You are here

Meditation XI

SUBJECTIVE DIALECTIC AND THE A PRIORI.—A priori Categories or Synthetic Predicates: (a) The Form of the One Movement is Teleologico-Causal. (b) The First Affirmation. (c) Function of the Dialectic generally. (d) The Dialectic not imposed on Experience. (e) Continuity of the Absolute System; Knowledge and the Objective Dialectic. (f) The Dialectic as Teleologico-Causal. (g) Unifying Process of the Dialectic. (h) The Attuit and the Notion. (i) Absolute Knowledge. (j) Is Man as the Subjective Dialectic a mere Organ in the Absolute Whole? (k) The Absolute Whole as a One Whole. (l) Will-Dialectic an Evolution. (m) Deductive Explanation of Experience Impossible. (n) In what sense the Object is Subject.

I HAVE been emphasising the word “Will”: I would now emphasise the word “Dialectic”.

We have found Being with its system of predicates—its modality in inner and outer sense, which, as given to the conscious subject, we call a posteriori categories. These categories are not imposed by mind: they are simply the universal predicaments of the given modes of object, and, therefore, modes of the recipient and reflexing subject—both subject and object belonging to the same system.

All is One in Being—a difference in identity. The feeling of Being in us is the sympathetic touch of kinship and community arising out of difference. It is as correct to say that Being is given to the object by the subject, as that it is given to the subject by the object. It is neither and both. But this is only The Real: we now seek the Actual—the object as “known”; and therefore, the Notion. And the Actual is the Real informed and transformed by the dialectic. There is no chasm in the infinite process which we call the Universe, between the Real of Sense and the Formal of Reason. The empirical subject in generating Will and Ego carries itself and all its content with it. The attuitional is not dropped off as if it were old clothes: it is more alive than ever. I say “more” alive, for the categories of sense are not dead: they are the modality of Mind-universal, just as the categories of reason are the form and interpretation of that modality—the reason-element in the concrete presentation. Might we not say that what the created subject receives in sense are, in the Absolute Being, self-originated or creative sensation yielding the matter of its activity? Thought-Forms (the dialectic or thought-determination) do not constitute reality for us, but only reveal Reason in reality and raise it to Actuality. Reality is Being and its sense-manifestation: the Actual is the Real as dialectically determined.

I have given the process of all possible Percipience—the first functioning of the Dialectic—and in that I find the whole dialectic. Let me now sum up the categories as at once subjective and objective and immanent in all experience.


  1. I. Being-universal (absoluto-infinite and unconditioned, and ground of all possible determination).
  2. II. Will or Kinetic Nisus with Form of End implicit.
  3. III. Possibility—The Excluded Middle.
  4. IV. Negation of all else (Formal Cause).
  5. V. Sufficient Reason or Causal Ground—the Determining-so (Formative Cause).
  6. VI. Determined-so-ness of Being—the Determinate.
  7. VII. Identity of a thing with itself: and thus the achievement of
  8. VIII. End or Purpose (Final Cause) already contained in VI. (and in every moment).

The Realitas-phenomenon thus dialecticised is The Actual; or (from the subjective point of view) the Notion.

If objective dialectic, i.e., the thought-movement of Absolute Being is to be sought for, it can only be found in the subjective dialectic. Either thus; or it must be gathered from phenomenal processes.

The above dialectic is the Logic of Being as creative: and it is the Logic of the mind of man simply because it is the Logic of things. It is Reason; and, in its contact with matter of thought, it yields the ordinary formal Logic.

Derivative Categories.— (a) The Causal Nexus;
  (b) The Concept of Organism.

The Causal Nexus of a b is a derivative category: it rests first on the universal a priori Predicate or Category of Causal or Mediating Ground (IV. and V.) as now operating within a phenomenal series and demanding that b be mediated or caused; and secondly, on the category of Identity which determines the “particular” synthesis a b as a necessary nexus.

