Description of the Problem.
THE problem which I am to invite you to study together with me is described in Lord Gifford's Deed of Foundation by help of very various formulae. But what essentially he saw to be important may be reduced, I think, to three requirements, which indeed express an undying need of the human mind. We are to study, if we respect his wishes (1) the nature of the sole Reality, that within which we live and move and have our being; (2) the duty and destiny of finite creatures as illuminated by their relations with such a reality; and (3) our knowledgeand this requirement he puts in the forefrontis to be a knowledge not merely nominal, but true (he means, I think, carrying deep conviction) and fellor as we might say, it is to involve the communication of a grave experience, and not the mere framework of a theory.
The attitude to experience.
Not the mere framework of a theory. We have implied in this requirement the double task of philosophy. For certainly, in approaching this high argument, we cannot lay aside the method of serious and systematic thought; the indispensable justification of all procedure that carries our beliefs beyond or below the simplest surfaces of life. The framework of a theory we unquestionably must develop. But there is something more; something more, and yet something inseparable; not behind or beyond the theoretical structure, but rather its informing life and spirit. And this something is our attitude to experience; or more strictly, the mode of experience in which each of us more especially sees and feels his continuity with reality. And it might very naturally be said that the framework of our theories has its value only as an embodiment of this selection and feeling and point of view. But if we tried to pursue such an idea seriously, we should quickly find it reverse itself; and our attitude in selecting the experience on which man is to rely in interpreting his world would collapse into a mere mood or humour of our mind, if it were not concentrated and organised in a serious philosophical theory. It is the old story of matter and form, of their absolute relativity, and the impossibility of conceiving either apart from the other.
The demands, then, of the gravest methodic thought will tax our best energies in some stages of the pilgrimage which some of us, as I hope, are to undertake together. And therefore it seems well to devote this initial lecture to a rapid anticipatory survey of the sort of attitude in experience and outlook on the world which our exposition will do its best to communicate, as knowledge carrying deep conviction and appealing to our whole being. That was the sense which we ascribed to Lord Gifford's words.
And for clearness sake I shall begin by describing this attitude of ours in a great degree through negatives. It will help us to apprehend what sort of thing we hope to establish, if we lay down clearly from the first what movements and tendencies we shall be obliged on the whole to repel.
The truly obvious.
1. And first we may say a word on the idea of proportion, centrality, sanity, in the selection of the experience which is to dominate our attitude. We may oppose it to tendencies and inclinations which strike us as pre-eminently over-specialised, centrifugal, capricious. It is commonly held right to avoid the obvious, and in a certain sense we shall preach against it ourselves. But there is an obvious which depends not on immediacy but on centrality and dominance; and the obvious of this kind it is not easy to apprehend nor yet well to ignore. A wood seems an obvious thing, and so does a crowd. But we know that it is not easy to see the wood for the trees, or to apprehend the mind of a crowd or of a society. The former, I take it, is a late acquirement of the painter's art; the latter, many would tell us, was never really understood till the last generation. These instances, the first that come to hand, may serve to indicate the conception of that obvious which is familiar and yet neglected. And more important cases will emerge as we proceed.
We begin then with the principlethe truism if you likethat in our attitude to experience, or through experience to our world, we are to put the central things in the centre, to respect the claims of the obvious which is neglectedto take for our standard what man recognises as value when his life is fullest and his soul at its highest stretch.1
But one hears the critic murmur that all these terms of rank and value merely beg the question. What are the central things, and what is the soul's highest stretch? About all that there will be plenty to say when we come to exhibit our attitude in its aspect of logical theory. At present we are only urging by anticipation that there are in life central and dominant experiences, whose importance is obvious and undeniable, but which seldom find due recognition in the formal philosophy of others than the greatest men. And therefore philosophical theory seems frequently, and gravely, to fail in focussing the total conviction which, with courage and an open mind, a man may gather from the world. Theory seems too impatient, too much the victim of antitheses, too liable to break up its object in obedience to crude impressions, instead of using all its strength to ensure that its attitude to life is sane and centralthat its experience is strong and profound and complete.
You do not, for example, readily find, represented in philosophical doctrine, so large and free an impression of the world as has recently been gathered by a gifted student of Shakespeare.2 Reducing it to our own inferior language, it is something like this. We receive from the world a tremendous impression of evil; there is no question of that. We also receive an overwhelming impression of goodsomething that we call good; that again is unquestionable. And the difficulty begins when you try to disentangle themthe one belongs to the other, and you cannot get them apart. Now instead of patiently interrogating experience, and endeavouring to take account of the largest and bravest attitude of soul,3 theory here is apt to rush in, on the basis of first appearances, and either prove that black is white, or that white is black, or that the whole is an invisible patchwork of the two and is really grey.
