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Chapter Six | The Case for Realism

To a philosopher no circumstance, however trifling, is too minute.

—Oliver Goldsmith, Citizen of the World, xxx.

The most obvious characteristic of the approach to theism typified by Joseph Maréchal, Karl Rahner, Emerich Coreth and Bernard Lonergan is its length. The busy reader may well recall the complaint of Andrew Marvell to his mistress:

Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, Lady, were no crime,

and reflect that, while the world no doubt is extensive enough, time, for us mortals, is limited and that, therefore, unnecessary verbosity is at best inconsiderate and at worst immoral. In the case of Fr Coreth, Fr Donceel has indeed shown that the essential features of the thought of a transcendental Thomist can be compressed into a reasonable space; nevertheless, I do not think that the prolixity of these writers is accidental or purely temperamental. It is, I think, almost inevitable in a thinker who feels bound to justify the validity of knowledge before he allows himself to indulge in the luxury of knowing. For, once you have refused to assume the reliability of your apprehension of beings other than yourself and have postulated that the objects of your perception are prima facie states of your own mind, you are launched on the endless process of trying ineffectually to escape from the prison of your own subjectivity. To change the metaphor, you are involved in ever more complicated gymnastics in your attempts not to saw off the branch on which you are sitting.

There can, of course, be no harm in investigating and analysing the structure of the human mind and the process of human knowledge. St Thomas did this in the thirteenth century, and M. Jacques Maritain has done it in our own time at considerable length in his book The Degrees of Knowledge. What differentiates these thinkers from those of the transcendental school and enables them to avoid the missiles which, in the later chapters of Réalisme thomiste et Critique de la connaissance, M. Gilson has directed against all forms of idealist epistemology, is the fact that they embark on the construction of their critique—or, it would be better to say, their doctrine—of knowledge and perception after they have allowed themselves to know and perceive, and do not attempt to perform the frustrating, and in the last resort impossible, task of doing it before. Their purpose in developing their epistemology has not been to discover whether it is possible for them to know beings other than themselves but how it has been possible to do this already. The influence of Descartes and Kant has been so strong in the modern world that it takes a very courageous and persistent thinker to question the basic assumption of idealism. Nevertheless, in 1934 William Temple could write: ‘If I were asked what was the most disastrous moment in the history of Europe I should be strongly tempted to answer that it was that period of leisure when Rend Descartes, having no claims to meet, remained for a whole day “shut up alone in a stove”,’1 while Lord Russell in 1927 had written even more irreverently: ‘Kant deluged the philosophic world with muddle and mystery, from which it is only now beginning to emerge. Kant has the reputation of being the greatest of modern philosophers, but to my mind he was a mere misfortune.’2 No one, to my knowledge, has so ruthlessly, and at the same time so good-humouredly, exposed the self-frustrating character of idealist epistemology than has M. Gilson, and I shall allow myself the pleasure of quoting at some length from the brilliant little work The Realist Beginner's Handbook (Vade Mecum du débutant réaliste), which forms the last chapter of his book Le Réalisme méthodique. But before doing this I must warn anyone who is unfamiliar with the technical terms of philosophy that in the present context the words ‘idealism’ and ‘realism’ have meanings far removed from those of ordinary discourse. ‘Idealism’ means the view that the objects which we perceive are simply ideas inside our minds, while ‘realism’ means the view that we perceive real beings outside them. There is nothing starry-eyed about idealism nor anything cynical about realism, as we shall use these terms. Nor has ‘realism’ here, where it is contrasted with ‘idealism’, anything in common with the medieval usage, in which it is contrasted with ‘nominalism’.

The first step on the path of realism [writes M. Gilson] is to recognise that one has always been a realist; the second is to recognise that, however much one tries to think differently, one will never succeed; the third is to note that those who claim that they think differently, think as realists as soon as they forget to act a part. If they ask themselves why, their conversion is almost complete.