As to Organism: The dialectic form is organic. What is merely the teleological moment (End or Purpose) as regards the “singular” percept, becomes the notion of Organism when there is a phenomenal complex in presentation.

It would seem to follow from the above that the Principle of Identity is not the first “Law of thought”. Will, in search of a percept or judgment, proceeds after a certain manner, and that manner is in certain moments or pulses. The movement is a one concrete, but there is a logical order in the moments. Will-initiation contains and predicts End (formally) and the final moment of percipience is A = A (principle of Identity). The principles of Excluded middle and Contradiction are its logical priora.

(a) The Form of the One Movement is Teleologico-Causal.

Thus the Subject, as dialectic movement, in its very first and initiatory contact with matter of sense (inner and outer), takes hold of matter after its own form of activity, which is a form of Mediation and End. In other words, it necessarily takes up or subsumes each thing as kinetically and formally and formatively caused—as being what it is (and not something else) by virtue of a rational cosmic process seeking End. In this purely dialectic movement (i.e. Will in its dialectic process) we discern, as content, the above moments, and these are the a priori categories. [What have been called innate ideas are merely the form of the dialectic in contact with matter of inner or outer sense.]

(b) The First Affirmation.

To suppose that the highest moment of finite mind, in interpreting the object, garbles, or in any way palters with it, is preposterous. It merely affirms what is already there. You cannot wipe out the given in the name and for the glory of that which exists to know it. In the very first percept of an “other” in sense (a sensate) we have the judgment “That Is There”. The object is identical with itself—“That” = it exists in the system of experience: “Is” = it exists independently of me: “There” = it exists as externality. And, in the same act, there is brought into greater clearness the Ego that affirms. Thus Will-Reason puts its seal on the record of attuition.

(c) Function of the Dialectic generally.

Each single whole and the total of actual and possible existence is now necessarily apprehended and comprehended as kinetically initiated, mediately seeking an end, and attaining its end. The whole movement is teleologico-causal. Even a rudimentary percept, as distinct from the attuitional sensate, is itself (as we have seen) so taken up by the will-dialectic; so, and not otherwise: for percipience is itself the dialectic process in its elementary activity and contains in it (as moments) the a priori categories; and these always remain the same, though with increasing complexities of material to deal with as the recipient subject accumulates its store of reality or the Given. What is given is always a complex; and the act of percipience is the discrimination of the parts, but always with sub-reference to the complex totality in presentation. Percipience itself is always de singulis. The next functioning of the dialectic is the synthesising of parts, and this synthesis is the individual concept—an analytico-synthetic result. This is what, I suppose, is meant by the differences of a thing falling apart in the form of a conscious distinction inside their unity.

(d) The Dialectic not imposed on Experience.

The a priori dialectic—which, for the sake of brevity, may now be summed up as a movement in four prime moments, viz., as Will or Kinetic initiation, with empty form of End implicit: Mediating Process: Determining-so: End attained or The Determinate, is not imposed by Ego on the universal matter of recipience—the “Object-thing”. The dialectic finds itself there. The Subject can take experience up into itself only so, and not otherwise. Except as gripping the concrete, the Dialectic is for subjective mind non-existent save as an abstract and would never enter consciousness at all. It is the Formal in the concrete.

If this Dialectic be what I say it is, there is no need of a Critique of Judgment or of Practical Reason as complements of the one Dialectic. In all matter of thought inner or outer the movement is the same, and gives us an affirmed beënt, caused, organic, purposed world, and (as we shall see) also Law of Conduct—the Categorical Imperative. The inevitableness of the consciousness of the Infinite and of Ideals is also explained (see Meditation on The Infinite) by the nature of the percipient act.

This free movement out of the empirical subject carries the empirical subject with it as I have said; but is itself, as pure activity, transcendental. It is outside the series of Time and Space. It is not determined in its relation to the finite: on the contrary, it determines.

