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9: The Division of Reality

THE epistemological propositions, which have been formulated and defended, were not put forward as a substitute for a theory of knowledge. But they may serve to explain, and perhaps to justify, a point of view. They clear the ground and enable us to proceed to the consideration of the factors in that first division of reality which has been already set forth in outline.

The last point reached in these propositions concerned the knowledge of self. The order of statement was not intended to be significant; yet it is the case that, in the process of our experience, outward things attain a measure of definiteness and explicitness before the conception of the self is clearly formed. This is the order of knowledge: we look outward towards objects before the mind by a reflex effort turns back upon itself. This reflexion, however, convinces us that self is not just one object amongst others—a later product in time than many and difficult of description by the same terms. We see that, in recognising the self, we are recognising a factor that has been present throughout our experience, and without which no experience at all would have been possible. Self does not need to be known in order that knowledge of anything else may be possible; at least so I have contended. But it must be there and at work. Its conscious or cognitive activity is always required in order that experience may exist. Perhaps there may be things, but there can be no objects or known things, without self or subject to make them possible. In nature, therefore, it is prior to all other objects of knowledge; and its place in reality calls for notice in the first place.

It is by reflexion—by a backward glance—that we arrive at knowledge (or an idea) of the self. But this reflex knowledge is only possible because the life of self precedes it in our immediate experience. And it is not as a mere thinker or knower that self itself is either experienced or known. The problem of knowledge has been too much with us, and has tended sometimes to obscure our view of the realities which knowledge can reveal. We are occupied with the conditions which make it possible for a subject to cognise an object, and we come to think of the self as a mere subject of knowledge—even as a sort of spectator set behind a window, upon whom images of things impinge through the glass. Or we go further and, with Leibniz, say that monads—that is, selves—have no windows, but that each is a microcosm, a little picture of the universe, and that what a man sees is just this picture developing into greater clearness. But it is not thus that self is either experienced or known. It is never the mere subject of knowledge, but always active and acted upon, a participant in the course of reality, creative and created, fashioned by the force of circumstance, moulding things as it works its way through them, and feeling in its own life every emotion of the adventure. Not only have selves windows, therefore; we may say that they have doors, through which they go out and in in daily commerce with the things of nature. They are not unspotted by the world. There is no such thing as a pure ego: it is simply an abstract conception of the centre of experience; and the centre is perpetually gathering new experience which expands the circumference. In perception idea and science, as well as in emotion desire and volition, it does not merely mirror the world; it adds also to its own life, and gives fulness and precision to the ego of experience.

The nature of this empirical self undergoes continuous modification as fresh factors are added to it, and other details become blurred or fall away; its periphery is continually expanding and being defined. Herein unity is always incomplete, though it is always being sought. The true individuality of the self does not rest upon the resemblance or other relations between its successive states as facts of mind; the resemblance of one mind to another may be never so great, but that has no effect on the consciousness which each man has of his own identity; his individuality is rooted in the common centre of reference in all his states of mind: they are experienced and recognised as his—as one in spite of their differences. The feeling of pleasure or displeasure is, I believe, the experience which brings home to a man most convincingly this identity of the self as a continuous life1. This experience compels him to a subjectivity of attitude which he cannot confuse with the experience of any one else. We can almost imagine that an intelligence without pleasure or pain might confuse his own thoughts or ideas with another's. But pleasure and pain make him feel himself an individual distinct from all others, whose feelings may indeed, as we put it, be shared after a fashion, but still remain unmistakably his own. Joy and sorrow call forth the sense of identity and leave no room for doubt that each has his own individual point of view.