Most people who say and think that they are idealists would prefer to be able not to be such, but they cannot find out how. People tell them that they will never get outside their thought and that anything beyond thought is unthinkable. If they consent to seek a reply to this objection they are lost from the start, for all the idealist's objections against the realist are formulated in idealist terms.…

We must begin by distrusting the term ‘thought’; for the greatest difference between the realist and the idealist is that the idealist thinks, whereas the realist knows.…

[For the idealist] the spirit is what thinks, while for us the intellect is what knows.… An idealist term is generally a realist term which designates one of the spiritual conditions of knowledge, but is now considered as generating its own content.

The knowledge of which the realist speaks is the lived and experienced unity of an intellect with an apprehended reality. This is why a realist philosopher always presses towards the very thing that is apprehended, without which there would be no knowledge. The idealist philosophers, on the other hand, since they start from thought, very soon choose as their object science or philosophy. When he genuinely thinks as an idealist, the idealist embodies perfectly the essence of a ‘professor of philosophy’; while the realist, when he genuinely thinks as a realist, fulfils the authentic essence of a philosopher; for a philosopher talks about things, but a professor of philosophy talks about philosophy.

Having fired his opening shots, Gilson now develops his attack:

Just as we do not have to go from thought to things (knowing the enterprise to be impossible), so we do not have to ask ourselves whether something beyond thought is thinkable. It may well be that something beyond thought is not thinkable, but it is certain that all knowledge implies something beyond thought. The fact that this something-beyond-thought is given to us by knowledge only in thought does not prevent it from being something-beyond; but the idealist always confuses ‘being given in thought’ and ‘being given by thought’. For one who starts from knowledge something-beyond-thought is so far thinkable that it is only this kind of thought for which there can be a ‘beyond’.

Gilson is emphatic that we have a primary perception of something other than our own selves:

The realist will be committing an error of the same kind [as the idealist] if he asks himself how, starting from the ego, he can prove the existence of a non-ego. For the idealist, who starts from the ego, this is the normal, and indeed the only possible, formulation of the question. The realist must be doubly wary: first because he does not start from the ego, and secondly because for him the world is not a non-ego (that would be nothing at all), but an in-se. An in-se can be given in knowledge; a non-ego is what the real is reduced to for an idealist, and it can neither be grasped by knowledge nor proved by thought.

For Gilson, the idealist problem, how we can compare the content of our mind with the reality outside in order to know to what degree the former accurately depicts the latter, simply does not arise. It is an insoluble problem which idealism has created for itself; for the realist, there is no such thing as a noumenon in the idealist's sense of the term:

Knowledge presupposes the presence of the thing itself to the intellect, and we do not have to postulate, behind the thing that is in the thought, a mysterious and unknowable duplicate, which would be the thing of the thing that is in the thought. Knowing is not apprehending a thing as it is in thought but, in thought, apprehending the thing as it is.

Gilson is not ignorant of the objection that is brought against the realist doctrine from the occurrence of dreams and hallucinations, but he is clear that it is only because perception is in general authentic that we can identify dreams and hallucinations as such. For the consistent idealist, there can be nothing to differentiate illusions from reality.

Taine performed a great service for good sense when he defined a sensation as a true hallucination, for he showed where logic necessarily lands idealism. Sensation is what a hallucination becomes when this hallucination isn't one. We must not let ourselves be impressed by the famous ‘errors of the senses’ or be surprised by the enormous hoo-ha that the idealists make of them; idealists are people for whom the normal can only be a particular case of the pathological.

Gilson refuses to admit the accusation that realists are committed by their doctrine to posing as infallible; quite the contrary:

We are simply philosophers for whom truth is normal and error is abnormal; this does not mean that truth is any easier for us to achieve than is, for example, perfect health. The realist does not differ from the idealist in being unable to make mistakes, but primarily in the fact that, when he does make mistakes, it is not because thought has erred through being unfaithful to itself but because knowledge has erred through being unfaithful to its object. But, above all, the realist makes mistakes only when he is unfaithful to his principles, while the idealist avoids them only in the degree in which he is unfaithful to his.

