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7: The Conservation of Value

IN the preceding pages some account has been given of the nature of value, of its claim to objective validity, of its connexion with the personal life, and of the system of ethical values. The problem remains of the bearing which the results reached have upon the view which we are entitled to form of reality as a whole. For my purposes this problem is central; and in the discussions that follow the relevancy of these preliminary enquiries will, I hope, become apparent. But one topic remains which is in the borderland between the purely ethical and the more metaphysical argument; and that concerns the conditions under which values are discovered, realised, and maintained.

One side of this question, and that the most important, has been made prominent by Höffding in his treatise on The Philosophy of Religion. According to his view the permanent and essential element in religion is a faith in the conservation of value. He holds that, if we analyse different typical forms of the religious consciousness, as expressed in creeds and practices, this faith will be found underlying them all, though it is not in all cases made explicit. It is the condition and principle of the religious attitude; and he accordingly speaks of it as an axiom. The axiom of the conservation of value, in his theory, is to religion what the axiom of the conservation of energy is to physical science. Of course, it is not axiomatic in the sense of being self-evident, and it might have been better to call it a postulate. It is easy enough to maintain that the ‘axiom’ does not hold, and even to bring forward facts of experience which seem to throw doubt upon its validity. What is meant by asserting it is that the religious consciousness is vitalised by this assumption, just as physical science carries on its work upon the assumption that the quantity of energy in an isolated physical system remains a constant. The latter proposition, also, is not self-evident. It is an anticipation of experience, though an intelligent anticipation: for experience confirms it without being able to prove it completely. It is a postulate which directs scientific procedure and which, so far as appears, is justified by the results of that procedure. In the same way the axiom of the conservation of value is a postulate of religion—its fundamental postulate according to Höffding. It also is an anticipation of experience, and must submit to empirical tests. It is true that experience does not confirm it to the extent to which the axiom of the conservation of energy is similarly confirmed. But neither does experience refute it. The realm of existence is indefinitely great, and, as it unfolds itself to our observation, constantly brings to light new and unexpected situations; at least we can never be justified in asserting dogmatically that these situations will destroy the values which we cherish; we are therefore justified in holding to the faith in the conservation of value, seeing that this faith is a matter of life or death for the religious consciousness. Such, in brief, is the doctrine put forward.

The view is worked out in the interests of religion. But it treats religion as based upon moral experience and idea; its application is to the ethical religions, not to the nature religions, or to the latter only in so far as they also involve ethical ideas. In so far as it deals with value, Höffding's conception is strictly an ethical conception; as dealing with the conservation of value, it still comes within the scope of ethics or of the applications of ethics. But the problems involved are wider and more complicated than the simple phrase ‘conservation of value’ suggests. There are two aspects to be taken into account—the subjective and the objective. We are concerned with the ideas of value as they are formed and preserved in the human consciousness, and the realisation of this value in life; we must also take into account not merely the nature and powers of the persons in whom value is realised, but also the environing conditions which determine the limits and prospects of its preservation and growth. Hence the two aspects of the subject: the personal aspect and that of the environment. And each aspect suggests two questions. On the personal side we have to consider both the idea of value and its realisation; on the other side we must ask whether surrounding conditions will secure the persistence of values once produced and whether they are likely to aid their growth. We have, therefore, to deal not with one thing only but with four things: the discovery, the production, the conservation, and the increase of values.