Knowing, then, is, like the divine creative act itself, a mediating activity. The consciousness of “knowing” may be said to be, in a sense, immediate; but it is an immediate knowledge of that which is, in its essence and character, mediating relatively to all other immediacy. It is an immediate awareness of mediacy. The dialectic is given in immediate experience, but only as constitutive and formative of that experience: and, further, it is itself, as already in the Universal Object, a reflection into the subject—the highest evolution of Infinite Mind as finite mind.

(e) Continuity of the Absolute System: Knowledge and the Objective Dialectic.

To repeat on this new plane of Mind our previous conclusion: Man is within a system, not outside it: he is the highest term of the “Universal Object”. The continuity of conscious subject and nature, which we found on the plane of the sentient and attuitional, is not now ruptured. In the supreme result of the cosmic finite process which we are now considering, the now self-conscious man does not, as Will-reason, turn round on the lower or preliminary stages of that process and reduce it to a rational system. Experience, as given, already exists as a rational system, and man's function is to reduce it to a rational system for himself; and this is knowledge as distinct from attuition. Knowledge, then, as distinguished from sentience generally, is the reduction of the given to self and for self by Will through a dialectic process contained in Will God has provided for the manifold and its coherence without the help of man. The view of the “object” vindicated in past Meditations, which regards it as true “for itself” as it is in man, secures that knowledge (say of the planetary system) is true “for itself” in being true for man. Its fulfilled reality is in a conscious subject; but only to the extent of the finite capacity of the subject:—Truth, that is to say, so far as it goes.

The universal Dialectic is now in Man as for Man, and when he “knows,” he may be said merely to reflect the objective dialectic.

How is it, it might be asked, that man does not sense the dialectic of the presented world just as he senses its modality as summed in the a posteriori categories? Because it is manifestly impossible that the cosmic Reason can communicate itself to any conscious subject that is not itself a reason; just as Being cannot be communicated except to Being; or the modal shapes of sense to anything save that which has in it the potentialities of the sensible. Reason or dialectic is not the presentation, but the “formal” and unseen implicate of the presentation; and, cosmically and objectively, a pure act or energy. Only a mind, then, which has risen above sensation and evolved in itself the pure act of reason can find reason anywhere; in other words, could be in intercommunion with Universal Reason. Man is such a pure formal activity. Only free activity can be aware of free activity, and the very condition of its finding it is that it shall be itself freely active; nay, within limits, creative. The whole of the datum is doubtless at first sight a chaos; but why? Because man is a reason and makes large demands. It is not a chaos to the dog who takes what he finds. Man also takes what he finds; but he further finds the reason-process in the universe, because he himself is a conscious reason-process and in organic continuity with the Whole. Reason is objective, and man is within it. At best, and at the end of the long day, he will not have put his reason into the universe, but only found his reason there. He will have rationalised the whole for himself as knowledge: that is all; and he will have thus fulfilled his function by satisfying the needs of his essence,—fulfilled the “necessity of his nature” as a Knower and Doer.

It is not, then, only as Modality that the object “becomes for” (turns over into) subject, but also as Dialectic. Thus the object as “Real” now becomes for consciousness the object as “Actual”. We may say that Natura has now at last become conscious of itself in its totality of Being, phenomenon and dialectic through Man as a totality, he himself being all the while an integral part of the Whole—a factor within it, not outside it, as crude dualism would have it. The “object” of experience now reveals its final implicates; and I am now not merely “conscious” of it as a Real, but “self-conscious” of it as a dialecticised Real—an Actual.

(f) The Dialectic as Teleologico-Causal.

This transcendental movement of the Will-Dialectic—this free energising in and out of the empirical subject, is manifestly, in its totality and unity, the Causal Notion, in the true sense of Cause. And the true sense of Cause is revealed by the will-movement to be in three moments, viz., kinetic; mediating ground; and end or telos. The Causal Notion is thus a teleological notion: and nine-tenths of the debate on this question of Cause is due to the abstraction of one or other of its three elements which, all the while, are inseparable moments of a one movement. Even a particular percept itself, unimportant as it apparently is, we take up under the Causal Notion; and all subsequent acts of reason are causal, because the pure act of the self-conscious subject itself is itself the Teleologico-Causal Form. It is thus that I must, whether I will or not, subsume the universe of things.

