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Lecture 10: Nature, the Self, and the Absolute

“Nature” the environment of selves, considered as self-existent. The line between it and mind not fixed. e.g. Has it Beauty?

1. Is it possible to speak intelligibly of a relation between Nature and the self? Either term seems inconceivable without the other; and there must be something of arbitrariness in any attempts to draw a line between them.

If indeed we took Nature to mean the homogeneous world of units adapted for calculation as known to mathematical physics, then there would be no difficulty in the distinction, but no interest in the relation. Nature would then be one special abstraction under which our intelligence brings together some general characteristics of the world in space and time, for the purpose of reducing its different appearances to comparable formulae. It would no doubt be an effective form in which to recognise many external conditions that operate upon the self, but it would be far short of what nature means either to the common man or the poet.

On the other hand, if we understand by Nature the universe in space and time interpreted as a living system, the meaning which lies at the root of all art and poetry, we should find it hard to exclude from it the spiritual side of the higher organisms, and any further spiritual being which we may suppose their existence to imply. And the distinction, if any remained, between the self and Nature, would be simply that between part and whole, and so far as a relation between the two was concerned, could only be taken as leading up to some such view as the following.

For there is a distinction of kind, relevant to our purpose. We want to understand what it is that the environment, the world of things and facts as we experience it, contributes to the being of the self, the subject or centre for which things or facts are objects. Nature in this sense, the spatial, external, objective world, with its full beauty and usefulness, though nearly everything, is not quite everything. It is hard to say where it stops; but plainly we must draw the line somewhere. It cannot be drawn always at the same point between the subject and its environment. For the self, itself, draws its material from Nature, and even as subject, as confronted with its objective surroundings, is making use of that material to give itself the feeling of self-hood.1 Nature for everyday sentiment and perception differs only in degree from what it is for the artist and the poet. It is the world in space and time, with all its secondary qualities, and moreover, with all the interpretations and emotions by which in our experience it is taken as qualified. We know that in this sense it could be nothing apart from a self which at least must be sentient.2 Nevertheless it is not created by the self taken apart from the detail of the environment; for so taken the self would be nothing. The self may indeed be said to make its own environment. But this is only by selection; it depends on the given; and even within the given it cannot be arbitrary. It is an affair of interests, motives, preferences, grounds, reasons; at all events, of something; and something does not come from nothing, but from something in particular. The self, which makes the environment, is itself all soaked in environment. You cannot say where self ends and environment begins. Nature, conceived as an environment, can hardly be reckoned as less than the whole detail of thing and fact which enters into the world of the self. How far we treat it as qualified by the interpretations and emotions of the self, is, as we have said, a matter of degree. The influence upon us of our own bodies, of our friends in the world of lower animals, or of external events in which other human beings are concerned, cannot be excluded from it on any consistent principle.

The distinction thus becomes the same in principle with that of circumstance and character.3 It is a distinction of points of view. Anything in ourselves or our environment is in this sense Nature, which is not considered in the light of the behaviour of a self. Anything belongs to a self, in which details of our world are seen as connected parts within the total reaction of a mind. If we consider the distinction between Nature and fine art, Nature and morality or politics, Nature and industrial or economic activity, we shall find that no other contrast is justified by common usage and experience, or is relevant to the distinction between Nature and the self. Thus my being born and bred in the Highlands or Lowlands, in town or country, of a strong or a feeble race, are all natural facts; obvious pieces of environment; though my attitude to these facts, or to other things by reason of these facts, belongs to myself, and is the sort of stuff or substance in which myself consists.

Nature, then, as thus considered, is the world in space and time, abstracted from our momentary attitude and considered as self-existent, though at the same time held to be possessed of qualities which presuppose it to be in relation with a cognitive sentient purposive and emotional being.4

Nature inseparable from mind.

2. Nature, as thus considered, has obviously an intimate connection with Mind or Self. I use the term connection as the most non-committal term that I can think of. For what nature has to do with mind or self is just the question we are to discuss.

In any case it is undeniable that Nature is in some sense plastic and responsive to finite subjective mind, and, so far may be set down as in some sense “expressive” of mind, or as its embodiment, or as a crystallisation or hieroglyph of it. But this familiar and obvious conception hides within it two quite antagonistic lines of thought, the one starting from the idea that mind and nature are akin, the other from the idea that they are complementary, and prima facie in a kind of opposition.

Starting from kinship we arrive at Monadism or Pan-psychism.

i. If our impression of the unity of Nature and Mind leads us to start from the idea of kinship or resemblance, we shall be led to travel the road, so fashionable to-day, which ends in the conception of the Universe as a society of spirits, in which the constituent parts of Nature are members, in grades and divisions unknown to us, but intelligible by analogy. The external world would thus be the body, and its behaviour the language and conduct, of actual spiritual beings, not ourselves.5 And whether we preferred the phraseology of will or of meaning, there would be literal and immediate truth in saying that nature possessed a purpose and a significance, akin to our own, and communicable to us according to our measure of sympathy and insight, while barred against us in the main by difference perhaps of modes of utterance, perhaps of the span of consciousness. We should, in short, have accepted the general attitude of Pan-psychism. Now it should be noted that if this attitude is carried through, all externality is dissolved away, i.e., all outward appearance becomes resolvable ad infinitum into spirits. For if not, if it is admitted that there is and must be externality as a counterpart of spirit, then there is no reason in principle for denying that parts of Nature in which subjective mind seems a superfluous hypothesis, are just externality or the counterpart of subjective mind elsewhere. If Pan-psychism is necessary, the resolution into spirit must be universal.

I confess that it is a doctrine which has always appeared to me to reveal the poverty of philosophical imagination. It treats the striking and thorough-going opposition and inseparability of mind and externality as if it had no more significance than a mere congeries of centres of experience belonging to different classes and degrees. It transforms the complementariness of mind and nature, on which as it would seem, their inseparability depends, by an analysis of one into the other such as wholly to destroy the speciality of function for which the one is needed by the other.6 Why insist on reducing to a homogeneous type the contributions of all elements to the whole? What becomes of the material incidents of life—of our food, our clothes, our country, our own bodies? Is it not obvious that our relation to these things is essential to finite being, and that if they are in addition subjective psychical centres their subjective psychical quality is one which so far as realised would destroy their function and character for us?

The work for which finite mind is necessary and valuable may surely be summed up as guidance, including will, and appreciation, including emotion. Below the limits of adjustable conduct and behaviour, in the lower organic world, as in most of the actual working of human and animal bodies, there is no need, as I have pointed out,7 of finite mind for will or guidance. The mind which, if any, we presume to be present in a newt or an orchid, must be such as can have no relation in the way of guidance to the processes of organic “restitution” or the contrivance of fertilisation. The highest human intellect could hardly contrive such devices, and there is in them no trace of the peculiarities which attend guidance by consciousness. It would be contrary to all our convictions to presuppose subjective mind to be present in a degree obviously irrelevant to any functions which it does, or apparently could, in such cases perform. Some shrinking from the hostile and attraction to the favourable there may be in the higher of the two cases mentioned, in the lower not even that can well be supposed. A marvellous work of guidance is carried on, but not by finite subjective mind. This relation must be acknowledged and finally accepted.

It is more difficult to limit the value of mind for appreciation. Why should not a plant enjoy its own being, or a mountain or the sea feel its own power and persistence? Of course we are here in a region with but little to sustain conjecture, but it seems worth observing that appreciation is of less interest as its object loses distinctiveness, and that, according to all presumptions of analogy as well as definite evidence, the capacity of consciousness for distinctive apprehension must diminish as we go down the organic scale. We involuntarily ascribe to the higher animals some appreciation, analogous to ours, of their own grace and splendour. But even here we probably overstate. It is impossible to suppose that their own appearance is known to them, and that their apparent pride and pleasure in existence has any support beyond their immediate feeling of life and vigour. In love and loyalty to offspring and to their group their minds show the highest appreciative quality which we can discern in them, but this value or function of consciousness again, we should suppose, must disappear where there cease to be distinctive family relations, attended by a more or less constancy in a special behaviour towards certain units of the group.

