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Meditation XVI

SYNTHETIC NECESSARIES: Synthetic Conditions of Sense—Synthetic Conditions of the Dialectic—Analytic Necessaries—Unity and Continuity of Experience—Subject is Object.

Synthetic Conditions of Sense.—Space—the mode of Being as externalised, is the fundamental condition of Sense—the sentient universal of universals. Accordingly all other categories of the Outer must involve Space as the ground of their possibility. For example, Motion is change of body from one point of space to another: and Time is the “one-after-another” of changes or events in space. Time as an abstract, again, has to be conceived in terms of space, viz., as a line. These, viz., Space, Motion, Time, are generally accepted as the fundamental Sense-categories;—more accurately, however, to be denominated the synthetic conditions of the “existence” (externalisation) of Being and of a sentient subject. As such they not only enter into all our predications of the external, but are so interwoven in our experience that, even when the object, on the higher plane of mind, is a pure thought, we tend, in our attempts to think it clearly, to represent it in space and motion modes. All our language—the most abstract even—is metaphor.

Although the strict phrase is synthetic “conditions” of sentience, we can speak of Space and Time as synthetic “necessaries” of (or in) sentience. Space and Time are not a priori (any more than the other predicaments) in the sense of being subject-generated: they are the synthetic conditions of sentience merely because they are the synthetic conditions or modes of a finite world reflected into a sensing subject as itself organically involved in that world. Space, Motion, Time are true universals of recipience because true universals of existence. They spread themselves into and through all sentience. They do not find merely a responsive “analogue” in subject; they find themselves reflexed and assimilated. They are at once warp and woof of the external diversified universe and of the determination of Being which we call sentient subject; it being itself a determinate in the same universe. A determination of Being becomes a determinate concrete individual (primordial actual) by spreading itself into the spatio-motor as the modality of its specific existence.

Synthetic Conditions of the Subjective Dialectic.—The moments in the one movement are the form of knowing as it intromits with the given matter of knowledge. But the dialectic is not “necessary” in the ordinary sense. That a man can “know” only as a dialectic and not otherwise, the highest plane of finite mind being a dialectic, is simply a fact. The synthetic conditions of subjective mind on the sentient plane are the modes of space, motion, and time; and the synthetic condition on the knowing plane is the dialectic Form. Both are in and of the constitution of Absolute Being as externalised and are reflected into a sentient and knowing subject in continuity with the whole.1

If the ultimate necessaries are simply the ways in which mind must receive and the ways in which the reason-energy must energise, they are synthetic or constitutive; by which I mean that they are built into the constitution: of the cosmic whole, and, therefore, of subjective mind. And what is this but to say again, what I have often said, that the conscious entity is in ontological and phenomenological continuity with the larger universe of reality and fact within which it meanwhile finds itself? All is One.

Analytic Necessaries.—These two together—the ultimate sense-modes and the ultimate reason (or dialectic) forms, are conditioning necessaries; and they give rise to necessary judgments and propositions when they touch the concrete. It would appear that all analytic necessaries are necessaries in and through the synthetic necessaries, e.g., “2 + 3 = 2½ + 2½”. “Things that are equal to the same thing,” etc. “The world must have a cause.” “A thing cannot at the same time and in the same sense be and not be.” All these and others are already implicit in the synthetic form of active reason, which affirms identity as resultant of a formal mediating process that involves the principium of contradiction. The “causal nexus,” as it is called, is also a case of identity, the predicate being involved in the subject. But I would remark that the perception of a real of sense (A) reappearing in an effect (B) could not possibly give necessity of nexus. I merely see A in one situation and thereafter in another, viz., AB. Attuition can see as much as this. It is the concept B as involved in, and so far identical with, the concept A that yields the necessary nexus. Any other view throws us back into the arms of empirical sensationalism.

Analytical judgments, it is sometimes said, yield no new knowledge. This seems to me to be a purely logical view. Experience is a real complex. We take it to pieces, and all our judgments are analytic and, as such, they are ipso facto ampliative; for they enlarge the content of the knowledge of the thing before us. The “thing,” given to us as an already existing synthesis, is rationally re-synthesised by the help of our analytic discoveries. It remains the same thing; but for knowledge it is virtually a new thing. Is not this the aim of all science? I have to find the total content of what is before me, and the whole functioning of the Dialectic in contact with things is analytico-synthetic.

