In reading the works of naturalist philosophers from Lucretius downwards, I constantly feel that I am being invited to form a mental picture of the human race waking to self-consciousness on this planet and finding itself alone in a bleakly alien universe whose ways and concerns, whatever they may be, bear no relation to its own.
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.1
Sometimes I have to shake myself to realize that this is a purely fanciful picture, a piece of modern mythology, but of course it is no more. Not thus did our race come to its first awareness, and not thus has any human individual come to his. The further back we penetrate towards anything that can be called primitive, the clearer does it become that early man conceived himself to be confronted with a situation of an altogether different kind. He felt himself to be at one with nature, and with a nature that was full of divine and sacral significance. All we know even of palaeolithic man indicates that for him reality was a single whole, embracing the natural, the human and the divine in a mutual inter-relatedness of the most intimate kind. For it is in fact not only a later, but very much a fin de siècle picture that the naturalists encourage us to contemplate. Our more accustomed picture was not reached by foisting later constructs on to this, but rather this itself was reached by a process of reduction. Of this reductive process I wish now to speak, and I shall call those who indulge in it reductive naturalists, because I wish to distinguish those who contend merely that all our experience can be viewed as part of nature from those who contend that there is no other legitimate way of viewing it, thus interpreting the whole of it in the light of that aspect of it which is lowest in valuational significance.
It was (as has already been indicated in an earlier chapter) the Greek Sophists and Atomists who first attempted such a reduction, and the whole philosophic labour of Socrates and Plato was devoted to resisting their teaching, which the latter thus describes—the noun ‘art’ (technē), which appears in this passage, being used in the sense contained in our adjective ‘artificial’ (technikos) or in our word ‘artifact’, that is, man-made:
They say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and chance, and the lesser things the work of art which, taking over from nature the great basic things, proceeds itself to fashion and frame the lesser things, which they thus term artificial.… I can make the matter clearer still. They say that fire and water and earth and air are all of nature and of chance, not of art; and that the bodies that come next in order of being, the sun and moon and stars and our own earth, are the products of these entirely inanimate elements, being made to revolve by the chance action of some kind of force; and that in this way the whole universe and all it contains, including the animals and the plants, have come into being—not by the action of mind, or of any God, nor by art, but, as I have said, by nature and by chance. Art, they say, was developed afterwards and out of these. It is human and of human origin, and has produced for our entertainment a number of things which have very little truth in them but are imaginative constructions such as music and painting and their companion arts produce.… They say also that the gods exist by art, not by nature, but by law and custom which differ in different places. They even assert that one thing is good by nature, and quite another thing by law, there being from the point of view of nature no such thing as justice. And all this, my friends, from sages, poets and orators—and addressed to young people.2
Moreover, such a picture of the human situation is as late an emergent in the life-story of the individual as it has been in the history of the race. Not in such utter nakedness does any child begin its self-conscious life; that nakedness, where it exists being again the result of a much later process of stripping. Most of us, I suspect, would have to say Amen to at least the first lines of Wordsworth's Ode:
There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparel in celestial light.
The reality with which we first remember finding ourselves faced was no alien or unfriendly one, but a reality rich in meaning, in beauty and in promise, warm in human interest, and at the same time most solemn in its demands.
