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14: Pluralism

THE preceding argument has not solved our problem; but it has brought us nearer a solution. We have seen that a complete view of reality must find a place for two things: on the one hand for the realm of persons and events, and on the other hand for the moral order or more generally for the realm of values. If our universe is to be a universe, these two things must be brought into relation so that both together may be regarded as belonging to the same whole. We have found, moreover, that prima facie, or in the world as it appears, these two things do not harmonise—that the causal order, which determines the way in which things happen and the actual conduct of persons, does not exhibit any exact correspondence with the moral order, and is often in conflict with it. And we saw that the two orders could only be brought into harmony on the assumption that the agreement of fact and goodness was a purpose which persons had to achieve and which could be achieved only by their free activity in some such world as this. On this hypothesis the causal order will be contributory to the moral order and the world as a whole will be regarded as a purposive system. This is the solution to which the argument points; but it is, not the only solution of the problem that has been offered.

Theories of thee nature of reality may be distinguished by the place which they assign to consciousness and purpose in the whole. Either consciousness and purpose are ascribed to the ultimate ground or principle of reality or they are not. If they are, then our theory is some form of theism; if not, not. In the latter case we shall hold that the only conscious and purposeful beings are finite minds such as our own. But there will still be room for difference in our theory according to the place assigned to finite minds in the universe. We may look upon them as the ultimate constituents of reality, or we may hold that they are merely modes or appearances of the one ultimate reality. In the former case our view will be a form of Pluralism: in the latter it will be a monistic view which may be called Pantheism. We have to consider how each view fares in the effort to solve our problem; and in this consideration Pluralism will be taken first.

Pluralism corresponds to a permanent and justifiable attitude of thought, though it has often been submerged by the success of scientific verifications of uniformity or by prevalence of a monistic philosophy. It has, however, a way of re-appearing after every temporary eclipse. It is the variety and not the unity of the world that first strikes the observer, and the effort to reach a unitary view of reality is constantly faced by the discovery of new factors which seem to break into the harmony of the existing conception In this secular controversy the Many appear as the enemy of the One; and the latter can compass victory only by showing that it is able to include in its unity each new appearance of diversity. Monism may take many forms, materialist or spiritual; and the same holds of pluralism. But the essential characteristic of pluralism is the view that the final account of things is to be sought in a great variety of distinct units and not in some more fundamental principle or power which makes them real and also in some sense one.

These ultimate units, however, may be conceived in different ways, thus giving rise to different types of pluralism. In the first place, the ultimate units of all reality may be held to be material atoms. This is the most familiar type of the doctrine historically; and, although the traditional atoms of physics and chemistry have been disintegrated by modern research, the electrons of present theory may easily be utilised for another doctrine of the same type. In the second place, the ultimate units may be held to be of the nature of sensations or presentations, or other elements into which mental states may be resolved by the psychologist. This form of doctrine, familiar to us in Hume and J. S. Mill, may be called Psychological atomism. In the third place, it may be said that the ultimate units constitutive of reality are entities of the nature of qualities or concepts which by their diverse combinations appear as the world of persons and things; and this may be called a logical atomism. Finally, it may be said that ultimate reality consists of a multiplicity of spiritual entities, of which the human soul is the highest known to us. This spiritual atomism is the leading type of philosophical pluralism an has been worked out by Leibniz and many other.

