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Reflection & Mystery

Chapter I: Introduction

First of all, and very sincerely and heartily, I would like to thank the University of Aberdeen for my appointment. As Gifford Lecturer here, I am following in the footsteps of many other thinkers, representing various national cultures, all men of honourable note in the history of philosophy; and as I prepare to make my own contribution, I cannot help being overcome by a feeling almost of awe. Also, of course, I have to get over a certain initial diffidence; is it not a little futile, really, and more than a little rash, to set out to expound one more philosophical doctrine, when there are so many philosophical doctrines already? I fancy that every speculative thinker, however solid he may believe the grounds of his thinking to be, does harbour, somewhere deep down in him, a sceptic—a sceptic to whom the history of philosophy looks rather like the solemn setting up of rows of ninepins, so that they may be neatly knocked down! That way of looking at things is tempting, no more; it is tempting, and for philosophy it is in a sense the temptation—just as for man in general suicide is that. It is a kind of suicide, too.

The fact is, moreover, that something systematic; something which would be, strictly speaking, my system; some organic whole of which I could, in successive lectures, anatomize the structural details, pointing out its superiorities, to name only two of my most distinguished forerunners, to the systems of Bergson and Whitehead—all that is just what I do not intend to lay before you. When I called these lectures a search for, or an investigation into, the essence of spiritual reality, I was not choosing words at random. From my point of view such a term as search or investigation—some term implying the notion of a quest—is the most adequate description that can be applied to the essential direction of philosophy. Philosophy will always, to my way of thinking, be an aid to discovery rather than a matter of strict demonstration. And, if pressed, I would expand that; I think the philosopher who first discovers certain truths and then sets out to expound them in their dialectical or systematic interconnections always runs the risk of profoundly altering the nature of the truths he has discovered.

Furthermore, I will not disguise from you the fact that when I had been nominated by the University of Aberdeen to deliver the Gifford Lectures in 1949 and 1950, my first reaction was a feeling of intense inner disturbance. The honour that was being done to me faced me with a serious personal problem. Was I not, in fact, being asked to do something which it had been my constant determination not to do: namely, to present in a systematic form material which, I repeat, has always remained for me at the stage of a quest?

All the same, I could not help considering this nomination as a call upon me. And it has always been my conviction that, however unexpected such calls might be, I ought to respond to them with such strength and skill as I possess—always supposing that they are made by somebody who recognizes the validity of the kind of demand that has always seemed valid to me. The principle does not apply, obviously enough, to the appeals that may be made to one by journalists or fashionable hostesses, once one's name has begun to make a certain noise in the world. I am thinking, for instance, of somebody who asked me, a few months ago, to squeeze the core of my philosophy into a couple of sentences. That sort of thing is just silly, and must be answered with a shrug of the shoulders. But on the present occasion, I had the feeling from the first that I could not reject such an offer without becoming guilty of what would be, from my own point of view, an indefensible betrayal.

At the same time, it was clear to me that in answering this call I must continue to respect the specific character of what has always been my own line of development. And, of course, those who made this offer to me would have that line of development in view. Nobody who had any direct knowledge of my writings would dream of expecting from me an exposition in the deductive manner, the logical linking together of a body of essential propositions. My task, therefore, was to try to satisfy whatever expectations I might have aroused, without, however, straining myself to stretch my thought on the procrustean bed of some kind of systematic dogmatism: without, indeed, taking any account at all of whatever modes may prevail at the moment in certain schools of philosophy, without trying to square myself with the Hegelian or the Thomist tradition, for instance. If I was able to accept this offer, and if in the end I felt that I ought to accept it the reason was that what was being asked of me was, at bottom, merely this: that I should be, that I should remain myself. Now to be oneself, to remain oneself is a trickier matter than most people think. There are always gaps in our personal experience and our personal thought, and there exists a permanent temptation to stop these up with ready-made developments borrowed from some body of pre-existing doctrine. It would be very presumptuous of me to assume that, at certain points, this particular weakness will not come to light in the course of these lectures.

