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Meditation XVII

CONTRARIES, CONTRADICTIONS AND ANTINOMIES: (1) The Dialectic and Sense Necessaries—(2) The One and the Many—(3) The Functioning acts of the Subjective Dialectic in contact with Experience: (a) Percipience and Identity; (b) The Dialectic as Functioning Concipience; (c) Identity (continued); (d) The Functioning of Ground and Consequent (the Causal Nexus); (e) The Kinetic Moment in Cause; (f) The Teleological Moment in Cause—(4) The Contradiction in Man as a Concrete.

IN the Real there can be no contradictions in the strict sense of the term. If contradictions were to emerge the one would cancel the other. There can only be opposites and contraries. Note also that on the attuitional plane of mind there are no contradictions. Contradictions arise with the appearance of the subjective dialectic. It is the functioning acts of the moments of the dialectic in contact with matter that yield (so-called) contradictions.


Will, as percipient act, determines or limits Space and Time and Motion, and in the act of determining lies the infinitude of these.1 Thus we are said to have the contradiction of the infinite and finite in abstract Quantity and the Quantum—that is to say, to thought or the dialectic. The so-called contradiction, as inherent in the very act of percipience, can never be overcome. Now, if by contradiction we mean the affirmation of two mutually exclusive predicates of the same object at the same time and in the same sense, I cannot see the contradiction here. We do not affirm of any determined portion of Space, Motion, Time, that they are finite and infinite in one and the same breath. As regards both Extension and Protension, all we say is that in limiting or prescinding the given indefinite space, etc., the fact of the Infinite emerges as, or in, space, etc.: and as regards Intension or divisibility, that the fact of “infinite-ness” again emerges. All our knowledge, in short, is limitation necessarily involving the fact of infiniteness as revealed in and by the dialectic act.

In short, Space, Motion, etc., are the synthetic necessary modes of sentient consciousness, and we cannot, consequently, liberate ourselves from their all-embracingness. They are given as indefinite and unconditioned—the synthetic mode of existence and sentience alike. These synthetic necessaries are, ipso facto, first indefinite (to Attuition), and thereafter (to Reason) infinite, i.e., they refuse to be held in mind as completed wholes. And this simply because we cannot transcend our own ultimate conditions of existence as men. When we proceed to “know or determine,” it is these sentient necessaries that we first encounter; and the Infinite, as distinguished from the Indefinite, of Time and Space, is seen to be an offspring of subjective conditioning as act. It appears to me, accordingly, that when we are told that we cannot think the World either as finite or as infinite, there must be a fallacy somewhere. I can think a world as finite, and I do not call the same world infinite; nor is any such necessity imposed on me. By “the World” is evidently meant the Totality of Extension. Certainly I cannot think (image) Extension as finite nor as infinite. This is merely, however, to repeat what we have already said, that determination of Space carries in it, as act, the fact of indeterminability. So far from this revealing the impotence of Reason, it is its very glory, strength and distinction. It points to a still higher plane of mind than the present.

To try to know anything about the Infinite beyond the fact of it, is to make it a “real,” instead of a dialectic birth, and lands us in subtle and eristic disputations which are worthless. In brief, I must affirm the Infinite as immanent in the dialectic as percipient of Space and Time, but I do not affirm the infiniteness of Space and Time as reals; still less do I affirm finiteness and infiniteness of Space and Time in the same breath.

The act of limiting or perceiving, then, carries with it the fact of infiniteness as yielded not only in the Space-expansion, but also in the Time-series. When, then (for example), we ask “Had the world a beginning in Time?” we forget that Time itself is within the totality which we call the phenomenal world, and we are asking “Had Time a beginning in Time?” I am, in fact, asked to think (image) the totality of the Time-series; and because of the universality and synthetic necessity of the fundamental Space-category, we have to conceive the Time-series under the category of Quantity: this being so, the question is similar to that of the totality of Extension. We cannot affirm the first point of a series without, ipso actu, affirming a part before the first, because percipience is limiting or prescinding and thus contains the positing of illimitability. The point of view, accordingly, of those who exhibit the sense-contradictions as unsolvable seems to me to be wrong.

So long as I do not affirm finite and infinite of the same space and motion and time, there is no true contradiction. The dialectic act is such that in limiting (whereby “knowledge” is made possible), it reveals to consciousness the new fact of infiniteness. And when I attempt to perceive, i.e., limit, an imagined total of space or time, the infiniteness in both is thrust on me by the essential nature of the act. Thus, then, in the functioning act of the first moment of the dialectic process, I affirm the infinite. Do I “know” it? Certainly: I know illimitability in respect of space and time; and the consciousness of infiniteness is a simple perception. But I do not “perceive” infinite space or time. Why not % Because to perceive is to limit, and to cancel infiniteness. The dialectic act throws the Infinite into the consciousness of man, and while I truly “feel” the Infinite, it is only the fact of the Infinite that I “perceive”.

Put it thus: On the attuitional plane of mind, the animal is aware of, or senses, a determinate object, e.g., a cart, and, along with this, is vaguely aware of, i.e., “feels,” indeterminateness, or “being indeterminate,” outside the particular determined sense-synopsis. On the dialectic plane of mind, percipience affirms and determines the synoptic sensate and, along with this, perceives and affirms (or sub-affirms) Being indeterminate (i.e., the fact of Being-indeterminate). And when I endeavour to grasp the “totality” of space and time, it is the fact of the “indeterminate” that, I first affirm; and, subsequently, the fact of infiniteness or “indeterminability” as contained in the very act of percipience as a determining energy.

So, in perceiving and affirming Being-conditioned, I affirm Being-unconditioned. I do not perceive it; for, inasmuch as to perceive is to limit, to perceive the unconditioned would be, ipso facto, to cancel it as unconditioned. It is the fact of Unconditioned Being that I perceive and affirm.