Now I suppose that such an account of our original awareness of things will be readily accepted by the reductive naturalists, and perhaps even discounted as too obvious to justify my adducing it. Yet I doubt whether either they or the public who read their books have yet rid their minds completely of the influences deriving from their eighteenth-century predecessors who strove so hard to represent mankind's spiritual outlook as something foisted on to a more primitive ‘state of nature’, however completely they may have now abandoned the idea that it was, in the words of one eighteenth-century writer, but ‘a politick trick to awe the credulous vulgar’. For it should follow from the rejection of such a doctrine that, instead of the defence of the spiritual outlook having to start from a prior naturalist one, the argument should be the other way about. I did not start from a barely naturalist outlook; and if I have ever been tempted to adopt such, it was as the result of a highly sophisticated process of thinking which required its own defence. It would therefore be an entirely artificial exercise on my part, were I to begin my defence of what I believe from a prior position of unbelief, trying to find room for God within a situation, or by the enlargement of a situation, in which he did not yet exist. It is on the denial, not on the affirmation, of the divine, that the burden of argument rests, both for our race as a whole and for every individual within it.3
No doubt many of the reductionists will be ready enough to take up that burden, and on those terms. It is therefore important to consider the lines which their argument is likely to follow. They must admit that when, before scientific inquiry begins, I look out upon the world about me, it presents itself to me as something very different from what they themselves now believe it really to be. When like the psalmist I ‘consider the heavens’ and look up at the sun in the noonday sky, the impression it makes on me is both a single impression and yet a very complex one. It is likely to include in an implicit way the judgements that the sun is round and white and very bright; but also the judgements that it is beautiful and sublime; and further the judgements that it is a great work of God, and a gift graciously designed by him for the benefit, not only of myself, but of the whole human race, and indeed of all that has life and breath. All these judgements are for me, as they, or something closely related to them, have been for the generality of mankind, indissolubly united in the wholeness of a single concrete experience. In the language of the psychologists, they form a Gestalt, a configuration of constituent elements which have not been put together synthetically, though our minds may by a process of abstraction separate them out analytically. When I turn natural scientist, what I do is to abstract from this Gestalt those judgements which can be expressed in quantitative terms, and, by more particularized attention and the artificial creation of experimental conditions, to develop them in temporary isolation from the other judgements contained in the Gestalt. Needless to say, such a process is entirely legitimate, being indispensably necessary for the admirable purposes which natural science has at heart. But like so many other justifiable and necessary things, it has its own manifest and very great dangers, and notably the danger to which the late Professor Whitehead once directed our attention when he remarked that a man may know all about the laws of light and yet, perhaps just because he has learned so much about them, ‘miss the radiance of the sunset and the glory of the morning sky’. What reductive naturalism has done is to succumb to these dangers. It champions the doctrine that those elements of my total experience of the sun which science abstracts from it are the only elements yielding veridical knowledge of what the sun really is; or more generally, that my real human situation is constituted only by what physical science can tell me about it.
I have illustrated my point from our vision of the sun, but in further illustration of it I would quote the following passage from that profoundly perceptive Victorian author George Macdonald:
What, I ask, is the truth of water? Is it that it is formed of hydrogen and oxygen?… Is it for the sake of the fact that hydrogen and oxygen combined form water, that the precious thing exists? Is oxygen-and-hydrogen the divine idea of water? Or has God put the two together only that man might separate them and find them out?… The water itself, that dances, and sings, and slakes the wonderful thirst—symbol and picture of that draught for which the woman of Samaria made her prayer to Jesus—this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace… this water is itself its own truth, and is therein a truth of God. Let him who would know the love of the maker become sorely athirst, and drink of the brook by the way—then lift up his heart—not at that moment to the maker of oxygen and hydrogen, but to the inventor and mediator of thirst and water, that man may foresee a little of what his soul may find in God.… As well may a man think to describe the joy of drinking by giving thirst and water for its analysis, as imagine he has revealed anything about water by resolving it into its scientific elements. Let a man go to the hillside and let the brook sing to him till he loves it, and he will find himself far nearer, the fountain of truth than the triumphal car of the chemist will ever lead the shouting crew of his half-comprehending followers. He will draw from the brook the water of joyous tears ‘and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water.’