Given all this, my task, as I repeat, could not be that of expounding some system which might be described as Marcelism—the word rings in my ears with a mocking parodic note!—but rather to recapitulate the body of my work under a fresh light, to seize on its joints, its hinges, its articulations, above all to indicate its general direction. And here I would ask your permission to use a metaphor; I shall need such permission more than once, for I share the belief of Henri Bergson in the philosophical value of some kinds of metaphor, those which may be described as structural. The image that imposes itself on me is that of a road. It is just, so it seems to me, as if I had so far been following what tracks there were across a country that appeared to me to be largely unexplored, and as if you had asked me to construct a main road in the place of these interrupted paths, or perhaps rather—but it comes to the same thing—to draw up a sort of itinerary.

The metaphor is open to objections of two sorts.

It might be said in the first place that a road implies space; and that the notion of space is something from which a metaphysical investigation, as such, must abstract. One must make the simple answer that if my metaphor must be rejected on this count, so must every kind of discursive thinking; for it is all too evident that the notion of discursiveness implies, and rests on, a simple physical image like that of walking along a road. Moreover we shall later on have occasion to recognize the existence and philosophical rights of a sort of spatiality which might be called the spatiality of inner experience; and it may be that this spatiality of inner experience is coextensive with the whole spiritual life.

But the objection may be put in another way, which has a dangerous look of being much more genuinely awkward. To lay down a road in a place where at first there were only tracks, is that not equivalent to fixing in advance a certain destination at which one intends to arrive, and must not that destination, itself, be very exactly located? The underlying image would be that of a grotto, a mine, or a sanctuary whose whereabouts one knew in advance. It would be a matter of showing the way there to those who for one reason or another wanted to have a look at the place, no doubt in order to profit from its riches. But does not this presuppose that the result we are working for has already been achieved, even before we start working for it: does it not presuppose a preliminary or original discovery of the grotto or the sanctuary? Well, looking at the matter in my own way, I must ask whether, in the realm of philosophy, we can really talk about results? Is not all such talk based on a misunderstanding of the specific character of a philosophical investigation, as such? The question raised here at least obliges us to come to much closer grips with the very notion of a result.

Let us take the case of a chemist who has invented and set going some process for obtaining or extracting a substance which, before his time, could only be got hold of in a much more costly and complicated fashion. It is obvious, in this case, that the result of the invention will have a sort of separate existence, or, at all events, that we shall be quite within our rights in treating it as if it had. If I need the substance—let us say it is some pharmaceutical product—I will go to the shop, and I will not need to know that it is thanks to the invention of the chemist in question that I am able to procure it easily. In my purely practical role as customer and consumer, I may have no occasion even to learn that there has been such an invention unless for some out-of-the-way reason; let us say, because a factory has been destroyed and the invention has temporarily ceased to be put into operation. The pharmacist may then tell me that the product is out of stock, or is not to be had at its usual price and quality, but let us get it quite clear that in the ordinary run of affairs the existence of this chemical process will be known only to specialists or to those who are moving in the direction of specialization. Here we have a very simple example indeed of what sort of life a result may lead, cut apart from the methods by which it was achieved. And one could go on to mention many other examples; it is not necessary that a result should always embody itself, as in the instance I have given, as a material commodity. Think of some astronomical forecast, say of a coming eclipse. We welcome that, we make it our own, without bothering ourselves much about the extremely complicated calculations on which it is founded, and knowing quite well that our own mathematical equipment is not sufficient to allow us to do these sums over again in our own heads.

One might note here, in passing, that in our modern world, because of its extreme technical complication, we are, in fact, condemned to take for granted a great many results achieved through long research and laborious calculations, research and calculations of which the details are bound to escape us.

One might postulate it as a principle, on the other hand, that in an investigation of the type on which we are now engaged, a philosophical investigation, there can be no place at all for results of this sort. Let us expand that: between a philosophical investigation and its final outcome, there exists a link which cannot be broken without the summing up itself immediately losing all reality. And of course we must also ask ourselves here just what we mean, in this context, by reality.

