Elements of Metaphysics, Part I.

By A. E. Taylor

πατρὶς δὴ ἡμιν ὅθενπερ ἤλθομεν καὶ πατὴρ ἐκει

To F. H. Bradley
In heartfelt acknowledgment of all that his example and his writings
have been to the men of my generation.






Preface

Verus philosophus est amator Dei. – Augustine

Considerate la vostra semenza. – Dante

These volumes contain the Gifford Lectures given in the University of St. Andrews in the sessions of 1926-27 and 1927-28 substantially as they were delivered, though I have restored a number of sentences and short passages which had, for the sake of brevity, to be omitted in the actual delivery, and have, in several cases, printed as a single whole what had, in delivery, to be subdivided into two lectures. The unstudied, even occasionally conversational, style naturally employed in addressing an audience of recent colleagues and personal friends I have thought proper for retention in the published volumes; the material could not have been systematically recast in a severer literary form without an expenditure of time impossible to one still fully engaged in actual teaching work.

I trust that the title I have, with some misgivings, adopted will mislead no one. It is meant to indicate two things — that the attitude assumed on the great ultimate problems discussed avowedly involves a “venture of faith,” and that, as I think, the venture should be found natural by anyone who comes to these problems with the special presuppositions of a moralist. I shall not, I hope, be thought capable of the impertinence of asking my readers to be interested in an intimate personal Confessio Fidei, even if I had that vanity, I should also, I trust, have the sense to understand that the terms of Lord Gifford’s bequest preclude a Gifford lecturer from using his position as an opportunity for propaganda on behalf of his own Privatmeinungen.

But for an Appendix, a Supplementary Note to one chapter of the first volume, and a number of footnotes, the text stands as it was originally written. This will explain why no notice has been taken of Dr. Whitehead’s Process and Reality and other valuable works published since the end of 1927. It should be mentioned that, for the same reason, the criticisms passed in several places on views of the late Dr. McTaggart were necessarily written before the publication of the second volume of The Nature of Existence, and that allowance must be made for the fact.

I have done my best to indicate the writers to whom I am conscious of serious obligations by the references appended in my footnotes. But I should like to make a further special acknowledgment of the great debt I owe to four writers in particular — Dr. Whitehead, the late Baron von Hügel, Dr. Edwyn Bevan, and Professor C. C. J. Webb. To Professor Webb’s work I should have owed even more than I do if I had not deferred making acquaintance with the volume of Studies in the Relations of God and Man until my own manuscript was out of my hands.

I am specially under an obligation to my friend and colleague Mr. A. C. A. Rainer, Shaw Fellow in the University of Edinburgh, for valuable help in proofreading and the preparation of an Index of Proper Names for each volume. I trust the analytical synopses prefixed to the volumes have made the addition of an index of subjects superfluous.

I take the opportunity to explain that while references to Kant’s works in general are to the volume and page of Hartenstein’s second edition, the Dialectic of Pure Reason is cited by the pages of the original edition (first or second as the case may be). Two abbreviations have been occasionally used, E.R.E. for Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, and E.M.L. for English Men of Letters Series.

A. E. T.
Edinburgh, May 1930


I take the opportunity afforded by this reprint of correcting a number of small errors of the Press, due to my own defects as a proof-reader, with many thanks to the friends who have helped me to discover them. I would also here recant, or qualify, the remark made abut the late F. W. H. Myers on page 225. On reexamination, I find I have exaggerated the rarity of the references to God in Human Personality, and I have been assured by those who have the best right to speak that their comparative fewness and their vagueness do not represent the writer’s deepest personal convictions. I hasten to accept the correction and to express my regret for any misconception. With respect to a similar qualification of certain references to Dr. Gore see the Prefactory Note to Series II.

A. E. T.
May 1931


Preface to the Seventh Edition

It is disturbing as well as gratifying to a writer on Metaphysics that there should be a demand for a work he published more than twenty years ago. One cannot but be grateful for a demand which seems to prove that one’s book still meets a real need, but one would have to be unusually vain not to be even more distressed than gratified. The difficulty arises from two distinct causes. In the first place, in Metaphysics as in all other sciences, a lapse of twenty years inevitably involves a certain shifting of perspective. The fundamental questions, no doubt, remain the same from one age to another; the ultimately radically divergent answers to the metaphysical problem thus remain also in principle the same. But the point of view from which the problems are attacked varies with age. Some of the immediate issues which were specially interesting in the years 1900-1903 have become antiquated in 1924, and new issues have been raised which could not have been contemplated when the present volume was first written. In particular, the philosophical questions suggested by the present state of the great positive sciences of physics, chemistry, and biology are, in many ways different from those which were occupying our minds as recently as the opening of the century, and much which was then of momentary concern to the philosopher has now lost its actuality. In the second place — and this is a still more important consideration — Metaphysics, because it is an attempt to find the right intellectual attitude towards |xii| ultimate reality, is necessarily a more intimate and personal thing than any other human study. A good work on Metaphysics, even more than a good book on any other department of human thought, ought to be one into which the author has put the whole of himself. Now a man’s self as he approaches his middle fifties ought to be different from his self in his early thirties in two ways: It should be richer and at the same time more simplified, and if his particular way of expressing himself is thinking and writing about Metaphysics, this double difference ought to make itself felt, in great and small, throughout his treatment of the subject. It would be impossible for him to be content with any mere periodical “bringing up to date” of his earlier work.


“Metaphysics, because it is an attempt to find the right intellectual attitude towards ultimate reality, is necessarily a more intimate and personal thing
than any other human study.”


For a goodly number of years, therefore, I have cherished the desire to rewrite the whole of the present book from start to finish. That desire I have reluctantly been driven, for the present, to relinquish, for the following reasons. The part of the book which deals with problems directly suggested by the positive sciences could only be made what it ought to be by one who is thoroughly at home with the issues raised by the scientific work of such men as, to mention only one or two prominent names, Rutherford, Planck, Niels Bohr, Weyl, Van t’Hoff, Mendel. But most of this work is so recent in date that it is quite impossible for those of us whose general education was got in the last decades of the nineteenth century ever to feel ourselves altogether at home with the leading ideas which underlie it. What matters still more is that though one would be only too glad to bring whatever one may have gained either in richness or in simplification of personality during more than twenty years of life to bear on the whole substance of one’s earlier work, the thing can only be done by an intense concentration and meditation impossible to a man who is still immersed in the business of active teaching. To do it by halves, patching |xiii| one’s original book here and there with the results of still unfinished reflection, is to incur the grave danger of correcting a detected error in one direction by a graver error in the other.

I am therefore deeply indebted to the courtesy of my publishers for the opportunity of making in this Preface one or two remarks indicative of the points of principle importance on which, if I were now writing this book for the first time, I should like to lay more emphasis than I actually did twenty and odd years ago. If the volume is read in the light of these remarks, it will still, no doubt, contain a great deal of error, as any work on Metaphysics must, but it will at least express a view of reality which is, whatever its defects, as near the truth as I feel myself able to get.

The one thing of all others I have had it long on my conscience to say, is that I have always wished my book to be understood in a definitely theistic, indeed in a definitely Christian sense. I have never disguised it from myself when I speak of the “Absolute” I mean by the word precisely that simple, absolutely transcendent, source of all things which the great Christian scholastics call God. I would add that when, following the tradition of my own teachers, I speak of the “creatures” as “appearances” of the Absolute, I mean by this precisely what St. Thomas, for example, meant by the doctrine that they have being by “participation.” I fear I may have at times fallen by inadvertence into statements which, if pressed, would suggest what is known as a doctrine of “immanentism.” If I have done so, it has been by an oversight, and of every such slip I can now only say indictum volo. When the book was written I could not anticipate such developments as the “philosophies” of Croce and Gentile. Had they been actual for the English reader in 1903, I think it probably that, to avoid misunderstandings, I should have |xiv| avoided such an expression as “appearances” altogether, and spoken frankly of “creatures.” Even as it was, the protest against Monism as a name for the type of theory advocated in these pages was intended to express dissent from every “immanentist” philosophy of the ἓν καὶ παν type.


“I have always wished my book to be understood in a definitely theistic,
indeed in a definitely Christian sense.”


Even the name “Idealism,” it will be noted, was only retained as a protest against all those forms of outré Realism which represent mind as something which merely happens to be included among the constituents of the “universe,” but might, for all we can see, have been absent without making any difference to the rest. The use of the name was intended to affirm, which I would still affirm equally strongly, the principle that the infinitus intellectus Dei is the absolute prius of the whole world of “Nature.” A Thomist, if I should have any such among my readers, will readily see that I conceive of the relation of that intellectus to our own Augustinian rather than on Thomist lines, but he will also see that the Idealism I defend has nothing of importance in common with that which he regards it as his duty to combat. On all these ultimate issues I would now desire that my utterances may be judged in the light of the maturer expression of what I feel to be at bottom the same view by Professor Bernardino Varisco in his two great works, I Massimi Problemi and Conosci Te Stesso,1 and that my one-sidedness and deficiencies may be corrected by the aid of Professor James Ward’s noble series of volumes, Naturalism and Agnosticism, The Realm of Ends, Psychological Principles. In view of the misapprehensions, as I must think them, to which many of Mr. Bradley’s statements of his views have given rise, I wish to say that my sense of all I owe him, even when I feel constrained to differ from him, is, if anything, deeper now than it was in 1903.

If the book were now to be written for the first time, |xv| I should, of course, have to take serious account of the kind of “logical pluralism” so ably advocated by Dr. G. E. Moore, and — in one of his many phases — by Mr Bertrand Russell. As it is, I may perhaps be allowed to refer here to what I have written briefly about this type of philosophy in Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. XII. (art. Theism). Of the wilder varieties of “new realism” which have made some stir in the last fifteen or twenty years I do not suppose I should have thought it necessary to say anything at all.

Were it possible for me, as I do not think it is, profitably to rewrite the division of the book which deals with “Cosmology,” I should, of course, have to take come account of the latest theories of physicists, chemists and biologists about the structure of bodies and the determining factors in organic evolution, but I do not believe that the result would be of any very fundamental modifications in the main principles which I have defended. I may perhaps say that of recent works on such subjects, those which I should have more particularly tried to assimilate would have been Dr. A. N. Whitehead’s two books, The Principles of Natural Knowledge and the Concept of Nature, and M. Meyerson’s impressive volumes on L’Explication dans les Sciences (Paris, 1921). I would take this opportunity of directing my readers to all three. With all its defects, I trust the reissuing of my book may be, in the words of my old school motto, ad gloriam Dei Optimi Maximi, in usum ecclesias et reipublicae.

A.E.T.
St. Andrews
February 1924


1^ English versions, The Great Problems and Know Thyself. London: George Allen.

Top ↑


Book I. General Notions






Chapter I. The Problem of the Metaphysician

§ 1. It is always difficult, in treating of any branch of knowledge, to put before the beginner a correct preliminary notion of the nature and scope of the study to which he is to be introduced, but the difficulty is exceptionally great in the case of the body of investigations traditionally known as Metaphysics.1


“The generality and simplicity of the metaphysical problem
make it difficult to define the study.”


The questions which the science seeks to answer are, indeed, in principle of the simplest and most familiar kind, but it is their very simplicity and familiarity |2| which constitute the chief difficulty of the subject. We are naturally slow to admit that there is anything we do not understand in terms and ideas which we are constantly using, not only in the special sciences, but in our non-systematised everyday thought and language about the course of the world. Hence, when the metaphysician begins to ask troublesome questions about the meaning and validity of these common and familiar notions, ordinary practical men, and even intelligent students of the special sciences, are apt to complain that he is wasting his time by raising idle and uncalled-for difficulties about the self-evident. Consequently the writer on Metaphysics is almost inevitably compelled to begin by rebutting the natural and current prejudice which regards his science as non-existent and its problems as illusory. The full vindication of metaphysical inquiry from this charge of futility can only be furnished by such a systematic examination of the actual problems of the study as will be attempted, in outline, in the succeeding chapters of this work. All that can be done in an Introduction is to present such a general description of the kind of questions to be subsequently discussed, and their relation to the more special problems of the various sciences, as may incline the reader to give an impartial hearing to what is to follow.


“The problem is suggested by the presence of contradictions
in ordinary experience.”


§ 2. The course of our ordinary experience, as well as our education in the rudiments of the sciences, has made us all familiar with the distinction between what really is or exists and what merely appears to be. There is no opposition more thoroughly enshrined in the language and literature of civilised races than the contrast of seeming with reality, of substance with show. We come upon it alike in our study of the processes of nature and our experience of human character and purpose. Thus we contrast the seeming stability of the earth with its real motion, the seeming continuity and sameness of a lump of solid matter with the real discontinuity and variety of its chemical constituents, the seeming friendliness of the hypocritical self-seeker with his real indifference to our welfare. In all these cases the motive which leads us to make the distinction is the same, namely, the necessity to escape from the admission of a contradiction in experience. So long as our various direct perceptions are not felt to conflict with one another, we readily accept them all as equally real and valid, and no question arises as to their relative truth or falsehood. Were all our perceptions of this kind, there would be no need for |3| the correction, by subsequent reflection, of our first immediate impressions about the nature of ourselves and the world; error would be a term of no meaning for us, and science would have no existence. But when two immediate perceptions, both apparently equally authenticated by our senses, stand in direct conflict with one another,2 we cannot, without doing violence to the fundamental law of rational thinking, regard both as equally and in the same sense true. Unless we abandon once for all the attempt to reconcile the course of our experience with the demand of our intellect for consistency in thinking, we are driven to make a momentous distinction. We have to recognise that things are not always what they seem to be; what appears to us is, sometimes at any rate, not real, and what really is does not always appear. Of our two conflicting perceptions, only one at best can be a correct representation of the real course of things; one of them at least, and possibly both, must be mere seeming or appearance, and we are thus cast upon the problem which every science tries, in its own sphere and its own way, to solve: what part of our conceptions about the world gives us reality and what part only appearance?3 It is because of the importance of these puzzles of immediate perception as stimulating to such scientific reflection that Plato and Aristotle called philosophy the child of Wonder, and it is because the processes of change present them in a peculiarly striking form that the problem of change has always been a central one in Metaphysics.


“By making a distinction between reality and appearance the sciences remove some of these contradictions, but themselves lead to further difficulties
of the same sort; hence the need for systematic inquiry into the meaning
of the distinction between the real and the apparent,
and the general character of reality as such.”


§ 3. The attempt to harmonise by reflection the contradictions which beset immediate perception in all its forms is one which is not confined to a single science; the common task of all sciences is to say what, in some special department and for special purposes, must be taken as reality and what as mere appearance, and, by degrading the contradictory to the level of appearance, to satisfy the instinctive demand of our intellect for coherency and consistency of thought. But the development of scientific reflection itself in its turn, while it solves some of our difficulties, is constantly giving |4| rise to fresh perplexities of a higher order. Our scientific principles themselves frequently seem to present us with contradictions of a peculiarly distressing kind. Thus we find ourselves forced in some of our geometrical reasonings to treat a curve as absolutely continuous, in others to regard it as made up of a number of points. Or, again, we are alternately compelled to regard the particles of matter as inert and only capable of being moved by impact from without, and yet again as endowed with indwelling “central forces.” Both the opposing views, in such a case, clearly cannot be ultimately true, and we are therefore compelled either to give up the effort to think consistently, or to face the question. Is either view ultimately true, and if so, which? Again, the principles of one branch of study may appear to contradict those of another. For instance, the absolute determination of every movement by a series of antecedent movements which we assume as a principle in our mechanical science, appears, at least, to conflict with the freedom of human choice and reality of human purpose which are fundamental facts for the moralist and the historian; and we have thus once more to ask, which of the two, mechanical necessity or intelligent freedom, is the reality and which the mere appearance? Finally, the results of our scientific reflection sometimes seem to be in violent disagreement with our deepest and most characteristic aspirations and purposes, and we cannot avoid the question, which of the two have the better title to credit as witnesses to the inmost nature of reality?

In all these cases of perplexity there are, short of the refusal to think about our difficulties at all, only two courses open to us. We may answer the question at haphazard and as it suits our momentary caprice, or we may try to answer it on an intelligible principle. If we choose the second course, then clearly before we formulate our principle we must undertake a systematic and impartial inquiry as to what we really mean by the familiar distinction between “seems” and “is,” that is to say, a scientific inquiry into the general characteristics by which reality or real being is distinguished from mere appearance, not in some one special sphere of study, but universally. Now, such an inquiry into the general character of reality, as opposed to more or less unreal appearance, is precisely what is meant by Metaphysics. Metaphysics sets itself, more systematically and universally than any other science, to ask what, after all, is meant by being real, and to what degree our various |5| scientific and non-scientific theories about the world are in harmony with the universal characteristics of real existence. Hence Metaphysics has been called “an attempt to become aware of and to doubt all preconceptions”; and again, “an unusually resolute effort to think consistently.” As we cannot, so long as we allow ourselves to think at all, avoid asking these questions as to what “is” and what only “seems,” it is clear that the attempt to dispense with metaphysical speculation altogether would be futile. We have really no choice whether we shall form metaphysical hypotheses or not, only the choice whether we shall do so consciously and in accord with some intelligible principle, or unconsciously and at random.


“Metaphysics, as an inquiry into the ultimate meaning of ‘reality,’ is akin to poetry and religion, but differs from them in its scientific character, from the mathematical and experimental sciences in its method, from common scepticism in the critical nature of its methods as well as in its positive purpose.”

§ 4. Our preliminary account of the general character of the metaphysician’s problem will enable us to distinguish Metaphysics from some other closely related forms of human thought, and to give it at least a provisional place in the general scheme of knowledge, (a) Clearly, Metaphysics, as an inquiry into the meaning of reality, will have some affinity with religion as well as with imaginative literature, both of which aim at getting behind mere appearances and interpreting the reality which lies beneath them. In one important respect its relation to both is closer than that of any other department of knowledge, — inasmuch as it, like them, is directly concerned with ultimate reality, whereas the special sciences deal each with some one particular aspect of things, and avowedly leave all ultimate questions on one side. Where it differs from both is in its spirit and method. Unlike religion and imaginative literature. Metaphysics deals with the ultimate problems of existence in a purely scientific spirit; its object is intellectual satisfaction, and its method is not one of appeal to immediate intuition or unanalysed feeling, but of the critical and systematic analysis of our conceptions.


Thus it clearly belongs, in virtue of its spirit and method, to the realm of science. (b) Yet it differs widely in method from the other types of science with which most of us are more familiar. It differs from the mathematical |6| sciences in being non-quantitative and non-numerical in its methods. For we cannot employ the numerical and quantitative methods of Mathematics except on things and processes which admit of measurement, or, at least, of enumeration, and it is for Metaphysics itself, in the course of its investigations, to decide whether what is ultimately real, or any part of it, is numerical or quantitative, and if so, in what sense. It differs, again, from the experimental sciences in that, like Logic and Ethics, it does nothing to increase the stock of our knowledge of particular facts or events, but merely discusses the way in which facts or events are to be interpreted if we wish to think consistently. Its question is not what in detail we must regard as the reality of any special set of processes, but what are the general conditions to which all reality, as such, conforms. (Just in the same way, it will be remembered, Logic does not discuss the worth of the evidence for particular scientific theories, but the general conditions to which evidence must conform if it is to prove its conclusion.) Hence Aristotle correctly called Metaphysics a science of being qua being, ὂντα ᾖ ὂντα, (as opposed, for instance, to Mathematics, which only studies existence in so far as it is quantitative or numerical).

Again, as an attempt to discover and get rid of baseless preconceptions about reality. Metaphysics may, in a sense, be said to be “sceptical.” But it differs profoundly from vulgar scepticism both in its method and in its moral purpose. The method of vulgar scepticism is dogmatic, — it takes it for granted without inquiry that two perceptions or two speculative principles which conflict with one another must be equally false. Because such contradictions can be detected in all fields of knowledge and speculation, the sceptic dogmatically assumes that there is no means of getting behind these contradictory appearances to a coherent reality. For the metaphysician, on the contrary, the assumption that the puzzles of experience are insoluble and the contradictions in our knowledge irreconcilable is itself just one of those preconceptions which it is the business of his study to investigate and test. Until after critical examination, he refuses to pronounce which of the conflicting views is true, or, supposing both false, whether one may not be nearer the truth than the other. If he does not assume that truth can be got and reality known by our human faculties, he does at any rate assume that it is worth our while to make the attempt, and that nothing but the issue can decide as to its chances of success. Again, the metaphysician differs from the sceptic in respect of moral purpose. Both in a sense preach the duty of a “suspense of judgment” in the face of ultimate problems. The difference is that the sceptic treats “suspense,” and the accompanying mental indolence, as an end in itself; the metaphysician regards it as a mere preliminary to his final object, the attainment of determinate truth.


“The study is difficult (a) because of the generality of its problems, (b) and because we cannot employ diagrams or physical experiments.”


§ 5. We can now see some of the reasons which make |7| the science of Metaphysics a peculiarly difficult branch of study. It is difficult, in the first place, from the very simplicity and generality of its problems. There is a general conviction that every science, if it is to be anything more than a body of disputes about mere words, must deal with some definite subject-matter, and it is not easy to say precisely what is the subject dealt with by the metaphysician. In a certain sense this difficulty can only be met by admitting it; it is true, as we have already seen, that Metaphysics deals in some way with everything; thus it is quite right to say that you cannot specify any particular class of objects as its exclusive subject-matter. This must not, however, be understood to mean that Metaphysics is another name for the whole body of the sciences. What it does mean is that precisely because the distinction between the real and the apparent affects every department of our knowledge and enters into every one of the special sciences, the general problem as to the meaning of this distinction and the principle on which it rests cannot be dealt with by any one special science, but must form the subject of an independent inquiry. The parallel with Logic may perhaps help to make this point clearer. It is just because the principles of reasoning and the rules of evidence are, in the last resort, the same for all the sciences, that they have to be made themselves the subject of a separate investigation. Logic, like Metaphysics, deals with everything, not in the sense of being another name for the whole of our knowledge, but in the sense that it, unlike the special sciences, attacks a problem which confronts us in every exercise of our thought. The question of the difference between the two sciences will be discussed in a later section of this chapter.

There are two other minor sources of difficulty, arising out of the universality of the metaphysical problem, which ought perhaps to be mentioned, as they present a serious obstacle to the study of Metaphysics by minds of a certain stamp. In Metaphysics we have no such helps to the imagination as the figures and diagrams which are so useful in many branches of Mathematics; and again, we are, by the nature of the problem, entirely cut off from the aid of physical experiment. All our results have to be reached by the unassisted efforts of thought in the strictest sense of the word, that is, by the rigid and systematic mental analysis of conceptions. Thus Metaphysics stands alone among the sciences, or alone with Logic, in the demand it makes on the student’s capacity for sheer hard continuous thought. |8| This may help to explain why men who are capable of excellent work in the domain of mathematical or experimental science sometimes prove incompetent in Metaphysics; and again, why eminent metaphysical ability does not always make its possessor a sound judge of the results and methods of the other sciences.


“The objection that Metaphysics is an impossibility may be shown in all its forms to rest upon self-contradictory assumptions of a metaphysical kind.”


§ 6. It is now time to consider one or two objections which are very commonly urged against the prosecution of metaphysical studies. It is often asserted, either that (1) such a science is, in its very nature, an impossibility; or (2) that, if possible, it is useless and superfluous, since the other sciences together with the body of our practical experience give us all the truth we need; or, again, (3) that at any rate the science is essentially unprogressive, and that all that can be said about its problems has been said long ago. Now, if any of these popular objections are really sound, it must clearly be a waste of time to study Metaphysics, and we are therefore bound to discuss their force before we proceed any further.

(1) To the objection that a science of Metaphysics is, from the nature of the case, impossible, it would be in principle correct to reply that, as the proverb says, “You never can tell till you try,” and that few, if any, of those who urge this objection most loudly have ever seriously made the trial. If any one thinks the task not worth his while, he is not called on to attempt it; but his opinion gives him no special claim to sit in judgment on those who think differently of the matter. Still, the anti-metaphysical prejudice is so common, and appears in so many different forms, that it is necessary to exhibit its groundlessness rather more in detail.


“Metaphysics stands alone among the sciences, or alone with Logic, in the demand it makes on the student’s capacity for sheer hard continuous thought.”


(a) It is sometimes maintained that Metaphysics is an impossibility because the metaphysician’s problems, in their own nature, admit of no solution. To a meaningless question, of course, there can be no intelligible answer, and it is occasionally asserted, and often insinuated, that the questions of Metaphysics are of this kind. But to call the metaphysician’s question a senseless one is as much as to say that there is no meaning in the distinction, which we are all constantly making, between the real and the apparent. If there is any meaning at all in the distinction, it is clearly a necessary as well as a proper question precisely by what marks the one may be distinguished from the other. Our right to raise this question can in fairness only be challenged by an opponent who is prepared to maintain that the contradictions which lead us to make the distinction may themselves be the |9| ultimate truth about things. Now, whether this view is defensible or not, it is clearly not one which we have the right to assume without examination as self-evident; it is itself a metaphysical theory of first principles, and would have to be defended, if at all, by an elaborate metaphysical analysis of the meaning of the concepts “truth” and “reality.” Again, the objection, if valid, would tell as much against experimental and mathematical science as against Metaphysics. If the self-contradictory can be true, there is no rational ground for preferring a coherent scientific theory of the world to the wildest dreams of superstition or insanity. Thus we have no escape from the following dilemma. Either there is no rational foundation at all for the distinction between reality and appearance, and then all science is an illusion, or there is a rational foundation for it, and then we are logically bound to inquire into the principle of the distinction, and thus to face the problems of Metaphysics.4

(b) What is essentially the same objection is sometimes put in the following form. Metaphysics, it is said, can have no place in the scheme of human knowledge, because all intelligible questions which we can ask about reality must fall within the province of one or other of the “sciences.” There are no facts with which some one or other of the sciences does not deal, and there is therefore no room for a series of “metaphysical” inquiries over and above those inquiries which constitute the various sciences. Where there are facts to investigate and intelligible questions to be put, we are, it is contended, in the domain of “science”; where there are none, there can be no knowledge.


“To call the metaphysician’s question a senseless one is as much as to say that there is no meaning in the distinction, which we are all constantly making, between the real and the apparent.”


Plausible as this argument can be made to appear, it is easy to see that it is fallacious. From the point of view of pure Logic it manifestly contains a flagrant fallacy of petitio principii. For it simply assumes that there is no “science,” in the most universal acceptation of the term — i.e. no body of reasoned truth — besides those experimental sciences which have for their object the accumulation and systematisation of facts, and this is the very point at issue between the metaphysician and his critics. What the metaphysician asserts is not that there are facts with which the various special branches of experimental science cannot deal, but that there are questions which can be and ought to be raised about the facts with which they do deal other than those which experimental inquiry can solve. Leaving it entirely to the special sciences to tell us what in particular are the true |10| facts about any given part of the world’s course, he contends that we still have to ask the more general question, what we mean by “real” and “fact,” and how in general the “real” is to be distinguished from the unreal. To denounce the raising of this question as an attempt to exclude certain events and processes from the “province of science,” is simply to misrepresent the issue at stake. Incidentally it may be added, the objection reveals a serious misunderstanding of the true principle of distinction between different sciences. The various sciences differ primarily, not as dealing with different parts of the world of reality, but as dealing with the whole of it so far as it can be brought under different aspects. They are different, not because they deal with different sets of facts, but because they look at the facts from different points of view. Thus it would be quite wrong to suppose that the difference between, e.g., Physics, Physiology, and Psychology, is primarily that each studies a different group of facts. The facts studied may in great part be the same; it is the point of view from which they are regarded by which each of the three sciences is distinguished from the others. Thus every voluntary movement may be looked at either as a link in a series of displacements of mass-particles (Physics), as a combination of muscular contractions initiated from a centre in the cortex of the brain (Physiology), or as a step to the satisfaction of a felt want (Psychology). So Metaphysics does not profess to deal with a certain group of facts lying outside the province of the “sciences,” but to deal with the same facts which form that province from a point of view which is not that of the experimental sciences. Its claim to do so can only be overthrown by proving what the criticism we are considering assumes, that there is no intelligible way of looking at the facts besides that of experimental science.


“We must ask what we mean by ‘real’ and ‘fact,’ and how in general the ‘real’ is to be distinguished from the unreal.”


(c) More commonly still the intrinsic intelligibility of the metaphysician’s problem is admitted, but our power to solve it denied. There may be, it is said, realities which are more than mere appearance, but at any rate with our human faculties we can know nothing of them. All our knowledge is strictly limited to appearances, or, as they are often called, phenomena.5 What lies behind them is completely inaccessible |11| to us, and it is loss of time to speculate about its nature. We must therefore content ourselves with the discovery of general laws or uniformities of the interconnection of phenomena, and dismiss the problem of their real ground as insoluble. This doctrine, technically known as Phenomenalism, enjoys at the present time a widespread popularity, which is historically very largely due to an imperfect assimilation of the negative element in the philosophy of Kant. Its merits as a philosophical theory we may leave for later consideration; at present we are only concerned with it as the alleged ground of objection against the possibility of a science of Metaphysics. As such it has really no cogency whatever. Not only do the supporters of the doctrine constantly contradict their own cardinal assumption (as, for instance, when they combine with the assertion that we can know nothing about ultimate reality, such assertions as that it is a certain and ultimate truth that all “phenomena” are connected by general laws, or that “the course of nature is, without exception, uniform”), but the assumption itself is self-contradictory. The very statement that “we know only phenomena” has no meaning unless we know at least enough about ultimate realities to be sure that they are unknowable. The phenomenalist is committed to the recognition of at least one proposition as an absolute and ultimate truth, namely, the proposition, “I know that whatever I know is mere appearance.” And this proposition itself, whatever we may think of its value as a contribution to Philosophy, is a positive theory as to first principles the truth or falsity of which is a proper subject for metaphysical investigation. Thus the arguments by which it has been sought to demonstrate the impossibility of Metaphysics themselves afford unimpeachable evidence of the necessity for the scientific examination of the metaphysical problem.6


“The minor objections that, if possible, the science is superfluous, or at least stationary, may be met with equal ease.”


§ 7. With the other two anti-metaphysical contentions referred to at the beginning of the last section we may deal much more briefly. (2) To the objector who maintains that Metaphysics, if possible, still is useless, because the sciences and the practical experience of life between them already supply us with a coherent theory of the world, devoid of contradictions, we may reply: (a) The fact is doubtful. For, whatever may be said by the popularisers of science when they are engaged in composing metaphysical theories for the multitude, the best representatives of every special branch |12| of mathematical and experimental science seem absolutely agreed that ultimate questions as to first principles are outside the scope of their sciences. The scope of every science, they are careful to remind us, is defined by certain initial assumptions, and what does not fall under those assumptions must be treated by the science in question as non-existent. Thus Mathematics is in principle restricted to dealing with the problems of number and quantity; whether there are realities which are in their own nature non-numerical and non-quantitative7 or not, the mathematician, as mathematician, is not called upon to pronounce; if there are such realities, his science is by its initial assumptions debarred from knowing anything of them. So again with Physics; even if reduced to pure Kinematics, it deals only with displacements involving the dimensions of length and time, and has no means of ascertaining whether or not these dimensions are exhibited by all realities.


“A problem is suggested by the presence of contradictions
in ordinary experience.”


The notion that the various sciences of themselves supply us with a body of information about ultimate reality is thus, for good reasons, rejected by their soundest exponents, who indeed are usually so impressed with the opposite conviction as to be prejudiced in favour of the belief that the ultimately real is unknowable.

(b) Again, as we have already seen, the results of physical science, and the beliefs and aspirations which arise in the course of practical experience and take shape in the teachings of poetry and religion, often appear to be in sharp antagonism. “Science” frequently seems to point in one direction, our deepest ethical and religious experience in another. We cannot avoid asking whether the contradiction is only apparent or, supposing it real, what degree of authority belongs to each of the conflicting influences. And, apart from a serious study of Metaphysics, this question cannot be answered.

(c) Even on the most favourable supposition, that there is no such contradiction, but that science and practical experience together afford a single ultimately coherent theory of the world, it is only after we have ascertained the general characteristics of ultimate reality, and satisfied ourselves by careful analysis that reality, as conceived in our sciences, possesses those characteristics, that we have the right to pronounce our theory finally true. If Metaphysics should turn out in the end to present no fresh view as to the nature of the real, but only to confirm an old one, we should still, as |13| metaphysicians, have the advantage of knowing where we were previously only entitled to conjecture.

(3) The charge of unprogressiveness often brought against our science is easily disproved by careful study of the History of Philosophy. The problems of the metaphysician are no doubt, in a sense, always the same; but this is equally true of the problems of any other science. The methods by which the problems are attacked and the adequacy of the solutions they receive vary, from age to age, in close correspondence with the general development of science. Every great metaphysical conception has exercised its influence on the general history of science, and, in return, every important movement in science has affected the development of Metaphysics. Thus the revived interest in mechanical science, and the great progress made in that branch of knowledge which is so characteristic of the seventeenth century, more than anything else determined the philosophical method and results of Descartes; the Metaphysics of Leibnitz were profoundly affected by such scientific influences as the invention of the calculus, the recognition of the importance of vis viva in dynamics, the contemporary discoveries of Leuwenhoeck in embryology; while, to come to our own time, the metaphysical speculation of the last half-century has constantly been revolving round the two great scientific ideas of the conservation of energy and the origin of species by gradual differentiation. The metaphysician could not if he would, and would not if he could, escape the duty of estimating the bearing of the great scientific theories of his time upon our ultimate conceptions of the nature of the world as a whole. Every fundamental advance in science thus calls for a restatement and reconsideration of the old metaphysical problems in the light of the new discovery.8


“Metaphysics is partly akin to the mystical tendency, but differs from mysticism in virtue of its positive interest in the world of appearances,
as well as by its scientific method.”


§ 8. This introductory chapter is perhaps the proper place for a word on the relation of Metaphysics to the widely diffused mental tendency known as Mysticism.9 Inasmuch as the fundamental aim of the mystic is to penetrate behind the veil of appearance to some ultimate and abiding reality, there is manifestly a close community of purpose between him and the metaphysician. But their diversity of method is no less marked than their partial community of purpose. |14| Once in touch with his reality, wherever he may find it, the mere mystic has no longer any interest in the world of appearance. Appearance as such is for him merely the untrue and ultimately non-existent, and the peculiar emotion which he derives from his contemplation of the real depends for its special quality on an ever-present sense of the contrast between the abiding being of the reality and the non-entity of the appearances. Thus the merely mystical attitude towards appearance is purely negative. The metaphysician, on the contrary, has only half completed his task when he has, by whatever method, ascertained the general character of the real as opposed to the merely apparent. It still remains for him to re-examine the realm of appearance itself in the light of his theory of reality, to ascertain the relative truth which partial and imperfect conceptions of the world’s nature contain, and to arrange the various appearances in the order of their varying approximation to truth. He must show not only what are the marks of reality, and why certain things which are popularly accepted as real must, for Philosophy, be degraded to the rank of appearance, but also how far each appearance succeeds in revealing the character of the reality which is its ground. Equally marked is the difference between the mystic’s and the metaphysician’s attitude towards ultimate reality itself. The mystic’s object is primarily emotional rather than intellectual. What he wants is a feeling of satisfaction which he can only get from immediate contact with something taken to be finally and abidingly real. Hence, when he comes to put his emotions into words, he is always prone to use the language of vague imaginative symbolism, the only language suitable to suggest feelings which, because immediate and unanalysed, cannot be the subject of logical description in general terms. For the metaphysician, whose object is the attainment of intellectual consistency, such a method of symbolism is radically unsuitable.


“The Good and the Beautiful, no less than the True,
are the objects of our study.”


A symbol is always a source of danger to the intellect. If you employ it for what you already understand, and might, if you chose, describe in scientific language, it is a mere substitution of the obscure for the clear. If you use it, as the mystic commonly does, for what you do not understand, its apparent precision, by blinding you to the vagueness of its interpretation, is positively mischievous. Hence, though some of the greatest metaphysicians, such as Plotinus and Spinoza, and to a certain extent Hegel, have been personally mystics, their philosophical method has invariably been |15| scientific and rationalistic. At the same time, it is probably true that, apart from the mystic’s need for the satisfaction of emotion by the contemplation of the eternal and abiding, the intellect would be prone to exercise itself in less arid and more attractive fields than those of abstract Metaphysics. The philosopher seeks, in the end, the same goal as the mystic; his peculiarity is that he is so constituted as to reach his goal only by the route of intellectual speculation.


“Metaphysics agrees with logic in the generality of its scope,
but differs in being concerned with the real,
whereas logic is primarily concerned with the inferrible.”


§ 9. We have compared Metaphysics more than once with Logic in respect of the universality of its scope and the analytical character of its methods. It remains briefly to indicate the difference between the two sciences. There is, indeed, a theory, famous in the history of Philosophy, and not even yet quite obsolete, according to which no distinction can be drawn. Hegel held that the successive steps by which the human mind gradually passes from less adequate to more adequate, and ultimately to a fully adequate, conception of the nature of reality necessarily correspond, step for step, with the stages of a process by which the reality itself is manifested with ever-increasing adequacy in an ascending order of phenomena. Hence in his system the discussion of the general characteristics of reality and the general forms of inference constitutes a single department of Philosophy under the name of Logic. Our motive in dissenting from this view cannot be made fully intelligible at the present stage of our inquiry, but we may at least follow Lotze in giving a preliminary reason for the separation of the two sciences. Logic is clearly in a sense a more general inquiry than Metaphysics. For in Logic we are concerned with the universal conditions under which thinking, or, to speak more accurately, inference, is possible. Now these conditions may be fulfilled by a combination of propositions which are materially false. The same relations which give rise to an inference materially true from true premisses may yield a false inference where the premisses are materially false. Valid reasoning thus does not always lead to true conclusions.


“The truly real is not only the knowable, it also … realises our aspirations and satisfies our emotions.”


Hence we may say that, whereas Metaphysics deals exclusively with the characteristics of reality, Logic deals with the characteristics of the validly inferrible, whether real or unreal. The distinction thus established, however, though real as far as it goes, is not necessarily absolute. For it may very well be that in the end the conditions upon which the possibility of inference depends are identical with or consequent upon the structure of reality. Even the fact that, under certain conditions, we can imagine an unreal state of |16| things and then proceed to reason validly as to the results which would follow if this imaginary state were actual, may itself be a consequence of the actual nature of things. And, as a matter of fact, logicians have always found it impossible to inquire very deeply into the foundations and first principles of their own science without being led to face fundamental issues of Metaphysics. The distinction between the two studies must thus, according to the well-known simile of Bacon, be compared rather with a vein in a continuous block of marble than with an actual line of cleavage. Still it is at least so far effectual, that while many metaphysical questions have no direct bearing on Logic, the details of the theory of evidence are likewise best studied as an independent branch of knowledge.


“The problems of the so-called Theory of Knowledge are really metaphysical.”


§ 10. In recent years considerable prominence has been attained by a branch of study known as Epistemology, or the Theory of Knowledge. The Theory of Knowledge, like Logic, is primarily concerned with the question of the conditions upon which the validity of our thinking, as a body of knowledge about reality, depends. It differs from ordinary Logic in not inquiring into the details of the various processes of proof, but confining its attention to the most general and ultimate conditions under which valid thinking is possible, and discussing these general principles more thoroughly and systematically than common Logic usually does. Since the conditions under which truth is obtainable depend, in the last resort, on the character of that reality which knowledge apprehends, it is clear that the problems of the Theory of Knowledge, so far as they do not come under the scope of ordinary Logic (the theory of the estimation of evidence), are metaphysical in their nature. As actually treated by the writers who give this name to their discussions, the study appears to consist of a mixture of Metaphysics and Logic, the metaphysical element predominating. There is perhaps no serious harm in our giving, if we choose, the name Epistemology or Theory of Knowledge to our discussions of ultimate principles, but the older title Metaphysics seems on the whole preferable for two reasons. The discussion of the implications of knowledge is only one part of the metaphysician’s task. The truly real is not only the knowable, it is also that which, if we can obtain it, realises our aspirations and satisfies our emotions. Hence the theory of the real must deal with the ultimate implications of practical conduct and aesthetic feeling as well as those of knowledge. The Good and the Beautiful, no less than the True, are the objects of our study. |17|

Again, if the name Theory of Knowledge is understood, as it sometimes has been, to suggest that it is possible to study the nature and capabilities of the knowing faculty apart from the study of the contents of knowledge, it becomes a source of positive and dangerous mistake. The capabilities and limitations of the knowing faculty can only be ascertained by inquiring into the truth of its knowledge, regarded as an apprehension of reality; there is no possible way of severing the faculty, as it were, by abstraction from the results of its exercise, and examining its structure, as we might that of a mechanical appliance, before investigating the value of its achievements. The instrument can only be studied in its work, and we have to judge of its possibilities by the nature of its products. It is therefore advisable to indicate, by our choice of a name for our subject, that the theory of Knowing is necessarily also a theory of Being.


Consult further:
F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, Introduction.
L. T. Hobhouse, The Theory of Knowledge, Introduction.
H. Lotze, Metaphysic, Introduction (Eng. trans., vol. i. pp. 1-30).


1^ The name simply means “what comes after Physics,” and probably owes its origin to the fact that early editors of Aristotle placed his writings on ultimate philosophical questions immediately after his physical treatises.

2^ For an example of these puzzles, compare the passage (Republic, 524) where Plato refers to cases in which an apparent contradiction in our sensations is corrected by counting.

3^ Of course we must not assume that “every appearance is only appearance,” or that “nothing is both reality and appearance.” This is just the uncritical kind of preconception which it is the business of Metaphysics to test. Whether “every appearance is only appearance” is a point we shall have to discuss later.

4^ Cf. F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, pp. 1-4.

5^ I maybe pardoned for reminding the reader who maybe new to our subject, that “facts” and “processes” are only properly called phenomena when it is intended to imply that as they stand they are not genuine realities but only the partially misleading appearance of reality which is non-phenomenal or ultra-phenomenal. (We shall do well to avoid the pretentious error of calling the ultra-phenomenal, as such, “noumenal.”)

6^ Appearance and Reality, chap. 12, p. 129 (ed. 1).

7^ As, for instance, all mental states are, according to certain psychologists, non-quantitative.

8^ The student will find Höffding’s History of Modern Philosophy (English translation in 2 vols., Macmillan) particularly valuable for the way in which the author brings out the intimate historical connection between the development of Metaphysics and the general progress of science.

9^ For further discussion the reader may be referred to Royce, The World and the Individual, First Series, Lects. 2 and 4. See also infra, Bk. IV. chap. 6, § 2.

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Chapter II. The Metaphysical Criterion and the Metaphysical Method

§ 1. If we are, in the end, to attach any definite intelligible meaning to the distinction between things as they really are and things as they merely appear to be, we must clearly have some universal criterion or test by which the distinction may be made. This criterion must be, in the first place, infallible; that is, must be such that we cannot doubt its validity without falling into a contradiction in our thought; and, in the next, it must be a characteristic belonging to all reality, as such, and to nothing else. Thus our criterion must, in the technical language of Logic, be the predicate of an exclusive proposition of which reality is the subject; we must be able to say, “Only the real possesses the quality or |19| mark X.”


