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Part I: The Transcendence of the Immanent

Lecture VI: Truth and Beauty

Our course hitherto has led us to the conception of a World-Process in which are found, as episodes of the process, minds which apprehend the process. It has been argued that this occurrence of minds within the process is evidence that the process itself is grounded in Mind. That position will from this point onward be assumed, in order that it may be worked out and tested. We have now to notice that the life of mind as known to us has its being in the relationship both active and passive of mind to the process which supplies its environment. It is in that interplay of mind and environment that Value resides, as our further discussion will make clear; that discussion will be primarily concerned neither with the inner life of mind, conceived as separable from environment, nor with the object-world which mind apprehends and contemplates, but with the interrelation of these two. And it will be convenient to begin with certain accepted Values, which mind apprehends, but which come to full actuality as good or evil through such apprehension.

It has become customary of late for writers who maintain the existence of “absolute values” to present their case as if there were in fact three such values—Truth, Beauty and Goodness. It has then at once to be explained that Goodness here stands for Moral Goodness, or Goodness of Character, otherwise it might seem to be rather a synonym for Value than a department of it. The three terms then denote three forms of excellence—Intellectual, Aesthetic and Ethical. The trio could not have become so popular without much to recommend it. But it is in fact a very awkward classification, for it rests on a cross-division; and whereas Beauty and Goodness have at least a prima facie definiteness of character, Truth (if presented in alliance with them) seems to be ambiguous. For while Beauty is a quality of actual objects, and Goodness of actual characters, Truth is a quality of propositions—not of minds, nor of things. It is noticeable that Tennyson renamed this member of the trio when he shrewdly observed that

Beauty, Good and Knowledge are three sisters

And never can be sundered without tears,1

and he may have had other reasons than those of metrical convenience for doing so.

But as soon as this change is made, a doubt arises concerning the “absoluteness” of the “value” in question. Is Knowledge unconditionally good? Is it good that every mind should acquire every fraction of Knowledge that it is able to acquire? We may all be ready to agree that Knowledge is a good in the sense that if in any case it is better avoided, that is due to defect elsewhere and not to any evil inherent in any form or instance of Knowledge. But “an absolute value” ought to be one which is good in all conditions whatsoever, not only a value which has in itself no negative element. Knowledge may be a pure or unmixed good; it is not self-evident that it is an absolute good. Indeed it is not easy to see how its claim in this respect is to be distinguished in principle from that of pleasure. It may be—no doubt it is—a higher good than pleasure, so that to sacrifice pleasure to attain it is noble, while to sacrifice knowledge in order to win pleasure is base. But many would say that to forgo the opportunity of acquiring some minute and probably unimportant fraction of knowledge in order to give pleasure to others might be permissible or even obligatory; and this would be an impossible judgement if Knowledge were an absolute good and Pleasure were not.

The change of Truth into Knowledge calls, however, for some further comment. For the opposite of Knowledge is either Ignorance—in its proper sense of mental vacuity in relation to any fact or group of facts, or Error—in the sense of false opinion. When it is said that certain persons had better be prevented from acquiring certain kinds of Knowledge, what is desired is usually that they may remain void of all information on that subject; it would at least require further justification to hold that it is better that they should receive false information than true. Yet if those moralists are right who hold that in certain circumstances it is a duty to tell a lie, it follows that it is better that the hearer of that lie should entertain a false conception than a true one. This is not to say that it is better for him to entertain a false conception than none at all; but it may be impossible that he should entertain none, and it may on that account be better to lie to him than to keep silence. The common instance of this paradox is the lie told to a sick person to maintain his spirits and therewith his vitality; other instances may easily be imagined.

The case of Beauty seems to be similar. Beauty is undoubtedly a good, and a perfect experience must contain fruition of Beauty. But it is not self-evident that to call an object beautiful is to give a final and all-sufficient vindication of its existence apart from all conditions. It may be doubted whether a picture (for example) of intrinsically immoral quality can be beautiful, for either the beauty will transmute the immorality or the immorality will contaminate the beauty. It is arguable, at least, that no true work of art is immoral. But it is indisputable that a truly consummate work of art may have demoralising influence upon those who are immature in aesthetic appreciation; and it is a tenable view that in such a case the beautiful thing had better not exist, despite its admitted beauty. Whether it can be truly said that in some circumstances, and (of course) for other than aesthetic reasons, what is ugly is to be preferred to what is beautiful, seems more doubtful. But what has been said is sufficient to dispose of the doctrine that Beauty, any more than Knowledge, is an “absolute value” in the only proper sense of that phrase. Beauty and Knowledge are both good ceteris paribus; but then, so is Pleasure; and it is in order to exalt them above Pleasure that philosophers have been interested to call them “absolute values”.

These doubts do not arise concerning Goodness of Character. It would never be better that a man should be worse than he is. If sometimes we say, after the failure of a good man in some emergency, “a worse man would have done better”, we do not, or should not, mean that virtue hindered him from doing what was right, but that his special virtue was irrelevant to that situation, and that another man, even though less virtuous on the whole, who possessed some appropriate quality, would have done better. There may indeed be occasions when the very stuff of a hero’s virtue disqualifies him for the duty required of him by circumstance: that is the essence of true Tragedy; and no one who has appreciated the sublimity of Tragedy as the poets reveal it can ever say it would be better if the hero had less of the virtue that destroys him: more comfortable—yes; but better—no.2

This brief polemic against a conventional dogma has been interpolated here as an introduction to a consideration of Truth (or Knowledge) and Beauty more consonant with that understanding of the world and our place in it which hitherto we have been building up.

The basic fact is organic reaction to environment. It is in, and out of, the interaction between the organism and its environment that consciousness arises—and especially in and out of the interaction between it and other organisms. The latter, it is natural to suppose, is specially potent in carrying the movement forward to self-consciousness; for the organism that is only conscious of its relation to an inorganic environment might rest at that stage, but it seems impossible that an organism conscious of relation to another organism should not become self-conscious at least to the extent of distinguishing itself consciously from that other. There might be interaction of organisms without any consciousness at all, but there could hardly be consciousness of such interaction which was not rudimentary self-consciousness.