Where, then, do we find the Infinite in the Conditioned and of the Unconditioned as positive fact and possession of conscious mind? We find it in the sphere of Feeling. They are too large, too mighty for the act of finite “knowing”.

In the embryo subject as Pure Feeling we found Unconditioned Being as object. This feeling always accompanies us, and is brought into full relief in the act of knowing things: and in the end we shall see that the Ego, with all its knowledge and all its life-experience, finds the culmination of its finite possibilities in the supra-rational feeling or intuition of the very “That” in which it, all unawares, began its career as embryo subject. Mind-universal in its finite evolution—begins in “Pure Feeling” and culminates in the “Reason-Feeling” we call Intuition. Knowing is merely a passage.

If the fact of The Infinite, as affirmed in respect of space and time, stopped there, it would be, both intellectually and ethically, unfruitful. But it is given in all knowledge, because knowing is limiting and thus and therefrom ideals arise: in knowing, for example, we are forced on by the nisus of the Will-dialectic to the conception and pursuit of Absolute Truth; in Feeling and Emotion, we ever aspire and push on to the unattainable of Absolute Beauty and Goodness and to the perfection of all we are and can be, and of all the world is and can be. This is the true significance of the fact of Infiniteness as given within the conditioned, yet ever transcending it. Happily, Man can never get beyond the knowledge of the “That” of the fact of the Infinite.


Every finitisation re-affirms the infiniteness of Being. The infinite One holds the finite in its arms. In other words, the finite is a moment within the Infinite Unconditioned. Now, start from this non-finite—the absoluto-infinite given to Feeling as indeterminate and unconditioned Being, and, thereafter, as affirmed as fact by reason, and it is no great strain on reason-imagination to see that, while there is a system of differences and limits and opposites, there is no contradiction in the strict sense of the word, save to the formal logic of the understanding. One infinite Being and Dialectic is in all things as common ground, sustainer, and holder,—these things being merely the finite othering of Infinite Being. The ontological standpoint, accordingly, reveals to us pluralities as, we might say, the mere phases or play of a continuous Infinite. This may be called a mystical view of the facts of our experience as opposed to a logical one. The mystical view may be the true one. If it be not so, and if absoluto-infinite Being in His transcendence be alone God, and this God is not immanent in His finite externalisation, we are landed in a hopeless, disheartening and unmeaning Pluralism. God Absolute would then be a “unit” merely. He is, on the contrary, a “One” in whom all is rooted. God is a finite, as well as an infinite, God. As immanent in all, He holds all within Himself and is at once the source, the beginning, the process, and the end of the great totality. He is “The Absolute”. As a matter of fact, we see that it is not as a somewhat beyond and far away that we get our knowledge of Him, but as very close to us; first of all, in Feeling and then in the Being and Reason that are in things as in us. He holds the Negation within himself: it is the Possibility of His Existence as plurality.

Thus we can metaphysically (and not merely pictorially) contemplate Absolute Being passing as immanent into its own beënt negation—the finite of Quantity and Motion and Quality generally—and as thereby passing into differences, contraries and oppositions, but never into contradictories, because there is always the Continuum of Being and Dialectic. Thus we get a One in Many. Contradictions are only Appearance.

In truth, we do not find the One and the Many in our experience. We have a concrete before us, and it is the dialectic necessity of analysing and dividing that gives us a dualism of two contrary elements, or a pluralism of an infinite number. It is no discredit to the subjective dialectic that it should have to take things to pieces as condition of seeing the truth of a synthesis. This is the only way that is possible to a finite reason. Doubtless there is a One and a Many; but how do we find these contradictions as a matter of fact, and apart from logical statement? We find them given to us in presentates that are a concrete One in Many. In every “law” of nature, too, we find the one in a vast number of individuals. The conception is familiar to us. To every eye it is manifest that the One does not, as a matter of fact, part with its Oneness because of the Many or its presence in the Many. I have pointed out in speaking of phenomenon, not that there is Being and Negation, but Being in its own Negation. The negation itself is beënt. The concrete presentation does not tell us that Being “is” and “is not”; but that the “thing” always “is” and “is”—a Not. There is here only a contrary, a “beënt not”—an affirmed negation. In like manner I have spoken of the non-finite in the finite. The contradictories in the phenomenal, unsolvable if taken abstractly, are thus transmuted into mere contraries or oppositions as soon as I comprehend the concrete whole in ontological as well as phenomenal continuity. And I seem to learn from the contraries and opposites all that is worth learning.

We naturally pass to relations in an individual one of phenomenal experience—a complex presentate. We know that processes are going on in each thing which make it what it is as distinct from other things—constitute, in brief, its physical identity. Whether it be a lump of ore, a plant, or a sentient organism, we find before us a totality which is affirmed by us as a unity in the sense of a “one” of related parts—an identity, whether the unity be constituted by what are called physical or biological laws. Relation does not constitute a thing: relation per se is in the air—merely an abstract term. It is a relation of parts, or rather parts in a specific relation of quantity and quality that constitute it. We might perhaps say that an inner process in the phenomenal (which we may perhaps place under the category of motion) controls and disposes the parts so as to effect the thing (what the Schoolmen called materialis dispositio). But these inner motions have again to be conceived as parts in relation.2 Thus the part has finally to be conceived as an individuum per se which is always functioning that which is not itself. In short, it is itself and it is not itself at one and the same time. Phenomenally, then, we are landed in what seems to be a contradiction. But surely our thought finds rest if we regard the “thing” metaphysically; in other words, as “Being dialectically determining itself in and through the phenomenal categories of Quantity, Motion, Quality, and utilising individua for a purpose beyond themselves”; which purpose is potentially in them as mind-matter monads. It is when the determination of Being or essence becomes, by the help of the sense-qualities (or categories), a “determinate” that seeming contradiction enters, and when we regard this determinate in its phenomenal aspect alone. There can be no phenomenal unit or single we have seen. The “primordial actual” is itself a “one in many”.