Herein lies the difference between the self—any self—and a thing. A material thing is apprehended by us as a mere object—an object which is not also a subject, at least so far as our knowledge of it goes. We can find no inner unity in a thing, such that all its changing states have a reference to some central point which affirms its individuality. On what grounds, then, do we speak of the individuality of a thing? We ascribe individuality to some artificial product—a statue, for instance—which has been shaped by the hand, man into unity and in which we can recognise the purpose of a mind. Or we may attribute it to some object which stands out in the field of perception with a particularity which engrosses the attention or which makes it resemble a human product—to the boulder, for instance, which the storms of an earlier age have left standing on the bare moor. But we seek it in vain in the block of unhewn marble as it lay in the quarry before it had been touched by pick or chisel. Thus we allow ourselves to treat anything as an individual which will serve our purpose as such, or which stands out distinctly from the midst of a fainter context; and we may cease to regard it as an individual when the purpose no longer serves, or when the distinctness of the object has faded. Here therefore individuality does not belong to the external thing in its own right, but either is conferred upon it by mind or marks only a superior degree of distinctness in some part of the objective continuum.

If individuality is to mean something more than this there are only two ways in which it can be found in material things. It must be sought either in the smallest parts of which things consist or in the largest whole to which they belong. And neither way leads to any certain result. The atoms, which for long seemed to the physical philosopher to be the ultimate and indivisible constituents of the material universe, have yielded to scientific analysis and proved themselves no true individuals; nor is there any ground for believing that the electrons of present theory represent the final result of all future analysis. And our search for the complete whole of the physical universe, equally with our search for its smallest parts, seems to lead into the infinite. We may indeed say that the (possibly) infinitely small atom or electron is an individual, or that the (possibly) infinite material world-whole is an individual. But both the infinitesimal unit and the complete or infinite whole are speculative constructions of our own, and neither of them enters into our experience. In the object as object—the object which is not also subject—no individuality of its own can be found, though an idea may be formed of a hypothetical individuality at the limits of experience.

The common-sense view of the external world regards it as consisting of a number of things, distinct from one another, but connected together by a variety of relations. This view—we now see—requires modification in its foundation. Not only is the distinctness of thing from thing incomplete; but, such as it is, it is due either to the comparative prominence of certain parts of a continuous field, or else it is relative to the interests of the persons who perceive and handle the things. Apart from this, there is no clear line of distinction between thing and thing or between one thing and the rest of the material whole. Such distinction as there is is a matter of degree, and altogether without that precise discrimination which marks off one conscious self from another conscious self and gives it a position of its own within the universe.

Physical or material science is not concerned with that subjective unity which distinguishes conscious experience, and this is the reason why it never reaches the true individual. Indeed, its proper concern is not with the individual at all, but, as has been already shown, with the universal—the law. Whether it follows the path of analysis or that of synthesis, its interest is always in the general principles which it may succeed in formulating, not in the particular things which confirm and illustrate these principles. Its own effort after completeness does, however, in spite of its preference for the universal, force it to take account of the individual or to offer some explanation of it. But the individual self always remains a puzzle or a stumbling-block, something that is never explained, or at most is explained away. As has been remarked, for physical science and for the philosophy founded upon it, spiritual unities are simply interpolations in the text of reality2. Science may show how the conceptions have arisen; but from the revised text of the book of nature, as edited by naturalism, they are expunged.

It may appear perhaps as if, when we start from an opposite point of view and recognise from the outset the subjective unity of experience, a corresponding deadlock will be reached. The case has, indeed, often been put in this way. Start with material things, and you may reach a professedly complete account of the universe, yet one in which mind or subject has no place. Take your stand at the point of certainty which your own consciousness reveals, and at the end of your enquiry as at the beginning you will have to recognise that all the objects of your knowledge—“all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth”—are at bottom only ‘mental modifications.’ The spectre of Subjective Idealism, it is true, has had its seat very near the desk of many philosophers, and sometimes made them write as if they were disembodied souls. But, in so doing, they have misinterpreted the facts which they experienced and on which their theories were based. What we are conscious of is never the mere or pure subject, it always includes something objective and other than the subject. The passage between subject and object is not blocked in this direction. There is no object (at least within the sphere of our knowledge, the sphere in which all the sciences are included) without a subject. And the subject is never—at least never known or experienced—without an object. Our conscious life has its being in traffic with objects; and this traffic is not cognitive merely but practical also. Knowledge is only one feature of those objective dealings with things in which our life consists.