But this, we urge, does not represent our central impression; it does not confront the more complete and sane and courageous experience. For the phenomena, as we really recognise them, are like those of beauty and ugliness; you cannot divide them between this side and that, and say Lo here! or Lo there! You have rather to open your eyes to the higher obvious, and look at the greater experiences as they are. You have to apprehend sublimity and splendour actually lighting up the lines of horribleness and squalor. You cannot, perhaps, solve the problem; but you can see that the whole thing belongs together in a way which our prima facie judgments wholly fail to confront. So with good and evil in the Universe. Such experiences as Moral Good, Pleasure, Justice, take you only a certain way. With the best of logic you cannot make a universe out of them; or, more truly, the best of logic refuses to handle these alone. The matter must be of higher quality or it will not give rise to the fuller form. So the higher, yet obvious and dominant, experience carries you at least as far as, for example, strength and endurance, love and sacrifice, the making and the achievement of souls.
And we shall observe the same principle to hold in the world of cognitive apprehension. We certainly feel error everywhere, and yet again we have a hold of truth. And the great central experience which may be called the arduousness of reality, though we confess it with our lips at every moment, we seldom really face in our philosophical theory. We fall back upon one phase or another of rest and refuge, of repose on a solid nucleus which we call fact, or surrender to a stream of indetermination which we call life, and are blind to the open secret which all life worth living should make as plain to a candid apprehension as a crowd or a forest should be to the bodily eye. For, in the one case as in the other, what is familiar and fundamental appears, for that very reason, to evade precise perception. The great philosophers, it will be found, are just those who have succeeded in discerning the great and simple facts. It is, I am convinced, a serious lack of sympathetic insight which prevents us from understanding that to be right in one's bird's-eye view of centrality and the scheme of values, demands a higher intellectual character and even a more toilsome intellectual achievement than to formulate whole volumes of ingenious ratiocination. True, without logical development there is no philosophy; but no skill in development will compensate for a defective attitude to life. It is not that the matter may be bad and the form excellent, or vice versa, and so the one can injure or redeem the other. It is, as we said just now, that the whole, the philosophy, which, like a poem, is matter and form in one, reacts to a sound or defective outlook upon life alike in its spirit and in its structurecall matter or form which you will. Bad taste is bad logic, and bad logic is bad taste. Simply to be right, as the greatest men are right, means to have traversed hundreds and thousands of ingenuities, to have rejected them as inadequate, and come back to the centre enriched by their negative results.
The Pilgrim's Progress of Philosophy.
2. Turning then for a moment, still in the way of anticipation and description, to the negative aspect of the sane and central experience, we take it as a patent and dominant fact that nowhere, in asserting our continuity with the real, do we stand in the beginning on safe and solid ground. I mean on ground on which, if we chose, we could remain. It tells us nothing to say that an experience is immediate; for there are countless immediates and there is nothing that cannot be immediate. But if we understand by immediate so far as may be the primary datum, the factual nucleus, the naïve apprehension, then it is the plain and unmistakable lesson of logic and of the world that the immediate cannot stand. You cannot anywhere, whether in life or in logic, find rest and salvation by withdrawing from the intercourse and implications of life; no more in the world of individual property and self-maintenance than in the world of international politics and economics; no more in the world of logical apprehension than in that of moral service and religious devotion. Everywhere to possess reality is an arduous task; stability and solidity are not in the beginning, but, if anywhere, only in proportion as we enter upon the larger vistas of things.
All this is what we are calling obvious. But as we shall observe throughout with reference to many supreme characters of experience, because it is obvious, it is neglected. The greatest truths, we shall often have to maintain, are assented to but not believed. If this obvious character of all our dominant experience (experience not to be taken as exclusive, but as the profoundest clue to the rest)if this obvious character were not disregarded, how should we come across such arguments with reference to the attainment of philosophical truth, as that the stream cannot rise higher than its source (a type of occurrence which is in fact the essence both of life and of logic), or that in the quest for the Absolute we are abandoning our solid given self? The clamour resounds on all sides that we are dropping the substance for the shadow. And we have perpetually to recur to the obvious and leading facts of our existence, to reassure ourselves that the stubborn truth of things (if these rough contrasts are to be tolerated at all) lies in the opposite sense; and that the shadow and the substance stand towards one another not as the critic but as Plato affirms them to stand. We shall find occasion to return to the question of Plato's so-called dualism. At present it is enough to say that this splitting up of Plato's universe into two persistent extremes is a part of the easy-going centrifugal attitude against which our whole thesis will prove to be a protest. For Plato, emphatically and primarily, the world is but one;4 and of this one world, the human soul, when most self-centred and self-satisfied, is almost wholly disinherited.
