This evening I am to start the second series of my lectures on what I have called the human cave taking over a term and a picture from Plato and using both for my own fairly similar purposes. The first series of my lectures was called The Discipline of the Cave and I have had to rekindle a possibly declining or extinct interest by giving the present series the mildly sensational title of The Transcendence of the Cave. In my first series I seem to suggest I was dwelling only on the difficulties and restrictions of a life of intellectual and moral bondage but now it would appear I am introducing you to the heady excitements of a new life of liberation and perfected insight. In reality my change of title is misleading. I am really pursuing the same steady revisionary ascent from views of things that have shown themselves up as inadequate to views of things that seem likely to prove more adequate. I have been carrying on with my mixed phenomenological-dialectical programme faithfully trying to describe the world as it shows itself to us at different levels of abstraction and making at first no attempt to transform the phenomena into anything that embraces more or goes deeper and then showing up the deep flaws and radical discrepancies in the overall view just arrived at and so rising to a revised view that dissolves all those flaws and discrepancies. Half of the present series of lectures will only be a stage on the progress towards true notional adequacy; we shall try out the solvent power of a conception of radically immanent teleology that is largely a borrowing from Hegel. Only in the second half of the series shall we aspire not at all confidently to that finality of insight and utterance that can consider itself a transcendence of the limitations that make up what we call the human cave. And we shall end our whole study by voluntarily returning to those limitations by seeing whatever ecstatic perspectives we may have introduced as doing no more ultimately than perhaps adding a new glorious dimension to our ordinary talk and experience.
Lecture I | Foundations of the Realm of Reason and Spirit
In the present lecture I intend to do little more than review the positions reached in the first series of lectures seeing them all more comprehensively than was possible when I was struggling with detailed issues. What we saw generally was that the world of our experience shaped and articulated as it comes before us for practice and utterance is such as to reveal the brooding dominance of certain major forms or ideas—each a self-contained would-be absolute—the spatial the temporal the inertly bodily the living the conscious the social etc.—which work themselves out in a whole system of interrelated features and connections. All of these interrelated features show an inherent affinity for one another and a mutual belongingness which enables us to pass from one to another more or less smoothly. Space with its indifference to occupancy and its free openness to variations of size shape and motion is a major idea having the requisite self-sufficiency to count as a fit object for the kind of examination now in question one that lies hidden under the incredible detail of varied geometries: we can set forth its basic characters we can see how it fits in with other basic notions we can see everything in the world—time body mind etc.—in relation to it. In the same way body with its occupancy of space its indifference to perception together with its free self-exhibition to all comers and viewers with its simplicity of basic character and its endless proliferation of qualified slanted appearances represents a major idea an absolute that can be chosen for special eidetic examination and that will develop into a whole system of interrelated coherent aspects: everything in the world as is well-known can be seen in relation to the solid material basis without which it would elude our efforts to trap it or to tie it down. The same applies to the idea of the single conscious mind comprehending all actuality possibility and impossibility in the range of its radiating intentions and going so far towards multiplicity and hard separateness in one direction as it goes towards fluid fusion and interpenetration in another. It certainly is a major idea capable of putting its seal on everything and becoming the central source from which all other things acquire lucidity while it itself retains full notional self-sufficiency and requires nothing external in terms of which it could be better understood. The same obviously applies to the social world of mutually communicating persons to the ideal world of abstract meanings to the realm of values and so on. Some of these have not engaged us so far and will only be dealt with in our present series.