Further, it is possible for these various types of pluralism to be combined in different ways. Distinct units of more one, or of all, kinds may be postulated. Atoms psychological as well as atoms material may be held to be ultimate constituents of reality. Or logical atoms may be assumed alongside of one or both of these. Or again spiritual units also may be assumed as well as some—or even all—of the foregoing. The possible combinations are numerous. But one question is of decisive interest for our special problem—the question whether minds or spiritual units are recognised as among the ultimate constituents of reality. If they are not, then the primary difficulty for the theory lies in the explanation of the origin and presence of mind in experience. How are we to account for the subjective aspect of experience—for that by which alone material things can be perceived or by which atoms (whether regarded as physical or psychological or logical) can be conceived? These theories have to encounter the familiar objections which have been pressed against materialistic atomism and psychological presentationism, and which have never been satisfactorily met. But it is not necessary here to dwell upon these objections. There is a sufficient reason which excuses us from treading once more this well-trodden ground. Values, as we have already seen, belong, to the structure of that reality which we are called upon to interpret; and neither the psychological nor the materialistic form of atomism recognises their place. With the view called logical atomism it is different. Values may be acknowledged among the concepts or qualities to which reality (though not existence) is ascribed. But this view also must be held to be put out of court by the argument of an earlier chapter. For we have found that values—intrinsic values, that is—belong to persons only. Persons are required for the realisation of the concept value; and it is only in connexion with the lives of selves or persons that values belong to the structure of the universe as the sum-total of existence. Consequently, when our special problem is concerned with the relation of the moral order to the order of nature, only one of the types of pluralism can claim to give the solution desired. Whatever else it may admit or refuse to admit as fundamental, it must at least assert the reality of minds or selves. It will be a spiritual pluralism.

The pluralist, in this meaning of the term, will envisage the world as consisting of a vast number of spiritual units, which have been variously called monads, subjects, souls, or selves. These monads may be regarded either as infinitely numerous or as strictly limited in number, and the view of the universe as a whole will differ accordingly. Their nature also may be differently conceived; and divergent views may be held regarding the extent to which the nature of one of them varies from that of others. Among them the soul or mind of man will almost necessarily be reckoned: for that is the only spiritual being of which we have any direct knowledge; and from it indeed all our ideas of spiritual existence are formed. But it is of course possible that the line of monads may stretch far downwards to inferior grades of spiritual being; and that there may be many monads higher or more developed in their characteristics than the human soul. How far the line extends in either direction it is difficult to say; and genuine pluralists may well differ in opinion. At the lower end of the scale the limit may only be set by the feeblest kind of subjectivity that can render any experience or reality possible. At the higher end the question of a limit raises a more serious problem. Whatever constitutes the reality of the monad—be it clearness or power or activity or perfection of whatever kind—the degree of that perfection may stretch downwards indefinitely to the naked monad of Leibniz's imagination. Does it also extend indefinitely upwards and find its term only in a monad of infinite intelligence, power, and perfection? If so our universe of spirits includes one which is supreme and will be called God. This indeed was Leibniz's own view. And if the striving of the monad is always towards the higher development or greater perfection of its nature, then this one supreme being which realises all perfection will also be regarded as the final cause of all reality. It has even been maintained, as by Professor Howison, that every possible degree of being is essential to the whole and that therefore a supreme and infinite mind is necessary in the universe. True, finite minds are also as necessary as the infinite mind, so that the view is not identical with the most common form of theism; but it is essentially theistic. In particular, and with regard to our special problem, it provides, by its supreme mind, a home for intrinsic values and a possible means of reconciling them with the empirical order of natural events. For this view, therefore, God is the solution.

On the other hand, it may be held by pluralists that the monads or minds that make up reality are themselves—all of them—finite. However superior in degree some may be to others, each is limited by all the others, so that it is impossible for any one of them to be infinite, or even supreme in any sense that would justify us in calling it God. In another rendering of the same view, spiritual units or monads may be said to be ultimate differentiations of the Absolute. By the term absolute, as used here, will be meant the whole of reality. It will be infinite if its ultimate differentiations are infinite in number, for it is their sum-total; but infinity cannot be predicated of any one of these differentiations. Among the many minds which make up the, universe there can be none with infinite power, else the others would be unessential, and pluralism would be relinquished; none with complete perfection, for that could only be by borrowing the values belonging to all the others; none with a universal reference, for that would be to interfere with the inner life of the others. In this sense, therefore, pluralism will exclude theism; and it is this interpretation of the theory whose ability to meet our question has to be examined.

The universe then, it is assumed, consists of finite spiritual units, among which the human mind alone is directly known to us. There may be other spiritual units of a higher grade than the human mind, as there are almost certainly some of a lower grade, but none among them is of so high a grade as to be infinite or even supreme. The problem now is, Does this theory afford a satisfactory means of explaining the characteristics of reality which have been already brought to light? and this problem may be resolved into two questions: first, does pluralism succeed in explaining reality as a whole (in which value is included)? and secondly, is its own postulate of a plurality of finite minds as constitutive of reality a postulate which can be admitted as in need of no further presupposition, or does it itself rest upon a more fundamental though implicit condition regarding the nature of reality?