“In the principle that ‘Reality is not self-contradictory’ we have a universal and certain criterion of reality which is not merely negative, but implies the positive assertion that reality is a consistent system.”


The argument of our last chapter should already have suggested that we have such a criterion in the principle that “what is real is not self-contradictory, and what is self-contradictory is not real.” Freedom from contradiction is a characteristic which belongs to everything that is real and ultimately to nothing else, and we may therefore use it as our test or criterion of reality. For, as we have seen in the last chapter, it is precisely our inability, without doing violence to the fundamental structure of our intellect, to accept the self-contradictory as real which first leads to the drawing of a distinction between the real and the merely apparent; on the other hand, where we find no contradiction in thought or experience, we have no valid ground for doubting that the contents of our experience and thinking are truly real. In every application, even the most simple and rudimentary, of the distinction between what really is and what only seems, we are proceeding upon the assumption that, if things as we find them are self-contradictory, we are not yet in possession of the truth about them; while, on the other hand, we may legitimately treat the results of our thinking and experience as fully true until they are shown to involve contradiction. Thus, in setting up the proposition “What is real is never self-contradictory” as a universal criterion, we are only putting into explicit form, and proposing to apply universally, a principle involved in all rational reflection on the course of things. Audacious as the attempt to make such a general statement about the whole universe of being appears, it is an audacity to which we are fully committed from the first moment of our refusing to accept both sides of a contradiction as true.


“ ‘What is real is not self-contradictory, and what is self-contradictory is not real.’ Freedom from contradiction is a characteristic which belongs to everything that is real and ultimately to nothing else, and we may therefore use it as our test or criterion of reality.”


The principle that “Reality is not self-contradictory” at first sight might appear to be merely negative; we might object that it only tells us what reality is not, and still leaves us quite in the dark as to what it is. This would, however, be a serious misconception. As we learn from modern scientific Logic, no true and significant negative judgment is merely negative; all significant negation is really exclusion resting upon a positive basis. I can never, that is, truly declare that A is not B, except on the strength of some piece of positive knowledge which is inconsistent with, or excludes, the possibility of A being B.1 My own ignorance or |20| failure to find sufficient ground for the assertion A is B is never of itself logical warrant for the judgment A is not B; that A is not B I can never truly assert, except on the ground of some other truth which would be contradicted if A were affirmed to be B. Hence to say “Reality is not self-contradictory” is as much as to say that we have true and certain knowledge that reality is positively self-consistent or coherent; that is to say that, whatever else it may be, it is at least a systematic whole of some kind or other. How much further our knowledge about reality goes, what kind of a whole we can certainly know it to be, it will be the business of succeeding portions of this work to discuss; but even at the present stage of the inquiry we can confidently say that unless the distinction between the real and the apparent is purely meaningless, it is positively certain that Reality,2 or the universe, is a self-consistent systematic whole.


“The validity of this criterion is not affected by the suggestion that it may be merely a Logical Law.”


§ 2. Our declaration that the principle of the self-consistency of the real affords a certain and infallible criterion of reality, may probably provoke a sceptical doubt which is of such importance that we must give it full consideration before making any further advance. I state the difficulty in what appears to me its most reasonable and telling form. “Your alleged criterion,” it will be said, “is simply the logical Law of Contradiction expressed in a novel and misleading way.” Now, the Law of Contradiction, like all purely logical laws, is concerned not with real things, but exclusively with the concepts by which we think of them. When the logician lays it down as a fundamental truth of his science that A cannot be both B and not B, his A and B stand not for things “in the real world to which our thoughts have reference,” but for concepts which we frame about the things. His law is thus purely what he calls it, a Law of Thought; he says, and says truly, “you cannot, at the |21| same time, and in the same sense, think both that A is B, and that it is not B”; as to whether such a state of things, though unthinkable to us, may be real “as a fact,” he makes no assertion. “You take this law of our thinking, silently assume that it is also a law of the things about which we think, and go on to set it up as an infallible criterion of their reality. Your procedure is thus illegitimate, and your pretended criterion a thing of nought.”3

Our reply to this common sceptical objection will incidentally throw an interesting light on what was said in the last chapter of the close connection between the problems of Logic and those of Metaphysics. In the first place, we may at least meet the sceptic with an effective tu quoque.4 It is you yourself, we may say, who are most open to the charge of illegitimate assumption. Your whole contention rests upon the assumption, for which you offer no justification, that because the Law of Contradiction is admittedly a law of thought, it is therefore only a law of thought; if you wish us to accept such a momentous conclusion, you ought at least to offer us something in the nature of a reason for it. Nor shall we stop here; we shall go on to argue that the sceptic’s interpretation of the Law of Contradiction rests on a positive confusion. By a Law of Thought may be meant either (a) a psychological law, a true general statement as to the way in which we actually do think, or (b) a logical law, a true general statement as to the conditions under which our thinking is valid; the plausibility of the sceptical argument arises from an unconscious confusion between these two very different senses of the term. Now, in the first place, it seems doubtful whether the principle of contradiction is even true, if it is put forward as a psychological law. It would be, at least, very hard to say whether a human being is capable or not of holding at once and with equal conviction the truth of two contradictory propositions. Certainly it is not uncommon to meet persons who do fervently profess equal belief in propositions which we can see to be inconsistent; on the other hand, they are usually themselves unaware of the inconsistency. Whether, in all cases, they would, if made aware of the inconsistency, revise their belief, is a question which it is easier to ask than to answer. But it is at any rate certain that the logician does not intend his Law of Contradiction to be taken as a psychological |23| proposition as to what I can or cannot succeed in believing. He means it to be understood in a purely logical sense, as a statement about the conditions under which any thought is valid. What he says is not that I cannot at once think that A is B and that it is not B, but that, if I think so, my thinking cannot be true. Now, to think truly about things is to think in accord with their real nature, to think of them as they really are, not as they merely appear to an imperfect apprehension to be; hence to say that non-contradiction is a fundamental condition of true thinking is as much as to say that it is a fundamental characteristic of real existence. Just because the Law of Contradiction is a logical law, it cannot be only a logical law, but must be a metaphysical law as well. If the sceptic is to retain his sceptical position, he must include Logic along with Metaphysics in the compass of his doubts, as the thorough-going sceptics of antiquity had the courage to do.


“Nor by the raising of doubt whether all our knowledge is not merely ‘relative,’
a doubt which is itself meaningless.”


§ 3. But now suppose the sceptic takes this line. All our truth, he may say, is only relatively truth, and even the fundamental conditions of true thought are only valid relatively and for us. What right have you to assume their absolute validity, and to argue from it to the real constitution of things? Now, what does such a doubt mean, and is it rational? The answer to this question follows easily from what we have already learnt about the logical character of denial. Doubt, which is tentative denial, like negation, which is completed denial, logically presupposes positive knowledge of some kind or other. It is never rational to doubt the truth of a specific proposition except on the strength of your possession of positive truth with which the suggested judgment appears to be in conflict. This is, of course, obvious in cases where we hesitate to accept a statement as true on the ground that we do not see how to reconcile it with another specific statement already known, or believed, to be true. It is less obvious, but equally clear on reflection, in the cases where we suspend our judgment on the plea of insufficient evidence. Apart from positive knowledge, however defective, as to the kind and amount of evidence which would, if forthcoming, be sufficient to prove the proposition, expressions of doubt and of belief are equally impertinent; unless I know, to some extent at least, what evidence is wanted, how indeed am I to judge whether the evidence produced is sufficient or not?5 Thus we see that the paradox of Mr. Bradley, that rational doubt itself logically implies infallibility in respect of some part of our knowledge, is no more than the simple truth. We see also that the doubt whether the ultimate presuppositions of valid thinking may not be merely “relatively” valid, has no meaning. If the sceptic’s doubt whether Reality is ultimately the self-consistent system that it must be if any of our thinking can be true is to lay any claim to rationality, it must take the form of the assertion, “I positively know something about the nature of Reality which makes it reasonable to think that Reality is incoherent,” or “Self-consistency is inconsistent with what I positively know of the nature of Reality.” Thus the sceptic is forced, not merely to lay claim to absolute and certain knowledge, but to use the test of consistency itself for the purpose of disproving or questioning its own validity. Our criterion of Reality, then, has been proved infallible by the surest of methods; we have shown that its truth has to be assumed in the very process of calling it in question.


“As to the material of the system, it is experience or immediate psychical fact.”


§ 4. Reality, then, in spite of the sceptic’s objections, is truly known to be a connected and self-consistent, or internally coherent, system; can we with equal confidence say anything of the data of which the system is composed? Reflection should convince us that we can at least say as much as this: all the materials or data of reality consist of experience, experience being provisionally taken to mean psychical matter of fact, what is given in immediate feeling. In other words, whatever forms part of presentation, will, or emotion, must in some sense and to some degree possess reality and be a part of the material of which reality, as a systematic whole, is composed; whatever does not include, as part of its nature, this indissoluble relation to immediate feeling, and therefore does not enter into the presentation, will, and emotion of which psychical life is composed, is not real. The real is experience, and nothing but experience, and experience consists of “psychical matter of fact.”6

Proof of this proposition can only be given in the same way as of any other ultimate truth, by making trial of it; |24| if you doubt it you may be challenged to perform the experiment of thinking of anything whatever, no matter what, as real, and then explaining what you mean by its reality. Thus suppose you say “I can think of A as real,” A being anything in the universe; now think, as you always can, of an imaginary or unreal A, and then try to state the difference between the A which is thought of as real and the A which is thought of as merely imaginary. As Kant proved, in the famous case of the real and the imagined hundred dollars, the difference does not lie in any of the qualities or properties of the two A’s; the qualities of the imagined hundred dollars are precisely the same as those of the real sum, only that they are “imaginary.” Like the real dollars, the imagined dollars are thought of as possessing such and such a size, shape, and weight; stamped with such and such an effigy and inscription; containing such and such a proportion of silver to alloy; having such and such a purchasing power in the present condition of the market, and so forth. The only difference is that the real dollars are, or under specified and known conditions may be, the objects of direct perception, while the imaginary ones, because imaginary, cannot be given in direct perception. You cannot see or handle them; you can only imagine yourself doing so. It is in this connection with immediate psychical fact that the reality of the real coins lies. So with any other instance of the same experiment. Show me, we might say, anything which you regard as real, — no matter what it is, a stone wall, an aesthetic effect, a moral virtue, — and I will ask you to think of an unreal and imaginary counterpart of that same thing, and will undertake to prove to you that what makes the difference between the reality and the imagination is always that the real thing is indissolubly connected with the psychical life of a sentient subject, and, as so connected, is psychical matter of fact.


“It must be actual experience, not mere ‘possibilities’ of experience;
but actual experience must not be identified with ‘sensation.’ ”


§ 5. Two points should be carefully noted if we wish to avoid serious misapprehension. It might be objected, by a disciple of Kant or of Mill, that a thing may be real without ever being given as actual psychical fact in immediate apprehension, so long as its nature is such that it would be psychical fact under known and specified conditions. Many, if not most, of the objects of scientific knowledge, it may be said, are of this kind; they have never entered, possibly never will enter, into the contents of any man’s direct apprehension, yet we rightly call them real, in the sense that they would be apprehended under certain known conditions. Thus I have never seen, and do not |25| expect that anyone ever will see, the centre of the earth, or, to take a still stronger case, no one has ever seen his own brain. Yet I call the centre of the earth or my own brain real, in the sense that if I could, without ceasing to live, penetrate to a certain depth below the soil, I should find the centre of the earth; if an opening were made in my skull, and a suitable arrangement of mirrors devised, I should see the reflection of my own brain. A comet may be rushing, through unpeopled space entirely unbeheld; yet it does not cease for all that to be real, for if I were there I should see it, and so forth. Hence the Kantian will tell us that reality is constituted by relation to possible experience; the follower of Mill, that it means “a permanent possibility of sensation.”

Now, there is, of course, an element of truth in these arguments. It is true that what immediately enters into the course of my own direct perception is but a fragment of the full reality of the universe. It is true, again, that there is much which in its own nature is capable of being perceived by human beings, but will, as far as we can judge, never be perceived, owing to the physical impossibility of placing ourselves under the conditions requisite for perception; there are other things which could only be perceived if some modification could be effected in the structure of our perceptive organs. And it may therefore be quite sufficient for the purposes of some sciences to define these unperceived realities as “possibilities of sensation,” processes which we do not perceive but might perceive under known or knowable conditions. But the definition, it will be seen, is a purely negative one; it takes note of the fact that we do not actually perceive certain things, without telling us anything positive as to their nature. In Metaphysics, where we are concerned to discover the very meaning of reality, we cannot avoid asking whether such a purely negative account of the reality of the greater part of the universe is finally satisfactory. And we can easily see that it is not. For what do we mean when we talk of the “possible”? Not simply “that which is not actual,” for this includes the merely imaginary and the demonstrably impossible. The events of next week, the constitution of Utopia, and the squaring of the circle are all alike in not being actual. Shall we say, then, that the possible differs from the imaginary in being what would, under known conditions, be actual? But again, we may make correct inferences as to what would be actual under conditions suspected, or even known, to be merely imaginary, and no one will maintain that such consequences are realities. |26| If I were at the South Pole I should see the polar ice, and it is therefore real, you say, though no one actually sees it; but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, yet you do not say that the riding of beggars is real. Considerations of this kind lead us to modify our first definition of the “possible” which is to be also real. We are driven to say that, in the case of the unperceived real thing, all the conditions of perception except the presence of a percipient with suitable perceptive organs, really exist. Thus the ice at the South Pole really exists, because the only unfulfilled condition for its perception is the presence at the Pole of a being with sense-organs of a certain type. But once more, what do we mean by the distinction between conditions of perception which are imaginary and conditions which really exist? We come back once more to our original experiment, and once more, try as we will, we shall find that by the real condition as distinguished from the imaginary we can mean nothing but a state of things which is, in the last resort, guaranteed by the evidence of immediate apprehension. If we take the term “actual” to denote that which is thus indissoluble from immediate apprehension, or is psychical matter of fact, we may sum up our result by saying we have found that the real is also actual, or that there is no reality which is not at the same time an actuality. We shall thus be standing on the same ground as the modern logicians who tell us that there is no possibility outside actual existence, and that statements about the possible, when they have any meaning at all, are always an indirect way of imparting information about actualities.7 Thus “There really exists ice at the South Pole, though no human eye beholds it,” if it is to mean anything, must mean either that the ice itself, as we should perceive it if we were there, or that certain unknown conditions which, combined with the presence of a human spectator, would yield the perception of the ice, actually exist as part of the contents of an experience which is not our own.8

The second point to which we must be careful to attend may be dismissed more briefly. In defining experience as “immediate feeling” or “the content of immediate feeling” or “apprehension,”9 we must not be understood to mean |27| that it is in particular sensation. Sensation is only one feature of immediate feeling or apprehension, a feature which we only distinguish from others by means of a laborious psychological analysis. A pleasure or pain, an emotion of any kind, the satisfaction of a craving while actually present, are felt or apprehended no less immediately than a sense-perception, I am aware of the difference between actually feeling pleasure or pain, actually being moved by love or anger, actually getting the satisfaction of a want, and merely thinking of these processes, in precisely the same way in which I am aware of the difference between actually seeing a blue expanse and merely thinking of seeing it. A real emotion or wish differs from an imagined one precisely as a real sensation differs from an imaginary sensation. How exactly the difference is to be described is a question, and unfortunately at present an unduly neglected question, for Psychology; for our present purpose we must be content to indicate it as one which can be experienced at will by any reader who will take the trouble to compare an actual state of mind with the mere thought of the same state. Of the epistemological or metaphysical interpretation of the distinction more will be said in the course of the next few paragraphs. As an instance of its applicability to other aspects of mind than the purely sensational, we may take Kant’s own example of the hundred dollars. The real hundred dollars may be distinguished from the imaginary, if we please, by the fact that they can be actually touched and seen; but we might equally make the distinction turn on the fact that the real coins will enable us to satisfy our desires, while the imaginary will not.10


“Nor must we assume that experience consists of subjects and their states;
nor again, that it is a mere succession of ‘states of consciousness.’”


§ 6. In the present state of philosophical opinion, the proposition that “whatever is real consists of experience,” or again, “of psychical matter of fact,” is in danger not so much of being rejected, as of being accepted in a fundamentally false sense. If we are to avoid the danger of such misunderstanding, we must be careful to insist that our principle does not assert that mere actuality is a complete and sufficient account of the nature of reality. When we say that there is nothing real outside the world of psychical fact, we are not saying that reality is merely psychical fact as such. What we do say is that, however much more it may be, it is at least that. |28| How much more we can say of reality, beyond the bare statement that it is made up of experiences or psychical matters of fact, it is the task of our metaphysical science to determine; at present our problem, though given to us in its general elements, still awaits solution. In particular, we must take care not to fall into the error of so-called “Subjective Idealism.” We must not say that reality consists of “the states of consciousness of sentient subjects” or of “subjects, and their states.” We must not falsify our data as metaphysicians by starting with the assumption that the psychical facts of which reality is made up are directly experienced as “states” or “modifications” of “subjects” which are their possessors. Such a theory would in fact contradict itself, for the “subject” or “I,” who am by the hypothesis the owner of the “states,” is never itself given as a “state of consciousness.” Hence Hume was perfectly correct when he argued from the principle that nothing exists but states of consciousness, to the conclusion that the thinker or “subject,” not being himself a state of consciousness, is an illusion. Yet, on the other hand, if there is no thinker or subject to “own” the passing states, they are not properly “states” or “modifications” of anything. Apart from this explicit contradiction in the formulation of the theory that all things are “states of consciousness,” we must also object that the theory itself is not a statement of the data of experience, but a hypothesis about their connection. The division of experience into the self or the subject on the one side and its states on the other is not given in our immediate apprehension, but made in the progress of reflection on the contents of apprehension. Sensible things and their properties never appear to us in our direct apprehension of them to be states or modifications of ourselves; that they really are this and nothing more is |29| simply one hypothesis among others which we devise to meet certain difficulties in our thought. Reality comes to us from the first in the guise of pieces of psychical fact; we feel certain, again, that these pieces must somehow form part of a coherent whole or system. We try to understand and account for this systematic character of the real on the supposition that the matters of fact of which it consists are connected with one another through the permanent character of the “subjects” to which they belong as temporary “states” or “modifications.” But this special interpretation of the way in which the facts of experience form a system is no part of our initial postulate as to the general nature of the real; it is simply one among other theories of the concrete character of the universe, and it is for Metaphysics itself to test its merits. Similarly, we should be making an unwarranted addition to our initial postulate about Reality if we identified it with the doctrine of Hume and his followers, according to whom what really exists is merely a series of “impressions and ideas” connected by certain psychological laws of succession, any profounder structural unity of experience being dismissed as a “fiction of the mind.” The secret of the fallacy here lies in the petitio principii committed by the introduction of the word “merely” into our statement. From the identification of reality with psychical facts which somehow form a systematic unity, it does not in the least follow that the only unity possessed by the facts is that of conformity to a certain law or laws of sequence. That all reality consists of psychical facts, and that these facts must form a system, we are, as we have already seen, entitled to assert as a fundamental metaphysical principle which cannot be doubted without falling into contradiction; how they do so we have yet to discover, if we can.

The merits of the Humian solution of the problem will come before us for consideration at a later stage; the impossibility of assuming it without inquiry as a principle, may perhaps be brought home to the mind of the reader by a simple illustration. Take the case of any aesthetic whole, such as, for instance, the play of Hamlet. The play of Hamlet consists, for the student who reads it in his closet, of a succession of printed words. These words form the whole material of the play; it is composed of them all and of nothing else. Again, the words which are the material of the play are connected by the grammatical and euphonic laws which regulate the construction of English sentences, and the metrical laws of English dramatic versification. Thus it would be a true description of the play, as far as it goes, to say that it is a series of words put together in accordance with grammatical and metrical laws. It would, however, be positively false to say that Hamlet is nothing more than such a succession of words; its character as a work of art depends entirely on the fact that it possesses, as a whole, a further unity of structure and aim, that the words and sentences which are its material embody an internally coherent representation of human character and purpose. Apart from this inner unity of meaning, mere uniformity of grammatical and metrical construction would not of |30| themselves constitute a work of art. It will be one object of our later discussions to show that what is thus obviously true of an aesthetic whole is universally true of every genuine system or totality.


“The differentia of matter of experience is its immediacy, i.e. its combination
in a single whole of the two aspects of existence and content.”


§ 7. The data or material of reality, then, are facts of experience, and nothing but facts of experience.1 And experience, we have said, means for our purposes immediate feeling or apprehension. What immediacy means, as we have already seen, we cannot further explain in psychological terms, except by saying that it is what distinguishes an actual mental state from the mere thought of that state. The reason why, in Psychology, we have to be content with such an account is manifest. To characterise immediate feeling further, we should have to identify the qualities by which it is universally marked off from what is not immediate. We should, in fact, have to describe it in general terms, and before we can do this we must cease to feel or apprehend directly, and go on to reflect upon and analyse the contents of our apprehension. What our psychological description depicts is never the experience as it actually was while we were having it, but the experience as it appears from the point of view of subsequent reflection, interpreted in the light of all sorts of conscious or unconscious hypotheses about its conditions and its constituents. Thus our psychological descriptions depend for their very possibility upon the recognition of distinctions which are not present, as such, in the experience itself as directly presented to us, but created by later reflection about it. From the point of view of Metaphysics, however, it is possible to specify one universal characteristic of immediate feeling, which is of the utmost importance for our theories of reality and of knowledge. When we reflect upon any psychical fact whatever, we may distinguish within it two very different aspects. There is, in the first place, the fact that it does happen, that it is a genuine psychical occurrence, — the existence or that, as we may call it, of the piece of psychical fact in question; and there is also the peculiar character or quality which gives this mental occurrence its unique nature as distinguished from any other which might conceivably have been presented in its stead, — the content or what of the psychical |31| fact. Thus a simple colour-sensation, say that of green, has its that, — it is actually present, and is thus distinguished from a merely remembered or anticipated sensation; it has also its what, — the peculiar quality by which it is distinguished, for example, from a sensation of blue. So again with an imagined sensation; it is actually imagined, the imagining of it is an actual occurrence with its particular place in the course of the occurrences which together make up my mental life; and again, it is the imagination of some content with qualities of its own by which it is distinguished from any other content.

The most striking illustration of the presence of these distinguishable aspects in all psychical occurrences is, of course, afforded by the case of error or illusion, the essence of which is the false apprehension of the what. Thus, when an ignorant villager sees a ghost, or a hypochondriac is tormented by “imaginary” symptoms of disease, the ghost or the malady is not simply non-existent; something is actually seen or felt, but the error consists in a mistake as to the nature of what is seen or felt. Now, the peculiarity by which direct and immediate apprehension is distinguished, for the metaphysician, from subsequent reflection about the contents of apprehension, is that in immediate apprehension itself we are not conscious of the distinction between these two aspects of psychical fact. The immediately experienced is always a this-what or process-content12 in which the distinction of the this from the what does not enter into consciousness. In any act of reflection, on the other hand, the what is explicitly distinguished from the that, and then ascribed to it as something which can be truly said about it. The judgment or proposition, which is the characteristic form in which the result of reflection finds its expression, consists, in its most rudimentary shape, of the embodiment of this distinction in the separation of predicate from subject, and the subsequent affirmation of the first about the second. The work of thought or knowledge in making our world more intelligible to us essentially consists in the progressive analysis of a content or what, considered in abstraction from the this to which it belongs. The this may, as in the singular judgment or the particular judgment of perception, actually appear in our propositions as the subject to which the what is explicitly ascribed; or again, as in the true universals of |32| science, both the predicate and the ostensible subject of the proposition may belong to the content analysed, and the this, or directly apprehended reality of which the content forms an attribute, may not appear in the proposition at all. This is why the true universal judgment has long been seen by logicians to be essentially hypothetical, and why, again, thought or knowledge always appears to the common-sense man to be dealing with realities which have previously been given independently of the “work of the mind.” He is only wrong in this view because he forgets that what is given in this way is merely the that or existence of the world of real being, not its what or content in its true character as ultimately ascertained by scientific thought.13


“This union of existence and content is broken up in reflective
knowledge or thought, but may be restored at a higher level.”


§ 8. The fundamental characteristic of experience, then, for the metaphysician, is its immediacy: the fact that in experience as such the existence and the content of what is apprehended are not mentally separated. This immediacy may be due, as in the case of mere uninterpreted sensation, to the absence of reflective analysis of the given into its constituent aspects or elements. But it may also be due, as we shall have opportunities to see more fully later on, to the fusion at a higher level into a single directly apprehended whole of results originally won by the process of abstraction and reflection. There is an immediacy of experience which is below mediate reflective knowledge, but there is also a higher immediacy which is above it. To explain and justify this statement will be the work of subsequent chapters; for the present we may be content to illustrate it by a simple example. A work of art with an intricate internal structure, such, for instance, as a musical composition or a chess problem, as directly presented to the artistically uncultivated man, is little more than a mere succession of immediately given data in which the aspects of existence and content are as yet hardly separated; it has no significance or meaning, but merely is. As education in the perception of artistic form proceeds, the separation becomes at first more and more prominent. Each subordinate part of the structure now acquires a meaning or significance in virtue of its place in the whole, and this meaning is at first something over and above the directly presented character of the part, something which has to be grasped by reflective analysis and comparison of part with part. The individual part has now, through analysis of its content, come to mean or stand for |33| something outside itself, namely, its relation to all the other parts. But with the completion of our aesthetic education the immediacy thus destroyed is once more restored. To the fully trained perception the meaning of the composition or the problem, its structure as an artistic whole, is no longer something which has to be pieced together and inferred by reflective comparison: it is now directly apprehended as a structural unity. The composition has a meaning, and thus the results of the intermediate stage of reflection and comparison are not lost, but taken up into the completed experience. But the meaning is no longer external to the existence of the composition; it is what it means, and it means what it is.14 We may subsequently see that what is thus strikingly illustrated by the case of artistic perception holds good, to a greater or less degree, of all advance in the understanding of reality. It is perhaps the fundamental philosophical defect of what is popularly called Mysticism that it ignores this difference between a higher and a lower immediacy, and thus attempts to restore the direct contact with felt reality which scientific reflection inevitably loosens by simply undoing the work of analytic thought and reverting to the standpoint of mere uninterpreted feeling.15


“Experience further always appears to be implicitly complex
in respect of its content.”


§ 9. We may perhaps specify one further characteristic which seems, at least, to belong to every datum of immediate experience. Every experience seems to be implicitly complex, that is, its aspect of content appears never to be absolutely simple, but always to contain a plurality of aspects, which, as directly felt, are not distinct, but are at the same time distinguishable as soon as we begin by reflection to describe and analyse it. From the nature of the case this complexity cannot be directly ascertained by inspection, for the inspection itself presupposes that we are dealing with the experience not as immediately felt, but as already sufficiently analysed and reflected upon to be described in general terms. Indirectly, however, our result seems to be established by the consideration that, as soon as we reflect upon the given at all, we find these distinguishable aspects within its content, and that, unless they were there implicitly from the first, it |34| is hard to see how the mere process of reflection could have given birth to them. Thus, for instance, in even the most rudimentary experience there would appear to be something answering to the distinction between the presentational quality of a sensation and its accompanying tone of pleasure or pain. It is difficult, again, not to think that in any sentient experience there must be some difference between elements which correspond to more or less stable conditions of the sentient organism itself (“organic sensation”) and those which correspond to relatively novel and infrequent features of the environment. Some philosophers would indeed be prepared to go further, and to maintain that a more or less explicit consciousness of distinction between self and not-self, or again between subject and object, is logically involved in the very possibility of an experience. The question, as a psychological one, need not be raised here; it must, however, be carefully remarked that whatever view we may adopt as to the number and character of the aspects which analysis reveals within the contents of the simplest experience, those aspects, as directly apprehended, originally constitute an unanalysed whole. Our various subsequent analyses all presuppose theories as to the ultimate what of experience which it is the business of Metaphysics to test.


“An adequate apprehension of reality would only be possible in the form of a complete or ‘pure’ experience, at once all-inclusive, systematic, and direct.”


§ 10. Our foregoing discussion of the metaphysical criterion will suggest a fairly definite ideal of what a completely adequate apprehension of the whole of reality would be. A completely adequate apprehension of reality would be one which contained all reality and nothing but reality, and thus involved no element whatever of deceptive appearance. As such it would, in the first place, be all-embracing; it would include in itself every datum of direct experience, and, since nothing but data of experience, or, as we have also called them, matters of psychical fact, are the materials of reality, it would contain nothing else. In the second place, it would contain all its data without contradiction or discrepancy as part of a single system with a harmonious internal structure of its own. For wherever there is discrepancy, as we have already seen, there is imperfect and therefore partially false appearance. And, in the third place, such an all-embracing harmonious apprehension of the whole data of experience would clearly transcend that separation of existence from content which is temporarily effected by our own efforts to restate our experience in a consistent form. It would, because complete in itself, involve at a higher level that immediacy which, at a lower level, we know as |35| characteristic of feeling. It would thus experience the whole of real existence directly as a system with internal consistency and structure, but without any reference to anything beyond itself. As we said of the artistic whole, so we may say of the whole of existence as it might be apprehended by a completed insight, it would be what it meant, and mean what it was. To such an ideally complete experience of reality as a single system, by way of marking its exclusively experiential nature, we may give the name, introduced into Philosophy by Avenarius, of a “pure” experience, that is, an experience which is in all its parts experience and nothing else. Of course, in adopting the name, we are not necessarily identifying ourselves with the further views of Avenarius as to what in particular the structure of such an experience would be.


“The problem of Metaphysics is to acertain what would be the general or formal character of such an experience, and how far the various provinces of our human experience and knowledge approximate to it.”


Our own human experience clearly falls far short of such an ideal, and that for two reasons. To begin with, our experience is incomplete in respect of its data: there is much in reality which never directly enters into the structure of our experience at all. Of much of what falls within the scope of our knowledge we can only say, in a general way, how it would appear to ourselves supposing certain conditions of its perceptibility to be realised, and even these conditions are usually only most imperfectly known. What the actual matters of psychical fact corresponding to these conditions and to the appearance which they would determine for us are, we are totally unable to say. Again, there may well be much in the real world which never, even in this indirect way, enters into the structure of human knowledge at all. Hence our human experience and the intellectual constructions by which we seek to interpret it have always the character of being piecemeal and fragmentary. Perfect apprehension of systematic reality as a whole would be able to deduce from any one fact in the universe the nature of every other fact. Or rather, as the whole would be presented at once in its entirety, there would be no need for the deduction; every fact would be directly seen as linked with every other by the directly intuited nature of the system to which all facts belong. But in our imperfect human apprehension of the world our facts appear to be largely given us in isolation and independence of one another as bare “casual conjunctions” or “collocations,” and the hypotheses by which we seek to weld them into a system, however largely determined by the character of our data, never quite get rid of an element of arbitrary “free” construction. They are |36| never fully necessitated as to their entirety by the nature of the facts they serve to connect. Hence we can never be certain that our hypothetical constructions themselves are true in the sense of consisting of statements of what for a completed experience would be matters of fact. Our ideal is to connect our presented facts by constructions in which each link is itself matter of fact, or experience, in the sense that it would under known conditions form the content of a direct apprehension. But it is an ideal which, owing to the fragmentary character of our own experience, we are never able adequately to realise. In all our sciences we are constantly compelled to use hypothetical constructions, which often are, and for all we know always may be, merely “symbolic,” in the sense that, though useful in the coordination of experienced data, they could never themselves become objects of direct experience, because they conflict either with the general nature of experience as such, or with the special nature of the particular experiences in which they would have to be presented. Our scientific hypotheses thus present a close analogy with the uninterpretable stages in the application of an algebraical calculus to a numerical or geometrical subject-matter. Their usefulness in enabling us to coordinate and predict facts of direct experience need no more guarantee their own reality, than the usefulness of such a calculus guarantees our ability to find an intelligible interpretation for all the symbolic operations it involves.16 In a pure or completed experience, at once all-comprehending and systematic, where existence and content, fact and construction, were no longer separated, there could of course be no place for such ultimately uninterpretable symbolism.


“The knowledge Metaphysics can give us of the ultimate nature of reality as it would be present in a complete experience, though imperfect, is final as far as it goes.”


Our fundamental metaphysical problem, then, is that of discovering, if we can, the general or formal characteristics of such a complete or “pure” experience, i.e. those characteristics which belong to it simply in virtue of its all-containing and completely systematic nature. Further, it would be the work of a completed Metaphysic to ascertain which among the universal characteristics of our own human |37| experience of the world are such as must belong to any coherent experience in virtue of its nature, and are thus identifiable with the formal characteristics of a “pure” experience. Also, our science would have to decide what features of human experience, among those which do not possess this character, approximate most nearly to it, and would thus require least modification in order to enable them to take their place in an absolutely complete and harmonious experience of reality. If we could completely carry out out programme, we should, in the first place, have a general conception of what in outline the constitution of experienced reality as a systematic whole is; and, in the second, we should be able to arrange the various concepts and categories by which we seek, alike in everyday thinking and in the various sciences, to interpret the world of our experience, in an ascending order of degrees of truth and reality, according to the extent to which they would require to be modified before they could become adequate to express the nature of a systematic experienced reality. The knowledge conveyed by such a science would, of course, not be itself the pure or all-embracing experience of Reality, but merely mediate knowledge about the general nature of such an experience, and would therefore, so far, be like all mere knowledge about an object, abstract and imperfect. It would still refer to something beyond itself, and thus have a meaning other than its own existence. But, unlike all other knowledge, our metaphysical knowledge of the formal character of an all-inclusive experienced whole would be final, in the sense that no addition of fresh knowledge could modify it in principle. Fresh knowledge, which in all other cases involves at least the possibility of a transformation of existing theories, would here do no more than fill in and make more concrete our conception of the system of Reality, without affecting our insight into its general structure.

We may perhaps illustrate this conception of a knowledge which, though imperfect, is yet final, by an instance borrowed from elementary Mathematics. We know absolutely and precisely, e.g., what the symbol π (pi) stands for. π is completely determined for us by the definition that it is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. And again, we can define unequivocally both the terms, circumference and diameter of the circle, which we have employed in our definition of π. Thus our knowledge of the meaning of the symbol is clearly final; no fresh accretion to our knowledge will make any modification in it. At the same time, our |38| knowledge of π, though final, is imperfect. For the quantity π is incommensurable, and thus we can never precisely evaluate it. All we can do is to assign its value correctly within any desired degree of approximation. Again, while no approximation gives an absolutely correct value for the quantity, one approximation is, of course, closer than another. Because no approximation is more than approximately the truth, it by no means follows that all are equally wide of the mark. Similarly, it may well be that, though we can say with finality what the general nature of experience and experienced Reality as a systematic whole is, yet, when we come to ask after the character of the system in detail, we have to depend on sciences which are merely approximate in their results; it will not follow, as is sometimes assumed, that the categories of one science do not present us with a nearer approximation to the absolute truth than those of another. (Compare my Problem of Conduct, pp. 22-39.)


“As to the method of Metaphysics, it must be analytical,
critical, non-empirical, and non-inductive.”


§ 11. We may end this chapter with some general reflections on the method required for such a science of Metaphysics as we have described in the preceding paragraphs. The true character of any scientific method can, of course, only be discovered by the actual use of it; a preliminary disquisition on the nature of a method not previously exhibited in actual use is apt to be at best sterile, and at worst a positive source of prejudices which may subsequently seriously hamper the process of investigation. Still, there are certain general characteristics of the method imposed on us by our conception of the problems to be solved which may conveniently be pointed out at this stage of our inquiry. Our method will, in the first place, clearly be analytical and critical in its character. We analyse experience with a view to discovering its implications, and we analyse our various scientific and unscientific theories of the contents of the world-system for the same purpose. Also, once having determined what are the formal characteristics of an all-embracing, systematic whole of experienced fact, we criticise our various concepts and theories by reference to these characteristics as an ultimate standard of reality and truth. Negatively, we may add that our method is non-empirical, and also non-inductive, in the same sense in which pure Mathematics, for instance, may be called non-inductive. It is non-empirical inasmuch as we are called upon to analyse all our data and criticise all our pre-conceived theories. We are not allowed to accept any fact without analysis, or any |39| concept without criticism, as an unchallenged datum upon which we may build without preliminary justification. Hence our method is non-empirical. Also, as our analysis is concerned entirely with the internal character and self-consistency of the data analysed, it is, like the reasonings of pure Mathematics, independent of external confirmation outside the analysed data themselves, and is therefore non-inductive.17


“Our method may also be called a priori if we carefully avoid confusing the a priori with the psychologically primitive.”


In precisely the same sense our method and its results may be called, if we please, a priori; that is to say, we proceed entirely by internal analysis of certain data, and are, alike in procedure and result, independent of experience outside the experience we are concerned with analysing. We can, of course, add that our method is constructive, that is, if successfully carried out it would culminate in an intellectual attitude towards the world which, as an intellectual attitude, we did not possess before entering on our study of Metaphysics; but as construction, in this sense, is characteristic of all scientific method, it does not seem necessary to specify it as a peculiarity of metaphysical procedure in particular.

Historically, our conception of metaphysical method as fundamentally analytical and directed to the detection and removal of internal contradictions in the categories of ordinary thought, is perhaps nearer to the view of Herbart than to that of any other great philosopher of the past. In our insistence upon the non-empirical and, in a sense, a priori character of Metaphysics, we are again, of course, largely in agreement with the position of Kant. There is, however, a most important difference between our own and the Kantian conception of the a priori upon which it is essential to insist. A-priority, as we have used the term, stands merely for a peculiarity of the method of Metaphysics; by an a priori method we understood one which is confined to the internal analysis of a datum and independent of external reference to outside facts. With Kant the a priori is a name for certain forms of perception and thought which, because revealed by analysis as present in every experience, are supposed to be given independently of all experience whatsoever, and so come to be identified by him as “the work of the mind,” in opposition to the empirical factor in experience, which is held to be the product of an external system of “things-in-themselves.” Hence Kant’s whole discussion of the a priori is vitiated by |40| a constant confusion between what is metaphysically necessary (i.e. implied in the existence of knowledge) and what is psychologically primitive. This confusion, perplexing enough in Kant, reaches a climax in the works of writers like Mr. Spencer, who appear to think that the whole question of the presence of a non-empirical factor in knowledge can be decided by an appeal to genetic Psychology. It is clear that, from our point of view, the identification of the a priori with the “work of the mind” would involve a metaphysical theory as to the constitution of experience which we are not entitled to adopt without proof.18


“Why our method cannot be the Hegelian Dialectic.”


A word ought perhaps to be said about our attitude towards the “dialectical” method as employed by Hegel and his followers. It was Hegel’s conviction that the whole series of concepts or categories by which the mind attempts to grasp the nature of experienced Reality as a whole, from the most rudimentary to the most adequate, can be exhibited in a fixed order which arises from the very nature of thought itself. We begin, he held, by the affirmation of some rude and one-sided conception of the character of what is; the very imperfection of our concept then forces us on to affirm its opposite as equally true. But the opposite, in its turn, is no less one-sided and inadequate to express the full character of concrete reality. Hence we are driven to negate our first negation by affirming a concept which includes both the original affirmation and its opposite as subordinate aspects. The same process repeats itself again at a higher stage with our new category, and thus we gradually pass by a series of successive triads of categories, each consisting of the three stages of affirmation, negation, and negation of the negation, from the beginning of an intellectual interpretation of the world of experience, the thought of it as mere “Being,” not further defined, to the apprehension of it as the “Absolute Idea,” or concrete system of spiritual experience. It was the task of abstract Metaphysics (called by Hegel, Logic) to exhibit the successive stages of this process as a systematic orderly advance, in which the nature of each stage is determined by its place in the whole. As Hegel also held that this “dialectic” process is somehow not confined to the “subjective” or private intelligence of the student of Philosophy, but also realised in the structure of the “objective” universe, it followed that its successive stages could be |41| detected in physical nature and in History in the same order in which they occur in Logic, and many of Hegel’s best-known works are devoted to exhibiting the facts of Physics, Ethics, Religion, and History in the light of this doctrine. The subsequent advances of the various sciences have so completely proved the arbitrariness and untrustworthiness of the results obtained by these “deductions,” that some of the best exponents of the Hegelian type of Philosophy are now agreed to abandon the claim of the Dialectic to be more than a systematisation of the stages through which the individual mind must pass in its advance towards a finally satisfactory conception of Reality. But even within these limits its pretensions are probably exaggerated. No satisfactory proof can be produced that, even in abstract Metaphysics, the succession of categories must be precisely that adopted by Hegel, There are some categories of the first importance, e.g., that of order in Mathematics, which hardly get any recognition at all in his system, and others, such as those of “Mechanism” and “Chemism,” which play a prominent part, are obviously largely dependent for their position upon the actual development of the various sciences in Hegel’s own time. Hence the method seems unsuitable for the original attainment of philosophical truth. At best it might serve, as Lotze has remarked, as a convenient method for the arrangement of truth already obtained by other means, and even for this purpose it seems clear that the succession of categories actually adopted by Hegel would require constant modification to adapt the general scheme to later developments of the various special sciences.


Consult further:
F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, chaps. 13, 14; B.
Bosanquet, Essentials of Logic, lect. 2.
Shadworth Hodgson, Metaphysic of Experience, bk. i. chap, i.
J. S. Mackenzie, Outlines of Metaphysics, bk. i. chaps. 2 and 4.

And for criticism of the Hegelian dialectic:
J. E. McTaggart. Studies in Hegelian Dialectic, chaps. 1-3.
J. B. Baillie, The Origin and Significance of Hegel’s Logic, chaps. 8-12, especially chap. 12.
Adamson, Development of Modern Philosophy, bk. i. pp. 271 ff.


1^ See Bosanquet, Essentials of Logic, Lect. 8. As an illustration we may take an extreme case: “The Jabberwock was not killed yesterday.” What is the ground of this denial? At first sight it appears to be merely negative, “there are no such things as Jabberwocks to kill.” But before I can say “there are no such things as Jabberwocks” with confidence, I must have enough positive information about the structure and habits of animals to be aware that the qualities ascribed to the Jabberwock conflict with the laws of animal life. Or, if I deny the existence of Jabberwocks simply on the ground that I have never come across a specimen, this involves a positive judgment as to the relation between the animal world and the part of it I have examined, such as, “if there were Jabberwocks, I should have come across one”; or, “my acquaintance with the varieties of animals is sufficiently exhaustive to afford ground for a valid generalisation.” The fact that symbolic Logic finds it convenient to treat the universal affirmative as a double negative must not mislead us as to its actual priority in thought.

2^ To meet the kind of criticism which finds it humorous to jest at the expense of those who “take consolation from spelling Reality with a big R,” may I once for all say that when I spell Reality thus it is simply as a convenient way of distinguishing the ultimately from the merely relatively real?