Such major conceptions such organizing ideas are not ones which emerge from the examination of ordinary discourse without some struggle. They lie hidden under a wealth of ancillary expressions whether adverbial participial conjunctive or merely inflectional. To bring them out from the many points at which they serve and to erect them into more or less clearly outlined abstracta requires the penetration the re-assembling skill of philosophy. The sketching of a major idea in the full context that it abstractly demands and that it expands into is the task of those eidetic sciences mentioned by Husserl of which phenomenology the development of the notion of intentionality of conscious reference is the most fundamental. All these sciences involve a suspension of interest in what actually exists or does not exist and a replacing interest in what notions permit or do not permit what they intrinsically favour or do not favour; they are in short studies of intrinsic possibilities necessities plausibilities and unplausibilities. But though thus modal in approach it is not by a wanton metaphor that they are spoken of as ‘descriptive’. For there is nothing merely ‘analytic’ in their exploration no mere setting forth of what we arbitrarily have put into a notion or meaning. The possible combinations permitted or favoured by a notion and the extensions it rules out or frowns upon often affect us with the same shock of surprise as do the shades and contours of an observed object even though the latter is revealed by ordinary sight and the former by what we may call a ‘seeing’ use of language. That a body should be indifferent to the existence of observers yet none the less intrinsically likely to appear to their senses that it should be simpler in character than its appearances but likely to reveal its basic characters the more variously it is examined: all these are connections of essence which our instinct follows unhesitatingly but which are so far from being merely analytic that those who make this their touchstone might well question their truth. In the same way it is profoundly surprising that every densely packed interior mood should necessarily unpack itself into quite precise forms of response and setting and the latter condense itself into the former and so far is all this from being merely obvious that even a philosopher like Wittgenstein thought it merely factual and contingent. The necessary being the necessary and not the trivial necessary truths of essence may constantly shed fresh light on notions already had or defined and so serve to delimit or describe them. The notion of description is also valuable as stimulating that ‘seeing’ use of expressions which alone gives philosophical research a direction and prevents it from fumbling among trivialities.
Human experience and language are therefore swayed by powerful directive ideas each of which generates a systematic extensible order into which the detailed deliverances of individual encounter may be fitted: such ideas are a priori not in the sense of merely adding to the ideas derived from individual encounter but in the sense of providing the framework for individual encounter and for ideas derived from it. Having them involves more than having notions which may or may not apply to the details of individual encounter; it is having the further confidence not absolute nor unmodifiable that we shall be able to apply such notions that the world even in its unseen and unknown aspects will fit them. Each such a priori notion therefore dictates a pattern of future detailed experience a pattern that can be imagined as unfulfilled and even experienced as breaking down in some cases and so always positively significant. We can study such ideas at work in our talk whether ordinary or philosophical but we can also study them at work in ‘the appearances’ in the actual phenomena in the world as it comes before us and actually seems to us. This last is the best way since it brings out what is important and central and what otherwise would remain hidden under trivialities and minutiae.
We here however come up against a central feature of life and experience: that the various directive ideas in terms of which the phenomena are ordered and articulated do not always square that the pattern or order which one of them sets before us as a guiding framework runs athwart the pattern another sets before us and that even in the pattern dictated by what may be called a single idea there are possibilities of alternative development confusions of direction that make orderly extensions difficult. Antinomy in other words is an all-pervasive phenomenon in the experienced and interpreted world and becomes more and more acute the more we attempt to focus phenomena clearly to see them in an unshifting fully revealing light. It is this all-pervasive presence of antinomy in the world of experience that makes us find the world a queer place and that led Plato and ourselves to describe it as a cave. The all-pervasive antinomy of the world is far too serious and too deep to count as a merely formal contradiction though it can be forced into that form if we choose. Nothing is easier than to rid oneself of such a formal contradiction: one can do so by simply specifying a respect or sense or manner in which one statement is true and another in which its seeming contradictory is true. But such devices do nothing to remove the real conflicts involved which are more like the discrepancies in a person's character or in a statesman's policies or in the story told by certain witnesses which are not done away with by the mere fact that they are not flatly contradictory. The line here taken by most modern philosophers is an accommodation which pares or reduces or argues away one or other of the discrepant fundamentals. It is conceived to be the obligation of philosophers to make sense of experience as it actually stands and to adjust fundamental concepts to meet it rather than to modify or extend experience to fit such concepts. It is not seen that a clear division between experience and interpretative concepts is unfeasible and that the best accommodation is the one that does the fullest justice to all the notional claims involved intensifying them rather than watering them down and being ready to extend experience in highly novel directions rather than remaining in hidebound contexts. All use of concepts like body space social mind etc. goes beyond the immediate data in respect of the order it projects into experience and there is no reason why in quest of a deeper harmony there should not be a much more revolutionary going beyond the data than is ordinarily practised. The accommodations we seek are at least accommodations that must live in the full consciousness of the antinomies it is their task to heal: they must explain rather than explain away such antinomies.