But in so taking up data, I do not, as I have already said, impose cause on an existent chaos—my attuitional experience: I merely find the Causal Notion there in things. All Science finds it in things; and occupies itself with revealing it as in things. The Teleologico-Causal is objective, not subjective alone; and it is subjective because it already is in the Total—the Absolute Whole of externalisation including Man.

It is common to assume the causal in the universe (in one or other of its moments—kinetic, mediating ground or teleological), but in this act of assuming, a leap is taken out of the subjective into the objective. The above analysis, on the contrary, shows that we necessarily take up the objective as so, i.e., as containing the causal notion or Reason. The subjective dialectic is not in the air. The matter of thought is found to be moulded thus and not otherwise. Thus we see the objectivity of the subjective causal notion: we do not arbitrarily affirm it. If End, it may be said, is a necessary “moment” in the one Dialectic process, it would follow that what we call the causal antecedent in nature is determined by what has not yet happened, viz., the End. Precisely so; metaphysically speaking, I cannot abstract the moments in a one concrete of movement save for logical purposes: they involve each other.

Note.—A distinction may be made between the reason for affirming a proposition and the cause of an existent thing; but they both fall under the same general category of “Ground”.

(g) Unifying Process of the Dialectic.

By the help of the new movement, we are now able to apply ourselves to the vague unclassified data of attuitional association, and to constitute these, for ourselves, not only as being a system related in Time and Space (a posteriori categories), but, still further, as a system of dialectic whereby it is seen that the data of sense are not only in and of Being, but inreasoned, by the inner dialectic of nature, into what we see. (The various functionings of the Dialectic in contact with matter will be spoken of in the sequel.)

The Will-movement starts with Percipience which is de singulis; and having “perceived” totals as single totals, it restlessly proceeds to discriminate the elements in these totals with a view to a true synthesis of them—all knowing being analytico-synthetic in its mode of procedure. The “haecceity” of the total is followed by the affirmation of the “haecceity” of the elements of the Total down to the atom (so-called), and out of these the will-dialectic constructs, or rather reconstructs, the total as now a unity. Each element is as much an entity as the complex total is an entity—neither more nor less; and a difficulty at once emerges as to the possibility of a real relation between the parts and the whole. A complex thing (and everything is complex) is what it is by virtue of its unified relates. As to this I would say: First of all, the animal or attuitional moment of mind is not concerned with rational relations. It is aware of a quantitative and qualitative side-by-sideness and sequence in space. There is thus a felt relation, but not a known relation, i.e., a consciousness that there is relation. In like manner, a single total is to attuition a single total, nothing more—a synopsis not a unity. It is the energy of the Will-dialectic which under the inner stimulus of the Form of End takes hold of (perceives, prehends) a total as a unity of parts; and this whether the total be a quantitative aggregate (e.g., a heap of bricks) or a qualitative organic unity. Each constituent part of the qualitative unity certainly yields up, in the interest of the one organism, its own entitative individuality; but each has an individuality to yield up. The parts retain their own individual reality, while contributing themselves to a higher unity. If each did not remain a “for itself,” while at the same time losing itself in a higher, it is manifest that the organism could not be effected. I cannot see how all this comes about phenomenally; but it is de facto there before me, and de ratione I can explain. It is guaranteed by the form of the dialectic. The community which I can detect is the community of Being and the Dialectic as a One in the diverse. This satisfies me. “Existence” is not possible save as a system of contraries which are sometimes apparent contradictions. I shall point out, however, in the sequel, that each thing or “this” contains the potency of its own relations positive and negative. The “atom” (so-called) is not dead.

(h) The Attuit and the Notion.