In ethics, as in every intellectual study, reflexion follows in the wake of experience. The moral life precedes and supplies the material for moral ideas. If we take as an example the enumeration of different views about the good life which Aristotle gives towards the outset of his Ethics1—the life of enjoyment, the life of social and political ambition, and the life of thought or science—it is evident that there must have been some experience of lives of these kinds before a man could reflect upon them and choose one or other as his ideal. He must have felt pleasure before he set his mind upon a life of enjoyment, seen social success before he took that as his aim, had some taste of intellectual effort and of the knowledge which is its reward, before he could speak of science as having the highest value. New experience may thus lead to new values—meaning thereby, not the creation of values, but the discovery of them in directions formerly unexplored. The supreme value which Aristotle himself ascribes to the scientific or speculative life is a case in point. Knowledge is not amongst the earliest fruits that ripen in the garden of experience, and at first it was not valued for its own sake but only as a means towards the attainment of more primitive objects of desire. This is man's first discovery about knowledge: it has instrumental value—helps him to attain many things he wishes and could not get without it, and points out short-cuts to things which could otherwise have been reached only by a roundabout way. And this is all the value, perhaps, which most men still put upon knowledge; probably, it is the only value which it had for mankind in early ages. It was its instrumental value that led to its cultivation; but in its cultivation men came to find intrinsic value: they discovered a good for its own sake in what they had at first used and regarded as a mere means. Its intrinsic appeal still varies even amongst those who can appreciate it. “The love of truth,” says Leslie Stephen somewhere, “is but a feeble passion in the best of us.” The statement of fact does not differ much, but how far apart is the tone of Berkeley's utterance! “Truth is the cry of all, but the game of a few. Certainly, where it is the chief passion, it doth not give way to vulgar cares and views; nor is it contented with a little ardour in the early time of life; active, perhaps, to pursue, but not so fit to weigh and revise. He that would make a real progress in knowledge must dedicate his age as well as youth, the later growth as well as first fruits, at the altar of Truth2.” These words were written by a man who had spent the best years of his life in work of practical philanthropy. We cannot say of Berkeley, as we might of Aristotle or of Spinoza, that for him knowledge constituted the sole true good, the ultimate value. But he had certainly found in it intrinsic or independent value, not mere utility. To anyone without some share of his experience of the quest for truth and its satisfaction, the assertion of such intrinsic value in knowledge is meaningless. It was discovered slowly in the history of the race, and each man who enjoys it has to discover it for himself afresh.

Much the same holds true of æsthetic values. It is a commonplace that beauty is found now in scenery which was at one time felt as merely inhospitable and savage, and that the child and the man seek artistic enjoyment in different quarters. We do not need to assert, with the older utilitarians, that the sense of beauty is based on a perception of utility which association has turned into other channels. Though it mixes with and is modified by experience of what is useful for practical purposes, the sense of beauty seems from the first to have an intrinsic quality of its own. But there is a gradual change in the æsthetic susceptibility to different classes of objects; and ideas of beauty are modified with the modification of æsthetic experience.

In the case of moral values also this process of progressive discovery may be observed. We cannot, indeed, go back to a period in the history of the race in which moral value was not experienced, and of which we might say that men in those days had no moral sense. But both the moral sense itself and the objects on which it sets value have had a history. At first there was no morality distinct from tribal custom; the individual conscience reflected simply the ruling behaviour of the society, which thus functioned as a norm of conduct recognised by each man; and its object was the agreement or disagreement between the acts of the individual and the prevailing traditional conduct which characterised the members of the tribe generally in their attitude to the more salient or striking conditions of their life. Nowadays morality is often contrasted with convention and not altogether unjustly. But in the beginning it was not so. Morality and convention were coterminous, and in unconventionality lay the sum and substance of immorality. At first, also, conscience was entirely of the nature of a sense of duty or obligation rather than a consciousness of value or good, and it has borne this mark prominently ever since: though, when reflexion awakens, the moral consciousness tends to pass beyond the law to the good or value which that law expresses and protects.

With the rise of reflexion there comes also a change in the objects valued—chiefly by a modification of the tribal or social limits by which they were at first restricted. The circle of duties is widened until it gradually takes in, or is fitted to take in, all mankind; morality, which was originally tribal, becomes human. And—he nature of morality is purified or refined: objectively, the law is interpreted by the good to which it tends; subjectively, conformity between overt act and rule is no longer regarded as sufficient; the importance of motive is recognised, and inward harmony with the good is seen to be required in order that goodness may be fully realised; morality is found to imply a state of the person, to be an inward possession and not mere correctness of conduct.

In this way, the history of morality on its reflective side has consisted largely in a modification and refinement of pre-existing values which is sometimes sufficiently striking to deserve the name of a discovery of values. At its earliest stage the root-element, or at least the most prominent element, in morality seems to have been sociality, and sociality of a limited kind—restricted to the tribe. The subsequent development follows two lines which often cross one another—the extension of the social application to widening circles, and the deepening of the inward spirit of the moral life. In virtue of the latter, morality becomes much more an affair of character than of conduct. These two—character and conduct—are related to one another as the inner and outer aspects of life; and the emphasis comes to be laid more and more on the inner aspect. The outer aspect is not neglected, but it is seen as the expression of the inner; the sense of individuality is developed; ideals of purity, love, heroism, perfection are formed; and all values are found to have their home and to demand realisation in personality.