From the first, therefore, self is known as in commerce with an environment which is other than it; and this environment both gives opportunity for its life and also serves to limit its activities. Although an other, the environment is necessary for the realisation of the self. Further, a portion of this environment functions as its body, is used as the expression of its thoughts and desires, and forms the medium of its communication with the world beyond. Although the body is indissolubly connected, with the extra-organic world, so that there is a constant passage of material from one to the other, the former possesses an individuality which the latter does not manifest; and it owes this individuality to its being the direct expression of the life of the subject or mind. Thus men recognise each other's embodiment: other selves are not scattered about vaguely in the material universe, without any marks to distinguish them; the primitive animism which sees mind in every physical object is soon discarded; and we are seldom mistaken in the external appearance of another self. In this way, also, individuality is ascribed to other bodies—to animals and plants—which exhibit the signs of life, although on a lower level than that of human consciousness. It is not because of their external finish, but because that finish is the sign of an inner life, that we treat them as beings with an existence for themselves, and therefore as quasi selves.

There is still another aspect of the relation between self and environment which calls for attention. Partly in imitation of the environment, partly in contrast with it, the contents of the inner life are formed and distinguished from the outer world. The inner world—the world of thoughts, memories, desires, and ideals—serves as a mirror of the external world, as an earnest of its possibilities, as a standard for judging it, and as a guide for our own reactions upon it. It enables us also to form the conception of other existents which have not the definite material embodiment of individual finite selves. The social consciousness as a factor in experience does not arise from these conceptions; but in them we may see the origin of the conception of society as a distinct object. To societies or groups of men we assign an existence which is not the same as the existence of their individual constituents: and thus we come to speak—whether metaphorically or literally, at least intelligibly—of a general will or the social mind.

The foregoing considerations lead us to make certain modifications in that first division of existents with which we started. The division into things and persons suggests a correspondence between the two members which we have not been able to verify. The ground of the apparent dualism is in the underlying subject-object relation, but that does not justify a separation of the subject-world from the object-world and an assertion of parallelism or other correspondence between them. We have no experience of one without the other; and the only individualising factor which we have been able to find in experience lies in the subject. Thus we have: (1) Selves, which possess or accrue a material embodiment, an inner life, and a social place and function—to the last of which, in particular, is due their description as persons. (2) Similar unities, on an inferior level, are found throughout the organic world; their inner life, so far as we can form an estimate of it, though it is always markedly below the human in unity and, independence, varies indefinitely from the point nearest the human down to the point at which it is almost impossible to speak of each member as having a life of its own. Their sociality may be at a minimum or it may be so developed as to obscure all individuality. The more nearly they resemble man in bodily organisation and in behaviour the more clearly do we recognise that they cannot be regarded simply as things. The absence of this organisation and of any definite distinction of thing from thing in the inorganic world makes us hesitate to assign inner life to that region after the fashion of hylozoist and panpsychic speculation. And a similar but opposite reason—the absence of material embodiment—is one of the reasons which make us hesitate to speak of the social mind or general will as an existent. There remains (3) the region of material things, which we class as existent, but the constituents of which are without the individuality that characterises persons and even quasi-persons. The distinction of thing from thing is largely our distinction, imposed for our purposes or as a record of our impressions, upon a material whose own order shows differences, indeed, both in quality and in quantity, but each portion of which merges in its neighbour. Even the animate body, regarded as merely material, retains no permanent distinction from its environment. Its individuality is due to the life or mind expressed through it.

When we turn to the next division of reality—the sphere of relations—we seem to pass into an entirely different domain. Relations are recognised as abstract and universal, not concrete and individual like the members of the preceding group. They share the fate of universals—becoming a subject of controversy which often appears unreal. By one type of idealism—which may be called the Platonic—a higher kind of reality is ascribed to them than any that belongs to particular things. According to another type of idealism, which owes its currency to Kant, they are regarded as superadded by the subject of knowledge to a pre-existing formless material. Against both these views I seek to maintain the thesis that relations belong to reality as much as things do—and to the same existing reality.