In the mature human mind we have moved far beyond that; but we have not become independent of our origin. Mind does not know first itself and then the world; but it knows the world, and it knows itself—even itself knowing the world—as part of the world. We have said that the occurrence of mind as an element within the world-process throws a good deal of light on that process; and in elaboration of that thesis we have now to consider some of the manifestations or activities of mind in its varied yet always unitary apprehension of the process of which it is a part.

Rooted as it is in the life of the organism, mental activity begins as a means of satisfying more fully the need or appetition of the organism. In other words thought is at the outset closely linked to desire. Philosophers have commonly said that thought receives its material from sensation in the form of bare particulars; in whatever degree that is true, it is a reflection based on the behaviour of thought at an advanced stage of development. The thought of the scientist—thought of which the consciously accepted end is its own perfection—receives its material in the form of particulars supplied by sensation, and (perhaps) also from its own nature: Nihil in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu, nisi ipse intellectus, the old scholastic formula, with Leibniz’ revolutionary addition, is an accurate account of the scientific thought for which Kant was seeking a philosophical vindication. But thought in its rudimentary stages is highly selective as regards the elements in experience of which it takes note; indeed it remains selective to the end; and while the informing principle of its selection in the scientific student is love of truth, at the rudimentary stage its informing principle is concern for the needs of the organism itself; and this concern, as an element in consciousness, is desire.

Mr. Aldous Huxley has utilised this consideration to support his repudiation of the notion that reason or intelligence is identical in all men. Accepting the traditional account of its processes, he points out that the rules of the syllogism may indeed be the same for all men, but that does not lead to resemblance in their opinions, even when they exercise intelligence in forming them (which is rare), because they choose different major premises from which to start. “It is an important and significant fact”, he says, “that there should be only one way of reaching a conclusion from a given major premise. But it is no less important and significant that there should be no single criterion for judging major premises, but that every man should select his own on personal and ultimately irrational grounds.”3 We shall consider later the implied denial of any universal truth, but the contention in itself is sound. Our thinking about the world at first derives alike its motive and its direction from desire.

By one process or another it is possible that this desire should be developed into the true scientific impulse, which is the desire or will to know; Bosanquet rightly resents “an intrusion of choice, which in science is chance, into the region of intelligible necessity, which ought only to be vitalised by a general will to know, not dominated by accidental interests.”4 But it is doubtful whether the finite mind ever perfectly attains that ideal, and certainly at the outset of its growth and discipline it is very far from it. Thought arises out of the life of the organism and is at first a servant of the organism. Science is the construction of thought; it may rise far above its origin, and the influence upon it of desire—other than that of the will to know—may become negligible. Yet its own advance imposes a necessity for specialisation. No one can in these days be a master in many branches of science; the range of each is so vast as to claim the study of a lifetime. Yet there does not seem to be a good scientific reason why a young student should select astronomy rather than biology, chemistry rather than anthropology, as the subject to which he will devote his time and energy. Inevitably he will determine this in accordance with his own aptitudes, or even by reference to something still more irrelevant to the will to know, such as a secure opening in a good commercial firm. He may eliminate from his scientific activities themselves all other impulse than the will to know, but the general will to know will not settle for him what in particular he shall wish to know, and his views on theology, politics, art and morals are likely to be influenced by the main occupation of his mind, so that a great deal of his thinking will continue to be dependent on the non-intellectual grounds determining its main direction. It is our duty to escape from such irrelevant influences as far as we may; but it is our wisdom to recognise that we are affected by them and that our escape is never complete.

Now so far as thought is thus correlated with desire—even when it is the desire to know—it is concerned with generalities. This very important point has been admirably brought out by Professor J. L. Stocks.5 When we consider the growth of thought either historically or in relation to the organism, we find how very artificial was the whole setting of the problem which dominated European philosophy from Descartes to Kant. For they all supposed thought to begin with the particulars supplied by sense, as apprehended in their particularity, so that the origin of general ideas was the occasion of much debate. But we find that, on the contrary, thought, for the most part, is first concerned with the particular data of experience precisely not in their particularity, but in their general character as capable or incapable of satisfying desires. For desire itself is never for the particular or individual; it is for the kind. The hungry man wants food—pleasant food, no doubt, for choice; but if his longing is for the cake of yester-year on account of its sentimental associations, it is some impulse other than hunger, or simple desire for food, which animates him. Hunger does not distinguish between this cake and that cake, if they are the same in feeding quality. Accordingly

“the type of thought which is stimulated by desire and characteristic of a life organised in the service of desire is abstract and general, attentive not to the particulars themselves, but to them in respect only of certain general characters which they may exhibit.… The study of history and the comparison of different levels of culture show conclusively that the grasp of the individual is not the starting point but the goal of thought’s journey.”6

But there is also a relation of the organism to its environment, or at least to certain elements in its environment, which is akin to desire and yet differs from it fundamentally. For desire is a condition of tension. It arises from a failure in the environment to satisfy the organism, or a realisation that the environment is offering the means of satisfying a need till now unsatisfied; and so soon as under the impulse of desire the organism has found the satisfaction of its need, desire ceases; it exists in the tension which it seeks to relieve. But alongside of desire there is affection; indeed this is probably the most primitive and fundamental form of consciousness, though it embraces only a fraction of the whole environment. The first clear awareness of the young child is an awareness of the mother, both as a source from which desire may be satisfied and as an object of affection and trust, but the former is occasional, the latter permanent.7 Affection may give rise to desire when its object is absent; but it does not cease when the object is once more present; its characteristic mode of being is the intimacy of comradeship. But the apprehension of affection is strongly individual. The lover resents the notion of classifying his beloved as one of a type; no doubt her appearance can be described in general terms for practical purposes, such as the obtaining of a passport; but the description is felt to be as false as it is true, for it is precisely what belongs to no class, what is unique, that affection makes its own. This is a relation of person to person, each whole and complete; and it is a relation of knowledge—not such knowledge as is in its own sphere final, such as 2 + 2 = 4, but knowledge that is always growing not by extension but by deepening, while yet there are always depths unplumbed. To give this knowledge scientific expression is impossible; its only mode of expression is through art or through the service which love offers to the beloved.