Before we attempt such explanations it will be best if we run through some of the basic antinomies which emerged in the course of our first series of lectures. There were first the varied difficulties connected with the two great media of space and time in which all bodies and conscious and unconscious organisms have their place media which at one moment seem mere backgrounds for the coloured figured bulky things and occurrences displayed in them but which can at any moment by a figure-ground reversal become themselves the substantial stuff of the world in which things and occurrences are mere gaps and interruptions. This perpetual reversal in which the full constantly becomes the vacuous and the vacuous the full embodies no idle aesthetic change in the look of things but a change in our whole manner of conceiving them on which many profound theoretical and practical consequences attend. To make the great media of the world mere extensions of the arrangements of the data that point them up for us extensions like that of Adam's imagined ancestry or the unfilled ‘posts’ in a projected secretariat flatters our love of clear content at the expense of our deeper understanding. For hard clear data are so fragmentary as to afford absolutely no firm foundation for the vast confidence we repose in the power of spatial and temporal arrangements to be moved and repeated without change as also for our faith in the possibility of lines of unbroken communication direct or indirect between anything that has a place and a time and anything else that also has a place and a time. ‘Empty’ space and time are not only the most obdurately haunting but also the most hard-worked of categories representing as they do the ‘permanent possibilities’ of all that makes the ‘external world’ capable of effective handling possibilities fortunately so much part of the phenomena that the maddest empiricism seldom tries to question or more dangerously to justify them. But to believe in the great media and their mute background presence is obviously also to embark on the perilous ascent along which one absolute darkly succeeds another and in which the test of authentic being is not so much making a difference as being the inescapable presupposition of all differences. Tied up with these conflicts in regard to the relation of the great media to their occupants go conflicts in regard to the modality of these relations. Sheer accident would seem to govern the relations of occupying events and objects to the great media of space and time it being of their essence that they freely permit any and every filling or lack of filling. Yet on the other hand it is only in the free undistorted continuous behaviour of things and patterns that the grand indifferences of space and time make themselves plain and their dependence on such contents seems no mere issue for our verification but an issue of their being. There are deep puzzles in this extraordinary dependence-in-independence which will again and again meet us in the human cave.
A further tension arises from the fact that the great media in question alternatively show themselves as the very type of the divisive and discrete and then again as the very type of the continuous. Seen in one regard nothing is so separative so inviduating as differences of spatio-temporal position: even in a monotonously repetitive wall-paper world full of symmetrically placed identities of pattern continued ad infinitum there remains the separateness of the this and the that the here and the there the now and the then despite all indiscernibility of general description and it is by the separateness of the zones that things continuously occupy or the epochs through which they extend that we are able to pin them down as these individual things identified and re-identified on many occasions and oppose them to those individual things which occupy a different place in the whole ordered picture. In the absence of temporal and local signature individuation and identification might assume some wholly new and difficult form as comes out in the speculative sound-world of Peter Strawson or in the angelology of St Thomas. And countless abstract matters assume manageable clarity by being set out side by side in the externality of an imaginary space. Yet these types of the discrete are also the very types of the continuous the holding together so that it is always artificial to imagine one can deal with one region one period in clear separation from another that one can keep it from spilling over into its environment and untidily incorporating the latter in itself. We should like the parts of space and time to be separated by gulfs or fences thick no-man's barriers that firmly keep them apart but they are unhappily only separated by boundaries which means that they are not really separated or kept apart at all. We can if we like take advantage of our own finitude and firmly distinguish where and when we are from where and when we are not but even as we speak movement and the passage of time erode our clearly fixed delimitations. That everything is what it is and not some other thing is an unexceptionable maxim expressive of certain modes of understanding which it is profitable to apply in all or most of our first-order discourse. But second-order reflection shows that our maxim is unexceptionable precisely because it can never fit anything real certainly nothing in which space and time play a part. Nowhere can we really perform the neat excision that would give us just this individual thing here and now placed and distinct from that other individual thing. Each thing shades off into something that shades off into something so that before one knows where one is one is somewhere quite different as everyone who has painted a large wall or been involved in a live piece of argument well knows. Space and time point to two wholly different types of treatment the phenomena show themselves in two radically different ways one of which leads to the admirable fixities of Zeno and their working out by Dedekind Weierstrass and others and the other of which leads to the ‘infinite’ of the Pythagoreans or the ‘Great and Small’ of Plato in which nothing can be kept firmly within bounds but always pushes on indefinitely in the direction of the ever greater or the ever less. Our modern philosophy of mathematics has built on the
peraj the principle of Limit which dominates most of ordinary discourse and has arrived at the transfinite and the continuous through this. It might just as well have followed Plato and some of our ordinary talk and built itself on the a[peiron the principle of indefinite extensible continuity and arrived at the natural numbers and other clear abstractions through this. Certainly the two great media which contain all phenomena evince both of these trends and evince them quarrelsomely and without final reconciliation. The world at one moment falls apart into things or phases which have nothing to do with one another as at another moment its things and phases melt tantalizingly into each other.