The truth of a thing, then, is the blossom of it, the thing it is made for, the topmost stone set on with rejoicing; truth in a man's imagination is the power to recognize this truth of a thing; and wherever, in anything that God has made, in the glory of it, be it sky or flower or human face, we see the glory of God, there a true imagination is beholding a truth of God.4
But let me now return to my first example. I said that the sun impresses me not only as round and bright, but also as beautiful and sublime. But it is contended that the latter two adjectives add nothing to the description of the sun. Taking the example of a hilltop view which is judged to be ‘extensive and sublime’, Mr Nowell-Smith says that:
The adjective ‘sublime’ does not form part of the description of the view.… The question whether the view was extensive or not is a question of empirical fact. But the sublimity of the view is not part of its contents.… I shall refer to words of the same family as ‘sublime’ as Aptness-words… because they are words that indicate that an object has certain properties which are apt to arouse a certain emotion or range of emotions.5
To this I can only say that if Mr Nowell-Smith chooses to define the word ‘descriptive’ as applying only to those features of the view which are simply apprehended by our senses, he is of course at liberty to do this. My own concern is sufficiently satisfied by his admission that in addition to these the view has ‘certain other properties’ of a very different kind. Needless to say, also, whether or not the view is sublime is not a question of ‘empirical fact’, if the empeiria or experience he has in mind is mere sensory experience. But I shall be contending that not all our experience is sensory experience.
It will be remembered that one of the world's earliest scientists, Anaxagoras, found himself in serious trouble with the general public because he said that the sun was only a mass of blazing metal about the size of the Peloponnese. That greatly shocked the good Athenians, who had him up for impiety; and though the eloquence of Pericles secured his acquittal he was forced to retire from Athens as science's first martyr. It is very significant that a century later Plato is still found pro-testing against the impiety of Anaxagoras's conclusion.6 One is reminded of Blake's couplet:
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.7
But the incident excellently illustrates the complex nature of the issue as between natural piety, scientific discovery and a reductive naturalism. As a scientist Anaxagoras was more nearly right about the sun than anybody had ever been before, but the Athenians ‘felt in their bones’ that what he affirmed could not be the whole truth about it, and therefore they were led to deny the truth even of his scientific affirmation—a state of affairs that was constantly to repeat itself in much later times. The Athenians, even including Plato in his own more sophisticated way, believed the sun to be itself a god. Christianity has destroyed that belief, correcting it into the very different one that the sun is God's gift and the work of his hands; not itself divine but (as we might say) sacramental of the divine presence. Thus the scientific and the Christian affirmations, instead of conflicting, mutually help each other's case; but Christian piety is as opposed as was pagan piety to the naturalist affirmation that Anaxagoras and his kind were telling us all there is to know about the sun.
Christianity, then, has taught us to regard as inanimate objects very many things which the Greeks, including Plato and Aristotle, regarded like other pagans as zoa, living subjects. Yet our human situation is far from being exhaustively constituted by our relation to this inanimate environment, since it is determined no less by our relations with one another and with the living God. It is not only with objects that I have to reckon every moment of every day, but also with other subjects. These two components of my situation are indeed, as I have already contended, most closely interconnected, my apprehension of the world of objects being from the beginning a shared apprehension, while conversely there is not one of my relations with other subjects that is not mediated to me by our common relation to the world of objects. Nevertheless Christian thought has made this distinction between persons and things quite fundamental to its case, while our reductionists, in order to make good their own very different case, could not rest content with naturalizing our experience of things but have attempted equally to naturalize our personal relationships. Man, we are told, is a natural product, and that is the whole truth about him. Except perhaps for one strange fact, namely, that he habitually thinks himself to be something more? But no; for according to Lord Russell, ‘what we call our “thoughts” seem to depend upon the organization of tracks in the brain in the same sort of way in which journeys depend upon roads and railways. The energy used in thinking seems to have a chemical origin’;8 so that ‘undoubtedly we are part of nature, which has produced our desires, our hopes and fears, in accordance with laws which the physicist is beginning to discover.’9 Our thinking that we are more than things is thus only another thing. (But then so equally must be Lord Russell's thinking, when he makes these assertions! As has been well said, ‘The only creature that can prove anything cannot prove its own insignificance without depriving the proof of its proof-value. Any radical depreciation of man involves an equally radical depreciation of the scientific thinking which supplies the supposed evidence. ‘10)
