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Chapter VI: Duty, Goodness and God: The Religious Synthesis

At various points in the course of the preceding argument we have been faced by contradictions inherent in ethical experience, which reflection on that experience is unable to resolve. Over and above the dualism of ideals which formed the main theme of Chapters II—IV, we have had occasion to refer to the three following problems.

1. “Ought”, as we are never weary of repeating after Kant, implies “can”; yet the command of the moral law is to will perfectly and our volition inevitably falls short of the requirement. In other words, the law remains formal, defying embodiment in any empirical content.

2. Good, in human experience, is relative to evil; yet ethical life draws all its inspiration from faith in the absolute sovereignty of good. We are faced by the dilemma: if evil be illusory, the ethical struggle is a hollow mockery: if it be real, how can good maintain its primacy?

3. How can the freedom of choice, essential to moral responsibility, be reconciled with the freedom of inner necessitation, when the will responds with unhesitating spontaneity to the vision of ideal good?

To all these problems religion offers a solution. But the seriousness of the difficulties, and the fact that the proffered answers raise fresh issues for religious philosophy, preclude adequate discussion within the limits of these lectures. I propose, therefore, to have them unconsidered, and to concentrate on the dualism of duty and goodness, which has all along been engaging our attention.1 There are other grounds for this selection. The problems above mentioned have been treated often and with great ability by philosophers and theologians, whereas the dualism of types of conduct has hardly received the attention it deserves. Moreover, the answer of religion to those problems would involve me in an apologetic for the Christian revelation, hardly consonant with the intention of Lord Gifford's trust. It depends at each point on the truth of the doctrine of the Incarnation. The dualism of ethical ideals, on the other hand, can, I believe, be reconciled by any form of theism that accepts the belief that God is love. My references to specifically Christian doctrine will be solely for purpose of illustration.


We return, then, to the dualism of ethical ideals. We have seen that philosophical reflection is unable to reconcile the divergence, either by grounding goodness upon duty or conversely by deriving duty from the duty from the religion succeed where ethics fails? One thing seems clear: if a synthesis is to be effected at all, it can only be through recognition of the primacy of the good. Here are the great medieval thinkers were surely right. Morality cannot be the final stage in man's spiritual pilgrimage. For perfected vision, duty is swallowed up in fruition of the good. We have seen, too, how the thought of duty itself points beyond the moral sphere. As Aristotle observed, moral effort achieves its goal when the right act is done with effortless spontaneity and the doing of it is felt as pleasure.2 Moreover, the moral law is not, as Kant held, wholly self-imposed, but presupposes a source above the subject who acknowledges its unconditional authority. In all these ways the life of duty reveals its lack of self-sufficiency. The thought of good, on the other hand, is free from these limitations. Moreover, it has a wider scope of application, covering not merely goodness of character and conduct, but the whole realm of value. Even in the ethical sphere it bears the character of theoria and heralds the advent of religious vision.

How, then, does religion secure the synthesis of the two ideals?

(i) We have seen that for religion God is goodness; good is not predicable of him as a character distinguishable from his being, but is his being itself. It is real, therefore, not as a subsistent “value”, but as existing in an actual entity. All specific forms of goodness, and all things that are good, derive their goodness from the one and only self-dependent Good. It is in this sense that God is the summum bonum, at once goodness and the good. The chief good for mail is to attain likeness to God, in accordance with the capacity of his nature as determined by the divine intention, and to enjoy the communion implied in the attainment.3 The primacy of good, in relation to the moral law, is thus ensured beyond possibility of challenge. But the crux of the problem still awaits discussion. flow can the law be grounded in the good? The answer of religion is that it is binding on man, as the revelation of God's intention for his rational creation. Apart from this reference to man, the moral law has no significance. The “ought” is not intrinsic to God himself, nor does it inhere, as a seinsollen, in any abstract value. But within the divine scheme, as envisaged by religious faith, there lie open to man two paths of approach to God, related but not coincident: the path of desire for the good and that of obedience to the law of duty. Their partial divergence gives rise to the distinction of types of life on which we dwelt at length in earlier lectures. The former leads from the pursuit of finite goods to the vision of a good that, in Spinoza's phrase, is infinite and eternal, crossing at this point the boundary between ethics and religion, where vision is illumined and desire intensified by the revelation of God. The latter leads from the determinate duties of my social station to the recognition of duty universal, a concept whose empty spaces are filled by the revelation of the law of righteousness, the bridle—in Dante's phrase—directing man's wayward steps to God. Duty is the form in which man appropriates by faith the divine intention relative to his dual nature as a being at once rational and sensuous. As the “daughter of the voice of God”, its imperative is unconditional. Only beyond this bourne of time and place can that voice be heard directly, where the two paths converge in a service which is perfect freedom.

(ii) The phrase of Dante's that I have just quoted is from the closing chapter of the de Monarchia, where he expounds his answer to the problem of the relationship, in the divine scheme for human government, between the ecclesiastical and secular powers.4 For us, the controversy between the Papacy and the Empire, which was uppermost in Dante's mind, is of secondary interest; but the scheme, with its distinction of man's this-worldly condition from his other-worldly destiny, is as relevant to-day as in the fourteenth century. We may well devote a few moments to its consideration; for never has a reasoned theory of law and government been integrated so impressively with a theocentric world-view as in the golden age of medieval thought. Dante follows Aquinas in his view of the created universe as a hierarchy of kinds of being, teleologically ordered in the intention of the Creator, so that each part, in realizing its Specific end or good, contributes thereby to the perfection of the universe as a whole. Man, he tells us, holds a midmost place in the hierarchical continuum, by virtue of his twofold nature as immaterial soul and material body. “If man, then, is a kind of mean between corruptible and incorruptible things, since every mean savours of the nature of the extremes, it is necessary that man should savour of either nature. And since every nature is ordained to a certain end, it follows that there must be a twofold end of man … of which the one should be his goal as a corruptible being, and the other as an incorruptible. The unutterable providence, then, has set two ends before man to be contemplated by him; the blessedness of this life, which consists in the exercise of his proper power (virtus), and is figured by the earthly Paradise, and the blessedness of eternal life, which consists in the fruition of the divine aspect, to which his proper power may not ascend unless assisted by the divine light. And this blessedness is given to be understood by the heavenly Paradise.” Moreover, means are provided for the attainment of each end: on the one hand the teaching of philosophy, i.e., of natural reason, as to the moral and intellectual virtues (in other words, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics), to enable man to Win temporal felicity; on the other, the supernatural teaching of the Holy Spirit, revealing the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, to lead him to eternal blessedness.5 Thus would man have been enabled to achieve the highest good in both worlds, had he not fallen into sin. But being as he is sinful, there is further need for coercive authority, as “bit and rein” to curb his covetous desires and restrain him from wandering from his appointed course. Hence the institution by divine ordinance of two visible jurisdictions: the ecclesiastical, that of the Papacy, in view of man's eternal welfare, and the secular, that of the Holy Roman Empire, “in order that on this threshing-floor of mortality, life should be lived in freedom and peace”. Both these jurisdictions, be it observed, are strictly relative to the state of fallen humanity in this life. In the other-worldly kingdom they have no place. So when Dante meets the soul of a former Pope in Purgatory and does reverence to his office, he is rebuked; and when in Paradise, Justinian, the representative of the imperial law of Rome, reveals his name, it is with the words “Cesare fui e sono Giustiniano”. The imperial dignity, like the papal, belongs to the past, to the life of probation and discipline on earth.

