In my search, I have been dealing with the implicates of the object as reflected into subject, and so far I feel that I am on safe ground; but when I find myself face to face with the question of units of existence—primates or atoms—I am conscious of being in a somewhat speculative atmosphere. But it would seem to be incumbent on a pluralist to form some rational imagination if no more, of units of being. Let it be understood that what I venture to propound is merely illustrative and to some extent pictorial: at the same time, I am showing how the Dialectic compels us to conceive the nature and process of a primate. This is all: for it is scarcely necessary to say that no finite mind can hope to have a vision of creation or preside over a manufactory of Being. I rest what I say on Epistemology.
The Will-dialectic comes forth to proclaim that the world is a rational system; it is itself the rational system of the world—the organic logic of things reflected into or evolved in a particular consciousness: but it cannot be satisfied with a general proposition as to the concrete Whole. It has to rationalise the infinite number of complex individua forced on it in sense-presentation, and through the parts reach and justify the Whole. To accomplish this it must take the complex to pieces and re-constitute it: it must isolate elements. This analytico-synthetic process is the way of knowing—the functioning of the dialectic process in contact with matter. Accordingly, the Will-dialectic, in presence of a presentate, has, we found, in order to satisfy its own form, first of all to function Percipience which seeks and affirms the single percept; and the identity of the percept with itself (Judgment). It next gathers together the separated fragments and restores them into the unity of the presented total which has been the object of inquiry: in short, it functions Concipience (of the individual), which is the holding together as a mere aggregate, by the sheer force of Will, of the “many” of elements in the unity of the total object—a crude quasi-mechanical synthesis. In like manner with the General Concept; which is symbolic of a community of real characters among real things, and renders possible mediate and syllogistic judgments. But all this is merely preliminary to the final moment in which the individual elements are gripped as a coherent one of mediating Ground and of idea or End fulfilled.
A single complex presentate, e.g., a plant, has to be understood, known; and this is merely to say that it must be raised from the crude fused aggregate of properties by which it is an object in attuent mind to a rational or reasoned object; from being a synoptic unity of undiscriminated parts to being a synthesised one of Reason. It is in the interests of this rational whole, this “notion,” that the Will-Dialectic energises and is the illuminer and interpreter of the “real” of attuition.
Were man merely a Percipient activity, the percipient act would still be of service in giving definiteness, clearness and distinctness to the attuitional crowd of sensates; and it would, doubtless, content itself with this. But it is the necessity in the Dialectic, as a one movement of rationalisation of given complex “wholes,” that compels the functioning of percipience and concipience as preliminaries or moments in the one dialectic movement. All particular judgments are isolated threads that explain nothing, until woven into the one web of the Dialectic.
Now, it might well be said, “leave atoms or primordial reals or actuals alone: we can know nothing of them”: take experience in its complex whole. On the other hand, a pluralist is driven (as I have said) to form some conception of primordial elements. All our philosophical efforts are, after all, directed to the attainment of such a way of looking at the whole of experience as will give us a rational explanation of it more or less approximate—in other words, satisfy the dialectic in us; and it is our interpretation of the Whole that must, in its turn, govern our way of looking at the ultimate parts. De minimis et maximis eadem est ratio.
Moreover, to ignore the atomic or unitary element in knowledge is to misconceive the nature of Reason as a subjective, as well as an objective, fact. For it is the necessity implicit in the percipient function of the dialectic that compels, and will ever compel, men to fix their attention on ultimate units and try to give some account of them. The ultimate unit, in short, is immanent in the Percipient function of the Dialectic. For myself, I merely desire to make clear to my own thought how primordial actuals are to be regarded in the light of previous meditations on knowing, and I make no pretensions to touch questions of molecular dynamics, or to criticise the statements of speculative mathematico-physicists.
The Atom of Sense.