3^ We shall meet this same difficulty again later on as the principle of the famous Kantian objection to the “ontological proof” of God’s existence. Infra, Bk. IV. Chap. 5, § 8.

4^ tu quoque: a retort charging an adversary with being or doing what he criticizes in others.

5^ Take a concrete example. A theory as to the early religious history of the Hebrews, let us say, is put forward upon grounds derived from Semitic philology. Though unacquainted with Semitic philology in particular, I may be able to form some sort of estimate of the cogency of the professed reasoning if I already have an adequate acquaintance with the use and value of philological evidence in parallel cases, say, in the study of Greek antiquities. But if I have no positive acquaintance at all with the use of philology in antiquarian research, it would be the merest impertinence for me to offer any opinion whatever.

6^ What follows must be regarded as a mere outline which awaits subsequent cuing up by the more concrete results of Bk II. chap. i.

7^ For the modern logical doctrine of possibility consult Bradley, Principles of Logic, 192-201; Bosanquet, Logic, i. Chap. 9.

8^ This is — apart from non-essential theological accretions — the principle of Berkeley’s argument for the existence of God (Principles of Human Knowledge, §§ 146, 147).

9^ I should explain that I use “feeling” and “apprehension” indifferently for immediate and non-reflective awareness of any psychical content. The exclusive restriction of the term to awareness of pleasure and pain seems to me to rest on a serious mistake in psychology, and I therefore avoid it.

10^ In fact, we shall see in Bk. II. chap. I that in virtue of its unity with immediate feeling, all experience is essentially connected with purpose.

11^ I take “fact” as equivalent to “what is directly apprehended in a single moment of consciousness.” In a previous work (The Problem of Conduct, chap, i) I used the word in a different sense for “the contents of a true description of experience.” This employment of the word, however, seems at variance with established philosophical usage, and I therefore abandon it as likely to lead to misapprehension.

12^ Of course, the apprehended “content” may itself be a “process,” as is the case in all instances of the apprehension of change; but the apprehended process is always distinguishable from the process of apprehension.

13^ We shall see in Bk. II. chap, i that the “that” of an experience implies relation to a unique individual interest or purpose.

14^ Of course this is only partly true. As we shall see in the sequel, to “be what it means and mean what it is” is an ideal never fully realised in the structure of any finite piece of reality, precisely because me finite, as its name implies, is never a completely systematic whole.

15^ On the psychological processes by which meaning is acquired, see Stout, Manual of Psychology, bk. i. chap. 2; and on the apprehension of form, the same author’s Analytic Psychology, bk. i. chap. 3. Much interesting discussion of the difference between “external” and “internal” meaning will be found in Royce, The World and the Individual, First Series.

16^ For some good observations on the fallacy of assuming that mathematical symbolism must always be interpretable, see B. Russell, Foundations of Geometry, p. 45-46; or Whitehead, Universal Algebra, vol. i. p. 10 if. For a further elaboration of the argument of the foregoing section I may refer to my Problem of Conduct, pp. 14-21. I need hardly warn the reader against confusing a “symbolic” concept in my sense of the word, i.e. one which cannot be fully interpreted in terms of direct experience, with a “symbolic” idea in Mr. Spencer’s sense, i.e. one which is not, psychologically, a copy of the presentations for which it stands. Our use of the word is, of course, purely logical, and has nothing to do with the psychological character of mental images, but only with their meaning.

17^ The fundamental peculiarity of “inductive” procedure, in fact, is that, while its object is the internal analysis of its data, which, if completed, would permit of a universal conclusion being drawn from the single case, it is never able to effect the analysis, and is driven to reinforce it by external comparison with “similar” cases.

18^ On the confusion between the metaphysical and psychological standpoint in Kant’s own treatment of the a priori, see B. Russell, Foundations of Geometry, pp. 1-4, and Adamson, Development of Modern Philosophy, bk. i. pp. 244-247.

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Chapter III. The Subdivisions of Metaphysics

§ 1. English philosophers, who have usually been imbued with a wholesome distrust of deliberate system-making, have commonly paid comparatively little attention to the question of the number and character of the subdivisions of metaphysical philosophy. They have been content to raise the questions which interested them in the order of their occurrence to their own minds, and have gladly left it to the systematic historians of Philosophy, who have rarely been Englishmen, to discuss the proper arrangement of the parts of the subject. Continental thinkers, who are naturally more prone to conscious systematisation, have bestowed more thought on the problem of method and order, with the result that each great independent philosopher has tended to make his own special arrangement of the parts of his subject. The different arrangements, however, seem all to agree in conforming to a general type, which was most clearly exhibited by the otherwise rather arid Wolffian dogmatism of the eighteenth century. All the constructive systems (those, e.g., of Hegel, Herbart, Lotze,) feel the necessity of giving the first place to a general discussion of the most universal characteristics which we find ourselves constrained to ascribe in thought to any reality which is to be an intelligible and coherent system and not a mere chaos. This division of the subject is commonly known by the title it bears alike in the Wolffian Metaphysic and the systems of Herbart and Lotze, as Ontology,1 or the general doctrine of Being; with Hegel |43| it constitutes, as a whole, the contents of the science of Logic, as distinguished from the other two great departments of speculative thought, the Philosophies of Nature and Mind; and its most formal and general parts, again, compose, within the Hegelian Logic itself, the special first section entitled “Doctrine of Being.”


“The traditional subdivision of Metaphysics into Ontology, Cosmology, Rational Psychology, common to all the great modem constructive systems.”


Further, every system of metaphysical philosophy is bound to deal with more special problems, which readily fall into two principal classes. It has to consider the meaning and validity of the most universal conceptions of which we seek to understand the nature of the individual objects which make up the experienced physical world, “extension,” “succession,” “space,” “time,” “number,” “magnitude,” “motion,” “change,” “quality,” and the more complex categories of “matter,” “force,” “causality,” “interaction,” “thing-hood,” and so forth. Again, Metaphysics has to deal with the meaning and validity of the universal predicates by which we seek to interpret the nature of the experiencing mind itself, and its relation both to other minds and to the objects of the physical world, “the soul,” “the self,” “the subject,” “self-consciousness,” “ethical purpose,” and so forth. Hence it has been customary to recognise a second and third part of Metaphysics, dealing respectively with the most general characteristics of external Nature and of conscious Mind. These sections of the subject are commonly known as Cosmology and Rational Psychology. In Hegel’s system they appear in a double form: in their most abstract generality they constitute the “Doctrine of Essence,” and the “Doctrine of the Notion” in the Hegelian Logic; in their more concrete detail they form the second and third parts of his complete system or “Encyclopaedia” of the philosophical sciences, the previously mentioned Philosophies of Nature and Mind.

In the pre-Kantian eighteenth century it was not unusual to add yet a fourth division to Metaphysics, Rational Theology, the doctrine of the existence and attributes of God, so far as they can be deduced from general philosophical principles apart from the appeal to specific revelation. Kant’s onslaught on the whole Wolffian scheme in the “Dialectic of Pure Reason,” while profoundly modifying for the future the view taken by metaphysicians of Cosmology and Rational Psychology, proved annihilating so far as eighteenth-century Deism and its philosophical offspring, Rational Theology, |44| were concerned, and that sub-division may fairly be said to have disappeared from subsequent philosophical systems.2


“The precise sense in which we adopt these divisions
for the purposes of our own treatment of the subject.”


§ 2. There are good and obvious reasons why we should adhere, in the form of our inquiry, to the main outlines of this traditional scheme. It is true that it is largely a question of simple convenience what order we adopt in a systematic metaphysical investigation. A genuinely philosophical survey of the general character of knowledge and experience would exhibit so complete a systematic unity, that you might start from any point in it and reach the same results, much as you may go round a circle equally well from any point of the periphery. But for the beginner, at any rate, it is advantageous to start with the general question what we mean by Being or Reality, and what character is to be ascribed to the whole of Being as such, before attacking the problem of the particular kind of Being which belongs to the various “realities” of common life and the special sciences. Thus we have to discuss in the first part of our programme such questions as the relation of Being in general to experience, the sense in which Being may be said to be inseparable from, and yet again to transcend, experience; the problem of the existence of different kinds or degrees of Being; the question whether Being is ultimately. one or many; the relation between Real Being and its appearances. All these problems correspond with reasonable closeness to the contents of what was traditionally known as Ontology.

It is only when we have reached some definite conclusion on these most fundamental questions that we shall be in a position to deal with the more special problems suggested by the various departments of science and common life; hence we shall do well to acquiesce in the arrangement by which Ontology was made to precede the other divisions of the subject. Again, in dealing with the more complex special problems of Metaphysics, it is natural to recognise a distinction corresponding to the separation of Cosmology from Rational Psychology. Common language shows that for most of the purposes of human thought and action the contents of the world of experience tend to fall into the two groups of mere things and things which are sentient and purposive — Physical Nature on the one hand, and Minds or Spirits on the other. We must, of course, be careful not to |45| confuse this division of the objects of experience with the distinction between an experienced object as such and the subject of experience. We are to start, in our critical investigation, not with the artificial point of view of Psychology, which sets the “subject” of presentations over-against the presentations considered as conveying information about “objects of knowledge,” but with the standpoint of practical life, in which the individual agent is opposed to an environment itself consisting largely of similar individual agents. It is not “Nature” on the one side and a “perceiving mind” on the other, but an environment composed partly of physical things, partly of other human and animal minds, that furnishes the antithesis on which the distinction of Cosmology from Rational Psychology is founded. There is no confusion against which we shall need to be more on our guard than this fallacious identification of Mind or Spirit with the abstract subject of psychological states, and of the “environment” of the individual with Physical Nature. Of course, it is true that we necessarily interpret the inner life of other minds in terms of our own incommunicably individual experience, but it is equally true that our own direct experience of ourselves is throughout determined by interaction with other agents of the same type as ourselves. It is a pure delusion to suppose that we begin by finding ourselves in a world of mere physical things to some of which we afterwards come by an after-thought, based on “analogy,” to ascribe “consciousness” akin to our own. Hence, to avoid possible misunderstandings, it would be better to drop the traditional appellations “Cosmology” and “Rational Psychology,” and to call the divisions of applied Metaphysics, as Hegel does, the Philosophy of Nature and of Spirit or Mind respectively.3 |46|

In recognising this subdivision of applied Metaphysics into two sections, dealing respectively with Physical Nature and with Mind or Spirit, we do not mean to suggest that there is an absolute disparity between these two classes of things. It is, of course, a matter for philosophical criticism itself to decide whether this difference may not in the end turn out to be merely apparent. This will clearly be the case if either minds can be shown, as the materialist holds, to be simply a peculiar class of highly complex physical things, or physical things to be, as the idealist contends, really minds of an unfamiliar and non-human type. It is sufficient for us that the difference, whether ultimate or not, is marked enough to give rise to distinct classes of problems, which have to be treated separately and on their own merits. We may feel convinced on general philosophical grounds that minds and physical things are ultimately existences of the same general type, whether we conceive that type after the fashion of the materialist or of the idealist, but this conviction does not in the least affect the fact that the special metaphysical problems suggested by our experience of physical things are largely different from those which are forced on us by our interest in the minds of our fellows. In the one connection we have, for instance, to discuss the questions connected with such categories as those of uniform spatial extension, uniform obedience to general law, the constitution of a whole which is an aggregate of parts; in the other, those connected with the meaning and value of ethical, artistic, and religious aspiration, the concept of moral freedom, the nature of personal identity. Even the categories which seem at first sight most readily applicable both to physical things and to minds, such as those of quality and number, lead to special difficulties in the two contrasted cases. This consideration seems to justify us in separating the metaphysics of Mind from the metaphysics of Nature, and the |47| superior difficulty of many of the problems which belong to the former is a further reason for following the traditional order of the two sub-divisions, and placing Rational Psychology after Cosmology. In so far as the problems of Rational Theology can be separated from those of general Ontology, the proper place for them seems to be that section of Rational Psychology which deals with the meaning and worth of our religious experiences.


“The relation of Cosmology and Rational Psychology to the empirical sciences.”


§ 3. It remains, in concluding the present chapter, to utter a word of caution as to the relation between the two divisions of applied Metaphysics and the body of the empirical sciences. It is perhaps hardly necessary to warn the student that Rational Cosmology and Psychology would become worse than useless if conceived of as furnishing in any sense a substitute for the experimental study of the physical, psychological, and social sciences. They are essentially departments of Metaphysics, and for that very reason are incapable of adding a single fact to the sum of our knowledge of ascertained fact. No doubt the discredit into which Metaphysics — except in the form of tacit and unconscious assumption — has fallen among students of positive science, is largely due to the unfortunate presumption with which Schelling, and to a less degree Hegel, attempted to put metaphysical discussion in the place of the experimental investigation of the facts of nature and of mind. At the present day this mistake is less likely to be committed; the danger is rather that applied Metaphysics may be declared purely valueless because it is incapable of adding to our store of facts. The truth is, that it has a real value, but a value of a different kind from that which has sometimes been ascribed to it. It is concerned not with the accumulation of facts, but with the interpretation of previously ascertained facts, looked at broadly and as a whole. When the facts of physical Nature and of Mind and the special laws of their connection have been discovered and systematised by the most adequate methods of experiment, observation, and mathematical calculation at our disposal, the question still remains, how we are to conceive of the whole realm of such facts consistently with the general conditions of logical and coherent thought. If we choose to define positive science as the systematic establishment of the special laws of connection between facts, we may say that over and above the scientific problem of the systematisation of facts there is the further philosophical problem of their interpretation. This latter problem does not cease to be |48| legitimate because it has been illegitimately confounded by certain thinkers with the former.

Or we may put the case in another way. The whole process of scientific systematisation involves certain assumptions as to the ultimate nature of the facts which are systematised. Thus the very performance of an experiment for the purpose of verifying a suggested hypothesis involves the assumption that the facts with which the hypothesis is concerned conform to general laws, and that these laws are such as to be capable of formulation by human intelligence. If “nature” is not in some sense “uniform,” the conclusive force of a successful experiment is logically nil. Hence the necessity for an inquiry into the character of the presuppositions involved in scientific procedure, and the amount of justification which can be found for them. For practical purposes, no doubt, the presuppositions of inductive science are sufficiently justified by its actual successes. But the question for us as metaphysicians, as we have already seen, is that not of their usefulness but of their truth.

It may be said that the inquiry ought in any case to be left to the special student of the physical and psychological sciences themselves. This, however, would involve serious neglect of the great principle of division of labour. It is true, of course, that, other things being equal, the better stored the mind of the philosopher with scientific facts, the sounder will be his judgment on the interpretation and implications of the whole body of facts. But, at the same time, the gifts which make a successful experimentalist and investigator of facts are not altogether the same which are required for the philosophical analysis of the implications of facts, nor are both always conjoined in the same man. There is no reason, on the one hand, why the able experimenter should be compelled to desist from the discovery of facts of nature until he can solve the philosophical problems presented by the very existence of a world of physical facts, nor, on the other, why the thinker endowed by nature with powers of philosophical analysis should be forbidden to exercise them until he has mastered all the facts which are known by the specialists. What the philosopher needs to know, as the starting-point for his investigation, is not the specialist’s facts as such, but the general principles which the specialist uses for their discovery and correlation. His study is a “science of sciences,” not in the sense that it is a sort of universal encyclopaedia of instructive and entertaining knowledge, but in the more modest sense of being |49| a systematised reflection upon the concepts and methods with which the sciences, and the less methodical thought of everyday practical life work, and an attempt to try them by the standard of ultimate coherence and intelligibility.


Note. — If we retain Psychology, as is done, e.g., by Lotze, as the title of our Metaphysic of Mind, we ought in consistency to give the word a greatly extended sense. The facts which the Metaphysic of Mind attempt to interpret, comprise not only those of Psychology in the stricter sense (the abstract study of the laws of mental process), but those of all the various sciences which deal with the concrete manifestation of mind in human life (Ethics, Æsthetics, Sociology, the study of Religion, etc.). This is one reason for preferring the Hegelian designation “Philosophy of Mind” to the traditional one of Rational Psychology. The associations of the word Philosophy in English are, however, so vague that the adoption of the Hegelian title might perhaps be understood as identifying this division of Metaphysics with the whole content of the mental sciences. But for the unfamiliarity of the expression, I should recommend some such phrase as Metaphysics of Human Society as the most adequate description of this branch of our science.


1^ The name is ultimately derived from Aristotle’s definition of “First Philosophy” — which along with Mathematics and Physics constitutes, according to his system, the whole of Theoretical Science — as the knowledge of ὂντα ᾖ ὂντα, i.e. of the general character of the real as real, as distinguished from the knowledge of the mathematician and the physicist, who only deal with the real in so far as it exhibits number and magnitude, and sensible change respectively.

2^ Less effective in immediate results, but no less thorough and acute than the Kantian “Critique of Speculative Theology,” were Hume’s posthumous Dialogues on Natural Religion, a work which has hardly received its full meed of consideration from the professional historians of Philosophy.

3^ The fallacy of the assumption that our environment is directly given in experience as merely physical is best brought out by Avenarius in his masterly little work Der Menschliche Weltbegriff, which should be familiar to all students of Philosophy who are able to read German. The purely English reader will find many fruitful suggestions in Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism, pt. iv., “Refutation of Dualism.” Much confusion is caused in philosophical discussion by the unscholarly use of the epistemological term “object” (which properly signifies “object of cognition”) instead of the more familiar “thing” to denote the constituent elements of our environment as it is actually experienced in practical life. In strictness the elements of the environment are “objects” only for an imaginary consciousness which is thought of as merely cognisant of presented fact, a point which Prof. Münsterberg has emphasised. For practical life the essential character of the environment is not merely that it is “presented,” but that it interacts with our own purposive activity; it thus consists not of “objects,” but of “things.”
  In including the minds of our fellows among the things which constitute our environment, we must not commit the mistake of supposing “minds” as factors in immediate experience to be “incorporeal realities,” or “complexes of states of consciousness.” The distinction between mind and body, and the concept of mind as “within the body,” or again as a “function” of the body, are psychological hypotheses which only arise in the course of subsequent reflective analysis of experience. Of the worth of these hypotheses we shall have to speak later. At present it is enough to note that for direct experience a “mind” means simply a thing with individual purpose. What for my direct experience distinguishes my fellow-man from a stock or stone, is not the presence within him of an incorporeal “soul” or “consciousness,” but the fact that I must take account of his individual purposes and adapt myself to them if I wish to achieve my own. Here again the reader of German will do well to consult Prof. Münsterberg (Grundzüge der Psychologie, vol. i. chaps. 1-3). See also a paper on “Mind and Nature” by the present writer in International Journal of Ethics for October 1902.

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Book II. Ontology: The General Structure of Reality







§ 1. In the preceding book we have seen that the very nature of the metaphysical problem predetermines the general character of the answer we are to give to it. What our intellect can accept as finally real, we saw, must be indissolubly one with actual experience, and it must be an internally coherent system. In the present book we have to discuss more in detail the structure which must belong |51| to any reality possessing these general characteristics. The present chapter, then, will be devoted to an examination of the implications of the experiential character of real Being; in the next, we shall deal with the nature of its unity as a single system.


“In a sense ‘reality’ for each of us means that of which he must take account
if his special purposes are to find fulfillment.”


We may perhaps most conveniently begin our discussion with a redefinition of some of our principal terms. We have hitherto spoken of the object of metaphysical knowledge indifferently as “Being,” “What is,” What “truly exists,” and as “Reality,” “the ultimately real.” So far as it is possible to draw a distinction between these two sets of names for the same thing, we may say that each series lays special stress on a somewhat different aspect of our object. When we say that a thing “is” or “has Being,” we seem primarily to mean that it is an object for the knowing consciousness, that it has its place in the system of objects which coherent thought recognises. When we call the same object “real” or a “reality,” we lay the emphasis rather on the consideration that it is something of which we categorically must take account, whether we like it or not, if some purpose of our own is to get its fulfilment.1 Thus again the “non-existent” primarily means that which finds no place in the scheme of objects contemplated by consistent scientific thought; the “unreal,” that with which we have not, for any human purpose, to reckon.

This is what is often expressed by saying that reality means what is independent of our own will, what exercises resistance, what constrains or compels our recognition, whether we like it or not. Philosophers have pointed out that this way of putting the case is only half the truth. The “stubborn” facts or realities which, as we commonly say, force us to recognise them, only do so in consequence of the presence in us of definite interests and purposes which we cannot effect without adapting ourselves to the situation expressed by our statement of the “facts.” What lies entirely outside my interests and plans gets no kind of recognition from me; it is “unreal” for me precisely because I have no need to take account of it as a factor to be reckoned with in the pursuit of my |52| special ends. Thus, so long as we use the term in a relative sense and with reference to the special ends of this or that particular agent, there may be as many different orders of “reality” as there are special purposes, and what is “real” for the agent inspired by one purpose may be unreal for his fellows whose purposes are different. Thus, for example, to an English Christian living at home in England the rules of “caste” in India are usually for all practical purposes unreal; he has no need to take their existence into account as a condition of the successful prosecution of any of his aims and interests; for him they have no more significance than the rules of legal procedure adopted in Wonderland. But for the historian of Indian society, the native Hindu Christian, and the devout worshipper of Shiva, the rules of caste are a true reality. Not one of the three can execute his special purposes without taking them into account and allowing them to operate in determining his way of proceeding to his goal. Again, the kind of reality which the rules of caste possess for each of our three men is different, in accord with the differences in their characteristic purposes. For the historian, they are real as a system of ideas which have influenced and do influence the conduct of the society of which he is writing the history, in such a way that without understanding them he cannot get a clear insight into the social structure of Hinduism. To the native Christian, they are real as a standing source of difficulty and a standing temptation to be false to his highest ideas of conduct. To the Shivaite, they are real as the divinely appointed means to bodily and spiritual purification from the evil that is in the world.


“Ultimately the world must possess a structure of which all purposes, each in its own way, must take account. This is the ‘Ultimate Reality’ or ‘Absolute’ of Metaphysics.”


§ 2. So far, then, it might seem that “reality” is a purely relative term, and that our previous choice of ultimate freedom from contradiction as our standard of reality was an arbitrary one, due to the mere accident that our special purpose in sitting down to study Metaphysics is to think consistently. Of course, it might be said, whatever game you choose to play at, the rules of that particular game must be your supreme reality, so long as you are engaged in it. But it depends on your own choice what game you will play and how long you will keep at it. There is no game at which we all, irrespective of personal choice, have to play, and there is therefore no such thing as an ultimate reality which we must all recognise as such; there are only the special realities which correspond to our special individual purposes. You have no right to set up the particular rules of the game of scientific thought as a reality unconditionally |53| demanding recognition from those who do not choose to play that particular game.2

Such an argument would, however, be beside the point. It is true that the special nature of the facts which any one of us recognises as real depends on the special nature of his individual purposes. And it is true that, precisely because we are, to some extent, genuine individuals, no two men’s abiding purposes are identically the same. It is therefore true, so far as it goes, that Reality wears a different and an individual aspect for each of us. But it is emphatically not true that there is no identical character at all about the purposes and interests of different individuals. The very recognition of the fact that any one individual purpose or interest can only get expression by accommodating itself to a definite set of conditions, which constitute the reality corresponding to that purpose, carries with it the implication that the world is ultimately a system and not a chaos, or, in other words, that there is ultimately a certain constitution of things which, under one aspect or another, is of moment for all individuals, and must be taken into account by every kind of purpose that is to get fulfilment. If the world is systematic at all, — and unless it is so there is no place in it for definite purpose of any kind, — it must finally have a structure of such a kind that any purpose which ignores it will be defeated. All coherent pursuit of purpose, of whatever type, must therefore in the end rest on the recognition of some characteristics of the world-order which are unconditionally and absolutely to be taken into account by all individual agents, no matter what the special nature of their particular purposes. This is all that is meant when it is said that the reality investigated by Metaphysics is absolute, or when the object of metaphysical study is spoken of as the Absolute.


“In Metaphysics we regard it from the special standpoint of the scientific intellect. There are other legitimate attitudes towards it, e.g., that of practical religion.”


We may, in fact, conveniently define the Absolute as that structure of the world-system which any and every internally consistent purpose must recognise as the condition of its own fulfilment. To deny the existence of an Absolute, thus defined, is in principle to reduce the world and life to a mere chaos. It is important, however, to bear in mind that in Metaphysics, though we are certainly concerned with the ultimate or absolute Reality, we are concerned with it from a special point of view. Our special purpose is to know, or to think coherently, about the conditions which all |54| intelligent purpose has to recognise. Now this attitude of scientific investigation is clearly not the only one which we can take up towards the ultimately real. We may, for instance, seek to gain emotional harmony and peace of mind by yielding up the conduct of our practical life to the unquestioned guidance of what we directly feel to be the deepest and most abiding elements in the structure of the universe. This is the well-known attitude of practical religion. Primâ facie, while it seems to be just as permissible as the purely scientific attitude of the seeker after truth, the perennial “conflict of religion and science” is sufficient to show that the two are not identical. How they are related is a problem which we shall have, in outline, to consider towards the end of our inquiry; at present it is enough for our purpose to recognise them as divergent but primâ facie equally justified attitudes towards what must in the end be thought of as the same ultimate reality. As Mr. Bradley well says, there is no sin which is metaphysically less justifiable than the metaphysician’s own besetting sin of treating his special way of regarding the “Absolute” as the only legitimate one.


“The inseparability of reality from immediate experience involves the recognition of it as teleological and as uniquely individual.”


§ 3. To return to our detailed investigation of the connection between Reality as now defined for the metaphysician, and Experience. We can now see more completely than before why it is only in immediate experience that reality is to be found. Our reason for identifying reality with immediate experience has nothing to do with the theory according to which “sensations,” being the product of a something “without the mind,” are supposed to carry with them a direct certificate of the independent existence of their “external” cause. For we have seen: (1) that immediacy means simply indissoluble union with a whole of feeling, and that this immediacy belongs to every mental state as actually lived through; (2) that the dependence of sensations in particular on an “external” cause, is in no sense an immediate datum of experience, but a reflective hypothesis which, like all such hypotheses, demands examination and justification before it can be pronounced legitimate; (3) that it is a philosophical blunder to identify the real with the merely “independent” of ourselves. What is merely independent, as we have now seen, would for us be the merely unreal. Presence in immediate experience is a universal character of all that is real, because it is only in so far as anything is thus presented in immediate unity with the concrete life of feeling that it can be given as a condition or fact of which an individual interest must take account, |55| on pain of not reaching accomplishment. Actual life, as we have already learned, is always a concrete unity of feeling in which the two distinguishable aspects of a psychical fact, its existence and its content, the that and the what, though distinguishable, are inseparable. Scientific reflection on the given we found to be always abstract, in the sense that its very essence is the mental separation of the content from the process. By such separation we mediately get to know the character of the separated content better, but our knowledge, with all its fulness, still remains abstract; it is still knowledge referring to and about an object outside itself. It is only when, as a result of the reflective process, we find fresh meaning in the individual process-content on its recurrence that we return once more to the concrete actuality of real existence.

Now, we may express this same result in another and an even more significant way. To say that reality is essentially one with immediate feeling, is only another way of saying that the real is essentially that which is of significance for the attainment of purpose. For feeling is essentially teleological, as we may see even in the case of simple pleasure and pain. Amid all the confusion and complexity of the psychological problems which can be raised about these most simple forms of feeling, one thing seems clear, that pleasure is essentially connected with unimpeded, pain with impeded, discharge of nervous activity. Pleasure seems to be inseparable from successful, pain from thwarted or baffled, tendency.3 And if we consider not so much the abstractions “pleasure in general,” “pain in general,” as a specific pleasure or pain, or again a complex emotional |56| state, the case seems even clearer. Only a being whose behaviour is consciously or unconsciously determined by ends or purposes seems capable of finding existence, according as those purposes are advanced or hindered, pleasant or painful, glad or wretched, good or bad. Hence our original decision that reality is to be found in what is immediately experienced, as opposed to what is severed by subsequent reflective analysis from its union with feeling, and our later statement that that is real of which we are constrained to take account for the fulfilment of our purposes, fully coincide.

This point may perhaps be made clearer by a concrete example. Suppose that some purpose of more or less importance requires my immediate presence in the next town. Then the various routes by which I may reach that town become at once circumstances of which I have to take note and to which I must adapt my conduct, if my important purpose is not to be frustrated. It may be that there are alternative routes, or it may be that there is only one. In any case, and this is fundamental for us, the number of alternatives which my purpose leaves open to me will be strictly limited. I can, as a matter of mere mathematical possibility, go from A to B in an indefinite number of ways. If I have to make the journey in actual fact on a given day, and with existing means of transit, the theoretical infinity of possible ways is speedily reduced to, at the outside, two or three. For simplicity’s sake we will consider the case in which there happens to be only one available way. This one available way is “real” to me, as contrasted with the infinity of mathematically possible routes, precisely because the execution of my purpose restricts me to it and no other. The mathematically possible infinity of routes remain unreal just because they are thought of as all alike mere possibilities; no actual purpose limits me to some one or some definite number out of the infinity, and compels me to adapt myself to their peculiarities or fail of my end. They |57| are “imaginary” or “merely possible” just for want of specific relation to an experience which is the expression of a definite purpose.

This illustration may lead us on to a further point of the utmost importance, for it illustrates the principle that the real as opposed to the merely “possible” or “merely thought of” is always individual. There was an indefinite number of mathematically conceivable ways from A to B; there was only one, or at least a precisely determinate number, by which I could fulfil a concrete individual purpose. (Thus, if I have to make the journey to B in a given time, I must take the route followed by the railway.) So universally it is a current common-place that while thought is general, the reality about which we think and of which we predicate the results of our thought is always individual. Now, what is the source or principle of this individuality of the real as opposed to the generality of the merely conceivable? It is precisely that connection of reality with actual purpose of which we have spoken. The results of thought are general because for the purposes of scientific thinking we isolate the what of experience from its that we consider the character of what is presented to us apart from the unique purpose expressed in the experience in which it comes to us. In other words, the problems of scientific thought are all of the form, “How must our general purpose to make our thought and action coherent be carried out under such and such typical conditions?” never of the form, “Of what must I take account for the execution of this one definite purpose?” The reason for this difference is at once apparent. In making “this definite purpose” a topic for reflection, I have ipso facto abstracted its what from its that and converted it into a mere instance or example of a certain type. It was only while it remained this purpose as actually immanent in and determining the immediate experience of actual life that it was a completely determinate unique this; as reflected on it becomes a type of an indefinite number of similar possibilities.

Now, it is necessary here to observe very carefully that it is from the unique individuality of the purpose expressed in an actual experience that the objects or facts of immediate experience derive the individuality in virtue of which we contrast them with the generalities or abstract possibilities of science. It is the more necessary to dwell explicitly on this point, because there is a common but erroneous doctrine that the individuality of actual existence |58| is derived from its occupying a particular place in the space and time orders. Scientific truth is general, it is often said, because it refers alike to all places and times; actual “fact” is individual because it is what is here and now. But we should be able to see that such an account directly inverts the real order of logical dependence. Mere position in space and time can never be a true “principle of individuation,” for the simple reason that one point in space and one moment in time, considered apart from the things and events which fill them, are, at any rate for our perception,4 indistinguishable from all other points and moments. It is, on the other hand, precisely by their correlation with unique stages in lives which are the embodiment of unique and individual purpose, that places and times and the things and events which occupy them become for us themselves unique and individual. Here, for me, means where I now am, and now, this unique and determinate stage in the execution of the purposes which, by their uniqueness, make me unique in the world. Thus we seem to have reached the significant conclusion that to say “Reality is experience” involves the further propositions, “Reality is through and through purposive” and “Reality is uniquely individual.”


“The experience within which all reality falls cannot be my own, nor yet the ‘collective’ experience of the aggregate of conscious beings.”


§ 4. We have already seen that to identify reality with experience does not mean identifying it with my own experience just as it comes to me in actual life, still less with my own experience as I mentally reconstruct it in the light of some conscious or unconscious philosophical theory. My own experience, in fact, is very far from satisfying the conditions of completeness and harmony which we found in our last book to be essential to a “pure” or perfect experience. Its defectiveness is principally manifested in three ways, (1) As we have already seen, its contents are always fragmentary. It never contains more than the poorest fragment of the whole wealth of existence. The purposes or interests which make up my conscious life are narrowly limited. The major portion of the facts of the universe, i.e. of the conditions of which note has to be taken by its inhabitants if their aims are to be fulfilled, lie outside the range of my individual interests — at least, of those which I ever become explicitly aware. Hence, being without significance for my individual purposes, they do not directly I |59| enter into my special experience. I either know nothing of them at all, or know of them only indirectly and through the testimony of others for whose lives they have real and direct significance. And these others again are, in virtue of the individual interests which differentiate them from me, only partially cognisant of the same factual reality as I am.

(2) Again, my insight even into my own aims and interests is of a very limited kind. For one thing, it is only a fragment of them which is ever given in the form of what is immediately felt in an actual moment of experience. I have largely to interpret the actually felt by theoretical intellectual constructions which reach, in the form of memory, into the past, and, in the form of anticipation, into the future. And both these types of intellectual construction, though indispensable, are notoriously vitiated by fallacies. For another, even with the fullest aid of such intellectual construction, I never succeed in completely grasping the whole meaning of my life as the embodiment of a single coherent purpose. Many of my purposes never rise sufficiently into clear consciousness to be distinctly realised, and those that do often wear the appearance of having no systematic connection with one another. Small wonder, then, that the realities or “facts” of which I learn to take note for the execution of my aims more often than not appear to belong to a chaos rather than to the orderly system which we cannot help believing the world to be, could we see it as it truly is.


“Ours must be an individual experience which apprehends the totality of existence as the harmonious embodiment of a single ‘purpose.’”


(3) Finally, I have the gravest grounds for the conviction that even of the realities of which I do take note I never perceive more than just those aspects which attract my attention just because they happen to be significant for my special interests. What startling experiences teach us in the case of our fellow-men may be true everywhere, namely, that everything that is has an infinity of sides to it, over and above those of which we become aware because of their special importance for our own purposes; there may be an infinite wealth of character in the most familiar things, to which we are blind only because, so to speak, it has no “economic value” for the human market. For all these reasons we are absolutely forbidden to identify our own limited experience with the experience of which we have said, that to be real is to be bound up with it, and to be bound up with it is to be real. Neither, again, can we identify this experience with the “collective experience” of the aggregate of human or other finite sentient beings in the universe. This is |60| obvious for more reasons than one. To begin with, “collective experience,” if it has any meaning at all, is a contradictory expression. For experience, as we have seen, is essentially characterised by unique individuality of aim and interest; in this sense at least, a true experience must be that of an individual subject, and no collection or aggregate can be an individual subject. The so-called “collective experience” is not one experience at all, but simply an indefinite multiplicity of experience, thrown together under a single designation. And even if we could get over this difficulty, there remains a still more formidable one. The various experiences of finite individuals are all, we have said, fragmentary and more or less incoherent. You cannot, therefore, get an experience which is all-comprehensive and all-harmonious by adding them together. If their defect were merely their fragmentariness, it would be conceivable that, given an outside observer who could see all the fragments at once, they might constitute a whole by merely supplementing one another’s deficiencies. But our finite experiences are not only fragmentary, but also largely contradictory and internally chaotic. We may indeed believe that the contradictions are only apparent, and that if we could become fully conscious of our own inmost aims and purposes we should at the same moment be aware of all Reality as a harmonious system; but we never do, and we shall see later that just because of our finitude we never can, attain this completed insight into the significance of our own lives. Hence the experience for which all reality is present as a harmonious whole cannot be any mere duplicate of the partial and imperfect experiences which we possess.

We thus seem driven to assert the necessary existence of a superhuman experience to which the whole universe of being is directly present as a complete and harmonious system. For “reality” has been seen to have no meaning apart from presence in a sentient experience or whole of feeling, while it has also been seen infinitely to transcend all that can be given as directly present to any limited experience. If this conclusion is sound, our “Absolute” can now be said to be a conscious life which embraces the totality of existence, all at once, and in a perfect systematic unity, as the contents of its experience. Such a conception clearly has its difficulties; how such an all-containing experience must be thought to be related to the realm of physical nature, and again to our own finite experiences, are problems which we shall have to take up in our two |61| succeeding books. We shall find them far from simple, and it is as well for us from the first to face the possibility that our knowledge of the character of the absolute experience may prove to be very limited and very tentative. That it is we seem compelled to assert by the very effort to give a coherent meaning to our notion of reality, but of what it is we may have to confess ourselves largely ignorant.


“The nearest analogue our own life presents to such a type of experience is to be found in the satisfied insight of personal love.”


But we may at least go so far as this, at the present stage of our argument. However different an all-containing coherent experience may be in its detailed structure from our own piecemeal and largely incoherent experience, if it is to be experience at all, it must apprehend its contents in the general way which is characteristic of direct experience as such. It must take note or be aware of them, and it must — if it is to be a direct experience at all — be aware of them as exhibiting a structural unity which is the embodiment of a consistent plan or purpose. We have to think of it as containing in a systematic unity not only all the “facts” of which our various experiences have to take note, but all the purposes which they express. Hence it is natural for us, when we attempt to form some approximate concept of such an ultimate experience in terms of our own conscious life, to conceive it as the union of perfected knowledge in an indivisible whole with supreme will. We must, however, remember that, for such an experience, precisely because of its all-comprising character, the what and the that are inseparable. Hence its knowledge must be of the nature of direct insight into the individual structure of the world of fact, not of generalisation about possibilities, and its will must have the form of a purpose which, unlike our own, is always consciously expressed with perfect harmony and completeness in the “facts” of which it is aware.5 Hence knowledge and will, involving as they do for us discrepancy between the what and the that of experience, are not wholly satisfactory terms by which to characterise the life of the Absolute.6 The most adequate analogue to such a life will probably be found in the combination of direct insight with satisfied feeling which we experience in the relation of |62| intimate and intelligent love between persons. The insight of love may be called “knowledge,” but it is knowledge of a quite other type than the hypothetical universals of science. I know my friend, not as one case of this or that general class about which certain propositions in Physiology, Psychology, or Ethics can be made, but as — for me at least — a unique individual centre of personal interest. Again, in my relations with my friend, so far as they remain those of satisfied love, my individual interests find their fullest embodiment. But the will to love is not first there in an unsatisfied form, and the embodiment afterwards added as the result of a process through means to an end. The purpose and its embodiment are throughout present together in an unbroken unity, and where this is not so, true mutual friendship does not as yet exist.7 After some such general fashion we shall best represent to ourselves the kind of consciousness which we must attribute to an all-embracing world-experience. Only, we must bear in mind that, owing to the fragmentariness of our own lives, the identity of purpose on which human friendship rests can never be close and intimate enough to be an adequate representative of the ultimate unity of all experience in the Absolute.8


“The experience of such an ‘Absolute’ must not be thought of as a mere reduplication of our own, or of the scientific hypotheses by which we coordinate facts for the purposes of inference. ”


§ 5. It may be well to add a word of caution against a plausible fallacy here. If there is such an Absolute Experience as we have demanded, all the realities that we know as the contents of our environment must be present to it, and present to it as they really are in their completeness. But we must be careful not to suppose that “our” environment, as it appears to an experience which apprehends it as it really is, is a mere replica or reduplication of the way in which it appears to us. For example, I must not assume that what I perceive as a physical thing, made up of separable parts external to one another and apparently combined in a |63| mechanical way into a whole which is a mere collection or aggregate of parts, is necessarily apprehended by the Absolute Experience as an aggregate of similar or corresponding parts. The thing as it appears to my limited insight may be no less different from the thing as apprehended in its true nature by such an experience, than your body, as it exists for my perception from your body as you apprehend it in organic sensation. In particular, we must not assume that things exist for the Absolute Experience in the form into which we analyse them for the purpose of general scientific theory, for instance, that physical things are for it assemblages of atoms or individual minds successions of “mental states.” In fact, without anticipating the results of succeeding books, we may safely say at once that this would be in principle impossible. For all scientific analysis is in its very nature general and hypothetical. It deals solely with types and abstract possibilities, never with the actual constitution of individual things. But all real existence is individual.

To put the same thing in a different way, scientific theory deals always with those features of the what of things of which we take note because of their significance for our human purposes. And in dealing with these features of things, it seeks to establish general laws of linkage between them of which we may avail ourselves, for the practical purpose of realising our various human interests. This practical motive, though often not apparent, implicitly controls our whole scientific procedure from first to last. Hence the one test of a scientific hypothesis is its success in enabling us to infer one set of facts from another set. Whether the intermediate links by which we pass from the one set to the other have any counterpart in the world of real experience or are mere creations of theory, like the “uninterpretable” symbols in a mathematical calculus, is from this point of view a matter of indifference. All we require of our hypothesis is that when you start with facts capable of experimental verification, the application of it shall lead to other facts capable of experimental verification. For this reason we may justifiably conclude that to any experience which is aware of things in their concrete individuality they must present aspects which are not represented in our scientific hypotheses, and again cannot appear to it as the precise counterpart of the schemes according to which we quite legitimately reconstruct them for the purpose of scientific investigation. We shall need to bear this in mind in future when we come to discuss the real |64| character of what appears to us as the world of physical nature.9


“Our conception is closely connected with that of Berkeley, from which it differs by the stress it lays on the purposive and selective aspect of experience.”


§ 6. The conclusion we have reached so far is largely identical with that of the anti-materialistic argument of Berkeley’s well-known Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. But there is one important difference between the two results which will lead to momentous consequences. Berkeley’s argument against the independent existence of unperceived matter proceeds throughout on the principle that to be means to be present in an experience, and his exhibition of the contradictions into which the denial of this principle leads the supporter of scientific materialism remains the classic demonstration of the truth of the opposing or “idealistic” view. But it is to be noted that he works throughout with an inadequate conception of “experience” and “presence in experience.” He treats experience as equivalent to mere passive “awareness” of a quality presented to perception. To experience with him means simply to be conscious of a presented quality; experience is treated as having, in psychological terminology, a merely presentational character. Hence he is led to infer that the things with which experience confronts us are nothing more than complexes of presented qualities, or, as he phrases it, that their whole being consists in being perceived.

The full extent of the paradox which this identification of the esse of material things with percipi involves, will be more apparent when we come to deal in our next book with the problem of matter. At present I merely wish to call attention to one of its many aspects. On the theory that experience is purely passive and presentational, consisting merely in the reception of certain sensations, the question at once arises. What determines what in particular the sensations we at any given moment receive shall be? On the Berkeleian view, their order must be determined altogether from without by a principle foreign to the experience which, he assumes, has nothing to do but to cognise the qualities put before it. Hence he is led to appeal to the agency of God, whom he supposes directly and immediately to cause perceptions to succeed one another in my experience in a certain definite order. Now, apart from further difficulties of |65| detail, this doctrine at once leads to the result that the attitude of God to the world of things is totally different from that of us who experience it. Experience is to me a purely passive receptivity of presentations; God’s relation to the presented objects, on the other hand, is one of active production. There is no common element in these fundamentally contrasted relations; hence it is really a paralogism when Berkeley allows himself to bring God under the same categories which he applies to the interpretation of human experience, and to attribute to Him a consciousness of the things which have been declared to be only the presentations His agency raises in the human mind.10

Berkeley is, in fact, inconsistently combining two conflicting lines of thought. He argues, on the one hand, that since there must be some reason for the order in which presentations succeed one another in my mental life, that reason is to be found in a source independent of myself. This source he identifies with God, but, as far as the argument goes, it might equally well have been found, as by Locke, in the original constitution of matter; all that the argument requires is that it shall be placed in something outside the succession of presentations themselves. On the other hand, he also argues that since the existence of the physical world means simply the fact of its being presented to consciousness, when its contents cease to be present to my consciousness they must be present to that of God. And here again the objection might be suggested, that if presence to my own experience, while it lasts, is an adequate account of the esse of a thing, it does not appear why I should recognise the reality of any other |66| experience. If I am to hold that disappearance from my experience does not destroy the reality of anything, I must logically also hold that its being, while I perceive it, is not exhausted by my awareness of it. Its esse cannot be merely percipi.