Starting with this attitude and perception, we see that if our Pilgrim's Progress is adventurous, it is beyond a doubt inevitable. To cling to our initial standing groundor to strive or pretend to do so, for it is not really possibleis without any question to abide in the City of Destruction. The idea of a solid givena personality, a fact, an apprehension, which we possess ab initio, and are tempted rashly and perversely to abandon in the quest of the Absolute, is an illusion which has no warrant in vital experience. The road of philosophical speculation is not the possible way for most men, nor the only way for any man; that is true and sound. But in one way and another, in labour, in learning, and in religion, every man has his pilgrimage to make, his self to remould and to acquire, his world and his surroundings to transform. In sin, too, he does it; in what way, we shall try to see later. We are only attempting, in the form of reflection, what every living creature at least is doing, one way or another, between birth and death. And it is in this adventure, and not apart from it, that we find and maintain the personality which we suppose ourselves to possess ab initio.
Platitudes, it may be said, from some old book of hymns or sermons! We've no abiding city here! Why yes, I rather think so. But the odd thing is that so much philosophy should be built not merely on the denial of them, but on disregard of the common and recognised human experience which they represent.
Some instructive negations.
3. We will now rapidly survey some typical illusions, as they appear to me, of what I have called the centrifugal type, a negative relation to which will help to define the course of our argument. And after that we will gather into a few propositions the more burning issues of our own contention.
Il gran rifiuto.
(1) I hope it may set our thoughts in tune for the general aim and method of our argument, if I begin by repudiating what seems to me in principle il gran rifiuto, the ultimate abnegation, on the part of philosophy. I select a passage from a writing of Professor William James, whose presence once added lustre even to this University, and whose teaching was a perpetual stimulus and delight to the philosophical world. To be clear and fair, I must point out that in this argument James's moral was ultimately the same as my own. I find the great abnegation in his applying it as a sound criticism upon the normal study of the great philosophers, and as a ground for a new and different philosophy.
Here is the passage. I wish that I had saved the first couple of pages of a thesis which a student handed me a year or two ago. They illustrated my point so clearly that I am sorry I cannot read them to you now. This young man, who was a graduate from some Western college, began by saying that he had always taken for granted that when you entered a philosophic class-room you had to open relations with a universe entirely distinct from the one you left behind you in the street. The two were supposed, he said, to have so little to do with each other, that you could not possibly occupy your mind with them at the same time. The world of concrete personal experiences to which the street belongs is multitudinous beyond imagination, tangled, muddy, painful, and perplexed. The world to which your philosophy-professor introduces you is simple, clean, and noble. The contradictions of real life are absent from it. Its architecture is classic. Principles of reason trace its outlines, logical necessities cement its parts. Purity and dignity are what it most expresses. It is a kind of marble temple shining on a hill. In point of fact it is far less an account of this actual world than a clear addition built upon it, a classic sanctuary in which the rationalist fancy may take refuge from the intolerably confused and gothic character which mere facts present. It is no explanation of our concrete universe, it is another thing altogether, a substitute for it, a remedy, a way of escape, and so on.5
I remember to have first read this passage with an interest that grew more breathless as I approached its close, thinking what a magnificent opening Professor James's student had given him for imparting some first hints of the nature of philosophy in the hands of the masters, and the conditions of philosophic study. And I recall my gasp of disappointed amazement when I realised that the opening was to be left unused, or at best exploited in favour of something to be called Pragmatism; that a teacher had actually passed these ideas as sound and just, when taken in reference to the principal existing philosophies.6
Now I presume that in this matter your experience is the same as mine. When you first come in contact with those senior fellow-students who are called your professors and lecturers, and you reveal to them, intentionally or unintentionally, your feeling that philosophical systems are foreign to the concerns and difficulties of life, I imagine that they meet you in a very different way from that above suggested. Probably, by one method or another, they try to lead you towards the conception that the gulf which you complain of is caused by the insufficient quantity and quality of the attention which you have hitherto been able to bestow upon the facts of living, compared with the breadth, patience, insight, and sympathy which you are now first called upon to devote to them, and which are new to you, and demand a considerable effort. Naturally, experience when thus approached undergoes transformation; and the language we hold about it is modified. And so we begin to have gleams of insight into the thought and expression of the great men whose breadth, sympathy, and understanding of life are to ours as the ocean to a streamlet. We see how they come to hold a language greatly differing from that which we were used to before we gave very careful attention to the great issues and predominant facts of life. We learn in some degree how any point we take up in the tissue of experience opens out into tremendous problems and indicates unanticipated depths. We begin, as Plato said, to learn the alphabet of the ethical or social and ultimately of the metaphysical world.7 Philosophy is the formal embodiment of the penetrative imagination;8 it deals with the significance of things; and transforms them, but only by intensified illumination. We shall throughout repudiate this ultimate abnegation which treats the great philosophies as abstractions alien to life. It is il gran rifiuto when life ignores and disowns its own largest and deepest experiences. The phenomenon is a common one, and commoner as the great experiences grow greater.