When we attempt to reach the minimal part of the Spatial (including Motion, Time, Quality, etc.), we are met by a contradiction. Now, it is not the act of percipience, by itself, that reveals to us infinite divisibility, but our inability to think or imagine the sensible outer save as Quantity, which is the synthetic sense-necessary or mode of all experience of the external. The act of percipience is merely a dividing, isolating and limiting act. We affirm the minimum or atom we fondly hope, and, instanter, it leaps into Quantity; and this, as Quantity, is again necessarily divisible. Thus the external must be to thought infinitely divisible, so long as the external is in quantity. Always the atom is to thought-imagination quantified; and indeed tri-dimensional. While, therefore, we may “posit” atoms, we can never by any possibility have an atom in consciousness so long as we are under the necessity of spatial conditions; in other words, so long as we must image the atom in Quantity, etc. The physical atom, accordingly, is a fiction—a useful (and so far as I know a necessary) postulate or hypothesis of a mechanical interpretation of the phenomenal universal.
If it be said that we can “think” an atom outside the conditions of Quantity, etc., we merely say that we think the abstract “point” of Geometry. But this is a limitative percept and, as such, outside the “real” of Quantity, etc. We may thus, it is true, get the atom we require for thought, but not the atom that enters into the constitution of a real phenomenal world. The required atom is the material or phenomenal atom, and that is a “unit” which is at the same time a “many” of Quantity; and indeed also of Quality in so far as one atom is unlike another. Given Quantity as a “sentient necessary” and Percipience as a dialectic act, the fact of the infinitely divisible in respect of Quantity is inevitable.
Again, mathematical “points” with effluxes of energy is a felicitous conception, but these are not within the sense-categories: they have no phenomenal existence, and it is the sensible real world we are dealing with. A point (I formerly said) is merely the imposition of a limit by an act of reason. All percipience is an act of determination, and the term “point” seems to me to be used simply to denote a determining of a quantity in space as beginning or ending. But it is not itself within space: it is an abstraction like a mathematical line itself, or abstract motion, or a point of time.
Doubtless, we may propound as an escape from contradictions that the atom, i.e., the “ultimate real” out of which the world is built up, exists, but has not the qualities of the sensible as given to its. This may be; but it cannot be ultra-physical without being metaphysical. It is not improbable—nay, is it not certain?— that the phenomenal primate may be unlike the matter we know, although containing it as a system of energies. But as such a system it could not be an “atom”.
Contradiction, then, would seem to lie at the basis of our conception of the sensible world. We determine a minimum for our purposes, which minimum is a postulate of a mechanical theory—that is all. Is this final? After all, it only amounts to this: we are compelled to affirm an ultimate in sense which it is impossible to image. Let us give it up then, we may fairly say, except as a hypothesis of abstract dynamics.1
The Metaphysical Unit as a One.
In any case, it appears to me that we are driven by force out of the physical into the metaphysical, if we resolve to continue our search; for so long as we try to think the atom under the sense categories, the contradiction is unresolvable; and we have just to sit down under it. And yet the persistent activity of subjective percipience in determining and ever-determining “singles” is such that we cannot have a cosmical conception that completely satisfies thought without units out of which to build the concrete, complex world. The percipient moment in the subjective dialectic insists on this. This is of its very essence. The primordial unit, I repeat, is immanent in the Percipient act of the first moment (or rather functioning) of the Dialectic. Is there no other way, then, of looking at the question—an epistemological way? We are not merely attuent subjects receiving and reflexing the phenomenal world, but beings of reason whose function is to “know” the phenomenal complexes presented to us, i.e., to transmute attuition into knowledge or the Notion,—the Real into the Actual. In this attempt we start with division or analysis, and go on in search of “primordial actuals” which shall have in them the possibility of the actuality of the rich and full phenomenal world.