The universal, such as man, planet, or the like, has not an existence separate from all the particular instances of it—from all men or all planets, for example; its existence is in re, in each of the particulars. This much may be taken for granted here, as indeed the doctrine underlies all that has been said previously. Now relations are in exactly the same case. The relation expressed in the law of gravitation, for example, is a universal, and as such does not possess a separate existence apart from actual attracting bodies. Given any two bodies at any time, we define their tendency to approach one another in accordance with this formula. Here then we have a statement about an actual present relation, defined no doubt by universals—as all individual cases and things are—but descriptive of an actual situation. The law of gravitation is simply a general formula which describes a relation which holds in this case and in all other cases of two material bodies in space. When we discuss the reality of relations, what we are thinking of is not the reality of the general formula, but the reality of the relation as it is in this and other particular cases. Just in the same way when we say ‘man is mortal’ we do not mean that the concept man dies, but that all individual men die owing to their nature as men. The universal relation may thus have existence in rebus in the same way as the universal species or genus has—provided, of course, we have grounds for asserting that particular instances of the relation in question are actually found.

If we take things as they are presented in our experience we find that it is impossible to conceive them without the relations in which they stand to one another. Apart from these relations the things could not be said to exist. Even supposing the spectator himself could be unaffected by the abrogation of the ‘laws of nature,’ there would be no nature for him to observe. Let us imagine for a moment that physical relations were absent—that there were no attraction of one body for another, no cohesion between the particles of a body, no law or principle of combination of atoms into a molecule, and no relation of its constituents determining the comparative permanence of the atom. In such a case there would be no perceptible or knowable world. Further, we should have to deny to things any spatial relations to one another and any succession or simultaneity in time. Would there be any meaning in saying that things, or the world, still existed? This ultra-Kantian ‘thing-in-itself’ would be unintelligible in any fashion; not only the forms of perception but the categories also would be inapplicable to it; it could not be thought in anyway. A material thing is inconceivable and impossible apart from relations. Relation are accordingly as necessary to the existence of things, as things are to the existence of relations. Both are required in the constitution of the real. The distinction of relations from things is due to our analysis, not to an actual separation between them. It is true that concrete things may remain comparatively unchanged while certain relations are altered, but the relations cannot be entirely removed and the things remain.

It is equally true that relations need things for their validity. It is easy to see that the ‘laws of nature,’ for instance, would be without meaning apart from a nature whose laws they are. But it may not be so obvious that the same holds when the things related do, not themselves exist. Relations may connect terms which do not denote existing objects and may belong to any conceivable ‘universe of discourse.’ As already shown3, these terms, to which we ascribe being only but not existence, have been formed by abstraction from objects of concrete experience but are considered apart from their context in reality. To fix these abstractions and facilitate our thinking about them is the chief function of symbols. The symbol (whether it stand for an existent or an abstraction) is itself an existing object—a picture or a sound; but its visible or audible character does not concern us, only its meaning. And the meaning of a symbol (that is, of those symbols which stand for a term not for an operation) may be a material existent or body, or a spiritual existent or mind, or a merely fictional or imaginary object, or a quality or any characteristic abstracted from one of these. It is not to signify abstractions only that symbols are used. Without the use of symbols we should have only the most elementary ‘knowledge about’ objects. The apprehension of relations of every kind, except in its rudiments, is throughout dependent on the use of symbols. But the relations cognised hold not between the symbols, but between the meanings for which these symbols stand. The meaning of a symbol used in a proposition is the object which it signifies, and the meaning of the proposition lies in its application to the objects of which the terms are symbols. The symbol itself is arbitrary, accepted from tradition or selected for its convenience in manipulation. The thing signified must be known otherwise, either by direct experience, or indirectly by some inference from or refinement of experience. Symbolical knowledge, accordingly, and in general all relational knowledge, will be found to rest ultimately upon a basis of immediate, or what Leibniz called intuitive, knowledge.