This conception of man's status in the world-order, so impressive in its breadth and splendour, is never far from Dante's mind; it recurs constantly in the Divina Commedia and dominates the closing cantos of the Purgatorio. In adapting it for our present purpose we must make two qualifications. Dante represents the two goals of man's nature as though they stood in external co-ordination. He knew, of course—his master Aquinas had insisted on the point—that, as soul and body are factors in a single personality, so the purposes of each in the divine scheme are bound to coalesce in a single end, that of the soul. Indeed, Dante allows, rather grudgingly, that “mortal felicity is in a certain sense (quodam modo) ordained with reference to immortal felicity”. His zeal to champion the autonomy of the imperial authority, as directly derived from God, in the face of papalist claims, led him to shun the aspect of integration and to lay undue stress on that of independence. We shall see in the next lecture how Aquinas in his exposition of the moral life starts similarly from an external conjunction of the rational and theological virtues, the latter of which are attainable only through the Christian revelation; and subsequently develops the more profound and pregnant conception of the transformation of the life of rational virtue into the Christian life by the infusion of the form of caritas, which thus becomes the inspiring principle of the whole of conduct. We must construe Dante's dualistic doctrine in the light of this unifying principle. The second gloss involves a more radical modification. Dante's view of the instruments of direction relative to human frailty must be extended to cover, not merely coercive jurisdiction in Church and State, but the whole field of moral obligation. Dante's severance of the two was, of course, determined by St. Thomas’ teaching that, while man, had be persisted in a state of innocence, Would still have developed social institutions and the instruments of government, coercive jurisdiction—the bit and rein—would have been unneeded, save as a remedy for the Fall. Our adaptation requires that not only the political organization of society, but also the moral law—the ius naturae—to which it owes its justification, should be regarded as relative to man's this-worldly condition. Morality, centred in the recognition of obligation, is “the bit and rein” necessitated by man's inability to direct his life in perfect spontaneity of desire towards his appointed good. Hereafter, perchance, it shall be otherwise; and man, with his will “libero, dritto e sano”, be privileged to act “a suo senno”, with no restraining consciousness of “ought”.6


I pass now to the difficulties that arise out of this solution. We have spoken of the divine intention, and the phrase is bound to provoke criticism. With what right, it will be asked, do you ascribe purposive intention to God? The only purposes we are acquainted with are those of finite men, which are framed and executed in time, and conditioned throughout by a social and material environment. By way of illustration, let me quote Professor Muirhead's criticism of an earlier and admittedly inadequate statement of the position which I am here maintaining. “The Good and the Right, we have been told, are united in the conception of the will of God, not, I understand, in the sense that … the imperative of Duty must rest for its authority on the willed command of a Divine Person, but in the sense that we must conceive of the perfection and purity of motive to which our moral nature summons us as realized in a Being, whose will is completely conformed to the idea of Good. But for the way in which, in such a Being, the Good and the will to Good are related to each other, have we anything else to appeal to than the analogy of the union of them in our own moral experience when taken at its highest? And if Dot, does not this involve a consideration of the relation of values as things that ‘ought to be’ to beings endowed with will, faced with a world in which these are yet unrealized? Transferred to the Divine Being this conception must contain an element of anthropomorphism incompatible with other attributes which we must assign to it. But it is difficult to see how this, with the theological problem it raises, can be avoided so long as will and personality in any human sense are predicated of Him or It.”7

Now we saw in the last chapter that the transference to God of human attributes can only be justified if the way of analogy be supplemented by the evidence of religious experience. We saw further that this experience warrants us in asserting, not by analogy, but univocally, that God is love, and herein provides us with a criterion for subsequent use of the via analogica. Moreover, it justifies directly the ascription to God of such characters and activities as are implied in the knowledge that he is love. Let us follow out these implications. There is an ancient and famous doctrine, rooted in certain teachings of Plato, and developed by the Neo-Platonists as the keystone of their cosmology, that all that is must, by an inner necessity, go forth from itself in activity of generation, bringing into existence by unilateral causality an effect inferior in the hierarchy of being to itself. “It is the nature of being,” said Plotinus, “to beget.” Thus the whole cosmos, intelligible and sensible, the eternal realm and the temporal, was conceived, like the rays of light flowing forth in ever-decreasing potency from the sun, as emanating from the One, the primal source of all being and all value. As we study the presentment of this doctrine by Plotinus and Proclus, two questions strike the mind. Why, we ask, should the One descend from the immutable perfection of self-contained being, to diffuse of its plenitude in emanations less perfect than itself? The only answer we receive, that such is the necessary law of being, seems hardly satisfying. We ask, again, for fuller grounds for the identification, accepted without question from Plato, of the primal One with the primal Good. If we go thus far in our synthesis of being and value, must we not in reason go further still? Christianity, in assimilating Platonic philosophy through the medium of Augustine, gave a clear answer to both these problems. The One, the primal source of being, is God, and God is love. As love, he goes forth from himself creatively, not obeying a necessary law of his being, but in an eternal act of conscious self-diffusion, imparting to the world of his creation its measure alike of being and of good. “God so loved the world.” I refrain from adding the words that follow; for I am confining myself to ground that can be traversed not only by believers in the doctrine of the Incarnation, but by all adherents of theism. The world is no necessary emanation, as Plotinus held, but the product of the free creativity of divine love.8

This, if we stress God's immanence in the cosmos, is the answer to the question, Why did the One descend? If, on the other hand, we fix our thought on his transcendence, it was to show forth his glory. It is interesting to note how even Spinoza, despite his passionate abhorrence of orthodox anthropomorphism, couples in his Ethics the concept of God's glory with that of the reciprocal intellectual love of God and man.9 We can now state our position more precisely. God as love is an individual spirit, self-conscious, and endowed with activity of self-diffusion. Let us take these points severally. That he is an individual spirit, a unique existent, a “this”, not merely a “such” or a “what”, is surely obvious. Essences, universals, values, cannot love. I find it hard to follow Dr. Inge (and others) in his language about values. In his anxiety to keep in close touch with the thought of the Neo-Platonists, Dr. Inge, seems to blur a vital distinction. While frankly accepting the theistic position that “the ultimate ground of the universe is a single supreme Being who is perfect and complete in Himself”. he yet tells us that “the highest values”, though “super-individual” (i.e., “universal”), “are absolute”, and speaks of them as “themselves essentially creative activities”. Is he not here treading perilously near to the pitfall of subsistence?10Love implies a lover, and values have no absolute value save in God. Further, that the divine spirit is life, self-conscious and Active, was taught by Aristotle, whose conception of ενεργεια ακινησιας, for all its apparent contradiction, has appealed all down the ages to philosophers of the Platonic tradition as the only metaphysical alternative to acquiescence in the sovereignty of chance. Where the thought of God as love supplements the Aristotelian concept is in the demand for reciprocation. Love implies not only a lover, but an object loved. God's consciousness and activity must extend to alia a se, to what is other than himself. Hence we ascribe to God intelligence and will, by analogy from human experience, to express not what God essentially is, but his relationship to the world of his creation. We employ these terms under qualification, well knowing that in the perfect simplicity of God's being, his knowledge and volition of his own goodness, his knowledge of man and of human good, and his commandment of the moral law, must be one and the same. Only if this reservation be forgotten, can the language be charged with anthropomorphism. Religious faith makes no attempt to explain how the good and the will to good are grounded in God's nature. It certainly does not conceive God's will “in any human sense” as one among other attributes, whose compatibility and hierarchical order can be made a matter of discussion. The moment, for instance, that we sever his will from his intelligence, as in thinking of the divine will as “completely conformed to the idea of good”, or of the eternal truths as products of God's arbitrary fiat, we are landed in absurdities, of which the history of speculation furnishes abundant evidence. Nor is the reference to revelation an appeal to a deus ex machina, as Prof. Muirhead elsewhere suggests.11 The appeal is not to an external or mechanical agency. The intellectus infinitus Dei is one with his infinite will.