Just as percipience is always de singulis or of the individuum; so in grasping the cosmic Whole we are driven to posit a “determination” of non-finite Objective Being into an individuum, and then we have a “determinate”; and a determinate is (as we have seen) essence or determination clothed in the a posteriori categories of Quantity, etc. If we fix our eyes on the determinate—the determination as phenomenalised, in vain do we seek for an ultimate unitary real—an atom. The ultimate actual then (let us rather say) is the dialectic determination itself, i.e., essence as individuated in the modal, and, eo actu or transitu, a “determinate”. Ultimate actuals are, in fact, Being and the Dialectic in their primordial “determinates”. The cosmic act, we might say, is creative Percipience, and the result is a unit of that creative percipience. These are the “primordial actuals” out of which the world is built. The metaphysical “monad” is merely essence: the “primordial actual” is essence as incorporated in its phenomenal self-revealing characters. They are not monads, in the Leibnitzian sense; for a monad is metaphysical, whereas the ultimate or primate is an actual—a “determination” that has become a “determinate,” and is both metaphysical and physical. This is the point of view from which my epistemology compels me to affirm the atomic unit as an “actual”; although it is, in terms of sense, unthinkable as “atom”. The contradiction in sense remains, but the point of view is now changed and gives a certain rest to thought.
In point of fact, we always find ourselves driven out of the sensible into the non-sensible to explain the implicated content of the phenomenal presentation. And, as of the phenomenal world of complexes generally, so of ultimate actuals we hold that they are simply Being dialectically determined into Quantity, Quality, Motion, etc. Of our world, accordingly, let us say that the ultimate actual is Being determined into that minimum of Quantity, Motion, etc., that makes possible a world of phenomenon. What these primordial elements are, as quantitative and qualitative, we can probably never know. This, however, is of no consequence for thought. The “ultimate actuals” then, may, after all, be called “monads” because they are veritably unitary “determinations” of Being (which have their analogue in our subjective act of percipient affirmation); but as existent “determinates,” they must present themselves as discrete continua inasmuch as we are compelled to think of them in the modality of Quantity, Quality, Motion, etc.
It will be seen that it is the Meditation on Essence that leads me to say that the primordial actual is a “unitary determination of Being passing into, or effecting, its actualisation in the many of sense-categories”; and it may be, nay it must be, that the primordial “determinate” (as distinct from the determination or idea) is not sense-“atom” at all, because it must be qualitative and quantitative and, accordingly, from the first, complex. A “primate” in the sphere of sense may, however, really exist (nay, must exist unless the percipient act in a rational synthesis is misleading) as the barest thing that can enter into the composition of a physical world; but, in so far as within the sphere of sense, it is not an “atom,” for it is ab initio and, by a saltus, clothed with certain categories. There is in fact no sense-“atom,” and the correct term would be primate. And as we have an exuberantly various world, so these primates probably vary both quantitatively and qualitatively ad infinitum. Why not? Let us think, then, of the “atom” as a unitary determination of Being passing at once, and by one leap, into the “many” of the sense-categories—a one in many.
It is by means of such primates and their reciprocal inter-relations which, when we see them, we call laws, that Universal Mind externalises itself as a dynamic system. The positive determination or idea gives to each its import, energies and relations in and through the sense-categories. The sense-categories again contain the negation of the idea and give individuality.
All this, speculative as it may appear, seems to flow from what I have said on Essence. And yet I freely grant that all attempts to define ultimate actuals must be unsatisfactory. When I say that the unitary determination of Being, i.e., the idea, leaps into sense-categories at once—I merely mean that it must be quantitative, qualitative and moving, but not necessarily in quantity and quality as these are finally presented to the sentient subject. It does not pick up its qualities one after the other; it must leap into existence fully clothed with the totality of energies which effect the phenomenal as presented to us.
Even, however, if we cannot find the unit which is immanent in Percipience, i.e., the primary generative physical element in things,—these insistences of the dialectic have their manifest uses. It is under their compulsion, e.g., that Biology goes back to a speck of protoplasm. Nor can Reason ever shake off its necessary impulses, because these constitute its very self. Man may fail to find what he seeks, but he must go on seeking.
The One and the Whole is in each mind-matter Monad.