The complete solution of Berkeley’s difficulty would be premature at this point of our discussion. But we may at once point out its principal source. It arises from his failure to take adequate account of the purposive aspect of experience. Experience, as we have seen, is not mere awareness of a succession of presented objects, it is awareness of a succession determined by a controlling interest or purpose. The order of my experiences is not something simply given me from without, it is controlled and determined by subjective interest from within. Berkeley, in fact, omits selective attention from his psychological estimate of the contents of the human mind. He forgets that it is the interests for which I take note of facts that in the main determine which facts I shall take note of, an oversight which is the more remarkable, since he expressly lays stress on “activity” as the distinguishing property of “spirits.”11 When we make good the omission by emphasising the teleological aspect of experience, we see at once that the radical disparity between the relation of the supreme and the subordinate mind to the world of facts disappears. I do not simply receive my presented facts passively in an order determined for me from without by the supreme mind; in virtue of my power of selective attention, on a limited scale, and very imperfectly, I recreate the order of their succession for myself.

Again, recognition of the teleological aspect of all experience goes far to remove the dissatisfaction which we may reasonably feel with the other half of Berkeley’s argument. When I conceive of the “facts” of experience as merely objects presented to my apprehension, there seems no sufficient reason for holding that they exist except as so presented. But the moment I think of the succession of presented facts as it self-determined by the subjective interests expressed in selective attention, the case becomes different. The very expression “selective attention” itself carries with it a reminder that the facts which respond to my interests are but a selection out of a larger whole. And my practical experience of the way in which my own most clearly defined and conscious purposes depend for their fulfilment upon connection with the interests and purposes of a wider social whole possessed of an organic unity, should help me to understand how the totality of interests and purposes determining the selective attention of different percipients can form, as we have held that it must, the harmonious and systematic unity of the absolute experience. The fuller working out of this line of thought must be left for later |67| chapters, but it is hardly too much to say that the teleological character which experience possesses in virtue of its unity with feeling is the key to the idealistic interpretation of the universe.12

Idealism, i.e. the doctrine that all reality is mental, as we shall have repeated opportunities of learning, becomes unintelligible when mental life is conceived of as a mere awareness of “given” presentations.


“Realism, both of the Agnostic and of the Dogmatic type, is incompatible with the meaning we have been led to attach to ‘reality.’ But Agnosticism is justified in insisting on the limitations of our knowledge of Reality, and Dogmatic Realism in rejecting the identification of Reality with experience as a merely cognitive function of finite percipients.”


§ 7. We may now, before attempting to carry out in detail our general view of what is involved in being real, enumerate one or two philosophical doctrines about the nature of real existence which our conclusion as to the connection of reality with experience justifies us in setting aside. And, first of all, we can at once see that our previous result, if sound, proves fatal to all forms of what is commonly known as Realism. By Realism is meant the doctrine that the fundamental character of that which really is, as distinguished from that which is only imagined to be, is to be found in its independence of all relation to the experience of a subject What exists at all, the realist holds, exists equally whether it is experienced or not. Neither the fact of its existence nor the kind of existence it possesses depends in any way upon its presence to an experience. Before it was experienced at all it had just the same kind of being that it has now you are experiencing it, and it will still be the same when it has passed out of experience. In a word, the circumstance that a mind — whether yours or mine or God’s is indifferent to the argument — is aware of it as one of the constituents of its experience, makes no difference to the reality of the real thing; experience is what is technically called a relation of one-sided dependence. That there may be experience at all, and that it may have this or that |68| character, there must be real things of determinate character, but that there may be real things, it is not necessary that there should be experience. This is, in brief, the essence of the realist contention, and any philosophy which accepts it as valid is in its spirit a realist philosophy.

As to the number and nature of the supposed independent real things, very different views may be held and have been held by different representatives of Realism. Thus some realists have maintained the existence of a single ultimate reality, others of an indefinite plurality of independent “reals.” Parmenides, with his doctrine that the real world is a single uniform unchanging material sphere, is an instance in the ancient, and Mr. Herbert Spencer, with his Unknowable, an instance in the modern world of a realist of the former or “monistic” type. The ancient atomists, and in more recent times Leibnitz with his infinite plurality of independent and disconnected monads, and Herbart with his world of simple “reals,” afford the best known instances of a doctrine of pluralistic Realism. So again, the most diverse theories have been propounded as to the nature of the “reals.” Ancient and modern atomists have thought of them as material, and this is perhaps the form of realistic doctrine which appeals most readily to the ordinary imagination. But though a materialistic metaphysician is necessarily a realist, a realist need not be a materialist. Herbart thought of the independent “reals” as qualitatively simple beings of a nature not capable of further definition, Leibnitz as minds, while Agnostic philosophers of the type of Spencer conceive their ultimate reality as a sort of neutral tertium quid, neither mental nor material. The only point on which all the theories agree is that the reality of that which they recognise as true Being consists in its not depending for its existence or its character on relation to an experience. The differences of detail as to the number and nature of independent “reals,” though of great importance for our complete estimate of an individual realist’s philosophical position, do not affect our general verdict on the tenability of the first principle of Realism.

The one point of divergence among realists which may be considered as of more than secondary importance for our present purpose, is the difference between what we may call Agnostic and Dogmatic Realism. Agnostic Realism, while asserting the ultimate dependence of our experience upon a reality which exists independently of experience, denies that we can have any knowledge of the nature of this independent reality. The independent reality by which |69| all experience is conditioned is, on this view, an Unknowable or Thing-in-itself,13 of which we are only logically entitled to say that it certainly is, but that we do not in the least know what it is. The doctrine of Agnostic Realism has probably never been carried out by any thinker with rigid consistency, but it forms a leading feature of the philosophy of Kant as expounded in his First Critique, and through Kant has passed into English thought as the foundation of the systems of Sir William Hamilton and Mr. Herbert Spencer.14

Dogmatic Realism, of which Leibnitz and, at a later date, Herbart are the most important representatives in modern philosophy, on the contrary, while maintaining that real being is independent of experience, at the same time holds that it is possible to have positive knowledge not only of its existence but of its nature. In principle, both these forms of Realism have been already excluded by the argument of Book I. chap. 2, § 4. The supreme importance of the principle on which the argument rests may perhaps warrant us in once more briefly recurring to it. Our reasoning, it will be remembered, took the form of a challenge. Produce any instance you please, we said to the realist, whom we had not then learned to know by that name, of what you personally regard as reality, and we will undertake to show that it derives its reality for you from the very fact that it is not ultimately separable from the experience of a subject. A thing is real for you, and not merely imaginary, precisely because in some aspect of its character it enters into and affects your own experience. Or, what is the same thing in other words, it is real for you because it affects favourably or otherwise some subjective interest of your own. To be sure, the thing as it enters into your experience, as it affects your own subjective interests, is not the thing as it is in its fulness; it only touches your life through some one of its many sides. And this may lead you to argue that the real thing is the unexperienced “condition” of a modification of your |70| experience. But then we had again to ask what you mean by saying that facts which you do not experience are real as “conditions” of what you do experience. And we saw that the only meaning we could attach to the reality of the “condition” was presence to an experience which transcends your own.

To this general argument we may add two corollaries or supplementary considerations, which, without introducing anything fresh, may help to make its full force more apparent.

(1) The argument, as originally presented, was concerned directly with the that of reality, the mere fact of its existence. But we may also state it, if we please, from the side of the what, the nature possessed by the real. You cannot affirm any doctrine about the real existence of anything without at the same time implying a doctrine about its nature. Even if you say “Reality is unknowable,” you are attributing something beyond mere independence of experience to your reality; you are asserting that what is thus independent possesses the further positive quality of transcending cognition. Now what, in logic, must be your ground for attributing this rather than any other quality to your independent reality? It can only be the fact or supposed fact — which is indeed regularly appealed to by the Agnostic as the foundation of his belief — that our experiences themselves are all found to be self-contradictory. There is no ground for taking the unknowability of Reality to be true unless you mean by it a character which belongs not to something which stands outside all experience, but to experience itself The same contention applies to any other predicate which the realist affirms as true of his ultimate reality.

(2) Again, we may with effect present our argument in a negative form. Try, we may say, to think of the utterly unreal, and see how you will have to conceive it. Can you think of sheer unreality otherwise than as that of which no mind is ever aware, of which no purpose has ever to take account as a condition of its fulfilment? But to think of it thus is to attribute to it, as its definition, precisely that independence in which the realist finds the mark of ultimate reality. And if “independence” constitutes unreality, presence to and union with experience must be what constitutes reality.

Yet, however fatal this line of argument may be to the principle of the realistic contention, we ought not to be satisfied with such a mere general refutation. We must try to see what is the element of truth in the realistic views to which they owe the plausibility they have always possessed |71| for minds of a certain type. In Philosophy we are never really rid of an error until we have learned how it arises and what modicum of truth it contains.


(1) Agnostic Realism. We may begin with Agnosticism, with which we ought now to have no serious difficulty. Agnostic Realism, as we have seen, is in principle a doubly self-contradictory theory. For it combines in one breath the irreconcilable declarations that the reality of things is unknowable and that it knows it to be so.15 Further, as we have just said, it makes alleged contradictions which only exist in and for experience, its sole ground for affirming that something, of which we can only specify that it is outside all experience, transcends cognition. To have grasped these two points is to have disposed of Agnosticism as a metaphysical theory.

Yet with all its defects Agnosticism still enshrines one piece of truth which the metaphysician is peculiarly prone to forget. Of all men the metaphysician, just because his special interest is to know something final and certain about Reality, is the most apt to exaggerate the amount of his certain knowledge. It is well to be reminded that the certainty with which we may say that Reality is experience is compatible with a very imperfect and limited theoretical insight into experience itself. In actual life this is a far from unfamiliar fact; the literature of common sense is full of observations to the effect that we never really know our own hearts, that the most difficult task of the sage is to understand himself, and so forth, — complaints which all turn on the point that even our own limited direct experience of our own meanings and purposes goes far beyond what we can at any moment express in the form of reflective knowledge. Yet it is easy, when we come to deal in Metaphysics with the nature of ultimate Reality, to forget this, and to suppose that the certainty with which we can say that the ultimately Real is an experience justifies us in wholesale dogmatising about the special character of that experience. As a protest against such exaggerated estimates of the extent of our theoretical knowledge of the nature of Reality, Agnosticism thus |72| contains a germ of genuine and important truth, and arises from a justifiable reaction against the undue emphasising of the merely intellectual side of our experience, of which we have already seen, and shall hereafter still more fully see, ground to complain as a besetting weakness of the metaphysically minded.


(2) Dogmatic Realism, that is, with admittedly knowable independent “reals,” is a much more workable doctrine, and in one of its forms, that of the so-called “naive realism” which supposes the world of experienced things with all its perceived qualities to exist independently of any relation to an experiencing subject in precisely the same form in which we experience it, fairly represents the ordinary views of unphilosophical “common-sense” men. Nothing seems more obvious to “common sense” than that my perception of a thing does not bring it out of nothing into existence, and again does not create for it new qualities which it had not before. It is because the thing is already there, and has already such and such a nature, says “common sense,” that I perceive it as I do. Therefore the whole world of perceived things must exist independently in the same form in which they are perceived, as a condition of my perception of them.

When this view comes to be worked out as a philosophical theory, it usually undergoes some transformation. The fact of illusion, and the experimentally ascertained subjective differences between individual percipients,16 or between different states of the same percipient, make it hard for the realist who wishes to be scientific to maintain that all the perceived qualities of experienced things are equally independent of the experiencing subject. Reflection usually substitutes for the “naive” realism of everyday life, a theory of “scientific” realism according to which the existence and some of the known properties of the experienced world are independent of the experiencing subject, while others are regarded as mere secondary effects arising from the action of an independent reality on the subject’s consciousness. With the further differences between the various types of scientific realism, according to the special properties which are held to belong to things independently of the percipient subject, we are not at present concerned.17 |73|

It is, of course, clear that our general argument against the existence of any reality except as in an experience tells just as much against “naive” realism and its more reflective outgrowth “scientific” realism as against Agnosticism. But the very plausibility and wide diffusion of realistic views of this type make it all the more necessary to reinforce our contention by showing what the truth Realism contains is, and just where it diverges from truth into fallacy. Nor is it specially difficult to do this. The important elements of truth contained in Realism seem to be in the main two. (1) It is certain that a thing may be real without being consciously present as a distinguishable aspect in my experience. Things do not begin to exist when I begin to be aware of them, or cease to exist when I cease to be aware of them. And again, the fact that I make mistakes and am subject to illusion shows that the qualities of things are not necessarily in reality what I take them to be. (2) Further, as is shown by the fact of my imperfect understanding of my own feelings and purposes, something may actually be an integral part of my own life as an experiencing subject without my clearly and consciously recognising it as such when I reflect on the contents of my experience.

But precisely how much do these two considerations prove? All that is established by the first is the point on which we have already insisted, that it is not my experience which constitutes Reality; and all that is established by the second, that experience, as we have already repeatedly seen, is not merely cognitive. But the admission of both these positions brings us not one step nearer the conclusion which the realist draws from them, that real existence is independent of all experience. Because it is easy to show that the reality of a thing does not depend on its being explicitly recognised by any one finite percipient or any aggregate of finite percipients, and again, that there is more in any experience of finite percipients than those percipients know, the realist thinks he may infer that there are realities which would still be real though they entered into no experience at all. But there is really no logical connection whatever between the premisses of this inference and the conclusion which is drawn from them.

This may be made clearer by a couple of examples. |74| Take, to begin with, the case of the mental life of my fellow human beings. And, to state the case in the form in which it appears most favourable to the realist conclusion, let us imagine an Alexander Selkirk stranded on a barren rock in the midst of the ocean. The hopes and fears of our Selkirk are independent of my knowledge of them just as completely and in just the same sense in which the existence and conformation of the rock on which he is stranded are so. I and all other inhabitants of the earth may be just as ignorant of Selkirk’s existence and of what is passing in his mind as we are of the existence and geological structure of his rock. And again, what Selkirk explicitly cognises of his own inner life may bear as small a proportion to the whole as what he explicitly cognises of the properties of his rock to the whole nature of the rock. Yet all this in no wise shows that Selkirk’s hopes and fears and the rest of his mental life are not experience or have a reality “independent of experience.” Hopes and fears which are not experience, not psychical matter of fact, would indeed be a contradiction in set terms. And what the argument fails to prove of Selkirk’s mental life, it fails, for the same reason, to prove of Selkirk’s rock.

We may pass from the case of the mental life of a fellowman to the case of unperceived physical reality. A recent realist philosopher, Mr. L. T. Hobhouse, has brought forward as a clear instance of an independent physical reality, the case of a railway train just emerging from a tunnel. I do not perceive the train, he says, until it issues from the tunnel, but it was just as real while it was running through the tunnel. Its reality is therefore independent of the question whether it is perceived or not. But, in the first place, the argument requires that the train shall be empty; it must be a runaway train without driver, guard, or passengers, if the conditions presumed in the premisses are to be fulfilled. And, in the second place, we may retort that even an empty runaway train must have been despatched from somewhere by somebody. It must stand in some relation to the general scheme of purposes and interests expressed in our system of railway traffic, and it is precisely this connection, with a scheme of purposes and interests, which makes the runaway train a reality and not a mere fiction of an ingenious philosopher’s imagination. If Mr. Hobhouse’s argument proves the independent reality of the train in the tunnel, it ought equally to prove, and does equally prove, the independent existence of Selkirk’s fluctuations from hope to despair and back again on his isolated rock. And precisely because it proves both |75| conclusions equally, the sort of independence it establishes cannot be independence of experience. Like all realist arguments, it turns on the identification of experience with the cognitive aspect of experience, an identification too often suggested by the language of the “idealists” themselves.18


“Subjectivism, according to which all that I know is states of my own ‘consciousness,’ is irreconcilable with the admitted facts of life,
and arises from the psychological fallacy of ‘introjection’.”


§ 8. The persistent vitality of Realism is due to its protest against the fallacies of an opposing theory which has of late especially found favour with some distinguished students of natural science, and which we may conveniently call Subjectivism.19 Realism, as we saw, started from the true premisses, that there are real facts of which my experience does not make me explicitly aware, and that my cognition even of my own experience is incomplete, and argued to the false conclusion that there are therefore realities independent of any experience. Subjectivism reasons in the opposite way. It asserts truly that there is no reality outside experience, and then falsely concludes that I can know of no reality except my own cognitive states. Its favourite formula are expressions such as, “We know only the modifications of our own consciousness,” “All we know is our own perceptions,” “Nothing exists but states of consciousness.” These formulae are not all obviously identical in meaning, but the exponents of Subjectivism seem to use them without any conscious distinction, and we shall probably do the theory no injustice if we criticise it on the assumption that the expressions are meant to be of identical signification.

Now it is clear that the logical consequences of the subjectivist doctrine are so subversive of all the practical assumptions upon which daily life is based, that they should require the most stringent proof before we give our assent to them. If Subjectivism is true, it follows immediately that not merely the “whole choir of heaven and furniture of earth,” but the |76| whole of humanity, so far as I have any knowledge of its existence, is a mere subjective affection of my own “consciousness,” or, as the scientific subjectivist usually, for some not very obvious reason, prefers to say, of my own brain. Every argument which the subjectivist can produce to show that “things” are, for my knowledge at any rate, “modifications of my own consciousness,” applies to the case of my fellowmen with as much force as to the case of the inorganic world. The logical inference from the subjectivist’s premisses, an inference which he is rarely or never willing to draw, would be that he is himself the sole real being in a world of phantoms, not one of which can with any certainty be said to correspond to a real object. And conversely, any valid ground for recognising the existence of my fellow-men as more than “states of my own consciousness,” must equally afford ground for admitting the reality, in the same general sense, of the rest of the world of things familiar to us from the experiences of everyday life.20 For if any one of the things composing the world of practical life has a reality which is not dependent upon its presence to my particular experience, then there is the same reason for believing that every other such thing has a like reality, unless there happen to be special grounds for regarding the perception to which it is present as an hallucination.

We must not, however, simply dismiss the subjectivist theory in this summary way. We must examine the doctrine in detail sufficiently to discover where the fallacy comes in, how it arises — and what modicum of sound philosophic insight it may possibly contain. To take these three points in logical order —

(a) The current arguments for Subjectivism are often so stated as to confuse together two quite distinct positions. When it is said that what we perceive is “our own subjective states,” the meaning intended may be either that there is, at least so far as I am able to know, no real existence in the universe except that of my “states of consciousness”; or again, that there are such realities, but that the properties which I perceive do not belong to them in their own nature but are only subjective effects of their action upon my |77| “consciousness,” or, if you prefer to speak in physiological language, upon my nervous system. Now, many of the arguments commonly urged by the subjectivist would at most only prove the second conclusion, in which the subjectivist agrees to a large extent with the scientific realist. Thus it is an ignoratio elenchi to reason as if the facts of hallucination, illusion, and discrepancy between the reports of different percipients or different sense-organs of the same percipient gave any support to the special doctrine of Subjectivism. These facts, which, as we have seen, are equally appealed to by scientific realists, prove no more than that we do not always perceive the world of things as it is, and as it must be thought of if we would think truly, — in other words, that there is such a thing as error.

Now the problem “How is it possible for us to think or perceive falsely?” is, as the student of Greek philosophy knows, both difficult and important. But the existence of error in no way shows that the things which I perceive are “states of my own consciousness”; on the contrary, error is harder to explain on the subjectivist theory than on any other. For if what I perceive has some kind of existence distinct from the mere fact of my perceiving it, there is at least a possibility of understanding how the reality and my perception of it may be discrepant; but if the existence of a thing is only another name for the fact that I perceive it, it seems impossible that I should perceive anything except as it is. On the subjectivist theory, as Plato showed in the Theaetetus, every percipient being ought, at every moment of his existence, to be infallible.

We may confine our attention, then, to the grounds which the subjectivist alleges for the former conclusion, that nothing can be known to exist except my own “states of consciousness,” and may dismiss the whole problem of erroneous perception as irrelevant to the question. Now the general argument for Subjectivism, however differently it may be stated by different writers, consists, in principle, of a single allegation. It is alleged as a fact in the Psychology of cognition, that things are immediately perceived by us as modifications of our own sensibility, or “states of our own consciousness,” and that it is therefore impossible to get behind this ultimate condition of all perception. Against this psychological doctrine we have to urge (1) that it is in flagrant contradiction with the certain facts of actual life; and (2) that, as a doctrine in Psychology, it is demonstrably false. |78|

(1) There are certain realities, admitted by the subjectivist himself, which are manifestly not “states of my consciousness,” and of which I yet, as the subjectivist himself admits, have a genuine though imperfect knowledge; such realities are, e.£:, the ends and purposes of my fellow-men, and again many of my own ends and purposes. It is allowed on all hands that I can know not only the fact of the existence of other men, but also, to some extent at least, the character of their various purposes and interests. This is involved, for instance, in the simple fact that when I read a letter it is normally possible for me to understand the writer’s meaning. It is equally involved in the fact that I can know the truth of any ordinary historical matter of fact, e.g., the date of the great fire of London. Neither the date of the fire of London nor the meaning of my correspondent’s sentences is a “state of my consciousness” in any intelligible sense of the words, yet both are typical instances of the kind of facts of which our ordinary knowledge of the world of everyday life and practice wholly consists. And what is true of facts relating to the deeds and purposes of others is equally true of my own deeds and purposes. The facts which make up my own life cannot, without violence to language, be reduced to “states of my consciousness.” For instance, I may know that I have a certain temperament or disposition, e.g., that I am irascible by temperament or of a sentimental disposition; but though my knowing these truths about myself may in a sense be called a state of my consciousness, the truths themselves cannot be called “states of my consciousness” without a serious logical fallacy of equivocal middle term.

(2) This will be made clearer by a consideration of the psychological principle invoked by the subjectivist. What the subjectivist means when he says that in perception I am aware only of the states, or subjective modifications, of my own consciousness, is that the object of which each perceptive state is aware is simply itself as a perceptive state; the perception perceives itself and nothing else. E.g:, when I say I see red, what I am really aware of is that I am in a state of perceiving red; when I say I hear a noise, what I am aware of is that I am in a state of hearing a noise, and so universally. Now this is so far from being a truth, that it is absolutely and demonstrably false. We may, in fact, definitely lay it down that the one thing of which no one, except the introspective psychologist, is ever aware is his own perceptive state in the act of perceiving, and that, even in the case of the psychologist who sets himself purposely to study his own |79| states, no perceptive state ever perceives itself. What I am aware of when I look at a red surface is not “myself-as-perceiving-red,” but the splash of red colour itself. When I see a man, I do not perceive “myself-as-seeing-a-man,” but I perceive the other man. So when I take a resolution to act in a certain way or realise that I am in a certain mood, what I am directly aware of is not “myself-as-forming-the-resolution” or “myself-as-in-the-mood,” but the resolution or the mood. Even when, as an introspective psychologist, I sit down to study the formation of resolutions or the peculiarities of emotional moods by reflection on my own experience, the state in which I study the formation of a resolution or the nature of a mood is not itself the state of resolving or of experiencing the mood in question. We cannot too strongly insist that, if by “self-consciousness” is meant a cognitive state which is its own object, there is no such thing, and it is a psychological impossibility that there should be any such thing, as self-consciousness. No cognitive state ever has itself for its own object. Every cognitive state has for its object something other than itself.21

Even where I make an assertion about my subjective condition, as when I say “I know I am very angry,” the state of knowing about my feeling is as distinct from the feeling itself as the state of knowing that I see red is from the red colour that I see. What the subjectivist does is to confuse the two. Because the act of knowing is itself a state of the knowing subject, and because in some cases the knowledge may again have reference to some other state of the same subject, he infers that what I know at any moment is my own subjective condition in the act of knowing. In other |80| and more technical words, he confuses the cognitive act or state with its own object. To what absurd results this confusion would lead him, if he were logical in the inferences he makes from it, we have already seen. We can now see that psychologically the confusion is a double one. (1) The subjectivist confuses experience with mere awareness of a presented content. He ignores the presence of the true “subjective” factor of selective attention throughout experience, and is thus led to forget that all experiences imply an element which is in the experiencing mind but not presented to it. (2) And in confining his attention to the presentational aspect of experience, he goes on to confound the presented content with the fact of its presentation. As against this second confusion it is essential to a true theory of knowledge to emphasise three points of distinction between the presented content or object of a cognitive state and the state itself, considered as a process in the history of an experiencing subject. (1) The cognitive state is never its own object, it refers to or cognises an object distinct from its own existence as a psychical occurrence. This is the truth which Realism distorts into the doctrine that the object of knowledge must have a reality “independent of” experience. (2) The object of knowledge is never created by the occurrence of the psychical state in which a particular percipient becomes aware of its existence. This is just as true of so-called “merely ideal” objects as of physical things. The properties of the natural logarithms or of the circular functions in trigonometry are just as independent of my knowledge of them as the qualities of the trees and animals I should see if I turned from my writing desk and looked out at the window. (3) The object of knowledge has always a character of which only a fragment is ever presented to my perception or reflection in any cognitive state. Every cognitive state refers to or stands for a great deal more than it directly means to me.

(3) The origin of the subjectivist fallacy, as has been brilliantly shown by Avenarius,2 is to be found in the “intrasubjective intercourse” of a plurality of percipients capable of communicating their experience to each other. So long as I am dealing solely with myself as an experiencing being and my relation to my own environment, there is no possibility of a subjectivist interpretation. In my own direct experience I have to do neither with |81| “mental states” nor with mere “objects of cognition,” but with things which in various ways by their interference assist or hinder the accomplishment of my various purposes, and of which I have therefore to take note, so as to adapt my ways of reaching my ends to their ways of behaviour. Hence the “natural” view of the world, for a single experiencing being, would be that of “naive realism,” to which the things forming my environment are real in precisely the same sense in which I am real myself. But as soon as I have to take account of the experiences of other percipients, there arises an inevitable fallacy which leads to philosophical consequences of the gravest kind. Starting with the assumption that the things I perceive are the real things, I feel a difficulty as to how the same things can be perceived by the other percipients around me. E.g., if the sun I see is the real sun, what about the sun seen by some one else? Instead of finding the true explanation, that all the percipients are in relation to a common environment which is independent of its presence to any one percipient’s experience, I very naturally fall into the mistake of thinking the things perceived by other men to be “ideas” or “percepts” of the real things perceived by me. These perceptual copies of the real things I, for obvious reasons, locate somewhere “in” the organisms of my fellow percipients. Then I go on to interpret my own experience in terms of the theory I originally devised to meet the case of my fellow-men, and infer that what I myself perceive is a set of “percepts” or “ideas” produced “in” my organism by a reality “outside” all experience. And it is then an easy step to the final conclusion that, inasmuch as all known and knowable things are mere “ideas in some one’s head,” nothing else exists. Subjectivism is thus the last step in the development of the fallacy which begins with what Avenarius calls “introjection.” Just as we learned that the existence of our fellow-men is the cardinal fact of experience which affords the most immediate refutation of the subjectivist theory, so the original source of the subjectivist fallacy is failure to recognise their experience as being on the same level of reality as our own.

(4) We need not say much on the element of truth which Subjectivism preserves in a distorted form. We have seen that, as against Realism, Subjectivism is right in maintaining the indissoluble unity of real being with experience, though it twists this truth into an absurdity by first identifying experience with my own limited and imperfect experience |82| and then giving a false psychological interpretation of the nature of that experience itself. How a reality can be independent of presentation in my experience and yet be in its very nature dependent upon experience for its existence and character, has already been sufficiently illustrated. But we may perhaps say that even in the identification of experience with my own experience there is an underlying substratum of genuine philosophic truth. For, as we have more than once insisted, there is manifestly a great deal more in my own experience than what is at any time present as the object of conscious cognition. Or, as Mr. Bradley is fond of putting it, there is always more in my mind than before it. I am never fully aware at any moment even of the full nature of my own purposes and feelings. This is why the deceitfulness of my own heart has become a common-place of religious self-examination as well as of worldly wisdom.

Again, every increase of insight into our own real feelings and purposes involves increased insight into the feelings and purposes of the other feeling beings with whom we stand in the various relations of social intercourse.23 Hence it might fairly be contended that fully to know your own meaning, fully to understand what you want, would imply complete insight into the structure of the whole world of reality, — in fact, that self-knowledge and knowledge of the universe must ultimately be the same thing. The systematic unity of the whole world of experience may be so complete that there is nothing in it anywhere which does not correspond to some element in the experience of every one of its members. Each member may, like the monads of Leibnitz, represent the whole system though at very different levels of coherency and from very different points of view. But such a conception, though it would concede to Subjectivism that whatever forms a part of the system of real being somehow falls within my individual experience, would take as the foundation of its assertion that very distinction between what is implicitly present in my experience and what is explicitly before it which Subjectivism consistently ignores. Whether the doctrine as thus re-stated can be affirmed as more than a fascinating possibility, we shall be better able to judge when we have discussed in our next chapter the systematic unity of Reality. |83|


Consult further:
F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, chaps. 13, 14.
T. Case, Physical Realism, pt. i.
L. T. Hobhouse, The Theory of Knowledge, pt. 3, chap. 3, “The Conception of External Reality.”
H. Lotze, Metaphysic, bk. i. chap. 7 (pp. 207-231 of vol. i. in Eng. trans.).
J. S. Mackenzie, Outlines of Metaphysics, bk. i. chap. 3, “Theories of Metaphysics.”
J. Royce, The World and the Individual, First Series (Lecture on the First Conception of Being).


1^ See, in particular, Royce, The World and the Individual, Second Series, Lecture I., for a telling elaboration of this thought. I should note that I do not myself use the term “existence,” as is sometimes done, with special restriction to the sense of presence as a sensible event at a particular point of space and time. When so used, it is, of course, much narrower in scope than the term “Being.”

2^ Compare the brilliant but not altogether convincing argument of Professor James, in The Will to Believe.

3^ See the whole treatment of questions of feeling in Dr. Stout’s Manual of Psychology. I do not, of course, mean that “consciousness of activity” successful or thwarted as a fact precedes and conditions pleasure-pain. On the contrary, it is a familiar fact of experience that we often learn what our purposes are for the first time by the pain which attends their defeat. E.g., a man may first realise that he is, and has been, in love by his pain at his mistress’s preference of a rival suitor. And nothing seems more certain than that many pleasures are quite independent of “actual conation,” as Plato long ago recognised.
  I must take this opportunity to guard once for all against some plausible misconceptions, (a) When I speak of feeling as “purposive” or “teleological,” I do not mean to make what, to my own mind, would be the monstrous assumption, that it necessarily presupposes conscious anticipation of its guiding end or purpose. All that I mean is that the processes of conscious life are, as a matter of fact only intelligible with reference to the results in which they culminate and which they serve to maintain; or again, that they all involve the kind of continuity of interest which belong to attention, (b) If attentive interest is not necessarily actual conation, actual conscious effort, still less is it necessarily actual will. For me, as for Mr. Bradley (see his article in Mind for October 1902), where there is no ideal anticipation of the result of a process there is neither actual desire nor actual will. And since I cannot see that all attention implies ideal anticipation, I certainly could not agree with Prof. Royce that ultimate Reality is simply the “internal meaning of an idea.”
  My own meaning will be made clearer by reference to the illustration given at the beginning of this note. A man first realises that he has been in love because he feels pained at a rival’s success. So far as this is so, I should say, there has been no actual conation, and a fortiori, no actual will or desire. But — and this is my point — he would not feel the pain unless the success of the rival thwarted the successful issue of a specific psychophysical tendency of an essentially forward-reaching or teleological kind. The failure may for the first time make him aware of the presence of the tendency, but it must previously have been there as a condition of its own failure.

4^ This qualification has to be added to avoid prejudging the very difficult question whether “position” itself is “relative” or “absolute.” Fortunately our argument is independent of the determination of the problem. Even if there should be differences between points as “absolute” as the difference between red and blue, our contention would retain its force.

5^ For otherwise the facts which lay outside the purposes or interests of the Absolute would be “foreign” facts “given” from without and not in systematic harmony with its experience as a whole. The complete systematic unity of all facts would thus fall outside what was to be, ex hypothesi, an all-containing experience. Q.E.A.

6^ For further reflections upon the unsatisfactoriness of such a conception of the Absolute as the “union of Thought and Will,” see Bk. IV. chap. 6, § 1, where It is shown that knowledge and will alike, as actual knowledge and actual will, belong only to finite beings.

7^ I.e. if will be taken strictly to mean an actual volition, love and a “will to love” cannot coexist; if we take will improperly to mean a “standing” interest or purpose, the case is different.

8^ The student of the history of Philosophy will be reminded of the grounds on which Spinoza objects to ascribe “intellect” and “will” in the proper sense of the terms to his God, as well as of the “knowledge of the third or intuitive kind” and the “infinite intellectual love” of God for Himself which are so prominent in the fifth part of the Ethics. Similar considerations have sometimes led to a preference for the term “organic” rather than “purposive” or “teleological,” as expressive of the ultimate unity of experience. The word “organic,” however, might suggest biological conceptions of growth, dependence on an external environment, etc., which would be out of place. But the student may compare with what has been said of the “purposive” character of individuality Spinoza’s conception of the being of a thing as a conatus in suo esse perseverandi.

9^ For a full examination of the relation between reality and scientific symbolism, consult Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism, part I, The more clearly it is realised that scientific hypotheses are essentially a system of mathematical symbolism, the more impossible it becomes to suppose that they deal directly with the concrete nature of things.

10^ In Principles of Human Knowledge, §§ 70-75) Berkeley indeed seems on the very verge of denying that God Himself “perceives” the “ideas” which by His action He excites in us. But at § 139 we find that a “spirit” means “that which perceives ideas, and wills and reasons about them,” and in the third Dialogue it is expressly stated that sensible things are “perceived by God” (Works, Edit. in Bohn’s Libraries, vol. i. p. 368). In fact, from the psychological standpoint of Berkeleian sensationalism, to deny God’s possession of “ideas” (i.e. sense-contents) would have been tantamount to denying His spirituality.

1^ Unfortunately Berkeley, like so many philosophers, thought of “activity” as primarily an external relation between a “cause” and the material on which it “works.” This is probably why he failed to realise the “active” character of the perceptual process.

12^ The reader will do well to compare with the whole of the foregoing section the treatment of perception as essentially teleological in Dr. Stout’s Manual of Psychology, bk. iii. pt. i, chap. I.
  I need hardly observe that recognition of the fundamental significance of purpose and selection for mental life does not of itself entail the adoption of “voluntarist” views in Psychology. What is fundamental for real mental life may perfectly well admit of analysis into hypothetical simpler elements for the purpose of the psychologist. Thus the admission that all mental life is teleological and selective need not involve the adoption of such metaphysical theories of activity as are adversely criticised by Mr. Bradley in his Appearance and Reality, chap. 7, or the introduction of a peculiar “consciousness of activity” as an unanalysable datum into Psychology. The antithesis between the actualities of life and the data of Psychology maintained by Prof. Münsterberg in his Psychology and Life, and Grundzüge der Psychologie, if untenable in the extreme form in which he states it, is important as a corrective of the opposite tendency to treat as ultimate for psychological analysis whatever is of supreme importance for life.

13^ Thing-in-itself, i.e. not affected by the — according to this doctrine — extraneous conditions imposed upon it by relation to an experiencing mind.

14^ The inconsistencies of both Kant and Spencer will illustrate the reluctance of the human mind to acquiesce in a genuine Agnosticism. In the Critique of Pure Reason itself Kant so far contradicts himself as to treat the Thing-in-itself as the cause of sensation, though it is a fundamental doctrine of his system that the concept of causal relation can only be legitimately applied to connect facts inside experience; and in a later work, the Critique of Judgment, he tentatively suggests its identity with Will. Of Mr. Spencer it has been truly said (I believe by Mr. F. C. S. Schiller in Riddles of the Sphinx) that in the course of his ten volumes of Synthetic Philosophy he speaks much more positively about the nature of the Unknowable than dogmatic theology ventures to speak about the nature of God.

15^ The sceptics of antiquity, who were more alive to this contradiction than most of our modern Agnostics, tried to evade the difficulty by saying that they maintained the unknowability of things not as a demonstrated certainty, but as a “probable opinion.” But this distinction is itself illogical, for unless some propositions are certain there is no ground for considering any one proposition more probable than another. E.g., if I know that a die with six faces has four pips on each of two faces, and five pips on only one, I can logically say “it is probable that with this die four will be thrown oftener than five.” If I am totally uncertain what number of pips is marked on the various faces, I cannot regard one throw as more probable than another.

16^ E.g., peculiarities of the individual’s colour-spectrum, total and partial colour-blindness, variations in sensibility to musical pitch, etc., etc.

17^ The best known and most popular version of the theory is that of Locke and of a great deal of our popular science, according to which the “primary” qualities of matter, i.e. those which have to be treated as fundamental in the physical sciences, are independently real, while the rest are mere effects produced by their action on our sense-organs. The more thorough-going metaphysical doctrines of realists like Leibnitz and Herbart, being much further removed from the “naive realism” of unreflective common sense, have never enjoyed the same currency.

18^ Compare Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism, vol. ii. p. 178 ff., and Royce, World and Individual, First Series, Lect. 3. Prof. Royce’s treatment of Realism, though interesting and suggestive, is perhaps a little too much of a “short and easy way” with the antagonist to be quite convincing. Mr. Hobhouse’s anti-idealistic argument (Theory of Knowledge, 517-539) seems to me only to hold good against the “Subjectivism” discussed in our next section, but the reader will do well to examine it thoroughly for himself.

19^ We might also suitably call it Presentationism, if the name were not already appropriated in a different sense as distinctive of certain psychological theories. The English reader will find a confused but typical exposition of Subjectivism in the opening chapters of Prof. Karl Pearson’s Grammar of Science. Subjectivist writers usually call themselves “idealists,” and regard themselves as disciples of Berkeley and Hume. Berkeley was, however, a subjectivist, if at all, only in respect to the physical world, while Hume’s conclusions are purely sceptical. The reader of Prof. Pearson must carefully observe that the “descriptive” theory of physical science has no special connection with Subjectivism, and is, in fact, held by philosophers like Profs. Ward and Royce, who are not subjectivists.

20^ On the existence of my fellow-men as the one real proof of the objective existence of the physical world, see Royce, Studies in Good and Evil, essay on “Nature, Consciousness, and Self-Consciousness,” and “Mind and Nature,” by the present writer, in International Journal of Ethics for October 1902. In the latter essay I have, I think, sufficiently exposed the flimsy reasoning by which subjectivists attempt to justify belief in the existence of other human beings from the subjectivist point of view.

21^ The self-knowledge which is a fact in real life, as distinguished from the fictitious self-consciousness of some psychologists, is quite a different thing and involves two distinct acts of cognition: (1) the awareness of certain objects of cognition, and (2) the recognition of those objects as in some way qualifying my “self.” And the “self” which I recognise as thus qualified is again no immediate datum of experience, but a largely hypothetical intellectual construction, as we shall have opportunity to see later on.
  This is perhaps the place to add the further remark, that if we would be rigidly accurate in psychological terminology, we ought to banish the very expression “consciousness” or “state of consciousness “from our language. What are really given in experience are attentive processes with a certain common character. We abstract this character and give it the name of “consciousness,” and then fall into the blunder of calling the concrete processes “states” or “modifications” of this abstraction, just as in dealing with physical things we first make abstraction of their common properties, under the name of “matter,” and then talk as if the things themselves were “forms” of “matter.” Properly speaking, there are physical things and there are minds, but there are no such things in the actual world as “matter” and “consciousness,” and we do well to avoid using the words where we can help it.

22^ See Der Menschliche Weltbegriff, pp. 21-62; and, for the merely English reader, Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism, vol. ii. p. 168 ff.

23^ This is true even in what seems at first sight the exceptional case of advance in mere theoretical insight. The more clearly you realise the character of the problems which your own intellectual pursuits lead up to and the nature of their solution, the clearer becomes your insight into the problems and purposes of other workers in the same field.

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Chapter II. The Systematic Unity of Reality

§ 1. The problem of the One and the Many is as old as Philosophy itself, and inevitably arises from the earliest and simplest attempts to think in a consistent way about the nature of the world in which we play our part. On the one hand, our experience, in the piecemeal shape in which it first appears as we begin to reflect on it, seems to exhibit an indefinite plurality of more or less independent things, each pursuing its own course and behaving in its own way, and connected at best with only a few of the other members of our environment. There is, for instance, no obvious connection between one man’s career and those of most of his contemporaries, to say nothing of the innumerable host of his predecessors and successors in the race of life. And, similarly, the behaviour of one inanimate thing seems at first sight to be unaffected by that of most of the other things |85| around it. The world seems to us at times to be made up of an indefinite multiplicity of beings who merely happen to be actors on the same stage, but have, in the majority of cases, no influence upon each other’s parts.


“The problem whether Reality is ultimately One or Many is inevitably suggested to us by the diverse aspects of our own direct experience of the world.
The different theories may be classed, according to their solution of this problem, as Monistic, Pluralistic, and Monadistic.”


Yet, on the other hand, there are equally strong primâ facie reasons for regarding the world as a single unity. Every addition to our theoretical insight into the structure of things adds to our recognition of the intimate connection between things and processes which previously seemed merely disconnected. Physical science, as it grows, learns more and more to look upon nature as a realm of interconnected events where no one fact is ultimately entirely independent of any other fact; political experience and social science alike reveal the intimate interdependence of human lives and purposes. And, over and above the ascertained empirical facts which point to the ultimate unity of the world, there is another potent influence which we might call the “instinctive” basis for the belief in unity. However discontinuous my environment may appear, it is never a mere disconnected multiplicity. The very circumstance that it is throughout my environment, and thus relative to the ends by which my attention is determined, gives it to a certain degree the character of a coherent system. At the lowest level of philosophic reflection, we cannot permanently fail to apprehend our world as in principle one, precisely because it is our world, and we ourselves are all in some degree beings of steady systematic purpose, not mere bundles of disconnected and conflicting impulses. While yet again, it is the very limitation of our own interests and our lack of clear insight into their full import which leads us at other times to find apparent disconnected multiplicity and lack of cohesion in our world.