It would not be true to say that Science and Art are no more than respectively the activities of intellect prompted by desire and of intellect prompted by affection; for when they have been launched upon their courses they become living interests in themselves. But it is true, I believe, that their origin is to be sought in those two conditions of the conscious organism, and even in their fullest development they retain the characteristics appropriate to their origin. For science is never concerned with the individual as such; it deals in laws and generalisations; it does not distinguish between one drop and another of the same acid in its laboratories, or between one instance and another of any instinct or sentiment in its psychological analysis. This is one main reason why a purely scientific education is liable to be a poor preparation for life, which always largely consists of human intercourse. There is indeed a certain knowledge of human nature which enables its possessor, up to a point, to use persons as his instruments; and this is the only use of them that finds a place in “a life organised in the service of desire”; it is a knowledge of their general characteristics. But for the life of fellowship, and even for the best utilisation of men’s capacities, more than this is needed—a concern for the individual in his individuality. In common speech, to say that one understands a man is to say that one sympathises with him, or at least that one can imagine one’s self acting as he has acted, or that one is sure of acting towards him in such a way as to produce in him the desired impression. Such understanding, especially of persons whose temperament is very different from one’s own, may be facilitated by a knowledge of psychology, but in itself it is imaginative and emotional rather than purely intellectual, and it is always a direct apprehension of individual character, not only of general characteristics.

Now art, in distinction from science, is always thus concerned with the individual. The painter does not provide a diagram of the human body, to which all human bodies conform so far as they are normal; he gives a presentation of this normal human body or of that abnormal human body. He is not indifferent to universal significance; on the contrary, he presents universal significance in proportion as he succeeds in presenting the individual. The tree which the artist isolates for special attention represents the real meaning of trees far more fully than a botanical treatise, just because it actually is (pictorially) a tree. In the same way Othello represents the torture of a loving soul tormented by doubt of the fidelity of his beloved far more fully than the chapter on Jealousy in a text-book of psychology, just because he is (dramatically) an actual man “perplexed in the extreme”.8 The understanding which the dramatist both possesses and imparts is the understanding of sympathy.

Another aspect of the same distinction between science and art is brought into prominence when we consider their respective methods. Science has its life in mental restlessness; it asks of every fact the questions Why? or How? and of the answer it asks Why? or How? again. It seeks to understand the presented object by analysing it into its component parts or elements and by relating it to an ever-widening context. Art has its life in mental repose—not inactivity, but the activity of still contemplation. The frame round the picture, the curtain at the play’s end, are symptomatic. The work of art is a world by itself, to be apprehended by a constant attention, wherein the mind becomes one with the thing it contemplates.

Now the conventional triad of alleged “absolute values” has this great merit, that it recognises truth as a value and sets it alongside beauty, thereby suggesting reflections of great importance. The first of these is that neither truth nor beauty is to be found by casual sensation. If a man travels by night to a region of noble scenery of a kind hitherto unfamiliar to him, having had no opportunity of studying geology or cultivating his aesthetic taste, he will not at once apprehend the truth or the beauty of that scenery by opening his eyes upon it when daylight has returned. He will receive impressions which are a rudimentary apprehension of both, but it may be so rudimentary as to seem to himself at a later stage to be almost utterly alien from the scientific and aesthetic apprehension which by then he has acquired. Our experience is always of the real world; and that world remains unchanged—at least sufficiently for us to study it in the experience of many years with a constantly growing understanding of it as one object. But our apprehension does not remain the same; even apart from conscious effort, its defects, and the suggestions due to the special angle of vision at earlier stages, are supplemented and corrected as time passes by later apprehensions of the same fact. A walker, who sees Great Gable from Wastdale only, may not recognise it if he sees it next from High Raise. Indeed of that one mountain there are five utterly distinct views—from Wastdale, from Sca Fell Pike, from High Raise, from Brandreth and from Kirk Fell. Between each of these are view-points which connect one with another because from them the outlines are seen which explain both of the other two; but there are five principal and distinct views of that one mountain, and all must be seen before either the truth or the beauty of the grandest of English mountains is grasped. Such progress towards full understanding may occur in great measure accidentally. To live at all is to acquire some wisdom as the days pass. But civilised man has long ago learnt that in the search for truth or beauty something far other is needed than the casual accumulation of impressions.

Mind is always apprehending reality, but it may misapprehend it. To suppose that mind knows only its own ideas is an error; its ideas are not some tertium quid mediating between mind and reality; they are the mind’s apprehension of reality; and they may be in various ways inadequate. The mind always apprehends reality, but it may apprehend it amiss by wrong interpretation. In extreme cases, such as hallucination, it may interpret a nervous agitation as an external object. But the fact that men in delirium tremens see what they wrongly suppose to be snakes is no ground for doubting that visitors to the Zoological Gardens, being in sound health, really see real snakes—that is to say, apprehend real snakes by means of vision. Yet any first apprehension is always precarious, usually defective, and sometimes erroneous. “Seeing is believing”, men say; but the proverb is in place only as supplying a criterion by which the work of mind upon experience may be tested, not as a defence of the credulity which trusts all deliverances of sensation apart from any intellectual criticism. We cannot begin with facts, and construct theories on them as on a foundation; it is only by means of much theorising that we truly apprehend the facts.