A synthetic judgment (in the sense of ampliative) is possible only through analysis (a truism). A synthetic necessary, on the other hand, I understand to be an ampliative judgment, which is either a universal condition of the subject as Sensile or a universal condition of the subject as active Dialectic or reason. These are built into the mind as conditions of all sentient consciousness and of reason; and, similarly, are built into the universe as reals, the finite mind being an organic part or continuation or reflection of the said universe. I cannot get below these necessaries without abolishing sense and stultifying cognition. These constitute the ultimate Truth of finite experience: they are names for the universal synthetic constitution of the whole man-sphere of Universal Being. The totality before us is Subject-Object.

Unity and Continuity of Experience.—It would appear then that the synthetic constitution of Man as subject is in identity with the whole of object. Any other view than that of a One of Being and Mode and Form in the cosmic Whole including man, gives rise, by emphasising dualism, to innumerable misapprehensions and consequent difficulties. A consistent subjective idealism (ideologism as it ought to be called), for example, must find the reality and actuality of an object to be “the consciousness of it” (call it idea, perception, or sensation or what you will), and this annihilates the object as such and as per se and in se; for I can neither sense nor know it. Natural Realism says that the reality and actuality of an object are in the consciousness of it for the subject that feels and knows; but that the object per se is as much a reality and actuality as the subject per se; neither more nor less. The universe, in brief, is a one of fact and process which at a certain point of its evolution turns over into feeling, i.e., a feeling subject, at which point the term “object” first emerges and has a meaning. It would be nearer the truth of things to emphasise the “object” side of dualism rather than the “subject” side. Why should I, as sentient subject and active ego, detach myself from the All?

The synthetic elements which go to the building up of attuent and rational mind have to be accepted, and any attempt to get below them or above them is manifestly futile. I must be something else and greater than myself to explain them in their genesis. “We are in a world of facts,” says Cardinal Newman.2 “We do not quarrel with them, but we take them as they are, and avail ourselves of what they can do for us.” And as to ourselves to which all is referred, “if I may not assume that I exist, and in a particular way, with a particular mental constitution, I have nothing to speculate about, and had better let speculation alone. Such as I am, it is my all.… I am what I am, or I am nothing.… I cannot avoid being sufficient for myself, for I cannot make myself anything else, and to change me is to destroy me. If I do not use myself, I have no other self to use. My only business is to ascertain what I am, in order to put it to use.… Every being is in a true sense sufficient for itself, so as to be able to fulfil its particular needs.… The fact that other beings find their good in the use of their particular nature is a reason for anticipating that to use duly our own is our interest as well as our necessity.”

The synthetic conditions of mind are connate, i.e., constitutive of mind; but they are not, on that account, modes of sense and forms of reason whereby a confused manifold is constituted into a rational experience. On the contrary, they are an outer, already rational, reflected into a unitary conscious and self-conscious subject. The dialectic web, like the phenomenal web, is woven into man and constitutes him in his specific individuality. There is both a phenomenal and ontological continuity—a One in Difference. This is what I call the doctrine of Common Sense (sensus communis) and Natural Realism.

Subject is Object.—Thus, as regards the categories of Sense and Reason and the content of experience generally, Object is Subject, Subject is Object. “Self” is itself within the sweep of the universal movement. And yet it separates itself and its own connate characteristics from the Universal, and consciously and self-consciously contemplates the Whole, including itself. This is its cosmic function.

One has to complain sometimes of vagueness in the way in which some use the proposition “Subject is Object,” inasmuch as they sometimes have in view the Infinite Subject and the externalisation which is Its Object; at other times they have in view the finite subject and its correlate the given finite object. These two aspects of the proposition, it is true, fundamentally involve each other: and are to be accepted, it seems to me, provided the “subject” and the “object” remain. It is not, we presume, maintained that we are to “identify” object and subject; for if there be identity, then it is only confused thinking that can affirm a world at all: there is nothing but a blank One. Knowing in its supreme activity has killed itself. In the universal aspect of the proposition, all that can be meant is that, given an Infinite Subject as source of the externalisation, the latter is truly the former in the projected form of “Other” and Difference. The formula, in brief, is not Identity of the eternal Subject and Difference, but Identity in Difference.