The problem of Philosophy in dealing with these rival aspects of the world of experience then becomes that of deciding whether either of them can be adopted as the truth in isolation from the other. Or if neither is the whole truth, we must ask ourselves in what way the world can be at once One and Many, how the characters of systematic unity and of indefinite variety can be consistently thought of as belonging to the same Reality. Is Reality, we have to ask. One or is it Many, and if it is both, how are the unity and multiplicity connected?

The answers which different philosophical systems have given to this question may conveniently be classified under three general denominations. There are (1) the Monistic |86| views, which lay the principal stress upon the unity of the real, and tend to treat the aspect of plurality and variety as illusory, or at least as of secondary importance; (2) the various forms of Pluralism, according to which the variety and multiplicity of real beings is the primary fact, and their systematic unity either an illusion, or at any rate a subordinate aspect of their nature; (3) Monadism, which aims at harmonising the positions of the monist and pluralist, by treating the world as a multiplicity of really independent things or “monads,” which are somehow combined from without into a system. From this last point of view the plurality and the systematic unity are alike real and alike important for the understanding of the world, but are of different origin, the plurality being inherent in the things themselves, the unity external to them and coming from a foreign source. Within each of the three main types of theory there is, of course, room for the greatest divergence of view as to the special nature of the real. A monistic system may be purely materialistic, like that of Parmenides, who taught that the world is a single homogeneous solid sphere, or idealistic like that, e.g., of Schopenhauer; or again, it may treat mind and “matter” as “aspects” of a common reality. A pluralist or monadist, again, may conceive of each of his independent real things as a physical atom, as a soul of any degree of organisation, or even, in the fashion of some contemporary thought, as a person.

With regard to the relation between this classification of philosophical theories and that of the last chapter, I may just observe that, while a monist is not necessarily an idealist, a consistent pluralist or monadist ought logically to be a realist. For the mutual independence of the various real things cannot exist without involving in itself their independence of experience. If A and B are two completely independent things, then the existence and character of A must be independent of presence to the experience of B, and similarly A must be equally independent of presence to the experience of C, or of anything in the world but itself. And we have already seen that there is always more in the nature of any finite percipient than can be present to his own experience. Thus ultimately the existence and qualities of A must be independent of all experience, including A’s own.1 For this reason I cannot but think that the various |87| attempts to combine Pluralism with Idealism by maintaining that the universe consists of a number of independent “souls” or “persons,” rest on confusion of thought. These doctrines appear to be essentially realist in their spirit.


“Pluralism starts from the presumed fact of the mutual independence of human selves, and teaches that this independence of each other belongs to all real beings.”


§ 2. We may conveniently attempt to construct our own theory of the One and the Many by first excluding views which appear mistaken in principle, and thus gradually narrowing the issues. Among these mistaken views I am forced to reckon all forms of consistent and thorough-going Pluralism. Pluralism, so far at least as I am able to see, begins by misapprehending the facts upon which it professes to base itself, and ends by giving an interpretation of them which is essentially irrational. The fundamental fact from which Pluralism starts as an ultimate datum of all experiences is the familiar one that there are other men in the world besides myself. My world is not simply a theatre for the execution of my own aims and the satisfaction of my own wants. There are interests in it which are not mine, and to which I must adapt myself if I mean to achieve my own purposes. The world thus contains minds other than my own, and what makes them other is that the interests and purposes by which their lives are determined are, like my own, unique and incommunicable. Now, Pluralism bids us take the facts, as thus stated, as the model for our conception of the universe. The pattern upon which the pluralist views of Reality are constructed is that of a community consisting of a great number of selves or persons, each with its own unique interests, and each therefore at once internally simple and indivisible and exclusive of all the rest. In whatever special form the pluralist thinks of his ultimate realities, whether as physically indivisible particles, as mathematical points, or as sentient beings, it is always from the facts of human social life conceived in this ultra-individualist way that he in the last resort derives his concept of their simplicity and mutual repulsion.


“But (a) the independence with which experience presents us is never complete, nor the unity of the ‘selves’ perfect.”


But (a) the facts themselves are not correctly stated. The human experiences upon which the, pluralist relies for his conclusion present at once too much and too little unity for the purposes of his theory. On the one hand, the selves |88| or persons composing society are not themselves simple, undifferentiated unities. Just as your interests and mine may often collide, so within what the pluralist assumes as the indivisible unit of my own personality there may be a similar collision. What I call my “own interests,” or my own “apperceptive systems” or “trains of thought,” may exhibit the same kind of incompatibility and the same sort of conflict for superiority as is found where your ideas and mine clash. Thus Ethics and Psychology are led to distinguish between my “true” self and the false selves by which it may on occasion be dominated, between my “higher” self and the “lower” selves which, in morality, have to be repressed by the higher, my “permanent” self, and the temporary interests by which it is often overpowered, to say nothing of “subliminal” consciousness and “dual” or “alternating personality.” The “self” is so far from being a mere unit, that the variety and, what is more, the incompatibility of its contents is a matter of everyday experience.2

Pluralism may, of course, and often does, verbally admit this. The units of the pluralist, we are often told, are not mere units devoid of variety, but wholes which are the union of differences. But to concede this is to cut away the ground from under the pluralist’s feet. If the variety and the mutual struggle between the elements of the self are not enough to destroy its unity, by parity of reasoning the multiplicity of selves in the world and their mutual repulsions are not enough to prove that the whole of Reality is not, in spite of its multiplicity of detail, a unity more complete than any of the partial unities to be met with in our experience. In fact, the pluralist has to meet the following dilemma. Either his units are mere units without internal variety, and then it is easy to show that they are the merest nothings, or they have internal variety of their own, and therefore simply repeat within themselves the problem they are supposed to solve.

On the other hand, just as the facts of experience show us internal struggle and repulsion within the supposed units, so they also exhibit other relations than that of mutual exclusion between the different units. Human personal interests, for instance, are never merely mutually exclusive. No society consists of individuals whose purposes and |89| interests are simply reciprocally repellent. My aims and purposes may never completely coincide with those of other members of the same community, yet they have no meaning and could get no realisation but for the fact that they are, partially at any rate, comprised in the wider whole of social interests and purposes which makes up the life of the social organisations to which I belong. As the very etymology of such words as “society” and “community” shows — to say nothing of the results of psychological inquiry into the process of learning by imitation — the conception of human selves as independent units which somehow happen to stand in merely accidental or external relations is in flagrant conflict with the most fundamental facts of our social experience. It is only by the systematic suppression of fact that personal and social life can be made to support the hypothesis of Pluralism.


“(b) The theory is inconsistent with the systematic character of all reality as presupposed in both knowledge and action.”


(b) Again, even if we could accept the pluralist account of the facts, the theory which Pluralism puts forward to account for them is in the end unintelligible. What Pluralism does, consciously or unconsciously, is to separate the unity of the world from its multiplicity. The multiplicity is supposed to be grounded in the ultimate nature of the real things themselves, their unity as a system, if they really are a system, to be imposed upon them from without. We are, in fact, left to choose between two alternatives. Either the world is not a systematic whole at all, but a mere chaos of purely independent atoms, in which case the whole of our thought, with its indispensable presupposition of the systematic unity of the object of knowledge, is an illusion, or else the world really is a system, but a system, so to say, by accident. The things of which the system is composed are real as detached separate units, but by a fortunate chance they happen all to possess some common relation to an external tertium quid (for instance, to God), by which they are combined into a system and thus become knowable as a connected whole.

Now we cannot, if we are intellectually conscientious, rest finally content with a statement of this kind, which leaves the plurality and the systematic unity of the real world side by side as two independent unconnected facts. If the contents of the world really form a system at all, in any way whatever, that is itself one fact among others which a sound metaphysical theory must recognise, and of which it must offer some intelligible account. E.g., suppose you say, with some recent pluralists, that the world consists |90| of a number of independent persons or spirits, who nevertheless form a connected system or “moral kingdom,” in virtue of the fact that they all find their moral ideal in God, the most perfect among them. You have now not one ultimate fact before you, the multiplicity of independent selves, but two, this multiplicity and the relation of each element in it to God. Unless you are going to treat this second fact as an “ultimate inexplicability,” i.e. a fortunate accident, you are now bound to treat the systematic relation of the selves to God and through God to each other as no less a part of their ultimate nature than their distinction from each other. Their separateness and independence is thus no longer for you the ultimate truth; they are just as truly one by your account as they are many. Their union in a system is no longer an external relation foreign to their own nature, but the deepest truth about that nature itself.

I will repeat the essence of this argument in another form. Any genuine Pluralism must be resolute enough to dismiss the idea of a systematic interconnection between its independent realities as an illusion of the human mind. But in doing so it must, to be consistent, deny the possibility of their mutual knowledge of each other’s states. Each real thing must be a little world to itself, shut up within the closed circle of its own internal content. And thus, supposing Pluralism to be true, and supposing myself to be one of the real things of the pluralist scheme, I should have no means of knowing it to be true. Pluralism is unable to stand the question propounded by Mr. Bradley as the test of a philosophical doctrine, “Is the truth of this theory consistent with the fact that I know it to be true?”

The persistent popularity of Pluralism in many quarters is in fact due to the intrusion into Metaphysics of other than genuinely philosophical interests. It is maintained, not on its philosophical merits as a consistent theory, but because it is believed by its adherents to safeguard certain interests of morality and religion. It gives us, we are told, a “real God” and “real moral freedom.” But, apart from the question whether these claims are justified by candid examination of the doctrine,3 we must protest against their |91| being allowed any place at all in a metaphysical discussion. Metaphysics is, from first to last, a purely speculative activity; its one concern is to think logically about the constitution of Reality, and the only interests it has a right to consider are those of consistent logical thought. If consistent logical thought about ethical and religious problems involves the recognition of a “real God” and “real freedom,” and if these again are only possible on the pluralistic theory, then the mere process of consistent thought is bound in the end to lead us to a pluralistic result, and it is superfluous to appeal to extra-logical interests in the matter. But if those who defend Pluralism on the ground that it gives us a “real God” and “real freedom” mean that, apart from the question of their intellectual justification, these beliefs ought to be maintained in Metaphysics because certain persons will be less moral or less happy without them, we must answer that Metaphysics has nothing to do with making us moral or happy. It is no proof of the truth of a belief that it increases my personal virtue or happiness, nor of its falsity that it diminishes them. And if the study of Metaphysics could be shown to make certain persons less virtuous or less happy, Metaphysics would still be in no worse case than Ethics or Medicine. There may be persons for whom it is undesirable, on grounds of happiness or morality, to devote themselves to the pursuit of speculative truth, but it is none the less a lapse from intellectual single-mindedness for the man who has elected to play the game of speculation to violate its rules by indulging in constant appeals to speculatively irrelevant issues.4


“Monadism again makes the systematic unity of the real either an illusion or an inexplicable accident.”


§ 3. The Monadism of Leibnitz was an attempt to effect a compromise between Pluralism and Monism. According to this view, the universe consists of an infinite plurality |92| of fundamentally separate beings. These beings are at once simple and indivisible, and at the same time each of them contains an infinite variety of internal states. Being mutually independent, the monads have no genuine relations with each other; each is conscious only of the succession of its own states. As Leibnitz expressed it in a metaphor which has become classic, the monad has no windows. So far the system is pure Pluralism. But at the same time the unity of the whole system of monads, though “ideal” and not “real,” is to be genuine. They form a system “ideally,” — i.e. for the understanding of an omniscient spectator, — inasmuch as the internal states of each monad are adjusted to those of all the rest, or, as Leibnitz also puts it, inasmuch as each monad “represents” the same systematic structure from its own special point of view. Hence, though no monad really perceives or acts upon any other, every monad behaves as it would if there were mutual perception and interaction between all. When we ask after the source of this “pre-established harmony,” we meet with a double answer. On the one hand, its actual existence as a fact is due to the creative will of God. On the other, it was precisely the complete adjustment of the internal states of its various monads which determined God to will the existence of the actual world-order in preference to that of any other of the indefinitely numerous logically possible arrangements which He foresaw and might have chosen. This relation between God and the world-order is further complicated by the fact that on occasion Leibnitz treats God as simply one, though the supreme one, among the monads.

Now a system of this kind seems to exhibit all the defects of Pluralism with certain superadded difficulties of its own. We might reasonably object that experience presents us with no example of a genuine system in which all the elements are actually independent. The nearest approach to such a case seems to be found in the classes of an “artificial classification,” in which things standing in no relation of interaction among themselves are put together by us because it is convenient for some extraneous purpose of our own to comprehend them under a single point of view. But, apart from the impossibility of constructing a classification which shall be more than relatively artificial, such a mere aggregate or collection is not a real system. In a true system, as distinct from a mere collection, the principle of unity has always some sort of significance for the members of the system themselves. It represents, at the least, the way in |93| which the members interact with each other. (Thus, to take an extreme case, the serial arrangement of cutting implements in a museum, from the flaked stone of the Paleolithic age to the latest specimen of Sheffield cutlery, is more than a merely “artificial” classification, precisely because it is more than a mere grouping of separate objects according to their likeness and unlikeness; it represents the stages of a continuous historical evolution.) Now, it is essential to Monadism that the monads, because ultimately independent, shall only seem to interact. They appear to form a single world with a history in which each distinct state of each monad is a stage. But really, while the successive states of the individual monad are, what they seem to be, a connected process of development, the various processes do not make up a single-world history at all. They only seem to do so by an inevitable illusion. Hence the unity of the whole system must after all be not only ideal, but, strictly speaking, imaginary.

Similar difficulties arise from the ambiguous position accorded to God in the scheme. If the “pre-established harmony” between the states of the individual monads were simply due to a creative fiat of God, we should be thrown back upon mere arbitrary chance as the reason, if it can be called a reason, why existence is not a chaos. But if God’s choice to create this scheme of things rather than another was due to the superior attraction which a world with at least the appearance of connected system had for the divine intellect, then it is ultimately in the constitution of the divine mind that we have to find the reason why the alternative possibilities before creation were what they were;5 and again, why just this one was preferred to all the rest. And thus the monads cease to be any longer ultimate and independent, and the nature of God becomes the single determinate ground of all reality.

It is scarcely necessary to add that Monadism suffers besides from all the defects which we found in Pluralism. If the monad be made into a mere unit without internal variety, it ceases to be a thing with a definite nature at all; and if its unity is compatible with the variety of its states, there seems to be no special reason why the wealth of varied existence in the world should lead us to assume a plurality |94| of independent principles as its ground. It has been pointed out that Leibnitz was apparently determined in favour of Monadism against Monism by the assumption that individual human selves are internally simple units and externally entirely exclusive of each other, an assumption we have already seen reason to reject.


“Reality, because systematic, must be the expression of a single principle in and through a, multiplicity. The unity and multiplicity must both be real, and each must necessarily involve the other.”


§ 4. We seem driven, then, to reject the view that the ordered world of experience can be the expression of a plurality of ultimately distinct and heterogeneous principles. Because the world as known, or again as providing for the coherent realisation of practical purposes, is an orderly system, and on any other supposition coherent knowledge and consistent action are alike impossible, the world must for Metaphysics be regarded as the complete embodiment and expression of a single ultimate principle. We are thus committed to some form of theory of the type generally known as Monism. The name Monism we may perhaps be allowed to avoid, as it has gathered about it associations which are apt to mislead. Among the doctrines most frequently spoken of as monistic are some which treat the apparent variety and multiplicity of existence as purely illusory. Again, the name has of late been widely used as the self-chosen designation of the doctrine according to which “mind” and “matter” are alike “aspects” or “manifestations” of a third principle which is neither material nor mental. It should already be clear that the doctrine indicated by our previous discussions differs widely from both these types of Monism. We have insisted that the source of fallacy in Pluralism and Monadism was one-sided emphasis upon one term in the antithesis of the Many and the One to neglect of the other, and we have no intention of repeating the mistake for ourselves. Also, we have already come to the conclusion that Reality, whatever its detailed structure, is mental in its general character; we can have nothing therefore to do with a “neutral” or “agnostic” Monism. Our detailed theory of the relation between the unity of the world and its multiplicity must do equal justice to both, and it must be consistent with our previous recognition of the experiential nature of the real.

We may perhaps work out our theory in detail as follows. The world for knowledge must, we have seen, be an orderly whole or system. To be a system at all, it must be the development or expression in detail of a single principle. Therefore it must most certainly be one; it cannot be a medley of independent elements which somehow luckily |95| happen to form a coherent collection. But again, because it is a system, it cannot be a mere unit; it must be the expression of a single principle in and through a multiplicity of terms or constituents. Not only must it be both one and many, but it must be many precisely because it is truly one, and one because it is truly many.6 Further, we must add that because the world-system is a perfectly systematic whole, not only is multiplicity in general necessary to its unity, but each particular element in the multiplicity is necessitated or logically implied by the character of the unity. In a complete system no single member can be missing or be other than it is without the fundamental law of construction of the whole being changed. Also, we may incidentally observe that in a complete system the number of distinct terms may be actually endless, while the law of construction is perfectly determinate. To think of the world as a single systematic unity, then, means to think of it as the manifestation in a possibly infinite multiplicity of detail of one perfectly determinate principle. And, of course, what we have called the individual elements of the multiplicity may on inspection themselves turn out to be systems of infinite complexity determined by a law of construction derived in a determinate way from that of the complete system, and so on literally ad infinitum. Thus the unity of ultimate principle we demand for Reality in no way excludes its possession of a wealth of detail infinitely infinite.


“If both are to be equally real, the whole system must be a single experience, and its constituents must also be experiences. A perfect systematic whole can be neither an aggregate, nor a mechanical whole of parts, nor an organism. The whole must exist for the parts, and they for it.”


§ 5. We may take a further most important step forward. In the all-embracing systematic whole the unity and the multiplicity must be equally real and each must be real through the other. How is this possible? Only on condition that the whole system forms a single experience, and that the constituent factors again are single experiences. This will perhaps be best brought out by examining some typical case of the kind of unity in multiplicity which is insufficient for our purpose. (a) The unity of the world cannot be that of a mere collection or aggregate. In a mere aggregate the elements are real independently of their relation to one another as elements in this aggregate. So |96| long as we keep strictly to the case of what is no more than an aggregate, the quality of the elements is entirely unaffected by their inclusion in the aggregate. The aggregate has no unitary character of its own which reveals itself in and through the behaviour of its elements. Its unity consists in nothing more than the fact that we have found it convenient to think of its elements together. An aggregate of ten bricks, for instance, has no character as a whole beyond the mere fact of being thought of in one mental act. It has not even a collective weight until you put your ten bricks into the same cart, or on the same scale-pan, and then they have ceased to be a mere aggregate in the very moment of exerting pressure upon the same surface, and have become a true material system.

(b) Nor can the world of Reality be satisfactorily thought of as a mere whole of parts. A whole of parts approaches indeed more nearly to the ideal of a true systematic unity than a mere aggregate, inasmuch as it has a determinate single character as a whole, which manifests itself in the structure of the various parts. For this reason a geometrical figure or a machine is much more than a mere aggregate; it has a character as a whole, and this character is differently expressed by the construction of the different parts. The figure or machine is thus a true unity of differences. Yet in this case we cannot really say that the unity and the variety are equally real. For the whole cannot exist without the parts, whereas the parts may continue to exist, though not, of course, as parts of this whole, without the whole. The whole is constituted by the successive generation or construction of the parts, and thus may be said to be formed out of pre-existing parts, and the parts again may survive the destruction of the whole. There is not that equal reality and complete mutual implication of the two sides which we have deemed necessary to a genuine systematic unity.

(c) An organism is in some respects a truer systematic unity than a mere whole of parts. It has a systematic character of its own which manifests itself in and through the difference of its various members. And here, the whole is not historically subsequent to and generated by the members. It is not their resultant but their living unity. The members only come into being along with the whole, and in the course of its growth as a whole; and though they may, in a sense, continue to exist after severance from the whole, it is not with the same kind of existence |97| which belonged to them as members.7 But an organism, like a machine, fails to exhibit the perfect systematic unity of the One and the Many of which we are in quest. In the machine the aspect of multiplicity was relatively more real than that of unity; in the fully evolved organism the unity seems more completely real than the multiplicity. For the unity is a conscious one; in some degree at least it exists for itself, and its members again for it. Whereas it must be very doubtful whether the member exists for itself, and still more doubtful whether the whole exists in any sense for the members. And though the member cannot retain its peculiar form of existence except as a member in the whole, yet in even the highest organism the unity is so far relatively independent that it is unaffected by the removal of some of the members.

Not every member is of vital significance for the life of the whole. But in a complete systematic unity, as we saw, the unity and the multiplicity of the system must be equally real and equally interdependent. This can only be the case if the whole is for its members as well as the members for the whole. And that this may be so, just as the all-embracing whole of reality must, as we have learned, be an experience, so each of its members must be itself an experience. And because the members form a single system, just as there can be nothing in the experience of any member which is not contained in the experience which is the whole, so, on the other side, there can be nothing in the whole which does not in some way affect the experience of every member. Only in this way can we conceive of a systematic Reality in which the unity and the multiplicity of the system are alike real and equally real. Such a view is, strictly speaking, hardly to be called either Pluralism or Monism. It is not Pluralism, for it does not make the unity of the system an illusion or an inexplicable accident; it is not Monism, in the current sense of the word, because it does not make the multiplicity deceptive. If a name is wanted, we might perhaps agree to call it Systematic Idealism.


“This wholeness may also be expressed by saying that Reality is a subject which is the unity of subordinate subjects, or an individual of which the constituents are lesser individuals.”


§ 6. We may say, then, that Reality is a systematic Experience of which the components are likewise experiences. It would be much the same thing if we called |98| it a subject which is the unity of subordinate subjects. It is tempting again, at first sight, to say it is a self of selves. But the extreme ambiguity of the term “self” as used in contemporary Psychology makes it desirable to avoid an expression which is capable of the gravest misuse.8 It is scarcely possible to say with any precision what we mean by one “self,” whereas it is possible in a general way to say what we mean by one experience. An experience may be called one and the same in so far as it is the systematised expression of a single coherent purpose or interest, in so far, in fact, as it has a teleological unity. In practice it may be impossible to say precisely when this condition is fulfilled, but the slightest acquaintance with the psychological facts of the struggle between competing systems of ideas in normal, and of “dual” and “multiple” personality in abnormal, mental life is sufficient to show that the limits thus set by our definition to the single experience do not coincide with those ascribed to my “self” or “personality” in any of the shifting senses of the terms. The limits within which experience remains one experience according to our definition are, as the facts just alluded to show, often narrower, but again, the definition suggests that they may also be wider, than any which would currently be given to the “self.”

Moreover, what we have already said as to the possibility of each “member” of our system being itself a system of lesser systems, forbids us to identify our view with any doctrine which asserts merely atomic and simple “selves” as the elements of Reality.

Another way of expressing the same thought would be to say that Reality is an Individual of which the elements are lesser individuals. The advantage of this form of expression is that it emphasises the fundamentally teleological character of the unity of the real, and also of each and all of its constituents. A thing, as we have already seen, is individual just so far as it is unique, and only that which is the embodiment of a single purpose or interest can be unique. A single whole of experience, owing its unity as a whole precisely to the completeness and harmony with which it expresses a single purpose or interest, is necessarily an individual. The all-embracing experience which constitutes Reality is thus in its inmost nature a complete individual. And the lesser experiences which form the elements or |99| material content of Reality are each, just so far as each is truly one experience, individual in the same sense as the whole. We may thus call Reality a complete or perfect individual of minor or incomplete individuals.

What the fundamental distinction between the supreme individual whole and the lesser individuals must be taken to consist in we shall discuss in our next chapter. Meanwhile we may note two points: — (1) The important thing about an individual is not its mere numerical unity, but its qualitative uniqueness. Any experience which we can pronounce to be individual must be called so, not merely because it is numerically one and not many, but because it is the consistent and harmonious embodiment of a coherent purpose Numerically considered, every such individual is necessarily many as well as one, precisely because it is a system. This applies especially to the supreme or absolute individual, the complete system of experience. It is individual primarily not because it is numerically one, but because it is the complete expression of a coherent idea or purpose. It has been the defect of too many monistic theories to overlook this, and to lay the main stress on the numerical oneness of the real.

(2) An experience individual in the sense already explained is what we mean by a “spirit.” Spirit cannot be properly defined by contradistinction from a supposed nonspiritual reality, such as “matter,” for such a definition would only amount to the assertion that spirit is what is not other than spirit, and would tell us nothing of the term to be defined. Nor, again, is spirit properly defined as a series of states or modifications of the abstraction “consciousness.” The positive characteristic by which spiritual existence may be recognised is that in it the what and the that are combined in the unity of immediate feeling. And immediate feeling, as we have seen, is essentially teleological. Where you have a connected system of factors which can only be understood as a whole by reference to an explicit or implicit end, which constitutes their unity, you have spirit, and where you have spirit you have such a system. So that to call reality an individual of individuals is the same thing as to say that it is a spiritual system of which the elements, constituents, or terms, are in their turn spiritual systems.9 |100| Our doctrine may thus be seen to be fairly entitled to the name Idealism, which current usage has appropriated to the view that all existence is ultimately mental.


“The nearest familiar analogue to such a systematic whole would be the relation between our whole ‘self’ and the partial mental systems or lesser ‘selves.’”


§ 7. Such a relation as we have asserted between the individual whole of Reality and the elements or terms within the whole is necessarily unique, and cannot be adequately illustrated from any less perfect type of systematic unity recognised by everyday or by scientific thought. In particular, we must carefully avoid the mistake of conceiving the relation of the elements to the totality in a mechanical way as that of “parts” to a “whole of parts“; or, again, in a merely biological way, as that of “members” to an organism. All such analogies lose sight of the intimate character of a union in which the elements and the totality exist not merely in and through, but also for each other.

The individual experiences which compose the supreme experience have a genuine, if an imperfect and partial, individuality of their own. They are not in it merely “ideally” or implicitly, as the points on a curve may be said to be in the periphery. And the whole, again, is a real individual, not a mere aggregate in which the parts are real but their unity merely imaginary. We may, if we like, say that it is made up of experiences or minds, but we must not say that it is a collection of minds. For a mere collection, as we have seen, in so far as it is a collection and nothing more, cannot be said to have any genuine individuality, precisely because it has no teleological unity of structure beyond that which we arbitrarily, and with reference to ends lying outside its own nature, impose upon it in the very act of counting its members, i.e. arranging them in serial order. Whether we could properly speak of the absolute whole as a society of minds is a further and a more difficult question. A society is much more than a mere collection: it has a purposive unity of structure which exists not merely for the sociological observer from without, but for its own members as active in assigning to each of them his own special place in relation to all the rest. How far society can be said to have such a unity for itself is a question which we cannot answer until we have dealt more fully with the problem of the relation between self-hood and individuality. And until we have answered it, we must |101| defer the decision as to whether the systematic individuality of the Absolute would be adequately recognised if we thought of it as a society. (See infra, Bk. IV. chap. 3.)

If we are to look at this stage for some analogue within our partial experience for the kind of unity of individuals in a single supreme individual which we have demanded for the system of Reality, we shall probably do best to turn to what is after all the most familiar thing in the world, — our own personal experience. If we consider the nature of any coherent purpose or “mental system,” we shall find that, as the coherent embodiment of a purpose, it possesses a degree of individuality of its own. In proportion to the comprehensiveness, and again to the inner harmony or systematic structure of the interest it embodies, it constitutes a genuine self-existing individual whole of the kind which psychologists recognise as a “self.” And again, in so far as my life exhibits determinate character, so far do these systematic purposes or minor “selves” form a larger system, also individual, which may be called my “total self.” And both the many lesser “selves” and the larger “self” are real in the same sense of the word. Neither exists merely in or for the other; the wider or whole “self” is no mere collection or resultant or product of the more special “selves,” nor are they again mere results of a theoretical process of analysis and abstraction. In so far as they are genuine systems at all, they are not mere “parts” of a whole, but each is the expression, in a concrete conscious life, of the nature of a larger whole from a special “point of view.” The whole, if not equally in every part, is yet as a whole present in every part, and precisely for that reason the category of part and whole is inadequate to express their relation. Somewhat after this fashion we must conceive the structure of any individual whole of lesser individuals. Why, in spite of the analogy, it is desirable not to speak of the whole of Reality as a “Self,” will be made clearer as we proceed.10


“The nearest historic parallel to this view is to be found in Spinoza's theory
of the relation of the human mind to the ‘infinite intellect of God’.”


§ 8. The view we have formulated is perhaps more closely akin to Spinoza’s conception of the relation of the human mind to the “infinite intellect of God,“ than to any other historically famous theory. According to Spinoza, the individual human mind is an “eternal mode of consciousness which, taken together with all other such ‘modes,’ makes up the infinite intellect of God.” The meaning of the |102| epithet “eternal” we cannot, of course, enter into until we have discussed the relation of the time-process to experience. The rest of the definition pretty clearly coincides in its general sense with the view we have tried to expound of the nature of the relation between the supreme experience and its constituent experiences. For the “modes” of Spinoza are definitely thought of as genuinely individual manifestations of the nature of his ultimate reality, “substance” or “God.” Their individuality and their infinite multiplicity is no result of illusion or illegitimate abstraction. And, on the other hand, “substance” itself is genuinely individual; it is no mere abstract name for the common properties of a number of ultimately independent things.

Most of the adverse criticism which Spinozism has met with, as far at least as regards its doctrine of the nature of the human mind, seems to be based on misapprehension about the first of these points. From his use of the numerical category of whole and part to express the relation between substance and its modes, Spinoza has incorrectly been taken to be denying the fact of the genuine individuality of the finite experience, and therefore to be declaring the very existence of the finite to be mere baseless illusion. With his doctrine as thus misinterpreted, ours has, of course, no similarity. Nothing is explained away by calling it “illusion”; the “illusory” fact is there in spite of the hard names you choose to bestow on it, and demands explanation no less than any other fact. Our theory aims not at dismissing finite individuality as illusion, but at ascertaining what it means, what are its limits, and how it stands related to the complete individual whole of experience which Spinoza calls the infinitus intellectus Dei.11

The mention of Spinoza will no doubt suggest to the reader the famous doctrine, which has played so large a part in the subsequent development of philosophical Monism, of the double “aspects” or “attributes” of Reality. It is from Spinoza that modern Monism has learned the view that the mental and physical orders are related as two parallel but distinct manifestations of a common underlying reality, so that to every member of one order there corresponds a determinate member of the other. The two are thus everywhere inseparable and everywhere irreducible “parallel” expressions of a nature which is neither mental |103| nor physical. On this fundamental point our theory, as will have been seen already, completely parts company with Spinozism. That the nature of one and the same common whole should be equally manifested in two entirely irreducible forms, is a patent impossibility. Either the unity of the whole or the absolute disparateness of its twin manifestations must be surrendered if we are to think consistently. Hence we cannot avoid asking in which of the two series the assumed common nature is more adequately expressed. According as we answer this question we shall find ourselves led in the end either to thorough-going Materialism or to thorough-going Idealism. For our own part, the perception that Reality is experience and nothing else has already committed us to the view that both of the seemingly disparate series must in the end be mental. Thus our doctrine may be said to be much what Spinoza’s would be if the attribute of “extension” were removed from his scheme, and the whole of Reality identified with the “infinite intellect of God.” (See further on the “Parallelistic” doctrine, Bk. IV. chap. 2.)


Consult further:
B. Bosanquet, Essentials of Logic, lect. 2; Logic, vol. ii. chap. 7.
F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, chaps. 13, 14, 20.
L. T. Hobhouse, Theory of Knowledge, pt. 3, chap. 6, “Reality as a System.”
H. Lotze, Metaphysic, bk. i. chap. 6 (Eng. trans., vol. i. pp. 163-191).
J. S. Mackenzie, Outlines of Metaphysic, bk. i. chaps. 2, 3; bk. iii. chap. 6.
J. E. McTaggart, Studies in Hegelian Cosmology, chap. 2.


1^ This consideration obviously influenced Leibnitz. It is a much-decried doctrine in his system that every “monad,” or simple real thing, perceives nothing but its own internal states; there are no “windows” through which one monad can behold the states of another. It is easy to show that this doctrine leads to extremely far-fetched and fantastic hypotheses to account for the apparent communication between different monads, but not so easy to show that Pluralism can afford to dispense with it. See in particular Leibnitz’s New System of the Nature of Substances (Works, ed. Erdmann, 124 ff.: ed. Gerhardt, iv. 477 ff.; Eng. trans, in Latta’s Leibniz: the Monadology, etc., p. 297 ff.), especially §§ 13-17, and Monadology, §§ 7-9, 51.)

2^ See for a recent treatment of this point in its bearing upon the theory of volition and moral accountability, Mr. Bradley’s article on “Mental Conflict and Imputation” in Mind for July 1902. There is probably no part of Psychology which suffers more from an improper over-simplification of awkward facts.

3^ As the reader will readily collect from the preceding discussion, I do not myself admit that they are justified. On the contrary, I should hold that any consistent Pluralism must issue in what, if I held it myself, I should feel compelled to describe as Atheism, and the doctrine of blind chance as the arbiter of all things. In this matter I should like to associate myself entirely with the emphatic protest of Mr. Bradley, in Mind for July 1902, p. 313, and with the remarks of Mr. B. Russell in his work on The Philosophy of Leibniz, p. 172. I need not say that I do not make these remarks for the purpose of disparagement. By all means, if Atheism is the logical outcome of consistent thinking, let us say so; what I object to is the constant appeal to theistic beliefs on the part of metaphysicians who, so far as I can see, ought to be atheists if they were in earnest with their own position.

4^ For a popular exemplification of the kind of appeal to religious and ethical interests here objected to, see the first essay in Prof. James’s Will to Believe. I have never been able to understand why these appeals, if legitimate, should not be allowed in Psychology or any other science as readily as in Metaphysics. Would Prof. James regard it as a valid argument for the “timeless self” or the Innervationsgefühle, that some men may be better or happier for believing in them? Or again, is it in itself an objection to the study of Ethics that certain persons may become both less moral and less happy as a consequence of studying it?

5^ N.B. — These possibilities, it must be remembered, though numerically infinite, are assumed to be qualitatively determinate, being constituted of the condition of conformity to the logical principle of non-contradiction. Now there is no reason in the nature of a plurality of independent things why this principle should be recognised rather than not.

6^ A medley of independent things would not even be really “many.” For until you can count “first, second, third” you have not your Many. And nothing but the terms of a coherent connected series can be counted. What you can count as many is shown by the very fact of your ability to count it to have a common nature or ground which permits of its orderly arrangement, and thus to be part of one system. Compare Plato, Parmenides, 164, 165.

7^ As Aristotle more than once says, a human hand, for instance, is not when severed from the rest of the body a “hand” at all, except ὁμωνύμως “equivocally,” anymore than the “hand” of a statue is a true hand. (I.e. it is only a “true hand” so long as it does the work of a hand. Captain Cuttle’s hook probably deserved the name of “hand” better than the severed member it replaced).

8^ I shall attempt to show in a later chapter (Bk. IV. chap. 3) that, in any useful signification of the term “self,” Reality is not a “self” nor yet a mere community of “selves.”

9^ Again, I must remind the reader that this recognition of the teleological character of mind does not in the least preclude the necessity for psychological analysis of mental states. Still less does it require us to include in our analysis a volitional element as one distinguishable aspect or component of the isolated mental state by the side of others, such as the presentational and emotional aspects. It might even be contended that a “tripartite” or three-aspect Psychology commits the mistake of counting in the whole psychical fact as one of its own components.

10^ See infra, Bk. IV. chap. 3, where we shall find that the relation of the individual self to a social whole probably furnishes a still better, though not altogether satisfactory, illustration of our principle.

11^ For Spinoza’s doctrine see especially Ethics, I. 15, 25; II. 11, 40; III. 6-9; V. 22, 23, with the explanations of any good exposition of his system, such as that of Pollock or Joachim.

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Chapter III. Reality and Its Appearances: The Degrees of Reality

§ 1. Reality, we have seen, is to be thought of as a systematic whole forming a single individual experience, which is composed of elements or constituents which are in their turn individual experiences. In each of these constituents the nature of the whole system manifests itself in a special way. Each of them contributes its own peculiar content to the whole system, and as the suppression or change of any one of them would alter the character of the whole, so it is the nature of the whole which determines the character of each of its constituents. In this way the whole and its constituent members are in complete interpenetration and form a perfect systematic unity.


“Reality being a single systematic whole, the nature of its constituent elements is only finally intelligible in the light of the whole system. Hence each of its ‘appearances,’ if considered as a whole in itself, must be more or less contradictory.”


In the happy phrase of Leibnitz, we may say that each of the partial experiences reflects the whole system from its own peculiar “point of view.” If we call the completed system, as it is for itself, Reality par excellence, we may appropriately speak of the partial experiences in which its nature is diversely manifested |105| as its Appearances. We must remember, however, that to call them appearances is not to stamp them as illusory or unreal. They will only be illusory or unreal when we forget that they are one and all partial aspects or manifestations of a whole of which none of them adequately exhausts the contents.

When we forget this and treat any partial experience as though it were the complete and adequate expression of the whole nature of Reality, — in other words, when we try to apply to existence or the universe as a whole conceptions which are only valid for special aspects of existence, — we shall inevitably find ourselves led to contradictory and absurd results. Each partial aspect of a total system can only be ultimately understood by reference to the whole to which it belongs, and hence any attempt to treat the part in abstraction as itself a self-contained whole, — or, in other words, to treat the concepts with which we have to work in dealing with some special aspect of the world of experience as ultimately valid in their application to the whole system, — is bound to issue in contradiction. Again, just because our knowledge of the structure of the system as a whole is so imperfect as it is, our insight into the structure of its constituents is also necessarily limited. Hence it will commonly happen that, even within the limits of their, applicability, the special concepts of our various sciences are not, when thought out, free from internal contradiction. For instance, we are led to absurd results when we try, as Materialism does, to interpret the whole system of experience in terms of the concepts used in the purely physical sciences; and again, even in their restricted use as physical categories, these concepts seem incapable of being so defined as to involve no element of contradiction.

In both these senses all Appearance implies an element of contradiction; only for an insight which could take in at once the whole system of existence would its details be completely coherent and harmonious. But this does not alter the fact that, so far as our insight into any part of the whole and its connection with other parts is self-consistent, it does convey genuine, though imperfect, knowledge of the whole. Though our detailed insight into the structure of the whole may never reach the ideal of perfect self-consistency, yet it may approximate to that ideal in different degrees, at different stages, or with reference to different aspects. And the closer the approximation the less the modification which our knowledge would require to bring it |106| into complete harmony with itself, and the greater therefore the element of truth about Reality which it contains.

In particular, we must carefully avoid falling into the mistake of thinking of the Reality and the world of its appearances as though they formed two distinct realms. In a systematic unity, we must remember, the whole can exist only in so far as it expresses its nature in the system of its parts, and again the parts can have no being except as the whole expresses itself through them. To the degree to which this condition is departed from by any of the types of system familiar to us, those systems fall short of being perfectly systematic. Reality, then, being a systematic whole, can have no being apart from its appearance, though neither any of them taken singly, nor yet the sum of them thought of collectively,1 can exhaust its contents. And though no appearance is the whole of Reality, in none of them all does the whole Reality fail to manifest itself as a whole. The whole is truly, as a whole, present in each and every part, while yet no part is the whole.2

We may once more illustrate by an appeal to our own direct experience. Consider the way in which we set to work to execute any systematic scheme or purpose, e.g., the mastery of a particular science or a particular business. We have in such a case a central aim or purpose, which in the process of execution spreads out into a connected system of subordinate ideas and interests welded into one by the reference to a common end which pervades the whole. The supreme or central aim is only realised in the successive realisation of the subordinate stages; at the same time, while it is what sustains all the members of the system, it has no existence apart from them, though it is identical neither with any one of them nor yet with their sum collectively considered.


“But some ‘appearances’ exhibit the structure of the whole more adequately than others, and have therefore a higher degree of reality.”


§ 2. If our conviction that Reality is a single systematic unity pervading and manifesting itself in lesser systematic unities is correct, we shall expect to find that some of the lesser systematic unities with which we have to deal in practical life and in the various sciences exhibit more of the |107| full character of the whole to which they belong than others. The “points of view” from which each minor system reflects the whole, though all true, need not be all equally true. Though the whole, in a genuine system, must be present as a whole in every part, it need not be equally present in all; it may well not be “as full, as perfect in a hair as heart.” To take a concrete example, a cluster of mass-particles, a machine, a living organism, and a human mind engaged in the conscious systematic pursuit of truth, are all to some degree or other systematic unities, and all to some degree, therefore, repeat the structure of the universal whole to which they all belong. But it does not follow that all manifest the structure of that whole with equal adequacy and fulness. Indeed, any philosophy which admits development as a genuine feature of the world-process must maintain that they do not, that the nature of the whole system of Reality is exhibited with infinitely greater adequacy and clearness in the working of the conscious mind than in the changes off configuration of the system of mass-particles or even the vital processes of the physical organism.

In practical life, too, one of our most ineradicable convictions is that there are degrees of worth which coincide with degrees of the adequacy with which partial systems exhibit the nature of the larger wholes to which they belong. For instance, among the different mental systems which may be called my partial “selves,” there are some which I call “truer” than others, on the ground that they more fully reveal my whole character as an individual human being. My whole character undoubtedly appears in and determines all the subordinate systems which make up my mental life. Each of them is the whole character in a special aspect, or as reacting upon a special system of suggestions, but some of them contain the whole in a more developed and explicit form than others. I am in one sense myself wherever I may be and whatever I may be doing, and yet I am “more myself” in health than in sickness, in the free pursuit of self-chosen studies than in the forced discharge of uncongenial tasks imposed on me by the necessity of earning an income.

We ought, then, to be prepared to find the same state of things universally in the relation of Reality to its Appearances. In a world where higher” and “lower,” “more” and “less” true have a meaning, some of the lesser systems in which the nature of the whole is expressed must be fuller and more adequate representations of that nature than others. This is |108| as much as to say that it would require comparatively little transformation of some of the partial systems recognised by our knowledge to show how the common nature of the whole system of Reality is expressed in them; in other cases the amount of transformation required to show how the whole repeats itself in the part would be much more extensive. To take a single instance, if our preceding analysis of the general nature of Reality is sound, we can see much more clearly how that nature reappears in the structure of a human mind than how it is exhibited in what we call a physical thing, and we may therefore say the human mind expresses the fundamental character of the whole system much more fully and adequately than physical nature, as it exists for our apprehension. More briefly, the same thought may be expressed by saying that Reality has degrees, and that the forms of Appearance in which its common nature is most fully and clearly manifested have the highest degrees of reality.


“This conception of degree of reality may be illustrated by comparison with the successive orders of infinites and infinitesimals in Mathematics. It would be the task of a complete Philosophy to assign the contents of the world to their proper place in the series of ‘orders’ of reality.”