And finally, it is the idealist, not the realist, who takes the mystery out of existence and claims to know everything that there is to know:

To say that all knowledge consists in grasping the thing as it is does not in any way mean that the intellect grasps the thing as it is infallibly, but that it is only when it does so that there is knowledge. Still less does it mean that knowledge exhausts the content of its object in one single act. What knowledge grasps of an object is real, but the real is inexhaustible, and even if the intellect had discerned all its details it would still be up against the mystery of its very existence. It was the idealist Descartes who believed that he could grasp the reality infallibly and at one fell swoop; Pascal, the realist, knew how naive this pretence of the philosopher was.… The virtue proper to the realist is modesty concerning his knowledge, and even if he does not always practise it, he is committed to it by his profession.3

Gilson, is, I believe, entirely correct in locating the source of our present philosophical malaise in Descartes’ idealism, but I think that something more than idealism is involved, namely sensationalism. And here again I must utter the warning that the word ‘sensationalism’ has a different meaning from that which it bears in contemporary lamentations about the evil influences of television and the popular press. Sensationalism here simply means the doctrine that, in an act of perception, the object perceived is purely and totally an object of sense, a coloured patch, a loud squeak, a musty smell, a bitter taste, a feeling of warmth and so on. Now such a doctrine is certainly idealist in tendency, for it is difficult to see how colours, noises and the rest can exist when no one is perceiving them. Nevertheless, it is possible, with some sophistication, to evade the idealist suggestions of sensationalism to some degree. Thus Locke held that it was only the secondary qualities, so called, that had a purely intra-mental existence and that the primary qualities, such as extension, impenetrability and mass, could exist even when unperceived, though it was not entirely clear whether the primary qualities which we perceived were identical with the primary qualities in the extra-mental substances or were only accurate counterparts of them. And even Descartes, for whom the perceived objects were entirely intra-mental, held that they presented themselves to the mind purporting to be pictures of extra-mental objects, though he had to construct an argument for the existence of God before he could accept their claims as veridical. It was Berkeley's demolition of primary qualities that rendered sensationalism purely idealist; and nothing that Hume, with all his hard-headedness, could contrive could rehabilitate extra-mental reality. All he could do was to disintegrate the mind into a succession of unconnected mental states. There was, however, an attempt at the beginning of the present century to devise some kind of non-idealist sensationalism; the leading figures in this movement were G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, C. D. Broad and H. H. Price.4 One suggestion was that sense-data could exist unperceived with the same characteristics that they had when someone was perceiving them, though it was of course only when someone was perceiving them that they and their characteristics could be perceived. Another suggestion was that the unperceived object was a sensibile rather than a sensum, though apart from the fact of being perceived it was exactly the same whether it was being perceived or not. It may be doubted whether these two views differ except verbally. Yet another view was that there existed a vast number of elementary perceptive acts each having a mental and a physical pole, and that when they were grouped according to the mutual relations of their physical poles they constituted physical objects and when they were grouped according to the mutual relations of their mental poles they constituted minds. By and large, however, sensationalism tended to be idealist, and its never-failing supports were the subjective character of sense-data and the occurrence of hallucinations. For if one man saw a penny as circular while another saw it as elliptical, and if one man saw pink rats when another saw no quadrupeds at all, it seemed impossible to hold that either the penny or the rats had any existence except as modifications of the minds of their observers. The natural outcome would seem to be solipsism, the view that nobody and nothing exists except myself; and, although, as C. D. Broad observed, solipsism, like another vice whose name begins with the same letter, is more often imputed than committed,5 sensationalist philosophers have usually rejected it by an act of faith rather than by any argument. Russell, indeed, has a story of a lady who wrote to him saying that solipsism seemed to her to be so reasonable a position that she was puzzled that so few people held it.6 It is also related that a young man commenting on an address by G. K. Chesterton, concluded his remarks with the statement ‘Personally, I have only one conviction which I hold with certainty, and this is of the reality of my own existence.’ (The reply of the Sage of Beaconsfield was brief: ‘Cherish it.’)7 Solipsism is a justifiably uncommon position, for we are conscious of the existence of other persons and other things before we become conscious of the existence of our own selves. Tennyson's