Fact, Life, and Self dangerous immediates.
(2) We shall also meet, with uncompromising resistance, the attempt to take any form of immediateness, understood as excluding mediation, for an absolute and reliable datum, whether in the form of an object of simple apprehension, called by the name of fact, or in the form of an indeterminate creative impulse called by the name of life, or in the form of a subject of experience, impervious and isolated, called by the name of self.
Each and all of these three immediates seems to invite the general criticism which we offered above. The solid fact or object of simple perception; the indeterminate living or duration which defies the notional grasp; the isolated personality, impervious to the mind of others, seem all of them to mark arbitrary refuges or timid withdrawals from the movement of the world. What is dreaded in that movement may be the critical dispersion of our supposed solid που̑ στω̑ of fact or self, as in the first and third doctrines, or the linkage with a determinate continuity, the spectre of tout est donné, as in the second. In more ways than one there asserts itself the inherent connexion between such refuges and withdrawals and true philosophical pessimism. I mean by this not the mere mood in which one mind or another pronounces life not worth living, but the argument by which connexion is radically severed between real existence and the principle of perfection.9 This applies to the first doctrine and the third, which are complementary forms of the same ultimate attitude. The second, embodying rather a principle of indetermination than a determinate discontinuity, carries with it a pessimism or a meliorism as the holder's temper may demand.10
Am I then implying that a true philosopher is bound to Optimism, and that the two other attitudes are ex hypothesi condemned? This question, I hope, will answer itself in extenso below. To anticipate in a few words. The decisive consideration surely is that our best and worst are all included in our one universe, and we have no means or occasion for conceiving another or others in which either could be separately present. We can hardly proceed to state cases for comparison in respect of good or evil until we have a fair insight into the actual nature and connexion of what as we primarily apprehend them we call good and evil. To say that we should approve a universe in which there was our good without our evil may be merely a ridiculously illegitimate hypothesis. But if we have no cases to compare, we have no right to use the comparative or superlative forms of speech. Our real effort must be, I am convinced, towards seeing in what the true best of our universe, taking account of the worst, must consist. It is clear that till we have seen to the bottom of this problem, we cannot be equipped to pass judgment on the universe, for we do not really know what it claims its best to be. If it is urged that we must be entitled to judge by our current ideas of good and bad, or else the universe is a fraud,11 I agree that our ideas have some value, and bear upon the point. But I say that in any case we do not know enough to pass judgment ultimately; and I say further that within our actual current ideas there is so much room for discrepancy (owing to the different attitudes of experience on which we have insisted), as to make it evident that there is in them a principle of advance which would at least lead our judgment very far away from our prima facie conceptions.
What demands our attention is to ascertain what we really and self-consistently mean by the best, and the current claim to judge the universe is one of the immediates which we must repudiate.
Immediacy involves Individualism,
(3) If, then, adhering to immediacy, we commit ourselves to accepting the apparent self as a solid starting-point, and demanding for it a distinct fulfilment in pari materia, we find ourselves on the ground of justice, ethics, teleology. According to the plan of this Introduction we will not yet reason in detail upon these attitudes and postulates; but we may point out that there are modes of experience, obvious and dominant in our sense of the term, which indicate a modification and transcendence of them. Consider what is called Justice. There is hardly a morbid romance but founds its pessimism on the wearisome postulate of what it calls justicesome proportion, that is to say, which is claimed as a right, between the given wants and the fortunes of man. The note of this mood and temper is the reiterated WhyWhy should A be at a disadvantage when B is not?and we feel it to be wholly discordant with the temper of the stronger souls in whom we delight to recognise the ready welcome of differentiation and the insight that even the call for endurance is an opportunity. Justice as thus demanded is a principle of compensation for being what you are, and cannot have a place in a differentiated universe. It would fix and rivet the finite member of a world to his finite and given being, in opposition to his real power, which is, precisely, by means of and through accepting the whole involved in the differentiation, to transcend his apparent limits.
So with Ethics and Teleology. We can see their value and necessity, but we are obliged also to note that they cannot be characters of a whole or world, but only of its finite members. Their nature is summed up in the paradox The end is progress, and the inconsistency of such a conception forces itself upon us in many forms. A teleology cannot be ultimate; it can express nothing but a necessity for change founded upon a whole which constitutes the situation to be modified, and, in that, the need for modification. There is no meaning in somebody wishing something,1213 except in view of a definite situation which at once suggests and prima facie denies his wish.