Thus even in the higher animal world, still more in that of the lower organisms, the function of appreciation can hardly be supposed to exist as a raison d'être of subjective mind. It is, on the other hand, emphatically present in the onlooker, the higher among finite spiritual beings, which, in a word, appreciate and understand the lower organic world very far better than that world can be supposed to appreciate and understand itself. Such an argument applies to the inorganic world very much more strongly. Suppose a mountain or a lake to have a dim subjectivity of its own, this consciousness can neither guide itself, nor again appreciate itself as the poet and artist can appreciate it. Whether or no it possesses a subjectivity, its subjectivity does nothing in the finite world. Its function is that of an object to the subjectivity of another, an externality correlative to finite mind, not that of a being which is itself a subject or finite mind.

Thus Pan-psychism seems to me a gratuitous hypothesis, depending on a hasty resolution of the responsiveness of Nature to mind by help of the idea of resemblance, and wholly failing to recognise the complementary functions of subjective mind on the one hand and externality on the other as together essential to any complete form of conscious experience.

Starting from “otherness” we arrive at “source of content.”

ii. Suppose that now we start from the opposite point of view. Let us conceive of externality, of a world having systematic determinations in space and time, whatever the secondary and tertiary qualities (e.g., aesthetic qualities) with which as fully experienced it may be endowed, as something complementary to subjective mind, something apart from which mind would not be itself, would not be a self, would not be anything. In this case it would still, in a sense, be true that nature is plastic, is responsive to finite subjective mind, but its external world would not, in principle, be held to be resolvable into elements which are themselves severally subjective centres. It would have a distinctive place and function as externality, in the finite world and in the universe, and that place and function would amount to nothing less than to be the source and storehouse of all positive properties, contents, and distinctions. We should still be able, if we liked, to say that it is a symbol of mind, the expression of will, or of intelligence (which of these we say really makes no difference if we understand what we are talking about, for either is inseparable from what is expressed, and neither is a complete or felicitous description of it), and is the very content of our consciousness embodied in a form in which we learn to recognise it.

But all this is a little unfair to the part really played by Nature.

No doubt it does reveal a content which is the content of mind, but that does not mean that mind has ab initio the content in itself, and superfluously, de haul en bas, comes to recognise it in nature. The content of mind is the content of Nature because Nature is the instrument or element of the Absolute by which the mind's own “nature” is communicated to it. On the other hand, the content of Nature is the content of mind, because it is only in the sphere of mind that Nature reveals, to begin with, anything at all, and a fortiori, that she reveals the possibilities of life and spirituality that are shut up within her. As we saw, it is all but impossible to distinguish Nature from mind. To separate them is impossible. If you ask, what in Nature is not mind, you can only answer, the fragmentary or disconnected qua fragmentary or disconnected. If you ask what in mind is not Nature, you can only answer, the spirit of totality, the attitude which makes everything alive in its bearing on the whole. Thus we are careful not to libel Nature by saying that she has no meaning, no will (if we prefer the phrase) of her own, but simply borrows from ours. That would, in our view, be false and perverse. On the contrary, we have them to give her only because we take them, nay, we are and exist by taking them, from her. Mind has nothing of its own but the active form of totality; everything positive it draws from Nature.

The parallel in this respect between mind and life is striking, and appears to me to be insufficiently observed. All those discussions which lay weight on the self-sufficingness of life and mind respectively as guides, initiators, contrivers among the forces and data of the environment, ignore the true parallelism and the relation to which it points.

There is no credit or merit due to life or mind, as compared with the natural environment, on the ground of furnishing definite and special lines of variation, peculiar contrivances, adaptations, principles belonging to them and not to nature as contrasted with them. Everything points to the general conclusion that life and mind respectively are the appearance at different stages of an omni-potential8 principle, which elicits its whole definite content and development from its surroundings. In the case of life the general term for this evocation of form from the environment, whatever its detailed methods, is natural selection,9 and the same term will serve, in a somewhat wider sense, for the evocation of finite mind.10 In both cases the strength of the principle lies in what might be called its emptiness. It brings with it no content which could resist or oppose the organisation of all contents. And when we are told of the contrast of life with the supposed mechanical order of inorganic nature, we have to remember that within the realm of life itself, and above its first appearance in some speck of protoplasm, there is a huge world of development whose reactions are no less determinate, no less identical under identical conditions, than those of the mechanical world proper.11 So that within the realm of life itself there is just the same essential contrast, though beginning at a higher level, as there is between process commonly held to be mechanical and the world of life as a whole—the contrast between the uniformity of the responses to stimuli, and the adaptation and qualitative variety of the new developments. Thus the latter are not due to miraculous guidance and contrivance on the part of life or mind per se within a homogeneous environment, any more than the earliest beginnings of organic life display powers of initiative and self-adaptation apart from relevant stimuli and occasions in the inorganic world. The real miracle lies in the significance hidden in Nature as a whole, and a counterpart miracle, if we like, in the omni-potentiality of life and mind, which, as the active forms of totality, are able, starting from a minimum of organisation or of subjective being, at apparently random points within the external world, to elicit into organisms, selves, and civilisations, in short, into a second nature, whatever is latent in the first.

External nature, then, in the view here suggested, is not a masked and enfeebled section of the subject-world, but is that from which all finite subjects draw their determinate being and content, as the active form of totality is revealed in partial centres, according to some unknown law by which nature, under certain conditions only, becomes the vehicle of life and of subjective mind. Independent being we cannot ascribe to it, nor could we do so, in respect of its character as we are aware of it, even supposing it an appearance of minds analogous to our own. For, so far as the outside is concerned, all the arguments for the impossibility of independence in primary, secondary, and tertiary properties would retain their force. And nothing but the outside has any portion in our world or any contact with us. We want it for the supply of content to our minds; it is idle and superfluous to give it a mind of its own. Our minds are its own mind.

Only, it must be repeated, this is not to deprive it of a being of its own, or to make it merely ancillary to the ends of humanity.12 Our view is not that we bring with us ends which Nature is bound to subserve; it is that Nature teaches us what are the ends of the universe (so far as in our given phase and rank we are able to appreciate them) and we are able to learn. It is a vice to make humanity the end13 unless all we mean by such phrases is that humanity has power to make its own the ends which the universe through Nature teaches it to appreciate.

Finite minds the living copula of Nature and the Absolute—an everyday experience.

3. The system of the universe, it was said in an earlier lecture, might be described as a representative system. Nature, or externality, lives in the life of conscious beings. This characteristic is essential and not incidental. We call Nature a system in space and time; but if, per impossibile, it were purely in space and time, then it could be neither in the one nor in the other. Or, to put the point more simply and truly, space and time themselves are hybrid forms of being. They are externality and succession, presupposing a degree of unity which would annihilate them if it either were completed or were reduced to zero. Nature thus exists only through finite mind. But finite minds again exist only through nature. All finite minds focus and draw their detail from some particular sphere of external nature. They in some degree express and interpret the significance of external conditions for a focus of mind arising in and constituting a certain concentration of them. Why it is so, in an ultimate sense, we can no more tell, than why the universe is what it is. But we can see that by such an arrangement the value of all that the universe contains may be elicited (supposing all to pass through finite minds) in its strength and purity on the one hand, and on the other brought into a form which lends itself to a yet fuller unity. Every instinct of what we call the lower creation, every feeling of joy, of energy, of love, even throughout the animal world, is the outcome of some set of external conditions as focussed in life and mind, and is fitted to pass as their crown and climax into that complete experience which is the life of the whole.

It is difficult if we start from such a point of view, which nevertheless is almost a datum of fact, to understand the perplexity and hostility aroused by the conception of the Absolute. The truth seems to be that we have formed to ourselves a quite unreally hypostasised notion of the consciousness of finite minds, whether of the animal or of the human type. We seem unable to shake off the superstition which regards them as substances, crystal nuclei, fallen or celestial angels, or both at once. And if we deny these characteristics to the animal mind we probably for that reason get a truer notion of mind from it than from our traditional ideas of the human soul.

The whole ground of discussion would be changed if we realised how every focus of consciousness is an effort, whose success is subject to constant and enormous fluctuations, to seize and make its own the value and significance of a world14 beginning from some simple minimum of experience, but capable of extending far beyond, and appreciated only by fits and starts. So far from its being a strange or unwarranted assumption that the experiences of conscious units are transmuted, reinforced, and rearranged, by entrance into a fuller and more extended experience, the thing is plainly fact, which, if we were not blinded by traditional superstition, we should recognise in our daily selves as a matter of course.15 We, our subjective selves, are in truth much more to be compared to a rising and falling tide, which is continually covering wider areas as it deepens, and dropping back to narrower and shallower ones as it ebbs, than to the isolated pillars with their fixed circumferences, as which we have been taught to think of ourselves.