… baby new to earth and sky


What time his tender palm is prest

Against the circle of the breast,

Has never thought that ‘this is I’,

provides an example:

But as he grows he gathers much,

And learns the use of ‘I’ and ‘me’,

And finds ‘I am not what I see,

And other than the things I touch.’8

And indeed the answer both to solipsism and to sensationalism is that, strange as it might seem a priori, we are aware of the existence of beings outside our own minds more immediately than we are aware of the existence of our own selves. This is true whether we consider the development of perception in early life (Tennyson's baby) or our normal adult perceptive acts. We can, of course, by deliberate introspection, perceive our own selves in a very elusive and fugitive manner, and I am far from holding that this self-perception is hallucinatory; we can also, I think, very plausibly deduce the existence of a subject of perception from the fact that objects are perceived, though I would doubt whether we can deduce the continuous persistence of that subject. Nevertheless, the primary deliverance of perception is the extra-mental being. I use the word ‘extra-mental’ deliberately, for it could be held as a logical possibility (and I think some phenomenologists hold this) that we do perceive objects but that these objects are only modifications of our own minds. What in fact makes many philosophers reluctant to admit that we perceive extra-mental beings is the subjective character of what have been variously called sensa, sense-data, sensibilia, sensible species or phenomena: the colour of the patch, the shape of the coin, the intensity and pitch of the squeak and so on. But this is in turn due to the assumption that the datum of perception is a purely sensory object (even if it is also held, along Kantian lines, that the mind has had some part in its manufacture), and that, if the intellect comes into the act of perception at all, it is by using the sense-object as the ground for an inference, whether that inference be immediate and spontaneous or subsequent and deliberate. According to this view, perception, in the strict sense of direct awareness of a real object, is simply identical with sensation; the intellect in no way apprehends, it merely infers.

Now against this assumption I wish to put forward the view, which has a very respectable ancestry though its existence has been ignored by most modern philosophers, that the non-sensory and intellectual element in perception does not consist simply of inference, but of apprehension. According to this view, there is (at any rate normally, for we are not here concerned with mystical experience) no perception without sensation (nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu,9 to quote the scholastic tag), but the sensible particular is not the terminus of perception, not the objectum quod (to use another scholastic phrase) but the objectum quo, through which and in which the intellect grasps, in a direct but mediated activity, the intelligible extra-mental reality, which is the being, the real thing. It is this latter, intelligible being that is the objectum quod.

I have argued this thesis at some length in my book Words and Images10 and I will only recapitulate the main points here. We can readily admit that all sensible qualities are subjective—are secondary qualities, in Locke's sense—but the real world remains; for, although it is perceived and known through our sense-experience, its contents are intelligible beings which are not just sensed by the senses but grasped by the intellect. Berkeley was entirely right in maintaining against Locke that all sensible qualities are subjective; he was wrong in supposing that the world has no qualities except sensible ones. It is, in fact, amusing to see the precise point in his Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous at which this supposition has slipped in.11

My primary perception, then, is of some extra-mental being, of some being that is not myself or any aspect or modification of myself. In saying that I perceive some extra-mental being I do not mean that I necessarily perceive it as extra-mental, for in order to do that I must already have an awareness of my own mind. I am aware of the being simply as a being, as something existing, as something in itself, as an in-se. This may be accompanied by a mysterious and fugitive awareness of myself as the subject and not the object of the act, an unthematic and implicit admission that I am at the near end of the act, so to speak; but usually this is so implicit as to be unrecognised. There may, also, of course be a secondary act of reflection upon the primary act, as a result of which I am fully conscious that I am aware of the extra-mental being, but this is even less common. When this does occur I am brought face to face with the mystery of mind and the not less mysterious character of intellectual apprehension. For to know a being is not to achieve some kind of external contact with it analogous to the impact of one material object on another. It is to achieve a real union with the being, to get it ‘into one's mental skin’ or, from another aspect, to become identified, however imperfectly, with it. This is what is implied by the scholastic assertion that in knowledge the knower becomes the thing known, not entitatively but ‘intentionally’. This is, I repeat, highly mysterious, but it is a fact. It pertains inchoatively, on the level of pure sensation,12 even to sub-human animals, but it is on the level of intelligence or spirit that this capacity to penetrate other beings, not physically, but none the less really, reaches its full manifestation, and it comes to its climax in the mutual communication of spirits with one another. In us humans, compounded as we are of spirit and matter, it is not only mysterious but extremely complex. There is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses, the mind spontaneously turns to sensory representations, but, simply as mind, as intellect, as spirit, it can (intentionally) ‘become’ all things. Nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu; mens convertit se ad phantasmata; mens quodammodo fit omnia: these well-worn tags are not statements of a theory about knowledge, they are a description of what knowledge is.