The spiritual monads which are held by pluralists to be the ultimate constituents of reality, and which are best known to us in the form of finite minds, are surrounded by an environment of an orderly kind. In it we have already distinguished the natural, the logical, and the moral orders; and the problem which pluralism has been called in to solve arises from the apparent conflict between the first and last of these orders. But what account does the theory give of this orderly environment as a whole? Either the environment is dependent upon and a product of finite minds, or it is independent of them. Both possibilities must be examined.

The former alternative is the solution offered by idealism or spiritualism, when that theory is interpreted in harmony with pluralism. As mind is the only reality, the environment of mind must itself be mental, a product or mode of mind or in some way dependent upon mind. The universe in its essential nature is simply a community, perhaps only an aggregate, of minds. The facts experienced or observed by any mind, the spatial and temporal order in which they are placed, their causal connexions, and the whole order of truth and of value must be mental formations—without any existence outside the minds that possess them. This view is familiar enough. But it is necessary to put a question about it which is often avoided. How are we to regard the mind which determines or produces this orderly procession of fact under stable laws and ideals, and thus makes a universe out of chaos or out of nothing? It cannot be a universal mind from which all individual minds receive the content and form of their experience, for this would be a supreme mind on which all the others would depend, as the theist conceives them to do, and the theory would cease to be pluralism in the sense in which pluralism is opposed to theism. Nor can it be some all-embracing spiritual reality, though not conceived as conscious; for, on such a hypothesis also, the theory would no longer be pluralism, but would be a form of pantheism. The mind which determines the facts and order of the world must therefore be, in each case, the finite spiritual unit which is the subject of that experience. Each monad or mind must produce its own universe, unrolling it from within. I, for instance, by means of certain innate forms or modes of consciousness, give spatial and temporal position, causal connexion, numerical distinctness and other relations, to some chaotic impression, or more strictly, to nothing at all, and thereby produce what I call the world. But you in the same way make a world for yourself, and so does everybody else. A radical pluralism would thus seem to require a distinct universe for each distinct monad. As each mind or monad makes its universe, each universe must be distinct: as many minds so many worlds.

Further, within the universe which is the construction or creation of that monad which I call myself, I find that there are many other minds in addition to my own, and these minds are known to me only through their physical expressions—their bodies and the changes in the environment that seem to be due to them—that is, through their connexion with the order of the universe which is my construction or creation. They are known as having a position in time and space, as interacting, and generally as constitutive parts of my universe, and in these respects must be regarded as my construction or creation. And each of these minds, I am obliged to admit, may retort upon me in similar terms, and claim me as a part of its universe. And in each case the universe cannot be the same as mine; it may be like it or unlike; experience provides no means of telling. Each self has his own universe because he produces it; and if he could only keep to the evidence and to his own point of view, he would suppose his own universe to be all. This thorough pluralism is accordingly unable to avoid Solipsism; and Leibniz evaded the conclusion only because he assumed at the outset that there was a single universe which each monad mirrored with varying degrees of clearness, while it was manifested with perfect clearness in the consciousness of the one Supreme Mind. Unless he had recognised the reality of the supreme mind or monad, it would have been impossible for Leibniz to reconcile with his monadism the doctrine that the universal system is a single reality, a reality reflected by each monad from its own point of view.

It will have been observed that the preceding argument has gone upon a certain assumption. It has assumed, as Leibniz assumed, that the life and experience of each monad, are unfolded entirely from within, unaffected by the activity of any other monad. But this assumption has been in general rejected by modern pluralists. The monads or ultimate spiritual constituents of reality are regarded by them as interacting. The monads affect one another by their activity; one produces changes upon another and assists or hinders the development of its life. May we not therefore look upon the universal order in which all live not as the creation of each and therefore different for each, but as the cooperative product of all, and therefore the same for all?