There is no such thing as an initial grasp of mere particulars, from which the mind may draw necessary or probable inferences by the way of generalisation. The mind interprets as it apprehends. And this is not due to an admixture of intelligence with sensation in such wise that sensation might exist without intelligence, and so existing might apprehend real particulars apart from all generalisation. For the basis of sensation and intelligence alike is in the reaction of the organism to its environment. As this becomes conscious, it appears as being essentially intellectualised sensation, for what is perceived is some element in the environment which has a meaning for the life of the organism as an object of desire or affection, or (negatively) of fear or dislike. If it is an object of desire, it is its generic quality which causes the selective attention of the organism to be directed towards it; its particularity is only perceived because of its general character; it is a universal first and a particular afterwards. Again, if it is an object of affection, it is a true individual—universal and particular in one; but it neither is, nor can be apprehended as, a bare particular.

These points are in substance very familiar and very elementary. But when we put together the two propositions in which they may be summarily expressed, very important results immediately emerge. Those propositions are: first, that what the mind apprehends, even when it apprehends mistakenly, is reality; secondly, that the true apprehension of reality is attained not at the beginning but at the end of the mental process. The result that seems unavoidable is the conviction of intimate kinship between mind and reality. When Sir James Jeans says of the impression created by modern science that “the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine”9 he is giving vivid expression to just this conviction. Mind journeys through mazes of apparently abstract thought, and at the end finds that its conclusions are verified by observed occurrences in the physical world. It does not indeed follow that the physical world contains the counterpart of the successive stages in the abstract argument; what follows is that when Mind is true to itself it reaches its truest apprehension of reality; and that tells us a good deal about the nature of reality.

At an earlier stage we glanced at the objection that the kinship of mind with reality is of no ultimate importance because it is due to the fact that mind was “evolved”, or “emerged”, or “was secreted”, or what not, out of the physical process as a part of it and as a means of enabling the organism to cope with its environment. The whole problem of the evolution or emergence of mind is still awaiting attention; but we can at once deal with this objection. A savage may be startled to find that a key, brought from a distance, fits the lock of a door through which he wishes to pass; and his surprise may be removed when he learns that lock and key were made by the same locksmith in order that one may fit the other. But the ending of his surprise will not end the effectiveness of the key. It may no longer seem odd that it fits the lock; but it does fit the lock, and it opens the door. In the same way if any one is astonished to find so close a correspondence between mind and the physical world that the most elaborate calculations receive vindication from the observed behaviour of the world, his surprise may be removed if he is persuaded that mind is bound to correspond to the world because it “emerged”, irrupted, or otherwise appeared upon the scene, under pressure of the world, in order to assist its organism in its adaptation of itself to the world, and, still more, of the world to itself. But though the surprise might be removed, the correspondence would remain; and the importance of this correspondence between mind and the world is not its capacity to evoke amazement but its existence.

For this correspondence of mind with reality is the essential condition of Value or Good. No doubt that assertion calls for support, and our further examination of Truth and Beauty will offer such support. But for the moment it is convenient to notice what follows if the discovery or recognition by Mind of itself in its object is the essential condition of Good, and if the presupposition of all science, which the progress of science daily vindicates, is the reality of correspondence between Mind and the World. For it follows that not only is it good to know the Real, but that the correlation of Reality with knowledge or appreciation is itself the essence of Good. Having thus indicated the point to which the argument is leading us, we must return to the point that we had reached and make our way forward step by step.

When the incipient mind first confronts its environment, it finds itself at home with a small part of it, but the rest is strange. It sets itself to understand this strange part of its environment with a view to behaving wisely in relation to it; at this stage knowledge or truth has instrumental value only; it is not appreciated as in itself but only as useful for the establishing of satisfactory relations with the world as known. But in the process of this study of the world the mind becomes aware that it is discovering its own principles in the object of its study; indeed it usually becomes aware of its own principles at all, only in so far as it finds these exemplified in its study of the world. That is good Kantian doctrine; for Kant taught us to regard the causation traced in phenomena as really imposed upon the multiplicity of sense-perception by the understanding of which causality is an a priori principle; but also that this principle only becomes consciously apprehended through the mind’s critical reflection on its own activity. This discovery by the mind of its own principles in the world of its environment, and that, too, in the “strange” portions of that world, at once invests knowledge with a value of its own. It is no longer good only because it enables us to act wisely; it is good in itself.

But this good that is in knowledge calls for further consideration, which will incidentally help us to understand why the term chosen for the familiar trio of Values has usually been, not Knowledge, but Truth; for Knowledge is an attribute of mind itself, whereas Truth, though properly a quality of propositions and therefore existent in mind rather than in its objects, is yet relatively objective when considered in relation to any particular mind. When the mind adequately grasps the objects of its experience it is said indifferently to know them or to know the truth about them; for the true propositions are conceived as at least possibly existing in some other mind before our own minds succeed in framing them. Yet the expression “know the truth”, though natural and in many contexts appropriate, is not strictly accurate; the accurate expressions are “to have a true apprehension of reality”, or “to apprehend reality truly”; for the object of apprehension or of knowledge is not a truth midway between the mind and reality, but is reality itself.