§ 3. This conception of Reality as capable of degrees may at first seem paradoxical. How can anything, it will be asked, be more or less “real” than anything else? Must not anything either be entirely real or not real at all? But the same difficulty might be raised about the recognition of degree in other cases where its validity is now universally admitted. Thus to some minds it has appeared that there can be no degrees of the infinite or the infinitesimal; all infinites, and again all zeros, have been declared to be manifestly equal. Yet it hardly seems possible to escape the conclusion that the concept of successive orders of infinitely great, and again of infinitely small, magnitudes is not only intelligible but absolutely necessary if our thought on quantitative subjects is to be consistent. (When the sides of a rectangle, for instance, become infinitely great or infinitely small relatively to whatever is our standard of comparison, it still remains a rectangle, and its area therefore is still determined by the product of its sides, and is therefore infinitely great or small, as the case may be, in relation not only to our original standard but to the sides themselves.3) What is in one sense not a matter of degree, may yet in another not only admit but positively require the distinction of degrees of more and less. And this is precisely the case with Reality as it |109| manifests itself in its various appearances. In the sense that it is the same single experience-system which appears as a whole and in its whole nature in every one of the subordinate experience-systems, they are all alike real, and each is as indispensable as every other to the existence of the whole. In the sense that the whole is more explicitly present in one than in another, there is an infinity of possible degrees of reality and unreality. We should be justified in borrowing a term from mathematical science to mark this double relation of the appearances to their Reality, and speaking of them as successive orders of Reality. And we might then say that it is one of the principal problems of a complete Philosophy to ascertain and arrange in their proper sequence, as far as the limitations of our knowledge permit, the orders of Reality.


“In general any subordinate whole is real in proportion as it is a self-contained whole. And it is a self-contained whole in proportion as it is (a) comprehensive, (b) systematic; that is, a thing is real just so far as it is truly individual.”


§ 4. Such a task as this could only be carried out by an intelligence equally at home in metaphysical analysis and in the results of the special sciences, and would form the proper work of applied Metaphysics. In a discussion of general metaphysical principles it is sufficient to indicate the general nature of the criteria by which the degree of reality exhibited by any special partial system must be determined. Now, this general nature has been already made fairly clear by the foregoing inquiry into the unity of Reality. Reality, we have seen, is one in the sense of being an individual self-contained whole of experience. And its individuality means that it is the systematic embodiment of a single coherent structure in a plurality of elements or parts, which depend for their whole character upon the fact that they are the embodiment of precisely this structure. If this is so, we may say that degrees of reality mean the same thing as degrees of individuality, and that a thing is real precisely to the same extent to which it is truly individual.

A thing, that is, no matter of what kind, is really what it appears to be, just in so far as the thing, as it appears for our knowledge, is itself a self-contained and therefore unique systematic whole. Or, in other words, just in so far as what we recognise as one thing shows itself, in the face of philosophical criticism and analysis, to be a self-contained systematic whole, so far are we truly apprehending that thing as a manifestation of the fundamental character of Reality, of seeing it as it really is, and so far does our knowledge give us genuine Reality. On the other hand, just so far as what at first seemed a self-contained whole is discovered by subsequent analysis not to be so, so far have we failed to see the facts in their true place in the single whole of Reality, and so |110| far is our knowledge affected with error and unreality. Or, again, the more truly anything is a self-contained individual whole, the higher its place in the scale of Reality.

When we ask what are the marks by which one thing may be shown to be more of a true individual whole than another, we shall find that they may be reduced to two, both of which we can easily see to be in principle the same, though, owing to the limitations of our insight, they do not always appear to coincide in a given case. One thing is ceteris paribus {with other things being equal} more truly an individual whole than another: (1) when the wealth of detailed content it embraces is greater; (2) when the completeness of the unity with which it embraces that detail is greater. Or, the degree of individuality possessed by any system depends: (1) on its comprehensiveness; (2) on its internal systematisation. The more a thing includes of existence and the more harmoniously it includes it, the more individual it is.

It is manifest, of course, that these two characteristics of a systematic whole are mutually interdependent. For, precisely because all Reality is ultimately a single coherent system, the more there is outside any partial system the greater must be the dependence of its constituents for their character upon their connection with reality outside, and the less capable must the system be of complete explanation from within itself. The more the partial system embraces, the less will its constituents be determined by relation to anything outside itself, and the more completely will its organisation be explicable by reference to its own internal principle of structure. That is, the greater the comprehensiveness of the system, the completer in general will be its internal coherence. And, conversely, the more completely the working of the whole system in its details is explicable from within as the expression of a single principle of internal structure, the less must be the dependence of its contents on any external reality; and therefore, seeing that all reality is ultimately interconnected, the less must be the extent of what lies outside the system in question. That is, the greater the internal unity, the greater in general the comprehensiveness of the system. Thus ultimately the two criteria of individuality coincide.


“The two criteria of individuality, though ultimately coincident, tend in particular cases to fall apart for our insight, owing to the limitation of human knowledge.”


§ 5. In practice, however, it constantly happens, as a consequence of the fragmentary way in which our experiences come to us, that comprehensiveness and thorough-going systematic unity seem to be opposed to one another. Thus we can see, as a general principle, that the systematic organisation |111| of knowledge depends upon its extent. The wider our knowledge, the greater on the whole the degree to which it exhibits organic structure; the systematisation of science and its extension ultimately go together. Yet at any one moment in the development of knowledge the recognition of fresh truths may necessitate a temporary introduction of disorganisation and discrepancy among the accepted principles of science. Thus in the history of geometry the recognised principles of the science were temporarily disorganised by the admission of incommensurable magnitudes which was forced upon the early Greek mathematicians by the discovery that the side and diagonal of a square have no common measure, and the discrepancy was only removed when it became possible to revise the principles of the theory of numbers itself. So again at the present day there is a real danger that premature anxiety to give the study of Psychology precise systematic character by an exact definition of its subject and its relation to the various physical and mental sciences, may stand in the way of the extension of our knowledge of the facts of psychical life. We have often to purchase an important extension of knowledge at the cost of temporary confusion of principles, and to be content to wait for the future readjustment of facts to principles in the course of subsequent progress.

So in our moral life we judge one man’s character more individual than another’s, either on the ground of the superior breadth of his interests, or of the superior consistency with which his interests are wrought into a self-consistent whole. The man of many interests has so far a truer individuality than the man of few, and again the man of steady purpose than the man whose energies are dissipated in seemingly conflicting pursuits. But the two criteria do not always, for our insight, coincide. An increase in variety and breadth of interests may be accompanied by a diminution in coherency of aim, and a gain in coherency of aim appears often to be bought by concentration upon a few special objects. And we should find it hard or impossible to decide, where the two aspects of individuality appear to fall thus apart, whether the man of many interests and relatively dissipated energies, or the man of few interests and intense concentration upon them, exhibits the higher individuality. For what looked like self-dissipation in the pursuit of disconnected objects might really be the systematic pursuit of a consistent purpose too wide to be clearly apprehended in its unity either by contemporary observers or by the actor himself, yet apparent |112| enough to the reflective historian reading the significance of a life by its whole effect upon society, and what seemed at the time the single object of the man of one idea might similarly be found in the light of the sequel to be the hasty combination of radically inconsistent aims.4

Such reflections, however, only show that our limited insight is insufficient to assign to every appearance with certainty its own place in the ordered system of appearances through which the single Reality expresses itself. They do not touch our general position, that where comprehensiveness and harmony can be seen to go together, we are justified in using them as the measure of the individuality and therefore of the reality of the partial system in which we discover them. It is on such grounds, for instance, that we may safely pronounce that an organism, which is the living unity of its members, is more individual and therefore a higher reality that a mere aggregate of pre-existing units, in which the nature of the parts is wholly or mainly independent of the structure of the whole; and again, that a mind consciously and systematically pursuing a coherent self-chosen system of ends is more individual, and therefore again a higher reality, than an organism reacting according to the temporary character of its environment or its momentary internal condition in ways which form no systematic execution of a connected scheme of ends. And it is clear that, if only on this ground, we should have to say that we are nearer the truth in thinking of the individual whole of complete Reality as an organism than in thinking of it as an aggregate, and nearer the truth still in thinking of it as a mind. Similarly in our judgments upon our own lives and character. So far as one life possesses more breadth and again more conscious unity of aim than another, so far it is more truly individual, and therefore a more adequate type of complete reality. Just so far as I am individual, I am truly real. And just so far as I fall short of systematic individuality, whether from the poverty of my interests or their mutual incompatibility, the appearance of unity in my life is illusory, and I must be pronounced an unreal appearance.

At this point we may observe our metaphysical criterion of reality coincides with our ethical criterion of moral worth. For in morality too we esteem one life worthier than |113| another, either for the superior comprehensiveness of its ideals or for the thoroughness with which they are wrought into a harmonious whole of coherent purpose. The better man is either the man of the wider ideal, or again the man of completer and purer self-devotion to his ideal. And thus for Morality the measure of our worth, as for Metaphysics the measure of our reality, lies in our individuality. And for Morality no less than for Metaphysics individuality is pre-eminently a thing of degrees. In both cases, again, the same difficulty besets us as soon as we attempt to use our criterion for application to particular cases. Its two aspects fall apart; it is not always the more comprehensive ideal which is served with the higher fidelity of purpose. And so our actual moral judgments on the worth of particular men, like our metaphysical judgments on the order of reality to which particular things belong, are often necessarily uncertain and fluctuating. We rate one man morally high for the comprehensive rationality of his ideals, though he suffers from a lack of concentrated energy, another for the steady and earnest purpose with which he follows what we perhaps deplore as a contracted ideal.


“Ultimately only the whole system of experience is completely individual, all other individuality is approximate.”


§ 6. One more point of supreme importance concerning the relation of the lesser individuals to the perfect individual which is the absolute whole of Reality. Now that we have learned what is meant by degrees of individuality, we can see that there can, in the last resort, be only one perfect and complete individual, the whole of Reality itself, and that the subordinate individuals can never be wholly and entirely individual in themselves. For to be a complete individual would be, as we have seen, to be a whole system absolutely self-contained and explicable solely by reference to internal structure. Whatever requires, for the full understanding of its systematic character, reference to existence outside itself, we have seen, must also, so long as it is considered apart from the rest of existence, be internally wanting in complete systematic harmony, and thus must fall doubly short of the ideal of individuality.

And precisely because the whole of experience is a single system, no lesser system within the whole is entirely explicable in terms of its own internal structure. For a full understanding of the nature of the lesser system, and of the way in which it manifests a common character through the variety of its elements, you have always, in the last resort, to go outside the system itself, and take into account its relation to the rest of the whole system of existence, |114| And for that very reason no subordinate individual, considered in itself, is a completely coherent self-determined whole. For a limited knowledge like our own, which has in the main to deal with subordinate systems as we find them, and without that complete understanding of the whole structure of Reality which would enable us to see their precise place in the whole, the subordinate systems themselves, when closely scanned by a resolute philosophical analysis, will inevitably exhibit some degree of discrepancy and want of systematic unity.

Consider, for instance, such a system as is formed by the life-work of a man of marked “individuality.” On the whole, the life of such a man may fairly be said to be the systematic working out of a consistent scheme of purposes. But this is, after all, only approximately the truth. It is not the case that the nature of the central or dominant purpose of the scheme is of itself enough to determine the nature and order of the successive stages by which it finds expression. We have to take into account factors in the man’s “heredity,” and again in his social and physical environment which form no part of the nature of his central dominant ideal and yet influence the manner of its fulfilment. We are thus thrown back for our full understanding of the “individual” system in question upon circumstances which are, so far as that system is concerned, “accidental,” i.e. which are equally with itself part of the whole system of experienced fact, without our being able to see how it and they form a wider coherent whole. The subordinate individual, because incapable of explication solely from within, is in the end only approximately “individual,” and we therefore fall into contradictions whenever we isolate it from the rest of Reality and treat it as absolutely individual and self-contained.

In dealing with subordinate wholes, we always, if we go far enough, come to a point where we have to recognise their dependence upon a realm of external fact which our knowledge fails to see in its systematic relation with them, and has therefore to treat as accidental or as an ultimate “collocation.” This is why, as has already been said, full knowledge of our own aims and interests as a genuine systematic whole would coincide with complete insight into the structure of the whole universe. We may invert the sentiment of a hackneyed verse, and say with equal truth that until you know what God and man is, you cannot really know what the “flower in the crannied wall” is. This is as much as to say that every appearance must involve |115| some element of contradiction for our philosophical analysis precisely because we cannot in the end see fully how any appearance is related to the whole of Reality. But we must carefully remember that if appearances, taken by themselves, are contradictory, this is not because they are appearances, but because, as so taken, they are all to some extent mere appearance. The conclusion of the whole matter is, that the individuality of anything less than the ultimate whole of being is a matter of degree and approximation. We shall be equally in error if we assume that because no subordinate system is fully individual, some are not more individual and therefore more real than others or if we declare that, because whatever is real at all must be in its degree individual, therefore every element of Reality is completely real in its isolation. The first error is that of a one-sided Monism, the second that of an equally one-sided Pluralism.

Once more we may note a point of coincidence between our general metaphysical theory of individuality and our personal experience as moral agents. In so far as each of us is truly an individual, his aims and ends form a system with an internal unity pervading its structure, and therefore capable of progressive realisation as a system. Yet again, because each of us is less than the whole of Reality, or, what is the same thing, because the systematic unity of our inner life is never complete, and our totality of interests relations, and aspirations never a completely self-contained ordered whole, our ideals will always be found to contain aspects which will not fully harmonise, elements which fall outside such a unity of structure as it is possible to effect within the limit of our single personality. And thus all our victories contain an inseparable element of defeat. The defeated aspects of the self may no doubt, and in general do, in proportion to the degree of our individuality, belong to the “lower” and relatively more “untrue” self, yet they are elements in the whole self, and their suppression is a genuine if necessary self-suppression. There is a sense in which an aspect of failure is an inevitable feature in the life of every subordinate and therefore imperfect individual. Human life, even in the millennium, as we rightly feel, would not be human life if the note of sadness were altogether absent from it. Only in the single experience of the absolute whole can the discordant notes be finally resolved into a faultless harmony.


“In other words, the whole system of experience is an infinite individual, all subordinate individuality is finite. Comparison of this position with the doctrines of Leibnitz.”


§ 7. Technically, we may mark the distinction between complete and approximate individuality by saying that |116| the absolute whole is an infinite individual, whereas all lesser wholes are but finite individuals. And here it is important to note carefully the true meaning of these often much-abused terms. The infinite must not be confounded with the indefinite or unfinished. Its fundamental property is not the merely negative one of having no end or “last term,” but the positive one of having an internal structure which is the harmonious and complete expression of a single self-consistent principle. The finite, again, is finite not primarily merely because it has a “last term,” i.e. because there is something else outside it, but because its “last term” is arbitrarily determined, i.e. determined by something other than the principles of its internal structure. In other words, the essential defect of the finite is that it is not solely determined by its own structural principle.

We can see this even in the simple case of the familiar “infinite series” of arithmetic and algebra. Such a series as 1, ½, ¼ … is “infinite” not merely because you never come to the last term, but because its character is determined from within, solely by the principle according to which each term is derived from the one before it; that the series has no end is a simple consequence of this positive property of self-determination. But suppose I take n terms of this series and no more, where n is a specified number, the resulting series is now finite, not primarily because there are more terms of the same kind outside it, but because the number of terms to be taken is not prescribed by the law of formation of the series, but fixed with reference to some object independent of the principle of the series itself. In other words, only the infinite is, in the full sense of the words a completely self-determined whole. The finite is the imperfect, not primarily because there is something outside it, but because its contents are not solely prescribed by the principle of structure which they embody. I, for instance, am a finite being, not principally or merely because there are other men in the world, but because my ideas and purposes are not a fully coherent systematic whole in themselves.5

The view we have taken of individuality and the distinction |117| between finite and infinite individuality is closely akin to some of the most fundamental ideas in the philosophy of Leibnitz. It was the doctrine of Leibnitz that each of his monads “represented” the nature of the whole system of existence, i.e. repeated the structure of the whole in its own special structure, from a particular “point of view.” According to the fulness and clearness of the “representation,” i.e. the adequacy with which the structure of the monad repeated the structure of the whole system, the monads were classed as higher or lower in the scale of existence. The clearer a monad’s representation of the whole within itself, the greater the monad’s “activity”; the more confused the representation, the greater its “passivity.” It followed that, inasmuch as no created monad fully exhibits the systematic structure of the whole of Reality within itself, every one contains some element of “passivity,” and that to be “passive” primarily means not to be affected by extraneous influences, but to contain internal “confusion.”

Thus the “activity” of Leibnitz exactly corresponds to what we have called individuality, and his “passivity” to that want of complete internal systematisation which we have found inseparable from finite existence. The immense significance of this definition of activity and passivity in terms of internal systematisation will be more apparent when we come, in our concluding book, to discuss the meaning of human freedom, and its connection with determination and “causality.” For the present it is enough to note that our own doctrine is substantially that of Leibnitz freed from the inconsistency which is introduced into it by the monadistic assumption of the complete independence of the various finite individuals. It is, of course, impossible to unite, as Leibnitz tried to do, the two thoughts. Either there is ultimately only one independent individual, the infinite individual whole, or there is no meaning in speaking of higher and lower degrees of individuality. Leibnitz’s inconsistency on this point seems due entirely to his desire to maintain the absolute individuality of the particular human “soul,” a desire which is explained, partly at least, by his anxiety not to come into collision, as Spinoza and others had done, with the official theology of the period.


“Recapitulatory statement of the relation of Reality to its Appearances.”


§ 8. The definition of infinite and finite individuality completes the general outline of our conception of Reality as a whole, and its relation to its constituent elements. Recapitulating that doctrine, we may now say that the real is a single all-embracing whole of experience or psychical |118| matter of fact, determined entirely from within by a principle of internal structure, and therefore completely individual. Because the matter of the system is in all its parts experience, the principle of its structure must be teleological in character.6 That is, the system must be the embodiment, in a harmonious unity of conscious feeling, of a consistent interest or mental attitude. As such we may call it the realisation indifferently of a purpose or idea, and we may speak of the absolute experience as the completed expression of an absolute knowledge or an absolute will.

But if we do so, we must bear in mind that there can be here no question of a thought which works upon and reconstructs into systematic harmony a body of data originally supplied to it in a relatively unintelligible and disconnected form from some foreign source, or of a volition which gradually translates into reality an end or purpose originally present to it as an unrealised idea. The processes of thought and volition can clearly have no place in an experience for which the what and the that are never disjoined; as we shall by and by see more fully, they involve existence in time, and existence in time can belong only to the finite and imperfect. Hence it is best, in the interest of intellectual clarity and candour, to avoid the use of such expressions as knowledge and will in speaking of the absolute experience; at best they are in large part metaphorical, and at worst potent weapons of intellectual dishonesty.7 The constituents of the system, again, are lesser experience systems of the same general type, in each of which the nature of the whole manifests itself, though to different degrees. They are thus all finite individuals of varying degrees of individuality. The more comprehensive and the more internally unified by an immanent principle of teleological structure such a system, the more fully individual it is, and the more adequately does it reveal the structure of the all-pervading whole. This is the intellectual justification for our instinctive belief that what is for our human experience highest and best is ultimately |119| in the constitution of the universe most completely real.


Consult further:
F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality chap. 24, “Degrees of Truth and Reality.”
Plato, Republic, vi. 509 ff., with the commentary in R. L. Nettleship’s Lectures on Plato’s Republic, or Bosanquet’s Companion to the Republic.


1^ Not the sum of them, because the systematic whole of Reality is not a sum but a single experience. To identify it with the sum of its appearances would be the same error which occurs in Ethics as the identification of happiness (a qualitative whole) with the sum of pleasures (a quantitative collection).

2^ The reader will find it instructive to observe how Prof. Sidgwick unconsciously assumes that the distinction between Reality and Appearance means a distinction between two more or less independent “worlds” or “things” (Philosophy: its Scope and Relations, Lectures 1 and 4), and thus deprives his own criticism of the antithesis of all validity as against a view like our own.

3^ So, again, a velocity which is already infinitesimal may receive an acceleration which is infinitesimal in relation to the velocity itself. The reader’s own studies will no doubt furnish him with numerous other illustrations of the same kind.

4^ See for illustrations of the impossibility of carrying out a single principle in our actual judgments of particular cases, Mr. Bradley’s already quoted article in Mind for July 1902.

5^ For a fuller exposition of the conception of infinity here adopted I may refer the reader to the famous essay of Dedekind, Was sind und was sollen die Zahlen, especially pp. 17-20. The English reader will find an account of Dedekind’s work, with an acute discussion of its metaphysical significance, in Royce, The World and the Individual, First Series, Supplementary Essay. It does not seem necessary for the purpose of this chapter to specify the points in which I find myself unable to follow Professor Royce in his use of the theory. See infra, chap. 4, § 10.

6^ It would not be hard to show that in the end all systematic structure is teleological. For all such structure in the last resort is a form of order, and depends on the possibility of saying “here this is first, that is second.” And wherever we predicate order we are asserting the embodiment in detail of some dominant purpose.

7^ In fact, it is clear that if we speak of “idea” or “volition” in connection with the absolute individual, we cannot mean actual “ideas” or actual “volitions.” We must be using the psychological terms improperly in something of the same sense in which we speak of a man’s “guiding ideas” or “settled will” to denote what clearly, whatever it may be, is not actual ideational or volitional process, See further, Bk. IV. chap. 6, § 1.

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Chapter IV. The World of Things (1): Substance, Quality, and Relation

§ 1. When we turn from the inquiry into the structure of Reality as it must be conceived by a consistent Philosophy, to consider the aspect in which it appears to ordinary non-philosophical thought, the systematic unity which has demanded our attention in the two preceding chapters seems to be replaced by a bewildering and almost incalculable variety. According to the naive pre-scientific theory of existence to which the experiences of practical life naturally give rise, and which serves as the point of departure for all the more scientific and systematic theories of the physicist, the psychologist, and the metaphysician, the world is composed of a multitude of apparently independent things, partly animated, like ourselves, partly inanimate. Each of these things, while in some sense a unit, is thought of as possessing an indefinite multiplicity of qualities or properties, as capable of standing in a variety of relations to other things, and as acting upon other things and being influenced by them in a variety of ways. |121|


“The natural or pre-scientific view of the world regards it as a plurality of ‘things,’ each possessing qualities, standing in relation to others, and interacting with them.”


In all these respects, it should be observed, the naively realistic thought of the pre-scientific mind treats what from a more developed point of view would be distinguished as mental and physical existences alike. Human persons, like the other things of which my environment is composed, are thought of as being at once units and the possessors of diverse properties, as capable of a variety of relations to one another and to other things, and as interacting with each other and the rest of the environment. The recognition of the psychical as an order distinct from the physical, with its momentous consequences for general metaphysical theory, belongs to a later and much more sophisticated stage of intellectual development. Also, it must be noted, for the naively realistic intelligence, I am myself thought of as simply one object or thing in an environment of things of a similar nature, and my relations to that environment are conceived as being of the same type as the relations between its various component parts. I too am, for my own thought, so long as it remains at this primitive level, simply a thing with numerous properties, in various relations to other things, and interacting with them in diverse ways.1

We have called this exceedingly primitive way of conceiving the nature of existence “pre-scientific,” on the ground that both in the mental development of the individual and in that of a community of individuals it precedes even the most tentative conscious efforts to organise thought about the world into a coherent whole. All scientific and philosophical constructions may be regarded as so many artificial modifications of this earlier point of view, instituted and carried out for the purpose of rendering it more coherent and systematic. At the same time, our use of the epithet “pre-scientific” must not be allowed to mislead. The “pre-scientific” view may and does coexist in the same mind with the various modifications of it which arise in the effort to think consistently. We are all of us habitually “naive realists” in respect of those aspects of the world of experience which lie outside the limits of our personal scientific studies; and even as regards those aspects of existence in respect of which our theoretical views may be of a much more developed type, we habitually relapse into the “pre-scientific” attitude when our immediate object is practical2 |122| success in action rather than logical consistency in thinking. For the purposes of everyday life, the most “advanced” man of science is content to be a naive realist outside his laboratory.

Again, pre-scientific as the primitive attitude towards existence is, in the sense of being unaffected by the deliberate effort after system and coherency of thought, it is so far scientific as to be a real though rudimentary and unconscious product of our intellectual need for order and system of some kind in our thought about things. It is a genuine though an unconscious result of our earliest reflection on the course of experience, and thus a true thought-construction, not a passive reproduction of a merely “given” material. It performs in rudimentary fashion, and without explicit purpose, the same task of systematising experience which the various scientific and philosophical theories of the more developed mind undertake more elaborately and with conscious intent. It is thus pre-scientific, but not properly speaking unscientific.

As the mass of ascertained fact accumulates and reflection upon it becomes more systematic and deliberate, our primitive conception of the systematic nature of the real inevitably proves unsatisfactory for two reasons. New facts are discovered which we cannot fit into the old scheme without modification of its structure, and, again, the concepts in terms of which the scheme was originally constructed prove on examination to be themselves obscure and ambiguous in | their meaning. There is thus a double motive perpetually operative in bringing about reconstruction of the original scheme. To the various sciences it falls in the main to devise such alteration of the old schematism as is necessary for the inclusion of fresh facts; it is the special province of metaphysical criticism to examine the various terms both of the original scheme and its subsequent modifications, with a view to determining how far they form an ultimately intelligible and coherent system.


“Hence arise four problems: those of the Unity of the Thing, of Substance and Quality, of Relation, of Causality.”


§ 2. When we scrutinise the original “pre-scientific” theory of the world from this point of view, we shall find that its four leading features give rise to four metaphysical problems of great generality and considerable difficulty. The conception of the world as made up of a multiplicity of things, each of which is one, gives rise to the problem of the unity of the thing; the plurality of the qualities, and again |123| of the relations ascribed to the single thing, gives rise to the problems of Substance and Quality and of Relation; the belief in the interaction between different things finally gives rise to the exceptionally important and difficult problem of Causality. The four problems are not altogether disconnected; in particular, it is hard to discuss the sense in which a thing can be spoken of as “one,” without at the same time raising the question how the “one” thing stands to its many properties, and again discussing the general meaning of relation. And the problem of Causality may be raised in so general a form as to include the other three. Still, for the sake of having a definite order of discussion, it will be well to take them as far as may be separately, and to proceed from the simpler to the more complex. When we have indicated in outline our solution of these problems, we shall have to ask what is the general conception of a thing which our results establish, and whether and on what grounds we are warranted in believing in the actual existence of things answering to our conception. The present chapter will be devoted to the examination of the first three problems; in the succeeding chapter we shall discuss the meaning of Causality, and indicate our general conclusion as to the existence of “things.” With this result our survey of the general structure of Reality will be completed, and we shall then proceed in our third and fourth books to examine the most important of the special problems suggested by the existence of physical nature and conscious mind respectively.


“No simple answer can be given to the question, What is one thing? The Unity of the Thing is one of teleological structure, and this is a matter of degree, and also largely of our own subjective point of view.”


§ 3. The Unity of the Thing. The problem we have to face is as follows: in what sense do we call any thing “one thing,” and what gives it its character as a unity? It is obvious that we may attack this question from either of two rather different points of view. We may ask either, why do we mark off just this portion of our environment from all the rest as a single thing among many things; or, again, how is the oneness which we predicate of any part of the environment so marked off compatible with the multiplicity of its properties? The question we propose to deal with in this section is the former of the two just propounded; the latter shall be dealt with next as the problem of substance and its qualities. What, then, do we mean by the unity which we ascribe to whatever we recognise as one thing among a multiplicity of others? We have, in a way, implicitly answered this question already by the result arrived at in our discussion of the character of the elements or constituents of the system of Reality. But whereas, in our former investigation, |124| we started from the general notion of Reality as a systematic whole of experience, and went on to ask what character is imposed on the elements of such a system by their presence in it as its elements, we have now to raise the same question from the other side; starting with our everyday recognition of our environment as divided into things, we have to ask how far these things possess the character which must belong to the genuinely individual members of an individual whole of subordinate individuals.

For the purpose of the inquiry we must begin by taking the term thing in the same wide and ambiguous sense in which everyday thought and discourse use it. We must reckon among the things which are the topic of discussion, human persons, animals, plants, greater and smaller inorganic masses, in a word, whatever the most matter-of-fact commonsense thinking recognises as possessed of a character in virtue of which it can as a whole determine the course of experience at a given moment. The character or aspect in virtue of which such a whole determines the course of experience in this one special way rather than another, is by this definition excluded from our conception of a thing; it is not the thing itself but its quality or property or relation to some other thing, and forms the subject of our second and third problems. Thus we may say of a thing, in the sense in which we are using the term, that it is what has existence as a whole here and now in the series of experiences, though in saying so we must be careful to bear in mind that the here and now of the thing’s existence are not indivisible points of space or time, but continuous stretches of extension and duration. Now, when we ask in what sense such a thing is one, and why we mark off the limits which separate the one thing from the other things just where we do, it at once becomes apparent that the oneness is a matter of degree. We seem at first sight able with comparatively little difficulty to decide that the organism of a human being or of one of the higher animals is one thing; when we come to deal with the lower organisms which consist of loosely aggregated colonies of largely independently functioning cells, we begin to feel more diffidence in pronouncing what is one organism, though we still think we can say what is one cell. So, in dealing with inanimate masses, while we might be ready to say without much misgiving that a machine of our own construction is one, we should find it much harder to decide whether what we perceive as a mere inorganic mass is one or many, and harder still to give reasons for our decision in a |125| particular case. And even in the cases where our decision is most unhesitatingly pronounced, subsequent reflection will show that the matter may not be so obvious as it seems. For instance, a pair of separated Siamese twins would undoubtedly be generally held to be two organisms and not one; but whether they were one or two before the severance is a question we should find it easier to ask than to answer.

When we try to detect some common principle in our various judgments as to whether a thing is one thing or several, the following results seem to emerge: — (1) A thing is clearly not made one, as is sometimes assumed, by the possession of an unbroken contour or an uninterrupted temporal existence. The succession of my mental states may make up one mental life, and again my organism from the cradle to the grave may be pronounced in some sense one, though no one can prove that there are no gaps in their temporal existence. Again, even if we leave out of account the corpuscular theories of body according to which every thing that looks to us like a spatially continuous whole with an unbroken contour is really composed of discrete particles with interstices between them, it is abundantly clear that common sense regards as one thing the parts of a system which works as a connected whole, quite independently of the existence or non-existence of immediate contact between them.

(2) Again, the unity of the one thing does not depend upon identity of material, whatever that phrase may mean. My organism still remains one thing, though its material is constantly changing by the loss of some elements and the acquisition of others.

(3) On the positive side, it is clear that the unity we attribute to one thing is that of teleological structure. A thing is one or many according to the point of view from which you look at it, i.e. according to the idea or purpose in the light of which you study it. That is one thing which functions as one, in other words, which is the systematic embodiment of a coherent scheme of structure. Thus, when we are considering the whole of an organism as subservient to the realisation of a unique individual aim or interest, the organism is necessarily judged to be one, because in respect of that interest it behaves as a whole; when we are studying the specific mode of reaction of a particular nerve, for instance, the same organism just as naturally appears to us a multiplicity of distinct but interconnected things. Similarly, a system of material particles appears one thing to us so long as our interest in the system is directed to those |126| ways in which it behaves as one, e.g., the exchanges of energy between it and other systems external to it. Generally we may say that whatever is called one is called so because it is the systematic expression of a single aim or interest. A thing, in fact, is one just in so far as it has the character we ascribed, in our last chapter, to a finite individual. Its unity is never merely numerical, but always qualitative, the unity of coherent structure.

Even in our rough-and-ready way of treating continuity of contour as evidence of oneness in inanimate and apparently structureless masses, we may detect the influence of this principle. We judge the sensibly continuous mass to be one rather than many things, because in many obvious respects it functions as one {e.g., in respect of its weight, the simultaneous displacement of its parts in rotation or translation through space). Also, no doubt, our judgment is influenced by the analogy of our own bodies, which are sensibly continuous. We project in imagination into the sensibly continuous inanimate mass the same kind of teleological unity which we find in our own mental life. The sensibly discontinuous, on the other hand (e.g., two inorganic masses separated by an apparently empty interval), is judged to be many things rather than one, because, in imagination, we project such an inner mental life into each of the discontinuous parts.

If all this is so, it would follow that the line of demarcation between one thing and another can never be drawn with hard and fast precision. For if one thing ultimately means one individual, the embodiment of a unique self-consistent idea, the only thing which is fully and absolutely one will be the infinite individual Reality itself. The extent to which any lesser portion of the whole can be pronounced one thing will depend on the extent to which it exhibits self-contained systematic individuality, and thus will be a matter of degree. The highest kind of finite unity we can conceive will be that of a life which is the conscious progressive realisation of coherent purpose. Such a life is one not merely for the outside observer who detects its underlying unity of aim, but for itself. Its oneness may thus be said to be both objective and subjective. Thus the more completely our own inner life is the systematic expression of consistent purpose, the greater the right with which we may regard ourselves as being each truly “one thing” and as such truly individual. But when we remember how far what any one of us calls “his” inner life is from exhibiting such complete |127| internal coherency of structure, we shall realise that even in the highest case the unity is still a matter of degree.

This is still more palpably the case with the lower forms of organic life. Not to speak of the well-known puzzles which arise when we seek to determine whether a creature which is a colony of largely independent cells is one animal or many, our difficulties begin as soon as we have to deal with any type of life below the most fully self-conscious. We can say, to some extent, that a human character is one so long as it is the conscious expression of systematic purpose, but it is less easy to say in what sense we call an animal’s conscious life one. The absence of anything like systematic unity of aim and interest from the life of animal impulse makes it appear, at least at first sight, more reasonable to speak of it as a bundle or collection of distinct impulses and instincts rather than as one.3 If, in spite of this, we still habitually speak and think of the particular higher animal as one rather than many, the reason no doubt is that we tacitly ascribe to it something like the conscious unity of interest which we find in our own mental life, though with a diminished clearness.

When we come to the inanimate world, it seems to become purely a matter of our own subjective interest what we shall call one thing and what we shall call many. That is one which may be regarded as acting as one whole in respect of its bearing upon any interest of ours; that many which, in respect of our interests, does not behave as a whole. Thus, except where we are dealing with forms of life to which we can with more or less plausibility ascribe some degree of conscious unity of aim and interest, there seems no valid reason for drawing the line between different things in one place rather than in another, except reasons of convenience. It is important to bear this in mind in applying our idealistic theory of existence to the case of the inanimate world. If the foundations of the idealistic theory are sound, every real existence must be a finite individual experience of some order of individuality, and this must of course hold good of that part of existence which appears to us as the inanimate world. The inanimate world must be — as we shall see more fully in the succeeding book — a system of individual experiences, which appears to us lifeless and purposeless merely because the kind of life it possesses is too far removed from our own for us to recognise it. But |128| we must most carefully observe that the line of demarcation between the different individual experiences which constitute the reality of that world need not in the least coincide everywhere with the line which we, for purposes of our own, draw between different things.


“Substance and Quality. The identification of the substance of things with their primary qualities, though useful in physical science, is metaphysically unjustifiable.”


§ 4. The Problem of Substance and Quality. More important, in the history of metaphysical theory, has been the other aspect of the problem of the unity of things. What we call one thing is said, in spite of its unity, to have many qualities. It is, e.g., at once round, white, shiny, and hard, or at once green, soft, and rough. Now, what do we understand by the it to which these numerous attributes are alike ascribed, and how does it possess them? To use the traditional technical names, what is the substance to which the several qualities belong or in which they inhere, and what is the manner of their inherence? The full difficulty of this problem may be most easily exhibited by considering the ways in which popular thought commonly tries to solve it.

(1) One of the commonest and most obvious solutions is to identify the “substance” which has the qualities (or, to use the more general scholastic expression, the accidents) with some one group of the thing’s properties which we regard as specially important or permanent. The “substance” is then taken to be just this group of “primary” qualities, and is said to have or possess the less permanent “secondary qualities.” For obvious reasons, the “primary” qualities have in modern Philosophy usually been identified, as by Galileo, Descartes, and Locke, with those mathematical properties of body which are of fundamental importance for the science of mechanical Physics.4 And usually, though not always, the way in which the substance, as thus defined, has the secondary qualities, has been further explained by saying that these latter are subjective changes in our sensibility produced by the action of the primary qualities upon our various sense-organs. Neither of these special views is, however, necessarily involved in the identification of the substance of things with their fundamental qualities. The essential principle of the theory consists simply in the recognition of some groups of qualities as of primary importance, |129| and the identification of the one “substance” which has the many properties with this group.

Now, it would be impertinent for us to raise any objection to the use of such a theory as a working hypothesis in the physical sciences, so long as it does in those sciences the work for which it is required. The object of the physical sciences as a body is simply to enable us to describe and calculate the course of events in nature with the highest degree of accuracy and the least complicated set of formulae. If this end is most successfully attained by treating a certain group of the properties of sensible things as of primary importance and all the rest as mere derivatives of them, this fact of itself affords sufficient justification for the scientific use of the distinction. For the special objects of physical science any group of properties which thus lends itself to the purposes of description and calculation is of primary importance. But it is no less true that its importance for physical purposes does not afford the least ground for regarding it as equally valuable as a solution of the metaphysical problem of the meaning of substance. For instance, one reason why the mathematical properties of body are of such supreme importance for Physics is that in respect of them bodies can be treated as differing not in kind but only in number. This is why they are of such inestimable service as the basis of our calculations as to the behaviour of things. But it might very well be that the true nature of things is most fully manifested just in those points in which they are different in kind; from the standpoint of the metaphysician, a view of non-human nature, however serviceable, which rests entirely upon the aspects in which things are most alike, may be as superficial as the statistical sociologist’s view of human nature. The true being of a concrete thing may be as inadequately expressed by its mathematical properties as the true character of an individual man by a list of anthropometrical results.5

In point of fact, we can readily see that the distinction between “primary” and “secondary” qualities, when propounded as an answer to the problem about substance, leaves us just where we were before. For (1) we ascribe the primary qualities to the “substance” of the thing in just the same fashion as the secondary. The thing is of such and such a configuration, is of such and such a mass, is solid, etc.; just as it is rough, or heavy, or green. Or, again, it has configuration, mass, solidity; just as it has weight, |130| taste, colour. Hence the old problem breaks out again with respect to the primary qualities themselves, however the list of them may be constructed. Again we have to ask, what is the it which possesses shape, mass, velocity, etc.?

(2) Moreover, the theory fails to explain the nature of that “possession” of the secondary qualities which it ascribes to the group of primary qualities. In what way, we ask, do the primary qualities have or possess the secondary? The only serious attempt to answer this question seems to be that of the numerous philosophers (Descartes, Galileo, Locke, etc.) who treat the secondary qualities as “subjective” effects of the primary qualities upon our sense-organs. Now, this familiar solution of the problem seems deficient in logic. For the one solid argument which has been advanced in favour of the subjectivity of secondary qualities seems to be the contention that they cannot be perceived without sense-organs of a special type. Colours, it is said, exist only for an eye, sounds for an ear, taste for a tongue, and so forth. And differences of structure or temporary condition in the sense-organ lead to the perception of different secondary qualities, as when, to take the stock examples, everything looks yellow to the jaundiced eye, the same water feels warm to one hand and cold to the other, and so forth.

But these considerations seem just as applicable to the supposed “primary” as to the “secondary” qualities of things. Geometrical form, for instance, is imperceptible apart from sight or touch; motion, again, and consequently change of configuration, and similarly mass, which is a ratio of accelerations, require either sight or touch for their perception. Of course, we can think of motions and masses which we are not actually perceiving, just as we can think of an absent colour or smell, and in both cases we can in reasoning about motions or masses or colours or smells abstract altogether from the presence of a percipient. But this does not affect the fact that the mathematical qualities of body are just as dependent for perception upon the presence of a percipient with suitable sense-organs as anything else. Configurations, extensions, and motions which no one perceives by sight or touch or any other sense are exactly in the same case as a colour which no one sees or a sound which no one hears. The argument from the indispensability of a perceiving organ ought logically to tell just as much in the one case as the other.6 |131|

Again, and this is a point of the first importance, experience never gives us the “primary quality” by itself. What we get in actual experience is always the conjunction of primary and secondary qualities in a concrete perception. Thus we never perceive extension apart from some special visual or tactual filling of the “secondary” kind. The extended has always some quality of colour, or texture, or resistance. An extension which is totally devoid of colour, tactual quality, and everything which belongs to the so-called sensible, non-mathematical, or “secondary” properties of body, is an unreal abstraction, got by leaving out an aspect which in actual experience appears inseparable from it, and therefore presumably illegitimate. Illegitimate, that is, when offered as an account of the fundamental reality of body, however useful for the special purposes of natural science. Thus the attempt to take the so-called primary qualities as the unitary “substance” which has or “possesses” the secondary qualities, and to dispose of these latter as “subjective,” leads to no satisfactory result. The former, too, must be merely qualities possessed by a more ultimate substance.


“Substance as an ‘unknowable substratum of qualities’ adds nothing to our understanding of their connection.”


§ 5. Hence it constantly happens that the same writers who treat substance as identical with the primary qualities of things, alternate this view with another according to which substance is an unknowable unit of which we can say no more than that it, whatever it may be, is what is presupposed in all propositions about the behaviour of things as the “unknown substratum” of their various qualities. According to this view, the many qualities of the thing in some inexplicable manner “flow” either from the nature of its own unknown substratum or substance, or from the relations in which this substratum stands with that of other things.7 Our knowledge is then held to be confined to these consequences of the unknown ultimate character of real things; we are ignorant, it is said, of the substance both of physical and of mental existence, we know only its attributes or manifestations. Or it is otherwise phrased thus: we do not know what things really are, we know only their effects on one another and on |132| our own senses. This is, for instance, the view represented by those portions of Locke’s Essay in which emphasis is laid upon our inability in the last resort to know the true substance of things.

Now, such a general doctrine as this is manifestly open to grave objections, (1) If we are serious in maintaining the unknowable character of the substratum of a thing’s qualities, it is hard to see how the assertion of its existence can be any addition to our knowledge of the thing. To say that we are entirely ignorant of the nature of this substratum only amounts to saying in other words, that we have really no idea how the many qualities can be qualities of a single thing. If this is so, it does not appear what we gain by talking of the single thing at all as the owner or possessor of its qualities. It would, we might think, be better to abandon the confessedly unintelligible notion of a single substratum in which the qualities “inhere,” and say that the thing, for our intellect, is simply the many qualities themselves. How this view would have to be reconciled with the tacit assumption of the thing’s unity as a substance, which underlies all the judgments in which its attributes are predicated of it, we shall have to discuss more fully in the next section.