If the internal quarrels just indicated are common to the two great media under examination they are exacerbated to the last extremity in the case of time. Our stress on phenomenology rather than dialectic perhaps led us to underplay these quarrels in the lectures of the previous session; we may therefore make brief amends in this place. In the inner structure of time we have extreme exclusiveness always alternating with extreme inclusiveness absolute priority confessing itself to be most utterly derivative permanence declaring itself in and through the sheerest impermanence. Time is nothing without the plain distinction between what now is with its ineffable final prerogative and what only enjoys the modally qualified status of having been or of being about to be which are no more instances of simple being than probable possible or putative being can be regarded as such. Yet not only do we find the content of what is without cease passing from what merely will be to what has been even as we try to lay hold of it only permitting us to grasp it in large indefinite fashion but we see further once the rough conventions of ordinary language are disturbed that the whole content of what now is or is the case is made up in equal and unlimited parts of what definitely has been up to that moment and of what possibly will be after it with only a boundary which really does not divide between them. Here the past and future avenge themselves on the present making its non-modal immediacy depend puzzlingly on their second-order status so that it becomes obscure where the notional priorities He or if indeed we can fix them anywhere. And while on the one hand the order and distance of the points of time seems to be a mere frozen reflection of the order and intensity of the rush of happening through the present it seems impossible on the other hand to give sense to either such order or intensity of ‘rush’ except in terms of such a contained reflection so that the priorities are again confused. There is further the extraordinary asymmetry in virtue of which what is about to be may cover alternative possibilities all but one of which become total impossibilities once the ‘issue is decided’ whereas no such alternatives obtain in the past an asymmetry so extraordinary as to afford justification for those perverse constructions often wrongly buttressed by formal logic in which the future is given the settled character of the past or the past less readily given the unsettled character of the future. If to these real puzzles which are part of the essential phenomenology of time we add the unreal puzzles to which the abstract manipulations of mathematics give free rein and allow them to override any and every difference of category—time being assimilated throughout to space—it is plain that the second of the great media is by far the shiftiest thing in our experience and the most protean in its transformations. It can be reduced to relative fixity by a flat refusal to follow out any of the notional pressures that beset ordinary language as I myself once tried to reduce it in a much reprinted article1 but the tendency of ‘phenomena’ to change and develop is as deeply characteristic as any first form revealed by them to unreflection.
If the great media of the phenomenal world are beset with fundamental antinomies so too are their contents the bodies which occupy them and change in them and the intelligent minds which look out upon them from variously placed animated bodily standpoints. Bodies on the one hand come before us as having or being something which enables them to fill or occupy space and prevent other bodies from tenanting the same space and this something is presupposed by all merely qualitative features or by all possibilities of acting on other bodies or being acted on by them. Yet this the basic presupposition of bodily occupancy remains obdurately obscure and resembles a ‘wall’ created by hypnotic suggestion or by a magical taboo. This puzzle of solidity concerns us at the macroscopic level but it is not exorcized at the microscopic level nor by letting a mere vocabulary of energy wielded without categorial grasp supersede one of bulk or stuff. Equally Janus-faced is the manner in which bodies come before us as undoubtedly single and individual even if spread out over a region and as therefore possibly having modes of action which appertain to them as wholes and not necessarily to their parts yet again as hanging together in some wholly external and in the last resort incomprehensible way and as necessarily having no characters or modes of behaviour which are not a complex consequence of the modes of behaviour of their constituent parts. The idea of body is at once such as to demand and also to exclude mechanization to demand explanation in terms of parts of parts without end and yet to resist this self-destruction; this two-sided absurdity is practically resolved by an equally absurd compromise resting on the dubious warrant of experience. We find our ‘irreducibles’ our ‘wholes’ at what level seems most feasible though the exponents of other sciences never think we have done so properly.