We can come to the same conclusions starting from the other end. We can attempt to elucidate the notion of philosophical investigation directly. Where a technician, like the chemist, starts off with some very general notion, a notion given in advance of what he is looking for, what is peculiar to a philosophical investigation is that the man who undertakes it cannot possess anything equivalent to that notion given in advance of what he is looking for. It would not, perhaps, be imprecise to say that he starts off at random; I am taking care not to forget that this has been sometimes the case with scientists themselves, but a scientific result achieved, so to say, by a happy accident acquires a kind of purpose when it is viewed retrospectively; it looks as if it had tended towards some strictly specific aim. As we go on we shall gradually see more and more clearly that this can never be the case with philosophic investigation.

On the other hand, when we think of it, we realize that our mental image of the technician—of the scientist, too, for at this level the distinction between the two of them reaches vanishing point—is that of a man perpetually carrying out operations, in his own mind or with physical objects, which anybody could carry out in his place. The sequence of these operations, for that reason, can be schematized in universal terms. I am abstracting here from the mental gropings which are inseparable, in the individual scientist's history, from all periods of discovery. These gropings are like the useless roundabout routes taken by a raw tourist in a country with which he has not yet made himself familiar. Both are destined to be dropped and forgotten, for good and all, once the traveller knows the lie of the land.

The greatness and the limitation of scientific discovery consist precisely in the fact that it is bound by its nature to be lost in anonymity. Once a result has been achieved, it is bound to appear, if not a matter of chance, at least a matter of contingence, that it should have been this man and not that man who discovered such and such a process. This retrospective view of the matter is probably in some degree an illusion, but the illusion is itself inseparable from the general pattern of scientific research. From the point of view of technical progress, there is no point in considering the concrete conditions in which some discovery was actually able to be made, the personal, the perhaps tragic background from which the discovery, as such, detaches itself; from the strictly technical point of view all that background is, obviously and inevitably, something to be abstracted from.

But this is not and cannot be true in the same way for the kind of investigation that will be presented in the course of these lectures; and it is essential to see exactly why not. How can we start out on a search without having somehow anticipated what we are searching for? Here, again, it is necessary to make certain distinctions. The notion given in advance, the scientist's or technician's notion, which in a philosophical investigation we must exclude, has to do, in fact, with a certain way of acting: the problem is how to set about it so that some mode of action which is at the moment impracticable, or at least can only be carried out in unsatisfactory and precarious conditions, should become practicable according to certain pre-established standards of practicability (standards of simplicity, of economy, and so on). Let us add, in addition, as a development of what has previously been said, that this mode of action should be of a sort that can be carried out by anybody, at least by anybody within a certain determinable set of conditions, anybody, for instance, equipped with certain indispensable tools.

It is probably not sufficient for my purpose merely to say that, where a metaphysical investigation is being undertaken, a result of this sort, the arrival at a practicable mode of action within certain determinable conditions, cannot be calculated on in advance, and that in fact the very idea of a metaphysical investigation necessarily excludes the possibility of this kind of practical result. For I might also add that the inaptitude of the run of men for metaphysics, particularly in our own period, is certainly bound up with the fact that they find it impossible to conceive of a purpose which lies outside the order of the practical, which cannot be translated into the language of action.

To get a clearer insight into the matter we must make a real effort to get a more exact definition of the point of departure of this other type of investigation—our own type. I have written somewhere that metaphysical unease is like the bodily state of a man in a fever who will not lie still but keeps shifting around in his bed looking for the right position. But how does this really apply? What does the word ‘position’ signify here? We should not let ourselves be too much hampered by the spatial character of the metaphor; or, if we are, it can be helped out by another—that of discords in music, with which the ear cannot rest satisfied, but which must be resolved by being transcended in a wider harmony. Let us see if this notion of resolution can be of some use to us here.