In this way every kind of value is or may be related to character and conduct. Truth is an ideal to be realised in a man's intellectual striving; beauty is something that may be produced and enhanced by his mind and hand. All values—the intellectual and the æsthetic, among the rest—have also a share in moral value, because they heighten personal worth and are, to some extent at least, within the reach of personal endeavour. The scholar's life and the life of the artist are examples of the moral life just as much as the lives of the philanthropist or of the ordinary good citizen. Values, once unknown, have been revealed in this way: intrinsic value has been found in instruments, such as knowledge; and things of intrinsic value are seen to possess instrumental value also by enhancing personal worth throughout its whole range. There is room for enterprise, therefore, in morality, even for experiment. But the experimental search for new values takes effect by deepening and widening the old values and not by discarding them. The process is a process of growth and development, not of destruction or of revolution.

The discovery of values is a matter of reflexion or thought, and it follows in the wake of experience. A value is not actual as long as it is merely conceived, merely an idea; it requires to be realised in experience: until that has been done, there is (as has been already shown) no value, only a thought or idea of value. Now the practice of morality, as it is carried out in life, means the realisation of such ideas, the production of values. That values can be produced—that from being merely ideal they can be made actual—is the fundamental postulate of the moral life. The amount of value or goodness which actually exists in the world is dependent, to some extent at least, upon the volition of man. He can maintain, foster, and increase it. Whatever may be said of the cosmic process at large, his activity, at any rate, can only be explained as purposive; and in his purpose he treats all existence as material for the production of value. For him the world exists for the sake of personality and its worth.

The practical attitude, with its postulate of the production of value, is thus in many ways the antithesis of the scientific attitude which seeks only the understanding of order. The antithesis may not be complete, but some degree of opposition between the two attitudes must be recognised. The extent of man's mastery over nature is limited: limited in many ways by nature's forces, limited also by the narrowness of human knowledge. As Bacon taught, before man can enter into the kingdom of nature, he must be nature's servant and interpreter3. He must make use of the forces of nature and observe the laws of nature, and in order to do so he must first of all understand them, This understanding is the object of science; and it can be attained only as the result of an impartial study which disregards every value but that of truth, and has no preference for good over evil.

The scientific attitude is therefore one of ethical impartiality or indeed of moral indifference as regards all values but the intellectual. This attitude was not arrived at all at once. It is the result of a distinction which, like all such distinctions, is a matter of convenience, a means of increasing one's powers by their concentration. Knowledge and practice are closely connected; knowledge is itself a kind of practice, and has an interest or purpose behind it; and this interest is frequently, and at first was entirely, an interest in other things than knowledge or truth itself. Indeed knowledge must always proceed by first selecting the object to be known. Even if any one now were so ambitious as, like Bacon4, to take all knowledge for his province, he could not take it or seek it all at once. He must select, in the first instance, what seems to him most in need of interpretation; and, commonly, the line of enquiry which he selects has some interest for him beyond the pure interest of knowing. But Bacon himself and others of Bacon's time enforced the truth which had escaped many of their predecessors—the truth that the practical interest and the theoretical must be kept distinct, and that both interests will profit by the distinction. Not only must the base and the ugly receive equal study with the noble and the beautiful; but also we must beware of transferring to the processes of nature the forms or categories by which we interpret human activity. As science calls nothing common or unclean, so neither may it look for benevolent purposes in the cosmic order. The man of science must think himself out of that human prejudice which interprets all things as made for man—as means for his delectation or instruments for his moral improvement. The criticism of final causes, which we find in Bacon and Descartes and still more in Spinoza, was too indiscriminately applied to all forms of the teleological judgment, but it was justified of the methods against which it was primarily directed. The final causes formerly and currently appealed to in the explanation of nature were indeed like virgins dedicated to God, for they bore no fruits5. The progress of science required that this kind of appeal should be dropped, in order that facts might be investigated by methods which admitted of strict verification. The vindication of this impartial attitude resulted in the long triumph of the mechanical view of nature—a triumph somewhat disturbed in our own day by the difficulty of adapting it to the description of vital processes.