In Judgment, for example, we posit a “subject” and insinuate into it a phenomenal character; and we then pile predicates on it, forgetting that there is no “subject” except essence, which is metaphysical; the characters and predicates flowing from essence, and held together by it. Each individual “thing” is a one in and through many. That the essence or idea of a thing should control the parts to a unity, while the parts still remain individua, is surely not a difficult conception; I illustrate it every time I stir the fire. The One is in the parts: these are controlled in the service of the idea or essence which effects the unity for itself; and yet the parts are individual. The Dialectic tells us this; but not content, I would fain see how this can be effected. Vain. Can I see how the motion of one billiard ball is transmitted to another?

Let me put this again in another way. There are grades of mind. The attuitional synoptic single total given to percipience is broken up, in the dialectic effort to understand it, into parts (judgments of subject and predicates), but it is still a synoptic whole, with this difference that it is now to thought an aggregate of affirmed parts—a mere aggregate, however. This concipient synthesis (as we may now call the synopsis) consists of contrary elements held together by the mere force of Will. The next moment of the Dialectic, however, gives the true rational synthesis in which the fused unity of the synopsis is metaphysically explained. The mechanical unity of sense-concipience with its collocated and colligated parts is now superseded. The dialectic as a one movement grips the unity, and it is now a one. The “How” of the fusion phenomenally is still beyond us; but reason is satisfied. Each “thing” is to be looked at as a “dialectic one” at first and at last. I am not entitled to stop short at any functioning act of the various moments of the dialectic, and then complain of contradictions.

Let us now look more closely at the successive functioning acts of the dialectic, and at the solution of its own “contradictions” which the dialectic offers. But let me beg the reader not to imagine that I think I can instruct better men than myself. I have been thinking for a long series of years, and I am now merely stating my own solutions of questions that are older than Plato, and I make no pretences.


(a) Percipience and Formal Identity.

The first function of the subjective dialectic in contact with experience we call Percipience, and the formula is, A is A, or A is identical with itself—a judgment of Identity. This is Formal.

So of the Universe generally: there is no such thing in presentation as an isolated identity. Existence is a web, and all existences and identities are only the distinctions of and within the Ultimate One which therein effects its activity. This common One of Being and Dialectic holds the whole together, not in an external way, but immanently; is immanent also in the subsumption by subjective Will-Dialectic of the given world; where, however, it finds itself already planted and operative.

In considering the vexed question of Identity, we must take account of Planes of Mind.

The Sensing of Identity.—The attuitional stage of mind senses a single total which is a congeries of qualities as yet undiscriminated, and feels the equality of the single total with itself. A subsequent experience of the same, total is a feeling of the “sameness” of the totality. Without this, no animal could adapt itself to its environment of diversity and be impelled to seek this and avoid that. Attuition, in its awareness of an aggregate of qualities which presents itself to consciousness as a single synoptic total, is driven into this awareness or sensation of any one “single” by the diversities which present themselves all round. These diversa are the negation of the single total sensed as a total which is itself and not these other diversa.

The Perceiving of IdentityFormal.—The first activity of percipience when, on the higher plane of mind, it appears, is merely the affirmation of the self-sameness of the single synoptic totality as an undiscriminated aggregate, an attuit and no more. It reaches this affirmation of the self-sameness of the thing through the negation of all else. The recurrence of the aggregated totality of qualities is the recurrence in consciousness of the thing (synopsis) as an identity. But observe that percipience enters the field in a masterful way and proclaims, A = A. A is “affirmed” through the negation of all else, and in this negation lie its negative relations. But these negative relations are determined by the affirmation of the positive A. It is the determination of Being as a positive “somewhat” that carries, with it and in it, the negation. The negation is involved in the affirmation—not the other way about. It would appear, then, that Identity or self-sameness is simply individuation. Without such identity of A with A, the world not only of thought, but of sensation, would go to pieces. There would be nothing to talk about in presence of the chaotic whirl of interchanging nothings. This is Identity as formal, i.e., as universal and necessary.

Real Identity.—But the phenomenal is in flux: all is motion and becoming. How, then, on the dialectic plane of mind, do we affirm the continuity of the identity of a real existence in space and time? Of an acorn, an oak living, an oak dead, we say they are identical or the same, spite of their phenomenal changes and unlikeness. But every existence in space and time is undergoing change whether we see it or not. Passing from the animate to the inanimate, What of Mont Blanc? What of the pyramid of Cheops?

Here I find it necessary to recall what has been already said.

(b) The Dialectic as Functioning Concipience.

We are now, for further understanding of Identity, driven into the sphere of the second functioning act of the Dialectic in contact with things or the real—the functioning of concipience. The fused whole falls to pieces in presence of the dividing force of Will, but the pieces at once resume their place in the whole as originally presented. This restored whole, however, is not, as I have often said, a true synthesis but merely a colligation of qualities, properties, or elements in which the parts are held together by the main force of Will (the first moment of the dialectic)—an external and quasi-mechanical contrivance which leaves the qualities still apart and irreconcilable. They are only as yet tied together as with a string.