Interpreting it in the most general way, we can say that this idea of resolution, of the resolving of discords or contradictions, is that of the passage from a situation in which we are ill at ease to one in which we feel ourselves almost melting away with relief. The general notion of a situation is one which is destined to play a great part in my lectures, and I have my reasons for first bringing it to your notice at this point. It will be only much later on that we shall grasp its full significance. For the moment, let us be content to say that a situation is something in which I find myself involved; but that however we interpret the notion of the involved self, the situation is not something which presses on the self merely from the outside, but something which colours its interior states; or rather we shall have to ask ourselves whether, at this level of discourse, the usual antithesis between inner and outer is not beginning to lose a good deal of its point. The only point that I want, however, to emphasize at this moment is that a philosophical investigation, of the sort in which we are now engaged, can be considered as a gathering together of the processes by which I can pass from a situation which is experienced as basically discordant, a situation in which I can go so far as to say that I am at war with myself, to a different situation in which some kind of expectation is satisfied.

This is still all pretty vague, but already, I am afraid, it begins to raise awkward questions, all centering round this indeterminate notion of the involved self, of my involved self, which I have been forced to take as my reference-point. The really important question that is raised may be framed in the following terms: is there not a risk of the investigation that is being undertaken here reducing itself to an account of the succession of stages by which I, I as this particular person, Gabriel Marcel, attempt, starting off from some state of being which implies a certain suffering, to reach another state of being which not only does not imply suffering but may be accompanied by a certain joy? But what guarantee can I have that this personal progress of mine has anything more than a subjective value? Nevertheless, in the end is it not the case that something more than subjective value is needed to confer on any chain of thoughts what I may describe as a proper philosophic dignity? In other words, are there any means at all of assuring ourselves whether this indeterminate involved self, which I have been forced to take as my reference-point, is or is not, for instance, immortal?

In this connection, some remarks which I have previously made might be of a kind to arouse a certain uneasiness. Have I not seemed to reserve the privilege of universality in thinking to scientists or technicians whose method is that of a series of operations which can be carried out by anybody else in the world who is placed in the same setting and can make use of similar tools?

The answer to this very important question will only clarify itself very gradually, as our thoughts about it work back upon themselves. I think it necessary, nevertheless, to indicate even at this moment—partly to allay a very understandable nervousness—in what direction the answer ought to be sought for.

Let us say, to put it very roughly, that the dilemma in which this question leaves us—that of choice between the actual individual man, delivered over to his own states of being and incapable of transcending them, and a kind of generalized thinking as such, what the Germans call Denken überhaupt, which would be operative in a sort of Absolute and so claim universal validity for its operations—let us say that this dilemma is a false one, and must be rejected. Between these two antithetic terms, we must intercalate an intermediary type of thinking, which is precisely the type of thinking that the lecture following this will illustrate. The point should at once be made here that, even outside the limits of philosophy properly so called, there are incontestable examples of this type of thinking. We have only to think, for instance, of what we describe, rather vaguely indeed, as the understanding of works of art; it would be better no doubt, in this connection, to talk of their appreciation—so long as we eliminate from that word its root reference to a pretium, a market price. It would be an illusion and even an absurdity to suppose the Missa Solemnis or some great work of pictorial art is meant tor just anybody who comes along; on the contrary, we must in honest sincerity accept the fact that there are plenty of people whose attention is not arrested, and who have nothing communicated to them, by such works. It is none the less certain that when a genuine emotion is felt at the impact of a work of art it infinitely transcends the limits of what we call the individual consciousness. Let us try to clarify this in more detail. When I look at or listen to a masterpiece, I have an experience which can be strictly called a revelation. That experience will just not allow itself to be analysed away as a mere state of simple strongly felt satisfaction. One of the secondary purposes, indeed, of these lectures will be to look into the question of how we ought to understand such revelations. On the other hand, it is just as incontestably a fact that, for reasons that remain impenetrable to us—if it is right to talk at all about reasons in this connection—such revelations appear not to be granted to other people, people with whom, nevertheless, I have no difficulty at all in communicating on other topics. There would be no point in bringing into play my stores of learning, let me even say my gifts as a teacher; I would never succeed in exciting, in the other person, the thrill of admiration that the great work of art had excited in me. It is just as if the other person were, in the root sense of the word, refractory—one who repels the particles of light—or as if a kind of grace that is operative for me were not operative for him.