Now one can, as we have seen, build up an argument for the existence of God on the basis of this inbuilt urge of the human mind to take all beings as its object and to press beyond the horizon of the material world towards the realm of subsistent being itself. This is the programme of the transcendental Thomists among others, and we have seen that Karl Rahner takes as his starting-point in Spirit in the World the article in which St Thomas argues that, in the present life, the human intellect can know nothing without ‘turning to phantasms’. Fr W. Norris Clarke, in a very impressive essay on ‘The Self as Source of Meaning in Metaphysics’, has similarly, but more briefly, argued that ‘what we are really doing… when we make [the affirmation of an ultimate infinite Source of all being, God,] on philosophical grounds (not religious faith or mystical experience) is going all the way to the limit in committing ourselves to the intellect's radical drive toward intelligibility, and asserting that there must be a completely self-sufficient, and therefore infinitely perfect, single (because infinite) ultimate cause or existential explanatory principle for all finite being (presuming that we have already shown that no finite being can meet the demand for existential self-sufficiency by itself).’13 This final qualification is significant, and it suggests that an argument from the dynamic urge of the human intellect cannot dispense with argument based upon the general contingency of finite being. One of the advantages of Fr Norris Clarke's procedure is that, if it is valid, it provides a very rich content for the God at which it arrives. I shall, however, not follow this course myself. I shall take as my starting-point the existence of extra-mental being, in the sense that I have given to that term, prescinding from the act by which it is perceived and the properties of the percipient, and I shall argue from it to the existence of a God whose content will, in the first instance, be very minimal indeed. Later on I shall try to give it more substance. In taking this line I intend no disparagement of the procedure followed by Fr Clarke or even that of the transcendental Thomists; there may well be more than one way of approaching the divine mystery.

Fr Norris Clarke has himself deprecated the demand, commonly made by linguistic empiricists, that if we are legitimately to argue for the existence of God we must start off with a clearly expressed and exhaustive concept of the being which we are seeking. He writes as follows:

The proper philosophical approach to discovering or proving the existence of God is not to ask, ‘Can I prove the existence of God?’…

The proper mode of procedure is to start with the world of one's experience and ask concerning the necessary conditions of possibility for explaining its existence and nature. The first step is to show that this whole finite world cannot contain within itself the sufficient reason for its own existence.… The principle of sufficient reason or intelligibility is the dynamo of one's whole intellectual life and to it one should have made a fundamental commitment.…

One now proceeds by heuristic concepts, somewhat as is done in mathematics when undertaking to solve a problem. ‘Let X be the real entity which is needed to solve this problem, possessing whatever properties or attributes are required to fulfil this function.’ Then the properties of this not directly known or experienceable X are gradually filled in by postulates, one by one, as the indispensable requirements for a solution of the problem appear.…

One can, of course, start off with a vague nominal definition of what one hopes to reach, drawn not from the problem itself but from some outside pre-existing religious or philosophical belief held by men. But it is clearly impossible and unreasonable to ask for a clear detailing of the properties of the X that solves a problem before actually working out the solution to the problem.14

There is a further point made by Fr Clarke, the importance of which should become evident as we proceed. It is that the principle involved in arguing for the existence of God is the principle of sufficient reason and that this cannot be simply reduced, as many scholastic and other philosophers have tried to reduce it, to the principle of contradiction.