(2) A still more serious difficulty remains behind. Not only is an “unknowable substratum of qualities” a superfluous luxury in metaphysical theory, but the nature of the supposed relation between such a substratum and the attributes which “flow” from it is unintelligible. We can understand neither what a substance or substratum totally devoid of qualities could possibly be, nor yet how the various qualities of the world of things presented to our experience could “flow” as secondary consequences from one or more such substrata. We cannot conceive how things could first “be” without this being of theirs possessing any definite character, and then subsequently, in virtue of their relations among themselves, give rise to their qualities or characteristic modes of being. Nothing can be at all without being in some determinate way, and this “being in some determinate way” is precisely what we mean by the qualities of a thing. A thing cannot be without behaving in special ways towards its environment, and these special ways of behaving are the thing’s qualities. We cannot, therefore, divorce the being or that of a thing from its determinate mode of being or what, and regard the latter as something which supervenes on or is derived from the former, or the former as something which can exist without and apart from the latter. Things are not |133| first there and afterwards in some mysterious way clothed with qualities; their qualities are simply their special way of being there. As Lotze well puts it, all such attempts to formulate a theory of the way in which the what of things flows from a mere that, are attempts to answer the absurd question how Being is made.8 The notion that things have a that or substance prior to their what or quality, and consisting simply in “being” which is not this or that determinate mode of being, is thus unmeaning as well as superfluous.


“The thing cannot be a mere collection of qualities without internal Unity.”


§ 6. Accordingly the whole notion of a substantial unity in things behind the multiplicity of their states or qualities has been regarded with disfavour by many students of positive science. The qualities being all that interests us in things, and the notion of an indeterminate substratum contradictory, we ought, it is argued, to identify the thing and the series of its states and qualities without more ado. From this point of view the thing ceases to be an unknown somewhat, which in some mysterious way has properties; it becomes the properties themselves thought of as a collection. It is no longer the unperceived this which has warmth, redness, etc., it is the warmth, the redness, and the rest of the sensible qualities taken collectively. For phenomenalist Metaphysics, as for associationist Psychology, the thing is a “bundle of attributes” and nothing more.

When we ask how, if a “thing” is merely the series or sum of its attributes, and possesses no underlying unity to which the attributes belong, the whole of our ordinary language about things comes to be constructed on the contrary assumption, how it is that we always talk and think as if every “bundle” of attributes were owned by something of which we can say that it has the quality, we are met by the phenomenalist with a reference to Psychology. Owing to the fact, which Phenomenalism and Associationism are content to accept as ultimate, that sensible qualities are always presented to our perception in definite groups, it is argued that the thought of any one member of such a group is enough to revive by association the thought of the other qualities which have regularly been presented simultaneously with itself or in immediate succession to it. Hence, because thus associated in our perception, the group comes naturally, though illegitimately, by one of those mental fictions of which Hume treats so fully, to be thought of as one, though it is actually a discrete multiplicity. The unity of the thing thus lies not in itself, but solely in our way of perceiving and thinking. |134|

A more recent version of the same doctrine, which avoids the old associationist mistake of treating perception as a merely passive reception of a given material, is that the unity of the one subject of many predicates is ultimately derived from the unity of our own acts of attention. The qualities appear to belong to “one” thing because we attend to them together as one in a single moment of attention. Thus the unity of substance which common sense believes itself to find in its objects has really been put into them by the perceiving mind itself. What is “given” to it is a disconnected plurality of qualities; by attending to groups of them as one it makes those groups into the attributes of a single reality. This is the essence of the doctrine of Kant, according to which the concept of “substance” is simply one form of the “synthetic unity of apperception,” i.e. the process by which we project the unity of our own acts of attention into their objects, and thus create an orderly world for our own thought out of sensations which as they are given to us are a chaos. In principle, Kant’s doctrine, though intended as a refutation of Hume’s Associationism, only differs from Hume’s in the stress it rightly lays on the element of subjective interest in perception; the two theories agree on the main point, that the bond which unites the many qualities of sense perception into one thing is a subjective one, — in Hume’s expressive phrase, a “fiction of the mind.”9

With the psychological aspects of this doctrine we are not directly concerned in the present inquiry. For us the problem is not by what precise steps the mind comes to “feign” a unity in its objects which is not really there, but whether this conception of a feigned or subjective unity imposed, by the mind upon a number of actually disconnected qualities is itself ultimately intelligible. Thus the metaphysical issue may be narrowed down to the following question: Can we intelligibly hold that a thing is in reality simply a number of qualities, not in their own nature connected, which we arbitrarily regard for our own purposes as one?10 In other words, can we say the thing is simply identical with its qualities considered as a mere sum or |135| collection, and any further unity of the kind the old Metaphysics denotes by “substance,” a mental addition of our own to the facts?

Now there are two considerations — both ultimately reducible in principle to one — which seem fatal to the identification of a thing with its qualities, considered as merely discrete, (1) There can be no doubt that it is largely true to say that a given group of qualities appear to us to be the qualities of one thing because we attend to them as one. And again, attention is undoubtedly determined by, or, to put it in a better way, is an expression of, our own subjective interests. But these considerations do not in the least show that attention is purely arbitrary. If we take any group of qualities to form one thing because we attend to it as one, it is equally true that we attend to it as one because it affects our subjective purposes or interests as one. That group of qualities is “one thing” for us which functions as one in its bearing upon our subjective interests. What particular interest we consider in pronouncing such a group one, in what interest we attend to it, may be largely independent of the qualities of the group, but the fact that the group does function as one in respect to this interest is no “fiction” or creation of our own thought; it is the expression of the nature of the group itself, and is independent of “our mind” in precisely the same sense in which the existence and character of any single member of the group of qualities is independent. There is no sense in assigning the single quality to “the given,” and the union of the qualities into a single group to “the work of the mind”; in one sense both are the “work of the mind,” in another both are the expression of the nature of the “given.”11

(2) Again, the insufficiency of the simple identification of the thing with its qualities considered as a mere collection, may be illustrated by considering what the group of qualities must contain. The group of qualities is obviously never present in its entirety at any moment of experience. For the majority of what we call the qualities of a thing are simply the ways in which the “thing” behaves in the presence of various other things, its modes of reaction upon |136| a number of stimuli. Now, at any moment of the “thing’s” existence it is only actually reacting upon a few of the possible stimuli, and thus only exhibiting a few of its qualities. The vast majority of its qualities are at any moment what Locke calls “powers,” i.e. ways in which it would behave if certain absent conditions were fulfilled. Thus the thing to which we ascribe a number of predicates as its qualities is never the actual group of predicates themselves. Grass is green, but its greenness is not a fact in the dark; the sun is capable of melting the wax, and this capacity qualifies it permanently, but it does not actually melt the wax unless the wax is there, and various other conditions are also given; a man is temperamently choleric, but he is not actually at every moment of his existence in a passion. He is only predisposed to fly into a passion readily on the occurrence of provocation. Most of a thing’s qualities thus are mere possibilities; the nature of the thing is to act in this or that way under certain definite conditions which may or may not be realised in actual existence. Thus the collection of qualities with which Phenomenalism identifies a thing has itself no real existence as a collection. The collection is just as much a “fiction of the mind” as the unity which we attribute to it. Yet the fact that the thing’s qualities are mainly mere possibilities does not destroy the existence of the thing. It actually is, and is somehow qualified by these possibilities. And for that very reason its existence cannot be identified with the actual realisation of these possibilities in a group or collection of events. We might add as a further consideration, that the number of such possibilities is indefinite, including not only the ways in which the thing has behaved or will behave on the occurrence of conditions at present nonexistent, but also all the ways in which it would behave on the occurrence of conditions which are never realised in actual existence. But the previous argument is already in itself sufficient, the moment its significance is fairly grasped, to dispose of the notion that anything can be merely identical with a group of actually existing sensible qualities. The being of the things must be sought not in the actual existence of the group of sensible qualities, but in the law or laws stating the qualities which would be exhibited in response to varying sets of conditions.12 |137|


“The conception of a thing as the law or mode of relation of its states useful but metaphysically unsatisfactory. Ultimately the many can be contained in the one only by ‘representation’; the unity in things must be that of an individual experience.”


§ 7. Considerations of this kind compel us to forego the attempt to find the substance or being of a thing in the mere sequence of its different states considered as an aggregate. To make Phenomenalism workable, we are forced to say at least that the thing or substance to which the various attributes are assigned is the “law of its states,” or again is “the mode of relation of its various qualities.” Such a definition has obviously a great advantage over either of the two we have just rejected. It is superior to the conception of the thing as an unknown substratum of qualities, since it explicitly excludes the absurd notion of a world of things which first are, without being in any determinate way, and then subsequently set up determinate ways of existing among themselves. For a law, while not the same thing as the mere collection of occurrences in which it is realised, has no existence of its own apart from the series of occurrences which conform to it. Again, every law is a statement of possibilities, a formula describing the lines which the course of events will follow if certain conditions are operative; no law is a mere register of actually observed sequences.13 Hence, in defining the thing as the “law of its states,” we avoid the difficulty dealt with in the last paragraph, that the collection of the thing’s states never actually exists as a “given” collection. Thus for ordinary practical purposes the definition is probably a satisfactory one.

Yet it should Be evident that in calling the thing the “law” of its states, we merely repeat the metaphysical problem of the unity of substance without offering any solution of it. For, not to dwell on the minor difficulty that we might find it impossible to formulate a single law connecting all the ways in which one thing reacts upon others, and thus ought more properly to speak in the plural of the laws of the states, we are now left with two distinct elements or aspects of the being of the thing, namely, the successive states and the law of their succession, and how these two aspects |138| are united the theory fails to explain. We have the variety and multiplicity on the one hand in the states or qualities of the thing, its unity on the other in the form of the law connecting these states, but how the variety belongs to or is possessed by the unity we know no better than before. Thus the old problem of substance returns upon us; the many qualities must somehow be the qualities of a single thing, but precisely how are we to conceive this union of the one and the many?14

At this point light seems to be thrown on the puzzle by the doctrine of Leibnitz,15 that the only way in which a unity can, without ceasing to be such, contain an indefinite multiplicity is by “representation.” Experience, in fact, presents ;us with only one example of a unity which remains indubitably one while embracing an indefinite multiplicity of detail, namely, the structure of our experience itself. For the single experience regularly consists of a multiplicity of mental states, both “focal” and “marginal,” simultaneous and successive, which are nevertheless felt as one single whole because they form the expression of a coherent purpose or interest. And this conscious unity of feeling, determined by reference to a unique interest, is the only instance to which we can point when we desire to show by an actual illustration how what is many can at the same time be one. If we can think of the thing’s qualities and the law of their connection as standing to one another in the same way as the detailed series of acts embodying a subjective interest of our own, and the interest itself which by its unity confers a felt unity on the series, we can in principle comprehend how the many qualities belong to the one thing. In that case the thing will be one “substance” as the embodiment of an individual experience, determined by a unique subjective |139| interest, and therefore possessing the unity of immediate feeling. Its many qualities will “belong” to it in the same sense in which the various constituents of an experience thus unified by immediate feeling are said to “belong” to the single experience they constitute. And thus our idealistic interpretation of the general nature of Reality will be found to contain the solution of the problem of Substance and Quality.

Now it is fairly clear that some such idealistic solution is already contained in germ in the pre-scientific view of the world of things. There can be little doubt that our original notion of the unity of the thing as contrasted with the multiplicity of its qualities has been obtained by “introjectively” ascribing to whatever groups of qualities act upon us as one in respect of some interest of our own, the same conscious unity of feeling which we know in ourselves and our fellows. We shall have frequent opportunities, as we proceed, of discovering the enormous extent to which the whole pre-scientific view of the world is based upon the interpretation of all existence in terms of our own. Systematic Idealism will thus gradually be found to be no more than the consistent and deliberate carrying through of that anthropomorphic interpretation of Reality which lies at the bottom of all man’s attempts to make his surroundings intelligible to himself. It will follow, if our general attitude towards the problem of substance is tenable, that only what we have already defined as an individual experience can truly be called a “substance,” and that such experiences are “substances,” if the word is to be retained in our philosophical vocabulary, to the same degree to which they are truly individual. And thus we should be led in the end to the distinction between the one infinite substance which forms the whole of Reality and the finite and imperfect substances which are its components.

Again, we should have once more to remember that since, in general, we call that group of qualities one which acts on our interests as one, and our insight into those interests themselves is limited and confused, the boundaries assigned by us to the group of qualities we ascribe to a single substance as “its” states will be more or less arbitrary, and dependent upon the degree of our actual insight. It is possible for us to group together as states of the same thing qualities which a profounder insight would have disjoined, and vice versa. And in the end, if all that is is contained in a single coherent self-determined system, it is clear that, |140| speaking rigorously, there will ultimately be only one “substance” — the central nature or principle of the system itself — of which all subordinate aspects or parts of existence will be the attributes.


“Relation. We can neither reduce qualities to relations nor relations to qualities.”


§ 8. The Problem of Relation. More perplexing than the problem of Substance and its Qualities is the question to which the pre-scientific assumption that the world consists of a number of interrelated things gives rise. This problem of Relation becomes still more prominent when reflection upon the problem of Substance and Quality has made it manifest that what we call the qualities of things are one and all dependent upon their relations either to our perceptive organs or to other things. Put quite simply the problem is as follows: Things stand in a variety of relations to one another, and what we commonly call the qualities of each are dependent on (a) its modes of relation to other things, (b) its relation to our percipient organism. Again, the various qualities of one thing stand in relation among themselves. To begin with, they all exhibit the relations of identity and difference. They all so far possess a common nature as to be capable of being compared in respect of the special ways in which they manifest that nature, and are thus so far identical; again, they can be discriminated and distinguished, and are so far in the relation of difference. Further, the qualities of one thing are interconnected, as we have already seen, by various special laws or modes of relation, which exhibit the changes in the behaviour of the thing corresponding to changes in the surrounding circumstances.

Thus Phenomenalism, when it has banished the notion of a substantial unity in things, has to identify the world of things, as we have already seen, with qualities in relation to one another. But now the question arises. How are we to understand the conception of qualities in relation? Can we, on the one hand, reduce all qualities to relations or all relations to qualities, or, on the other, can we form an intelligible idea of the way in which a single whole or system can be formed by the union of the two? There are, of course, other questions of great though relatively secondary importance connected with the problem of relation, e.g., the question as to the number of ultimately irreducible kinds of relation, but the scope of the present work will permit of nothing beyond a brief discussion of the central difficulty. We will take the various alternatives in order. |141|

(1) Philosophers have often been tempted to evade the difficulty of showing how qualities and relations together can make up a system by suppressing one member of the antithesis altogether. Thus it has been maintained, on the one hand, that the world of real things consists entirely of simple unrelated qualities, and that what we call relations between these qualities are merely our own subjective ways of apprehending them. On the other hand, it has been suggested that there may be nothing in the real world except relations, and that what we call qualities of various kinds are nothing but forms of relation. But neither of these views seems seriously tenable.

For (a) reality cannot consist of mere relations. Every relation implies two or more terms which are related. And these terms cannot be created by the relation itself. In every relation the terms have some character of their own over and beyond the mere property of being terms in that relation. Thus, to take a simple example, the successive terms of the series of ordinal numbers express in themselves nothing beyond determinate position in an ordered series, but when they are applied to the actual arrangement of any content in serial order, that content is (c) not created by the arrangement of it in an ordered series of terms, and (b) is dependent for the actual order of its terms upon some positive character of its own. In other words, whenever you actually count you count something other than the names of the numbers you employ, and you count it in an order which depends on the character of the particular things counted.16 And so generally of all relations. A question has been raised which presents considerable difficulty and cannot be discussed here, whether there are or are not merely external relations (i.e. relations which are independent of the special qualities of their terms). But even if we admit that there may be such merely external relations, which do not depend upon the nature of the terms between which they subsist, it is at least clear that there cannot be relations without any terms, and that the terms are not created out of nothing by the relation |142| between them.17 Perhaps it might be rejoined that what I call the terms of a certain relation, though no doubt not created by that particular relation, may be themselves analysed into other relations, and those again into others ad indefinitum. Thus it might be said that the term A of the relation A-B may no doubt have a quality of its own which is not created by this relation. But this quality, call it A1, is found on analysis to be resoluble into the relation C-D, and the quality C1 of C again into the relation E-F, and so on without end. This would not, however, amount to a reduction of qualities to mere relations. For it would give us, as the unit of our scheme of things, a pair of terms or qualities in relation; and however often we repeated the process of analysis, we should still always be left with the same type of triad, two terms and a relation, as the result of analysis. Whatever its worth, this particular solution falls under our second alternative, and must be considered in connection with it.

(2) But again, it is even more manifest that we cannot reduce all reality to qualities, and dismiss the relations between them as simply our subjective mode of apprehension. This line of thought is capable of being worked out in two slightly different ways. We might hold that what really exists is disconnected simple qualities, each distinct from all others as red is from sweet, or loud from hot, and that the whole network of relations by which everyday and scientific thought bring these “reals” into connection is a mere intellectual scaffolding to which nothing in the real world corresponds. Something like this would be the logical outcome of the Humian doctrine that all relations are “the work of the mind,” and that reality is the residuum left after we have removed from our conception of the world everything which is of our own mental fabrication. The grounds upon which this doctrine was advanced by Hume and his followers have already been destroyed by the progress of Psychology and the consequent abandonment of the old hard-and-fast distinction between sensation and mental construction. It was the belief of Hume, and apparently of Kant, that what is given in “sensation” is single uncompounded qualities, and that all relations between these psychical atoms are produced by a subsequent process of subjective synthesis. But the advance of Psychology, |143| by leading to the recognition that sensation itself is a continuous process containing a multiplicity of “marginal” elements which in all sorts of ways modify the character of its central or “focal” element, has made it impossible any longer to maintain an absolute distinction between the sensory and the intellectual factor in cognition.

And apart from the illusory nature of the distinction on which the theory was based, it is sufficiently condemned for Metaphysics by its own inherent absurdity. For the fundamental presupposition of Metaphysics, as of all serious science, is that Reality is a coherent system. But, according to the view which regards relations as pure “fictions of the mind,” just that element in our thought which gives it its systematic character is an unwarranted addition of our own to the real. Order and system are in fact, on this view, mere illusion. And, as has often been pointed out by the critics of Hume, it is quite inconceivable how, in a world where nothing but disconnected simple qualities exist, the illusion should ever have arisen. If even our own inner life is simply incoherent, it is quite impossible to see how we can ever have come, even by a fiction, to read system into the world of fact.

A more plausible attempt to reduce all relations to qualities proceeds on the following lines. Relations, it is said, are of subjective manufacture, but they are, for all that, not mere fictions. For every relation between two terms, say A and B, is based upon the presence in A and B of certain qualities, which are called the fundamenta relationis or basis of the relation. These qualities may be the same in both the terms, in which case the relation is called symmetrical; such a case is that, e.g., of the equality of A and B, a relation having for its fundamentum the fact that A and B have both the same magnitude. Here the real fact is taken to be that A has this magnitude, and again that B has it. The subjective addition to the facts is thought to come in in the voluntary comparison of A and B in respect of this property and the consequent assertion of their equality. Or the qualities which are the foundation of the relation may be different in each of the terms, in which case the relation is technically called asymmetrical.

Examples of such asymmetrical relations are, e.g., A greater than B, B less than A, or again, A father to B, B son to A. Here the actual facts would be taken to be A possessed of magnitude x, B of magnitude x – y, A qualified by the circumstance of begetting B, B by the circumstance |144| of being begotten by A. The subjective addition would come in, as before, when we brought A and B under one point of view by comparing them in respect of these properties.

The inherent difficulties of the reduction of relations to qualities are, however, only thinly disguised in this version of the doctrine. To argue that the establishment of judgments of relation presupposes subjective comparison of the related terms from a more or less arbitrarily chosen point of view, is metaphysically irrelevant. The whole question is as to whether the result of the process is to make things more intelligible as a systematic whole; if it is, the subjectivity of the process is no ground for discrediting the result as truth about the real. If it is not, the philosophers who insist on the subjectivity of relations should explain how we can coherently think of a systematic whole of reality in terms of quality apart from relation. This they have never been able to do, and that for obvious reasons. It is manifestly impossible to give any intelligible account of the qualities which we recognise as fundamenta of relations without introducing previous relations. Thus the possession of the common magnitude x may be assigned as the foundation of the relation of equality between A and B; but when we ask what is meant by predicating of A and B possession of the magnitude x, we find that we are thrown back upon a relation between A, B, and some third term S, which we take as our unit of measurement. A and B are both of magnitude x because each contains S, let us say, x times exactly. So again the fact “A begetter of B” was assigned as the fundamentum of the asymmetrical relation of paternity between A and B, and the same fact under another name as the fundamentum of the asymmetrical relation of filiation between B and A.

But now what is meant by saying that the same fact qualifies A and B in different ways? Any answer to this question plunges us back at once into a perfect network of relations. For first, that a fact x may be known to qualify A and B differently, A and B must themselves be discriminated, i.e., they must be compared and found different, and without relation difference is unmeaning. For ultimately two terms are different only when they also possess a common character which admits of their comparison with reference to a common standard. Thus only things which are like can be different, and the problem of the relation of their likeness to their difference is inevitably forced upon us by the very existence |145| of the difference. And similarly, the common fact x qualifies either term in a definite way, which can be discriminated from the ways in which other facts qualify the same term, and this discrimination leads in precisely the same manner to the assertion of various relations among the different qualities of A and again of B.18

It is not difficult to see the common source of the difficulties which beset both the attempt to reduce all reality to qualities, and the attempt to identify it with mere relations. In actual experience, our world always comes to us as at once many and one, never as merely single nor as merely discrete. If you pay exclusive regard to the aspect of unity and interconnection, you will naturally be tempted to dwell on the relations between your elements to the exclusion of the various elements themselves; if you think solely of the aspect of variety, it is equally natural to treat the elements as real and their relations as fictions. But in either case you arbitrarily concentrate your attention on a single aspect of the experienced fact taken in isolation from the other, and are thus led to results which are bound to collide with the whole facts. A true view, if possible at all, can only be got by impartial adherence to the whole of the facts.


“Again, the attempt to conceive Reality as qualities in relation leads to the indefinite regress.”


§ 9. We are thus brought to the second of our alternatives. Can we conceive of Reality as qualities in relation or qualities and their relations? This is really, in a somewhat more developed form, the same problem as that suggested by the definition of a thing as the “law of its states.” We are now to take the qualities as fixed terms with a character of their own which stand in or support further relations, and we have to ask if the view of the world thus formulated is entirely intelligible. And it speedily becomes clear that such a view is confronted by a formidable difficulty. For suppose that A and B are two qualities which stand in any relation C. (For simplicity’s sake we might suppose this relation C to be, e.g., that of being discriminated, and we might take as instances of A and B, say, two definitely discriminated shades of the same colour.) Then A and B, standing in the relation C, are not identical with A and B as they would be apart from this relation. (A, for instance, as qualified by contradistinction from B, is not the same thing as mere A not in any way affected by B, a fact which is frequently |146| brought home to us with startling force by the effects of contrast.) At the same time the relation C cannot create its own terms; A, which is qualified in some special way by its standing to B in the relation C, may also exist out of this relation, and the mere fact of our recognising it as A shows that, both in the relation C and outside it, it has a recognisable identical character. (E.g., A as discriminated from B is not precisely the same thing as A before discrimination, but the difference of A from B has not been created by the act of discrimination; it must previously have been different in order to be discriminated.)

Thus we seem forced to split up the quality A, which we took as one of the terms of our relation, into two aspects, A (A1) the quality as it was before the establishment of the relation, and A (A2) the quality as it is after the establishment of the relation. And the two aspects thus discovered in what we took for the single quality A must again be somehow in relation to one another. Hence within A (A1) and A (A2) itself the same process will be repeated, and what we began by regarding as the fixed terms of the relation will turn out to be themselves systems of qualities in relation, and this process will have no limit. The classification of the contents of experience into fixed terms with relations between them, it is contended, is no solution of the problem how the experienced world can be both one and many but a mere restatement of it. “We have to take reality as many and to take it as one, and to avoid contradiction … And we succeed, but succeed merely by shutting the eye which if left open would condemn us.” Hence the conclusion is drawn that “a relational way of thought … must give appearance and not truth. It is a makeshift, a device, a mere practical compromise, most necessary but in the end most indefensible.”19


“We cannot escape this difficulty by taking all relations as ‘external.’”


§ 10. The foregoing reasoning, which has been condensed from the fuller exposition in Mr. F. H. Bradley’s Appearance and Reality, demands most careful examination, as the consequence to which it leads is of supreme importance for our whole metaphysical view of the nature of ultimate Reality. If the conclusion of Mr. Bradley is sound, it is clear that our discursive thought with its scheme of predication, which is from first to last relational, can never give us adequate insight into the nature of the union of the one and the many. We shall then have to conclude that it is |147| not in thought about Reality, but in some mode of experience, if such there is, which enables us to transcend the separation of subject from predicate, and is therefore suprarelational, that we come nearest to experiencing the real as it really is. We should thus be more or less in sympathy with the traditional Mysticism which has always made the transcending of the distinction of subject from predicate the keynote of its special way of experiencing the Divine. On the other hand, if the relational scheme of ordinary knowledge could be defended as a self-consistent way of regarding the facts, we should have the advantage of being able to construe the absolute Experience in terms of our own intellectual life much more completely than Mysticism allows.

How, then, might the interpretation of the world as a system of qualities in relation be defended against Mr. Bradley’s powerful formulation of the mystic’s objection, and what is the worth of “the defence”? Two possible lines of argument suggest themselves as sufficiently plausible to call for examination, (1) The edge of the objection would be turned, as far as it rests upon the unsatisfactoriness of the indefinite regress, if we could regard all relations as “external,” that is, as making no difference in the qualities they relate. Now, some relations, it has been asserted, are merely external, e.g., relations of position and again of sense in the geometrical meaning of the word (like the difference between a right-hand and a left-hand glove). Why, then, may this not ultimately be the case with all relations? But if all relations are external, we can no longer argue that the related terms must contain a further relation between themselves as the basis and themselves as the result of the first relation, and so the whole anti-relational case falls to the ground.

Such a view seems, however, to suffer from fatal deficiencies. For (a) it is at least hard to see how any relation can be ultimately external to its terms. For you cannot hold two terms in a relation of any sort without discriminating them; until they are at least discriminated as two they cannot be terms with a relation between them. Thus discrimination, and therefore the relation of distinction, is fundamental in all relation. But where we can distinguish there must already be in the discriminated terms some difference to afford a basis for discrimination. Only what is already different can be distinguished. And with this admission the door is once more opened for the indefinite regress. |148|

(b) And even if this were not so, it seems unthinkable that all relations should be in the end external to their terms. If no relation in the end makes any difference to its terms, and thus has no foundation in their nature, it becomes a standing miracle how or why the terms should enter into relations to which they are all the time absolutely indifferent. The logical consequence of such a view would surely be the dismissal of all relations as pure illusion, and the reduction of real existence to a chaos of disconnected reals which we by some inexplicable intellectual perversity persist in taking for a system. The now universally recognised failure of Herbart’s attempt to work out a theory of Realism on these lines seems ominous for the success of any future doctrine of the same kind.


“And Professor Royce’s vindication of the indefinite regress seems to depend on the uncriticised application of the inadequate category of whole and part to ultimate Reality. The union of the one and the many in concrete experience is ultra-relational.”


(2) Much more subtle is the line of thought suggested by Professor Royce in the Supplementary Essay appended to his book, The World and the Individual, First Series. Professor Royce admits the indefinite regress as an inevitable consequence of the reduction of the world to terms in relation, but denies that it affects the soundness of the reduction. On the contrary, he regards it rather as a proof of the positive correctness of the interpretation of existence which gives rise to it. His argument, which is based upon the modern doctrine of infinite series, may be briefly summarised as follows: — It is a recognised characteristic of an infinite series (and of no others) that it can be adequately “represented” by a part of itself. That is to say, if you take any infinite series you please, you can always construct a second series such that it consists of a selection, and only of a selection, from the terms of the first series, and that every term is derived from and answers to the corresponding term of the first series according to a definite law. And this second series, as it is easy to prove, is itself infinite, and therefore capable of being itself represented adequately in a third series derived from it in the same manner as it was derived from the first, and so on indefinitely.

For instance, let the first series be the infinite series of the natural integers 1, 2, 3, 4 … then if, e.g., we construct a second series, 12, 22, 32 … of the second powers of these integers, the terms of this second series are derived by a definite law from those of the first to which they correspond, and again they constitute a selection out of the terms of the first series. Every one of them is a term of the first series, but there are also terms of the first series which are not repeated in the second. Again, if we make a third series from the |149| second in the same way as the second was made from the first, by taking the terms (12)2, (22)2, (32)2, and so on, the terms of this third series fulfil the same conditions; they correspond according to a fixed law with the terms of the second, and are also themselves a selection from those terms. And thus we may go on without end to construct successive infinite series each of which “adequately represents” the preceding one. And we are led into this indefinite regress by the very attempt to carry out consistently a single definite principle of correspondence between our original infinite series and its first derivative. In constructing the first derived series in our illustration 12, 23, 32 … we necessarily also construct the series (12)2, (22)2, (32)2, … and the other successive derivatives. Therefore Prof. Royce claims that any consistent attempt to make an orderly arrangement of the terms of an infinite whole must lead to the indefinite repetition of itself. Hence that each term of every relation on analysis turns out itself to consist of terms in relation, is no valid objection to the soundness of our principle of interpretation, but a necessary consequence of the infinity of Reality.20 Any consistent attempt to exhibit an infinite whole as an orderly system of terms must lead to the indefinite regress.

Now it strikes one at once that Professor Royce’s conclusion is in danger of proving too much. You certainly do not show a method of dealing with facts to be sound by showing that it leads to the indefinite regress. It is a common experience that the liar who tells his first lie must tell a second to back it, and a third to support the second, and so on indefinitely. And you cannot put a quart of liquor into a pint pot without first putting half the quart into half the space, and so forth ad indefinitum. Yet these considerations do not prove that lying or putting quarts of liquor into pint pots is a consistent way of dealing with reality, A purpose may lead in execution to the indefinite regress because it is self-contradictory and therefore self-defeating, as these familiar illustrations suggest. And this raises the question whether the purpose to arrange an infinite whole in an ordered system of terms may not lead to the indefinite regress for the same reason, namely, that the treatment of a true whole as a sequence of terms is incompatible with its real nature. It is at least worth while to |150| ask whether Professor Royce’s own treatment of the subject does not contain indications that this is actually the case.21

To begin with, we may note one point of some importance in reference to which Prof. Royce’s language is at least ambiguous. He speaks of the indefinite succession of infinite series which arise from the single purpose of “representing” the series of natural integers adequately by a selection out of itself as if they could be actually constructed in pursuance of this purpose. But this is clearly not the case. All that you can actually do is to construct the various series implicitly by giving a rule for their formation. The actual construction of the series would be a typical instance of a self-defeating and therefore internally contradictory purpose, inasmuch as it would involve the actual completion of an unending process. Hence we seem forced to make a distinction which Prof. Royce has perhaps unduly neglected. If your purpose of ordering the number series on a definite plan means no more than the formulation of a rule for obtaining any required number of terms of the successive series, it can be executed, but does not involve the indefinite regress; if it means the actual completion of the process of formation of the series, it does involve the indefinite regress, but is therefore self-contradictory and cannot be realised in act. Similarly, we may say of the scheme of qualities in relation, that if it is taken for no more than a rule for the systematic arrangement and organisation of a finite material, it does not involve the completion of an infinite process, and is both workable and useful; but if presented as an account of the way in which a completed all-embracing and perfectly harmonious experience of the whole of Reality is internally organised, it involves the completion of the infinite process, and is therefore self-contradictory and finally inadequate.2 |151|

This reflection may serve to lead up to another which seems to take us into the heart of the matter. The researches upon which Prof. Royce’s defence of the relational scheme is based were in the first instance investigations into the significance of the number-series. As such they start with the conception of a system which is a whole of parts external to one another23 as the object of inquiry. Consequently, while such investigations are of the highest philosophical importance as bringing out the implications of this concept, they are only valid as an analysis of ultimate Reality, provided that the concept of whole and part is an adequate expression of the way in which the whole Reality is present in its constituents and they in it. But if, as we ourselves urged in a previous chapter, the conception of a whole of parts is entirely inadequate to express the intimate union between the absolute experience and finite experiences,24 the proof that the indefinite process is logically implied in the relation of whole and part does not show it to belong to the structure of ultimate Reality. Rather, we should be inclined to urge, the fact that the relational scheme leads to the indefinite process proves that the conception of whole and part upon which it is based does not truly represent the mode of union between a completed experience and its components. And therefore the attempt to interpret this union in terms of the number-series cannot stand the test of criticism.

At the same time, Professor Royce’s argument in any case throws considerable light upon the problem of relation. For it shows why the attempt to construct the world as a system of qualities in relation leads to the indefinite regress. For a complete experience embodying at one stroke the whole of existence, such a construction would, as we have seen, because essentially incomplete, be impossible. But when we try to piece together the data of our fragmentary experience into a connected whole, we inevitably have to start with more or less isolated facts as fixed terms and weld them |152| together by a relation. In doing so we unavoidably put ourselves at the point of view from which the numerical series arises; we unavoidably treat existence as if it were a whole of mutually external parts. And so the indefinite regress involved in the nature of the number-system inevitably parades the whole of our discursive and relational thinking about existence. But its presence is due to the inadequacy of the conception of Reality with which discursive thought has to work.


“The most real type of finite experience must be one which transcends
the distinction of subject and predicate.”


On the whole, then, it seems that Prof. Royce’s investigations only make it more apparent than before that the relational scheme which discursive thought uses does not adequately express the true nature of the real, and that the mystics of all ages have been so far justified in their contention that the form of our experience which presents the truest analogy to the experience of the Absolute must be supra-relational, or, in other words, that the most real type of finite experience must be one which transcends the distinction of subject and predicate. To admit this is, however, not to admit that we are altogether ignorant how the one and the many are united in Reality. For there are many other types of human experience besides that which is dominated by the discursive and relational intellect.

In immediate simple feeling we have obviously a type of conscious experience in which distinction and relation have as yet not emerged. And I have tried in Bk. I. chap. 2 to show how in the direct intuition of an aesthetic whole by trained artistic perception we have at a higher level an experience which contains the results of an elaborate process of distinction and relation, but contains them in a way which transcends the relational form and reverts in its directness to the unity of immediate feeling. While again we have in the personal love which is one with mutual insight a form of experience that, if translated into the language of the intellect, would require for its description a whole world of relations and predicates, and is yet, as experienced, an intimate unity no relational scheme can more than faintly adumbrate. And it is worthy of consideration that religious emotion in all ages has borrowed from these forms of experience its favourite expressions for the highest modes of communion between the finite and the infinite, the “beatific vision,” the “love of God,” etc.

It seems indeed as if the function of the mere intellect were always that of a necessary and valuable intermediary between a lower and a higher level of immediate apprehension. |153| It breaks up, by the relations and distinctions it introduces, the original union of the what and the that of simple feeling, and proceeds to make the what, which it deals with in its isolation, ever more and more complex. But the ultimate issue of the process is only reached and its ultimate aim only satisfied so far as it conducts us at a higher stage of mental development to the direct intuition of a richer and more comprehensive whole in the immediate unity of its that and its what. The besetting philosophical sin of the mere mystic is not so much his refusal to accept the work of the mere intellect as the highest and truest type of human experience, as his tendency to satisfy his demand for the fuller union of the what with the that by reverting to the lower forms of immediacy upon which intellectual reflection has not done its work, instead of pressing on to the higher in which the effect of that work is preserved though its form is transcended.


“It is true not only of the religious mystic’s special experience of union with deity, but of all direct experience, that the relational scheme is quite inadequate to explain how it holds its double aspects, its unity and its multiplicity
… in complete interpenetration.”


These reflections may serve to obviate the objection that to reject the relational scheme when it is offered as the ultimate truth is to deny the value and significance of the scientific work we accomplish by means of it. Though the scheme of relations cannot adequately express the mode of union between the finite and the infinite, there is no fresh addition to the system of relations into which scientific analysis translates the real world of experience that does not increase our knowledge of what the real world must contain, though it may fail to explain how it contains it. And, in conclusion, let it be remembered that it is true not only of the religious mystic’s special experience of union with deity, but of all direct experience, that the relational scheme is quite inadequate to explain how it holds its double aspects, its unity and its multiplicity, its that and its what, in complete interpenetration. For no living experience is a mere whole of parts, and none, therefore, can be fully represented by a scheme based upon the concept of whole and part.25


Consult further:
F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, chaps. 1-3, 15, 27.
L. T. Hobhouse, Theory of Knowledge, pp. 172-181 (Qualities and Relations), 540-557 (Substance).

H. Lotze, Metaphysic, bk. I. Chap. 1 (The Being of Things), chap. 2 (The Quality of Things), chap. 3 (The Real and Reality).
J. Royce, The World and the Individual, First Series, Supplementary Essay.
B. Russell, “The Concept of Order” (Mind, January 1901), and article on “Position in Space and Time” (Mind, July 1901).
G. F. Stout, “Alleged Self-contradictions in the Concept of Relation” (Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, vol. ii. pp. 1-14, with the accompanying discussion, pp. 15-24).


1^ See the admirable account of the “natural conception” of the world in the first chapter of Avenarius, Der Menschliche Weltbegriff.

2^ May I say here once for all, that when I oppose practice to intellectual speculation, I must be understood to mean by practice the alteration by myself of some datum of given existence. The activity of thought is thus for me not practical, precisely because the “truths” which I know or contemplate are not quà truths given existences operated upon and altered by the act of thinking.

3^ Such a view of the mental life of the animal seems to have been actually held, for instance, by the late Professor T. H. Green. Yet see Green, Works, ii. 217.

4^ Strictly speaking, the “solidity” or “impenetrability” of the ultimate particles of matter, which is with Locke and Newton one of the most prominent “primary” qualities, is not a “mathematical” property, but it still owes its inclusion in the list to the conviction of these philosophers that it is, like extension and form, fundamentally important for mathematical Physics. The explanation of the “secondary” qualities as subjective appears to go back to Democritus.

5^ See the further elaboration of this analogy in Bk. III, chap. 3, § 2 ff.

6^ Professor Sidgwick’s defence of the Lockian view (Philosophy: its Scope and Relations, p. 63 if.) seems to me to ignore the point at issue, namely, that in any sense in which “secondary” qualities get their meaning from the content of sensation, primary qualities do the same. The whole point is that the sensation is not merely (as process) the occasion of our cognition of, e.g., hardness or softness, but also (as content) furnishes the very meaning of “hard” or “soft.” Cf. with what follows, Appearance and Reality, chap. I.

7^ The former alternative is that of scholasticism; in modern science the latter has been more or less consciously adopted by those thinkers who retain the notion of substances. The various qualities are on this view consequences of the relations in which each substance stands (a) to other interacting substances, and (b) in particular to the unknown substratum of our “consciousness.”

8^ See chaps, 1 and 2 of bk. i. of his Metaphysic.

9^ The reader who desires to study Kant’s doctrine in detail may begin by taking up Kant’s own Prolegomena to the Study of any future Metaphysic, which may be profitably consulted even by those who find the Critique of Pure Reason too diffuse and technical. The latest and cheapest translation is that included in the Open Court Publishing Co.’s series of Philosophical Classics.

10^ “Arbitrarily” because it is, as all recent psychology insists, the direction of our attention which determines what qualities shall be presented together, and thus become “associated.”

11^ In Psychology this comes out in the rejection by the best recent writers of the whole associationist account of the process of perception, according to which the perception of a thing as a whole was taken to mean the actual presence in sensation of one of its qualities plus the reinstatement by association of the “ideas” of the others. For the modern doctrine of the perception of a whole, as distinct from the mere perception of its constituent parts, consult Stout, Analytic Psychology, bk. i. chap. 3, or Manual of Psychology, bk. i. chap. 2.

12^ This is just as true of the so-called primary qualities of things as of any others. Thus the mass and again the kinetic energy of a conservative material system are properly names for the way in which the system will behave under determinate conditions, not of modes of behaviour which are necessarily actually exhibited throughout its existence. The laws of motion, again, are statements of the same hypothetical kind about the way in which, as we believe, particles move if certain conditions are fulfilled. The doctrine according to which all events in the physical world are actual motions, rests on no more than a metaphysical blunder of a peculiarly barbarous kind. Cf. Stallo, Concepts and Theories of Modern Physics, chaps. 10-12.

13^ Thus, e.g., so fundamental a proposition in our current mechanical science as the “first law of motion” is avowedly a statement as to what would be the behaviour of things under a condition which, so far as we know, is never actually realised. On the thing as the “law of its states,” see Lotze, Metaphysics, I. 3. 32 ff. (Eng. trans., vol. i. p. 88 ff.), and L. T. Hobhouse, The Theory of Knowledge, pp. 545-557.

14^ Mr. Hobhouse (op. cit., p. 541 ff.) thinks that the solution is simply that those qualities belong to one “substance,” which are apprehended together as occupying one space. As a working criterion of what we mean by one bodily thing, this account seems satisfactory, and has probably suggested itself spontaneously to most of us. But it leaves untouched the more fundamental question how the identification of a certain sight-space with a certain touch-space is effected, and what are the motives which lead to it. Mr. Hobhouse is content to take the identification as “given in adult perception,” but it seems to me to emerge from his own good account of the matter that it is the still more primitive apprehension of my own body as a felt unity upon which the synthesis between sight and touch spaces is based. If so, the ultimate source of the “unity of substance” must be sought deeper than Mr. Hobhouse is willing to go for it. And quaere, whether his account, if accepted as ultimate, would not lead to the identification of substance with space? For the difficulties which arise when you say the substance is the space and its filling of qualities, see Appearance and Reality, chap. 2, pp. 19, 20 (1st ed.).

15^ Monadology, §§ 8-16, 57-62.

16^ This is true even where we merely count a number of qualitatively equivalent units in order to ascertain their sum. It is their positive character of being qualitatively equivalent which makes it permissible in this case to take any one of them indifferently as first, any other as second, etc. Whenever you apply the numerical series to the arrangement in order of the qualitatively dissimilar, the nature of your material as related to the character of your special interest in it decides for you what you shall call first, second, third, etc.

17^ As to the possibility of relations which are in this sense external to their terms, see B. Russell, The Philosophy of Leibniz, p. 130, and the articles by the same writer in Mind for January and July 1901.

18^ See the elaborate discussion of the relational scheme implied in any assertion of difference in Royce, The World and the Individual, Second Series, lect. 2.

19^ Bradley, Appearance and Reality, chap. 3. Compare also chap. 15, “Thought and Reality.”

20^ The reader who desires further knowledge of the researches in the theory of Numbers upon which Prof. Royce’s doctrine is based, may profitably consult Dedekind, Was sind und was sollen die Zahlen, and Couturat, L’Infini Mathematique.

21^ Professor Royce’s own illustration of the map of England executed upon a portion of the surface of the country is really a typical instance of a self-contradictory purpose. He argues that such a map, to be theoretically perfect, must contain a reduced facsimile of itself as part of the country mapped, and this again another, and so on indefinitely. But the whole force of the reasoning depends on overlooking the distinction between the surface of England as it is before the map is made, and the surface of England as altered by the presence of the map. Prof. Royce assumes that you set out to represent in the map a state of things which can in fact have no existence until after the map is made. The previous existence of the map at a certain spot is falsely taken to be one of the conditions to which the map-maker is to conform in executing it. Every one of the supposed “maps within the map” will thus involve distortion and misrepresentation of the district it proposes to map. It is as if Hamlet had chosen “Hamlet” as the subject of the “play within the play.” The professor’s illustration thus does less than justice to his theory.