The existence of such absolute disparity has something quite indecent about it in a world where the counting of heads has become not only a legal fact but a moral standard. We have got into the habit of thinking statistically, and to do so, at this level, is at bottom to admit that anything which cannot accumulate enough votes in its favour ought not to be taken into consideration, does not count. Obviously, in those parts of the world which have not yet come under the totalitarian yoke, this peculiar logic has not had all its implications worked out. The statistical method is, as it were, dumped down well outside the gates of the palace of art, but for how long? It is permissible, at least, to ask whether in this realm, as in many others, the totalitarian countries, with their brutal way of freezing out the nonconforming artist, have not merely confined themselves to drawing the proper conclusions from premises that are, in fact, accepted by everybody for whom statistics provide a sufficient criterion for the administration of human affairs.

Yet if the conclusions are logical, it may be that the role of the free critical thinker in our time is to swim against the current and attack the premises themselves. That is not our task, here and now: but we must state, simply and flatly, that there do exist ranges of human experience where a too literal, an over-simplified way of conceiving the criterion of universality just cannot be accepted. And, of course, there are still a good many countries in which the idea of taking a referendum on artistic or religious questions would be greeted with hoots of laughter. Let us understand each other: for those who want to study taste and opinion, over a set period, in a given country, the existence of such things as Gallup polls is obviously useful; but there are still a good many people who would refuse to postulate it as a principle that current tastes and opinions, for those countries, ought to have the force of law. The step from ‘Such is the case, quite generally’ to ‘Such ought to be the case, universally’ is an obvious non sequitur, and that is what matters to us. We ought, in addition, to go on to a very careful analysis of what kind of question is really susceptible of being the subject of a referendum. We would then be led to ask if, apart from questions that can be answered by a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, there are not other infinitely more vital questions which are literally incapable of embodying themselves in the general consciousness. Of these questions, the most important are those which present themselves to the philosopher as the first that have to be answered—though first here must not, of course, be understood in a strictly chronological sense. The philosopher, of necessity, has begun by asking himself the ordinary questions; and it is only at the cost of an effort of reflective thought, which really constitutes a very painful discipline, that he has raised himself up from the level of the first type of question, the type that everybody asks, to the level of the second, the type proper to philosophy. But I am still drawing the picture with very crude strokes and in very rough outline. A particular example may make it easier to understand what I am getting at.

The question, ‘Do you believe in God?’ is one of those which, according to the common belief, can be answered by a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. But a deeper analysis would enable us to lay bare the invariably illusory character of these answers. There is a mass of people who imagine that they believe in God, when in fact they are bowing down to an idol to whom any decent theology whatever would undoubtedly refuse the name of God; and on the other hand there are many others who believe themselves to be atheists because they conceive of God only as an idol to be rejected, and who yet reveal in their acts, which far transcend their professed opinions, a totally inarticulate religious belief. It follows from all this that the answer to a referendum on the question, ‘Do you believe in God?’ ought to be in the great majority of cases, ‘I don't know whether I believe in God or not—and I am not even quite sure that I know what “believing in God” is’. Note, carefully, the contrast between these formulae and those of the agnosticism of the last century: ‘I don't know whether there is a God or not’.

Proceeding along these lines we should be brought, undoubtedly, to a definition of the philosopher as the man who asks the true questions. But obviously this formula itself raises a difficulty. The true questions, I have said: true from whose point of view? Or rather, can we give a meaning to the adjective ‘true’, as it is used here, without bringing in the problem of the point of view of the person to whom the ‘true question’ is addressed? There is no difficulty, at least in principle, in knowing what the words ‘true answer’ might mean: ‘true questions’ are another matter. Perhaps we might bring in Plato's wonderful comparison of the philosophic questioner to the skilful carver. There is a right and a wrong way of carving. But we must take care; the real carver, to whom the philosophic questioner is compared, is exercising his skill on a given structure, let us say the bones of a fowl. Our own skill, in these lectures, has to be exercised on something much less palpable and solid; perhaps not on a structure at all exactly, except possibly in the sense, itself metaphorical, in which we refer to the structure of a play or a poem. From this point of view, the comparison loses much of its aptness. Could we say that the philosopher is a kind of locksmith to whom we turn when we want to open some particular door? Even this is much too simple. In this case door, keyhole, lock, are not given. The task of philosophy, to my mind, consists precisely in this sort of reciprocal clarification of two unknowns, and it may well be that, in order to pose the true questions, it is actually necessary to have an intuition, in advance, about what the true answers might be. It might be said that the true questions are those which point, not to anything resembling the solution of an enigma, but rather to a line of direction along which we must move. As we move along the line, we get more and more chances of being visited by a sort of spiritual illumination; for we shall have to acknowledge that Truth can be considered only in this way, as a spirit, as a light.