Now, the esse and purpose of the dialectic is to render things to itself in its own form. It cannot do so by merely looking at a complex presentate and affirming it as the percept of a total attuit; nor yet by separating its parts in a series of judgments and then, by sheer force of Will, holding them together in a mechanical synthesis like a bundle of sticks. They will not so unite to thought, although their real fusion to constitute the thing before us is not doubted. The never-ceasing activity of the subjective dialectic has for its end of activity the affirmation of a “one in many”: it cannot help itself. This is rational synthesis as opposed to mere conjunction. Where is this “one” to be found? Only in the differentiation of the complex before us from all else. It has many qualities in common with other things: all its qualities, in fact, are to be found in one thing or another in the universe of experience. The concipient synthesis has left all the qualities that go to make it very loose, but the dialectic process has, for its final moment, the end of the complex, its telos. The second of the prime moments of the dialectic process is mediating or causal: the dialectic, accordingly, proceeds to its end by seeking the inner and immanent ground of the complex whole before it as a whole of parts. The “determining-so” whereby the complex concrete is what it is, is “idea”. The idea of an individual, like the idea of the universe, can alone explain experience by satisfying the dialectic in us, because the idea is the essence of the “determinate”. The contradictions involved in the separations of percipience, and the failure of the merely mechanical bond of concipience to restore the whole that lies in pieces before us, now disappear. For precisely in the idea or essence we have got the unifying centre of the whole. The aggregate of separates now becomes for thought the fused unity that it is in sense-reality. The “idea” is that which marshals all properties into the fused unity which is the determinate or “thing”. The dialectic thus compels us to apprehend the whole as a synthesis, not of one and many (which lands us in contradictions), but of one in many—many in one. The terms “idea” and “essence” are equivalent: the former emphasises the determination of Being (which is the idea), the latter that idea in its relation to a concrete determinate. We can distinguish the idea and the determinate, but we cannot separate them. The world of presentation is given as such a concrete. We talk of subject and predicates. But where is the subject? If it were a “thing,” it itself would be a predicate or a sum of predicates. But take the “subject” in its metaphysical truth, and it is a determination of Being (idea or essence) and, as such, contains and predicts all its predicates. It is the “one” which evolves its meaning in its phenomenal adjectives; and in our judgments we merely draw out what is already there (see “Essence” and “Primordial Actuals”).

Is it not because we dwell on the first functioning of the dialectic in contact with things—the divisions and separations of percipience and judgment, and on the first crude concipient conjunctions of the parts in a total, that we are dissatisfied? We arrest the dialectic when it has only begun its work. The dialectic transmutes the aggregated matter of the content into a context. Contradictions cannot but emanate from the dialectic in its preliminary functionings; but give the dialectic full play, and it either solves them, or points a way to their conciliation. Let us remember, meanwhile, that the question of the one of an individual concrete thing is the same question as the One in Many of the Absolute Totality.

The Realitas-phenomenon, as the given (inner as well as outer) of attuition, is thus seen in the first collision of the Dialectic with it to be full of contradictions—an aggregate of co-existences and sequences which for thought can have no connection or coherence, till thought goes a step further and sees in the individual and the concrete whole its own process. This is the method of Knowledge; and the result is Knowledge—true in the Absolute, and the absolute truth of this our plane of universal Being.

(c) Identity Resumed.

We may now return to Identity and see that it is not as Being that A is A; but as determined-so Being—determined as A. But this determination or essence (idea, end) reveals itself in the world of Time and Space as a system of qualities (a system because it is a one in many), and leaving the pure realm of thought, I wrongly look for the identity of each thing in its fused phenomenal qualities and relations as a mere synopsis; which, moreover, as the concrete manifestation of the idea, the fulfilled thing or “determinate,” is in terms of space and time and motion, and involved in the mutation of the spatial and temporal—growth and decay and death. Qualities in different identities also are similar, and all things seem capable of passing into each other. Numerous difficulties now present themselves and identities seem to stand on perilous ground, and to be always on the verge of dissolution into something else.

I do not pretend, here or in any part of this treatise, to solve the obvious difficulties; but only to state my own view. I, of course, might content myself with affirming that the acorn is the same identity (i.e., determination of Being—idea) as the oak in which the concrete vesture of the former has taken a hundred years to evolve. And as regards Protean transitions, I might say that, in the Absolute, care has been taken to preserve persistent differences and likenesses sufficiently to serve man's life; nay more, to satisfy thought in its attempt to co-ordinate the whole as a many in one as well as a one in many. These transitions serve to remind us that all things are in community one with another, and that flux by insensible transitions is a characteristic of all our experience. Things pass into each other. All the same, spite of certain fluctuating differences among individuals, a cow is always a cow not only in logic but in reality.

But I think we may, taught by the Dialectic, go a step further:—A is A,” says Percipience: “that stone is a stone”. But all is flux, all is motion, and at no one point of time is the phenomenal “thing” identical with itself says experience. Now, if we look at the thing dialectically (reason being physician of its own maladies), we find Being determining itself as this individuum and not any other. There is no doubt about that. The identity, then, consists in the process of determination whereby A is A and not B; and in the phenomenal process which is a consequent of that, and whereby it is sustained as A phenomenally. The concrete “thing” is Being and the Dialectic phenomenally exhibited, i.e., passed into modality. This flows from our Meditation on Essence and on primordial Actuals. That thing before me, be it a stone, a tree, or a man, is a spiritual fact or reality in terms of sense; and I leave the latter to the physicist. Phenomenally regarded, the stone and tree contain contradictions because each always is and is not itself: all in short is Becoming.

Hegel says that the elements in the notion “Becoming” are being and not-being. The notion itself is doubtless suggested by the flux of nature, to which I have just been referring.3 Just as a line is discrete continuity, so a process of movement, whether of growth or decay, is a discrete continuum. That is to say, there are fixed points in the process which are not fixed points. But what is this save the necessity of the conception of infinite divisibility over again which applies to motion as it does to space? The infinite divisibility of motion leaves us without fixed points—nay, it destroys altogether the possibility of merely phenomenal individua. But all this flux and becoming is given by the phenomenal and exists only in the phenomenal. Thought (like things) must have fixed points. Percipience, as basis of all our thinking, insists on the single and simple and individual. Where, then, can we find it? It is demanded by subjective mind, and it exists in Objective Mind as the “idea” of the “determinate”—the phenomenalised unit of Being. That idea remains the same and identical with itself and is constant: its phenomenal manifestations are alone in flux. We carry this real fixedness of points into physical science. You may call them fictions; but they are necessary to the understanding of things. If a is at the same time all the other letters of the alphabet, knowledge is at an end.