Hitherto I have avoided the term “personality”; for, as Dr. Clement Webb has remarked, Christian theology, while affirming personality in God, has refrained from asserting simpliciter that God is a person.12 This assertion was first thrown into relief by Unitarian writers, at the close of the eighteenth century. Yet, if the word be rightly understood, its ascription to God is not only in accord with the Christian faith, but is its necessary implication. Indeed, it is essential to any form of theism; for it safeguards divine transcendence from the ever-present allurements of a pantheistic philosophy. Positively, it indicates God's self-existence as individual spirit, his subsistence—in the traditional, as opposed to the Phenomenological, meaning of the term—as perfect unity of essence and existence, both of which alike are incommunicable to any being other than himself. “If God lacked personality,” writes M. Maritain, “the divine attributes in which all things participate would never he united in an absolute self-sufficiency apart from things, the resplendent threads of divinity would never be woven into unity.”13 There is here no peril of anthropomorphism. Even in man, personality expresses an ideal perfection and marks his potential infinitude. In St. Thomas's words, “the notion persona signifies what is most perfect in all nature”. I quote M. Maritain again, “Man must gain his personality, like his liberty, and it is dearly bought. He is not a person in the order of action; he is causa sui only if his rational energies and virtues and love—and the divine Spirit—gather his soul into their hands—anima mea in manibus meis semper—and into the hands of God.”14 The personality ascribed to God eminenter, is realized in the perfection of his own nature, above and beyond his personal relationship to man. This, like his immanence in the world of his creation, is not primary, but consequential. Speaking in terms of the Christian revelation, three meanings of divine personality must be distinguished: (a) God's intrinsic personality, as self-conscious and self-existent spirit, (b) his three-fold personality, the expression of his intrinsic nature as unity of differents, as three persons of one essence, and (c) his revelation of himself as in personal relationship to mankind. The first and third of these references are common to all theistic faiths. The second is peculiar to Christianity. it must, however, be noted that, for the Christian, the personal relationship of God to man is tendered possible only through the distinction of persons within the divine unity; the middle wall of partition between God and man being broken down by the Father's Incarnation in the person of the word made flesh.

Thus we see how these positions, familiar enough to philosophers and to theologians, appear in a new light as unfolding the implications of the faith in God as love. If God is love and love is all-powerful—and human experience goes to show that nothing is more powerful than love—we are able to conceive the divine love as self-limiting in its creativity, without derogation to God's infinitude. I come now to the conception of divine purposiveness, one that has suffered much violence from the looseness of thought and expression that commonly characterize its use, especially in religious circles. I confess that whenever I hear the words on the lips of a preacher, I am visited with fear and trembling. Philosophers, on the other hand, seem to be over-critical of any ascription of purpose or purposes to God. Let us begin, then, by acknowledging that to speak in the singular of God's eternal purpose seems indefensible, as suggesting a contradiction in terms. But this acknowledgement must not be misunderstood. If, with Augustine and many other thinkers, we hold the divine act of creation to be timeless, and time to have been thereby called into being as a form of created things, we are also bound to hold that this timeless act did not simply set the course of events in motion, as though by an initial push, but that it covers the whole process of the world's history. If, then, we conceive God's act as human intelligence needs must, sub specie durationis, as spread out in time, its stretch will comprise past, present and future, and all that therein is. In the traditional phrase, which can hardly be bettered, God's creation of the world is its conservation. The author of the universe is also its providential governor. God's timeless providence, which, we have said, is one with his creativity, is manifested, to speak from the standpoint of the creature, in the form of temporal purposes and particular providences. The theory, which at certain epochs has clouded the minds of thinking men, that God reveals himself in universal laws to the exclusion of particular and contingent occurrences, has always seemed to me to touch the low-water mark of human speculation. God's providence, imaged humanly, extends to all temporal happenings, be they small or great. Or rather, there are no “little things” in our experience no “things”, for all events are opportunities for use in God's service; and none are “little”, for all are integral to God's creative act. There is here no arbitrary necessitation; the voluntary decisions of free agents have their place in the timeless thought of God. Why, indeed, should he not create beings endowed with freedom as well as those, if there be such, subject to mechanical determination? Material, in Spinoza's phrase, was not lacking to him for such creation.15 Even if we persist in construing his timeless acts in terms of temporal experience, he foreknows the future, as Dr. Inge puts it, as that which is going to happen, not as that which could not have been otherwise.16 God's providence is not man's enslavement, but his opportunity of liberation.

Purposiveness, therefore, as ascribed to God, is strictly relative to the world of his creation. That world is a manifestation of his glory and of his love. The term “purpose” is relevant only when we think of his relation to its parts. Neither the process of nature nor that of history admits of more than a fragmentary rationalization. Let us take warning from Hegel. No philosopher worthy of the name should scorn his heroic endeavour to interpret human history as the self-development, under the form of time, of the Absolute Idea. But the failure of the effort is evident when he is driven again and again, when confronted with events that defy rationalization, to rule them out of the picture, as unworthy of the notice of the philosopher. The spatio-temporal realm is not, and cannot be, an intelligible whole; for the reason that, when viewed in isolation, it is an abstraction from the total reality. To be fully understood, it would have to be known as the manifestation of what is transcendent and eternal, a knowledge beyond the grasp of finite minds. To explain how the act of creation gives birth to a manifold in time would mean to share in the timeless thought of God. We can but comprehend the fact of its incomprehensibility, and, renouncing the quest for a theodicy, content ourselves with tracing the footprints (vestigia) of the Creator in the world of experience, among the things of time. Dr. Inge is right, therefore, when he tells us that in speaking of the divine action as purposive, we should use the term “purpose” in the plural, not in the singular.17 For not only does the idea of an infinite “purpose” imply a contradiction, in that, if infinite, it would cease to be a “purpose”; but the infinite mind of God lies beyond our range of comprehension. Of his “purposes”, on the other hand, we may legitimately speak, when we are enabled to discern, by the insight granted to religious faith, the individual manifestations of his will towards men.


In the fight of these considerations we gather the answer of religion to our initial problem. Religion is enabled both to account for the divergence of the ethical ideals of duty and goodness, and to show their ultimate ground of unity. God is revealed to religious faith as the ground alike of goodness and of the moral law. The moral law is conceived, imperfectly and at the utmost bound of human thought striving to fathom God's self-revelation, as the expression of his eternal will for man. That is why it remains to the end formal; it is at once immanent in all judgements of duty, and transcendent, eluding all efforts to give it content in terms of human experience. It is the manifestation of God's timeless vision of his own goodness, guiding man towards the goal, where as a member of God's other-worldly Kingdom, with will conformed to God by aid of the discipline of duty, he shall walk needing no “bit or bridle”, by the light of the eternal Good.

Furthermore, religion offers an answer to two allied difficulties that we have encountered in the course of our inquiry. (1) To the question of “objective rightness”—what is it that we really ought to do?—religion answers that man's fallible and changing moral judgements mark his halting advance towards the realization of the law of righteousness which exists beyond time and change in the mind of God. Religious faith alone gives this assurance. Thus the solution offered steers a course between two equally untenable alternatives, which seeks to vindicate the objectivity of morality by isolating respectively motive from act and act from motive. As against the view with which Kant was unjustly charged by Hegel, that any act is right so long as it is done from a sense of duty, religion teaches that in striving to do God's will, men's eyes will be enlightened to the ever-varying duties in which the content of the moral law is unfolded, not infallibly, for no human apprehension, not even though it be of God's revelation, is infallible, but in sufficient measure to guide their steps towards their other-worldly goal. On the other hand, religion rejects the view that man can know, without possibility of error, a particular act or class of acts to be right or wrong independently of the agent's motive. For it teaches that there are degrees of knowledge, and that to know the moral law as God knows it is incompatible with a state of moral discipline. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of the life directed towards the good. The ethical ideal wins determinate content, as in Bradley's words, “God's will … and therefore the will of an organic unity, present though unseen, which is the one life of its many members, which is real in them, and in which they are real; and in which, through faith for them, and for God we do not know how, the bad self is unreal”.18 The he disabilities of inward impotence and outward circumstance that render human volition ineffectual vanish in presence of this faith. There is no question of “doing the best we can” in face of the requirement of perfection, or of the standards set by an actual society. Viewed as a child of nature, man's power is restrained on every side, by his inherited and acquired capacities, by his past failures, by his physical and social environment. Viewed as a child of God, man is a creature of infinite possibilities for whom the prescript of perfection allows of no restriction. Man, who lay helpless and hopeless before the austere injunctions of the law, is loosed from bondage, and, being reconciled ex parte Dei by the gift of grace, ex parte hominis by faith, enters upon the inheritance of the sons of God.