We are convinced by daily life, I think, that the ethical struggle, justice, and teleology are in place, so to speak, only so far as they can be serviceable; as instruments, that is, of the necessary self-assertion of the finite mind. When that point is passed, or that aspect subordinated, there is room only for love and pity, or again for faith and triumph. We feel, as we constantly admit, that our judgment of morality and of failure is not all there is to be said about a man. His value and his reality lie deeper than that.14 Good, we feel, needs and includes the ethical struggle, but is much more than it, or the struggle itself would be impossible.
and rules out tension from perfection,
(4) Thus it has always been a fallacy of prima facie judgment to split up the tension of real life into pure delight and pure miseryheaven and hellrepresenting the perfection of experience by the former, and absolute failure by the latter. Such a conception, as we shall see, is forced to a restoration of unity by making the misery of the lost contributory to the happiness of the saved. All views in which pain and struggle are conceived as leading up to a happiness from which they are wholly excluded, partake of this absurdity. When Plato said that neither pleasure nor pain were fit experiences to be ascribed to divine beingsindicating, of course, not a neutral state, but something transcending the twohe said what represents the obvious demand of mind at any tolerably high level. It seems plain to me that we are in conflict with fundamental necessities of the better life, if we construe the Absolute as heaven, and reckon it as a future of enjoyment crowning the struggle of time. Tension and satisfaction may, as we know, be immensely modified in character, and to conceive them as perfectly fused is beyond our experience; but satisfaction without tension is a thing that reason does not suggest and experience does not indicate. The direction which man at his best has taken in seeking freely for his fullest satisfaction, shows us, in the significance of poetical tragedy, something of the nature which must attach to a satisfactory experience. Of course I do not say that the most perfect tragedy is such an experience. I only say, in conformity with the anticipatory character of the present lecture, that the almost supreme rank occupied by it in the achievements of the human mind, is a perfectly obvious and highly significant fact, which I have never but once seen observed upon in general philosophy.15 If we really think the race is progressing to a stage of felicity, in which, without any jot of participation in any tragic experience, it is to draw from it a painless enjoyment, then I think that the doctrine of hell contributing to the pleasures of heaven is not far away.
And the moral of this paragraph and the last together is that starting from commonplace experience we are always tempted to isolate endeavour and fruition, which in all the higher attainments of mind (we may instance morality so far as socially realised, or aesthetic enjoyment) we find to be impossible, and, supposing it possible, ruinous to the experience. You cannot, so to speak, believe in Optimism or Pessimism alone. If you will have a pure heaven, you must add a pure hell to complete it. If, that is, pain and struggle are not to modify and be modified by fruition, they must fall somewhere by themselves, as a life of Tantalus.
and thrusts and Absolute out of Life.
(5) And thus an opinion, supported by thinkers for whom I have a profound respect seems to me untenable, the doctrine, that is, that Philosophy gives hope, not guidance.16
So far as this tenet is a warning against doctrinairism, against looking to philosophy for prescriptions of practical detail, it seems to me perfectly just. But those who have studied the distinguished writer who formulates it will be convinced, I think, that there is something more general behind. In the way we have deprecated above, perfection is identified with happiness, as unconditioned by anything akin to pain,the motive and colour of the doctrine has some connection with Hedonismand great stress is laid on the probability of its emergence as a crowning phenomenon of time. And thusso it seems to mewe are enticed away from any conception of the Absolute as the principle and pervading spirit of our world, and from the conviction that the general direction of our higher experience is a clue to the direction in which perfection has to be sought. To put it plainly, we are promised a harmonythat is the hope which is given; but on such general grounds and in such general terms that the concrete system of values, which ought to be immanent as our clue and guidance to the conception of the best, is allowed to drop out.17 And this, I think, is due, on the side of concrete experience, to the acceptance of too immediate a fact ab initio in the construing of the idealto taking pleasure as a type of felt harmony. With this clue in mind we necessarily split up our experience of life, and omit to employ what is really one half of it as a factor in our ideal. And, therefore, we fail to catch the heart-beat of the Absolute in our actual world, and to be convinced that the things which are best to us are really and in fact akin to what is best in the universe; that their fundamental tendencies are discoverable by the study of our surroundings; and in ultimate reality, though modified in the direction indicated, are not reversed.
Some central points.
4. I will draw towards a conclusion by indicating in a few positive propositions, still by way of description and anticipation, the critical points of the attitude which I shall endeavour to maintain as conformable to our sane and central experiences. And in these, intending to develop them technically later on, I shall strive for plainness even at the cost of exaggeration.
What counts is mind is such.