Nor is it only our moral, social and sacral values that are thus forced to retreat from their traditional status in reality to a merely subjective status in the mind of man. The line cannot be drawn thus simply between Kant's ‘starry heavens above’ and his ‘moral law within’. As has been seen, our experience of beauty, our aesthetic values, must certainly share the same fate. Perhaps also our experience of light and colour, of sound and taste and smell? Is it that, when I perceive the noonday sun as a round white object, the roundness is really there, independently of my perceiving it, whereas the whiteness is there only for my perceiving mind?11 This also was taught by the Greek naturalists. The real world, wrote Lucretius in giving us the fullest account of their teaching that now remains to us, is a fortuitous concourse of atoms ‘bereft of colour, sundered altogether from cold and warmth and fiery heat, and carried along barren of sound and devoid of taste nor do they give off any heat of their own’.12 Such a dichotomy draws the line between objective reality and subjective appearance very low down, but it has been found notoriously difficult to maintain. Bishop Berkeley's contention that if light and colour and sound are only in my sense and mind, so also are form and size and weight, is not easily answered. On this point, therefore, the naturalists are divided amongst themselves, not all agreeing with Lucretius. Where they are at one is in declaring our aesthetic experience to be, no less than our moral experience, purely subjective in origin, yielding no intimations of reality. When I have judged a landscape beautiful, I have always supposed myself to mean that it was beautiful in itself, independently of my thinking it so;13 but now I am told that what I mean, or ought to mean, is that I can make anything I like beautiful by merely liking it; since ‘it is we who create value, and our desires which confer value’,14 these desires having themselves been produced by the operation of atomic ‘laws which the physicist is beginning to discover’.
It would thus seem that all along the line the reality of which the reductive naturalists speak is different, as night from day, from the reality with which I believe myself to be in daily and momentary encounter. I have claimed that the burden of proof rests, in the first instance, not on me but on them who are the real innovators. Yet I must not understand this as relieving me of all further responsibility in defending the tradition against such innovation. It is a commonplace among historians that no dogma has ever been either defined or as such defended until an opposing heresy had already raised its head, but the appearance of heresy has always been regarded as obliging those who abide by the tradition to produce reasons for the faith that is in them, making explicit what had hitherto been only latently contained in their minds—the interior logic of their own existing convictions. ‘Salt’, defined the schoolboy, ‘is what makes my porridge taste nasty when they don't put it in.’ I had hitherto hardly been aware of the salt that rendered palatable my existing outlook on reality, but when the naturalists leave it out, I certainly find the resulting dish nasty and insipid enough. It is therefore incumbent on me to find a better definition of salt than the schoolboy's, and a better reason for restoring it than simply that I am unhappy without it.15
We have seen that the experience we enjoy when we look at the sun is a single whole, for all the diverse elements of which it is compact. We have now to expand this into a statement of the utmost generality and say that in the same way our total experience of reality presents itself to us as a single experience, each diverse strand of which is intimately related to, and inextricably intermingled with, all the others. The world we know is known by us as one world. ‘The philosopher’, writes Professor Macmurray, ‘does not need to prove that reality is a whole though he sometimes tries to do so. Indeed it cannot be proved. But that is because, unless it were given in immediate experience, philosophy would never arise.’16
At a later stage we bring our powers of rational analysis to bear on our experience, and to do this we have to concentrate our attention at any one time on a single strand or aspect of it forming abstract mental concepts which, just because they are abstract, enable us to regard it in convenient temporary isolation from the rest. These concepts we then use to draw inferences from the fundamental knowledge we already have, and to extend and improve that knowledge in such a way that we now understand the temporarily abstracted aspect better than we understood it before. Clearly, however, such abstractive analysis cannot begin unless we already have some knowledge of the reality we are analysing. Scientific conclusions, writes Professor Macmurray, ‘signify something only because they interpret our immediate knowledge of the world.’17 ‘If there were no immediate knowledge there could be no reflection, because there would be nothing to reflect upon.’18 And he formulates it as a general principle that ‘All thought presupposes knowledge. It is not possible to think about something that you do not already know.’19 Thought is here identified with reflection, that is, with the secondary activity of the mind in which it bends back (Latin, re-flectere) upon its own primary operations; and I believe correctly so identified. Thought implies a ratiocinative process which makes use of the apparatus of inference. But it must not be supposed that what is here called ‘immediate knowledge’ is merely sensation, the reception by the organism of sense-data. It too is a product of intelligence, though not yet of reflection. It is the work of nous; but of the nous aisthētikos, not of the nous apodeiktikos (or, in the Latin equivalents of these Greek philosophic terms, of the ratio intuitiva, not of the ratio discursiva). When such knowledge is said to be immediate, what is meant is that it is not mediated by any process of inference. It is, as was agreed in our first chapter, a direct knowledge of the real, extra-mental world. It is indeed mediated by sense-data, but its relation to these is not one of logical entailment. In Dr Mascall's phrase, already quoted, it is ‘grasped through them’, but not inferred from them.