(2) Secondly, faith in divine providence guarantees value to action motivated by the sense of obligation. That such actions should be valueless, save in so far as they bring about moral goodness in the agent, is, we saw, a paradox which the moral consciousness shrinks from but cannot dispel. Religion alone can justify the faith that though the heavens fall, the act done from the pure motive of duty is bound in the event to prove fruitful for good. Religion makes no claim to trace in detail the working out of the divine intention in history. Its glimpses of a theodicy are, as we have seen, perforce dim and incomplete. On the one hand, it brushes aside the dreams of human perfectibility and material progress that feed the credulity of the Ideologists of secularism, boldly facing the stern facts of suffering and evil, and teaching that though many are called, few are chosen. On the other hand, it holds with unfaltering trust to the vision of the civitas Dei, believing that all things temporal work together for good in the order of God's eternal kingdom. The inability of the human understanding to reconcile the two positions does not tender the faith of religion unreasonable. The processes of history and of physical nature are riddled with contingency; their temporal issues are incalculable, or are at best objects of plausible conjecture; whereas in the experience of religion, God and his good providence are known.


There remains a more general problem, to which a brief reference must be made before I close. We have seen how the dualism of ethical principles finds a synthesis in religion. But there are other ideals besides the ethical. We are all familiar with the triad of “values”, as they are called—I am not suggesting that it is exhaustive—, beauty, truth and ethical goodness. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” wrote John Keats, and he added, “that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” We need, in fact, to know a great deal more. Certainly it is not in our human experience that these measures of value resolve heir difference, in identity. It may be true that a man stabbed his paramour yesterday in Brazil, but the knowledge of the event, for all its truth, is neither beautiful nor good. The history of ethical thought in England during the first half of the eighteenth century illustrates the danger of blurring the distinction between moral and æsthetic judgements on the one hand, moral and mathematical judgements on the other.19 Croce may be in error in demarcating too rigidly the several activities—theoretical and practical, æsthetic and logical, economic and ethical—of the human spirit: but the differences upon which he insists cannot be ignored. Our question, then, is whether knowledge, beauty, love and other values, as well as duty and goodness, though not reducible one to another, are specific variations of a single ultimate principle of value? Is there, in other words, a single absolute good?

The search for unity has its motive both in theoretical and in practical requirements. It is the nature of reason to seek unity everywhere in experience and not to rest until it has been discovered. That the unity is there for the seeking is the faith of metaphysics, its “substance of things hoped for”, its “evidence of things not seen”. Ideals fall within the real, and a bare togetherness among them would spell unreason at the very heart of reality. Doubtless pluralist thinkers—and such abound to-day—will reject this credendum and echo Dr. Moore's epigram that to “seek for unity and system at the expense of truth is not, I take it, the proper business of philosophy, however universally it may have been the practice of philosophers”. The epigram begs the question: only on a pluralistic assumption is there any possibility of such a sacrifice. In metaphysics an article of faith is not a dogma. It is what Kant called a “regulative Idea”, i.e., a lodestar for intellectual inquiry, awaiting confirmation by the facts. But there is also a practical motive for seeking a single principle of value. Human Lives fall into groups according as they are directed towards one or other dominant ideal. A man has to choose, within limits, the sort of life he means to live, and both this general choice, say, to be an artist or to go into business, and the particular choices that he makes from day to day involve selection between different values. No one can pursue all the forms of goodness equally or all at once. Green's dream of a common good that is non-competitive cannot be realized on earth.20 One man will prize beauty more than moral excellence, another morality above knowledge, while a third will subordinate the pursuit of all other goods to the furtherance of God's glory. It is the same with the reflective judgements of ethical thinkers. At the close of Principia Ethica, Dr. Moore sets out the objects to which he ascribes intrinsic goodness. The Provost of Oriel, in The Right and the Good, discusses the question of degrees of goodness, and concludes that while Virtue and knowledge are much better things than pleasure, moral goodness is infinitely better than knowledge.21 Neither of these writers is sympathetic to the search for unity among values. Yet how can a man decide which form of good is the highest, if he cannot judge all alike by a single principle?

Nor can metaphysics, taken apart from religious experience, justify the belief in an absolute good. It has been held that since all knowledge implies faith in thought, and since faith in thought implies faith in the rationality of the universe, an universe that is not, despite all seeming, ultimately and entirely good, would not be rational. Hence, it is inferred that the universe in reality, if not in appearance, must be absolutely good. I wish that I could accept this argument as once I did, but I simply cannot take the jumps. I cannot see that the trust in thought implicit in all thinking necessitates the belief that the existing universe is perfectly intelligible; still less that it affords a justification of its validity. The thought in question seems to me to be a merely regulative idea. Then there is the yet more perilous jump referred to in the preceding chapter, from the rationality of the universe to its goodness. I am afraid we must admit that no principle of unification of value can be discovered in metaphysics.

Religion, on the other hand, gives no uncertain answer. God, the object of religious experience, not only enjoys the full possession of knowledge, beauty and holiness, but himself is these in undivided unity. We must guard carefully against a misunderstanding of terms. To speak of God as a value, or as value in general, is a distortion of the truth.22 Value in general is, with all respect to the devotee of axiology, an abstraction at a double remove. It means what is common to all values; and these in turn, when conceived per se, are abstract essences. Moreover, a value, to be real, needs not only to be ingredient in an actual entity, but also to be posited by an experiencing subject.23 Value implies valuation, and valuation implies a valuer. Religion, we have been told, is the conservation of values; but is this anything more than a polite formula for bowing God out of consideration? How can religion conserve, or values be conserved, without God? God, as the ultimate valuer and author of all values, is above all values. But he is not for that above goodness. Goodness is a wider term than value. God's goodness is perfection, and perfection, unlike value, implies the union of essence and existence. In the richness of God's perfect being all values are actualized in unbroken synthesis: “beauty is truth, truth beauty,” in God and in God alone.24

To sum up: we found in the preceding lecture that the consciousness of obligation is explicable only on the assumption of a moral order in the universe, and that this assumption is most intelligible if we accept the witness of religion to the being and goodness of God. That is the direct form of the moral argument. To-day we have argued that it receives indirect confirmation, in that the theistic hypothesis offers a reasonable solution to problems inherent in ethical experience, and particularly to that of the dualism of the principles of duty and goodness. When taken in conjunction, these two lines of approach from morality to religion carry great weight. Theism does not admit of demonstrative proof; but when the moral evidence is fortified from other fields of experience, the probability becomes almost irresistible. The only alternative is to acquiesce in metaphysical agnosticism. I believe that, were it not for irrational irrational prejudice, the conviction Aut Deus aut nihil would win the acceptance of all reasonable men.


At various points in our argument, reference has been made to certain other problems, which reflection on ethical experience raises, but cannot solve. Three of these problems were mentioned in the opening paragraph of the preceding chapter. To all of them Christianity offers a solution, on grounds not of moral philosophy, but of religious faith. They have been discussed often and with great ability both by theologians and by philosophers, in works which are familiar to all serious students. The purpose of this Note is merely to indicate (a) the nature of the antinomies that thus arise in ethics, and (b) the general trend of the answers given to them by Christianity.