Why there should be externalisation at all is an unsolvable question; and a futile one. Hegel says the Idea “resolves to let the element of its particularity… go forth freely from itself as Nature”. This “resolution” must then be an act of Will, and Will must be preceded by Desire. Nature is, he also says, “the existent Idea”. I seem to be in accord with this general position.
It is absurd to presume a repetition of the objective Dialectic act for the co-ordinating of the parts. It would be superfluous to supersede the energy of the idea in ultimate actuals. Each ultimate must be conceived under the total movement of the Dialectic, just as the Absolute Whole of externalisation must be so conceived. Each, then, contains Ground, Determined-so and End. If that End be the building up of the Whole, each must contain the possibility of the Whole in it. Each “mind-matter monad,” or ultimate actual, in merely fulfilling itself, contributes to the fulfilment of the whole. All are let loose, so to speak, with the possibility and purpose of an ordered world already in each. It is in this sense only that into the chaos of primordial elements, thus constituted, the dialectic prolongs its activity and determines the ultimate units into the organised world we see—the system of correlated phenomenal ends and processes or laws.2 That is to say, the positive character of each individuum determines its positive and negative relational possibilities to all else (action and reaction)—the one continuum in all difference being Being and the Dialectic which are in the Whole by being in each. But Being-Dialectic ever remains The One in all difference. All difference is within it; and it always remains the One of continuity. It is in the “matter” of Being-Dialectic activity (the spatio-motor) that they find differentiation, which is individuation, which is Negation. Were there not a One (and this a teleological-causal dialectic insists on), every difference would fly asunder from every other, and there would be chaos.
These primordial actuals, accordingly, may be said to be all set round with open windows: they are centres of energy in terms of their determination, essence or idea. Being and the Dialectic in all its moments are in them: the same Being and Dialectic that constitutes the complex mind-matter monad, Man. Hence our mystic sympathy with even the lowest grades in the scale of existence.
Individua are concrete essences or ideas which, as individua, can live only by negating all else; and, as concrete wholes, can live only through all else (to the extent of their potentiality); just as man truly lives only through all else, especially his brother man. There can be no such thing as a wholly independent unit. Each hangs on God, each is within Absolute Being, and, moreover, lives only through the “other” of itself: which other is, in truth, the Universal. The negation in it, however, separates it from God and from all else, and gives it (dependent) independence. Hence each monad is a contradiction containing in itself the Yes of affirmation or idea and the No of negation and resistance. So with the cosmic Totality: it is God and not God. The phenomenal is, and is “Not”.
The Primordial Actual is a Positive Negation.
The world, then, is a world of individua working out their own inherent characters, whereby they tend to constitute an organised and purposed Whole. If it be so, then it follows that each individual determinate is, as a unique finite, not only (as we have seen) a negation of the One of Being and Dialectic and of all other individua in the interests of the preservation of itself, but has positive relations to all others which are its fulfilment as a determination of Being (idea or essence), and go to effect a world. The “in itself” of potentiality has to become “for itself” through the “other” in the history of each monad. And it is because the determining idea cannot individuate itself save through the Negation, which is inherent in the finite of sense-modes, that the positive movement of the idea into a system of harmonious relations with all else may be arrested or deflected. The idea as a centre of positive relations, finds the vehicle of its activity in these very modes; the dynamism of nature, which we call laws, is the idea in its living modality. But the idea is, at the same time, met by the hard fact of individuality as involved in the finite negation: the idea is negated in order that it may constitute itself an individuum. Abstractly regarded, this resistance of the individual is a blind stupid movement; but I need scarcely say that I am analysing the elements of what is always a concrete.
