supplying the place of a full examination of metaphysical ethics. But they may serve to prepare the mind for a constructive effort of a different kind by showing the fundamental difficulties in the way of any theory which seeks to derive ethical notions from notions which are not ethical. The same problem confronts all such theories—the problem of accounting for the introduction of an ethical concept into the argument. And, whatever the special method they adopt, these different theories betray the same obscurity at the crucial point. The rationalist hesitates to say whether his first ethical proposition is in its own nature self-evident, or is implied by non-ethical propositions. The latter alternative has never been put forward clearly; and the former alternative allows an independent beginning for ethics. The difficulty is similar if the dialectical evolution of concepts be followed. Non-ethical concepts are inadequate for the description of an experience which includes moral factors; they may prove their own inadequacy, but they do not themselves supply the deficiency. The ethical concept could never have been evolved out of non-ethical antecedents and without the help of moral experience; and this experience must therefore be taken into account by any metaphysics which professes to be ethical.
The fault which is to be found with metaphysical ethics is, in the end, just this, that its data are insufficient. It tends to disregard that portion of experience which is of greatest importance for its purpose, namely, moral experience. It bases ethics upon metaphysics, and metaphysics is an interpretation of experience; but it starts from a limited view of experience, and tries to pass to ethical concepts without taking into account those factors in experience which are relevant to the later enquiry, though they may not have been required for the earlier stages. The data of experience which philosophy has to interpret are not limited to sense-perception and the material of scientific knowledge; they include the facts of desire and volition which are formative forces in the structure of life; and, in addition, they include also the experience of moral approval and disapproval and, generally, the whole appreciation of value. This last is the special region of experience from which ethical concepts arise. It is a marked accompaniment of the active life—of the life of desire and volition—but it reacts upon and colours the whole of experience.
It may be allowed that, when we occupy ourselves with this aspect of experience, it has a tendency to divert our attention from the purely logical or purely causal order in which the scientific intelligence regards its objects; it may thus interfere with the spirit of pure science; and, for that reason, it may be well to banish sternly from our minds the attitude of moral or æsthetic appreciation when our purpose is simply to understand the connexions of phenomena. The more severely we keep to the logical and causal points of view the better it will be for our mathematical and physical knowledge. The perfection of these sciences depends upon their limitation; and the more perfect they are, the more clearly are they separated from ethical appreciation, and the more impossible is it to pass directly from the logical or causal to the ethical judgment. The latter is based upon an aspect of experience overlooked or deliberately disregarded by the sciences, and deals with it by the use of concepts which would have been confusing and irrelevant in mathematics or physics. But the aspect which science neglects is none the less fundamental in life. And, when we clearly recognise the importance of this phase of experience—the facts of moral approval and disapproval, that is to say—we are prepared to recognise the unique position of the ethical concept. This justifies an independent beginning for ethics itself, and at the same time leads us to expect that moral experience and ethical ideas may have a contribution of their own to make to the interpretation of the world.
This formulates our problem. Morality is a factor in experience; ethical ideas have a place in consciousness. Our theory of reality as a whole must take account of these things; and the question concerns the difference which they make in our final view of the world and in the arguments which lead up to that view. To approach this question systematically it will be necessary to devote a little time to the description of ethical ideas and their place in experience, so that we may be prepared to decide whether there is any truth in the dictum that we must seek in that which should be for the ground of that which is.
A Pluralistic Universe, p. 176.
Regulæ ad directionem ingenii, xii; Philosophical Works, transl. Haldane and Ross, vol. I, p. 47.
F. Galton, Inquiries into Human Faculty, p. 337.
The ethical system of Naturalism has been examined in an earlier work, to which reference may be made: see Ethics of Naturalism, 2nd ed., 1904.
Encyklopädie, §§ 382, 384, 487.
Encyklopädie, § 161.
Principles of Logic, p. 381.