To say that a man is under obligation to do a certain act is meaningless, if he is not able either to do it or to forbear. What the moral law commands must be capable of fulfilment. Yet duty can never be fulfilled. For the command is to will perfectly; and, over and above the hindrances set in our way by an imperfect world, our will itself falls short of the perfection that is required of it. And there is a further difficulty: we never know, and never can know with full certitude in any particular situation, what we ought to do. We know, indeed, that for a man to act against his conscience, after he has taken all possible thought for its enlightenment, is always wrong. But this knowledge gives no clue to the matter of obligation. It tells us only what is common to every case of moral duty—namely, that we ought to do it; it does not tell us what it is that we ought to do. Thus there arises an apparently insoluble antinomy: the command is to will what is “really right” and to will it perfectly; but our wills are imperfect, and what is “really right” can neither be willed nor known.25

Let us consider two aspects of this problem. (1) We have already seen how apprehension of the moral law falls short through its bare formality. A being perfect in intelligence and will, as God is conceived to be, would presumably grasp in a single act of intuition both the form and the content of the law, the form as wholly embodied in the full content, the content as the complete expression of the form. The law would not be, as it ever is for finite minds, an abstract, but what is called (by an abuse of language) a “concrete”, universal. For an intuitive understanding there would no longer be any place for the distinction of form and content, of the universal law and its particular applications. Moreover, a being endowed with a perfect will would act by pure spontaneity of nature, fulfilling the law of his own freedom; he would be perfectly autonomous, and the act by which he posited the law would be one with that by which he willed its requirements. But this manifestly is not our condition. We are indeed self-legislative in moral volition, for the command speaks from within; as the voice of practical reason, it constitutes, in Kant's language, our moral personality. But the autonomy and the personality are alike defective. The failure to realize this defect is the stone of stumbling in Kant's doctrine of moral autonomy. He tells us, it is true, that we are members, not sovereign, in the kingdom of ends.26 In admitting this, as also in his discrimination between the good will and the holy, Kant recognizes the limitations that beset man's moral consciousness. But it follows that he is not, and cannot be, purely autonomous. Apart from the metaphysical difficulties that arise from Kant's over-rigid distinction between the noumenal and phenomenal realms—such, for instance, as that of the severance of two timeless acts of man's noumenal nature, the act that wills (i.e., establishes) the law and the act that wills conformity with it—the authority of the moral law is, on his interpretation, inexplicable.27 It is not sufficient answer to say that the authority is relative only to our lower nature. It is recognized by reason itself, which, as is implied by Kant's language—language designed rather to express religious than ethical experience—bows in adoration before the sublimity of the law. To warrant such recognition the law must be conceived as not merely immanent, but as transcendent. Thus its content inevitably lies beyond the scope of human knowledge and volition.

(2) The moral law eludes concrete application; how, indeed, should we discern the absolute in the relative, the objective in the subjectively conditioned, the universal in a welter of contingent and mutable particulars? Is there, then, nothing morally right or wrong but “thinking makes it so”? Such a view, which was maintained in regard to ‘good’ and ‘evil’ by Spinoza, is tantamount to the denial of objectivity. It means that since Moral judgements express no more than feelings of approval and disapproval, as to which no rational dispute is possible, there is no such thing as the “really right” at all. It is not surprising, then, that the theory of morals should present a contradiction which, as theory of morals, it is powerless to solve. Ethics is but one branch of philosophy, and its fragmentary nature inevitably shows itself in the failure to function as a self-contained and self-explanatory body of knowledge. Moreover, the contradiction has its roots, not only in the abstract theory of morals, but also in the living experience which is the subject-matter of that theory. The man who lives by morality alone, whose horizon is bounded by the prescripts of duty, finds himself helpless in face of its requirements. If he rests satisfied with his code, or with doing “the best he can” within its limits, oblivious of the claims of file standard of perfection, he is liable to a complacent formalism, and his morality is revealed as immorality. If, on the other hand, he realizes the implication of perfection, he is crushed by the burden of the contrast between the demand of the moral law and his inability to accomplish it. Thus the contradiction elicited by ethical reflection is the counterpart, in the sphere of theory, of a contradiction inherent in the moral life. I am not suggesting that this liability to error gives cause either for opportunism in conduct or for moral scepticism. We are in the same predicament—no better and no worse—as in the search for scientific or historical truth. No particular truth is wholly true, and every error contains a kernel of truth within its falsity.28 So, too, there is ever a soul of goodness in things evil. Again, just as in history or science we trust the trained intelligence of the expert and are normally not deceived, so in moral matters we trust the trained character. When in doubt as to our duty, we seek counsel from the best man we know. The intuitions that arise from survey of the data—intuitions, in the one case, of what is true, in the other, of what is right—are not infallible, yet neither are they bereft of objectivity. Our moral capacity is just the power to discern the closest approximation to the ideal standard. In proportion as this capacity has been trained, not by mere ethical thinking—here is the difference from education in theoretical knowledge—but by moral practice, man's judgements as to right and wrong are reliable. Enlightenment comes by habitual action, and though the possibility of self-deception is always present, it can be minimized by practice.29 There is even less ground for scepticism in morals than in the case of speculative truth. Despite the variations of moral beliefs and practice among different races at different levels of civilization, a wider consensus can probably be discerned in men's principles of conduct thin in their estimates of scientific truth. We have only to think of the gulf that separates the ideas of primitive races on the nature of motion or the processes of organic life, on the heavenly bodies or the causes and remedies of disease, from those of the modern physicist, biologist, or doctor. Once more, supposing that finality were attainable in moral judgements, are we sure that the effects would be for our moral welfare? It is well to remember Kant's pregnant observation, that, in moral knowledge as elsewhere, the author of our being has shown his wisdom not only in what he has granted, but also in what he has denied.30

The moral life is thus the unceasing endeavour to achieve the impossible, to will what is for ever unrealizable. No act of individual will is fully in harmony with itself; nor can we conceive an actual historical society, the wills of whose members are fully in harmony with one another. The kingdom of ends remains an unrealizable ideal, which as moral beings we are under obligation to realize in fact. How can we escape from this contradiction? Not by confining our view to the field of ethics, for the contradiction is intrinsic to morality. Morality draws its lifeblood from the conflict against immorality, and perishes, as morality, when the conflict terminates in final victory. “Ought” has meaning only so long as there is liability to disobedience.31 Here, as we have seen, is the basis for the moral argument to theism. Freed from obscurity, it may be stated thus: What is perfectly right must be known actually, and it can only be known actually by a perfect being, God. Moreover, if known by God, it cannot be known in vacuo; his knowledge must be of the right as actualized by a perfect will. The knowledge of God must be, as Kant, in the line of a great tradition, conceived it, a knowledge that is constitutive of the thing known, a knowledge that, unlike ours, is also creative will. The suggested solution carries us beyond the confines of ethics into the field of religion.

Religion resolves these difficulties, not with complete understanding, but by a faith which grows in insight through communion of the soul with God. The lines of the answer are already familiar from the discussion in the preceding chapter. Religious experience is, from the first, of a being who is no abstract formula but a living presence, an individual spirit, who at once abides beyond the actual process and reveals himself within it. The moral ideal thus wins determinate content as God's eternal will.32 The disabilities, ofinward impotence and outward circumstance, that render human volition ineffectual, vanish in presence of the faith in divine redemption and grace. “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.” There is here no thought of what the normal man can normally achieve, or of the requirements of the actual social community. The solution is simple and requires no effort of interpretation from the believer. To others, as to the educated Greek in the apostolic age, it seems mere foolishness.33 The ethical antinomy is abolished by ft single stroke. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”34 These words of St. Paul concerning his liberation from the impracticable requirements of the Mosaic law hold also of morality. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”; “by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”35


(2) The Problems and Evil and of Freedom.

