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The matter of this book, with the exception of the ninth chapter and the Appendices, was given as lectures under the Gifford trust at the University of St. Andrews during the spring of the present year (1938). If certain passages reflect the style and phraseology of the lecturer, this is not, I hope, in such a way as to disconcert the reader.

When, in a recent work, I urged the needs, both speculative and practical, for a religious philosophy and discussed the conditions of its possibility, I realized that the task required the collaboration of many minds, each approaching the problem from the angle of his own field of study. I have here endeavoured to contribute towards this requirement, by showing how religion is able to satisfy the claims of morality, answering questions which morality asks but cannot solve. If religion can do this, its success would be an impressive confirmation of its truth. The purpose of the opening chapter is to provide the basis for the ensuing argument, by making clear the real distinction between morality and religion as forms of rational activity. The next three chapters (II—IV) treat of a specific problem, that of the dualism of ethical ideals and types of life, according as conduct is regulated by consciousness of obligation or by desire for a rational good. I chose this rather than any other of the αποριαι that arise for reflection on moral experience, partly because of its intrinsic importance, but chiefly because the difficulty has been ignored, or at least imperfectly handled, by writers on moral philosophy. There has been of late much fruitful enquiry, especially among Oxford thinkers, as to the relations between the principles of right or duty and of goodness; but the protagonists in the controversy seem to be at fault in that they either, like Kant, champion duty to the disparagement of goodness, excluding action sub ratione boni from the domain of ethics, or, in pursuance of the historic tradition, persist in justifying obligation (even when they allow it to be ultimate and indefinable) in the light of the idea of good. In insisting on the autonomy of both principles, I have followed out a line of thought put forward, some years since, in a series of articles in Philosophy,1 which, despite generous encouragement (particularly from professor Alexander and Professor Muir– head), I have hitherto refrained from reissuing in book form. I felt that, being written in the manner of feuilleton, they lacked logical structure and that the conclusion to which they pointed called for fuller elaboration. In the present chapters the earlier material, while it has been freely drawn upon, has been amplified and rearranged so as to constitute, I hope, a more adequate exposition of my argument. In chapters V to VIII I pass to the approach from morality to religion; showing how ethical experience points directly to that of religion for its fulfilment (V, the moral argument to theism), how religion provides a solution for the problem referred to above of the dualism of ethical principles (VI), and how, by enriching human nature with a new motive, it at once sanctions and transforms morality, by raising conduct to a higher plane (VII). In the eighth chapter I illustrate the influence of religion, and especially of Christianity, on secular morality, by the persistence of ideas of religious origin in a moral code that has declared its independence, and by the critical reaction of secular morality against the religious way of life. Thus far each chapter corresponds to one of the eight lectures in the Gifford course. In the concluding chapter (IX), I turn from matters of speculative thought to the actual conditions of our time, to show the bearings of the foregoing argument on the crisis that confronts the world to-day. Two essays dealing respectively with the ethical doctrines of Bergson and Croce, to which frequent allusion has been made in the lectures, are included as Appendices. The notes are intended not merely for purpose of reference, but also to supplement, where necessary, the enforced brevity of the argument in the text.

I wish to record my appreciation of the honour done me by the Senatus Academicus of St. Andrews in appointing me to the Gifford lectureship; and my gratitude to many members of that University for the kindness shown towards my wife and myself during our visit. I learnt much in informal discussion with Professors Knox and Wright and Mr. Reginald Jackson, and, among the theologians, with Professor D. M. Baillie. I am greatly indebted to Mr. H. W. B. Joseph, of New College, Oxford, who read and criticized drafts of certain sections of the book, for his detailed and searching comments. Prof. H. A. Hodges, my successor at Reading, helped me at several points in the final revision. But, above all, my thanks are due to my wife, for the aid of her critical judgement at every stage in the writing of the lectures and in their preparation for the press.

I desire also to express my acknowledgements to the Editors of the Hibbert Journal, Laudate, and Philosophy for permission to make use of materials published in those periodicals.


September 1938.


I have referred in this Preface to the generous encouragement I have received from Professor Alexander, whose death occurred after these pages had passed through the press. Constant reference has been made throughout the book to his writings; in many cases by way of criticism, which I hoped might have offered opportunity for the kindly, wise and humorous discussions to which I have owed so much in the past fifteen years. I have left the passages unaltered, as he would himself have wished. But I cannot refrain from expressing here my deep gratitude for all that I have learnt from him, and, especially, for the privilege of the friendship of so great and so lovable a man.

W. G. DE B.

September 23, 1938.
  • 1.

    Then the Journal of Philosophical Studies.