All this, I am well aware, exposes me nude to the shafts of the supersubtle; but I am developing a theory on a definite and intelligible line, and perhaps I am somewhat impatient of Heraclitic enigmas.

It is surely mere extravagant phrasing to say that a “thing” is and is not itself. Of course a thing cannot fulfil itself save as other than itself, for the world is a web of reciprocating individua. Notwithstanding, a finite thing is a “for itself,” and nothing can shake this. This is its negative relation to all else. But it is the idea as a positive that institutes the thing: so says the Dialectic. The telos is affirmation of idea as concreted, and negation of all else is merely the ground of the possibility of the individual: it does not constitute it. Accordingly, it is in its positive relations (idea, essence) that the individual truly lives; otherwise there would be no world, but only an unmeaning aggregate of hard and barren plural points. The reciprocity of finite parts, resting in immanent Being, makes a world possible. Each thing fulfils itself as an actual through its positive relations to all else. This “all else” does not contradict it: there is simply a system of “others” or contraries through which this particular thing fulfils its particularity, attains to its truth—can alone attain to its truth. It does not follow that that stone or atom is all else as well as itself, because it itself can complete itself only through all else. A thing fulfils itself through its own “other,” but the “other” does not cancel the independence of the “thing”. The monad has windows, I have said, set all round it: it is in its active relations to the whole as contained in its idea that it fulfils itself; but yet it is a monad. The “other” is an opposite or contrary which presumes the “for itselfness” of the thing to which it is the “other,” and without which there would be no “other”.

How long, then, in the phenomenal world, we may ingenuously ask, is a concrete thing identical with itself? I answer: As long as the idea which determines that oak or rabbit finds in its phenomenal qualities the process (or law) by which these existences constitute a phenomenal unity capable of expressing the one of idea, each is identical with itself. When these qualities, etc., through decay alter their character, the rabbit falls as phenomenal into a lower grade of being (which, as what we call corruption, has yet also its idea and ideas and is an actual). It is, I repeat, the infinite divisibility of space, motion, time that makes it impossible for us to put our finger on the point at which one thing becomes another. A physico-chemical explanation even would leave the question unanswered. Thus the idea flits from organism to organism. This is the way of our world. How the parts and the whole of a “thing” as phenomenally related constitute an identity no man can tell.

[Let me interpose: at the stage which man occupies the identity affirms itself—“I am I”. Is such an identity necessarily permanent when it drops its phenomenal body?]

I have tried to show that it is the Dialectic as form of creative Being that gives context and oneness to the many in the content of a presentation; and further, that the permanent one in change (which is a form of the same difficulty) is likewise to be sought for in the movement of Being as dialectic determining the idea or essence of each and, through each, of the Whole. Flux and contradiction are in the phenomenal alone as the sensible mode of the self-realising idea.

We conclude that the identity of an organic thing is in its essence and consequent phenomenal characteristics, and persists as long as these persist. At what point the idea or essence fails to find its phenomenal vehicle, we cannot say, because, I repeat, we are here involved in the question of infinite divisibility of space and motion and time. As in space and time, no idea or essence is immortal in any single individual.

But what of the inorganic—a pyramid for example? When is a pyramid not a pyramid? The answer is: It is a pyramid identical with itself so long as it is a pyramid. The essence or idea or purpose of the pyramid was in the builder who raised the pile, which was the phenomenal completion of his purpose. An earthquake may transmute the whole into an amorphous heap of stones, and it will be no longer a pyramid. But if you ask me at what point in the slow weathering and detrition of the ages, it ceases to be a pyramid, i.e., to incorporate the idea and purpose of a pyramid, I cannot, because of the infinite divisibility of space and time, tell you.

Passing, meanwhile, over the General Concept or Notion4 which is a one of many qualities in diverse individuals and an entity of Reason only, giving us general propositions and making the syllogism possible, we come to

(d) The Functioning of Ground and Consequent (Cause and Effect).

We have now to consider rational Ground—the mediating moment of the one dialectic process. This affirms each concrete individuum as effect of a cause. The whole field of actual and possible experience is so determined. This being the essential Form of the whole Dialectic, it is manifest that we must think the cause as itself caused, and so on ad indefinitum regressively. We are thus again lost in a contradiction. This contradiction, however, is cancelled, when we realise the fact that the causal regression is valid only of the phenomenal. It is the noumenal ground of the phenomenal or existent that we have sought and found in Being-Dialectic; and in this we must rest as ultimate: unless, indeed, we choose perversely to image the noumenal ground as itself also phenomenon or “thing,” and, consequently, as sensualised, demanding a prior causal process. Within the phenomenal as such there is, of course, no escape from the regressive necessity.

Again, Cause and Effect in the realitas-phenomenon is always a “like in difference” and a continuity in time and space. Within the phenomenal, the event is “preceded” by the cause in the time-series, but, inasmuch as cause and effect are a continuity, there is no lapse of time between the full realisation of the cause and the appearance of the effect. I suppose one would say this is a physical fact, and that the continuing of the cause into the effect as constitutive of it is a reappearance of the cause under a different shape—an identity (so far) of cause and effect. We cannot put our finger on the point of time at which the one becomes the other; and this simply because of the infinite divisibility of time and space, as we saw in the case of Identity. So, I cannot perceive at what point three seconds past two becomes four seconds, nor can I discriminate the infinitely small movements by which the dial-hand passes from three to four.