It is clear that knowledge of nature and of the order of nature is a cooperative product of this kind. When we look at the history of science, we see that the result is due to a long succession of minds working both separately and together, testing the observations and theories of their predecessors, and assimilating easily the discoveries due to the strenuous labour of earlier workers. One builds on another's foundation; conclusions are confirmed and corrected by new methods and acquired skill; conceptions and theorems which required infinite genius for their first elaboration become in time an assured possession of the common intelligence of the race. And all this conscious cooperation, to which we owe the structure of modern science, has at its base a more elementary but necessary sub-structure due to unconscious cooperation. It is by gradual stages that the individual human being of the present day acquires facility in using even the fundamental conceptions of all knowledge. His ideas of space and time, of the causal connexion of events, even of the distinction of thing from thing in the outer world, are neither ready-made for him nor constructed by his solitary intelligence. Their place in his consciousness is due in part to his inherited mental dispositions and in part to intercourse with other minds. In language, the use of which he acquires gradually under social training, he enters into an inheritance of ideas whose form and contents have been defined by the experience of the race and fixed in words. In acquiring the use of language and the common-sense knowledge of the world, the individual of the present day retraces in his early years a process which had already taken place by slower stages and less direct routes in the history of the race. What the child is deliberately taught was learned by his ancestors by repeated trial and error, but always in a community of individuals to whose intercourse the result was due. The world as known, therefore, has been built up by gradual and combined efforts; it is a social construction.

All this is familiar doctrine and beyond dispute. It is a commonplace also that our understanding of the world is closely connected with the uses to which we put it, and at first almost entirely dependent upon practical interests. These interests are shared by the community in which a man lives, so that he learns to use things and to esteem them at the same time and in much the same way as he learns to know them. In the course of time, as we have seen, new values are discovered in life and new ways of realising them are opened up. In this process also mind cooperates with mind, and the common discovery becomes a common inheritance. The cooperation is indeed even more obvious in the region of values than it is in knowledge. In morality, art, and religion the communal or national factor is more marked than it is in science, and the mutual intercourse of minds can be more clearly traced when it is restricted to the nation or some smaller group than when it is world-wide. Of all human interests science is the most cosmopolitan; under modern conditions the influence of mind upon mind in all the operations of the scientific intelligence is affected to a comparatively slight degree only by national boundaries. Being so widespread and universal this influence may attract little attention. But nations are much more distinguished from one another by their attitudes to the ethical, aesthetic, and religious values. In this region their special characteristics are brought out, and we see the common mind of the people manifested. The influences which make a national character are pervasive and persistent within the nation, but to a large extent arrested at its frontier. In these influences we may observe the interaction of minds which are closely connected with one another by common history and conditions. Where similar interaction has free play in spite of differences in these respects, the mutual influence may be less obvious, but it is not less real: and this is often the case with knowledge.

It is hardly necessary to have said so much in admitting or defending the truth that our apprehension both of the order of nature and of the moral order is due to a process which has taken place by slow degrees and has been rendered possible only by the mutual influence of mind upon mind. The truth is important; but, however true and important, it must not be mistaken for something else. The apprehension of reality is a cooperative mental construction, but it does not follow that the reality apprehended is constructed in the same way or by the same process. Yet unless we confuse these two things—the apprehension of reality and the reality apprehended—of hold that one follows from the other, we have done nothing to establish the pluralist's thesis that the orders both of nature and of morality are a creation of individual minds acting in concert and competition.

Pluralism either holds that nature and morality are the product of finite minds or it does not. The former hypothesis, which is now under consideration, is neither proved nor made more probable by showing that the apprehension of nature and its laws and of moral values is a gradual attainment and the result of many minds working together. Because knowledge grows from a stage where once knowledge was not, it does not follow that the thing known has been growing at the same time out of nothingness into its full nature. Because many minds unite in bringing the knowledge about, this is no reason against there being a common and objective reality for them to know.