Nearly all contemporary philosophers profess to be empiricists, and to be an empiricist is to believe that all our veridical knowledge derives from our experience and can be checked by reference to it. But the empeiria or experience many of them have in mind is our experience of the corporeal world as revealed to us by our bodily senses, and these assume that this is the only experience, and consequently the only knowledge, we possess of trans-subjective reality, whether it be Umwelt or Mitwelt. The spectacular success of modern physical science in enabling us not only to understand the world of nature but also to manipulate and control it to our own advantage, has undoubtedly had much to do with the prevalence of this assumption. It is, however, an assumption that we must strenuously oppose. Our lives would indeed be poor and savourless if we had no awareness, in which we could repose the least degree of trust, of anything in reality save what we can see and hear and touch and taste and smell. My contention will indeed be that we have even what can properly be called sense experience of other things than these. The human spirit, I shall say, develops certain subtler senses or sensitivities which go beyond the bodily senses. Newman, in arguing for what he called ‘the illative sense’, referred to our familiar employment of the word in such phrases as good sense, common sense and a sense of beauty.20 Any number of examples could, however, be added. We variously speak of a sense of humour, a sense of honour, a sense of propriety, a sense of proportion, a sense of (literary) style; and likewise of a sense of duty, a ‘sensitive’ conscience, a sense of the holy or of the divine, a sense of the presence of God. These are all refined or sublimate developments of our experience and it is needless to say that they all presuppose for their possibility the experience gained through the bodily senses. Nevertheless they carry us far beyond such experience, making us sensitive to aspects of reality of which these, taken by themselves, could not conceivably inform us. They enable us to perceive something not otherwise perceptible; to perceive it, I say and not merely to conceive it as a concept to which we are led by argument.21
It may indeed be contended that, though this extended use of the word ‘sense’ is firmly established in ordinary speech, it is more convenient to confine the word in philosophical discourse to the corporeal senses, and not, for example, to speak too glibly of a ‘moral sense’, as did Shaftesbury and his followers in the early eighteenth century. But we need not here do battle about words, though I propose to abide by my own, my concern being only that these other awarenesses should be recognized as so far analogous to the corporeal senses as to enable us to perceive something not otherwise perceptible. This point was cogently made by the late John Laird with reference to another such awareness which I did not mention above, namely that awareness of our own being which philosophers had often spoken of as an ‘inner sense’.
Introspection… is not literally an ‘internal sense’, but as Locke says, ‘though it be not sense, yet it is very like it’, for it is observationof those mental events which we call passions, resolves and cogitations—an inspection of their being, not an inference concerning them.22
Those who have thus insisted on the perceptual character of our non-corporeal awarenesses have commonly been labelled intuitionists. This is in itself a suitable enough name, since intuition and perception are two Latin words which in this usage are virtually identical in meaning. Both mean ‘observation’—the term used by Laird in the passage quoted, and they were employed indifferently by Latin-speaking philosophers to translate the Greek aisthēsis—so that the nous aisthētikoscould be either ratio perceptiva or ratio intuitiva. But in later times there has been a tendency to speak of an intuition as an apprehension of a truth or proposition rather than of an aspect of reality, and from this usage I should wish to dissociate myself. Nor should I wish to bind myself to any of the particular formulations even of those ‘intuitionists’ who have not shared this tendency, such as Jacobi, Fries, Rudolf Otto or certain representatives of the Moral Sense School above referred to. I am convinced, however, that these were all trying to say something which urgently needs to be said, however defective was often their way of saying it.