Mind has, for its function, consciousness of a Real which is not the individual mind. Passing over subtle distinctions in the evolution of finite mind we find it, at the highest stage of sensation, attuiting single “wholes” and, content with this, asking no questions. Thereupon the subjective dialectic emerges and, separating and affirming the parts of each whole, perceives these parts in their separateness and affirms them of the complex “whole”. Will here grasps the parts in a colligated unity, and the attuitional synopsis is now a synthesis. It next mediates the whole through the parts, as a teleologico-causal One. The synthetic unity is now a synthetic “One”—a dialecticised whole. Reason is now satisfied. The “thing” is now fully dialecticised, and (as so entertained subjectively) may be called the “Notion” of the thing. The further movement of reason—the dialectic synthesis of the sum of experience, the universe—is not a new “moment” of mind, but merely a quantitative extension of the notion of a “thing” into the notion of the Whole of things—an absolute synthesis. Not only the particular, then, but also the aggregated Totality is seen to be not merely a Real, but an Actual—a Notion; it is raised from the attuit to the notion.

The whole of the subjective dialectic is thus a one movement in many “moments,” and its purpose in so functioning is the taking to itself, or the subsuming, of the particular and of the absolute Whole as its own fulfilment and completion. This is Knowing, and the result is Knowledge.

Is it Absolute Knowledge?

(i) Absolute Knowledge.

We have been told, and with great appearance of truth I freely grant, that only mind as self-conscious, i.e., as aware of itself and its processes, has “absolute” knowledge—absolute as compared with all other grades or kinds of knowledge. But on what ground do I call such self-knowledge absolute? On this (and on no possible other), that the given object is not separate from the percipient subject, but is one with it. This, doubtless, is the highest kind of knowledge as regards object-matter because it has to do with the ground of all knowledge—mind and its processes; but I fail to see that it is more to be called knowledge, and therefore more absolute, than my consciousness of the sun or moon. The latter consciousness is immediate; and the fact that the object is not me, the knower, does not affect the quality of the knowledge as such. I cannot (without an abuse of words) call knowledge of mind by mind alone absolute without making all other knowledge relative. “Highest” is not equivalent to “absolute”. If all other knowledge is relative, we ask relative to what? If you say relatively lower in kind or degree than absolute knowledge, we grant it; but if you mean relative as knowledge or truth, we demur.

In the doctrine of “Absolute Knowledge,” which I have cited, there is a latent and insidious dualism which rests on an inadequate analysis of subject-object. In short, absolute knowledge is simply awareness of the True, in any field of intellectual activity whatsoever. If, however, we are to speak of Absolute Knowledge as knowledge of “The Absolute,” we must first define the word “absolute” in this connection: when we have done so, we shall find that absolute knowledge is beyond man.

(j) Is Man as Subjective Dialectic a mere Organ in the Absolute Whole?

If we now stand apart and contemplate the “Universal Object”—The Totality (“The Absolute” as I have used the expression) which includes man as part of the continuous and reasoned Whole—as chief factor and final term in the whole, and to which the whole has been working up (so to speak), we shall be unable to avoid the question to which I have formerly alluded, and partly answered, when speaking of Will and Freedom, viz., “Since the dialectic enters into the conscious subject just as it enters into all other things, is the finite subject a mere recipient and reflex of the universal dialectic as it is of attuitional data?” The whole before me in presentation is now not only a realitas-phenomenon but also in-reasoned: it is now, in short, no longer merely the Real, but the Actual. The content of the object is now seen to be a content and context of dialectic as well as a revelation of Universal Being as a modal presentation. It would seem, accordingly, at first sight, that the objective dialectic was carried into, or reflected into, the finite subject as itself part of the objective system, and had simply become alive in and to an individual consciousness called man; all other things, in which it also is, being unaware of it. And we might be influenced to the adoption of this view by our previous conclusion, viz., that the finite dialectic did not impose itself on a chaos of experience, but rather found itself in that experience as implicated content of that experience.

But then, on the other hand, as a matter of fact, we have found that the conscious subject becomes aware of the dialectic in things, and can become aware of it only in so far as it initiates, in and for itself, that dialectic as the universal Form of things.

