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The Realm of Ends or Pluralism and Theism

1907 to 1909
University of St. Andrews

The Realm of Ends: or, Pluralism and Theism contains reprints of the Gifford Lectures that James Ward delivered at the University of St Andrews between 1907 and 1910, though Ward himself considers them to be a sequel to the lecture course he delivered at Aberdeen ten years previously. His aim in this series of lectures is ‘to ascertain what we can know, or reasonably believe, concerning the constitution of the world, interpreted throughout and strictly in terms of Mind’.

Part I, ‘Pluralism’, consists of ten lectures. The first lecture serves as an introduction, discussing the realm of nature—the mechanical aspect of the perceived world in which we live, which was treated at length in the Aberdeen lectures—and the realm of ends—the moral aspect of the world, which is the main subject of this series of lectures. The lecture briefly re-states the argument of the Aberdeen series, and then moves on to a discussion of the method which will be followed in the lectures to come. The second lecture, ‘The One and the Many’, discusses the extent to which a unified view of the world is possible. Concluding that such a view is quite difficult to support, the lecture concludes with a turn towards pluralism, which is continued in the third lecture, entitled ‘Pluralism’. After touching briefly on Leibniz’s Monadology, this lecture describes a pluralistic outlook with various illustrations drawn from economics, bionomics and physionomics.

The fourth lecture, ‘The Contingency in the World’, discusses pluralism in the natural world, ideas of the grotesque and the natural ‘right to live’. The fifth lecture, ‘Evolution as Epigenesis and Equilibriation’, argues that pluralism implies the presence of epigenesis, or ‘creative synthesis’. The sixth lecture, ‘The Pluralistic Goal’, describes the formation of a social unity from a collection of individuals.

The seventh and eighth lectures, ‘The Pluralism of Hegel’ and ‘The Hegelian Unity’, respectively, examine the thought of Hegel, arguing that the assumption of pluralism as a starting point is necessary to his philosophy. The ninth lecture, ‘The Limits of Pluralism’, argues that there must, however, be a supreme unity present at both the upper and lower limits of pluralism, and the tenth lecture, ‘The Difficulties of Pluralism’, examines some of the physical, metaphysical, teleological and cosmological difficulties inherent in the pluralist assumption.

Part II, ‘Theism’, introduces the idea of the Divine as a necessary corrective to the limits and difficulties of a pluralistic system, as highlighted in the last two lectures of Part I. The eleventh lecture, ‘The Idea of Creation’, discusses the structure of the relationship between the singular creator and the pluralistic creation. The twelfth lecture, ‘The Cosmology of Theism’, returns to Leibniz’s Monadology in order to sketch a cosmology that incorporates both pluralism and theism. The project runs into difficulty with the return to epigenesis, which is taken up in the thirteenth lecture, ‘Freedom’. This lecture argues that any attempt at combining pluralism and theism must first reconcile finite freedom with divine foreknowledge. The fourteenth lecture, ‘Freedom and Foreknowledge’, examines the thought of Kant and Schopenhauer on this issue.

The fifteenth lecture, ‘The Problem of Evil and Pessimism’, returns again to Leibniz, this time as a point of departure for a discussion of the challenges posed to theism by the existence of evil. Leibniz’s own solution is judged insufficient for the discussion at hand, as Leibniz was able to begin from a position of certainty in the existence of God, which is not appropriate to the current argument. The sixteenth lecture, ‘The Problem of Evil and Optimism’, takes issue with the notion that happiness is the ultimate end, showing this to lead to a vicious circle. The notion of evolution is returned to. The seventeenth lecture, ‘Moral Evil and Moral Order’, argues that theologies which ignore evolution cannot provide a satisfactory answer to the problem of evil.

The eighteenth lecture, ‘Theories of a Future Life’, turns to a consideration of the possibility of personal continuity in relation to the question of immortality. The nineteenth lecture, ‘Faith and Knowledge’, contends that the moral argument for a future life is a matter of faith, rather than knowledge. After a discussion of the relation between faith and reason, Ward concludes that to embrace faith in that which cannot be proven is, itself, a rational position. Finally, the twentieth lecture, ‘The Realm of Ends’, returns to the very beginning of the lecture series and summarises the whole of Ward’s argument.

  • Alana Howard, University of Glasgow