Now this scientific attitude—the attitude of mere observation and inference, with its horror of anthropomorphic conceptions—cannot give a complete interpretation of the world as a whole; for it is obviously insufficient when we take man himself into account. If adequate at all, it is adequate only within a limited range. Man is a part of the whole, and he at least by his activity introduces final causes into the processes of the universe. The effect of this activity may be small in amount as compared with the magnitude of nonhuman forces; but the question is not a question of less or more, but of the presence or absence of a purposive factor. The presence of this element of purpose in man is no proof of its absence everywhere else in the universe; but all that we have a right to assert at present is that at least one part of the universe does as a matter of fact perform the rôle of a producer of values. And in acting as a producer of values, man adopts an attitude to nature which is entirely different from his scientific attitude. He seeks to make existence contributory to an increase of worth; and he uses science itself as a means for this transformation. For science teaches him the conditions under which he must work in this pursuit and helps him to gauge the strength of the forces which are favourable and of those which are hostile to his purpose.

The question thus arises whether and how far man, who is an agent in the production of values, has ground for assurance that these values will be maintained or preserved. It is too obvious to need statement that man's power in the universe is small and almost insignificant when compared with the great forces of nature. If we trust in the conservation of value within the universe, then we are not trusting in man alone. His good will—even if we can be sure of that—needs the backing of force; and the force that he can exert is not sufficient for the purpose. If realised values are to be conserved—if we are justified in holding to this faith—then this conservation must be due to something in the order of the cosmic forces which is favourable or sympathetic to these values, which in a word is on the side of good against evil, and may be trusted to see to it that genuine values will not permanently be lost—that good will triumph in the end. This faith in the conservation of value, therefore, makes a demand upon the universe; and the question of the validity of this demand raises the whole problem of the relation of value to reality—the metaphysical problem to which this work is devoted. At present, I wish to keep to the more strictly ethical ground.

The meaning of the ‘axiom’ may be brought out more clearly by considering how the case would stand if it were not admitted as valid. Let us suppose the faith shaken and abandoned that the cosmic order is on the side of good; let us assume that it is indifferent to all ethical values. The assumption is nothing more than the assumption which science makes as a convention for the limitation of its enquiries, and which materialism and naturalism make as part of a philosophical theory. We must suppose that there is no connexion between the causal sequence of phenomena and ethical values—at least none except such as can be verified by ordinary human experience of the fate of good and evil in the universe. From the time of the Preacher the moral indifference of the universe has been a commonplace of the disillusioned observer; and from the time of job (and long before his time) the injustice of the universe has been the pessimist's complaint. Their view of the course of the world did not confirm the belief in the conservation of its values. Suppose then we let that belief disappear; does anything remain which may take its place? If the forces of the universe cannot be trusted to conserve values, is there any other way of conceiving the principle of the conservation of value which may assure us that there is some element of permanence about the things which we cherish most? Let us consider the possibilities.

1. One may perhaps, in the first place, point to what may be called the law of compensation in nature. In the course of history many institutions, many beliefs, many modes of activity, which were held for a time to possess high value, have disappeared, and have been mourned by those to whose devotion they appealed. But yet, when we take a larger view of the course of events, we find that the value has not utterly perished though its objects have changed. New objects and activities of worth have taken the place of old: so that the sum of actual values may even on the whole have been increased by a process which at first and to many seemed to entail nothing but disaster. So far as our knowledge of history goes, there is good ground for holding that this compensatory action has, on the whole, been characteristic of the changes which have taken place within the realm of values. In spite of many and great set-backs, the total conditions of the world at the present day are more favourable than they were some thousands of years ago to the production and preservation of values. But faith looks forward not backward. And the question is whether we have grounds for believing that circumstances will still further improve or even continue as favourable as they have been. And it is here that the trouble arises. According to prevalent scientific opinion, the material conditions which have favoured the preservation of values are not permanent, but only a transitory phase in the career of our planet. In time it will become incapable of supporting human life at all, when the achievements of art and science and morality will be as if they had never been. Long before that period it will enter upon the downward path, in which material conditions will put increasing difficulties in the way of life and the things worth living for; the struggle for them will become more intense and bitter with each generation, until, in the vain effort to preserve life itself, men become forgetful of the things which make it worth living.