But although the ultimate basis of all knowledge may be the same, namely, immediate experience, its objective reference may vary from the concrete facts of existence to the limits of possible abstraction. At the same time, the use of the same sort of symbols, whatever the objects symbolised may be, tends to hide the difference between these objects according as they are existents or have merely that degree of being which we can ascribe to abstractions. But, however different may be the universes of discourse in which the objects have their being, the relation always belongs to the same universe as its terms: if the terms are existents, then the relation is an existing relation; if the terms are beënts only, then the relations belong to the same order of being. In neither case could the relations subsist by themselves without the terms.

I have spoken of values as a third division of reality; and the classification may seem to stand in need of defence. It is not necessary to repeat what has been said already regarding the objectivity of value. But the prejudice as to the subjectivity and relativity of value dies hard, and this chiefly from an ambiguity in the terms. There is a sense in which value may be called both subjective and relative without throwing doubt upon its objectivity or even reality. It is subjective in the sense that it belongs to subjects, that is, selves or conscious persons; it is not subjective, if by that is meant something due to the mental faculty of the observer who appreciates it. In this latter sense also it is not relative; but we need not deny it that name if all that is meant is that value is not found out of relation to persons. Indeed, the argument of this chapter has led us to expect relatedness everywhere within reality, instead of regarding it as an evidence of unreality.

Values are indeed similar to relations: as the latter are found in rebus, so the former are always manifested in personis. There is also a further correspondence. Among relations we distinguished those cases in which the terms are abstract entities from the relations between concrete things. In the same way, there are certain formal propositions about value, amongst which, for example, Sidgwick's ‘Axioms of the Practical Reason’ might be counted, which may be distinguished from the propositions with ‘good’ as their predicate. But the real difficulty of my position lies behind this. Let us admit (it may be said) that the value actually realised by persons may fairly be reckoned as part of reality. Yet this is only a small part of the value about which we speak, even of the value which we seek to realise. The latter is at best not yet real; at worst it will never be real. Taking it at its best even, we cannot at present count it as a part of reality. The objection seems conclusive. It would be conclusive if it were allowable to cut a cross section in reality as it is known to us at the present moment and to take that cross section as representative of the whole. The objection can be overcome—or, at least, its edge may be turned—by showing that this procedure is illegitimate, and that persons cannot be understood by what they have achieved at any given moment: that their nature is to be realisers of value.

The person cannot be judged merely by his achievements at a given moment. We must take account of what he is and can be as well as of what he does. Why does he approve the goodness of others or blame his own deficiencies? It is because his consciousness, his nature, is in sympathy with the value which he sees, even when he fails to reach it himself. It is the anima naturaliter moralis that speaks. He recognises that he has failed to ‘be himself’—his better or moral self. He has affinity with the ideals which he approves even when he fails to follow them; the values are his values, and have their root in the nature which he shares with his social environment. After what has been already said, it is perhaps unnecessary to urge this point further. But the view here stated concerning value generally may be illustrated by a reference to Plato's teaching regarding the relation of the mind to truth. For Plato truth is not merely a property of some propositions, it is a value; and philosophy is not merely a manner of thinking, it is a way of life. His description of the philosopher is accordingly connected with the literal meaning of the word philosophy. It is not wisdom that the word signifies, but the love of wisdom4. And in the lover Plato finds the analogue of the philosopher: the soul of a philosopher guileless and true (he says) is as the soul of a lover5. The lover who follows and worships beauty is already on the path which leads to philosophy. “The true order of going…is to use the beauties of earth as steps” towards celestial beauty: going thus “from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is6.”