Now, as the highest expression of this finite “other”—the manifold Difference, we find a conscious and self-conscious finite subject which alone can raise the question of the modus essendi et operandi of the whole. Here to say that the Object is Subject is a blunt way of talking. Distinctions are overlooked. The Object—the Universal Object, that is to say, the object to the Eternal consciousness, includes my finite subject, and my finite subject is the “other” of It, just as the sun and moon are. It is only one of innumerable differences; but it is of a peculiar kind, because it can receive, and then actively co-ordinate, all other differences in itself. It stands apart—so much apart that it constantly forgets that it is of and within the totality of fact and process—so much apart that it even places itself in antagonism to all experience and gives rise to the hard dualism of the natural and the scientific man. It resents being lost in the object, and deprived of its individual position and its self-affirming personality. And it is right in so doing: it resists suicide even for the glory of God or of a philosophical system. To say that the finite object is the finite subject is to ignore the system within which the finite subject is placed—a system of negation and difference. In and through difference the Eternal lives as Time and Space; and the difference and individuation of each thing are ever afresh and more intensely affirmed as we rise in the scale of created individuals, until we reach the affirmation of self-identity in and by man. But, meanwhile, the self-conscious subject is apt to forget that it is bedded in a One Being and a One Process. Our point of view in these excursions recognises the fact that the subject is object in the sense of being in continuity with the Whole as regards the content and the universals which it receives along with, or finds in, object. As an individual in a system of difference, the subject, first as conscious and then as self-conscious, is a being thus differentiated; but differentiated only as a beënt and substantive potency for the receiving and reflexing of the Object; and, even in its dialectic activity, it is merely the reflection into its own unity of being of the Dialectic of the universe. Thus the One cosmic movement completes itself.

Accordingly, all that is or can be in the subject, in so far as sentient, is first of all, non-subject; and the subject is reduced to being the potency of reflexive recipience: and, further, in so far as it is self-conscious dialectic, it is the very dialectic, already there in the whole, that is reflected into it: but none the less is it a specific entity as Ego. The Object in its infinite modality fills the subject and constitutes its “reality”; and the dialectic as in the Object, is, the form of the subject as a Will-reason: in the former case, the subject-individual is a beënt potency, and in the latter case it is a self-referent individual constituted by a will-movement within the subject-individual.

So far, then, the subject, as a living subject, may be said to be the object: it is within a system, and its specific function is the actualisation in itself of the vast and various Object in its totality of Being, Phenomenon and Dialectic. This is Knowledge. Object is subject, in short, as regards both content, mode, and form; but so that subject remains self, and only as self can find out its universal relations and reduce the Whole to coherence and unity. This, it may be said, is Monism. Not so: it is a pluralistic monism, in which, by the fact of negation, the world of entities is saved for itself, as I have endeavoured to show.

It is the reflection of the universal dialectic, as Will and its form of movement, into the finite being, or (otherwise put) the evolution of Will-reason in and out of the attuent subject individual, that lifts man above other conscious creatures, and imposes on him the task of freely knowing, and freely co-ordinating himself with, the system in which he finds himself. By virtue of this, while he is as a Real within the natural system, he is, as an Actual, lifted above it, and belongs to the transcendental.3

Man, accordingly, is not only a true receiver of the objective truth to the extent of his range of Being and his place in a system; but we may say that, were his senses purified and the dialectic in him perfect in its operation, he would be himself the very truth as it is in and to God whose life he shares. What we call Evil would then be impossible. How, indeed, can it be otherwise? The cosmic synthesis is a One of Continuity in all its parts and degrees. If a man could break through the hard crust of his negating individuality, he would find to his surprise what a thin partition there was between him and God. And yet, just because the specific nature of man is free Will-dialectic, God waits to be taken. He does not flood the finite soul with Himself, as the mystic might say. Man is not a Son of God; but has the “power to become” a son of God, as Scripture says. That is so. If we say that man is in a specific sense an incarnation of God, we mislead; for all that can be meant is that, just as the whole visible world is an incarnation of God, so man is the fullest incarnation, gathering up the whole into himself in so far as a finite self-consciousness can. And thus, the fulness of his being is the full realisation of his personality; and that realisation contains God.