Accordingly, if we depend simply upon what observation enlightened by physical science can tell us of the prospects in store for human life, we are forced to conclude that the law of compensation will not hold indefinitely—that old values will in time cease to be replaced by equal or greater values, and that their place will be taken only by values of inferior worth or by none at all. There may be a long period of comparative security before the decline of values begins to make itself felt; but the end is sure. Confidence in the permanence of value throughout its changes of form and object can only be justified on the assumption that the account of the world given by physical science is incomplete. That confidence, therefore, implies a belief that the ultimate power in the universe is not indifferent to what man calls good. It is impossible to hold, as Höffding does, to the faith in the conservation of values, and to justify this belief, without being led on to postulate a power and will that conserves them6.

2. But, at any rate, it may be held in the second place that, whatever may happen in the doubtful future, value is value: we have it and enjoy it now, even if it be about to cease. It may be that man and all his works are fated to disappear and to leave no trace on the troubled sea of time. But he lives now, and, so long as life lasts, it is better to live well than ill. The present hour is his and he can strive to make it a crowded hour of glorious life. If the hour is to be short all the more reason, it may be said, for making it glorious. The prospect of continuance does not affect present value—whatever our value may reside in. If pleasure is the only good that life has to offer, we shall cull the flower of the day, lest the frost blast it during the night; if there is reason to hope that the end will not come speedily, then we shall take thought for the morrow and lay up goods for many years: if any voice whisper “thou fool!” we shall answer it with Bishop Butler's reminder that probability is the guide of life and that we must not neglect our chances of tomorrow's enjoyment. And if our view of life is on a higher level, whatever of goodness or beauty or truth we can find in experience is surely real as long as it lasts, whether or not it has in it a principle of permanence not shared by material things. If the world were to come to an end tomorrow, yet, today, beauty would remain better than ugliness, truth than error, good than evil.

This reflexion is sound so far as it goes. Values retain their objective validity, even although we may doubt or disbelieve in the axiom of the conservation of value. This axiom is not the foundation of the objective validity of value. On the contrary it is the latter doctrine which leads us to assert the former. It is because values are objective that we are led to think that the universe, which upholds and contains these objectively valid values, will not carelessly let them go but will provide some means for their permanent realisation. And thus, if we come, on other grounds, to deny this consequence, our doubts are apt to be carried back to the premiss; and we reject it (as has been often done) not on its own account, or for any weakness in its reasons, but because it seems to lead to a result which we disbelieve. For we have been brought up against, not indeed a logical contradiction, but an incongruity in the universe as conceived by us. We recognise the moral order as an objective order, but yet as something constructed on lines which are different from and irreconcilable with another objective order—that of actual existence.

3. It is in connexion with considerations of this kind, that we often meet with a third method of maintaining a doctrine of the conservation of value, which shall be independent of any demands on the actual universe in which our lives as individuals are passed. And this solution appeals to speculative minds. What we call the higher values—truth, beauty, goodness—are asserted to be independent of that temporal and distorted manifestation of reality which makes up the world of our ordinary experience. They are eternal verities, eternal values, unaffected by the flux of events and untouched by decay. So far as we realise them in our minds we partake of eternal life. This recognition is indeed the immortal part of man7. In it he is at one with the reality of which everything else is mere appearance. Now, from this point of view, conservation of value in the ordinary sense of the word is not needed. Eternal values do not require to be conserved, for their nature is to be eternal and therefore above the chances and changes of time.

Into the metaphysics of this view I do not at present enter. But, even should it be just speculatively, it does not give the kind of assurance that is given by faith in the conservation of values, though it may provide a certain compensation for the lack of that assurance. What was needed, and what Höffding's ‘axiom’ affirmed, was an assurance that the realisation of values would not be lost; and this assurance is not given. It is true that the value we apprehend or enjoy is said to be eternal; and in apprehending or enjoying it we may be said to partake of this eternity. But it is not contended that the finite minds, which at one time apprehend or enjoy this eternal value, may not afterwards lose it, or that the conditions of the world are and will be such as to preserve its apprehension and enjoyment. What remains is the value itself, eternally valid, whatever may happen to its realisation in individuals and societies. And this, again, is only a more speculative assertion of the objectivity of value: an assertion that it is truly real. But there is no assurance that the appearances of reality may not belie it: at the present time, they do to some extent belie it; what security is there that the discrepancy may not increase in the future?