This may at first sight appear to be an erroneous view when the object of study is imperceptible from the point of space or time occupied by the person in question. It seems strange to say that I truly apprehend the Norman Conquest or the Spanish Armada. At an earlier date the Governor of Tilbury is presented as remarking to his daughter Tilburina:

The Spanish fleet thou can’st not see, because

It is not yet in sight.10

Can we be properly said to apprehend what is no longer, or not yet, perceptible by our senses? The common use of language would lead us to say that we do not apprehend these things themselves, but that we do apprehend the truth about them. No doubt the mode of apprehension is different; but if it be held that apprehension is only possible in the moment of sense-perception, it would appear that it is not possible at all; for if that line of argument is adopted, the “moment” of perception must be defined, and then, as we all know, it contracts to that meeting point of past and future in which nothing can happen at all. My apprehension of any object at twelve o’clock noon consists in part of my memory of it at 11.59 A.M., and often also of my anticipation of it at 12.1 P.M. The retentive and interpretative activities of mind are involved in every apprehension whatsoever. The proportions of sense-perception, memory, interpretation, explanation, may be indefinitely varied. All our apprehensions are associated with sense-perception, and none are limited to it. Certainly I apprehend the Norman Conquest in a way different from that in which a follower of Harold or William apprehended it; and if there were no records or narratives that I might see or hear, I could not apprehend it at all. But by the help of those records and narratives I do apprehend it—not only propositions about it, but the fact itself. That this should seem difficult or disputable is a result of that false start which has become traditional in epistemology, by which we assume that the immediate object of apprehension is a particular given in sensation. But this is not so. Apprehension is an awareness of our environment, or of some part of it that specially concerns us, arising out of the relation and reaction to it of our psycho-physical organisms; in that relation and reaction the whole organism is involved, and it is often the general character rather than the particularity of the object which first claims attention.11 The environment is itself in process of constant change, and the greater part of what is present in apprehension is no longer present in sensation—it is partly retained by memory pure and simple, and partly grasped by unconscious inference from what is still present in sensation or in actual memory.

The mind which has once found satisfaction in knowledge independently of any use to which it may be put, is eager to extend the span of its apprehension to the uttermost. It finds a perpetual exhilaration in the discovery or recognition of what is akin to itself in its world. But its joy is in that other which is akin—not in its discovery, but in what it discovers. That is why popular usage tends, as was observed above, to speak of Truth rather than of Knowledge as the intellectual form of ultimate Value; for though apprehension must be sure and adequate if mind is to find its counterpart in reality, yet it is in that counterpart when found and not in the apprehension that finds it, that mind takes delight. No one who has for a moment tasted the excellence of truth or knowledge can doubt that. We are false to the first quality of the fruition of truth if we suggest that the good of truth consists in our appreciation of it; the mind enjoys truth because it finds in it what is good; that good does not reside in, but occasions, the enjoyment. Moreover those in whom this experience is deepest and keenest are unwilling to speak of enjoyment or satisfaction. Truth to them appears as something august, making claim to their allegiance even while they do not as yet know what it is. The recognition by the finite mind of that which is akin to it in its world, is also a recognition that this which is akin is yet remote, to be served rather than possessed. The man of science who has probed most deeply into the secrets of nature and stretched most widely the span of his apprehension does not speak lightly of possessing truth. Rather he feels that truth or reality possesses him, and there is more of awe than of boastfulness in his gratitude for the vision vouchsafed to him. In the progressive conquest of the unknown by the mind of man there is at every stage the satisfaction of success; but the great and lasting joy is not in the discovery of reality, it is in the reality discovered. The little mind of man increasingly perceives that it is tracing out the workings of mind mightier than itself. The intrinsic good or value in the attainment of truth is certainly actualised in the discovery or recognition by mind of itself in its object, and mind, which began as a consciousness of the environment enabling the organism more wisely to adapt its behaviour thereto with a view to its own comfort, finds that environment to be informed by mind, whose mighty workings it is imperiously called to trace out.

The same process and result is to be observed in mind’s search for Beauty. Here, instead of perpetually widening the span of apprehension under an impulse that is in origin that of desire or appetite, mind fastens upon some one element in experience—or it may be on experience as a whole—with the fascinated concentration that is born of affection. Some objects naturally call forth affection, and these are the first subjects of artistic appreciation. But the history of art seems to show that everything is seen as beautiful if only attention can be concentrated upon it rightly. We are repelled by the ugliness of a modern industrial town, until some artist reveals the beauty of strong stark lines in factory chimneys, or of sweeping curves in a gasometer. This does not mean that what we had thought ugly is really beautiful, but rather that there is beauty present in it, and concealed in it until it is detected by a rightly directed and rightly concentrated attention. As in the ever-expanding field of scientific enquiry so in the deliberately and rigidly restricted field of aesthetic contemplation, the mind submits itself to its object and finds that the object is no stranger, but akin.

Here, too, as in the realm of Truth, the good or value is actualised in the process of apprehension, yet what is experienced as good is not the apprehension but the object apprehended. I can see no good in Beauty which no one at all perceives—neither man nor angel nor God. A beautiful object is only a potentiality of good until it is perceived and appreciated. But when it is appreciated, the percipient mind finds the good in the object; it enjoys the apprehension, but it admires the work of art or of nature. A man of untrained taste may go many times to see a great picture, and every time he sees the same lines and colours; at first he is unable to appreciate it; the picture is “no good” to him; gradually his sensibility is subdued to the proportions and colour-harmonies that are characteristic of the picture, and he begins to appreciate it; at last perhaps he is even fascinated by it. The picture has not changed; the change is in the man; and the new fact is the new mode of apprehension whereby he now appreciates the picture. But while there had been “no good” for him in the picture and now there is great good, and while his enjoyment comes through his apprehension of the picture, yet he finds the beauty neither in his apprehension nor in his enjoyment, but in the picture which he now rightly apprehends. The beauty is objective, but its good or value as beauty is only actualised when it is subjectively appreciated; yet the beauty is in the object, not in the appreciating mind.

Were it otherwise, there could be no canons of beauty. If the good resided in the appreciation, the only proof of beauty in any object would be de facto enjoyment of it, and we should have to account most beautiful that picture, poem, piece of music, which occasioned the most intense enjoyment in the greatest number. And as with Hutcheson’s hedonistic formula, “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”, we should have difficulty in determining the relation between the two superlatives; how is the keen enjoyment of a few to be compared and contrasted with the less keen enjoyment of a multitude? But this whole method of enquiry would be false to the essential nature of the aesthetic experience itself, for that is clearly and decisively experience of an object which is beautiful, and of which the perception causes enjoyment because the object itself is beautiful. If any one doubts or denies this, I do not know that there are any arguments by which he can be persuaded; I can only appeal to the actual experience of any one of aesthetic sensibility. But it is noteworthy that the testimony of language is unambiguous; according to the natural usage of all languages, it is the scene or the work of art that is beautiful, not our apprehension of it. We may see the beautiful object and not perceive its beauty, because our perceptive faculties are ill-developed; but when we perceive the beauty, we find it there in the object; we do not put it there.