(A) The assurance of justification by faith, by annulling the power of sin, draws the sting from the problem of moral evil. “Death is swallowed up in victory.” But it does not thereby make the problem clear to the intelligence; neither religious experience nor theology has ever claimed to thread this speculative labyrinth. The dogmas in which Christian theologians have endeavoured to formulate their conviction are designed rather to ward off error than as a positive solution. The doctrine of original sin, for instance, which still proves a rock of offence to many serious thinkers, was framed chiefly to guard against both the fallacy of humanist optimism, which holds man to be good by nature and bids him stand in his own strength, and the fallacy of the individualist who charges each member of the race with exclusive responsibility for his own virtue and his own vice. It marks the definite cleavage between Christianity and Stoicism. As the sin of each is integral with that of all, so the individual can only find salvation as a member of the body of Christ; and his choice of good is conditioned, preveniently and throughout his life, by grace imparted from above. Thus what philosophy teaches of the sociality of man's nature is corroborated and enriched by the revelation of religion. But our immediate concern is with a special aspect of the problem, the relativity of moral goodness to moral evil. We have seen that, if the conflict ceased, morality would disappear. Yet moral effort draws all its inspiration from the belief in the sovereignty of the good. In the attempt to grapple with this contradiction, metaphysics finds itself in a dilemma. Evil is either a reality or an illusion; if it be illusory, the moral conflict is a hollow pretence; if it be real, how can good maintain its primacy against evil? A thoroughgoing monism, like Spirinza's, is forced back upon the former of these alternatives. Since the whole is perfect, above the all-too-human distinction of good and evil, and since that only is real in man which he shares timelessly with the whole, it follows that his failures and vices are mere temporal appearances, and his efforts to overcome them a combat with unsubstantial shades.

The difficulty is fundamental. It raises the whole problem of the reality of time and also that of the status of the finite individual. To hold that evil is a positive reality is to assert an ultimate dualism. Philosophy and religion are monistic, or they are nothing. But—here is the crux—does not this mean that evil is illusory, a mere appearance of good? Nothing is really evil; it only looks to our imperfect vision as if it were. The semblance of evil is due nicely to our ignorance. This alternative proves equally untenable. For our ignorance is a real condition of our minds and is not good. To account for it by saying that it is ignorance of the truth which leads us to appear ignorant when we really are not, involves an infinite regress. We really are ignorant, and there is a positive evil already on our hands. To have an illusion is a genuine fact. If I see pink rats on the counterpane, this is a positive phenomenon for the doctor called in to attend me, though no rats are really there. Again, ignorance is not the same as error. If I do not know the date of the Ming dynasty, and do not claim to know it, there is ignorance but not error. There is a positive element in error that is absent from ignorance—viz., the claim to know when I do not know. Similarly, moral evil is positive rebellion, not mere ignorance. I set my will against the order of the universe; in religious language, against God. This setting of my will is not indeed a positive entity in nature; but as an act of will it is positive enough. Spinoza can account for none of these things. That his thought was inspired throughout by the desire to find a way of ethical salvation serves but to throw into relief the radical inconsistency in his system. Gentile's recent endeavour to maintain the positivity of evil in conjunction with a monistic metaphysic is exposed to the other horn of the dilemma; for he fails to justify the primacy of good.36 It is strange that so many, in this modern age, who insist on unlimited freedom for the individual to develop his powers to the full, should be straining every nerve to divest the individual of moral responsibility by throwing the onus of evil on the shoulders of society, or on past inheritance, or on any other asylum ignorantiae. You cannot have it both ways. Either the individual is a cog in the machine, worthless alike for evil or for good, or he is in sonic measure a free agent, responsible for both. If we make allowances, as we are bound to do, we must make them for the good as well as for the evil. Many of a man's best actions are little credit to himself. The good man knows this, and shrinks from passing moral judgements. “There go I, but for the grace of God.” It is noteworthy that the responsibility thus disowned was for the speaker's own goodness. Professor Collingwood comes nearer to a solution, for he succeeds—where Spinoza fails—in showing how, though evil per se is non-existent, the lower forms of goodness appear as positively bad in comparison with the higher, in a scale of forms that differ at once in degree and in kind.37 Yet his argument seems to halt at a decisive point, when he questions the necessity of positing a form of perfect goodness, over and above the graded forms of goodness in the scale. With what right, then, can we speak of a hierarchy of forms of goodness rather than of forms of evil? Either terminology equally expresses the facts. If, on the other hand, the Form of Good be a self-subsistent reality, are we not driven to the verge of the charm which religion alone can bridge by its identification of the Good with God? Religious faith affirms, on the one hand, that all being has its source in God, and that therefore all that is real is good; on the other, that there is a real distinction between the being of the Creator and the creature. To the creature has been granted an independence that is relative and limited, indeed, but is not for that unreal. Evil lies wholly in evil will; as such, it is positive and actual ex parte creaturae, negative and non-existent ex parte Creatoris. Thus the dilemma loses its relevance; for the arena of moral conflict, wherein evil is as positive as good, is not illusory. Man's militia in via is no less actual for being a temporal and transitory episode on his pilgrimage to eternal rest. It is significant that for a full appreciation of the facts of evil, we must look, not to the writings of philosophers, who for the most part have failed signally to grasp the gravity of the problem, but to those of religious teachers—i.e., of the men against whose beliefs the facts of evil are supposed to weigh most heavily.38 We might say, were the issue not so tragic that both an immanentist metaphysic and a secular humanism give answers pour rire. Nowhere is the difference between the purely moral outlook and the religious more clearly evidenced. Morality takes its start from optimism, confident in man's power of will and in the unlimited possibilities of his nature. It ends in pessimism, in Stoic resignation to the ineluctable order of nature. “The splendours of the firmament of time” prove, in the end, but a mirage. Religion, on the other hand, has its birth in pessimism, in the travail pangs of the spirit in bondage and its cry for liberation; libera nos a malo, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” But its final word is a strain of unclouded optimism, the faith that evil has been vanquished and annulled in the divine order which is sovereign over time and change.


(B) The problem of moral freedom, inseparable from that of moral evil, has already been referred to, and I shall treat it here only under one aspect.39 It is, I believe, an insoluble problem for metaphysics; and religious faith, though confident in its answer, makes no pretension to clear insight; it can at best, in Kant's phrase, comprehend the incomprehensibility. The difficulty for ethics is not that of determinism versus indeterminism. This antithesis arises only when the experienced continuity of the volitional process is arbitrarily broken up by theoretical analysis; character and motive, motive and volition, volition and deed being severed one from the other and regarded as static elements for ethical enquiry.40 When once analysis has done its work, the question arises, whether the act was or was not determined by the volition, the volition by the motive, the motive by the character, the character by its antecedents; we are faced with the alternative of unmotived choice or a rigid chain of causal determination, and, unless we take refuge in irrationality, the determinist triumphs all along the line. Our problem is more serious. Moral obligation and the consciousness of faith alike imply that a man has the power to choose between good and evil, to will either in the line of duty or against it. In the moment of willing he cannot question the possession of this capacity; doubt arises, if at all, on subsequent reflection, and is doomed to vanish on the next occasion that he sets himself to act. In Miss Dorothy Sayers’ trenchant words: “Christians (surprising as it may appear) are not the only persons who fail to act up to their creed; for what determinist philosopher, when his breakfast bacon is uneatable, will not blame the free will of the cook, like any Christian? To be sure, the philosopher's protest, like his bacon, is pre-determined also; that is the silly part of it. Our minds are the material we have to work upon when constructing philosophies, and it seems but an illogical creed, whose proof depends on our discarding all the available evidence.”41 Yet—here is the difficulty—side by side with this freedom of choice, man is aware of another type of freedom, displayed in the spontaneous and yet inevitable determination of his will by the thought of duty and of the good. Here there is no possible alternative; he could not, being the man he is, have done other-wise, have betrayed a trust or sacrificed his children to his own interest. It is, as we have seen, in action directed towards good rather than in action from sense of duty that this compelling force of the ideal is most manifest. This is the freedom on which the religious consciousness lays special emphasis; ascribing it to God himself, who can hardly be conceived as refusing the evil and choosing the good, and also to the redeemed in Paradise, who, possessed of the vision of the supreme goodness, necessarily and with spontaneous joy identify their wills with God's. “To be unable to sin (non posse peccare) is the greatest liberty,” said Augustine; and Descartes held likewise that the highest grade of freedom, even within human experience, lay in the will's necessary adhesion to clearly apprehended truth and good.42 For Aquinas, the lower freedom alone is possible to man in via; being debarred front the direct vision of the true good, he has perforce to display his freedom in choosing between its varied finite and imperfect manifestations. Spinoza and Kant are, in their several ways, specially instructive on this question. For the former, freedom of choice is sheer illusion; God alone, as causa sui, enjoys the perfect liberty of necessary self-determination, in which man can share in the measure of his realization of his timeless being as a mode of God. Kant held firmly to both forms of freedom. How freedom of choice is possible, either (as his doctrine requires) in the noumenal order or in the phenomenal world (which is vigorously determined by physical causality), was a problem that he failed to answer.