In his Pelican volume on Ethics, already referred to, Mr Nowell-Smith selects as examples of contemporary intuitionism (which he roundly condemns) the ethical theories of Professor G. E. Moore, Sir David Ross and Professor Pritchard. What is common to them all, he says, is the contention that in the exercise of our moral consciousness we are being aware, in a way that is analogous to sense-perception, of aspects or properties of reality other than those of which we are aware in sense-perception itself. According to these,
We do not literally see these properties with our eyes; but the faculty concerned is called ‘non-sensuous intuition’, ‘awareness’, ‘apprehension’, ‘recognition’, ‘acquaintance’, words which all strongly suggest an analogy with sight or touch.23
Against such views Mr Nowell-Smith argues as follows:
If we are to justify the analogy between moral properties and empirical properties, which is implied by the use of objective terminology, we must show that there is a contrast in moral matters between ‘is right’ and ‘seems right’, which corresponds to the contrast between ‘is red’ and ‘seems red’.… But this is exactly what the intuitionist cannot do; for in making direct awareness the test of real ethical properties he eliminates the whole point of the objective-subjective contrast.24 The double language only has point if we allow that the observer himself is the best judge of looks but not of what a thing really is. And this enables us to admit ourselves consistently wrong in empirical cases. If a man finds his judgements about colour differ consistently from those of others, he will admit himself to be colour-blind.… If each man had to judge the real colour of an object by his individual sense of colour, the very distinction between ‘is red’ and ‘looks red’ would have broken down and we should have no use for redness as a real property at all. For, where real properties are concerned, general agreement is admitted, even by a dissentient, to be the criterion for the property.25
Further, people disagree about what is good and right in a way
that could not possibly occur in the case of objective empirical properties.… The parallel case would be that in which a number of scientists failed to agree about the reading of a scale or a meter or about the colour of an object.… If this sort of disagreement were of frequent occurrence, the property in question could not be treated as a ‘real’ or ‘objective’ property at all.26
Now this whole argument seems to me to be manywise fallacious. To begin with, we should not dream of claiming that individual moral (or aesthetic or religious) judgements are not subject to error. When an individual observer says ‘This is right’, the chances of his being mistaken are even greater than when he says ‘This is red’; the reason being (as we shall afterwards have further occasion to note) that there is more likelihood of his going astray in the subtler and more delicate regions of his experience than in the grosser ones. On the other hand it is as true of such physical properties as colour, as it is of ethical properties like rightness or goodness, that we are in the end wholly dependent for our knowledge of them upon the judgement of individuals. Alike in both cases the single individual's judgement is seriously shaken if he finds that he is alone in making it. He then says: ‘This seems to me to be right, but since most of those whose good judgement I would otherwise trust judge it to be wrong, it may be that it is not really right after all.’ Yet the situation remains unsatisfactory for him until or unless, having been stimulated by these contrary judgements, he has had another look at the matter for himself and is now able to see things otherwise than he had formerly seen them. Of course, if there were no degree of consensus as to what is right and what is wrong, we might well come to feel that our moral judgements were no more than individual seeming, but Mr Nowell-Smith himself writes in another connexion that ‘The more we study moral codes, the more we find that they do not differ on major points of principle’.27 Moreover, when he argues that the double language of ‘seems so’ and ‘is so’, which must be able to be used when objectivity is claimed for our judgements, entails the possibility of admission by the individual that he is ‘consistently wrong’, as in the case when a man is forced to admit that he is colour-blind; I should remark, first, that this is a case of constitutional abnormality, in fact a pathological case; and second, that abnormal psychology is by no means unfamiliar with pathological cases in which the patient is, and may even come to be persuaded that he is, consistently aberrant in his moral perceptions. Thus our apprehension of what Mr Nowell-Smith, following Professor Moore, calls non-natural properties is on all fours with our apprehension of natural properties in respect of all those features which Mr Nowell-Smith himself considers necessary to our regarding it as yielding a knowledge of trans-subjective reality. Hence we cannot be forced in respect of the former apprehension, any more than of the latter, into the situation once cleverly caricatured,