Implicit in the divisive mechanistic way of considering bodies lies the impossibility that they should do more than obey some extremely austere set of laws of motion moving and resting according to the simplest of formulae and interfering with one another's rest or motion only by acts of pushing governed by formulae of similar simplicity. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries developed all these demands in their purity and adjusted them to the empirical detail actually encountered in a manner now so overlaid by theory and experiment that we hardly have an idea austere or relaxed of what bodies are or of what they may be capable. Implicit however in the totalistic way of considering bodies lies the possibility not only that their parts should move and behave in consonance with one another and with the total pattern they form but also by an easy extension that they should respond to remote bodies and bodily configurations in the manner characteristic of gravitational and other types of ‘field’. There will always also be a tendency for the scandal of field-phenomena to resolve itself into some concealed form of pushing but the push-philosophy being ultimately incoherent may very well have to come to terms with the field-philosophy or to give way to it.
Implicit in the field-philosophy is however the presence of what we have called physical intentionality that analogue of conscious reference in which a body's reactions are adjusted and so are in a manner ‘sensitive’ to remote bodily facts which are from the standpoint of the body concerned absent and nonexistent. From the possibility of adjusting to what is physically actual but remote there is only a step to the possibility of adjusting to what is not yet or perhaps never will be physically actual and hence of that immanent teleology which once admitted as within the bodily repertoire soon affords countless instances of its actual presence. Such teleology however never stably reveals itself as a simple bodily phenomenon: if at one moment it seems to explain rather than require explanation at another moment it seems plain that it merely masks complex field-phenomena or even cases of mere clock-work. It remains deeply difficult even absurd that a body should adjust its behaviour to what exists nowhere in the bodily world and we therefore have recourse to any way of regarding the matter which makes it merely appear that an ideal end is shaping the drift of development while in reality this is entirely shaped by the unvaried behaviour of intricately interacting parts. The same tension becomes extreme when as in complex physical systems like the brain we constantly find the guidance of bodily change by remote resemblances complex mathematical and logical relationships etc. in the absence of any accompanying consciousness and where the phenomena challenge us to see nothing in their changes beyond the quite unintelligent transformations possible to a thinking-machine. What we have to see in all the phenomena just set forth is a deep tension in the very notion and being of body a tension between a readiness to transcend the immediate and the actual in a quasi-conscious ‘intentional’ manner and a tendency to slip back into being just where and when one is into responding to nothing remote nothing abstract nothing that is not part and parcel of one's sheer spatial occupancy. This tension is felt by us ‘in our bones’ in what we know despite surface-appearances is really there but it seems also to be present in bodies themselves whose power to maintain complex integrations and to be continuously guided by attenuated; abstract lines of relevance and affinity is liable to be disrupted or weakened by death fatigue or many forms of enfeeblement.
The difficulties we have so far dealt with are all on the purely corporeal plane but it is further clearly in the repertoire of body suitably organized and in action to refer us ‘inwards’ to phenomena of higher order which though concerned with bodies or ‘of’ bodies in some direct or remote manner thereby successfully evince not their bodily but their intractably non-bodily character and so create an opposition of the most trying sort in which either member seems at once to require and yet also to exclude and repel the other. Thus the bodies which come before us and declare themselves to sight touch and our other senses can also by a sort of inversion of their deliverances make us aware of the manners in which we are sensitively affected by them manners which not only bring into view unnoticed perspectival variations which have to do with us and our relation to the bodies in question but which also have that overallness that reduction to felt singleness which characterizes the interior life of mind and is quite foreign to the dispersed uncentred life of bodies. The ‘inversion’ in question as readily takes place in the case of other sensitive organic bodies as of our own: we ‘know’ how someone else feels the coldness of some marble surface on which his bare arm rests almost as clearly and as directly as we know how we feel in such a situation. It is not necessary that we should reflect on the way in which cold that phenomenal feature of objects is brought home to us in our feeling in order to know how it is brought home to others.