(1) The principal thing that matters is the level and fulness of mind attained. The destiny and separate conservation of particular minds is of inferior importance and merely instrumental to the former.18
This conviction we shall later attempt to draw out in argument. But I am sure that it is deeply rooted in the every-day mind at its best, though liable to be overriden by conventions which have nothing like the same reality. What a man really cares aboutso it seems to memay be described as making the most of the trust he has received. He does not value himself as a detached and purely self-identical subject. He values himself as the inheritor of the gifts and surroundings which are focussed in him, and which it is his business to raise to their highest power.19 The attitude of a true noble, one in whom noblesse oblige, is a simple example of what mutatis mutandis all men feel. The man is a representative, a trustee for the world, of certain powers and circumstances. And this cannot fail to be so. For suffering and privation are also opportunities. The question for him is how much he can make of them. This is the simple and primary point of view, and also, in the main, the true and fundamental one. It is not the bare personality or the separate destiny that occupies a healthy mind. It is the thing to be done, known, and felt; in a word, the completeness of experience, his contribution to it, and his participation in it.
At every point the web of experience is continuous; he cannot distinguish his part from that of others, and the more he realises the continuity the less he cares about the separateness of the contribution to it.20 Sometimes it seems to amount to an accident who in particular becomes the mouthpiece and obtains the credit of knowledge and ideas current in certain circles or professions; and it may frequently be felt, both by himself and by others, that the one who does so is neither the main originator nor the one best fitted to be the expounder.21 It is impossible to overrate the co-operative element in experience. And its importance has a considerable bearing on what we are apt to call the problem of unfulfilled promise. By unnoticed contributions to the common mind, very much is preserved which seems to have perished, and in some cases perhaps the half has been more than the whole.
The passion of love may be instanced against these ideas. Here, even though we argue that the one who loves rather merges than insists on his own particular being, yet surely the particular being of the loved object is the very core and centre of the emotion. Its destiny, its permanence, even its unchanged immortality, seems to matter more than anything in the universe. Just so; as in all the higher levels of experience, some particular personality becomes important by what it embodies. That is quite obvious; and the fact that passionate love, as the engrossing relation of two personalities, seizes on and kindles into flame all that they contain, is really a document of the value that comes to a particular being when it throws itself wholeheartedly outside itself. The thing has a side of utter selfishness and ownership; but it is when this is burnt away that the greatness of the experience begins. A particular is all-important to each; but this particular is not his own particularity, but another's; and, moreover, it is no longer to him a particular, but takes on the value of a world. It is this that the desire of eternity really signifies, and with this comes a transformation. A great writer has said that hate, like fire, makes any rubbish deadly; and it is no less true that love, like fire, makes the poorest things splendid. It is almost, one might say, the absolute in propria persona.
At any rate, this is one observation which seems central both in life and in theory, that the level or quality of mind, and not the destiny of its centres, is the main thingthe principal value.
Logic the spirit of value.
(2) The same principle, in rather more technical form, amounts to this, that Logic, or the spirit of totality, is the clue to reality, value, and freedom.
The key to this principle is to be found in all that connects the satisfactoriness of experiences with their stability or power of self-maintenance, and both with the nature of creative initiative. Creative initiative is obviously, under the form of change, what stability and self-maintenance are under the form of duration. The desire to liberate the initiative of mind from pre-existing conditions sometimes goes so far that it seems to forget that an inference after alla typical act of mindmust have data or premisses to issue from, and that, e.g., the creation of a work of art is null and worthless if it does not involve an apprehension or fore-feeling of just that coexistent unity which makes it when completed the very type of a logical whole. The logical spirit, the tendency of parts to self-transcendence and absorption in wholes, is the birth-impulse of initiative, as it is the life-blood of stable existence. And the degree in which this spirit is incarnate in any world or system is one with the value, the satisfactoriness and reality by which such a system must be estimated, as also with the creative effort, by which it must be initiated.22
The good of a world.
(3) The good of the universe must be such as belongs to a world and not to the member of one.
This observation seems fundamental. It is very evident in so comparatively simple a question as that of morality in the particular person and in the state. The member of a world, relative or absolute, is conditioned by his world, and his task presupposes it. His world, itself relatively or absolutely the ultimate condition of things, has an altogether different task. It has to sustain within it all the organs and conditions necessary to constitute a world. The member of a world is conditioned by his surroundings, which set his task; the world is the condition both of the individual and of his task. His good is prescribed by his relation to his task, his dealing with his surroundings. Its good cannot conceivably be the same as his. Its good must include making his good possible; and if it could be good through and through, in the sense in which he is expected to be good, his goodness would not be possible. We expect it to be rather the birthplace and theatre, or morethe including totalityof goodness, than itself of the precise nature of what we primarily call good. Its excellency is rather to be great in its possibilities, beyond the reaches of the finite soul, so that this may always find more than it can master; may always find more than scope for its utmost effort and its utmost worship.23 We could not, it may be suggested, possibly be satisfied in a universe in which we could be contentwhich simply ministered to our goodness, letting us sin, endure, and aspire slightly, so that we could see clearly it was all calculated for our good. We should then feel ourselves, in our finiteness, the lords and masters, because sole purpose, of the world, which would exist simply to make us feel good. And we should be miserable, and the end would not be attained, for we should have nothing greater than our finite selves to contemplate. We want something above us, something to make us dare and do and hope to be. We are finite, which means incomplete, and not fitted to be absolute ends.24
Goodness, in other words, we know, cannot be the moral end. If we make it so, it loses its content and collapses into nothingness.25 The world that conditions our goodness must not exist merely for our goodness sake, but must subordinate it to some concrete need or nature. A world's excellence must include its members, and have a relation, or sort of kinship, to it; but must be of the nature of a greatness that goes beyond and sustains it.