There is, however, a modified form of this view which brings it more closely into connexion with experience. Moral goodness, at least, it may be said, is independent of anything that may happen in the physical world, because it consists simply in a state of will; and the will may be determined by the pure idea of goodness, irrespective of all external circumstances. A view of this kind was worked out by the Cartesian Geulincx, whose spirit proved his superiority to the repeated misfortunes of his life; but it is more familiar to us in the famous doctrine of Kant. This doctrine is not, like the previous, an assertion of the eternal validity or eternal reality of goodness apart from any relation to human consciousness and its conditions. It is an assertion of the independence of this very consciousness of, and will to, goodness. Whatever befall in the outer world of physical forces, the good will may remain secure. “Even if it should happen that, owing to special disfavour of fortune, or the niggardly provision of a stepmotherly nature, this will should wholly lack power to accomplish its purpose, if with its greatest efforts it should yet achieve nothing, and there should remain only the good will…, then, like a jewel, it would still shine by its own light, as a thing which has its whole value in itself. Its usefulness or fruitlessness can neither add nor take away anything from this values.8

Although all nature is hostile or indifferent, if the mere will of a man is in harmony with moral law or with goodness, then in this harmony moral value is realised. So far Kant's view is true and significant. The good will can oppose circumstances, and in this opposition, whatever the issue, achieve a moral triumph. But the very fact that it can oppose them shows that it is related to circumstances. Action cannot be onesided; circumstances and will interact. Kant's doctrine, in denying this psychological truth, drove will out of the world of experience into a purely ‘intelligible’ region outside the temporal order, so that both individual persons and communities of persons occupy an ambiguous and uncertain position in his scheme of things. Kant's view is adequate as a condition for the moral postulate of the production or realisation of value; but it does not provide a sufficient substitute for the axiom of the conservation of value. Nor, indeed, did he regard it as doing so. It leaves in abrupt opposition the will in which goodness lies and the order of existence; and his theory of the postulates of the practical reason was intended to reconcile this opposition.

It is characteristic of the moral, and also of the religious, consciousness to be impressed by the discrepancy between ideal and fact. The values which call forth the assent and allegiance of conscience receive but a partial and inadequate realisation in the world of personal and social life, and their position and supremacy cannot be maintained without a struggle. Moral practice has to be alert and active in order to maintain its ground—lest values once realised in life should afterwards be lost. But it is not restricted to holding what it has won; it cannot rest content with the mere conservation of value. The very essence of morality lies in the consciousness of an ideal and in the endeavour to bring existence into harmony with this ideal. The values which have been realised must not be let go; but their range must be extended over fresh fields of experience, and new means must be sought for enlarging the realm of worth. It appears to me that Höffding has not fully expressed the nature of the moral consciousness, and that he has unduly limited the demands of the religious consciousness, in giving to his fundamental axiom the name conservation of value. Conscience is never content with the moral status quo: it demands perfection. And the religious consciousness would not be satisfied with the retention of the values that have been acquired hitherto; heaven has been pictured in many different ways, but never as simply a museum of moral progress up to date; life must contain the highest value that can be conceived, and not merely the values that have been realised so far. The demand which the religious consciousness makes always includes the moral demand for the increase of value: and it is of every increased value, and finally of values as fully perfected, that it postulates the conservation.