Sense receives, reflexes and assimilates passivo-actively the object as a given diverse co-existent and sequent which thus falls into identity with the subject. Did finite mind, in its further evolution, similarly receive and reflex the Dialectic, then Will or Kinetic efficient, Mediating ground and Telos or End would lose their specific character and vanish; for these cannot be received as a datum. A phenomenal Real cannot suggest the Causal Predicate, a phenomenal sequent series cannot suggest the Causal Nexus, contiguity cannot give coherence, an accomplished fact in nature or thought cannot suggest End to mere recipience, orderly co-existence and succession of parts in a total of presentation cannot suggest organism. Facts (or “ideas”) are presented statically and sequentially; and that is all: they are sensates. We thus see that only to the pure activity of finite reason as itself Dialectic can the data of sense yield a dialectic or rational content; and so become a system. The specific function of Man in the Universal Object—the system of which he forms a part, is, in so far as he is a knower, to reveal, through his own emergent and self-initiated dialectic activity, the object to be the system which it already is.1 Unless it emerged in him as “his own” he could not use it; if, in using it, he did not find it already in the object, the Absolute Whole would be cut into two.

The dialectic, then, is in the Whole including man, but in man it not merely rises to a consciousness of itself, in other words, is reflected into subject, but can so arise only as reproduced by subject in its free or pure activity as Will: and this because of its essential nature. It emerges out of the attuitional subject clothed in the purple of command: it is Man as Spirit. It is only now that conscious subject is spirit. The dialectic creates self-identity (Ego, “I am”) when Will (the first moment) prehends and subsumes the attuent subject, and, eo actu, places the mind-organism of man above the rest of the system of experience as lord and master: while yet, all the while, in it and of it. There is no chasm between the self-sprung dialectic of man and the dialectic in nature, any more than between the sentience of man and the modality of nature. The objective dialectic passes into the conscious subject, and there reveals its true character as a pure other-determining and self-determining activity, transcending all its data and yet finding itself already in all its data. If there were no self-conscious dialectic in man, he could not affirm it in nature; if there were no dialectic in nature he could not find it there. Granting the active and formative dialectic in the objective scheme of things, how could it reach a finite consciousness, save in so far as that consciousness itself actively initiated it in and for itself? And this it does even in the rudimentary reason-act of Percipience.

There is no “sense” by which we can receive the dialectic in nature as we can receive facts of presentation; and yet, I may repeat, it is not subjective mind, subsuming all experience under the dialectic, that imposes itself on an unmeaning manifold. Subjective mind, as self-conscious dialectic, is in continuity with the universal dialectic which forces itself into the individual empirical subject as a free initiating energy; and this can be accomplished only by making it self-evolved. In all that exists or can exist there is Will, Mediating Ground, End: in man this becomes self-referent activity and puts him, alone of all beings, in a peculiar relation to the “other”; it becomes alive to him in the subjective pure act itself. He is now Spirit, I say, and has a heavy task before him of which, as a merely attuitional being, he was in happy ignorance. He is called upon to understand the world and himself: the finite creature has now, moreover, to accept the burden of the Infinite.

What we have to deal with, from first to last, is subject-object; but if the subject side of the synthesis be merely a passivo-active potency of assimilative re-flexion of the object as dialectic, as it is of given modality, evolution on to a higher plane of mind is a delusion: for in our mode of recognising the dialectic we should be brought back to sentience. However high our pretensions, we should be mere playthings of a creative Mover—pawns in his game. Man's grade of Being would be doubtless, even so, higher and more interesting than that of a mollusc, but not a bit better worth having: nay, when we consider his painful position in the whole, not so desirable as that of a mollusc.