If we start from such a point of view, for which there is ample suggestion in Plato,16 the controversy about Monism assumes a new appearance. Pluralism, which indicates, so to speak, a vertical and not a horizontal division, into pillars and not into strata, falls away as relatively unimportant and superseded, though not wholly false. Multiplicism, the variety of levels of experience, each possessing its peculiar range and area, becomes the obvious truth. Dualism loses its prominence as the one antithesis of Monism, and the question of Monism and the Absolute becomes simply the question how far we are able to maintain a unity within multiplicism while following it out into its higher, which are also necessarily its deeper, ranges. The general formula of the Absolute, I repeat, the transmutation and rearrangement of particular experiences, and also of the contents of particular finite minds, by inclusion in a completer whole of experience, is a matter of everyday verification. The elements of our experience are transmuted by every change of work and of scene, and, in co-operation of several minds, the constituent elements of them all are modified into members of the new and common mind which arises.17 It may be objected that this latter is a mere abstraction, depending on some one or two common objects with which the several minds come in contact. But in principle this is not so, though the unity may be of any degree of depth or shallowness, and the utterance is much restricted as compared with the felt unity. The tendency of minds is always in forming a working whole to supplement and widen and reinforce each other on various sides and in innumerable details. In the inclusive spirit that is the result every mind contributes to the others something of its own mind and content, so that in proportion as they are thus deepened and widened together, the detail of the minimum consciousness of each, fears pains and perplexities, assumes quite a different value and colouring from that which they possess in the minimum of normal existence.18 Our mere varieties of mood during the day produce an effect on us which is obviously analogous to this, owing to the different contents by which we are affected, and we experience every day and all day long the same kind of fluctuation in the value and relative significance of the details of existence.19

This then, so far from being an idealistic chimera, is the common law and fact of experience, as verified both every day within what we uncritically take as our single private consciousness, so far as its weakness may permit,20 and on the larger scale when we compare together such creations as the State, and fine art, and religion, and when we note the mode of our private participation in them.21 There is no magic in any precise enumeration of the levels of experience, such as Plato has thrown out on different occasions. You may take, as he has taken, for purposes of illustration, two main levels, or three, or four, or a great number. The point is not in the number chosen, but in the character of the transmutations; and in the fact that they are not merely intellectual, but moral, aesthetic, and religious; that they form, in fact, on the one hand, different worlds with different degrees of reality, though on the other hand they are nothing but one and the same world, more and less fully experienced.22

The real point is in the transmuting or expanding power of common finite mind.

4. When these facts are given their due weight, all difficulties in the conception of the Absolute are in principle removed. The positive proof in its favour rests logically on the principle of non-contradiction, in respect of its positive bearing as explained in an earlier lecture.23 When the nature of the normal process by which a contradiction is removed has once been appreciated and observed to be valid not merely in abstract cognition, but throughout all the regions of our experience, no difficulty of principle remains in affirming a complete unification in which all contradictions are destroyed, though diversity or a negative aspect of course remain. From finding our way among mountains to moulding our daily business with a self-consistent purpose or solving an economic problem, or discerning the reality of beauty through the appearance of ugliness, or the lovable through the apparent failings of character, we find from day to day how contradictory aspects blend into harmony as linking and distinguishing contents come into view.

But, it will be asked, do we not find the opposite? Does not greater knowledge bring greater suffering and the highest effort encounter the most insuperable obstacles? And the answer seems to be, that this is not so in any sense that could invalidate the principle on which we are proceeding. Every finite being has some limits: that does not surprise us, when once we understand what finiteness is. And its properties are ill-balanced; that again does not surprise us. It is not a perfect microcosm or miniature of the universe; so that its knowledge, love, and happiness do not keep step together. That is natural for beings which are fragments of a greater being. But all this granted, still, so far as the finite being lives a life at all, it affirms in its whole existence the principle of the Absolute. It transmutes toil into happiness by seeing it as a pledge of devotion, and pain into love by the depth of the tenderness it evokes, and hardship into courage by its revelation of what a man is able to be. That it fails in degree, and in degrees which are not concomitant, is nothing at all against such an analysis of its nature if we have once accepted finiteness. We are not here preaching optimism or “justifying the ways of God.” We are doing something much more humble and critical. We are pointing out that transmutation of experience, in accordance with the law of non-contradiction in its positive bearing, is the principle of daily life. And if this is admitted here, there can be no reason for making it a fundamental difficulty when we come to deal with ultimate reality. There is no hiatus in the transition.

It is likely to be said that these appeals to daily fact and commonplace life add nothing to knowledge. But what is to be done? The facts no doubt are familiar; they are indeed commonplaces of literature and practice. But their significance, to my amazement, seems never to be noted, and therefore it is essential to dwell on it. It seems well within the mark to say that a careful analysis of a single day's life of any fairly typical human being would establish triumphantly all that is needed in principle for the affirmation of the Absolute. For this is merely something more of what we are continually experiencing, and the hard and fast limits of range and quality often attributed to our self or personality are not to be found anywhere in the real world.

When we come to the great achievements of knowledge, of social and super-social morality, of the sense of beauty, and of religion, the argument that the limits of our normal self cannot be applied as limitations to our ultimate self becomes irresistible. But as, in this sphere, the principal transformations of the minimum self are already victoriously initiated, and in some degree set apart, the evidence of such transformations as normal facts of conscious living is actually less striking than in the course of a common day when we are continually aware of their taking place. If I instance Plato or Shakespeare, the answer comes readily, “But you are not Plato or Shakespeare, far from it.” The expansive power of the common mind is really the crux.

The Absolute the high-water mark of a familiar fluctuation. An audacious illustration.

5. Regarded from such a point of view the Absolute is simply the high-water mark of fluctuations in experience, of which, in general, we are daily and normally aware.24 The evanescence of the limits of personality, or rather, their absorption in an experience which is deeper as well as wider than our minimum self, as in the supersocial activities;25 and also the transmutation of externality and obstruction into instruments and factors of more complete living, are in their general type familiar facts of every day. The technical point lies in paying due attention, with Plato, to the levels of experience, as determined by the logical criterion, and not allowing ourselves to be obsessed by consideration of its divisions into partially exclusive centres.26 Of course, and fortunately, finite excellence is much broken up and subject to division of labour. It is not as if some persons were at the highest level in everything, and the rest nowhere.27 If we adequately noted the meaning of the “philosophic” spirit in Plato, we should see that he leaves plenty of room in the highest place for the Treasure of the Humble.28 It is his purely diagrammatic representation of the ultimate coherence of all excellences, which is true in principle, that suggests the reverse to superficial readers.

Let us have the audacity to select an actual work of man as a remote analogue of the Absolute, simply in order to explain the general structure which we attribute to it in respect of nature and of finite selves.

Let us think of the mind of Dante as uttered in the Divine Comedy, in relation, on the one hand, to the spatial universe, and more particularly to Italy, and also, on the other hand, to the characters, the selves, represented in his poem.

In the first place, externality, the country of Italy, and in a lesser degree the universe,29 as an extension in space and time, is there in the experience. It is not destroyed or abstracted from, but yet appears throughout as something more than extension in space and time—as expression, character, emotion, of a kind, however, in which real externality is involved. It is needless to labour the point. Dante is, under reservation for his peculiar place in history, the voice of Italy, as Shakespeare is of England. Each of them is his country “come alive.” In such a passage as “I ruscelletti,”30 we see how, by the alchemy of genius, external Nature, while still external, has passed into a concrete emotion.