To prevent misunderstanding:—

I have said that the Object builds itself up into the subject as its real of content. This is experience. But note this: Were experience to become for the subject according to a certain immanent process of movement, man would be no more in the universal system than a plant or an animal. This, were it a complete account of man, would yield monistic pantheism. When man appears, he sists himself within the Absolute, throws himself aggressively on all experience and, himself a Will-reason, proceeds, from his own centre and by the strength of his own right hand, to build up the “actual” of experience in himself in terms of the dialectic. He is much more than a mere vehicle for the realising of an experience which is other than his own; he is an active Ego inreasoning his experiences and directing all his pure activity to Ends—the ideals of Truth and Conduct.

It may seem to the reader that I part with Pluralism when I say that even Will-reason—the subjective dialectic, is object. And yet this is involved in the fact that subjective dialectic is objective dialectic. The Source of all does not wait for the appearance of man before His thought enters into things. Thus the subject, both as recipient and as pure dialectic, is as regards content and form, the object. It is the Absolute One Movement reflected into a determined centre of feeling and activity which we call Man. The “thinking” of subject-ego is the infinite Divine Process as finite. The Objective dialectic is, as Will, free and self-determining; it becomes the subjective dialectic, which, as such, is also free and self-determining, in so far as a finite determinate can be free.

Were subject not object as Feeling and thereafter as Dialectic, it could never know the true truth of things. All is One: and yet, the dualism of Common-sense is emphasised in this monistic pluralism which I endeavour to expound. The object finds in the subject the meaning which it already has in the Absolute. The subject meanwhile is an individual entity as much as a star is, but it is greater than any star, for it can hold all the stars. Universal Mind is in the object, but it is the subject; and to Universal Mind also the stars are Object—created, not given.

The outcome of this Meditation is, that I am entitled to appropriate Hegel's words which are true only, I think, in a poetic sense of his own system of interpretation.

“Nature is Spirit in alienation from itself [I have called this a revealing of itself in and through the Negation]. Hence the study of Nature is the liberation of Spirit in Nature or the liberation of Nature itself: for nature is potentially reason, but only through the Spirit does this inherent rationality become actual and apparent. Spirit has the certainty which Adam had when he saw Eve. This is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. For Nature is in like manner the bride to which Spirit is wedded.… The inner heart of Nature is nothing but the universal. Hence when we have thoughts, we recognise in Nature's inner heart only our own reason and feel ourselves at home there.”4

I also, a mere pedestrian plodding my way along the weary road in search of truth, am entitled to say that sense-experience and dialectic experience are God revealing Himself to the reflexing and reflecting conscious creature. This is what I mean by the philosophy of Common Sense or Natural Realism.

  • 1.

    Given, however, the synthetic Sensile Modality generally (the a posteriori predicaments) and the synthetic Dialectic Form (the content of which is the a priori categories), there are judgments born of the intromission of the dialectic with matter which we more correctly call “necessary” judgments or propositions. They are analytic necessaries as opposed to synthetic or constitutive necessaries or conditions. The terminus of the dialectic movement is “A is A,” which again involves “A is not B”—the Laws (as they are called) of Identity and Contradiction, while both involve the Law of Excluded Middle. “Yes” and “No,” predicated of the same reality or concept at the same time destroy each other. As I have previously said: To the attuitional plane of mind there can be no “necessaries”; and thus the Sensationalist or Ideologue is hard driven to explain necessity. There is nothing possible to attuition but a various, contingent, and fluent experience helped out by dynamic associations: the analytic necessary arises out of reason alone—the moments of the subjective dialectic.

  • 2.

    Grammar of Assent, p. 339.

  • 3.

    See also the Meditation on Immortality.

  • 4.

    Werke VII., 22, as quoted in A. S. Pringle-Pattison's Hegelianism and Personality, p. 128.