The primordial actual, then, is determination of Being, i.e., idea, which effects its telos, viz., the individual “determinate,” through the moment of Negation inherent in the modality of the spatio-motor (or that which generates the spatio-motor) and all qualities and quantities as we see them in their final aspect on this plane of Being. The individual “determinate” thus contains the idea, but, as individuum, it negates the idea and all other individua. Notwithstanding, as the result of the struggle of individua negating each other, we have on the whole a harmony; not a perfect, but a discordant, harmony; and an evolutionary process, not movement in a straight line. Only through conciliation of contraries could the word harmony have a meaning. The primordial actual is thus a“positive negation”. The Thesis is “idea”; the Antithesis is Negation; and the concrete “individual” is the Synthesis. This contradiction alone makes possible the transition of the One into a many. This contradiction is the Actual. All this in order that there may be a world of existent individualities in which The Absolute delights as the finite exposition of its own Being—its way of feeling itself, knowing itself, and proclaiming itself; and thereby unfolding its mysterious essential nature.
If the “Absolute Idea” be the infinite Thought which is at once the beginning and the end, it mediates the end through individua each of which contains the potentiality of the Whole.
Pluralism and The One.
The sole ultimate Reality is that which holds all (so-called) realities as qualities of itself. Absolute Being as Dialectic always remains in identity with itself through all difference. Negation and difference are within the universal; not outside it. From a universal point of view, even men and angels are adjectives—substantival adjectives. It must be so: otherwise everything would either be a fortuitous whirl of atoms or everything down to the primordial monad would be a self-existent substantial god, and worse than chaos would be the destiny of the unintelligible world. The question is, How are primordial individua and complex single totals, although plurals, yet to be regarded as adjectives of a One Whole? They are one, I say, in the continuous living reality of Being and Dialectic which, working towards ends, gives unity to parts and wholes, weaving the whole into one mighty web. There is no difficulty in comprehending this.
In each individuum, I would repeat, there is inherent, as its esse and form, the capacity for, and the necessity for, the Whole in order to the fulfilling of itself. [The monad accordingly may be said to be infinite in its relations.] The phenomenal is but the modality of the spiritual fact; the “primordial actual” is thus instinct with reason implicit: and it is in this sense only that it is endowed with “desire to fulfil itself”; but as this is automatic, it should be called “tendency,” not “desire”.
Let us keep to the concrete; if we abstract the Noumenal, we have a silent One and no world; for essences do not constitute a shadowy universe by themselves: and if we try to think of an abstracted Phenomenal we encounter—Nothing.
Necessity in Nature.
It is the essence or idea (the one) of a complex “thing” that, as genetic and dominant, gives unity and significance and direction to the subordinated “many” of phenomenal difference. The idea fulfils its end, in phenomenon as determined by it, after a specific way—which we call physical law, departure from which would be to defeat the reason implicit in the phenomenon. Hence physical law is necessity. To put it crudely, the idea is always in identity with itself, and has only its own specific positive function. For the idea to move about from one tendency to another, save as fixed reactions, would be to plunge the phenomenal world in confusion. In the fact that objective reason is at this stage only implicit lies the “necessity” that belongs to nature. So with all lower grades of Being. There is a certain fluency of movement hither and thither as existences rise out of mechanical conditions and when life, and still more when sentient subject, appears. And yet, it is possible that even in the inorganic grade of existence the individuate, as in conflict with all other individuates, may deflect and disturb the natural order, and give rise to the casual.
Mind and Matter.
It will be now more apparent than ever that, while Mind and Matter are always with us, they are not disparate substances; for there is only one Substance, viz., Mind as Being-Dialectic. But Mind, in determining itself into a finite series, does so as what we call the sense categories and the phenomena which are dependent on these, and, in doing so, ipso facto negates itself while revealing itself. Thus the sense phenomenal or “matter” while having its own laws, and these embrace the whole sphere of mechanism and chemism, is truly manifesting the idea in and through these laws; but it does so in a quasi-independence given to it, as phenomenon, by the fact of Negation. Thus we have a mind-matter pluralism. To affirm disparateness is to set up two worlds rubbing against each other—the one Mind-full, the other Mind-less.
How is it, then, that matter takes such a hold of us that it insists on imposing itself on the ordinary consciousness as an “independent somewhat”? The only explanation of this I can see is the fact, which analysis yields to us, that the finite, the phenomenal or matter is the Negation of the very Mind-universal that affirms it and uses it as the vehicle for unrolling its own hidden life.