In the next place, the selves who figure in the poem have all rendered up their content to the great experience which was the poet's mind, and are constituent parts of it; while none the less it is necessary for its effectiveness as a poem, that they should be regarded as acting and thinking beings for themselves and in the outer world. For purposes of the analogy, it does not matter greatly whether a poem is purely imaginative, or, like Dante's, semi-historical. Always it presumes and presents the selves as real agents in the historical or external field, though it also makes them part of a vision of reality more profound and complete than they themselves, or the onlooker at prosaic or at poetic history, are supposed to recognise. But it is to be emphasised that the selves, however on the one side to be taken as historically or externally actual, yet are not pure separate objects, disconnected from the mind which is the poem, merely mirrored by it, and existing outside and for themselves only. On the contrary, all of these selves are in their degree participants in the moods, volitions, and perceptions which, taken as a whole of experience, are the substance and tissue of the poet's mind in the poem—the conflicting passions of Italy, of the Empire and the Papacy, in a word, of human nature within a certain historical region. In accordance with the view maintained above,31 all the minds are contemplated as actually extending in various degrees beyond their minimum point of historical attachment;32 and in the levels and ranges of being which they achieve embody all varieties up to the range and level of the poem itself. In Vergil and Beatrice the level of the poem—of the poet's imaginative vision—is even supposed to be transcended, and here, therefore the analogy to the Absolute must fail. But it is good as suggesting the nature of finite participation in reality, through the varying grasp and fluctuating power of the selves which constitute it. In principle, we see, the Absolute is only the totality of a hold on reality which permeates in its degree all the conscious creatures of the creation, and uses all its externality.

Finite selves, then, reveal themselves as the copula,33 the living tension, by which the full experience affirms itself in and through externality just as through certain selves Dante's mind laid hold of Italy and the world. Every self, as we have seen, is the representative centre of an external world; some nature “comes alive” in it. Every self partakes in some degree of selves and experiences beyond its own centre or minimum, and so expands from its place in nature to a more or less wide and deep participation in the Absolute; within which expansion, as by all inclusion of content, some degree of transmutation is effected in the matter of the selves and experiences which it partially includes.

The Absolute, finally, as remotely suggested by the whole experience which is the living form and substance of the poem—the poem as a thought and mood in its fullest completeness34—is a perfect union of mind and nature, absorbing the world of Nature by and through the world of selves. Every self is a copula, a meeting point of tension and fulfilment, a self-maintenance of the one life through a portion of the external, and of the external as centred in a case of the one life. But, as it is distantly figured in the poem, the complete experience brings together all the selves, with nothing omitted,35 but transformed and expanded by the place they hold and the illumination they receive in it. Such incidents as those of Paolo and Francesca, of Ugolino, or of Ulysses, are worth many pages of theory, when we come to ask ourselves how there can be meaning in speaking of an actual historical self as transformed and expanded in the reality.

Such phrases as transformed, transmuted, expanded, indeed, though convenient for our procedure, which naturally makes its start from the common facts of our lives, are in one way false and misleading. The true normal, of course, is the real; and it is the self as we know him in Space and Time—whether our own self or that of others—who is a figure deformed and diminished, as we see him, by our impotence to attain the grasp which holds all being in one, and by the individual being narrowed down for us into an appearance,36 incomplete and successive, in actual history. As we saw above,37 this naturally happens to every aspect of a supreme whole, and must happen to it if a system of finite centres is to be the rule of the universe. Nature must drop down almost38 into space and time, selves must drop down into consciousnesses only partly transcending their spatiotemporal limits; the concrete vision of mind must drop down into a degree of relative separation as Nature and as subjects. But it is all-important for us to note, as we insisted in the passage referred to, that the dissociation of the Absolute (to employ this expression in our own sense), which is met with in daily life, never at all approaches completeness. There is no fusion or union which we can conceive ourselves bound to ascribe to the Absolute in its own form, which has not something to represent it in the world of time and space. Take the case of these abstractions themselves, which we hypostasise really owing to the mere custom of current talk, where their names have such glib currency. We remember that no mere time and space, and no being merely in time or space, are or can be present in our own experience.39

This stubborn dissociation of the Absolute, however, the rule and essence of finite life, is an obstacle to the effectiveness of our illustration which only a vigorous sympathy with its intention can even in part overcome. But it is something to recognise where precisely the difficulty lies. In actual existence Dante's poem was a great imaginative creation in a single human mind.40 The nature and history with which it dealt were separate and independent facts, outside it, as we should say, and merely more or less reflected in it. But all we can use in our comparison is not the actual independent historical or natural fact, but only the reflection or interpretation of this fact within the imaginative product of Dante's mind. And so, of course, we are liable to convey the impression that we are content to represent reality—rocks and streams, men and cities—as the figures of somebody's dream.

But this is to ignore our point. Our meaning depends on placing ourselves within the world of Dante's imagination, and taking its nature and its figures (whether in fact “historical” or purely poetical), as his imagination necessarily took them, for the actual scenery and inhabitants of that “actual” world. And what we are to learn from this effort is, we suggest, something of the true relation between an actual Nature and personalities, as we habitually regard them, on the one hand—for Dante's imagination clearly brings beings like these before itself and us—and the spiritual interpretation which exhibits all these facts, on the other hand, as, without detriment to their actuality41 elements in a vast unitary vision and experience constituting a single spiritual world. It is not merely what we have in Wordsworth, or any spiritual interpretation of life. For we here have actual persons shown as moving freely, and obviously themselves and self-determined, while no less obviously, though merely through a deeper insight into their selves, exhibited as elements within an embracing spiritual universe, the universe as present to Dante's imagination. And this spiritual world we feel on the whole—with immense reservations—not to be an arbitrary and artificial comment on the imagined factual history as lying outside it, but to be of the nature of a revelation of the true appearance which such a history might yield under intense illumination, without detriment to its factual objectivity for the common eye.

In the ultimate reality—known to us as our everyday world—which we were thus attempting to illustrate, we are confronted, as I said, with a far more stubborn dissociation. Here the element corresponding to the unitary experience embodied in Dante's poem is prima facie wanting. What confronts us in everyday life is a huge obstinate plurality of independent facts. So we are told. In a large measure, as I said at starting, I deny the statement. But let us take it at its worst. In face of this obstinate dissociation, what I have attempted to effect, and what is summarised in the final illustration, is to show, both by systematic logic, and by the interrogation of our higher obvious experience, that our life, within the region of genuine fact, contains uncounted degrees of power and insight, by which, without in any way denying that things are what they are, we can attain to some beginning and can frame some positive conception of what more42 they must be, and how if we take them as such a “more,” they are at once more themselves, and plainly indicate their dissociation to be a character of partial reality, and their full nature to lie in the universe of a single experience.

This concludes our general theory of the self-interpretation of the real through the fundamental principle of individuality. Another year, we shall, I hope, be able to pursue in detail the ideas which it leads us to entertain of man's worth and destiny.

Appendix 1 to Lecture 10

I SUBJOIN in an Appendix a discussion of some recent and special metaphysical doctrines of the Absolute. In the following book I shall attempt to work out its relation to the individual as it affects our conception of his fortunes and destiny.

An all-inclusive span of consciousness either transforms the events or is no gain.

1. The eternal character of the Absolute, its inclusion of all succession in a non-temporal whole, has lately been affirmed to be explicable by the doctrine of the span of consciousness and the specious present.43

Our present is undoubtedly perceived as a solid—a duration—and not as a vanishing point between past and future. Postulate—so I understand the argument—the same character for an all-inclusive experience, and you may regard it as seeing the whole series of events at a blow, just as we may hear a sentence or a musical phrase as a single thing. This is all the secret of eternity, it is suggested, and there is nothing more. The succession of events is before the Divine Mind44 as the notes of a single musical phrase may be before our mind; in one sense, all at once, in another sense, as a succession. Its span of consciousness can embrace an infinite succession as a unity.