The inversion in question works also in the case of the reactive tendencies emotional and unemotional exploratory or practical which are operative and can become evident in each experient's phenomenally central organism or in the remote organisms of other creatures. These tendencies can make themselves evident in external fashion as modes of behaviour having the same ‘outness’ and distance as those of a glacier or a falling stone but they can also make themselves evident in the condensed personal form of an attitude lived through or felt a feeling-ready-for or feeling-ready-to-do this or that whether directly by the person who has them or ‘sympathetically’ by some bystander. In the same way the purely physical intentionality which we credit to the goal-directed organism or to a nerve-centre functioning unconsciously refers us inwards to that mental directedness to things present and absent things immediate and remote things concrete and things abstract of which there can at times be a direct reflex givenness and an inviolable certitude and which can be given as the secret sense of the behaviour and signs of other living creatures and ourselves. In all these respects the purely physical extended phenomenon and the condensed interior phenomenon have the profoundest inner affinity and mutual fit: the one seems naturally to flow over into the other the one is the correlate of the other in another medium as it were it is through the one that we know and know of the other and that through a key which experience uses rather than fabricates. The full reasons for the apriorism we are adopting need not be rehearsed here.
Yet in all this affinity of the two media before us disparateness and exclusiveness still make themselves felt: neither on reflection requires or has a place for the other. The physical medium has nowhere a place for that summing-up in unity of what lies dispersed nor for that gesturing towards what is remote abstract and not necessarily actual which the other medium allows: it can at best offer us phenomena which seem to spring from such an interior source but which yield us no convincing or understandable foothold in the latter. And the interior medium in its turn has no need for the exterior physical one since the directedness of mind to this or that real or imaginary object seems a matter of the mind's own internal economy and has no test that is not also an interior test. A state of mind is neither more nor less directed to a certain object because there is or is not such an object or because it is or is not an object to other minds as well as one's own. There can likewise be no test of the reality of such an object which does not entirely fall within the experience of each person who has hazarded hypotheses as to its existence. One can indeed prove something to be real by appealing to the experience and testimony of others but the existence of such experience and such testimony and of such others must be something whose tests lie or could lie in a man's own experience and of whose validity he alone is the final judge. A number of persons can entertain and verify some hypothesis in a co-operative manner performing the same experiments witnessing their outcome and drawing the same conclusions but they can do so only because each with his experiences is given in the experiences of each other so that while all carry out common tests the tests are also carried out by each man severally. Each man therefore in a sense inhabits his own intentional cosmos in which other men and their concurrences occur as intentional objects and so far is this from refuting an ordinary realism that it is a necessary condition of its truth: a conscious being cannot be said to inhabit a world which is not also in all relevant particulars a world for him. In a deep sense further all discourse with others must also be discourse with self since it is we who must interpret and evaluate all that others do and say: a reference to others can only take us out of our subjective quandaries if toe decide that it does so. In a sense therefore a public language with agreed rules is only a particular sort of private language and this is not so much a paradox as a simple truism. The very grammar of our talk of experience therefore involves the limiting possibility gratuitous perhaps but still genuine and indefeasibly ‘part of the language’ of a set of Cartesian minds each living in the experience of a world which has no being beyond the perceptions and references of the mind in question which need not be a similar world to the world inhabited by another Cartesian mind and which need not contain any true givenness of such another mind. That in such a limiting situation which we perfectly understand the discrepancy of the intentional worlds would be wholly undiscoverable merely refutes the view which confounds the understandable with the discoverable or meaning with validation.