And as love, if it have its way, lands one in philosophy, so the philosopher also displays all the features of love. For Love, as the myth has it, is half divine and half human, the offspring of Plenty and Poverty: “He is always poor and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he is hard-featured and squalid, and has no shoes nor a house to dwell in. [But] he is bold, enterprising, and strong, a hunter of men, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of wisdom, and never wanting resources: a philosopher at all times, terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist7.” He shares the characters of both his parents, allied to the gods and yet among the poorest of the poor. No god or wise man is a seeker after wisdom: he does not need to seek for that which he has already got. And the ignorant and foolish do not seek wisdom, for they do not feel the want of it. Thus the philosopher is in a mean betwixt two, just as Love was born of opposites. “Wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean betwixt the wise and the ignorant. And this again is a quality which Love inherits from his parents; for his father is wealthy and wise, and his mother poor and foolish8.”

The most essential point in this description—so it seems to me—is not the fervour, the passion, the disinterestedness with which the seeker follows truth as the lover pursues his object. Undoubtedly that is a real characteristic. Plato holds that to the philosopher, as to the lover, all things pale in importance in comparison with one: the world is naught until he possesses the object of his search. But this fervour and disinterestedness spring from a deeper source. What is it that causes the restless eagerness of the lover? Plato's mythology is bold enough to answer, It is because the object which he seeks was once part of himself, till a jealous god divided them, and therefore he cannot rest until he has regained what is akin to him by nature. And this is the poetical rendering of the answer to the other question. When we ask, What is it that impels the philosopher to his unresting search for truth? the reply must be, Because there is a natural affinity between his mind and the truth which he seeks. He is not yet wise, for truth has to be sought; he can never become completely wise, for there are hindrances to the full view of truth which mortal nature can never finally overcome. But he is not altogether ignorant; if he were he would have no impulse to philosophy; he can recognise the truth when he sees it and he is unsatisfied in its absence; and this shows that his mind is allied to truth and has kinship with it. Therefore the philosopher does not need to wait for truth to come to him from the outside. He is himself active in its pursuit, driven onwards by an impulse which is of identical nature with the goal, towards which he presses.

Conveyed in poetical and mythical imagery, and sometimes only half revealed by it, this is the dominating feature in Plato's description of the philosopher. In his speculative activity the philosopher is seeking too realise his own inmost nature; truth is not something imposed upon him from without; it is his own reason made manifest. Philosophy is not a passive receptive attitude: it is a life, an active process in which the soul realises what is akin to its own nature—the vision of truth and reality.

There is of course another view than this, and one opposed to the Platonic. It has been held that in knowledge the mind is purely receptive or passive, and truth has been regarded as merely a mirroring of an order of nature which is altogether external to it. Bacon gave expression to a doctrine of this sort in his famous aphorism that into the kingdom of nature as into the kingdom of grace entrance can only be obtained sub persona infantis9. The philosopher, he thinks, must simply wait and watch for nature's teaching, and to it he must submit his mind. It is true that by this submission he may be able in a measure to reverse the relation and become nature's master. But his mastery extends only to a certain manipulation of nature's forces whereby they may be utilised for works of practical advantage. For practical purposes he seeks control; but of his philosophical attitude submission is the keynote. The creative function of the mind, which Plato enforces, is ignored or denied by Bacon. He mistrusts the mind left to itself, and forbids any anticipation of nature10.

Even for the purposes of scientific enquiry, this doctrine is too narrow. Without the creative function of scientific imagination, the world would have had no Newton or Darwin, no Bacon even. From a wider point of view, it is still more inadequate. Philosophy does not consist in a set of propositions about what goes on outside us. It aims at an understanding of the whole to which the philosopher himself belongs. In so far as he reaches this understanding he realises a value which he recognises as the completion of his own nature as a seeker after truth. Truth is a value as well as beauty and goodness; and in the whole of Plato's thinking it is treated as such. The validity of this point of view is still more apparent when goodness, or moral value, is in question; for the good is recognised as having a claim upon our allegiance: as requiring a doing which moulds our being, making it a realisation of the ideal. It is impossible to look upon this—as some thinkers have looked upon knowledge—as merely the imitation of an external order. It is rather a growing up into the maturity of one's nature.