Pluralism and Monism.
Let me recall that we have already found the universe to be one Absolute Being immanent in the Many as a Will-Dialectic that determines with a view to ends. Accordingly, we do not set up a congeries or aggregate of independent plurals which go, each its own way, and find an accidental harmony like Demo-critic atoms. The infinite One is, as Dialectic, necessarily teleological in the activity that constitutes its own externalisation as a One-Whole. But Plurality is an undoubted empirical fact, and each thing must have its own centre of energy or be merely the illusory many of a One life; and this is a fatalistic Monism. By no device or gloss can a logical Monism give reality, still less actuality, to mountain, mouse or man. Monism gives us an emanant, not an immanent, God. There is no use in trying to shirk this conclusion; and, if it be true, we must just accept all its pernicious consequences in ethics and politics, and also the personal despair which it carries with it. But it is not true: the individual is everywhere too strong for such a theory, and it is equally too strong for a theory of casual arbitrary conflict of unmeaning plurals. Absolute Infinite Being is immanent in the idea which determines the finite. He is ever uttering that idea; otherwise all would collapse. He is thus always present in his creation: the finite is within Him, as well as not Him: the truth of the idea in “things” is the truth of God-finite. Our analysis of subject-object demonstrates the truth of these sayings: they would be of no value were they merely dogmatic.
If The One of Being is to find its own life by way of the individual and the many, it can only do so by such a dialectic constituting of the individual as places in each the inevitable process and harmony of the whole; “The Whole is reflected in all the parts,” says Nicolas of Cusa. The One of Being and Dialectic must be “all in the whole and all in every part”. The Dialectic of the Whole is in and through the Dialectic of the parts, and yet, only by contraries and opposites can there be a “many”; only through discords can there be harmony. Order is an unmeaning conception except where there is a “many” of difference and contraries.
Absolute Being externalising itself in Space and Time must retain its externalisation within Itself. That externalisation cannot be thrown out as a waste and meaningless by-product of eternal Being. And further, I may add, that since the externalisation is as Time, it ought to show the evolution of the Eternal as once for all committed to a Space and Time series,—if its life is to be wholly unveiled as a process as well as a fact.
Let us note, meanwhile, that the metaphysic of the concrete individuum is the metaphysic of all things. Every instant of our lives you and I illustrate it. I, a man, can fulfil myself only by fulfilling the “idea” in me (which is the subjective dialectic)—truly finding myself in all my “positive” relations to the scheme of things; my negating individuality must subsume all that truly flows from the “idea”: this is the condition of my being a fulfilled personality. So with all other things according to their grade of Being. No individuum—be it primate or man, can fulfil its function save through its universal positive relations (essence). In so far as it does not subsume these into its activity, it is wicked and worthless. And yet each is non-existent as an individual save in so far as it energises from its own centre; while each, as part of a Whole that is a system, may be said to contain that Whole in itself. Through their positive relations they enter into each other to make the world, and yet, by virtue of the inherent negation, they remain individua.
The Contingent and Casual.
Thus, from lowest to highest, the world is the issue of a continual striving and struggle. The idea, which is God, is always affirming itself in each; the individual negation is always resisting. The world is, accordingly, a living world, and God's immanence means God's continuous activity as idea or essence, without which all would vanish. The casual and chaotic enter through the effort of the individuum, as such, to negate its God-given idea and all other individua for the sake of its bare and barren self. If the idea had free flow in the individuum we should have, I have said, a harmonious and (so-called) happy world; but it would be a lotus-eating happiness. There would be no individuum—not even a jelly-fish.