I will go at once to the fundamental difficulty of principle which I feel in this hypothesis. Among the occurrences which are present as at once to a consciousness with a protracted time-span, the later must either modify the earlier, or not. If they do45 it is impossible that the string of events can remain, in actual content, within a longer span of consciousness, what they were, or could be, within a shorter. A man passes, say, four hours in misery because he fancies that a friend has taken offence at some act of his. At the end of the four hours he becomes aware that he was mistaken, and his distress is dispelled. If the later contents act on the earlier within the same specious present of the longer span of consciousness, in the same way as they do within the shorter specious present of an ordinary consciousness, the four hours’ interval of distress must for such a consciousness cease to exist as such. It cannot help being transformed, and turned, on the whole, to a feeling partaking of gladness. Granting that the supposed omnipresent mind is merely a spectator, still a spectator for whom the end is within one and the same specious present as the beginning cannot regard that beginning as one does who has it without the end. I am far from denying, however—I am, indeed, anxious to assert—that in the larger reality thus envisaged the sorrow must survive, and, blending with the subsequent joy, give rise to a content different from either. Still, there must be a transformation.46 If again within the one specious present the later occurrences do not modify the earlier, if that is to say, as in a common temporal succession, the earlier are not influenced till the later have occurred, then we have no transmutation, but only a fixed panorama of exactly the same occurrences which form a diorama for the man who goes through them. This gives a mere aggregate or congeries. Omniscience is then to see in any lapse of successive events nothing more than a finite being would see so far as he followed that identical lapse.47 Surely this will not do. Though nothing is omitted in the perfect mind, everything must be transformed; and the bare events as we (by superficial abstraction) say that “we” know them, cannot be what take place for the Divine Mind or the Absolute. Applying our former arguments we see that this is inconceivable. For the so-called bare events are not the same for any two human beings, whether agents or observers. How can they possibly be the same for a finite spectator and for the perfect mind? On this showing, a doctor or an expert magistrate, not to speak of a Dante or a Shakespeare, would be far better off than the Absolute experience. For unquestionably to spectators so qualified, occurrences which are dumb and single happenings to the sufferer and to the ordinary looker-on will reveal themselves as steps in a destiny, and as phases of recovery or of decay.

Perfection must contain imperfection, though in finite experience we seldom find that it does.

2. A difficult problem, that of loss or forfeiture through advance towards totality, must just be mentioned here. The complete mind, it will be urged, though it cannot accept the four hours’ misery as final, must be able to appreciate the feeling of the finite mind which for the moment does so.

In this sense it must include the aggregate of incidents as well as their transformation. Every perfection, it would seem, however in principle inclusive, must supersede or thrust out some other appearance or expression, unless, what seems inconceivable and what we have just rejected, there are also reproduced by literal repetition innumerable variations that fall within it. How far, and by what rule, does the truer truth, the more perfect art, the higher religion, the more total and complete reality, supersede and render obsolete and fit to be blotted out the tentative or imperfect or one-sided phase of either? For all of these, though more satisfactory and more complete than their ruder forerunners (taking as a good example the relation of successful to tentative effort) yet are different from them. The picture may in a sense include the sketch; but the sketch has a something that we miss in the picture. Can the divine being, or the Absolute, not apprehend or feel imperfectly, and would such inability be a defect?

Now how far is this to be pressed? I do not think we escape by saying that though he cannot apprehend imperfectly, he can apprehend my imperfect apprehension. Is every point of view, for instance, from which my eye (and, of course, that of every sentient being) has unthinkingly contemplated every scene it has ever rested on, to be recorded eternally in the tablets of omniscience or at least of omni-experience? Or, putting the question in the difficult form from which we started, can a value, which is held to be superseded by inclusion, as in art or in cognition,48 be dropped and pass away without loss to the whole; or if not, must every step and essay and partial failure enter separately and in its own right49 into the content of the supreme experience? In principle, the answer can hardly be doubtful. We saw, in the first case under the theory of the extended specious present, what the result must be. There must be inclusion and transmutation. You cannot heap up contents, all relevant to each other, within a single experience, and prevent them from reacting on each other. A hope, and its fulfilment in an unhoped-for form, will not stay apart if the impotence that was the barrier is withdrawn; and in their fusion the whole hope itself must become another thing from what it was.

For the perfect experience, then, the contents and values must be, so to speak, like solids. “Accidental views,” imperfect essays, lower forms of beauty and goodness, must be experienced within the totals which must gain depth and weight from all that has led up to them. The quality of the sketch must be found in the picture; the picture must be differently apprehended because of the sketch which went before it. But occurrences cannot be eternised as a detached and dispersed congeries of facts, as if one were to preserve a Galtonian photograph in the form of all the images which came together to compose it. In coming to this conclusion, we must be careful not to appeal to the difficulty of supposing the supreme experience to include and retain so many facts. That would be very crude anthropomorphism. Our argument rests on the necessary fusion of experiences relevant to each other. But if we maintain this point of principle we may agree that the dissociation, the realisation of the particular, which gives value to the total, enters largely into the experience of the total.

Transmutation then, must be the rule in the complete experience. Everything must be there, as all the artist's failures, and the fact of failure itself, are there in his success. But they cannot be there as analysed into temporal moments and yet drawn out unchanged into a panorama within a specious present of immeasurable span.

Absolute cannot be will or purpose because these must always be parts within wholes.

3. It has been urged that the Absolute is will and purpose. The matter has often been dealt with.50 But I will mention one point following from our earlier arguments which seems to me decisive. A purpose, or a will, can never be the whole of a world. A purpose always means that, founding yourself on matter accepted as a basis, you recognise a certain alteration as essential in view of the admitted situation, for the restoration or partial restoration of harmony. Ex nihilo nihil. You cannot gather material for purpose out of no situation. The content you are impelled to produce must be relative to a content which you admit. The same is true of Will, and of Ought.51 You cannot say, without basis or preliminary, “I ought to do this.” That would indeed be a judgment such as could not be logically supported. It is the defect of all these positions, those which make Purpose, Will, or Ought into ultimate determinants, that they accept a violently unsystematic procedure of valuation after the apparent fashion of Kant's Ethics. “Ought” must always mean the satisfaction of a nature; but you cannot express the satisfaction of a nature ohne weiteres by saying “ought.” You may say, perhaps, ab initio, “I ought to do something”—“I want”—“My nature cries out for a fulfilment” of some kind; though even to do that you must postulate a certain kind of nature in yourself. But certainly what I ought to do must come from an accepted basis of content, a selection of objects to be achieved, suitable to a need or want, itself determined by a contradiction in some existing situation. In a word; every want, will, purpose, or ought, is a partial phenomenon within a totality.

But how, it may be retorted, do you get any basis52 except by an ought? Why accept, e.g., the Law of Non-Contradiction on which we ourselves laid such stress in an earlier Lecture, except by an acknowledgment that you ought to accept it? Now we may construe, if we like, our actual participation in the life of the world as an acknowledgment that we ought to accept something or other. It is an artificial mode of statement; for we have been participants in the world long before a question whether we ought to be so could possibly be raised, and for most people it is never raised at all. But this, it might be answered, is mere history, not justification. When once it is put to us, why accept the principle of positive non-contradiction? Why do we affirm it except that we feel we ought, or will? But the prior answer lies in the nature of our world. It is a world whose implications are of such a type, and within which oneself is so implicated, that even in refusing to accept it, as was explained in an earlier chapter, we already are accepting it. In trying to reject, we are meddling with our world, and owing to its nature, are accepting our implication in it. What we are must determine what we owe.

It is a condition of our willing that we cannot will two contradictories at once; but we cannot find ourselves willing that two contradictories at once shall be unwillable. It would be setting out to make a condition which is presupposed in the making of any condition. That one contradictory excludes the other is a basal condition of the world, revealed by the analysis of its structure;53 that we accept it in approaching any matter of theory or practice is a consequence of our accepting participation in the world, and this depends upon the datum that our nature is to be a world, and apart from this acceptance, no ought can appeal to us.

Will and Ought, in a word, are the properties of a world that mends discrepancies within itself by a process in time. There can be no will or ought except on the basis of a presupposed reality, within which non-adjustment calls for adjustment. If you so much as acknowledge a fact because you ought, the meaning of that is that you cannot at once reject it and retain the world which you presuppose.

Therefore it seems unintelligible for the Absolute or for any perfect experience to be a will or purpose. It would be a meaningless pursuit of nothing in particular. If the pursuit is to be intelligible, it must be rooted in an actuality that makes it inevitable. To say that the reality as a whole may contain an untold number of finite purposes, and must itself include a satisfaction in which purpose and fulfilment are one, is another thing.

Numerical Infinity. The hybrid doctrine.

4. It is said that the Absolute may or must contain a numerical infinity of elements, say, of selves. The analogy of a “self-representative” system, such as the system of numbers viewed with reference to certain correspondences within it, has been invoked to support this view.

I have referred to this subject in an earlier Lecture,54 but will summarise my position here. The doctrine of the self-representative system, at least in its application to the infinity of a conscious whole, is a curious hybrid. It shows the characteristics of both the types of totality55 which Idealists have been accustomed to call the true and false infinity. It was first introduced, one gathers, as a defence of numerical infinity as an actual given fact. Waiving objection to this doctrine,56 we saw that it seemed to promise nothing from our point of view desirable. Numerical recurrences ad infinitum, however arranged in series linked by correspondences, revealed in themselves nothing valuable.