The religious solution is on the lines already noted. True freedom lies not in choice between good and evil, but in unimpeded determination by the good. Freedom of choice is incidental to a state of moral discipline, and enters into the divine scheme, as the condition of man's progressive realisation of his divinely appointed end. That the all-powerful Creator should endow man with this capacity of independence is for religion neither a contradiction nor a paradox. Even for metaphysics the conception is no more, if no less, difficult than the Spinozistic relegation of choice, and with it of error and evil, to illusion. Why God did not so fashion men as to possess the perfect liberty he himself enjoys is a question that religion declines, to put or answer. It is well aware that to probe God's infinite purpose is beyond the power even of faith; even to speak of such a purpose is anthropomorphism.43 What God has chosen to reveal suffices for man's need of salvation. Yet to create finite beings capable of winning a character that merits to share in the free life of the Creator seems not unworthy of his glory.44

  • 1.

    I have briefly discussed the three problems above mentioned in the Additional Note appended to ibis chapter.

  • 2.

    E.N. II. iii. 1., 1104b 3–8.

  • 3.

    Thus the goal of the moral and religious life is the complete restoration of man's nature, so that his inherent desire towards God functions spontaneously, without the fear or constraint that mark the stages of imperfect attainment. The problem on which Green, for example, suffered shipwreck, viz. how the good could be conceived at once as the self-satisfaction of the individual and as non-competitive (a universally common good) is thus answered by religion. Love of self is indeed ineradicable all along the line of advance, for God ex hypohesi loves us, and we should fail in likeness to God if we did not share that love. But since God loves us as part—we may here fitly use Spinoza's language—of the infinite love with which he loves himself, self-love is sublimated, in the continuous approach to the goal, into love of God. Therefore in loving God as God, without thought of self or of anything save God, the perfected human individual is ipso facto loving himself, and this for God's sake alone. This is the line of thought developed with unique religious insight by St. Bernard, and fully expounded by M. Gilson, op. cit., ch. IV. See below, ch. VII. Where St. Bernard differs radically from Spinoza is in his insistence on divine transcendence and on the abyss that parts the Creator from the creature.

  • 4.

    de Mon., III, 16. Dante's exposition is based upon Aquinas. In what follows, I have adopted Wicksteed's translation in the Temple Classics.

  • 5.

    See below, ch. VII, on virtus infusa.

  • 6.

    Virgil's parting words to Dante, Purg., xxvii, 127–142, esp. lo tuo piacere omai prende per duce. It should further be noted that the metaphor of “bit and rein” halts in this particular, that the visible Church is more than a merely external instrument of man's salvation, in that, as the temporal manifestation of the invisible Church, it participates in the otherworldly end and is informed thereby. See above, ch, III, on the limits of the category of end-and-means.

  • 7.

    Rule and End, pp. 113–114, in reference to my articles in the Journal of Philosophical Studies (now Philosophy) on Right and Good. As will be obvious from the text of this chapter, Prof. Muirhead is in error in supposing that I did not regard the imperative of duty as resting for its authority on the willed command of God. The earlier statement of my position was, I admit, far too summary and liable to give rise to misapprehension. I certainly regard the will of God as “completely conformed to the idea of Good”, provided always that the idea of Good be not conceived as a subsistent value independent of the divine mind.

  • 8.

    A Gnostic writer, quoted by Hippolytus, gives expression to this idea in language not entirely in accord with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity: “There was at first nothing whatever that is begotten; the Father was in solitude, unbegotten, not circumscribed either by space or time, with none to counsel him, with no kind of substance that can be apprehended by any ordinary mode of apprehension. He was in solitude, as they say quiescent, and reposing in himself alone. But inasmuch as he had the faculty of generation, it seemed good to him at last to bring to birth and to put forth what he had within himself that was fairest and most perfect; for he was no lover of solitude. For he was all love; but love is not love, unless there be an object of love” (tr. Sanday, Christologies, p. 13).

  • 9.

    Ethics, V. 36S.

  • 10.

    God and the Astronomers, p. 183, “value is universal and prior to particular existence”; 189, “the highest values are superindividual and absolute”; it is untrue to say that “all values for a person” (ibid.); p. 178, “the higher values, as known to us, are themselves essentially creative activities … they energize unceasingly on the lower planes of reality”. Dr. Inge holds that “the word absolute as a synonym for God is best avoided” (pp. 218–219) and that “personality, when attributed to God, is a symbol and very inadequate one … a word for which I have no great affection” (p. 255). And he groves Plotinus and I Eckhart in placing the One (Eckhart's “Godhead”). Yet he also (p. 211) commends Varisco's view what the permanence of value depends on the existence of a personal God, and, writing of Kant's moral argument, states (p. 224) that “it in fact assumes that morality or goodness is an absolute value, and argues quite rightly that unless this value is realized in a Supreme Being, our homage to it is based on a delusion”. That Dr. Inge is a theist is beyond question, but his statements about values stand, I venture to think, in need of clarification.

  • 11.

    Op. cit., p. 69.

  • 12.

    But see above, p. 28, n. 2

  • 13.

    Les Degrés de Savoir, p. 460: see the whole section pp. 457–467.

  • 14.

    Ibid., P. 463.

  • 15.

    Eth, 1 App.: ad fin: “Iis autem, qui, quærunt, cur Deus omnes homines non ita creavit, ut solo rationis ductu gubernarentur? nihil aliud respondeo, quam quia ei non defuit materia ad omnia, ex summo nimirum ad infimum perfectionis gradum, creanda; vel magis proprie loquendo, quia ipsius Naturæ leges adeo arnpla fuerunt, ut sufficerent ad omnia, quæ ab aliquo infinito intellectu concipi possunt, producenda.”

  • 16.

    God and The Astronomers, p. 97 n.

  • 17.

    Op. cit., p. 12.

  • 18.

    Ethical Studies, pp. 231–232.

  • 19.

    Shaftesbury exemplifies the former confusion, Clarke and (especially) Wollaston the latter.

  • 20.

    Prolegomena to Ethics, § 232: see Sidgwick's remarks in his lectures on Green's Ethics, Lecture V.

  • 21.

    The Right and the Good, ch. VI.

  • 22.

    Prof. Taylor slips into this manner of speaking (Faith of a Moralist, II, p. 147), as Prof. Hicks points out (op. cit., p. 255); but his while, argument is against an abstract view of God. Prof. Stocks, on the other hand, identifies God with “infinite wisdom and Love”, stating as the two fundamental assertions of the religious consciousness”, that “Mind orders all things” and that “The all-ruling mind is essentially all-embracing Love” (Riddell Lectures on Religious Belief, pp. 25, 31.) I think that such abstract expressions are precarious.