Mind-universal (Absolute Being as Dialectic) is in all things and determines all things. Objects in nature show more and more of the characteristics of Mind as they rise from the deadness of slime to Shakspere. We cannot contemplate the vast all-inclusive Object which constitutes our natural environment without seeing the ascending evolutional order that prevails—evolution, that is to say, not of one grade out of a lower, but of Mind-universal evolving Itself and immanent in the ascending grades. And this Universal, at a certain point in the rising ordered series, begins to reveal itself not as implicit in things alone, but to itself by reflecting itself into an entity that feels—viz., finite subject. It thus nucleates itself (so to speak), and then starts on a fresh evolution of Itself, from the amoeba upwards, in phenomenal modes fitted to hold it and to express those determinations of Being whose function is to feel, to sense, all things; and, finally, that determination whose function is to know and govern its very self as a self-conscious entity. When, then, we talk of the finite conscious subject as mind in opposition to object, we merely mean that Universal Mind, which is determined into all things, is now determined or reflected into itself—is conscious. It begins its evolution from Pure Feeling and, passing through grades of animal sentience, it finds phenomenal modes, at every advance, fit to be its vehicle and, at the same time, its negation; for in everything there is the synthesis of affirmation and negation.
The casual is the outcome of the negating or individuating element in the concrete thing. We see casualty all round us; and were there no casualty, there would be no freedom: all would be inflexible necessity. The world would exhibit the dead unity of a lump of lead—not the oneness of a living actuality.
The higher we rise in our empirical observation of nature, we rise out of the mechanical system of calculable sequents to those selective activities and adaptations peculiar to organisms. These defy calculation, although the general result or telos of the individual is not thereby necessarily defeated. A plant or animal exhibits unexpected deviations from the straight line of mechanical necessity which lifts it partially out of that necessity. The casual, the unexpected, and the arbitrary, although often admitting of explanation after they have occurred, cannot be anticipated. We are thus driven to the conclusion that all primordial actuals, and still more the infinitely complex actuals which are classed as biological, have their character and tendency and telos implicit in them from the first, but not therefore the various incidental manifestations of activity, by which each reaches its fulfilment and yields its contribution to a cosmic harmony.
Most of all is this power of deviation and deflection patent in Man. The freedom, which is incipient in plants and is visible in all sentient beings, is conspicuous in the being who is himself a Will-dialectic—a finite god constituting his own ends and the means of attaining them; although always under limitations imposed by the general law of things. For man does not stand alone; he is hemmed in on every side by natural law and also by the conflicting purposes of his fellowmen. Thus the casual and arbitrary seem almost to fill our experience; and to find our way through these to a fulfilled purpose in ourselves is always difficult, and sometimes hopeless.
Hence conflict; and by this way of conflict it would appear that the cosmic purpose is, and can alone be, secured. The aim of this conflict in each is the identification of the individual with its idea—or the subsumption of the idea by the individual. By this means alone can finite things be brought into a divine concord. The absolute idea can be realised in the Whole only by being realised in each. Accordingly the externalisation of Absolute Being is not an equilibrium of unmeaning contradictions: it is a scene of strife through which, however, a final purpose runs, as the Dialectic assures us; whatever that purpose may be.
Note.—Mind and Brain.
If the conception of the whole which I have formed be true, the body of a worm or of a man is merely the determining idea writ large in Quantity, Quality, etc. But inasmuch as the idea passes into that which contains negation, the phenomenal body has a life and laws of its own which, although they exhibit the nature and life of mind, at the same time limit, condition, and resist it. The phenomenal conditions flow from the idea; and this is simply to say that function in the process of evolution precedes organ. Does brain exist for the sake of feeling and thought or vice-versâ?
“How” idea and phenomenon are related and internet in a world which unquestionably is a One of system, I doubt if we shall ever be able to tell.
But this generally I am compelled to say by the preceding argument, viz., that the relation must vary as the evolution of mind in “Natura” works itself out. Prior to “Pure Feeling” we have what is, if not “mind,” at least the anticipation of mind, amounting to little more than a central “point” of re-action to bodily impacts. It is for a biology which will study the appearance and growth of “mind” along with the growth of nerve tissue to throw some light on this.