In perception and at every stage of knowledge the monad or mind is always in connexion with an environment. We have passed away from the view that objects known are simply the mind's own content spread out so as to give the illusion of objectivity: for this view, as we have found, can never get beyond solipsism. But what is the environment into relation to which the mind is brought in knowledge? The pluralist who is also an idealist will hold that it is constituted entirely by other minds or at least by monads which are in nature akin to minds, that is, unities with a life or subjectivity at least resembling consciousness and conceivably capable of development into consciousness. On this view the whole world or every part of it is alive. There is no such thing as dead or inert matter—nothing absolutely inorganic. That is only the limit to which consciousness tends when its clearness is gradually diminished, and the limit is never reached. So far as anything exists it has a subjective aspect, and in this subjectivity its true nature lies.

This view has its own difficulties. But they are difficulties not peculiar to pluralism; and it is not necessary to urge them here. So far as the present argument is concerned, we may admit the view that all existing things are monads or spiritual units. The point which concerns us is the way in which pluralism interprets the order or relations in which these units stand to one another and to the universe which they constitute. What we have to consider is the pluralist's interpretation of order or law. One monad or mind learns to understand the order of its environment. This understanding is due to intersubjective intercourse—to the help of other minds with which it is able to communicate in part directly and in part indirectly through tradition. No one mind can be said to have created this order which now many minds recognise. Is it possible to say, nevertheless, that it is their collective creation—that it has been brought about by their mutual intercourse and assistance? If we answer this question in the affirmative, then the creation of this order must have consisted in or been contemporaneous with its discovery; until discovered it was not real; and we shall be committed to the conclusion that mathematical relations and the laws of nature did not hold, or were not operative, until found or apprehended by finite minds. But these relations and laws as we now understand them are conceived as valid independently of our apprehension, and as having been valid through long stretches of time when they were not understood by any intelligences of which we have any knowledge. It is also obvious that finite minds are frequently making discovery of new relations and laws and adding them to the common stock of knowledge, and it is assumed that these new relations and laws were and are valid before and independently of their apprehension: they are discoveries not inventions. Is it conceivable that this assumption made in all scientific enquiry is nevertheless unfounded and false?

There is one consideration which makes it impossible for us to regard it as false. These discoveries, as we have seen, are due, at least generally, not to one mind only, but to many minds influencing each other so that truth is handed on from mind to mind, and one man lights the torch by which another sees and advances. But this whole process of cooperative investigation and discovery, on which knowledge has been built, has itself been made possible only through the operation of a variety of physical, chemical, and biological laws. Mind acts upon mind in certain definite ways and through certain media only. A slight change in physical conditions, or in chemical or biological processes, and sight, for example, or hearing would have been impossible, so that the ways in which mind has acted upon mind would have been closed. But this interaction has been assumed in our account of the growth of knowledge; in assuming it we have also assumed its conditions; and these conditions are formulated in and imply certain physical, chemical, and biological relations. These relations therefore must have had being—the ‘laws’ expressing them must have been valid—in order, that the process of acquiring knowledge might work, and accordingly before any knowledge was acquired. They cannot have been produced or created by that which they themselves have helped to render possible.

The pluralist resolves all reality into finite centres of life—monads or minds. Our enquiry has shown that he must also recognise something that is not itself a centre of life, and has not been made by any finite mind or by any finite monad below the rank of mind; and this is the order which connects these minds, and in and through which they live. This order, as has been often said already, may be distinguished into two main kinds. There is first of all the system of relations by which the monads are connected with one another, so that intersubjective intercourse is possible and an objective world is cognised. These constitute the ‘laws of nature’ in the widest sense of that term, including along with more concrete connexions those abstract relations of concepts which make up formal or logical truth. All these together may be spoken of for the present as the natural order. In addition to this system there is the realm of values which has been found to have validity for personal life, and this for the present may be spoken of under the name of its leading variety—the moral order. The question for the pluralist concerns the position which he is to give in his scheme of things to the natural order and to the moral order. They are not the product of the finite minds into which he has resolved the whole of reality, and yet they are there, essential in the universe and necessary for the functioning, if not for the existence, of finite minds.