What all of this involves is that while the world of personal interiority is understandably tied up with the world of bodies in space and so indirectly linked up into a system of mutually communicating persons there is still something not wholly understandable in this understandability. A mind being a complete personal cosmos it is sometimes not clear why the ‘world’ of its personal perception belief and concern should in any way reflect the structure of a world with which it can stand in no real relation from which it even differs radically in category. The world as perceived or believed by me is confusedly said to coincide with the world as it actually is at least at some points and times but this on reflection can seem as absurd as supposing that the characters of some fictional narrative could stray out of fiction and take their place among real persons. Once the infinite categorial gulf between the merely bracketed status of an object perceived or thought of on the one hand and an object simpliciter on the other has been adequately plumbed it is no longer plain that there must tend to be some sort of coincidence or correspondence between them and we no longer feel it probable that things must tend to give us ideas that are of them or of something like them. In the same manner once the infinite categorial gulf between other persons as given to us through sympathetic personal extension however unlearnt and ultimate has begun to yawn before us we no longer feel confidence in any probable ‘coincidence’ or ‘correspondence’ of the former with the latter nor even entire clarity as to what such a coincidence or correspondence might involve or mean.
We have dwelt rather sketchily on a wide range of philosophical issues in all of which there is a strange blend of dependence and independence of requirement and indifference of the supremely obvious and the totally mysterious. It is as wrong to dwell merely on the clear gnostic side of these issues to make philosophy merely analytic or descriptive as it is to dwell in traditional fashion on the insoluble problems of philosophy in quest of an explanation or justification whose very form eludes us. The suggestion we are to explore in the first half of these lectures is the suggestion that all these opposed ways of regarding things have their common ground in something of which we do not ordinarily form much notion at all or which we tend to think of as in the last degree dependent and derivative: the life of common meanings and aims which conscious beings have with one another the life which consists in intercourse discourse and co-operation among persons and with the things which form an irremovable part of such intercourse discourse and co-operation. This common conscious life we hold to be related to all the factors in the world and the varied ways of seeing them as an immanent end which all subserve and not as anything underlying them or coming before them or causally responsible for them. This end is moreover not the end of anything or anyone nor does it exist otherwise than as an ultimate fit involving many impediments among the factors in the world or in an ultimate drift towards secure and intimate communication in which it itself the end as the ‘sense’ and ‘truth’ of the world will ultimately make itself manifest and evident. Our understanding of the world and its manifold oppositions depends accordingly on the abandonment of ways of thinking which look to elements and origins and defined ways of working for one which sees in all these factors only constituitive moments of a single pervasive end which however much it may be fully declared and lucid to self only in its final outcome must none the less be thought of as including and wholly explaining all the elements circumstances and ways of working which we say lead up to it. Our end must be ‘infinite’ in the Hegelian sense of being implicit in and including all its instrumentalities and so being self-realizing and self-explanatory.
The deep paradox of this mode of conceiving its almost wilful subversion of established distinctions and thought-procedures need not be gainsaid: its justification lies in the sheer impotence of any other approach to steer clear of antinomies as much as in the sheer logical power with which it makes conflicts redound to its own credibility. For we can understand how the media of space and time on the one hand and their occupants on the other can play their queer game of dependence-in-independence if we see the essence of each in the role it plays in conjunction with the other in forwarding an ultimate lucidity the great media precisely permitting that contingent occupancy that limited separateness and independent mobility which provide manageable manipulate ‘pieces’ for theory and practice to play with while they also firmly place all such pieces on a continuous world-board permit their behaviour and surroundings to be appropriately extrapolated and enable the players to confront each other on a common field or territory. The great media and their diversified occupancy are indeed perfectly tailored to suit the emergence of that enquiry that constructive spontaneity that zestful sparring and co-operation and that final victorious self-consciousness and self-enjoyment in which rational social mind consists.