As mind evolves out of one grade into a higher, it seems to become more and more an independent centre of activity in the bodily organism, until it plants itself on what I have called the Attuitional Plane. On this plane, my observation leads me to say, that there is reciprocity in the sense that mind acts on nerve and nerve on mind; and this involves an important conclusion. For it is evident that to say mind acts on nerve and excites feeling or desire and so determines to action, is to say that it is possible for mind to have experiences—at least in the secondary form of re-presentations, which experiences are not set up by nerve: nay more, that there is a mechanism and chemism of mind apart from nerve which, by associating presentations originally derived through nerve, constitutes new experiences. Mind in short has here attained to an equality of privilege with nerve as to the initiation in itself (not by itself) of experiences. Accordingly, the locus of the origin of these experiences is mind pure and simple, and not nerve; but, inasmuch as there is reciprocity, they involve nerve and modify nerve (whether in its molecular adaptations or in some other way—undulatory movements or vibrations or what not), so that the recurrence of these nerve-adaptations themselves would necessarily throw into consciousness the past experiences. A reciprocity which does not assign this independence to mind is not reciprocity at all; for, if the independence be not allowed, then all presentations and re-presentations, and also associations of these, in mind must be of physical not psychical origin. And thus we should find ourselves committed to monistic materialism, and mind would have to be regarded, at this attuitional stage, as merely a flash in the pan,—an epiphenomenon and no more. On the contrary, Mind on the attuent plane is dependent on body and independent. There is Reciprocity.
Now, when conscious subject evolves itself into the higher plane, it does so as Will-reason and calls itself “I”. The dialectic of the universe that penetrates all things is reflected into the attuitional subject, and subject thereupon becomes self-conscious through Will as root of its new development. This is Man. And, of course, it follows that man is now a creature of ends and purpose, and self-directing. The “subject,” as now Ego, is still “subject”: it carries with it all given experience and is still involved in nature: but Ego is, in so far as it is a new evolution, supra naturam. By its necessary nature it seeks ends and controls experiences to ends, whether of thought or action. The solicitations and suggestions of the attuitional plane of mind, in which it is planted and out of which it springs, are now arrested and weighed. Ego, in short, originates in and for itself; but, being still involved in an organism, it has to function its pure reason (or dialectic) activities through that organism, thus freely and high-handedly using that organism as its servant, and no longer its master.
In the nerve-organism, accordingly, are embedded the past and present pure activities of mind, and the modifications of nerve-substance which this presumes may of their own accord recur, and thus throw back into the self-conscious mind its own self-created images, thoughts and purposes. The relation here is one of reciprocity; but this in a significantly modified sense; for there is no equality of interaction as we find on the attuitional plane. Finite mind in its highest evolution as Will-reason (or its resultant ego) initiates changes in the nerve-substance. This is to be supra naturam. But in so far as Ego sublates attuent subject it is still within nature.
In short, the transition from the mechanical to mind is infinitely gradual; but when mind is fairly born into the cosmic system, it starts on an evolution of its own whereby it equates itself more and more with the Object until it reaches its culmination as Ego, and then and there finally sists itself as a free and co-ordinating and controlling dialectic within the Absolute Whole.
Of course, if the determination of Absolute Being in its finite revelation does not, passing from the mechanical and chemical, posit itself at all as what we can only call mind-entity, the Ego and all its freedom and teleological activity are wholly illusory; and, as we said when speaking of attuition, mind is then an irrelevant epiphenomenon of Phenomenon: in truth, Phenomenon is the only Real, and “mind” is only one phenomenal attribute more of a mechanical Absolute; and a useless and futile attribute.
An elastic continuous homogeneous fluid is probably the primal mode of the Negation of Being as Quantity; but then we should have to get atomic individua out of this—Elections and their constituent corpuscles it may be; and the above metaphysical argument would stand unaffected.
If the initio, of the world were barren static atoms, the world could be created only ab extra; and created by utilising “atoms” each of which was nothing!