It goes without saying that we are here touching on a problem that is going to take up much of our time during this first series of lectures. It is impossible to say anything about the essence of the spiritual life unless one has first succeeded in making it clear what is to be understood by the term ‘truth’, or at the very least in ascertaining whether the term is one of those which can be univocally defined: that is, defined as having one, and only one, proper meaning, indifferently applicable at all levels of discourse.

So far, it does not seem that all these preliminary points we have been making yet allow us to discern very clearly on whose behalf our investigations are being pursued. I have spoken of an audience that would act as an intermediary between the enclosed subjective self, at one pole of an antithesis, and the generalized thinking of science, with its claims to quite universal validity, at another. I illustrated this middle position from the fine arts, and the way in which they are really understood by some and not understood at all by others; but that illustration does not yet let me see very clearly what set of people this audience might be; and the references to religious belief with which I followed up that illustration may seem to plunge us into even deeper obscurity. What! must I make my appeal, at this point, to an audience of connoisseurs? I am using the word in the same sense in which it is used in artistic circles. Let us stop for a moment, and think about it. The notion of being a connoisseur seems inseparable from that of having a kind of tact or, more exactly, a sensory refinement— a very clear example, for instance, is the really discriminating diner: I am thinking of the kind of expert who can distinguish not only between two very similar wines from neighbouring vineyards, but between two successive years’ bottlings from the same vineyard, by means of subleties that escape the untrained palate. It should be all too clear that the point of view of a connoisseur of this sort is not that at which we should place ourselves if we wish to understand, that is, to take upon ourselves or more accurately to develop within ourselves, the philosophical investigations that will be the subject of these lectures. I would be inclined to say that the audience I am looking for must be distinguished less by a certain kind of aptitude (like, for instance, the discriminating diner's aptitude) than by the level at which they make their demands on life and set their standards.

We shall have to ask ourselves many questions about the nature of reflective thought and about its metaphysical scope. But from the very start we should note how necessary it will be to be suspicious, I will not say of words themselves, but of the images that words call up in us. I cannot enter here into the terribly difficult problem of the nature of language; but, from the very beginning of our investigations, we should bear in mind how often it seems to get tied up in knots—or I would rather say in clots, like clots in the bloodstream, which impede the free motion of thought: for that motion, if it is allowed its natural flow, is also a circulation. We get these clots because words become charged with passion and so acquire a taboo-value. The thinking which dares to infringe such taboos is considered, if not exactly as sacrilegious, at least as a kind of cheating, or even as something worse. Obviously, it is particularly today in the political realm that this sort of thing is noticeable. The term ‘democracy’, for instance, is one which does block our thinking in a lamentable way. A concrete example of this tendency is the fact that anybody who wants to examine the notion of democracy from a detached point of view is liable to be called a fascist—as if fascism itself were not just democracy which had taken the wrong turning. But the man who stopped short in his thinking for fear of having such labels as ‘fascist’ stuck on him would be inexcusable; and if we are really inspired by that philosophical intention, whose nature I have been trying to make clear, it is certain that we shall be no longer able to feel such fears, or at least we shall be no longer able to take them into consideration. At a first glance, then, it seems that one thing we need for our task is a certain courage, a courage in following out the course of our thoughts where it leads us, a mental courage, about which common experience allows us to say definitely that it is infinitely less widely diffused than physical courage is; and it will be of the utmost importance to ask ourselves why this should be so. For it ought to be a matter of total indifference to me to hear myself called ‘fascist’ if I know that this accusation rests on an obvious misunderstanding, and even that, at bottom, my antagonist's readiness to make such accusations implies the existence in his mind of some attitudes which are really rather close to that fascist spirit which he pretends to discern in me.