Causal Nexus.—A few words more on material identity—identity in the real—as explanation of Cause and Effect:—when I say that the bringing together in space and time of heat and cold water results in the boiling of the water, I may explain it as a physical fact by saying that the boiling is merely the heat re-appearing in the water. This gives real identity and continuity: A passes into and becomes B. It is A B I now have before me. I cannot tell what the causal connection may be non-phenomenally: I am dealing with phenomena and must not draw from the mind, or noumenal, element in the concrete before me to explain the phenomenal element. This would be bad science. Now such a phenomenal continuity cannot yield Cause-effect. Let A be the totality of conditions which totality reappears in B thereby constituting A B; I have here in my consciousness first one thing and then another (A followed by B), and a million repetitions of this will not give me anything more than the first experience-continuity gave (though it may raise “expectation”). And yet I say, and I cannot help saying, A is cause and A B is effect. Why? Because the subjective dialectic compels me to take up the particular, and also the totality, of existence and change as grounded in that which is competent to effect existence and change. This, as we have seen, is the very essence of the Will-dialectic. Cause and effect among phenomena are merely a “case” illustrating this Dialectic necessity, just as my “reason” for affirming any proposition is likewise a “case”; for Ratio and Causa have the same dialectic source. There must be a cause or ground for A B. What that cause may be is a matter of mere empirical observation, and I find it is A. But while there is a necessity that A B be “caused,” there is no visible or ascertainable “necessity” in the connection I see established between A and A B. It is simply a fact of sense-experience, of one thing passing into another; and, although an invariable event, it cannot by possibility yield necessity. The necessity of the nexus is in the identity of two concepts.5 This is the true causal synthesis.

Subtle questions again, may be put as to the time-sequence of A and A B. We and the subjective dialectic are in Time, i.e., a series of one thing or event after another; nay, Objective Being with its Dialectic, in other words God Himself, is in Time, sustaining the whole system of actuality. When then we ask as to the Time relation of A-A B, how can A, if it be prius, leap over a chasm and reach B? Or, if it does not leap the chasm of “empty Time” (an absurd conception) but continues into A B, at what point do the A—conditions end and the B—effect begin? I say, when we ask these questions we are again merely repeating the puzzle of infinite divisibility of the discrete continua of Time and Space. And further, we are treating the infinite divisibility as a reality, whereas it is only a necessity of the functioning of the first moment of the dialectic as Percipience.

If, however, we transfer our thought to actuality as a system of mind-matter monads, viz., ideas determining themselves in Quantity, Quality, Motion, etc., there is no insuperable difficulty in conceiving the efflux of energy through which the positive relations of each centre of monadic activity effect themselves; and go also to effect an ordered world by means of reciprocal and teleological relations. Inasmuch, however, as there is motion, there is succession. There is A B. A is prius of B in time, and if A did not first exist B could not exist. The dialectic moment of Ground must be, in the sphere of Time, a Time-series. Wherever connection is mediated, Time enters and, in the causal of nature, Space also enters, because they are the modality of Absolute Being as existent. We cannot consequently leap out of these conditions, and to find the punctum temporis at which antecedent reason or cause “becomes” the sequent judgment or effect is impossible. Discontinuity breaks the world to pieces, while continuity would seem to identify reason and consequent, cause and effect.

The Objective Dialectic as subjective, if my presentation of the man-plane of mind be correct, tells us that Kinetic (efficient), mediating Ground, Determining-so and End or Idea are to thought One. The moments are the breaking up of a One thought into constituents which are intelligible only as a One.

Pass now from pure dialectic to its operation in subsuming the matter of knowledge:—what must it subsume? Space, Motion, Time as synthetic necessaries. The very nature of these is either a co-existent or a co-sequent series, and I have now to deal with presentations spread out. Pure finite thought has now to translate itself into modality just as Absolute Being and its Dialectic have uttered themselves as modality. Where, then, can I find the conciliation of the contradiction of difference and identity (in cause-effect) in my contemplation of the given modality? Nowhere. All I can say is, that in Being Unconditioned all is One, all is Identity; in Being Conditioned the One passes into a many, the Identity breaks up into difference. The Unconditioned now reveals itself, to itself and to me, as modality with all the conditions of modality. My knowledge of the world of experience is as a given modal—a timed and spaced knowledge, and cause A must precede effect B; and if, either as a physicist or a philosopher, I wish to find “Ground” in the operations of nature or mind, I must seek for it in some antecedent event. The Dialectic order is the Time-order.

Meanwhile, let us never forget that no one existence is independent and sole. Being-immanent and Dialectic-immanent are the common ground of the Whole, and the fulfilment of each is only in and through the Whole. The One of Being and Purpose is in and through each, and each can truly be itself only in and through the Whole: it is our epistemology that yields us this. I try to express, perhaps without success, a monistic pluralism.

(e) The Kinetic Moment in Cause.

The first moment in the teleologico-causal Dialectic is the initiating kinetic—the actus purus of Will. The spirit of man is a free energy, and yet, by virtue, or rather by vice, of the dialectic, we insist on bringing it within the scientific causal conception; and it is then no longer free. Here we have a contradiction. Conscious of our essential freedom, we yet stoop to bind ourselves and all our acts by the indefinitely regressive links of phenomenal causation. We cannot, at first sight, reconcile this contradiction; but it is vital to the position of man in the cosmic scheme to subvert it. The contradiction is resolvable; but, within the sphere of the empirical, this also, like other difficulties, is a permanent contradiction. We look more closely and we find that, if our analysis of Will-reason be correct, the subjective dialectic, initiated in the moment of Will as pure act, is itself Causal Form—causality as ground being the mediating moment of the one dialectic movement. Does Will as Kinetic, or efficient moment, provide causal bondage for itself in its dialectic process? Is there not some confusion of thought in placing Will under the causal condition which it itself initiates? The subjective dialectic, whose root is Will, places itself under its own Form! We have said that the dialectic emerges in the creature Man in order, inter alia, to prehend and comprehend the matter of attuition—the realitas-phenomenon. Itself also it can reflectively contemplate as part of experience; but to put itself under one of its own moments is impossible. It can do so only by first placing itself among the data of sentience. In brief, the subjective dialectic is conceived as putting itself under itself, which it can do only by first converting itself into a given “thing”!