If we now turn to the multiple antinomies of totalism and mechanism of physical intentionalism and its reductivist negation of the interior-exterior double-aspect view which entirely understandable in its living imaginative use breaks up into various surd dualisms on the jagged rocks of ‘clear ideas’ as well as all the epistemological antinomies according to which the manner in which nature regularly meets our cognitive anticipations is at one moment a thing entirely likely and understandable while at another time it assumes the character of a perpetual uncovenanted miracle-all these antinomies show some signs of dissolving when we cease to look for a factor or factors responsible for the sides of the conflict and their coming together or cease to think in terms of existences which underlie other existences and manifestations and begin instead to think in terms of an interior programme in the light of which all these disparate things have a function and a role. If we follow this line we can see in the tendencies towards mere inertia mechanism and simple location which characterize phenomenal nature throughout the necessary foil to the unitive teleological intentional inward-pointing and inward-outward-accommodating tendencies which are equally necessary to it. It is we may say precisely in overcoming mere inertia etc. that organic being exists and were the problems of self-maintenance self-replenishment adjustment to environmental resistances reproductive continuity etc. removed there could be no life as we know it. Inert non-living matter must not however be thought to be used organically by some outside agency spiritual or otherwise but as merely fulfilling its own role when with creaks and groans it gets impressed into organic service. It is life in the sense of a goal of actual livingness which here has the explanatory priority not any bodily or spiritual agency which either has or can impart life. In the same way the complex behaviour of bodily realities in the scientific situation their initial coy opacity their flouting of countless approaches and their sudden astonishing yielding to others their ready breakdown when subjected to questions and tests often based on models and formulae of childlike simplicity as well as their final teasing retention of residual mysteries which may demand total reorientations when all seemed lucid and secure: all these facts show bodies as having an intrinsic destiny a making-towards the manipulations of the laboratory and the lucidities of the scientific paper and with exactly the right amount of resistance and friction that will ensure the strength and perpetuity of the scientific endeavour. If they were insolubly enigmatic or carried their secrets on their faces there could be no science and it is as inherently oriented towards the possibility of science that they do neither. Scientists may not like to confess these articles of faith but they unhesitatingly act on them. To say all this is emphatically not to say that anything thus oriented things whether a conscious divine scientist or an unconscious scientist immanent in nature: this would in fact replace radical teleology by a form of causality. It is only to say that bodies are inherently accommodated to the scientific process even if they have to wait for millennia to fulfil their role in it perhaps vainly and just as it is the complementary role of other minded bodies perhaps frustratedly to be witnesses experimenters and theorists in such a process. Science in short is no peripheral function of the natural world but its ‘sacrament of the altar’ a proceeding more central to it than say entropy. The same can be argued to hold mutatis mutandis of the practical transformation of the world to suit rational convenience and its aesthetic transformation to minister to rational delight. What we are saying has of course its own profound absurdities but the absurdities we are only too ready to see in it are largely its mere difference from the laughably absurd ways of viewing things which were abolished in our first series of lectures. The unprompted hurrying of disparate things towards a common co-operative assignation which like Mohammed's coffin hangs suspended over them in the ether of the unrealized may have its own incredibility but this is as nothing compared with the incredibility of the dualisms and pluralisms studied in our previous series.
If we now turn to the strange problems of accessibility and inaccessibility knowability and total unknowability which confront us in the relations of an ego to other egos and even in the relations of an ego to itself we are faced with the supreme test for the radical teleology we are considering. We may say that the rational shared life of mind and its capacity for parallax and cross-illumination all stem from the ground-level separateness of individual minds and would be impossible without this. Wittgenstein's famous strictures upon the possibility of a private language may have the imperfectly worked-out character of all his ideas but they stress the need for confirmation from a wholly outside source to give a precious note of authentication to our notions and assertions. We may say that we are greatly set apart in order that bridges of understanding may be built among us this ‘in order that’ not being anything that presupposes ourselves and our apartness nor indeed anything else at all but which totally explains all circumstances of our apart existence as well as their transcendence. The explanation of course goes further than the field of cognition and covers all those forms of co-operative endeavour emotional practical religious etc. which are not so much human rational and spiritual as they are humanity rationality and spirituality themselves. So much at least is the lesson of the great German idealistic classics of which Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre and Hegel's Phänomenologie des Geistes are the greatest. And all the dizzying antinomies of the graspable ungraspability of different egos to one another and even of an ego to itself and again of their total perspicuity not only to themselves but to one another all show up as devices through which our common spiritual life gains and maintains what may be called its ‘transcendental’ character and through which as having this function these devices are themselves made part of this common rational spiritual life itself. It is the open sky and its light which form the inescapable upper zone of our variously partitioned chambers but its being a sky and open depends on those lower partitionings which at its own level vanish.
In the next four lectures we shall try to bring out the logical power and fruitfulness of these essentially Germanic notions the ‘Germanic Theology’ as we may call them only to pass on in the last five lectures to a transcendentalism and a theology which are only marginally Germanic in spirit.
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