But the infinity of recurrences came to be represented as an infinite fountain of various and valuable content, an unfailing source of diversity in unity.v This is new matter in the doctrine of the numerical infinite, but very old and familiar matter in the doctrine of real infinity. The two gain nothing by their marriage in the self-representative system. As thus united they claim infinity on one ground and value on another. The numerical series has recurrence ad infinitum, and borrows value from a development of content, which, though not wholly absent, is slighter than in any other conceivable type of whole. The system of content has value of its own, but borrows infinity from a system of recurrences fundamentally alien to it.

In truth, surely, the Absolute, like any high experience, is not numerable.57 You cannot enumerate the members of a poem or picture, or of a great character. You can find in them numerable parts, but these are not their parts. That is to say, the numerable parts are not relevant to the sense in which such wholes are experienced when experienced as they are meant to be or fitted to be.58 When a man reads a poem, as a poem is fitted to be read, there is no place in his mind for number. But if the inspiration leaves him, he may count the lines, words, and syllables, and count them, if he likes, over and over again. But, though he may count them for ever, he will never reach the poem by that road, any more than he will get parallels to meet by producing them.59 So with the Absolute. If interpreted irrelevantly and dragged down out of its nature, it may be analysable into infinite selves, infinite sensations, infinite pleasures and pains; what does it matter? In the first place this does not show a given quantitative infinity, for an infinity is not given by a fact or formula being given which generates a persistent failure to re-express it in another medium, any more than meeting parallels are given if we say they meet at infinity. And in the second place, if it was a given quantitative infinity, that would not thereby be shown to be the nature of the Absolute, because the Absolute, as we said, is not, qua infinite and self-complete, numerable at all. Its self-representation, like that of any high experience, is of a wholly different order. It stops the recurrent series, and does not prolong them.60 That the higher experiences involve an extreme precision and delicacy of adjustment, as we have maintained throughout, is another affair. The old example of the fine adjustment of a moral act to the situation is enough to exhibit the sense in which this is the case. See Appendix II.

Appendix 2 to Lecture 10

The Perfecting of the Soul in Aristotle's Ethics

The minimum act of duty.

1. EVERY soul of every creature, such is Aristotle's starting point, has a form, or possible perfection, which the universe is striving in it to bring to completion through its life.

In the human soul every stage towards this completion may be called an excellence or virtue; and of these excellences or virtues there are two general divisions. There are first the excellences of man's compound nature, in which feeling and desire are learning submission to the law of reason. These he calls the “ethical” virtues; a term which we, somewhat unfortunately, have taken up and rendered as if equivalent to all that we understand by moral excellence. They derive their name, for him, from their connection with habit; they are qualities or rather attitudes of soul which we acquire in society, and in the main through assimilating the social tradition. Temperance, courage, gentleness, generosity, with many like them, are Aristotle's excellences of man's compound nature, or excellences of habituation, ethical excellences.

The other set of excellences are the excellences of the intellectual part, the so-called intellectual virtues. But I will say at once that we commit a mere misconstruction if we take them to be excellences of intellectual capacity; as we might say, memory, or mathematical talent, or the power of learning languages. The dominant ones at least are nothing of this kind; they are clearly, as we shall see, the excellences of good life and habit, exalted, reinforced and reinterpreted by passing into the region of principle and of great ideas. Intelligence is not an exclusive part, but is the form of the whole.

Now let us begin to sketch the nature of a single act of duty, as Aristotle conceives it, and trace from that point the expansion of the moral horizon, till time and place fall away or rather are rounded into a whole and morality passes into religion.

The expansion which it involves. The “mean” the precise adjustment essential to excellence or vitality.

2. The simplest moral duty has for Aristotle a double aspect. The motive of the citizen who gives his life for his country, for example, is described in a curious twofold language, the significance of which is not difficult to see. He does the act of duty for its own sake. There is in it something absolute. If it were done for the sake of something beyond, of praise or gain, it would no longer be the act it seemed to be. This we can see at once. But again; this and every act of duty is performed for the sake of the beautiful—for in all virtue this is the motive. And here again we have no doubt what is meant. The duty is done for its own sake, for the sake of what it is. But the conception of what it is is capable of expansion. “For the sake of the beautiful”—a widening horizon is set before us by this description of the moral motive. What is the moral beautiful? If we fully understood the simplest act of duty, what is it that according to Aristotle we should see there?

Let me illustrate further by the famous doctrine of the mean, the definition of an ethical excellence. An ethical virtue or excellence of man's compound nature is an attitude of will, “being in a relative mean defined by a ratio, and by whatever the man of practical wisdom would define it by.”

I will not enter into negative criticism. I shall say at once what I think it signifies, having just pointed out that once more it refers us to something on ahead—to the man of practical wisdom.

We must have observed in any such form of conduct as an act of beneficence, or munificence, how infallibly the churl in spirit betrays himself, to use Aristotle's phrase, in the quantity or degree or time or place or manner or personal relations of his action. Only the true motive gives you the perfect act. The brave man again; how hard it is to be brave, and gentle, and modest, and calm, and wise. The brave and noble soul, and it alone, will ring true in every side and aspect of its act; time, place, manner, degree, behaviour to persons; all the characters which make up an act whose quality takes form in quantity, and is adapted to the situation with a beautiful adequateness, in every detail just right, neither too little nor yet too much, like the petals of a rose. Such an action is a manifestation of an excellence, a soul rightly tempered and attuned, a disposition or attitude of mind that is the “mean” or adjusted condition relative to or demanded by the situation.

So far, then, the horizon has expanded. The excellent action, done for its own sake, which is for the sake of the beautiful, is now understood to be an act expressive of a state of soul rightly attuned so that in every detail and quantitative particular its utterance hits what is appropriate and adequate.

But there is something more; this temper or attitude does not explain itself, and the phrase which described it, at the same moment beckoned us forward to a further standard. The mean adjustment or ratio which was the characteristic of the excellent attitude of soul was not yet, we saw, thoroughly defined. It is an adjustment to circumstances; but an adjustment in the interests of what? The answer was given by a reference to something not yet stated. The mean is determined by a further standard; and the standard is the right ratio, and whatever the man of practical wisdom would determine.

The standard involved in moral duty. Practical wisdom.

3. This is a reference forward from the first half of the treatise to the second half. Let us recapitulate. Every act of the compound nature of man—his combined reason and desire—which is excellent, or an act of virtue, is done, we saw, at once for its own sake, and for the sake of the beautiful. That is to say, its own nature, being more fully understood, is one with the nature of the beautiful. Wishing to know to what this points us forward, we found that such an act, as an expression of virtue, is something perfectly adequate and adjusted to the situation, right in every particular, in every detail. If the motive or attitude of soul were in any way wrong or imperfect, the act would betray it at once by passing over into exaggeration or deficiency at some one of its innumerable aspects and peculiarities. What should be courage, for example, would be vulgar, or ostentatious, or rash, or false, or wanting to itself in resolution or in tranquillity or in gentleness.

The churl in spirit, howe'er he veil

His want in forms for fashion's sake,

Will let his coltish nature break

At seasons through the gilded pale, For who can always act?

We can understand that a moral perfection which results in a reliably perfect expression may be called beautiful, but still we have not learned in the interest of what central principle our adjustments are to be determined, and we have been referred to something that lies ahead.

The standard, we are told, lies in what is determined by the man of practical wisdom. What is practical wisdom, and where does it obtain its standard?

We said that besides the excellences of man's compound nature, Aristotle ascribes to him what he calls the intellectual excellences; not, we said, such capacities as memory, or scientific acumen, or creative genius, but rather the content of good life, when raised to a level of principle and systematic insight, as opposed to mere habituation and customary self-control.

According to Aristotle, the two intellectual excellences are practical and theoretical wisdom. About theoretical wisdom we will speak later. It is practical wisdom to which we have been referred; and which, in approaching its discussion, Aristotle implies to possess “the standard of the means or adjustments.”