We further resolve, or subvert, the contradiction in the same way as we subvert the apparent necessity of the infinitely regressive Cause in the phenomenal. For a true epistemology tells us of objective Being and Dialectic as non-sensible ground of the phenomenal whole, itself logically prior to the causal series and constituting the causal series as its mode of externalisation. It, itself, meanwhile, is outside, i.e., it is transcendental, while yet immanent in the series. And when we come to man, we find this same Being-Dialectic continued into him, and constituting him a spirit above, and dominating, the natural causal series in which he is immersed. He is free; he is Being and Will-Dialectic; in other words, God in finite form. As Absolute Being is Fons Naturae, so man is supra naturam. And yet so closely is man woven into the attuitional causal series of inner and outer sentience, that he has difficulty in extricating himself, and beholding himself in his true majesty as transcendental, and as the creator of ends of activity out of the confused matter of experience. Thus a contradiction is, as we see, disposed of; and yet, it always continues to harass us, because of the vast power of the sentient in us, and the consequent dominance of the causal “scientific” notion whose sphere is elsewhere.

(f) The Teleological Moment in Cause.

Let us now take the Dialectic in its final moment, the teleological, wherein we affirm ends, ideas and ideals (ideas perfected in their concreteness). Here Feeling and Reason interpenetrate. We know that neither absolute truth, nor absolute goodness, nor absolute beauty, nor absolute completion, is possible, because of the infinite which is implicit in the determining activity of reason.6 Logically stated, we have here an unsolvable contradiction, just as we have in extensive space and protensive time, and for the same reason, viz., the indeterminable in the determining act of percipience or knowing. These contradictions, however, are not impotencies, but transcending potencies: they are of such vital significance in the spiritual economy of man that they justify themselves: without them he would be little more than an attuent animal. By means of them he is lifted to his highest plane and has an outlook beyond. They are at the heart of the Dialectic: they constitute Man a being of a higher sphere than this, and confirm the dictum of the first moment of the Dialectic which places him, at one bound, supra naturam and gives promise of a still higher evolution.


Further, the nature of Man, as a concrete whole of organism, contains a contradiction which, like other contradictions, is rather to be called a contrary. Man as Will-reason is left to find and constitute his own End—the Good for him, and is plunged into the anarchic life of feeling and desire and cognition. The dialectic movement carries the enslaving attuitional in it and with it. The contradiction is resolved in the subsumption of the former by the latter, and its consequent direction to Ends—as ideas and as motives of conduct. None the less is the opposition there as a fact in the constitution of man—an opposition only, however, not a contradiction, because we see the possibility and way of its solution in the ethical purpose which it subserves and which can be attained only through the conflict of opposites.

In short, opposites, involved in the fact of difference, are the universal mode of man's actuality here and now; they are the truth of that moment in the evolution of Absolute Being which we call our world. Man cannot lift himself out of his system, and, therefore, cannot reduce to his thought what is outside it. The “that” of the transcendent and of the transcendental is, however, within his system: the what, how, why and wherefore of the transcendental or noumenal, as such, is outside it. Man is not, in brief, the Absolute; and a synthesis which comprehends the grand totality, which we can possess only as a “That,” is quite beyond his powers. But, meanwhile, man is the absolute of his own system; and, accordingly, while a “synthesis of the Absolute” is impossible, an “absolute synthesis” of his experience is quite within his reach (theoretically at least).

The supreme facts in such an “absolute synthesis” of experience are Objective Being and its Dialectic nisus. And the Dialectic, properly understood, makes it not impossible to find the That, the What, the How, the Why and Wherefore of all that is within our system in its relation to that system. To do this, and live this, is precisely the function of man in the world of which he is the head and interpreter.

From this and preceding Meditations, it will be seen that “Reality” completes itself in and through man as sentience in this system of things and that, to the extent of his possible range, he, as dialectic, cognises reality as “Actuality”. That actuality, as finding its fulfilment in the feeling and thought of man, should contain opposites and contraries is necessary: that it should further exhibit apparent contradictions is simply to say that the form of our sentient and cognitive life can never on this plane of the divine activity be a rounded and conciliated whole. What then? What would we have? If it were a conciliated whole we should seek no beyond and no ideals: we should be dead; or, at least, comatose. Man as Man would be extinct.

In conclusion, let me repeat that the unquestioning calm of attuition is disturbed to its foundations by the entrance of the subjective dialectic. Percipience, concipience, rational and causal ground, and end,—all these moments of reason-activity furnish, we have seen, each its own quota of apparent contradictions in the attuitional material of experience. Their function is to illumine and co-ordinate experience, and, in doing so, they raise difficulties in thought. But it seems to me, that these are exaggerated, and that when the contradictions cannot be traced to the general characteristic of reason-activity or knowing, which, by defining and limiting, throws the fact of the Infinite into consciousness, they can be metaphysically explained. If we are careful to take the dialectic in its wholeness of process, thought is satisfied by thought itself. In any case, the want of absoluteness in knowledge is all that is established by apparent contradictions. We can know within the man-sphere, and the very act of knowing points with steady finger to a higher sphere of Being. In other words, we cannot attain to a synthesis of The Absolute, but only to an absolute synthesis which contains within it the fact of the unattainable; and this fact is its very self the guarantee of a further evolution of the spirit of man.