In that perception, as in the apprehension of or attainment to truth, the mind finds in the object what is akin to itself; it finds itself in its other. It is not only the purely logical structure of mind that it now finds, but also its purposive and emotional qualities, though it is doubtful if there can be a real work of art in which there is not also discoverable a true logic. I would here once more associate myself with the passage in which Bosanquet expresses this view, and to which I have already referred:

“Not the invention of novelty, but the logic which lays bare the structure of things, and in doing so purifies and intensifies the feeling which current appearances are too confused and contradictory to evoke, is the true secret of art. No doubt we should fail to predict the incarnation which a painter’s or a poet’s thought will assume. … But this is not because we are too rational, but because we are not rational enough. The “fundamental brainwork” is lacking to us, as is a special capacity for the infinitely delicate logic of expression, by which the passionate thought, already in itself too great for us, is embodied in a million ramifications of detail, constituting a tissue of precise determination in which alone the thought in question with its passion could find utterance—could become itself.”12

But while the mind which has attained to Truth or appreciated Beauty has found its own nature in its object, it has found it on such a scale as to feel the object to be more wholly Other even than when it seemed strange and alien. It is wonder that prompts the mind to examine its environment—and at first the elementary wonder how to make the best of it; but the enquiry ends in the wonder of awe, before that which, the more it is understood, by so much the more transcends our understanding. “qanmavzonte~ filosofou¤men· filosofhvsante~ qambou¤men. In wonder (twó¤ qanmavzein), says Aristotle, does philosophy begin; and in astoundment (twó¤ qambei¤n) says Plato, does all true philosophy finish.”13 For what manner of mind is that of which our science forms but an inkling in its analysis and systematisation of the experienced world? From the play of minutest particles to the sweep of stars in their courses, the work of Mind is found—of a Mind so mighty in range and scope, so sure in adjustment of infinitesimal detail, that before it all our science is clumsy and precarious. Nothing merely strange or alien can seem so incomparably transcendent as that Mind in the likeness of which our own minds are fashioned yet before which they can only confess their impotence.

The search for Beauty leads to the same conclusion as the search for Truth. The artist is ever essaying to depict a human form more beautiful than any actual human form can ever be,14 a landscape lit with an illumination such as never was seen by mortal eye:

The light that never was by sea or land,

The consecration and the poets’ dream.15

Yet this is no emanation from the artist’s brain; it is rather the attempt to catch and fix that Beauty of Reality, of which all beautiful things are momentary and partial manifestations. This true Beauty is apprehended, as it were, in fitful visions; but when apprehended, it is not as dream or hallucination, but as most real fact. Many artists have spoken of it—it suffices to refer to Shelley’s Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, already quoted;16 all artists have won some glimpse of it, and thereafter sought it diligently.

Just in the degree in which the artist—be his medium what it may—succeeds in winning from us that concentration of attention which is the essential condition of aesthetic experience, he makes a claim implicitly to satisfy the human soul. The beautiful object claims and holds our minds as nothing is entitled to claim and hold them which has not the promise at least of that which saints have called the Beatific Vision. In the moment of deep appreciation, all movement of thought is checked; in place of the movement of thought there is the activity of receptive rest; in place of the apprehended movement of time there is

The moment eternal, just that and no more

When ecstasy’s utmost we catch at the core;17

for in that moment Beauty, whether of nature or of art,

Here, for the sight of mortal man, has given

To one brief moment caught from fleeting time

The appropriate calm of blest eternity.18

Now there is a strong tendency in many quarters to suppose that the search for Truth leads to contact with Reality in a sense in which the aspiration towards Beauty does not. It is urged that the processes of science have a certainty which is absent from those of art, and that all who follow its course must accept its conclusions, except so far as they are known among scientists themselves to be provisional, while many seem quite insensitive to Beauty, and those who value it dispute fiercely among themselves concerning their aesthetic judgements. In the one case, we are told, there is possible, and largely actual, agreement; in the other there is the chaos of opinion which suggests that the standards of judgement are purely subjective.

But the certainty of scientific processes is confined to the sphere of the measurable; and no one supposes that measurability is the only element in ultimate Reality. For even if it be admitted for the moment that the only world outside of consciousness is a world of measurables, yet these by their impact upon consciousness set up an experience of non-measurable qualities, and that experience with its content, being extant, is part of Ultimate Reality. But when all the facts are considered, it does not appear that science has the advantage over art which is alleged. It takes a considerable time for a secure aesthetic judgement to be formed, and with regard to contemporary art there is much debate. But when a common judgement is reached after long period of discussion, it is secure as scientific theories never are. Men may be uncertain in this second quarter of the twentieth century about the aesthetic rank of Epstein as a sculptor or of T. S. Eliot as a poet. But there is no serious dispute about Pheidias or Aeschylus, about Giotto, or Piero, or Botticelli, about Velasquez or Rembrandt, about Dante or Shakespeare. No doubt I “date” myself by the precise list which I select; there are some who put Euripides above Sophocles, some who prefer Beethoven to Bach; but every name thus mentioned is securely established in the list of Masters; and the actual works of the earliest touch us now as they touched the hearts of those who knew them first. Still for sheer pulverising pathos we turn to the twenty-fourth Iliad, still for tragic sublimity to the Agamemnon, still for the calm of “port after stormy seas” to the Oedipus Coloneus. What scientific theory has the security of these works of art? The Newtonian Law of Gravitation seemed till yesterday to be assured beyond the risk of modification. Yet now, though the repute of Newton himself remains as well assured as that of Milton, his system is displaced by those of curvilinear space; while no amount of modern free verse displaces Milton’s Sonnet on his Blindness. It takes longer for the aesthetic judgement to become stable than for the scientific, but when it reaches stability it also achieves finality as the other does not. No doubt the scientific judgement would be the more stable, because more free from subjective traditions, if the data for it could ever be complete; but they cannot. Some new fact may at any time upset the inferences hitherto drawn. Because the artist isolates and individualises his subject, the judgement on his work is free from disturbance on objective grounds.