The analogy with the scientific axiom of the conservation of energy, upon which Höffding lays so much stress, may be illuminating in some respects. The moral principle has much the same axiomatic position in religion as the physical has in science; in both cases it is of the nature of a postulate under which the work of science and the life of religion respectively are carried on. It is not an a priori truth, but the expression of a need—an intelligent anticipation of experience, which awaits verification. So far the analogy is of service; but in other respects it is apt to be misleading. It suggests that the value of any whole—that of human life, for instance—is, like the energy (say) of the solar system, a fixed quantity which remains the same under various transformations. It is allied with the view that all values are to be measured by their contribution to vitality in the biological sense, and that the biological process may be reduced to physical and chemical terms so that these life-values may be interpreted as quantities of energy9. And this is a wholly misleading suggestion. The moral world is in this respect entirely unlike the physical world. The latter is conceived as always consisting of the same quantity both of matter and of energy. The moral world is not thus fixed in the values it contains. The sum of values is not a constant. It may suffer diminution; it is also capable of indefinite increase. Like M. Bergson's universe, it is in continual process of creation. What I have called the production of values might, fairly enough, be called a creation. And this production or creation of values, where they had formerly no existence, is, as we have seen, the fundamental postulate of morality; and the creation it postulates has no assignable limits. This postulate is taken up by the religious consciousness, which asks not merely for the conservation of the values that have already been created, but also for a progressive increase of the values which are worth conserving: even if this increase and conservation should require a new heaven and a new earth.

The mere axiom of conservation—apart from increase—of values is better adapted to express the mystical side of religion than that religious attitude which arises out of and consecrates practical morality10. For mysticism morality is essentially purgative: a process by which the soul is cleansed from the desires to which the world and the flesh give rise, and fitted to enter the region that lies beyond good and evil. The moral life is therefore for it only a preparatory stage which must be passed before we reach the higher levels; and once traversed it is left behind. All ethic is Interimsethik, a means to an experience which is higher than the moral and able to dispense with it. The soul thereafter becomes absorbed in the divine and eternal; and being lifted out of the storm and stress of circumstance leaves these things to their own insignificance. They are deceptions, or at least of little account, and unfitted to be the vehicles of eternal value. The world of ordinary life is negated rather than moralised. Nothing is of importance except the inmost consciousness in which self and God meet and are made one. There is no other sphere to which the realm of genuine values may be extended.

In this respect the mystical way is distinguished from that of practical morality, which seeks to infuse its values into every region of human life, and comes into union with religion in the faith that this enterprise will not fail. When all is said, however, the mystical life is still a form of human life. It may look upon the human period as only a stage towards an experience of a higher kind in which the tension of individuality is replaced by undisturbed absorption in the One. But in the world of present experience it cannot escape the conditions of finitude. The mystic, as well as the moralist, is bound to recognise the objective validity of those values which lift humanity out of the storm and stress of mundane events, even although he may look for a higher range of values at life's distant horizon. If the cosmic order does not in some way conserve those values, or compensate for their loss by providing others still greater, then his faith also is vain. However high we set our hopes and ideals, it will be necessary—or, rather, the higher we set them the more will it be necessary—to find a universe whose actual order is able to confirm them. Even for the mystic, therefore, if his mysticism is to be a practical way of life, there is the same need as for the moralist—the need of finding some principle which will make plain the true place of value in the universe of reality. Into the quest for this principle we are now to enter.

  • 1.

    Ethics, book I, chap. v, p. 1095 b 17–19.

  • 2.

    Siris, § 368.

  • 3.

    Novum Organum, book I, § 1.

  • 4.

    Works, ed. Spedding, vol. III, p. 109.

  • 5.

    Bacon, De Augmentis, III, 5; Works, ed. Spedding, vol. I, p. 571.

  • 6.

    Cp. Varisco, The Great Problems, Eng. tr., p. 270: “Value will or will not be permanent according as the divine personality does or does not exist.” And he argues further (p. 273), “If values were not permanent they would not exist. But they do exist.” But the premiss of this reasoning would only be admitted by one who had already accepted the conclusion.

  • 7.

    Cp. Spinoza, Ethica, v, 33 ff.

  • 8.

    Kant, Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, sect. i (Abbott's Kant's Theory of Ethics, p. 10); Werke, ed. Hartenstein, vol, IV p. 242.

  • 9.

    As regards the view that ‘life-values’ are the measure of ‘culture values,’ compare the article of H. Rickert, ‘Lebenswerte und Kulturwerte,’ Logos, II (1911–12), pp. 131 ff.

  • 10.

    Cp. Höffding, Philosophy of Religion, Eng. transl., p. 258: “Value can only be preserved by means of changes and transformations.… Only by way of pure mysticism, the logical outcome of which is ecstasy, can we (sometimes) attain to a disregard of this order of things.”