It is indeed unintelligible to assert that something can come into existence completely out of nothing with no cause at all. Still this is in no way a logical contradiction or reducible to one, since it never asserts that being is nothing or that nothing is being. The principle of contradiction is static, like all logic; the principle of sufficient reason and its immediate corollary of causality are dynamic, like all existential explanation.15

Metaphysics is thus something more than logic: as M. Gilson has repeatedly pointed out, it was the basic error of idealists to identify them. That is why they interpreted the self-consistency of their systems as proofs of their truth. It is, on the other hand, the occupational disease of linguistic analysts to deny the existence of metaphysics altogether. Thus, from opposite poles of the philosophical firmament both these schools fail to recognise metaphysics as a study in itself, having its own proper concern and its own method.

Perception, I shall thus maintain, is an activity in which sense and intellect are both involved. This does not mean that in an act of perception there are really two acts performed by two distinct subjects, a sense which senses and an intellect which understands. There is one subject, the human being, who in one act of perception senses by his sense and apprehends by his intellect, the sensible impression being the objectum quo and the intelligible extra-mental thing the objectum quod. This is the heart of the epistemology of St Thomas Aquinas and of such modern Thomists as M. Gilson and M. Maritain. It is, in my opinion, basic to any adequate account of knowledge, and, provided it is accepted, its elaboration and ornamentation seem to me to be secondary and optional; this does not mean that these latter are uninteresting or trivial, but it does mean that the central doctrine can stand without them. As for the notorious ‘errors of the senses’, I am content with M. Gilson simply to admit, with all due modesty, that we are not infallible. As I have written elsewhere:

It is quite wrong to talk about hallucinations as is often done, as if they were due to well-behaved perception of misbehaved objects; they are due to disorder in perception itself. If a drunkard ‘sees rats that are not there’, this does not mean that there is a special species of rat, the rattus inexistens, which the drunkard has a peculiar capacity for observing, co-ordinate with but less common than the more familiar rattus rattus and rattus norvegicus; it means that there is no such thing as the drunkard's rat at all, he only ‘thinks there is’. Misperceptions are not due to awareness of a ‘wild’ sense-datum; it is the awareness that is wild, otherwise the percipient would not suppose he was perceiving an object at all.16

And what is true of the drunkard's hallucinations is, I would hold, true of our less spectacular errors of perception in their degree.

To return now to the point from which I digressed, the primary object of our perception is extra-mental being, existing in se; and, although further consideration may have much to add to this, it must never deny this basic datum. It is here, as I see it, that phenomenology tends to go astray, though as Fr J. M. Bocheński has pointed out, we must distinguish between phenomenological method and phenomenology as a doctrine.17 The method consists in refraining from attending to anything except the purely phenomenal aspect of the object; there is no room for the notion of an objectum quo. To quote Fr Bocheński:

The given object (‘phenomenon’) has… to be subjected to a two-fold reduction: first the existence of the thing must be disregarded, and attention concentrated exclusively on what the object is, on its ‘whatness’; second, everything inessential has to be excluded from this ‘whatness’, and only the essence of the object analysed.18

Bocheński makes two important points. First:

it should be noted that the phenomenological reduction is not the same thing as a denial. The elements excluded are only set aside and abstracted from while attention is concentrated on what remains. The eidetic reduction similarly does not imply a value-judgment on the aspects that are excluded: to use the phenomenological method does not rule out the possibility of using other methods later on and of considering the aspects that have been ignored for the time being. The rule of reduction is valid only for the duration of the phenomenological exercise.19

Secondly, Bocheński points out that, whereas ‘at first sight phenomenological observation seems to be something quite simple, and to consist merely in keeping one's intellectual eyes open, and where appropriate putting oneself in a suitable position for getting a good view of the object by making various external movements’,20 the phenomenological method in fact involves a technique which needs to be mastered. ‘The leading rule of phenomenology is “back to the things themselves”, where by “things” is meant just the given’21 and this involves a threefold self-restraint or ‘reduction’: first, a detached and ‘objective’ attitude, concentrated solely on the object or ‘phenomenon’; secondly, an abandonment of all theory, hypotheses and arguments derived from outside sources; thirdly the abandonment of all ‘tradition’, of all views that have ever been held on the object in question. The intention is to arrive at the pure essence of the object, in abstraction from both its existence and contingency.