This complicated but orderly system remains without any explanation on the pluralistic scheme; it is simply there. It can be understood by finite intelligence, but it has not been produced by it. Yet its nature is such that, were it less complete and universal, we should not hesitate to infer that it was the product of mind. We constantly infer meaning from order, and mind from meaning, and we find the inference justified. There is only one alternative to this inference, and that is to refer the order simply to ‘nature’ or the structure of the universe. Whether this too has a meaning and also reveals a mind is just the question which a non-theistic pluralism has to answer in the negative. But in so doing it has also to admit that, after all, finite minds and other monads are not the sole reality: that an unexplained order enters into the constitution of reality. This order controls minds, but it is not itself the product of mind or in any way mental. Minds or monads are said to be the ultimate constituents of reality—the only things ultimately real. Yet surrounding them and controlling them there is an eternal order or law or system of relations. They are the subjects of this system not its masters. It may not have created them but neither have they created it, and they are bound by its canons. And in nature it is alien to them—intelligible, certainly, but not intelligent or in any way akin to mind. Rather, it is a sort of inexorable fate by which they are determined as by an external and unsympathetic power.

The theory, therefore, ought not to be called an idealistic or spiritualistic theory. It starts indeed with a view of reality as of the nature of mind; but it has to add to this something else not of the nature of mind and yet controlling it. That the view should nevertheless be put forward as an idealistic or spiritualistic interpretation of reality may be explained by means of the distinction between two forms of idealism to which I have elsewhere drawn attention1. According to one form of idealism, which may be called the Platonic, the real consists of ideas; and ideas are intelligible realities which are not dependent on minds for their being. It. may be true to say of them that they produce minds; but it will not be true to say that minds produce them. On the other form of idealism, which may be called the Berkeleyan, all reality consists of minds and the content of minds; nature and the laws of nature are part of this content, and the orderly system which finite minds did not produce reveals the content and the existence of the infinite mind. Now both these views are able to give an account of reality which, at least prima facie, is harmonious and unified. For on both views mind and the structure of the universe are homogeneous. According to Plato the finite mind is not alien in nature to the ideas which it is able to comprehend; according to Berkeley, the order shown in what are called laws of nature is itself a product of that one mind which is the source of all others. But non-theistic pluralism cannot assert this homogeneity between mind and the universal order. It has been thinking along the lines of Berkeleyan idealism in asserting that the ultimate constituents of, reality are minds; it has been following out a Platonic doctrine when it allowed or maintained as ultimate the laws or relations which lie beyond and above the power of all finite intelligences. Part of its theory is idealistic in the Platonic sense, and part of it in the Berkeleyan sense. But the whole theory is not idealistic in any single and unambiguous meaning of the term. And there is no means of making it so. It has set out from the Berkeleyan standpoint. But, refusing to admit an infinite mind, it is unable to interpret the order of reality in terms of mind.

The difficulty for pluralism becomes greater when it is admitted that the moral order or order-of values is feature which must be taken into account as having objective validity. If it were merely (as it is often held to be) an expression of the experiences or aspirations of finite minds this difficulty would not arise. But we have seen reason to hold, and pluralists often admit, that its validity and objectivity are independent of its apprehension or realisation by individuals, whether alone or in society, so that the question presses of giving an intelligible account of its position. Like the natural order it is not the work of the finite minds which alone are recognised as constituting the universe, and yet it is there-a law holding for these finite minds. It does not even describe their interaction as the laws of nature do; it does not always direct their functioning; but it is a standard for their conduct, and in their correspondence with it they reach the highest end of which their nature is capable. We admit its validity for judgment and appreciation; and its verdict is that finite individuals—that is, the ultimate constituents of reality—have not yet attained their full or true nature as long as their character falls short of the ethical ideal.

We have therefore a new difficulty to face in addition to that arising from the necessity of recognising the natural order as independent of finite minds and yet as belonging to the universe of reality. This latter difficulty compelled the pluralist to admit that his ultimate constituents of reality—minds or monads of whatever sort—were controlled by something else which was not mental in structure and which therefore was so far inexplicable on his theory. Now, in view of the position of the moral order, he will have to admit that his ultimate reals have not yet attained the reality of which they are capable, and can only reach it through correspondence with an order which is independent of them and is not mental in structure. Here also it is his refusal to admit the conception of an infinite or perfect mind that lands his theory in incoherence.