The greatness of souls.
(4) The universe is not a place of pleasure, nor even a place compounded of probation and justice; it is, from the highest point of view concerned with finite beings, a place of soul-making.
Our best experience carries us without hesitation thus far. We see for ourselves that mere pleasure, or the mere sense of moral desert and adjustment of consequences to it, take in but little of what has value for the fully capable mind, though both, of course, take in some of it. We may call in evidence history or science, poetry or politics, social life or religion. It is the moulding and the greatness of souls that we really care for.
This observation has to be reconciled with what we said above as to the relative values of the particularity of the particular centres of mind compared with the level of mind as such. But this reconciliation, which must occupy us more fully later on, is not in principle difficult. The destiny or conservation, we said, of particular centres is not what primarily has value, and here we say nothing to conflict with this. What has value is the contribution which the particular centrea representative of certain elements in the wholebrings to the whole in which it is a member. Its particularity, as we shall see, is connected with its special contribution. But the value of the particularity is indirect, and depends on what it helps to realise.26
It will be urged that making or moulding presupposes time and succession, and so we should stand committed to the reality of these. But this will not disturb us. We can have no doubt that there is time in the Absolute. It is a further question whether, and if at all, in what sense, the Absolute is in time.
We have the Absolute throughout.
(5) Lastly, we experience the Absolute better than we experience anything else. This is our answer to the question, are we finite beings in any way or degree to possess or enjoy the Absolute, or does this depend on some such question as whether there is a future life; and is the Absolute related to us as heaven to an orthodox Christian?
The answer is fundamental for our convictions, and is already decided by our attitude to the stability of our starting-point. We all of us experience the Absolute, because the Absolute is in everything. And as it is in everything we do or suffer, we may even say that we experience it more fully than we experience anything else, especially as one profound characteristic runs through the whole. And that is, that the world does not let us alone; it drives us from pillar to post,27 and the very chapter of accidents, as we call it, confronts us with an extraordinary mixture of opportunity and suffering, which is itself opportunity.
Of course we do not habitually call this power within which we live the absolute. And wholly unreflective minds, we may suppose, are hardly aware of any general characteristic in life pointing to a unity, such that it is at once something which is too many for them, and something which gives them wonderful chances. But the fact is there, and is there for them, though it may be only distributed through their perceptions, and never reflected on as a general fact. We all have, in truth, to recognise something absolute both within28 and without ourselves; an external power prima facie too strong for us, and yet responding to our destinies and passing into us as an inward power now more and now less than equal to the external surroundings. If we refuse to find absoluteness even in love, or in anything but the minimum of positive fact, and say therefore that our only absolute is death,29 yet even that is a power which, primarily hostile and external, an accident of nature, we can make our own and an expression of our will, by self-sacrifice, or by resignation, or in a sense by suicide.30 A being who can determine not to livethe animals below man, it is said, never so determinehas hold of something which is more to him than every possible thing. And in this he gives this something, undefined as it may be, the value of an Absolute, of a not-self which is more himself than his actual self is.
The argument, it may appear, would be simpler and truer if it were the fact that we all, under the discipline of life,31 became obviously wiser and better, like pupils in a school with no percentage of failures. As a fact, too many of us seem to deteriorate. But, as we hinted above, it takes all sorts to make a world; and if we could be at ease in Zion, and see every one virtuous and prima facie contented, we could never, I think, be satisfied. It is only by the conjunction of what is quite beyond us with what is deep within us that the open secret of the Absolute confronts us in life, in love, and in death.
Intended course of the lectures.
5. It is in agreement with the clue given 32 by experiences like these, which I venture to call obvious, central, and sane experiences, that I shall try to set out, in logical connection, during the present session, the foundations and demands of the principle of Individuality, and, during the following one, the straightforward and higher obvious view of the worth and destiny of finite individuals.
In the present course, then, we shall be dealing, for the earlier part, with the principle of Individuality considered as the immanent criterion of the real, and also in its relation to inferior forms of the logical universal, such as general law, uniformity of nature, and directive teleology in evolution. In connection with these discussions the bodily side of mind and the rank of finite consciousness as a teleological agency will fall to be considered, and a good deal of logical technique will be unavoidable. And in the latter part we shall speak of the same principle as the key to the character of value in the real, and to the freedom or initiative of its members, as also to its immanent structure, and is mode of inclusion of nature and the finite self.