The full significance of my seemingly crude beginning, where I insisted on the synthesis of subject-object as a synthesis of subject-thing and object-thing, is now, I hope, apparent. Absolute Being when it determines itself into finite mind—that which, although itself in and of the whole, has for its great aim the awareness and interpretation of the Whole—lifts the mind-entity up, stage after stage, from Pure Feeling to Pure Reason; and, as it grows, each stage gathers up the record which it is capable of gathering up, and presents the whole Datum, in the completion of the attuitional or empirical plane, as the field of the pure activity of finite mind as Spirit. And, as Spirit, man's function is a high one—to affirm God and freely to ally himself with the infinite process on its way to the fulfilment of the absolute idea—a way steep and rugged.

(k) The Absolute Whole as a One Whole.

It is surely not difficult to imagine our universe—the infinite Object, flowing out of some Eternal Fountain and unfolding, in the gradual evolution of nature and life and finite mind, all we see and all we are. This process includes man as its crown—a being capable of identifying himself with the Whole. As sentient, he is capable of reflexing back all that he receives into the external system, and then, as himself a dialectic, interpreting the dialectic in the system; the said subjective dialectic being all the while merely the dialectic of the system emerging in him as Will-reason. All is One. It is only when we separate man from the organised whole as if he, having descended from some alien world, were an onlooker in God's theatre, that our difficulties begin and questions arise as to subject and object, relation, and validity, to the disturbance of the naïve acceptance of the system within which we are. We raise questions as to the Real, while the Real is all the while there. It is the presentation—the presentation as Being and as rooted in its source. There is no other Real anywhere to be found. And when he takes up this Real in its rational form, man further has the Actual within his grasp. He now “knows”. There is for man no other Actual anywhere. What would he have?

In the subject as merely conscious, the object governs the subject: in the same subject as self-conscious, Will-dialectic governs the governor. But even then, all is for the sake of Object: and in and of this universal Object, when we look at it from a divine standpoint, I also am, and I have to find the truth of things in terms of myself in whom the nature and law of the universe is written by the finger of God. It is a possible conception that I, a self-conscious ego, may be a superfluous incident in the infinite cosmic process which we call the Universal Object or the Absolute; but I think it is far otherwise. The highest term of a system (even were it only one of God's many systems) which sums and contains the Whole, is the full revelation of the system and, therefore, necessary to God; and the finite being who is that term must have a solemn and majestic meaning.

(l) Will-dialectic an Evolution.

The pure activity of Reason, it will be seen, is not to be regarded as a new energy lying side by side, or placed above, attuitional consciousness; but a new evolution of the conscious subject itself. It emerges out of the existent subject and carries the attuitional consciousness and all the content of feeling, inner and outer, with it. It is immanent in subjective mind from the beginning,—nay, it is immanent in all nature and sums up the activities of Natura. There is, consequently, no difficulty in reason dealing with the record of attuition; for this record is a constituent part of itself as a “concrete one” of being. Self-consciousness, accordingly, is the subject conscious of itself through and by virtue of a subjective pure act—immanent in the subject and now explicit. It is not a new mechanism introduced ab extra. Its source and germ are in the attuent subject out of which it proceeds and in which it is generated; and the dim striving towards this new evolution of mind may be even seen in animals—many of whom mimic it in anticipation. The conscious subject is lost in objects, vaguely feeling its antithesis to objects, but not capable of affirming itself as distinct from them, or them as distinct from it. By some mighty spiritual force, in presence of which the creation of a new planetary system is as nothing, conscious subject effects a diremption within itself. The segmentation is of such a kind that the whole is, in each segment and also in the synthesis of the two, expressed in the intuition (and symbolic word) Ego. And what is this diremptive energy save Will—universal Will individualised, which, generated in the mysterious depths of a subject as merely conscious, seizes subject itself, as it seizes all else within its reach, as object to itself. Supreme fact this, surely, in the cosmic evolution! The new potency—the Will-dialectic, is not evolved out of the subject but in the subject: each stage of finite mind from the protozoon upwards is God evolving Himself in and as finite mind.

(m) Deductive Explanation Impossible.