Confusion seems to arise from the fact that some persons fail to distinguish appreciation of beauty in a work of art from agreement with what they take to be its meaning. It is true that repudiation of an artist’s meaning is fatal to an aesthetic appreciation of his work, for the mind in such a case cannot surrender itself to the active repose of contemplation.19 But we must be careful in speaking of the “meaning” of an artist or of a work of art; that meaning is not something that can be expressed in a proposition; it requires for its expression the whole work of art. It is impossible to say what is the meaning of King Lear or the Mass in B Minor; Shakespeare and Bach have expressed those meanings in the only possible way. The critic may point to this or that element in the whole and so enable us to apprehend the whole more fully; but to find the meaning afresh we must read the play or hear the oratorio again. It is in apprehension of the artistic whole that mind meets with mind, and in finding itself in another’s self-expression experiences Good or Value.

The aesthetic apprehension of Nature has nothing to distinguish it in this respect from the appreciation of works of art. If we are to understand this apprehension of Nature we must turn to the philosophical poets—to Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey or to Robert Bridges’ Testament of Beauty. For while other artists, such as landscape-painters, exhibit their apprehension of natural beauty, it is only poets such as these who make their apprehension itself the object of aesthetic contemplation; and when they do, they tell us, in the well-known lines of that poem of Wordsworth to which I have referred, of

a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things.

Surely Lord Balfour is right when he says:

“Our admiration for natural beauty … cares not to understand either the physical theories which explain what it admires, or the psychological theories which explain its admiration. It does not deny the truth of the first, nor (within due limits) the sufficiency of the second. But it requires more. It feels itself belittled unless conscious purpose can be found somewhere in its pedigree. Physics and psycho-physics by themselves, suffice not. It longs to regard beauty as a revelation—a revelation from spirit to spirit, not from one kind of atomic agitation to the “psychic” accompaniment of another. On this condition only can its highest values be maintained.”20

The only exception to this of which I can think is really an illustration of the principle. For though Lucretius set out to make poetry out of materialism, it is noteworthy that his most poetic passages are those in which he escapes from his own creed and finds the counterpart of human thought and feeling in his subject or directly expresses such thought and feeling.21 And so far as there is beauty in the picture of the swirling atoms, it arises (as I think) from the thought of man’s helplessness before the mighty force; it is beautiful by reason of its significance for mind.

When we combine with such reflections as these the consideration that mind historically appears as the flowering into consciousness of the organism’s relation to its environment, there seems no valid reason for doubting the ultimate deliverances alike of the scientific and of the artistic consciousness. This testimony is an unambiguous affirmation of transcendent Mind apprehended by reason of its immanence in Nature physical and spiritual. The justification and closer determination of the term “transcendent” will appear more fully later, but already it is unavoidable. The apprehension of Truth is, after the manner of science, the more detached, yet even thus it moves to reverence. The apprehension of Beauty is the more intimate, and moves to such submission of the finite mind to its unmeasured counterpart as is properly called worship.

What soul was his, when, from the naked top

Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun

Rise up and bathe the world in light! He looked—

Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth

And ocean’s liquid mass, in gladness lay

Beneath him: far and wide the clouds were touched,

And in their silent faces could he read

Unutterable love. Sound needed none,

Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank

The spectacle: sensation, soul, and form,

All melted into him; they swallowed up

His animal being; in them did he live,

And by them did he live; they were his life.

In such access of mind, in such high hour

Of visitation from the living God,

Thought was not; in enjoyment it expired.

No thanks he breathed, he proffered no request;

Rapt into still communion that transcends

The imperfect offices of prayer and praise,

His mind was a thanksgiving to the power

That made him; it was blessedness and love.22

Appendix A

Ambiguities in the Terms Beauty and Value

The recent emphasis on Value in philosophical discussions has led to much confusion of mind because of the different senses in which the leading terms are used. This is partly due to real differences of apprehension and interpretation, partly to differences of habit or convention in the use of language. Thus for Professor Whitehead (Adventures of Ideas, p. 324) “Beauty is the mutual adaptation of the several factors in an occasion of experience”. This is not far from Professor Laird’s theory of “natural election” (The Idea of Value, pp. 92–113), which is, as Professor Alexander says (Beauty and Other Forms of Value, p. 288), “the simple fact that one thing matters to another in an intimate manner”. It is not surprising that Whitehead, having given so wide a definition of Beauty, treats it as the most fundamental form of Value.

But he recognises a more specialised meaning of the word Beauty. “There is the primary meaning which has been given in Section I. … This is Beauty realised in actual occasions which are the completely real things in the Universe. But in the analysis of an occasion, some parts of its objective content may be termed Beautiful by reason of their conformal contribution to the perfection of the subjective form of the complete occasion” (p. 328). Here he comes nearer to Alexander, who is concerned to specify the mode of this “conformal contribution”. “Beauty”, says Alexander, “is that which satisfies objectively the aesthetic impulse or sentiment, that is, the constructive impulse used contemplatively, and is beautiful or has value because it pleases us after the manner so described” (pp. 179, 180).

I am not concerned with the psychological question to which impulse of our nature, if any, the beautiful is specifically related as its satisfaction; I confess that I find it hard, and in some instances of undoubted beauty far-fetched, to establish connexion with the constructive impulse. The vital point, in my judgement, is that Beauty is apprehended by contemplation, and here I am at one with Professor Alexander. But I am not content with his correlation of the subjective and objective factors in the aesthetic experience. I welcome his contention that Beauty is neither a Primary nor a Secondary Quality (pp. 180–183); and I can assent to his description of it as a Tertiary Quality (p. 183), in a phrase borrowed from Bosanquet, if a clear priority is attributed to the objective factor. But this, as it seems to me, Alexander is unwilling to do.