When suave politeness, tempering bigot zeal,
Corrected I believe to One does feel.28
‘General agreement’, writes Mr Nowell-Smith, ‘is not a test of truth; but it is a necessary condition of the use of objective language.’29 The measure of truth in this dictum appears to be as follows. Universal agreement is usually attainable, apart from constitutional or pathological abnormalities such as colour-blindness, for judgements of ordinary sense-perception like ‘This rose is red’. L'homme moyen sensuel is here at no disadvantage compared with the most sensitive minds. But when we pass to the higher regions of our experience, to what we have called our subtler and more delicate awarenesses, we do not expect universal agreement. Not all will agree that chastity is good, or that the songs of Shakespeare are beautiful, or that God is gracious. On the other hand, however, some considerable measure of agreement, though it is still not ‘a test of truth’ is normally a necessary condition of the security of individual judgement. If I alone found chastity good or Shakespeare's songs beautiful or God gracious, I should find my conviction almost impossible to sustain and would indeed be driven to say ‘seems to me’ rather than ‘is’; just as would happen if I alone saw the rose as red. Not even in our apparently firmest convictions can we dispense with the ‘great cloud of witnesses.’30
Thus no sound reason has been given us why we should depart from our accustomed use of ‘objective language’ when discoursing of those acts of apprehension that go beyond ordinary sense-perception; or why we should depart from our accustomed belief that here also certain things are being perceived by us. It is not really reason or logic, but an initial naturalistic bias, that makes the reductive empiricists desire these innovations. Because they have already decided that there is no objective reality but matter in motion, they are forced to believe that our ethical judgements are merely statements concerning our own subjective desires and intentions. ‘To say that something is good’, writes Mr. Nowell-Smith,’.… is not to make a statement about it or to describe it, but to express a desire for it or an attitude towards it, to express approval of it, to grade it, to praise it, to commend it, and so on.’31 ‘A moral belief’, writes Professor Braithwaite in his well-known lecture on An Empiricist's View of the Nature of Religious Belief ‘is an intention to behave in a certain way: a religious belief is an intention to behave in a certain way (a moral belief) together with the entertainment of certain stories associated with the intention in the mind of the believer.’32 Such a reading of the nature of our moral judgements could not, however, possibly arise from a direct examination of these judgements themselves, which certainly purport to say something very different. It is just not true that when I acknowledge something to be good, I mean that I desire it; for very often, unfortunately, I do not desire it. It is just not true that my moral beliefs are intentions to behave in a certain way: for very often, unfortunately, my intended behaviour runs contrary to my belief. Usually, indeed, it is admitted by the reductive naturalists that their theory of the nature of moral judgements does violence to their apparent meaning and to the meaning attached to them by those who make them. Lord Russell, for example, begins a recent treatment of ethics as follows:
Ethics differs from science in the fact that its fundamental data are feelings and emotions, not percepts.… An ethical judgement does not state a fact; it states, though often in a disguised form, some hope or fear, some desire or aversion, some love or hate. It should be enunciated in the optative or imperative mood, not in the indicative.33
Here the phrases which I have taken the liberty of italicizing show clearly enough that what the moral agent believes himself to be doing when he makes a moral judgement is not what Lord Russell says he is doing. Can it then be anything but a preconceived naturalistic bias that prevents Lord Russell from taking this whole region of our experience at its face value?