To affirm unsolvables is easy: the true service to philosophy is, I submit, to show how they arise out of the very nature of the subjective dialectic—which, as itself within a finite world, is finite, although containing in its inmost activity the fact and truth of the Infinite and the Ideal.

I say a finite world which is itself, as finite and a many, necessarily, a synthesis of contraries. For in the cosmic complex as presented to us—our reality and actuality, what do we see? Being dialectically affirming itself, as a world of ends, in and through the negation of itself; which ends it constantly fails to fulfil, because the attainment of them involves opposition as the very method of their possibility, i.e., strife, evil, pain, disease, internecine conflict, death,—dire facts that seem to defeat the cosmic purpose which is (presumably) “The Good”; for these things are the contradictions of health, life, happiness, harmony, fulfilment. Objective Being and Dialectic, it would seem, can attain “The Good” (as externalised) only in and by means of the Negation and the interactivity of individual opposites. Absolute Being here and now, as itself in the moment of negation or finitude, is involved in the apparent contradictions inherent in the moments of the Dialectic as striving to overcome the Negation and reduce it to a One of Purpose and Idea. The possibility of the finite display of Eternal Being is, in short, through contraries and oppositions; and only in this way can “The Good” be mediated. The Absolute is not a chaos of contradictions somehow conciliating each other; but there is, on the contrary, a purposed reciprocity and contention, and the system is Teleological. It could not be a “system” unless it were so, if I have truly exhibited the Objective Dialectic. God Himself would seem to be on His way to some far-off goal, and to us it seems a weary way, for every milestone has to be counted.

We may venture to say, then, that the world of presentation is not a confused aggregate of floating predicates, but of substantive thought-things “existing” by virtue of the co-ordination of predicates by and through the idea of each thing, these together, along with the fact of Negation, constituting the dialecticised synthesis of the individual. The form of the subjective dialectic, intromitting with the phenomenal predicates given in attuition, ensures all this, and denies that we live in a world of unintelligible chaotic atoms called predicates, or what not. For predication of a subject is the unfolding by us of the constituents which are given as fused into a one thing. They are not hung loosely on. There is nothing inconsistent, unintelligible, self-contradictory or irrational in this. Our knowledge is partial relatively to the Absolute Whole; but it is true—absolute. Pure phenomenalism cannot find the “thing,” but only co-existing or sequent predicates that hang in the air. This simply shows that pure phenomenalism is not the truth of experience. It leaves out what the subjective dialectic insists on—viz., the very dialectic itself, by virtue of which the “singleness” of each totality before us is superseded by the “oneness” of an active synthesis. The one we seek (whatever be the object) presumes a many. It is not the number “one”. That the “many” in a single totality is given, no one doubts; reason breaking up the totality is constrained to affirm end or idea of each “single” (this being the Form of the Dialectic), whereby the diverse in the concrete is controlled to the end which is the one in many. That is the utterance of reason or dialectic, not of attuition which is powerless to explain; and, indeed, seeks no explanation. So of the universe of experience as a whole: were there no “many,” there would be no world; were there no One in the Many there would be no Idea, no thought, no correlation, no End, no God. How could ends be mediated save through opposites? Without this Divine Method we should have a universe of molten lava. Instead of the Good, the Beautiful and the True we should have a dead status quo which we could not even name.

If I wilfully remain in the region of attuition or even of rational percipience and concipience, and use reason as a mere tool to divide and to judge, stopping short there, I cannot truly synthesise or correlate; and I have nothing but floating predicates and chaos left. But in so doing, I ignore the function of the subjective dialectic, which is to restore the single totality, the loose aggregates of attuition, in the higher form of a reasoned synthesis. The mistake lies, it appears to me, in stopping short at that logical separation of parts which is only the initiatory function (as I have shown in the subjective dialectic; whereas the dialectic in its wholeness propounds to itself end, idea, essence of the totality, and so synthesises the fragments of percipience and the colligations of concipience into a synthesis or one (not a mere unit); and this is the thing in presentation now penetrated by the said dialectic. And this dialectic, again, is the Universal Dialectic whereby things exist as they exist; which has become self-referent in man for knowledge and conduct. The concrete synthesis is there before me, and the subjective dialectic divides that it may govern, and reproduce for thought what, however, is already there. The subjective dialectic has no more difficulty in co-ordinating the parts for knowledge than the creative dialectic has in co-ordinating them for actuality. Accordingly, if I understand certain writers, I should say that their mistake lies in the defective analysis of the reason-act and in stopping short at the first functionings of the Dialectic—viz., percipience and concipience; and so leaving us with a chaotic and unintelligible world. This is little more than the phenomenalism of attuition of which metaphysic is the corrective. If it be merely meant that I cannot understand the “how” of relations which I see as matter of fact and affirm as the utterance of reason, everybody will concur. I cannot “understand” how I lift my hand to my head or write this sentence: purpose in me followed by responsive muscular contraction is only a phenomenal explanation. To know the “ultimate how” of any part or relation of parts, of diversity or of unity in diversity, I must be present at the dawn of creation—the passing of the One into the Many, and feel the thrill and intuite the process of the Creative Energy.

Meanwhile let us conclude that the ultimate explanation and meaning of experience is in the Unseen: that the phenomenal as parts and successions must always yield the phenomenal only and an explanation within the phenomenal; which is no explanation at all.

  • 1.

    See Meditation on The Infinite.

  • 2.

    The fact that parts related are themselves again parts related, and so in an indefinite regress, gives us difficulty only when we regard the infinitely divisible as a real, and not merely as a necessity of the percipient act.

  • 3.

    But it is contained in the Dialectic.

  • 4.

    See Note on page 205.

  • 5.

    See Metaphysica Nova et Vetusta, chapter on “Cause”.

  • 6.

    See Meditation on The Infinite.