Mere things—if we were to think of them alone apart from their place in the whole—would be seen by us as simply a succession of changing events; a larger view might convince us of definite directions in this succession towards increased differentiation and integration. But, apart from the idea of purpose which the thinker brings to bear upon them, there would be no notion of development in nature as distinct from regular change. It is impossible to think of persons in this way. They are ever seekers, striving for a good which they conceive in different ways, but of which they never lose sight entirely and which guides their search. They do not recognise the mere present as expressing their true nature, for they are always straining beyond the present after a goal. If you may not call a man happy except ‘in a completed life,’ it is equally true that you cannot tell what a man is except his life be complete—complete, not as it is ended by the accident of death, but, as it never is completed, by the realisation of its purpose or ideal. Accordingly, we do not get an adequate understanding of the world—which is a world of persons—if we judge it simply by its manifestations at any given moment or for some limited period of its temporal existence. Persons refuse to have their nature estimated by time, for it is deeper than the time in which it is manifested. We have to take into account what at any moment is only an ideal, if there is ground for regarding the realisation of that ideal as the completion of personality. Ideals, accordingly, may be held to belong to reality as much as do the persons whom they express; and the problem of understanding reality involves the problem of interpreting these ideals and assigning to them their appropriate place.

To sum up. In saying that moral values belong to the nature of reality, two things are implied. In the first place, the statement implies an objectivity which is independent of the achievements of persons in informing their lives with these values, and is even independent of their recognising their validity. Whether we are guided by them or not, whether we acknowledge them or not, they have validity: they ought to be our guides. This validity differs from the validity of laws of nature, inasmuch as the latter do actually express the constitution of reality in so far as it is material. Moral values hold for personal life in another way; they ought to enter into its constitution whether they do so or not. Their reality has therefore been called imperative reality; but the phrase does not explain anything. What is implied so far is that the validity of moral values—seeing it is not derived from their acceptance by the persons for whom they are valid—must have another source. In some way it must belong to the system or order of the universe. To see how this can be, we must look at the second implication of the statement that moral values belong to the nature of reality. Reality, whatever other manifestations it may have, is manifested in persons; they are part of the real universe, and they come to form ideas of moral value and to some extent to frame their lives in accordance with them. Their lives are continuous efforts towards fulfilment of a purpose or purposes; and in their attainment of moral values the nature of persons receives an expression which grows in completeness as value is realised. That is to say, the objective moral value is valid independently of me and my will, and yet is something which satisfies my purpose and completes my nature.

This second implication of the statement shows us more clearly the way in which value belongs to reality. According to the former implication, the value is objective, but the kind of being which it possesses is conceived as something apart from the existing universe. But this second implication of the statement brings out a connexion. Values characterise personal life as completed or perfected; they are factors in the fulfilment of purpose, and purpose is an essential trait of personality. It is possible that they may never obtain complete realisation in time. But, even so, they will express the limit towards which the nature of persons points and presses. In this way they belong to the sum total of reality as an existing system. And this connexion resembles that of law to fact in the causal system, with this difference: that the latter relation is exhibited at each instant of time, whereas the realised system of values is the limit towards which personal life tends in its temporal course.

  • 1.

    “A subject without feeling would care nothing for itself or anything else—such a subject would have no existence for itself, would not strictly exist at all.”—Varisco, The Great Problems, Eng. transl., p. 97.

  • 2.

    W. Dilthey, ‘Wesen der Philosophie,’ Kultur der Gegenwart, part I, div. vi, p. 59.

  • 3.

    Cp. above, pp. 211 f.

  • 4.

    Phaedrus, 278 D.

  • 5.

    Phaedrus, 249 A.

  • 6.

    Symposium, 211 C. (Jowett's transl.)

  • 7.

    Symposium, 203 D.

  • 8.

    Symposium, 204 B.

  • 9.

    Novum Organum, I, 68.

  • 10.

    Some parts of the preceding discussion are taken from an article on ‘The Philosophical Attitude,’ International Journal of Ethics, vol. XX (1910), pp. 152 ff.