Practical wisdom for Aristotle is one with something which is present in all the animal creation and different for every kind of creature. It is the group-instinct, or the group-intelligence, or the consciousness of kind. In humanity it is the statesman's knowledge and perception; the gift and ability of the man who, having trained insight into the distinctively human good or evil of life, based on his own excellence of character in which it is up to a certain point realised, is able to guide the organisation, habituation, and education of the group (for the statesman's business is more especially education) in the direction which will lead them to it.

But here once more the horizon expands. The statesman knows what is the end of human life, and has skill and insight to govern society and direct the educational habituation which instils the ethical or current social virtues in the right direction and to the right adjustments and adaptations—the ratios or means in conduct.

Theoretical wisdom or religion ultimately standard, viz. as the ultimate value or quintessence of life.

3. But still our quest is not ended. What is the end of human life, in view of which the statesman organises both politics and education? The answer is to be found in the relation of practical wisdom to theoretical wisdom. Practical wisdom, we have seen, is different for every organic group, and in a measure may be said to be distributed throughout creation. Theoretical wisdom is always one and the same, and strictly speaking, it is divine; it studies no production of instruments for the good of mankind; it cannot strictly be said to aim at the special good of mankind; it does not specially concern itself with man, or at all with one group of creatures rather than with another. Its object of study or contemplation is rather what is above and beyond man; there are many things in the universe more divine than man, Aristotle emphatically observes; more especially, it occupies itself with the nature of God. But though it is not an efficient cause of attaining the end of man, the name for which in Aristotle is happiness, it is the formal cause, or at least a part of the formal cause; that is to say, it does not produce human happiness as a cause may produce an effect other than itself; but it is human happiness or the end of man, or at least a considerable constituent of that end.

Now the precise relation of practical to theoretical wisdom according to Aristotle is an interesting point. Practical wisdom, we said, is the wisdom of the statesman, and so far must be assumed to be supreme in society. On the other hand, theoretical wisdom is the higher activity, and is identical, or identical so far as human nature can attain it, with that activity of the soul which is happiness and the end of human life. Now how can the lower activity of practical wisdom be supreme over the higher, which is theoretical wisdom? Which of the two is really superior and the guide of life? Aristotle puts the contradiction plainly, and his answer is clear. Practical wisdom rules society in the interests of theoretical wisdom, but does not rule over theoretical wisdom itself. Expanding the answer, a follower of Aristotle compares the statesman's art to the house-steward or head of the servants, and theoretical wisdom to the master of the house. The house-steward rules the house with a view to the master's leisure, his σχολή. The master has his duties of magistrate or thinker or soldier to perform; the household is organised to give him leisure for them. Just such is the statesman's duty, let us say, towards art, or the life of thought or religion.

The relation is expanded by an Aristotelian writer: “So whatever choice or distribution of worldly resources, whether of bodily qualities or of wealth or of friends or of other goods, will be most helpful towards the contemplation of God, that is the best, and that is the most beautiful standard or organisation; and whatever arrangement, whether by defect or by excess, hinders men from glorifying God and enjoying Him, that arrangement is bad.” (Stewart, ii., 4, E. E, Θ., 3, 1249, a21-b25.) The final standard of the means or adjustments of conduct, then, is the highest life of the soul. The habituation of the young and the moral education of society are to be so guided and framed by the statesman that art and learning and religion shall always hold the highest place, and so far as humanly possible shall have the lead in, and form the inspiration of, his country. The simplest act of duty, we may say, in its twofold scope, points forward to the knowledge of God. The act of duty, we saw, in being for its own sake, is for the sake of the beautiful; and in being for the sake of the beautiful it is a perfecting of the soul by a fine and delicate adjustment and adaptation to the social order; and further, in being an adaptation to the social order, it is finally instrumental to that which inspires and justifies and resumes the meaning of the social order, namely, to the activity in which the soul finds its perfection in laying hold of the divine. You do not, in the view of Plato and Aristotle, in aspiring to intellectual excellence and to religious contemplation, tread a separate and diverging path from that of the ordinary good citizen. You follow his path but pursue it further, and what the saint or the poet or the thinker may attain at the end is only the quintessence of what all of you have been practising from the beginning.

“Friendship,” i.e. communion in the highest experience, the line between group-welfare and religion.

4. The true relation of theoretical wisdom to moral development receives a remarkable illumination from the theory of friendship, which shows how practical wisdom must in its highest form actually pass into that which is theoretical.

Practical wisdom, we saw, is the human form of the group instinct or consciousness of kind. In Aristotle's view there is, all through creation, a certain feeling of affection corresponding to every form of this consciousness of kind. He illustrates it by the different levels of parental care which attend upon the different levels of intelligence in the animal world. This is so in man as in other species. Every form of human association has its characteristic type of group-sentiment or liking, or “friendship,” as he terms it, corresponding to the form of group-intelligence which it implies.

This being so, you have only to consider the case of the highest form of human association to see how the group-intelligence or sense of group-welfare (practical wisdom) must transform itself into theoretical wisdom. For the highest form of human association is that in which human beings have come to care for that in each other which is the best and consequently the most real thing in them, namely, the highest goodness and intelligence. When this is so, the group-consciousness has become the consciousness of a response in the other person to what is highest and best in the self. This response is a heightening of life, by the extension of the awareness of our life to the life of the friend who shares our consciousness of the best things. We feel our life intensified in his. Therefore the consciousness which we share with him is ipso facto the consciousness of the highest activity of the soul. Any other common consciousness would be comparatively external and accidental, and would not give us the same community of feeling.

Therefore practical wisdom or the instinct toward group-welfare not only, in directing human society, aims at adjusting it to the presence of the highest activities; but, in so far as men become all they might become, actually passes into other activities.

Thus we have followed the expanding horizon of the great moralist's account of the end of human life, or of the activity of the soul, which is the provisional definition of that end, also called by the name of happiness.

What we have found is that the simplest act of social duty taught by habituation to the growing citizen, say courage or soberness, has in it a motive, or we may say really implies an awakening and a yearning of the soul, which first expresses itself in loyalty to society and in good citizenship, but which can find no final satisfaction till it completes itself in the knowledge and thought of God, in union with whom alone the individual comes to be that which he really is.

  • 1.

    Psychology of Moral Self, p. 57.

  • 2.

    I do not see how this proposition can be overthrown. Grant that sensations are objects, grant even per impossibile, that they are physical, I think we must interpret these predicates consistently with depending upon sentience. Professor Alexander, I think, would admit that they are adapted to form part of a world of which mind is a leading constituent.

  • 3.

    We shall return to this in the second series.

  • 4.

    This view of Nature seems to me to prescribe the true line to be taken in the recent discussion (see Ar. Proc. for 1909) whether such objects as sensations are psychical or physical. All objects of mind, the answer will be, are psychical. But some are physical as well; i.e., some enter into a determinate context of reactions, which forms a special part of the psychical world, which we call the physical world and contrast with the psychical. But this is an abstraction, for the physical world can never, in the last resort, put off its psychical character. A tree is beautiful, and green, and tall. All these qualities are, as presentations, necessarily psychical; but the tallness at least, as a character of a thing in space, is certainly physical. And this is probably the true line of demarcation. They are all, as we said, psychical ab initio as presentations. But qua determined by a construction of objects in space they all (including “physical” beauty) become physical also. Then they are relatively opposable to the psychical. But not more than relatively. For, taking as the test of psychical nature the being destroyed if the percipient mind were destroyed, it is plain that in a degree, though only in a degree, presentations remain psychical not only as pure presentations, but even as qualities of spatial objects. The subjective mind, which has perceived and which conceives them, being destroyed, their existence would certainly be pro tanto diminished, though not necessarily annihilated. A physical object must at least be capable of becoming psychical at any moment. If not, it so far has not full existence.

  • 5.

    This so far is a view to which I understand Mr. Bradley to be favourable (Appearance, pp. 271 and 275). But when it is driven to the extreme of Pan-psychism, I gather that he does not follow, Mind, li. p. 327 note.

  • 6.

    Cf. Mind, l.c.

  • 7.

    Lecture IV. above, and its Appendix II.

  • 8.

    The term is coined on the analogy of Driesch's “equi-potential systems.”

  • 9.

    See Lecture IV. above.

  • 10.

    See second series.

  • 11.

    This is true of all the elementary phenomena of life, such as morphogenesis and restitution. I do not mean to suggest that there are in the universe any reactions which are not identical under identical conditions. I only mean that in the lower organic world such reactions are as normal and as verifiable experimentally as in the physico-chemical world.