The results, I give fair warning, will be nothing in any way startling or a extraordinary. We shall, on the whole, express and define, I believe, the reasonable faith of resolute and open-minded men. The outside of what I could hope to achieve would be sometimes to insist in words on what they think too obvious to be said, and, by attempting a thorough-going logical connection of what is immanent in all the sides of experience, to establish that a sane and central theory is not full of oddities and caprices, but is a rendering, in coherent thought, of what lies at the heart of actual life and love.
This is, I venture to think, a more tenable form of the demand which Professor Varisco makes (I Massimi Problelmi) that the judge of values shall be ex veritate of the truth (in the N.T. sense). This sounds to me too much like a division into sheep and goats.
A. C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy, p. 24 ff.
Ruskin has somewhere called attention to the loss which comes from thinking being the work as a rule of the cowards (say, more politely, the sedentary classes), and not that of the soldiers.
Mr. Schiller, I think, has taken the same point. I have not the reference.
James, Pragmatism, p. 21.
It just illustrates the difference between looking at philosophy from without and working at it from within, that after some hundreds of pages of discussion James finds himself, in essence, affirming the view the acceptance of which by Leibniz he began by treating with contempt. Cf. Pragmatism, p. 296.
Ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
Cf. the author's History of Aesthetic, p. 458.
Cf. e.g. Russell's Philosophical Essays, The Free Man's Worship. The view that the judgment of value is not susceptible of logical defence, together with the doctrine of the imperviousness and isolation of the self, appear to me to belong ultimately to the same position as Mr. Russell's.
In James's philosophy I seem to see the makings of both.
See McTaggart on Mill's saying, Some Dogmas of Religion, p. 214.
James, Pragmatism, pp. 288-9.
James, Pragmatism, pp. 288-9.
Every one, I should think, must have had his moral judgment and his general estimate of values brought into collision by the character of Falstaff. We cannot conceive him in hell any more than he could himself. Every one knows cases of the kind in real life.
I refer to a passage in Mr. Russell's Free Man's Worship, (Philosophical Essays), with which I am very strongly in sympathy.
See McTaggart, Studies in Hegelian Cosmology, Sect. 205; and A. E. Taylor's Elements of Metaphysic, 357. Professor Taylor is referring, I think, especially to the question of the future life, while Mr. McTaggart, in the passage referred to, speaks more generally of ideal perfection.
This is not a mere difference of mood and humour. I believe this author's treatment of the Dialectic to be one-sided in this respect. See Review of McTaggart's Commentary on Hegel's Logic; Mind, January 1911.
Of course experience involves being lived by some being. But this is quite different from saying that finite persons are ultimate values. To identify the conservation of values with the permanence or survival of given personalities, as Professor Varisco appears to me to do, is to my mind an extraordinary assumption.
Cf. the Poets Chorus in Paracelsus
Yet we chose thee a birthplaceWhere the richness ran to flowers;Couldst not sing one song for grace,Not make one blossom man's and ours?
If we could energise a great deal more continuously than most of us can, we might experience physical death literally without being aware of it.Nettleship's Philosophical Remains, i. 90.
The case typified by Arthur Hallam is, I believe, in essentials exceedingly common; that is, that men who are considerable originators, and influence a wide circle, are prevented from producing, and reach the world only as components of other personalities.
I attach great importance in this range of thought to what we learn from reflection upon art and poetry, and, I may add, in the discussion of our de facto apprehension of the absolute, to what we learn from the theory of the sublime.
The world which we began by speaking of was the State. Will any of this language, it will be asked, apply to it? Is it not a mere contrivance, easily worked and easily seen through? Any one who believes this must be puzzled, I think, by the apparent fecundity of difficulty and evil in sociopolitical matters. The fact is, it has to deal with a whole nest of lives and their surroundings, and these involve greatness and conflicts of all kinds. It has to maintain such a system of life as will permit of the development of many-sided excellence within it.
Oh, dread succession to a dizzy post,Sad sway of sceptre whose mere touch appals,Ghastly dethronement, cursed by those the mostOn whose repugnant brow the crown next falls.
Cf. Green, Prolegomena, Sect. 247.
Cp, the whole poem, It is not growing like a tree
Rejoice that man is hurledFrom change to change unceasinglyHis soul's wings never furled.BROWNING.
Such a phrase as absolute certainty is constantly used by people who would shrink from the recognition of an absolute.
Me non oracula certum Sed mors certa facit
Glad did I live and gladly die,And I laid me clown with a will.In suicide there is not the full union of self and not-self. We do not unite with necessity but borrow its form to clothe our self-will. It is the child's Then I won't play. I do not say it cannot be right.
Machinery just meantTo give thy soul its bent,Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.
With the clue given onlyof course all experiences have a right to recognition in their place.