  • 23.

    This statement must not be taken to exclude the possibility of analogies to valuation on the infra-human plane. See Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 52, and Prof. Laird's “Principle of Natural Election”, expounded in The Idea of Value, ch. III.

  • 24.

    There is also the question of the ascription of “greatness” to God: see my Presidential Address to the Aristotelian Society (1931) on Greatness and Goodness, ad fin. God's simplicity is not to be understood to be exclusive of diversity, as is the simplicity of the neo-Platonic One. Christianity affirms the distinction of Persons as real within the divine unity. Revelation apart, a bare unity that in no way unifies seems a metaphysical monstrosity; and unification implies diversity within the unifying principle. The doctrine of God's simplicity does not preclude a real distinction of characters in His nature. See Bevan, Symbolism and Belief, p. 320.

  • 25.

    On the seriousness for ethics of the problems of the “really right” act and of the dependence of duty on recognition of it, see Mr. Carritt's Theory of Morals, especially pp. 90–94, 140, and his paper in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1930, entitled “Thinking makes it so”. He suggests that rightness and wrongness belong not to the bringing about of a certain change, but to the trying to bring about a certain change, though he sees the difficulties attendant on this view. See also Prof. Laird's, article Concerning Right in Mind, July 1929 (No. 151).

  • 26.

    I cannot interpret Kant as holding that this distinction falls entirely within man's nature, i.e., that he is sovereign qua rational and legislative, member qua sensible and subject: Membership cannot be constituted merely by subjection: he is a member qua rational, and the sovereignty envisaged is that of God.

  • 27.

    Some of these difficulties can fairly be met by Kant with the answer that he has shown fully in philosophy how the noumenal world lies beyond the scope of speculative reason. It is unknowable, and the illegitimate endeavour to know it necessarily leads to insoluble contradictions. We cannot, indeed, expect to understand how the timeless act of the noumenal self is manifested phenomenally in our temporal biography. But this reply does not hold for the difficulty mentioned in the text, which concerns not the relation of the two worlds or selves to one another, but a contradiction within the purely rational (noumenal) order. If man be sole author of the law, how can he fail, as a rational being, to know it through and through, and how can he timelessly will against it? Reason here seems to be in contradiction with itself.

  • 28.

    I cannot accept the doctrine held by Prof. Prichard and others that it is possible to know (as distinct from to believe, opine, or think) a particular act to be right. This doctrine involves (a) the view, discussed in the previous article, that an act is right or wrong in entire independence of the agent's motives, and (b) the view, which I regard as equally erroneous, that a particular act, e.g., payment of a certain debt, can be judged right or wrong in isolation from its context. I hold to degrees of ethical knowledge, as also to degrees of truth. Each particular volition is a phase or moment in a train of volitions, which expands to cover the whole of the agent's moral life. Similarly, as regards theoretical knowledge, I cannot believe that any single judgement, even in mathematics, can be, in its isolation, utterly and entirely true. The vera idea of Spinoza, which is “the norm of itself and of the false”, can only be the intuitive vision of the whole reality. All human knowledge, in science or in ethics, is of necessity incomplete.

  • 29.

    See Butler's great Sermons, (VII) The Character of Balaam and (X) Self-deceit.

  • 30.

    Kr.d.r.V., Dialictic, ad fin.

  • 31.

    On these antinomies, see Bradley, Ethical Studies, pp. 230–235, 333.

  • 32.

    Bradley, op. cit., p. 231. He adds but all this is beyond morality my mere moral consciousness knows nothing whatever about it Bradley is speaking expressly of religion, and of Christianity. The belief he has in mind is that of the “organic unity” of all mankind in Christ as God. Christ in his Person as Incarnate is “the inclusive total of true humanity”, bearing their sin, dying their death, and rising again in their resurrection. All mankind, as incorporated with him and as the temples of his indwelling spirit, are thus enabled to realize the full potentialities of their common membership, passing from themselves to Christ and through Christ into God. The phraseology here employed is largely borrowed from that of the late Dr. Moberley (Atonement and Personality, pp. 283–285), and Dr. Du Bose (The Gospel in the Gospels, pp. 286–287), quoted by Sanday, op cit., Lecture V. I have dwelt in this note on an illustration from a particular religion, because it shows how the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation offers a concrete and fully determinate answer to a question which is insoluble for ethics. As Bradley points out (loc. cit.), only in religion “is the universal incarnate, and fully actual by and as the fully of this or that man”, only for religion is “humanity an actually, existing organic community”: in other words, religion alone can really reconcile universality and particularity, ideal and actual, and redeem humanism from the stigma of sterility and abstraction.

  • 33.

    Of course, the Christian solution presents its own special difficulties, of which this is not the place to treat. Other religions, indeed, acknowledge divine grace; but Christianity alone, I am convinced, does this with sufficient fullness to meet the antinomy we are considering.

  • 34.

    Rom. viii. 2–4.

  • 35.

    Rom. viii, 1 v. 2.

  • 36.

    See my Towards a Religious Philosophy, ch. V, § V.

  • 37.

    Philosophical Method, ch. III.

  • 38.

    Plato and Kant are notable exceptions, but both allow a transcendent order over against the phenomenal. This dualism can only be overcome by religious faith.

  • 39.

    See above, ch. III, pp. 90–92.

  • 40.

    For an exposure of the error involved in the initial analysis the reader is referred to M. Bergson, Les Données Immédiates de la Conscience (E.T., Time and Free Will).

  • 41.

    In the Sunday Times, Apr. 17, 1938. On “The Triumph of Easter”.

  • 42.

    Descartes (Med. IV) also holds that freedom of choice, understood as the power to consent or not to consent, belongs to God; indeed, it is identical in man and in God. So also St. Bernard, who calls it libertas a neceisitate, a coactione, and finds in it the “image” of God in human nature, which remains unaffected by sin, distinguishable from both liberum consilium (libertas a peccato), and liberum complacitum (libertas a mistria), which constitute man's “similitude” to God, and which are lost through sin, See the very interesting discussion by M. Gilson in La Théologie Mystique de Saint Bernard, pp. 64–77; M. Gilson points out the common source for St. Bernard and Descartes in Gregory of Nyssa (p. 65 n.). But he does not explain what must, for this view, be inexplicable, how freedom of choice can be ascribed intelligibly to God.

  • 43.

    See above, pp. 204–205s. The effort to tender intelligible the Christian faith in the Incarnation leads to the thought that self-sacrificing self-limitation of the divine consciousness is a supreme manifestation of the divine power. If God is love, and if love is all-powerful (and even human experience goes far to show that nothing has greater power than love), then we are able to conceive the divine love as self-limiting, and in its essence self-diffusing (going forth creatively), without any derogation to God's omnipotence.

  • 44.

    See Mackintosh, op. cit., p. 79, on Schleiermacher's view that in the truly religious life freedom has become a second nature. But Schleiermacher seems to have contrasted this higher freedom, not with moral choice, but with unmotived freedom, which, as Bradley has shown in Ethical Studies (Essay I), is not freedom at all. It is important to recognize that freedom of choice is at once a perfection and a defect. Because of the imperfection involved, von Hugel held that it cannot furnish an explanation of moral evil. I am unable to see the force of his objection. Of course, no explanation of the problem of evil is or can be completely satisfactory. But it is surely reasonable to hold that the limitation is intrinsic to created beings endowed with reason. To create such beings without freedom of choice would be impossibile per se. Christ, as perfect man, certainly possessed this form of freedom. In the agony in the garden, he distinguished between his own will and his Father's, while wholly resigning his own will into his Father's hands. “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Here, as in the temptation, it was a case, not of non posse peccare but of posse non peccare. In other words, Christ's freedom was moral freedom.