The immediate reaction to which one is tempted is to wonder whether the phenomenological method does not exclude from consideration the most important characteristics of experience. Just as a training in linguistic analysis seems frequently to condition the disciple to be unable to attend to the meaning of sentences while developing a remarkable capacity for observing their behaviour and dissecting their structure, so it might appear that the complete phenomenologist would be incapable of attending to anything but the most spectral and superficial aspects of the world. This, of course, the phenomenologists deny. ‘It is imperative to see everything that is given, as far as that is possible.… Further, phenomenological observation must be descriptive. That is to say, the object must be taken apart, and its elements then described and analysed.’22 Nevertheless, the whole process is so artificial and doctrinaire that the suspicion remains that, in the attempt to achieve pure and perfect objectivity, a great deal may be excluded that ought to be preserved and that much of what is preserved may be distorted. It might seem more reasonable not to impose upon perception an externally dictated technique but rather to assist the mind to perform its natural operations more comfortably and unimpededly. Any other programme lays itself open, among other objections, to the question Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? There is more than a suggestion in the phenomenological method of the type of Hindu yoga in which normal awareness of the world is suspended and it is seen only as maya or phenomenon. From the point of view of our present concern, the drawback of the phenomenological method is that it tends to exclude from consideration the very aspect of perceived being upon which we most need to concentrate our attention, namely its existence as an extra-mental in-se. The leading rule of phenomenology may indeed be ‘Back to the given’, but since its intention is to abstract from both the existence and the contingency of the object, the one thing it ignores in the given is precisely its givenness. As Bocheński has remarked, the use of the phenomenological method does not rule out the use of other methods later on and the consideration of the aspects that the phenomenological method has ignored. It is such another method that I propose to use, a method that concentrates upon the sheer givenness of perceived being.

  • 1.

    Nature, Man and God, p. 57.

  • 2.

    An Outline of Philosophy, p. 83.

  • 3.

    Le Réalisme méthodique, pp. 87ff.

  • 4.

    Cf. R. J. Hirst, s.v. ‘Sensa’, in Encyl. of Philosophy, VII, pp. 407ff.

  • 5.

    Examination of McTaggart's Philosophy, II, p. 259.

  • 6.

    Human Knowledge: its Scope and Limits, p. 196; Outline of Philosophy, p. 302.

  • 7.

    Maisie Ward, Return to Chesterton, p. 130.

  • 8.

    In Memoriam, XLV.

  • 9.

    Cf. St Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, ii, 3, obj. 19 el ad 19.

  • 10.

    ch. ii, ‘The Senses and the Intellect’.

  • 11.

    ibid., p. 35. The reference is to the first dialogue (Everyman edition, p. 226).

  • 12.

    Words such as ‘sensation’, ‘sensitive’, ‘sensible’ and ‘sensuous’ in the present context simply refer to the five senses and their meaning has little in common with that which they have in ordinary speech.

  • 13.

    Review of Metaphysics, XXI (1968) p. 609.

  • 14.

    ‘Analytic Philosophy and Language about God’, in George F. McLean ed., Christian Philosophy and Religious Renewal (1967), pp. 64f.

  • 15.

    ibid., pp. 48f.

  • 16.

    Christian Theology and Natural Science, p. 239; I have substituted ‘an object’ for ‘a sense-datum’ in the last line. Cf. also my Existence and Analogy, pp. 53ff; Words and Images, pp. 70ff.

  • 17.

    The Methods of Contemporary Thought, p. 16.

  • 18.

    ibid., pp. 16f.

  • 19.

    ibid., p. 17.

  • 20.


  • 21.

    ibid., p. 16.

  • 22.

    ibid., p. 23.