Obviously, this is only an illustration: but it is of set purpose, in this first lecture, that I am multiplying references to various levels of human interest, the technical, the scientific, the artistic, the religious, the political; I want to underline the extremely general scope of the investigations to which all these remarks are leading on.

Now, what exactly lies behind this claim of ours, this refusal, at any price, to have the free movement of our thinking blocked? What lies behind it is, I think, the philosophical intention seized in its purity; that intention is quite certainly inseparable from what we are accustomed to call freedom. But, as we shall see, freedom is one of these words which need to have their meanings very carefully elucidated; there can be no doubt that, in our own period, the common uses of the word are often very unconsidered and very indiscreet. Let us say simply that if philosophic thought is free thought, it is free first of all in the sense that it does not want to let itself be influenced by any prejudging of any issue. But this notion of prejudice must be here taken in its widest range of application. It is not only from social, political, and religious prejudice that philosophical thinking must be enfranchised, but also from a group of prejudices which seem to make one body with itself, and which, one might say, it has a natural tendency to secrete. I would not hesitate to say, for instance, that philosophical idealism, as that doctrine has long been expounded, first in Germany, then in England and France, rests very largely on prejudices of this sort, and it is obvious that our thinking finds great difficulty in detaching itself from such prejudices. To employ a rather trivial comparison, I would readily admit that philosophy, when she engages in this struggle with the prejudices that are, in a sense, natural to her, must at moments have the impression that she is beginning to tear off her own skin and to immolate herself in a kind of bleeding and unprotected fleshy covering. That metaphor, like so many of the metaphors I have used, is inadequate. Might one not say that in ridding herself of her natural idealistic prejudices, philosophy must, if she looks at the matter from a high moral point of view, fear that she is betraying her own nature, showing herself unfaithful to her proper standards, and assuming in their place the impure, contradictory, vile standards of a renegade, and all this without there being, at a first glance, any visible counterbalancing advantages? I remember very well the periods of anguish through which I passed, more than thirty years ago now, when I was waging, in utter obscurity, this sort of war against myself, in the name of something which I felt sticking in me as sharply as a needle, but upon which I could not yet see any recognizable face.

We shall have to return to this mysterious need, and to expatiate upon it, since it is this need which I am attempting to satisfy in some degree in the course of these lectures, and since it is in danger of appearing completely meaningless to anyone who does not feel it in the depths of his own nature. But at the moment, I would say just this: at bottom, this need is not very different from good will, as that phrase is understood in the Gospels.

It would be folly to seek to disguise the fact that in our own day the notion of ‘the man of good will’ has lost much of its old richness of content, one might even say of its old harmonic reverberations. But there is not any notion that is more in need of reinstatement in our modern world. Let the Gospel formula mean ‘Peace to men of good will’, or ‘Peace through men of good will’, as one might often be tempted to think it did, in either case it affirms the existence of a necessary connection between good will and peace, and that necessary connection cannot be too much ubderlined. Perhaps it is only in peace or, what amounts to the same thing, in the conditions which permit peace to be assured, that it is possible to find that content in the will which allows us to describe it as specifically a good will. ‘Content’, however is not quite the word I want here. I think, rather, that the goodness is a matter of a certain way of asserting the will, and on the other hand everything leads us to believe that a will which, in asserting itself, contributes towards war, whether that is war in men's hearts or what we would call ‘real war’, must be regarded as intrinsically evil. We can speak then of men of good will or peacemakers, indifferently. Of course, as we go on, these notions will have to be made more exact and worked out in more detail and I dare to harbour the hope that our investigations will not be without their usefulness if they allow us to make some contribution towards such a clarifying process.

Thus, in seeking to determine for what set of people this work of ours can be intended, we have arrived at a distinction between those who feel a certain inner intellectual need, not unrelated to the more widespread inner moral need, felt by men of good will, to seek peace and ensue it, and those who do not; this distinction needs to be gone into more deeply. And it is a distinction, as we shall see in the next lecture, that has to be defined in relation to a certain general way of looking at the world.