“In the total experience of the beautiful, in its relation to the appreciating mind, the pleasure belongs to the mind, the beauty is referred to the object which is said to have value in virtue of its relation to the mind, which relation is already embodied in its own form. Value is thus experienced as pleasure, as marking in the mind the satisfaction of the aesthetic impulse. The beautiful is said to possess value or to be a value, but value is not a quality of the beautiful but its relation to the mind, which is a partner in the total experience of beauty. Satisfactoriness in the object, satisfaction in the subject: this is the distribution of parts in the whole complicated situation” (p. 184).

This is not very remote from the phrase which I have borrowed from Professor Bowman—Beauty exists objectively but is subjectively conditioned. My difficulty with Alexander’s language is in the balance of “satisfactoriness” and “satisfaction”. For it appears, at least, as though “satisfactoriness” must be defined by reference to what it satisfies, and this seems to me false to the aesthetic experience as I know it in myself. Just when that experience is most unmistakeable, its mode is not that of an object adapted to me but of my adaptation to an object. The Beautiful does not submit itself to my contemplative attention, but claims it, and continues to hold it even when my adaptation to it is so slight that I find in it as yet no pleasure, nor what I can naturally describe as satisfaction, but rather an imperious spell. I have tried to set this out more fully in Mens Creatrix, pp. 125–128.

My own suggestion for the interpretation of Value may be set out in summary form as follows:

The essential condition for the actualisation of Value is the discovery by Mind of itself or its own principle in its object.

When Mind makes this discovery in the activity of contemplation, the form of Value actualised is Beauty.

When Mind makes this discovery in the activity of analysis and synthesis, the form of Value actualised is Truth.

When Mind makes this discovery in the activity of personal relationship the form of Value actualised is Goodness.

It will be noticed that I include positive Values only. The common usage of language encourages this. It is true that the term Value is also used in a neutral sense to cover Evil as well as Good, as in the phrase “Value-Judgements”. Yet to speak of anything as having great value is always understood as attributing to it great good. Evil as Ugliness or Error or Sin—is primarily conditioned by alienation between Mind and its object, though it also appears in the form of what is akin but hostile.

No doubt the correlation of Mind and its environment is only one instance of the fitting-together-of-things; and we can call this fitting-together “value” if we like. But the fitting-together of Mind and environment is special, and a special term is needed for it. I think that the philosophic use of the term Value will be most consonant with its ordinary use if it is reserved for this relationship.

Thus I agree that actual Value is a relation to Mind. But the valuable character is primarily in the object. The object is not merely such as to occasion a valuable experience in the Mind; the Mind in experiencing it appreciates it as valuable. Only in and through the subjective appreciation does this value become actual, but when it thus becomes actual it is objective. A man may be of a loving disposition, but he actually loves only when another person exists to be the object of his love; and then the love is in him, not in the occasion of its actualisation; so, turning from active to passive, the picture is always admirable, but the value of this is actual only when it is admired.

I add here a note on the “kinship” of Mind and Reality which plays a great part in my argument. When I say that Mind finds itself or what is akin to itself in its object, I mean an experience which has two aspects: first, that it finds the counterpart of the principle of its own activities as for example the mathematical properties of mechanical combinations of forces or of aesthetic proportions; secondly, that with this discovery goes a feeling of being at home with the object, not lost or bewildered in presence of it. The latter aspect is not capable of definition, but seems to me to be easily recognisable and profoundly significant.

  • 1. Tennyson, Palace of Art (introductory lines).
  • 2. See the chapter on “The Meaning of Tragedy” in my Mens Creatrix, specially pp. 132–142.
  • 3. Aldous Huxley, Proper Studies, p. 37.
  • 4. Bosanquet, Knowledge and Reality, pp. 35, 36.
  • 5. See The Limits of Purpose, p. 40.
  • 6. J. L. Stocks, loc. cit.
  • 7. It is generally held that differential recognition first occurs at three months from birth, and distinguishable affection at six months; but each of these is grounded in a relationship which began before birth.
  • 8. Othello, Act V. Sc. 2. It is inevitable, though misleading, to speak of Othello as jealous, and he uses the word of himself in this closing speech. But it is not the jealousy which springs primarily from the possessive instinct. It is because his love for Desdemona is so intense that Iago’s insinuations fascinate him with their horror. Then the fatal handkerchief turns “perplexity” into assurance.
  • 9. The Mysterious Universe, p. 148 But a machine is evidence of an intelligent designer. Cf. p. 53.
  • 10. Sheridan, The Critic, Act iii.
  • 11. See above, p. 142.
  • 12. Bosanquet, The Principle of Individuality and Value, p. 332. See also supra, p. 108.
  • 13. S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, Section II. Essay XI.
  • 14. Cf. Plato, Republic, 472 D—a flash of intuition which shows that Plato really understood the nature of Art, though his formulated theories of it are so wide of the mark.
  • 15. Wordsworth, Elegiac Stanzas suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle, in a Storm, painted by Sir George Beaumont.
  • 16. Cf. supra, pp. 25–26.
  • 17. Browning, Asolando: Now.
  • 18. Wordsworth, Upon the Sight of a Beautiful Picture.
  • 19. Cf. my Mens Creatrix, pp. 120–122.
  • 20. Theism and Humanism, pp. 80–81—a book deserving far more notice than it has yet received. It was published in 1915, being the Gifford Lectures for the previous year. The war engulfed it. Would that my reference to it might direct many to its penetrating argument.
  • 21. E.g. De Rerum Natura, ii. 252–266; iii. 894–911.
  • 22. Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book I.
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