There are types of pluralism which may be willing to put up with incoherence, even to welcome it. This acquiescence in a universe with ragged edges and imperfect connexion of its parts characterises much of the writing of William James; and when his thinking passes beyond this view it tends to a form of monism2. Perhaps it is impossible to refute the idea that the world consists of chance happenings and unstable relations—a view to which the term pluralism might be less unsuitable than any other. All we can do is to seek out the conditions of what happens and trace the relations of things and events, and when we do so our thought is always guided by the postulate that reality is a cosmos or order, and that it is possible for us to understand that order. To arrive at a conception of that order by a complete examination of all the data which experience offers is obviously impossible; and were it possible it would be insufficient, for experience is a process of growth never completed. If these data are to be fused into a view of the whole, that can only be done by an intellectual effort which involves imagination, since it passes beyond the scattered facts and seeks to view them as a whole by insight into their unifying principle, while, at the same time, it must submit to be judged by its inner harmony and by its adequate comprehension of the empirical material.

The pluralism which has been examined is a synoptic view of this kind. It interprets the universe by means of the most adequate conception it can reach, and thus endeavours to see all things as, modes or products of many minds. As all experience has its being for us only in and through its reference to the unity of the subject, which thus contains it and makes it possible, it interprets the whole choir of heaven and furniture of the earth as owing their reality to mind. And it has the further feature, which may easily be regarded as an advantage, that the highest mental life which it postulates is of a kind or degree which our immediate experience reveals and compels us to admit. Mind or self is the final word. But there are many minds, many selves, all united somehow into a universe: whose structure may thus be compared with that of the social orders of college or church or state, in which human minds have expressed themselves and in which they have found a form of unity more comprehensive than that of the individual self.

The view is impressive; but we have found that it is met by one grave difficulty with which it is unable to cope. The social order, it may be said, gives it a cue for the interpretation of the wider reality which surrounds the individual self, and the social order may be regarded as a product of the finite minds of whom, and of whom alone, reality is said to consist. But the environment of finite minds is something more than the social order. There is the natural order and there is the moral order; and neither of these is due to the activity of finite minds. It has been said3 that the atom of the materialistic philosophers is in every respect the contrary of the monad of the pluralist, having no spontaneity and being completely determined from without. It cannot therefore function as an ultimate unit of reality in a genuine pluralism. What holds true of the atom without qualification is also true, with a qualification, of finite minds or spiritual monads. They are incompletely spontaneous and partially determined from without—dominated by the order of nature and directed by the order of values. How can we regard them as the ultimate constituents of reality when they are under the power of something other than themselves?

Nature and morality may indeed be held to be the expression of mind—but only of a creative mind. They cannot be accounted for as the expressions of the finite minds which come to recognise them. They are not even the expression of the social mind—if the term may be used. For the communication of mind with mind, and the growth of knowledge and of the social order, imply that the laws of nature and moral values were valid before and independently of their recognition. If these are interpreted as the expressions of mind, that mind cannot be limited in comprehension or power as finite minds are limited. And the pluralist, unwilling to postulate a mind that is supreme or infinite, is forced to admit into his view of the world two different and even discordant kinds of being—the region of finite minds, and the realms of law and values which these finite minds have not produced, but by which they are nevertheless controlled. If he is not troubled by the necessity of explaining this cosmic order, he will remain a pluralist. If, on the contrary, it comes to loom larger in his vision, so that in comparison with it finite minds seem dependent beings, controlled and determined by the order which envelops them, then his theory will be transformed into a species of monism or pantheism.

  • 1.

    Hibbert Journal, vol. II (1904), pp. 703 ff. The use of the term Platonic for one of these forms of idealism is justified by the argument in the Republic and elsewhere. It is not to be taken as implying an historical estimate of the significance of Plato's thought as a whole: for that purpose his later teaching that soul is the origin and moving power of all that is (Laws, X, 896 A) could not be ignored.

  • 2.

    E.g., A Pluralistic Universe, p. 290: “May not you and I be confluent in a higher consciousness, and confluently active there, though we know it not?”

  • 3.

    J. Ward, The Realm of Ends (1911), p. 51.