Are we now to set the data of Recipience or Feeling aside in the interests of the higher dialectic moment of Mind, and endeavour to explain the universe of experience out of the necessary form of self-consciousness, and so get that unity of all-explanation which is always the goal of thought? Vain attempt! In our first step we find ourselves involved in what is “given” to the Dialectic; our purpose is baulked by the whole realm of Feeling and Sense; and in our passion for unity we try to ignore these as of no account. No analysis of consciousness or of self-consciousness will yield anything save in and through object; and if it be said that the object “there” is at the same time the subject “here,” then I only add that our analysis must stop at this as Form and Fact. It is in the light of this Form and Fact that we have to interpret the object and make the universe our own. But the universe is there. The self-conscious Ego does not genetically construct its own data or make sentient consciousness possible: the world is, first and foremost and always, to us a world of Feeling, of Being, and of Modes.

(n) Object is Subject.

It formerly appeared that man as a sentient and attuent being is, as regards the content of mind, the object transmuted into feeling, and that the object constitutes what I have called the Real of the subject. Experience on the attuitional stage is not a consciousness of subject-object, but simply subject-object. The subject is suppressed and is not explicit in Sentience. The object fulfils itself in subject and is the Real in and to the subject; and yet there are two. It now further appears that, as a free active dialectic, man is the universal dialectic emerging in the attuent subject: consequently the object is here again the subject—constitutes the subject as no longer merely a Real as regards content, but as an Actual in respect of formal reason. And yet these are still numerically two, not merely one. Were there only one, there could be no knowledge. There is a synthesis of two—veritably two—but it is an identity in difference. So with Subject and Object in the universal sense; that is to say, God and Natura.

A vast movement is going on: within this Man finds himself, and from it he cannot isolate himself. Were it not for the subject-reference of consciousness and the self-reference of self-consciousness as Will yielding Ego, he would be swept along in the immeasurable and irresistible life of the Absolute Whole as a mere atom in a one all-comprehending movement.

We find also that man is an organism, connate in which are various feelings, desires and emotions which find their affinity and satisfaction in that which is not himself, and which yet the fact of the affinity shows to be, in a sense, himself. In his organism is gathered up and compacted the incipient unconscious feelings, desires and emotions of Natura, and these attain to their true character and meaning when they have been reflected into a being that feels and desires, receives and knows. The world, in short, is of one piece: Man sums it up, and in summing it up gives it its last term, its true meaning, first in sentient attuition and then in Dialectic. Man is the interpreter of his own world; and it is the veritable world of God—God as revealed, which he interprets, when he feels and knows himself and his content.

The universe, then, would seem to be an infinite series of individua moulded into shapes more and more complex, more and more various and subtle, by the impulse of the Divine Author seeking ever and infinitely for the full expression of Himself. Each successive complex carries its antecedent with it from the primate of existence upwards, till a feeling—individuality appears which, as feeling and sentient, is equal to the infinite diversity of the world; and which, as further raised to self-identity and self-affirmation, reads and interprets the total record through the Form of this spiritual movement. This final product—the sum of all that precedes it, is alone able to return to The One and contemplate the Many as the displayed activity of The One. Meanwhile man feels nothing but what is immediately given for content of feeling; and he would know nothing save the given, were it not that the Dialectic as self-conscious knows itself. Thus far subject is object and object is subject; but yet object is object and subject is subject, although there is only One Absolute Being-Life in both. Object as reflected into Subject—Subject-Object is The Absolute for man and the Truth of God, on this plane of His evolution.

  • 1.

    The fact of the subjective dialectic is a sufficient answer to Hume. The “causal nexus” ab I have elsewhere tried to explain. I would remark here, however, that I cannot see that identity in rerum natura (as has been suggested by some) explains the necessity of the causal nexus between a and b. Such an explanation simply comes to this that sense-percipience really sees not a and then b, but a and then ab. In the vast majority of causal judgments we perceive no identity of cause and effect, but only after reflective physical investigation, e.g., in the case of striking a match. Moreover, even if we did, sense-perception as such would simply be conscious of a and then ab; but nothing could come of this for thought, save sequential conjunction. This would be to take us back to Hume.