  • 12.

    Note Münsterberg's just protest against this procedure, Eternal Values, p. 276. Contrast Man's Place in the Cosmos, vi. 61.

  • 13.

    Cf. Laurence Binyon, Painting in the Far East, p. 24: “The high Renaissance pride and glow are apt to leave this bitter taste in the end. Absorption in man as the centre of the world and the hero of existence leads certainly to loss of that sanity and sweetness which an openness to the abiding presence of the non-human living world around us infuses into life. It is not by that absorption that we shall find the full meaning or animating power of our Western faith that in man the divinity is revealed.” Cf. above, pp. 25-6.

  • 14.

    The idea, traceable, e.g., in James, that thinkers of Green's type take the finite to be merely the object of the Absolute knowledge and not a constituent of the Absolute energy has no foundation. Cf. James’ Pluralistic Universe, p. 36.

  • 15.

    Cf. Lecture I. p. 27.

  • 16.

    There is no reason for giving a pre-eminent place to “Dualism” in Plato's account of the levels of experience. We might just as well speak of his quadruplism or triplicism, or even multiplicism.

  • 17.

    For the facts on this head as recognised by modern Genossenschaftsrecht, so far as a corporate will is concerned, see Maitland's Introduction to his translation of Gierke's Political Theories of the Middle Ages.

  • 18.

    See, e.g., Trevelyan's account of the Thousand under Garibaldi. But the fact is not merely exceptional. All of us draw courage from our soldiers, industry from our workers, and so on. That is the true meaning of Plato's virtues of the Commonwealth.

  • 19.

    When James lays it down (Pluralistic Universe, p. 38) that “we must always experience the Absolute as if it were a foreign being,” I feel on this point I have no common experience with him. See Lecture I. l.c.

  • 20.

    I mean that while every mind unquestionably shows a rise and fall of this nature, it is not every mind that reveals plainly the higher phases of experience. But as we shall see, something of these probably comes to all.

  • 21.

    The question of the nature of participation is no harder in principle, that I can see, in the case of the Absolute than in the case of poetry. The fact is, our conscious life, being a universal, is essentially a participation; though ever varying, as we have said, in degree.

  • 22.

    I am sure that where we tend to go wrong in interpreting Plato, is by failing to combine the two principles on both of which his heart was set. Those who insist on the transcendent nature of the Forms are so far in the right, that it was Plato's main passion and the nisus of his inspiration to portray the gulf between the worlds in which different minds may actually live and move. At the same time, the whole significance of this contention is lost if it is not held together with the truth maintained by those who deny the transcendence, viz., that the world is above all things single, and the difference of worlds is wholly relative to degrees of impotence. In the passage about “faculties” and their objects, at the end of Rep. v., he is insisting on these two truths in language so forcible that we think he cannot mean what he says. “We do really,” he seems to be saying, “live in different worlds according to the differing energy of our minds; but again, it is only according to the differing energy of our minds that we do live in different worlds.”

  • 23.

    Lecture II.

  • 24.

    What is meant by the frequently reiterated criticism that the Absolute is non-human, is, as it were, divorced from human life, I am wholly unable to understand. Cf. James, cit. supra. If nothing more is meant than that it is not present in its full nature within any finite experience, this is nothing but a truism regarding any and every feature of the objective world in the commonest sense of the term—the sun, history, love, or poetry. But if it is meant to deny that our experience is more human and valuable, as well as more solid and more verifiable, in proportion as we approach the Absolute, the denial is utterly futile and foolish. We experience nothing perfectly, but we experience the Absolute better than we experience anything else, because it is greater and because everything else we only experience among other things, the Absolute we experience in everything. Cf. Lecture I.

  • 25.

    Cf. Philosophical Theory of the State, 2nd ed., Introduction. I have there pointed out that such supersocial activities as Art and Religion are at once the quintessence of social life, and beyond its machinery of explicit group-relations. See further Appendix II. below.

  • 26.

    We shall return to this subject in the second series.

  • 27.

    What those who call the Absolute non-human (and a fortiori I suppose non-animal) make of the dog that dies for its master, or the sparrow for her young, not to speak of the love of mothers, and the devotion of comrades among the poor, I cannot imagine. It is no answer to say that these are not the whole Absolute in its full transcendent nature. They are transcendent, in the only true sense, and it is in and through them, with other elements, that we faintly learn what experiencing it means.

  • 28.

    The title of Maeterlinck's well-known work. See on this whole point R. L. Nettleship, Remains, vol. i. P. 385: “In the heart and on the lips of Plato the love of wisdom is itself that divine foolishness, that strength in weakness, before which the cunning of the world and the pageantry of power fade and are discomfited.”

  • 29.

    Dante's misconception of the universe from the scientific point of view, partly, I suppose, wilful and allegorical, is irrelevant here. So is the element of pessimism in his theology. The question is merely of the development of fact in his imagination.

  • 30.

    Inferno, xxx. 64. The observation might be extended to the whole structure of the universe, as Dante has framed it in his imagination.

  • 31.

    Lecture III. p. 115.

  • 32.

    This point will be more fully considered in the second series.

  • 33.

    Cf. Hegel, Wiss. d. Logik, iii. 72.

  • 34.

    A poem exists in many degrees; cf. A. C. Bradley, Oxford Lectures, p. 28.

  • 35.

    Obviously this is a characteristic which cannot be reproduced in a finite example. But it is well to remember that if Shakespeare were to portray one of us, he would tell us a great deal more of ourselves than we, or common history, were aware of.

  • 36.

    This is quite recognised by common sense in such matters as, e.g., the attempt to pass final moral judgments. Mr. McTaggart has somewhere a fine speculation that the love which clings to the “worthless” has divined a truth beyond our knowledge, and I do not doubt that this idea, which common feeling strongly supports, is sound.

  • 37.

    Lecture VII. 3.

  • 38.

    For the reason why one must say “almost,” see above, p. 371.

  • 39.

    See above, p. 371.

  • 40.

    For our purpose we may disregard its reproduction in other minds.

  • 41.

    The imagined actuality of the imaginative world.

  • 42.

    See author's Logic, 2nd ed., ii. 301 on the fallacy of withdrawal or abstraction in the search for reality.

  • 43.

    Royce, World and Individual, ii. 145 ff.

  • 44.

    I do not gather that any difference between God and the Absolute is treated as relevant here.

  • 45.

    This seems to me the fact in any portion of succession apprehended as a whole.

  • 46.

    Such a fusion may be read backwards, i.e. taking the complete unity as starting point according to the conception of the dissociation of the Absolute; and thus we should obtain a lifelike idea of the way in which want and fulfilment are dragged apart by appearance in the finite realm.

  • 47.

    The point is illustrated by Kant's idea that God would see in a unity what for us is the unending moral progression. How as a unity? The idea is meaningless unless it involves a transformation in kind.

  • 48.

    Like the early astronomical theories in comparison with developed modern astronomy.

  • 49.

    This, of course, is the difficulty. If we allow transmutation and inclusion all becomes easy.

  • 50.

    See, e.g., Appearance, p. 483 ff.

  • 51.

    Cf. Royce, World and Individual, ii. 36 ff.

  • 52.

    See Royce, l.c.

  • 53.

    It is a postulate, of course, in the sense in which all laws of experience are so, i.e. they work first, and are reflectively established afterwards. This is the rule of all developing mind; it is more than it knows itself to be.

  • 54.

    Lecture II. p. 38 note.

  • 55.

    Of course an idealist will not admit that the “false” infinity is a true totality. I therefore use the word under protest.

  • 56.

    Perhaps, however, I had better repeat, for clearness’ sake, the objection, that while I very well see how a formula or definition of the kind suggested can involve or necessitate, if it is to be realised in number, a system of infinite series, I cannot see how the infinite series in question can be said to be “given” in it, any more, in principle than the complete evaluation of π, is given in the idea of π.

  • 57.

    See R. L. Nettleship in Review of Archer-Hind's Timaeus (Mind, xiv. 131).

  • 58.

    See Professor A. C. Bradley, Oxford Lecture on Poetry, p. 14 ff.

  • 59.

    Cf. author's Logic, 2nd ed., i. 162.

  • 60.

    See Lecture II. p. 38 note.