22^ The fundamental defect in Professor Royce’s reasoning seems to me to lie in the tacit transition from the notion of an infinite series to that of an infinite completed sum. Thus he speaks of the series of prime numbers as a “whole” being present at once to the mind of God. But are the prime numbers, or any other infinite series, an actual sum at all? They are surely not proved to be so by the existence of general truths about any prime number.

23^ See, e.g., Dedekind, op. cit., § 2: “It frequently happens that different things a, b, c … are apprehended upon whatsoever occasion under a common point of view, mentally put together, and it is then said that they form a system; the things a, b, c … are named the elements of the system”; and § 3 (definitions of whole and part).

24^ Ante, Bk. II. chap. 2, § 5.

25^ It is no answer to this view to urge that as soon as the intellect undertakes to reflect upon and describe Reality it unavoidably does so in relational terms. For it is our contention that the same intellect which uses these relational methods sees why they are inadequate, and to some extent at least how they are ultimately merged in a higher type of experience. Thus the systematic use of the intellect in Metaphysics itself leads to the conviction that the mere intellect is not the whole of Reality. Or, in still more paradoxical language, the highest truth for the mere intellect is the thought of Reality as an ordered system. But all such order is based in the end on the number-series with its category of whole and part, and cannot, therefore, be a perfectly adequate representation of a suprarelational Reality. Hence Truth, from its own nature, can never be quite the same thing as Reality.


Supplementary Note to Chapter IV.

Dr. Stout’s Reply to Mr. Bradley’s Criticism of the Concept of Relation

Since the preceding chapter was written, I have had the opportunity of studying Dr. Stout’s paper in the current volume of Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. I have not thought it necessary to make any alterations in the text of Chapter 4, in consequence of Dr. Stout’s criticism, but I may perhaps be permitted to add the following remarks, which must not be regarded as a systematic appreciation or examination of Dr. Stout’s views. The latter, as he himself pleads, cannot indeed be finally judged until he has worked out the theory of Predication for which his present paper merely prepares the way.


§ 1. Dr. Stout begins by admitting what to my own mind is the essence of the anti-relational argument. “No relation or system of relations can ever constitute a self-subsistent and self-contained Reality. The all-inclusive universe cannot ultimately consist in (? of) a collection of interrelated terms” (op. cit., p. 2). This being once conceded, I should have thought it an inevitable consequence that a “collection of interrelated terms” cannot give us the final truth about the nature of anything. For the whole idealist contention, as I understand it and have tried to sustain it in the present work, is that the structure of the whole is so repeated in any and every one of its members that what is not the truth about the whole is never the ultimate truth about anything, |155| precisely because there is ultimately nothing apart from the whole, and the whole again is nothing apart from its members. So much, I had thought, we have all learned from Hegel, and therefore Dr. Stout’s dilemma that any proposition asserting relation (p. 5) must be false, unless the relational scheme, so long as it is not affirmed of the ultimate whole itself, gives us truth, does not seem to me to possess any real cogency. With Mr. Bradley himself, as quoted by Dr. Stout, I should urge that if the relational scheme is not itself internally discrepant, there remains no valid ground for disputing its applicability to the whole.


§ 2. Dr. Stout’s introduction into a “relational unity” of the third term, — relatedness does not seem to me to remove the difficulties inherent in our problem. And the illustration by which he supports it appears to be unsound. He argues that when my hat is on my head this state of things implies (1) the two related terms, the hat and the head, (2) a relation of on and under, (3) the fact that the terms stand in this relation — their relatedness. For (1) and (2) by themselves would be compatible with my hat being on the peg and my head bare. But surely there is here a confusion between the relation of above and below, and the very different relation of on and under. The latter relation includes, as the former does not, immediate contact as part of its meaning. If there are (1) a hat and a head, and (2) the relation on and under — in this sense — between the two, there is surely no need of a third factor to complete the concrete actuality of “hat on head.” If the hat is not actually on the head, then (2), the supposed relation, is not there at all. And if (2) is there the whole fact is already there. In a word. Dr. Stout seems to me to count in the concrete fact of “thing exhibiting related aspects” as a third constituent in itself, precisely as popular Logic sometimes counts in the actual judgment, under the name of Copula, as one factor of itself.1

Then to Dr. Stout’s use of his distinction between the relation and the fact of relatedness, I think it may be replied that it leaves us precisely where we were before. The hat is qualified by being on the head, the head by being in or |156| under the hat, and hat and head together by the relation of on and under between them. But how these various aspects of the fact are to be combined in a single consistent view we are no nearer knowing.


§ 3. The endless regress. I think it will be seen from the preceding chapter that in my own view a genuine endless regress is evidence of the falsity of the conception which gives rise to it, and that I hold this on the ground that the endless regress always presupposes the self-contradictory purpose to sum an admittedly infinite series. Hence I could not concur, so far as I can see at present, in Dr. Stout’s distinction between the endless regress which does and that which does not involve self-contradiction. As to his illustration of endless regress of the second kind, the infinite divisibility of space (p. 11), I should have thought that there is no actual endless regress in question until you substitute for infinite divisibility infinite actual subdivision, and that when you make this substitution it commits you at once to the self-contradictory completion of an unending task. (Cf. what was said above, § 10, with reference to infinite numerical series.)


§ 4. Dr. Stout goes on to deny that there is any endless regress, self-contradictory or not, involved in the relational scheme. According to him, what connects the relation with its terms is not another relation (which would of course give rise to an endless regress), but their relatedness, which is “a common adjective both of the relation and the terms” (p. 11). I have already explained why this solution appears to me merely to repeat the problem. The relatedness, so far as I can see, is a name for the concrete fact with its double aspect of quality and relation, and I cannot understand how mere insistence upon the concrete unity of the fact makes the conjunction of its aspects more intelligible.


§ 5. Dr. Stout further supports his contention by a theory of the nature of continuous connection which I have perhaps failed to understand. Replying in anticipation to the possible objection of an opponent, that if the “relatedness” connects the terms with their relation there must be a second link to connect the term with its relatedness, he says “there is no intermediate link and there is need for none. For the connection is continuous, and has its ground in that ultimate continuity which is presupposed by all relational unity” (p. 12, cf. pp. 2-4). And, as he has previously told us, “so far as there is continuous connection there is nothing between [i.e., between the connected terms], and there is therefore no relation.”|157|

Now there seems to me to be a contradiction latent here. Continuous connection, of course, implies distinct but connected terms which form a series. Where there are no such distinct terms there is nothing to connect. Now it is, as I understand it, part of the very nature of a continuous series that any two terms of the series have always a number of possible intermediate terms between them. And therefore, in a continuous series, there are no immediately adjacent terms. Dr. Stout’s own illustration brings this out —

         
 β  α    a  b
M

In a diagram like the accompanying bee and βeta are, he argues, “mediately conjoined,” but a and αlpha are “immediately co-adjacent.” Surely Dr. Stout forgets here that what can be intelligibly called “co-adjacent” are not lines but points or positions on the lines. And between any point in αlpha and any point in a there are a plurality of intermediate positions, except for the special case of the extreme left point of a and the extreme right point of αlpha. These, of course, coalesce in the single point M, and there is therefore no connection, mediate or immediate, left in this case.2 The illustration, I think, may serve to reveal a serious discrepancy in Dr. Stout’s theory. He sees that relations presuppose a unity which is supra-relational, and which he calls “continuous,” on the ground of its supra-relational character. At the same time, to save the relational scheme from condemnation as leading to the endless regress, he has to turn this supra-relational unity itself into a sort of relation by calling it an immediate connection between adjacent terms, and thus ascribing to it the fundamental character of a discontinuous series. And I cannot help regarding this procedure as unconscious evidence to the truth of the principle, that what is not the truth about the whole of Reality is not ultimately the truth about any reality.


1^ Or does Dr. Stout merely mean that there may be a hat and a head, and also a relation of on and under (e.g., between the hat and the peg), and yet my hat not be on my head? If this is his meaning, I reply we have not really got the relation and its terms; if the hat is not on the head, hat and head are not terms in the relation at all. I do not see why, on his own principles. Dr. Stout should not add a fourth factor to his analysis, namely, qualifiedness, or the fact that the qualities are there, and so on indefinitely.

2^ If you consider the lines a and αlpha, as Dr. Stout prefers to do, I should have thought two views possible, (a) There are not two lines at all, but one, the “junction” at M being merely ideal. Then there remains nothing to connect and there is no relation of “immediate connection.” Or (b), the junction may be taken as real, and then you have a perfectly ordinary case of relation, the terms being the terminated lines a and αlpha, and the relation being one of contact at M. On every ground (a) seems to me the right view, but it is incompatible with the reduction of continuity to “immediate connection.” Thus the source of the difficulty is that (1) immediate connection can only hold between the immediately successive terms of a discontinuous series, and yet (2) cannot hold between them precisely because they are discontinuous.

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Chapter V. The World of Things (2): Change and Causality

§ 1. The fourth of the features which characterise the pre-scientific view of the world we found to be the belief that things act and are acted upon by one another. The problems to which this belief gives rise are so vast, and have been historically of such significance for Metaphysics, that they will require a separate chapter for their discussion. In the conception of the interaction of things as it exists for the naive pre-scientific mind, we may distinguish at least two aspects. There is (1) the belief that things change, that within the unity of the one thing there is a succession of different states; and (2) the belief that the changes of state of various things are so inter-connected that the changes in one thing serve as occasions for definite changes in other things. |159| We thus have to discuss, first, the general notion of change as an inseparable aspect of the being of things, and next the concept of systematic inter-connection between the changes of state of different things.


“The conception of things as interacting leads to the two problems of Change and Causality. The paradoxical character of change due td the fact that only what is permanent can change.”


(a) Change. The problem presented by the apparently unceasing mutability of existence is one of the earliest as well as one of the most persistent in the whole range of Philosophy. In itself it might seem that the successive presentation in time of various states is neither more nor less noteworthy a feature of the world of experience than the simultaneous presentation of a like variety, but the problem of mutability has always appealed with special force to the human imagination from its intimate connection with our personal hopes and fears, ambitions and disappointments. Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis; there is the secret of the persistence with which our philosophic thought has from the first revolved round this special problem. There, too, we may find a pregnant hint of the central paradox implied in all mutability — namely, that only the identical and permanent can change. It is because the self which changes with the flux of time and circumstance is still in some measure the same old self that we feel its changes to be so replete with matter for exultation and despair. Were we completely new-made with each successive change in our self, there would no longer be ground for joy in transition to the better or grief at alteration for the worse.

The thought that only what is permanent can change has affected Philosophy in different ways at different periods of its history. At the very dawn of Greek Philosophy it was the guiding principle of the Ionian physicists who sought to comprehend the apparent variety of successive phenomena as the transformations of a single bodily reality. As the difficulties inherent in such a materialistic Monism became more apparent, the felt necessity of ascribing unity of some kind to existence led Parmenides and his Eleatic successors to the extreme view that change, being impossible in a permanent homogeneous bodily reality, must be a mere illusion of our deceptive senses. While yet again the later Ionian physicists, and their Sicilian counterpart Empedocles, sought to reconcile the apparent mutability of things with the criticism of Parmenides by the theory that what appears to the senses as qualitative change is in reality the mere regrouping in space of qualitatively unalterable “elements” or “atoms” — μίξις διάλλαξίς τε μιγέντων. |160|


“Plato drew the momentous distinction between two worlds or orders of being — the real, with its eternal unvarying self-identity, and the merely apparent, where all is change, confusion, and instability.”


At a more developed stage of Hellenic thought, the necessity of taking some account of the mutability as well as of the permanence of existence impelled Plato to draw the momentous distinction between two worlds or orders of being — the real, with its eternal unvarying self-identity, and the merely apparent, where all is change, confusion, and instability. In spite of Plato’s manifest failure to make it intelligible how these two orders, the eternal and the temporal, are ultimately connected, this distinction in one form or another has continued ever since to haunt all subsequent metaphysical construction. Even our modern scientific Materialism, with its loudly avowed scorn for all merely metaphysical questions, shows by its constant endeavour to reduce all material existence to a succession of changes in a homogeneous medium, both the persistence with which the intellect demands a permanent background for change, and the difficulty of finding logical satisfaction for the demand.

Yet there have not been wanting attempts to get rid of the paradox by denying its truth. As the Eleatics sought to escape it by reducing change itself to a baseless illusion, so some at least of the disciples of Heracleitus seem to have evaded it by refusing to admit any permanent identity in the changeable, and they have not been entirely without imitators in the modern world. Incessant change without underlying unity has had its defenders in the history of Metaphysics, though they have not been numerous, and we must therefore briefly consider what can be urged for and against such a concept. Apart from the general difficulty of seeing how what changes can at the same time be permanently identical with itself, the only special argument in favour of the doctrine that only incessant change is real seems to be the appeal to direct experience. In any actual experience, it is contended, however contracted its limits, we are always presented with the fact of change and transition; we never apprehend an absolutely unchanging content. Even where the object before us exhibits no succession, self-examination will always detect at least alternating tension and relaxation of attention with the accompanying fluctuations of bodily sensation.

Now there can, of course, be no gainsaying these facts of experience, but the conclusion based on them evidently goes much further than the premisses warrant. If experience never gives us mere persistence of an unchanging content, neither does it ever give us mere change without persistence. What |161| we actually experience always exhibits the two aspects of identity and transition together. Usually there will be, side by side with the elements which sensibly change in the course of the experience, others which remain sensibly constant throughout it. And even when, through inattention, we fail to detect these constant elements, the successive states of the changing content itself are not merely momentary; each has its own sensible duration through which it retains its character without perceptible changes. Experience thus entirely fails to substantiate the notion of mere change apart from a background of permanent identity.

The positive disproof of the notion must, however, be found in its own inherent absurdity. Change by itself, apart from a background of identity, is impossible for the reason that where there is no underlying identity there is nothing to change. All change must be change of and in some thing. A mere succession of entirely disconnected contents held together by no common permanent nature persisting in spite of the transition, would not be change at all. If I simply have before me first A and then B, A and B being absolutely devoid of any point of community, there is no sense in saying that I have apprehended a process of change. The change has been at most a change in myself as I passed from the state of perceiving A to the state of perceiving B, and this subjective transition again can only be called change on the assumption that the I who am qualified first by the perception of A and its various emotional and other accompaniments, and then by that of B and its accompaniments, am the same. And where you have not merely a change of perception but an actual perception of change, the case is even clearer. What we perceive in such a case is “A changing into B,” the two successive states A and B being held together by the fact that they are successive states of some more permanent unity γ {gamma = c}. Apart from the presence of this identical γ in both the earlier and later stages of the process, there would be no meaning in speaking of it as one of change.


“Change is succession within an identity; this identity, like that of Substance, must be teleological, i.e. must be an identity of plan or end pervading the process of change.”


§ 2. Change, then, may be defined as succession within an identity, the identity being as essential to the character of the process as the succession. In what way, then, must we think of this identity or common nature which is present throughout the whole succession of changes? It should be clear that this question — how that which changes can be permanent? — is simply our old problem of quality and substance, how the many states can belong to one thing, considered |162| with special reference to the case of states which form a succession in time. Thus, whatever is the true nature of the unity to which the many states of one thing belong, will also be the true nature of the identity which connects the successive stages of a process of change.

Now we have already seen in what the unity to which the many states belong must be taken to consist. We found that this unity is essentially teleological; that group of states, we saw, is one thing which functions as one in regard to an end or interest, or, as we may also say, is the embodiment of coherent structure. The same is true of the process of change. The earlier and later stages of the process are differences in an identity precisely because they constitute one process. And a process is one when it is the systematic realisation of a single coherent end. To be one process means to be the systematic expression in a succession of stages of a single coherent plan or law. The succession of stages is thus welded into a unity by the singleness of the plan or law which they embody, and it is this systematic connection of each stage with all the rest which we express by saying that whatever changes possesses an underlying permanent identity of character. It would amount to precisely the same thing if we said the successive states of anything that changes form a connected system.

We must be careful here, as we were in dealing with the problem of Substance, not to be misled by taking symbolic aids to imagination for philosophical truths. Just as it is easy to imagine the “substance” of things as a sort of material substratum, it is easy to imagine the identity which pervades all changes as that of a number of pieces of matter, and to think of the changes as constituted by their motion through space. But such a representation must not be taken for anything more than an aid to imagination. It helps us to make a mental diagram, but it throws absolutely no light upon the real nature of the connection between the identity and the succession. For the same problem breaks out within each of the “self-identical” pieces of matter; we have to say what we mean by calling it one and the same throughout the series of its changing positions, and the necessity of answering this question shows us at once that the identity of a material particle throughout its motion is only one case of that identity pervading succession which belongs to all change, and in no sense affords any explanation |163| of the principle it illustrates.1 As a recent writer puts it, “it seems to be a deeply rooted infirmity of the human mind … that it can hardly conceive activities of any sort apart from material bases … through habitually seeking to represent all phenomena in mechanical terms, in terms of the motion of little bits of matter, many of us have come to believe that in so doing we describe the actual events underlying phenomena.”2 This “disease of the intellect,” as the same writer aptly calls it, is nowhere more insidious than where we are dealing with the problem of Change.


“To have complete insight into the nature or structure of Reality as a whole would be to understand the principles according to which every transitory event in the history of the Universe, regarded as a series of events in time, is followed by its own special successor.”

Change, then, involves two aspects. It is a succession of events in time, and these events are connected by a systematic unity in such a way that they form the expression of a plan or law of structure. The series of successive states which make up the history of a thing are the expression of the thing’s nature or structure. To understand the thing’s structure is to possess the key to the succession of its states, to know on what principle each gives way to its successor. And similarly, to have complete insight into the nature or structure of Reality as a whole would be to understand the principles according to which every transitory event in the history of the Universe, regarded as a series of events in time, is followed by its own special successor.


It is evident that, in proportion as our knowledge of any thing or system of things approaches this insight into the laws of its structure, the processes of change acquire a new character for us. They lose their appearance of paradox, and tend to become the self-evident expression of the identity which is their underlying principle. Change, once reduced to law and apprehended as the embodiment in succession of a principle we understand, is no longer change as an unintelligible mystery. We should bear this in mind when we reflect on the doctrine of Plato that the physical world must be unreal because the scene of incessant change. Such a view is only to be understood by remembering that before the invention of the mathematical methods which have enabled us with such conspicuous success to reduce physical phenomena to orderly sequence according to law, the physical world necessarily appeared to the philosopher a scene of arbitrary change following no recognisable principle. Change, so |164| far as understood in the light of its principle, has already ceased to be mere change.3


“All change falls under the logical category of Ground and Consequence, which becomes in its application to succession in time
the Principle of Sufficient Reason.”


§ 3. In the technical language of Logic, the underlying principle of any system is called its Ground, the detail in which the principle finds systematic expression is called its Consequence. Ground and Consequence are thus one and the same systematic whole, only considered from two different points of view. The Ground is the pervading common nature of the system, thought of as an identity pervading and determining the character of its detail; the Consequence is the same system, looked at from the point of view of the detail, as a plurality of differences pervaded and determined by an identical principle. The understanding of a process of change thus clearly consists in bringing it under the principle of Ground and Consequence. In so far as we are successful in detecting a principle in the apparently arbitrary succession of events, these events become for us a system with a common principle of structure for its Ground, and a plurality of successive states as its Consequence.

Change is not, however, the only instance of the principle of Ground and Consequence. These two aspects may also be found in systematic wholes which contain no element of succession in time, e.g., in a body of logical deductions from a few fundamental premisses. The special peculiarity of the case of Change is that it is the principle of Ground and Consequence as applied to a material which is successive in time. As thus applied, the principle has received the special name of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and may be formulated thus: Nothing takes place unless there is a sufficient reason why it should occur rather than not. It is clear that such a proposition is a mere result of the application of the conception of Reality as a systematic whole to the special case of the existence of the successive in time. It is therefore simply one case of the fundamental axiom of all knowledge, the axiom that what truly exists is a coherent whole.4 We must of course observe that the principle does nothing to solve the perhaps insoluble problem why succession in time should be a feature of experience. This is a question which could only be answered if we could show that succession in time is a logical consequence of the existence of any multiplicity |165| forming a systematic whole. Until we are able to establish this result, we have simply to accept succession as a datum of our experience. (Yet for some light upon the problem, see infra, Bk. III. chap. 4, § 9.)


“Cause — in the modern popular and scientific sense — means the ground of
a change when taken to be completely contained in preceding changes.
That every change has its complete ground in preceding changes is
neither an axiom nor an empirically ascertained truth, but a postulate
suggested by our practical needs.”


§ 4. Causality. So far we have said nothing of a concept which is much more familiar in the popular treatment of the problem of Change than that of Ground and Consequence, the concept of Cause. In proceeding to discuss this concept, it is necessary in the first place to explain which of the numerous senses of the word we are taking for examination. There was an old scholastic distinction, which still reappears occasionally in philosophical writings, between the Causa cognoscendi, or reason for a truth, and the Causa existendi or fiendi, the cause of the occurrence of an event. It is this latter meaning of the word “cause,” the meaning which is predominant wherever the term is used in modern scientific language, that we shall have in view in the following sections.

The Causa cognoscendi, or logical reason for the affirmation of a truth, as distinguished from the psychological factors which lead a particular individual to affirm it, is clearly identical with what modern logicians call the Ground. A given proposition must logically be affirmed as true in the last resort, because it fills a place in a wider system of truths which no other proposition would fill. Thus, e.g., a special proposition about the relation between the sides and angles of a triangle is logically necessitated, because it is an integral element in the development of a system of geometrical ideas which repose as a whole upon certain fundamental assumptions as to the character of spatial order. The original presuppositions cannot be worked out to their logical consequence in a body of internally coherent geometrical notions unless the proposition in question is included in that body. And reciprocally, the logical justification for regarding these presuppositions rather than any others as sound, lies in the fact that they yield a body of internally consistent consequences. Incidentally, we see by means of this illustration that Ground and Consequence are mutually convertible, which is what we might have inferred from the way in which we defined them as mutually complementary aspects of a single systematic whole.

What we are concerned with in the everyday and scientific treatment of Causation, is not this purely logical relation of Ground and Consequence, but something partly identical with it, partly different. The Causa fiendi has no significance except in connection with occurrences or events in time, and |166| may roughly be said to correspond with what Aristotle denotes the “Source of Change” — ἀρχὴ ϰινήσεως or ὅθεν ἡ ϰίνησις — and his mediaeval followers named the Efficient Cause. Cause, in the popular sense of the word, denotes the attempt to carry out the principle of the interconnection of events in a system along special lines by regarding every event as completely determined by conditions which are themselves previous events. Widely as the popular and the scientific uses of the term “cause” diverge in minor respects, they agree in the essential point. That every event has its cause is understood, both in everyday life and in the sciences which use the concept of causation, to mean that the occurrence and the character of every event in the time-series is completely determined by preceding events. In more technical language, causation for everyday thought and for the sciences means one-sided dependence of the present on the past, and the future on the present.

It is, of course, obvious that the principle of Causation as thus understood is not a necessary logical deduction from the principle of Ground and Consequence. It might be the case that all occurrences form a coherent plan or system, such that if you once grasped the principle of the system you could infer from it what precise occurrence must take place at any one moment, and yet it might be impossible to discover this principle by an examination of the course of events up to the present moment. In other words, the principle of the systematic interconnection of events might be valid, and yet the events of the present might depend on those which will succeed them in the future no less than on those which have preceded them in the past. In that case it would be impossible with absolute logical certainty to infer what will occur at a given moment from the mere examination of what has preceded, i.e. the principle of Causation as used in the sciences would not be logically valid.5

Cause, as currently understood, is thus identical not with the whole true logical ground, but with the ground so far as it can be discovered in the train of temporally antecedent circumstances, i.e. cause is incomplete ground. This point is important, as it shows that the principle of Causation is not, like the principle of Sufficient Reason, axiomatic. It is no necessary logical consequence of the knowability or |167| systematic character of the Real that an event should be completely determined by temporally antecedent events; for anything that is implied in the systematic character of the Real, the event may be equally dependent on subsequent occurrences. Again, the principle of Causation cannot be empirically established by an appeal to the actual course of experience. Actual experience is certainly not sufficient to show that every event is absolutely determined by its antecedent conditions; at most the success of our scientific hypotheses based upon the assumption of causality only avails to show that events may be inferred from their antecedents with sufficient accuracy to make the causal assumption practically useful.

Regarded as a universal principle of scientific procedure, the causal assumption must be pronounced to be neither an axiom nor an empirical truth but a postulate, in the strict sense of the word, i,e. an assumption which cannot be logically justified, but is made because of its practical value, and depends upon the success with which it can be applied for confirmation. In the sense that it is a postulate which experience may confirm but cannot prove, it may properly be said to be a priori, but it is manifestly not a priori in the more familiar Kantian sense of the word. That is, it is not a necessary and indispensable axiom without which systematic knowledge would be impossible. For, as we have already seen and shall see more fully in the immediate sequel, it may not be, and indeed in the last resort cannot be, true.


“In the last resort the postulate cannot be true; the dependence between events cannot be one-sided. The real justification for our use of the postulate is its practical success.”


§ 5. This last statement will possibly appear startling to the reader who is unacquainted with the history of metaphysical investigations into Causality. But it is easy to show that it is really the expression of an obvious truth. For the causal principle, as we have just seen, is an imperfect expression of the really axiomatic principle of Sufficient Reason or Ground and Consequence. And it is readily seen that the expression it gives to that principle, because imperfect, must be partially false. What the principle of Ground and Consequence says is, that the whole of existence is a single coherent system in which every part is determined by the nature of the whole as revealed in the complete system. But if this is true, each constituent of the system can only be completely determined by its connections with all the rest. No constituent can be entirely determined by its relations to a lesser part of the whole system, in the way presupposed by the notion of one-sided causal dependence. The “cause” must, if the |168| principle of Ground and Consequence be valid, be determined by the “effect” no less than the “effect” by the “cause.” And therefore the causal postulate cannot be the whole truth.


How this fatal logical defect in the principle of Causation makes itself felt in the logic of the inductive sciences, and how logicians have sought without success to avoid it, we shall incidentally see as our discussion proceeds. At present we must be content to note that, owing to this flaw, Causation, wherever it is asserted, can only be Appearance and never complete Reality, and that no science which works with the concepts of cause and effect can give us the highest truth. Of course, the logical defects of the concept need not impair its practical usefulness. Though it can never, for the reason given already, be ultimately true that any event is absolutely determined by antecedent events, the assumption may be sufficiently near the truth to yield useful deductions as to the course of occurrences, precisely as a mathematical approximation to the value of a surd quantity may, without being the exact truth, be close enough for practical use. Also, it might well be the case that the causal postulate approximates more nearly to the truth in some spheres of investigation than in others, a consideration which is not without its bearing on the ethical problems of freedom and responsibility.


“Causation, wherever it is asserted, can only be Appearance
and never complete Reality.”

If we ask how the causal postulate, being as it must be only imperfectly true, comes to be made, the answer is obvious. The whole conception is anthropomorphic in origin, and owes its existence to our practical needs. To take the latter point first, logically there is no better reason for treating an event as determined solely by antecedents, than for treating it as solely determined by subsequent events. Yet when the latter supposition is made, as it is by all believers in omens and presages, we all agree to condemn it as superstitious. Why is this? Two reasons may be assigned: (a) Even granting that an event may be determined by subsequent events, yet, as we do not know what these events are until after their occurrence, we should have no means of inferring by what particular events yet to come any present event was conditioned, and thus should be thrown back upon mere unprincipled guess-work if we attempted to assign its, as yet future, conditions.

(b) A more important consideration is that our search for causes is ultimately derived from the search for means to the practical realisation of results in which we are interested. |169| We desire to know the conditions of occurrences primarily, in order to produce those occurrences for ourselves by setting up their conditions. It is therefore essential to us for our practical purposes to seek the conditions of an occurrence exclusively among its antecedents, and the causal postulate which asserts that the complete conditions of the event are comprised somewhere in the series of antecedent events is thus the intellectual expression of the demand made by our practical needs upon Reality. We postulate it because, unless the postulate is approximately realised, we cannot intervene with success in the course of events. We refuse, except as a pure speculation, to entertain the notion that an event may be determined by subsequent as well as by antecedent events, because that notion leads to no practical rules for operation upon our environment.


“Origin of the conception of Cause is anthropomorphic.”


§ 6. As might be expected of a postulate so obviously originated by our practical needs, the concept of cause on examination reveals its anthropomorphic character. This is particularly obvious when we consider the concept of Causation as it figures in everyday unscientific thought. The various scientific substitutes for the popular notion of cause all exhibit traces of the endeavour to purge the conception of its more anthropomorphic elements. In the popular use of the concept this anthropomorphism comes out most strikingly in two ways: (a) A cause, as popularly conceived, is always a person or thing, i.e. something we can imagine as a whole, and into which we can mentally project a conscious life akin to our own. To the scientific mind it seems obvious that causes and effects are alike events and events only, but for popular thought, while the effect is always a quality or state (e.g., death, fever, etc.), the cause is regularly a thing or person (the bullet, the poison, the tropical sun, etc.).

(b) Closely connected with this is the emphasis popular thought lays upon what it calls the activity of the cause. The cause is never thought of as merely preceding the effect as an “inseparable antecedent”; it is supposed to make the effect occur, to bring it about by an exercise of activity. According to the most coherent expositions of this type of thought, in causation one thing is always active in producing a change in another thing which is passive. The origin of this notion is sufficiently obvious. As all philosophers since Hume have recognised, the “activity” of the cause results from the ascription to it of the characteristic feeling of self-assertion and self-expansion which |170| accompanies our own voluntary interference in the course of events. Similarly, the “passivity” of the thing in which the effect is produced is only another name for the feeling of coercion and thwarted self-assertion which arises in us when the course of nature or the behaviour of our fellows represses our voluntary execution of our designs.

Science, in its attempt to extend the concept of causal determination over the whole domain of existence, has naturally felt these anthropomorphic implications as obstacles. From the effort to expel them arises what we may call the common scientific view of causation, as ordinarily adopted for the purposes of experimental investigation and formulated in the works of inductive logicians. The concept of a thing, except as the mode of interconnection of states, being unnecessary for the sciences which aim simply at the reduction of the sequence of occurrences to order, the notion of causation as a transaction between two things is replaced in the experimental sciences by the conception of it as merely the determination of an event by antecedent events. Similarly, with the disappearance of things as the vehicles of causal processes falls the whole distinction between an active and a passive factor. As it becomes more and more apparent that the antecedent events which condition an occurrence are a complex plurality and include states of what is popularly called the thing acted upon as well as processes in the so-called agent, science substitutes for the distinction between agent and patient the concept of a system of reciprocally dependent interacting factors. These two substitutions give us the current scientific conception of a cause as the “totality of the conditions” in the presence of which an event occurs, and in the absence of any member of which it does not occur. More briefly, causation in the current scientific sense means sequence under definitely known conditions.

Indispensable as this notion of the determination of every event by a definite collection of antecedents and by nothing else is for practice, regarded as a logical formulation of the principle of the systematic unity of existence, it is open to grave objections, most of which will be found to have made themselves felt in the logic of the inductive sciences quite independently of conscious metaphysical analysis. In dealing with these difficulties, we shall find that their general effect is to place us in the following dilemma. If we wish to state the causal principle in such a way as to avoid manifest speculative falsehood, we find that it has to be |171| modified until it becomes identical with the principle of Ground and Consequence in its most universal form, but as thus modified it is no longer of any service for the purposes of the experimental sciences. You seem driven to take it either in a form in which it is true but practically useless, or in one in which it is useful but not true. To illustrate the way in which this dilemma arises, we may examine three of the main problems which have actually been created by the scientific use of the principle, — (a) the puzzle of continuity, (b) the puzzle of the indefinite regress, (c) the puzzle of the plurality of causes.


“Puzzles about Causation, (1) Continuity. Causation must be continuous, and yet in a continuous process there can be no distinction of cause from effect. Cause must be and yet cannot be prior in time to effect.”


§ 7. (a) The Puzzle of Continuity. Continuity is, strictly speaking, a property of certain series, and may be defined for purposes of reference much as follows. A series is continuous when any term divides the whole series unambiguously into two mutually exclusive parts which between them comprise all the terms of the series, and when every term which so divides the series is itself a term of the series. From this second condition it obviously follows that a number of intermediate terms can always be inserted between any two terms whatever of a continuous series; no term of the series has a next term. This is the peculiarity of the continuous with which we shall be specially concerned. Thus the series of points on a straight line is continuous because (1) any point P on the line divides it into two collections of points in such a way that every point of the one is to the left of every point of the other, and every point of the second to the right of every point of the former; and (2) every point which divides the line in this way is a point on the line. Again, the whole series of real numbers is continuous for the same reason. Every member of the number-series divides it into two classes, so that every number of one is less than every number of the other, and every number which thus divides the series is itself a term of the number-series.

But the series of rational real numbers is not continuous, because it can be divided into mutually exclusive classes by terms which are not themselves members of the series. (E.g., √2 is not a member of the series of rational numbers, but we can exhaustively divide all rational numbers into the two mutually exclusive classes, rational numbers less than √2 and rational numbers not less than √2.6 From the continuity of |173| the series of real numbers it follows that any other series which corresponds point for point with the terms of the number-series will be continuous. Now one such series is that of the successive parts of time. Every moment of time divides the whole series of moments into two mutually exclusive classes, the moments before itself and the moments which are not before itself. And whatever divides the time-series is itself a moment in that series. Hence from the continuity of the time-series it follows that any puzzles created by this property of continuousness will apply to the case of Causation. In what follows I shall mot discuss the general problem which requires special mathematical equipment for its efficient handling, but shall confine myself to the difficulties introduced by continuity into the scientific concept of causal relation.

We may conveniently attack the problem by taking it up in the form in which Hue bequeathed it to modern science. As any careful reader of Hume must perceive, Hume’s whole doctrine of Causation is based on the assumption that the causal process is not continuous. Experience is supposed by him to come to us not in an unbroken stream, but in isolated separate pieces which we subsequently proceed to link together artificially by the notion of Causation. We are supposed to begin by observing the sequence of an event B on a previous event A, and the problem of Causation thus becomes that of discovering the nature of the link by which the originally distinct A and B are connected in our scientific thought. In more technical language, Hume thought of the series of events as one in which every member has a next term, and this way of conceiving it has colored the whole subsequent treatment of Causation by the inductive logicians who have commonly got their metaphysical doctrines from Hume.

Now, recent Psychology, in deserting the old notion of the atomic sensation for that of the “stream of consciousness,” has completely destroyed the supposed empirical foundation for this Humian theory of the discontinuity of the course of events. The real problem for the inductive logician we can now see to be not to discover the link by which an originally separate A and B have got joined together |173| in thought, but to find the source of the distinction we habitually draw within what comes to us as one continuous process between an earlier stage A which we call cause, and a later stage B which we call effect. We are now, however, concerned h ere with the psychological weakness of Hume’s doctrine, but with the logical difficulty to which it gives rise.

We may state the difficulty thus: (1) Causation cannot possibly be thought of as discontinuous, i.e., as the sequence of one distinct event upon an assemblage of other events without gross contradiction. To think of it as discontinuous, we must conceive the cause A to exist first in its completeness, and then to be suddenly followed by the effect B. (That the cause A consists of a number of conditions, a, b, c … which themselves come into existence successively, and that A is not there until the last of these conditions has been realized, makes no difference to the principle.) Now this seems to be what is actually implied by the language of those inductive logicians who insist that in all Causation the cause must precede the effect. But what can such precedence mean? It can only mean that after the complete realization of the conditions included in the cause A, there must intervene a space of empty time before the effect B enters on scene. However brief and “momentary” you take this gap in the stream of events to be, the gap must be there if your language about the cause as being before the effect is to have any meaning. For if there is no gap, and the entrance of B is simultaneous with the complete realisation of its conditions A, it is no longer true to say that the cause A is before the effect B. A does not exist as A until a, b, c … are all present, and as soon as they are present B is present too. And thus the relation between A and B is not that of sequence of a later event on an earlier. They are actually together.

In fact, the doctrine that the cause precedes the effect rests upon the notion that the time-series is one in which each member has a next term. And this seems inconceivable. For not only can you subdivide any finite time, however small, into two mutually exclusive parts, but the point at which the division is effected is itself a moment in the time-series lying between the beginning and the end of the original interval. Time therefore must be continuous, and if causation is not equally continuous, we must suppose that the gaps of empty time are what separate the first event, the cause, from the subsequent event, the effect. Yet if this could be |174| regarded as a defensible doctrine on other grounds, it would then follow that the assemblage of events A is not the totality of conditions requisite for the occurrence of B. The “totality of conditions,” i.e. the cause as previously defined, would be the events A plus a certain lapse of empty time.7 And so the cause would once more turn out not to precede the effect, or we should have to suppose the end of the interval of empty time included in it as separated from the beginning of B by a second lapse, and so on indefinitely.

(2) These difficulties, in a more or less clearly apprehended form, have led many recent writers on inductive Logic to modify the definition which was still satisfactory to Mill. Cause and effect, we are now told, are not distinct events, but earlier and later stages in a continuous process. The real business of science is not to discover “laws of connection” between distinct events or “phenomena,” but to invent general mathematical formulae by the aid of which we may trace the course of continuous processes. The discovery of causes, from this point of view, is reduced to the construction of formulae which exhibit some quantity as a function of a time-variable. Fully worked out, this view of the nature of experimental science leads to the so-called “descriptive” ideal of scientific explanation, advocated by such eminent thinkers as Kirchhoff, Mach, and Ostwald among physicists, and, with various modifications, Avenarius, Münsterberg, Royce, and James Ward among recent philosophers. According to this doctrine, the ultimate ideal of science, or at any rate of physical science, is simply the description of the course of events by the aid of the fewest and simplest general formulae. Why things happen as they do, it is now said, is no proper question for science; its sole business is to enable us to calculate how they will happen. With the general epistemological questions raised by this doctrine we must deal later in our third and fourth books. At present we are concerned only with its bearing on the notion of Causal Relation.8 |175|

The important point for our immediate purpose is that the reduction of all events to continuous processes really does away with Causation altogether, as is recognised by those adherents of the theory who openly propose to expel the word “cause” from the language of science.9 For in a continuous process it is purely arbitrary where we shall mentally draw the dividing line which is to mark the boundary between the “earlier” and the “later” stage. What the descriptive formula, with the aid of which we trace the course of the process by giving a series of successive values to our time-variable presents, is not the “cause” of the process but the “law” of it. Instead of looking upon the later stages of the process as determined by the earlier, we are now looking upon the process as a whole as the expression in detail of a single principle. We have, in fact, abandoned the category of cause and effect for that of Ground and Consequence. We are seeking the ground of the whole process not in a set of temporally preceding events, but in its own pervading principle.

From this point of view the one-sided dependence of effect on cause, characteristic of the causal relation, disappears. Whether we shall infer the later stages of the process from the earlier, or the earlier from the later, depends simply upon our choice of positive or negative values for our time-variable. For “descriptive” science, what we suggested at first as a paradoxical possibility is the actual fact. The past is determined by the future in precisely the same sense in which the future is determined by the past, namely, that as both are stages of the same continuous process, if once you know the principle of the process you can start equally well with either and reason to the other.10 Thus, within the limits of experimental science itself, the conception of causal relation has given way to the conception of events as logically connected into a system in virtue of their underlying ground or principle. For practical purposes experimental science has, in its application of this conception, to be guided by two postulates, neither of which can be metaphysically justified. It has to assume (a) that the course of events is composed of a plurality of more or less independent continuous processes, each of which has its own ground within itself, at least to such an extent as to be capable of being treated for our purpose as independent of others; (b) that the underlying ground or |176| grounds of all events can be adequately expressed in terms of mathematical symbolism.

As to the first of these points, our discussion of the unity of Reality convinced us that there must in the end be a single ground of all existence, and therefore the complete reason of any partial process cannot be entirely within itself. The independence of the various processes must be relative, and even the belief that it is sufficient to enable us to treat them for our own special purposes as self-contained and independent, must be a postulate prompted by our practical needs, and justified in the end by its success. The second point will engage our attention more fully in subsequent chapters. At present one remark upon it must suffice. The calculability of the laws of continuous processes depends upon our ability to reduce them to numerical and quantitative forms. Wherever we have the appearance, at any stage in a process, of a new quality, we have in fact an apparent breach of continuity, and it ceases to be in our power to exhibit the new stage of the process as a mere transformation of what was already expressed in former stages. Hence the success of natural science in reducing all sequences of events to continuous processes depends upon the assumption that we can establish equations between qualitatively different magnitudes.

Now this assumption is even more evidently than the preceding a postulate. We have to make it, if we are to calculate the course of events, but we have no guarantee that it will succeed beyond the fact of its actual success. If it fails anywhere, as we shall hereafter contend that it does in the critical case of the sequence of psychical on physical events, and vice versa, two results will follow, one practical, the other speculative. The practical consequence of the failure is that in such cases we cannot apply the concept of continuous process, and have to fall back upon the cruder notion of causal sequence. Thus, in attempting to create a science of Psychophysics we cannot hope to exhibit the whole of a psychophysical process as the continuous realisation of a single principle; we must be content to establish laws of causal connection between the physical, and the psychical sides of the process. The speculative consequence is that the principle of Ground and Consequence is only imperfectly represented by the conception of a continuous process, inasmuch as that conception is i only applicable where qualitative differences within the consequences of a single ground can be disregarded. This hint will prepare us for subsequent criticism of the concept of |177| continuity when we come to deal with the metaphysics of the time-process.11


“2) The indefinite regress in causation.”


§ 8 (b). The defects of the causal postulate as a principle of explanation may also be exhibited by showing the double way in which it leads to the indefinite regress. The indefinite regress in the causal series is an inevitable consequence of the structure of time, and, as we please, may be detected both outside and inside any causal relation of two events, or two stages of a continuous process. For it follows from the structure of the time-series (a) that there are an indefinite number of terms of the series between any two members, between which there is a finite interval, and (b) that there is also an indefinite number of terms before or after any given member of the series. Like the series of real numbers, the time-series, because it satisfies the definition of a continuous infinite series, can have neither a first nor a last term, nor can any member of it have a next term.12 Applying this to the case of Causation, we may reason as follows: —

(1) The same reasons which lead us to demand a cause A for any event B, and to find that cause in an assemblage of antecedent events, require that A should be similarly determined by another assemblage of antecedent events, and that this cause of A should itself have its own antecedent cause, and so on indefinitely. Thus the causal principle, logically applied, never yields an intelligible explanation of any event. Instead of exhibiting the transition A–B as the logical expression of a coherent principle, it refers us for the explanation of this transition to a previous instance of the same kind of transition, and then to another, |178| and so forth without end. But it is impossible that what is not intelligible in one instance should become intelligible by the mere multiplication of similar unintelligibilities.

(2) Similarly if we look within the transition A–B. This transition being continuous must have its intermediate stages. A becomes B because it has already become C, and the transition A–C–B is again “explained” by showing that A became D which became C which became E which became B. And each of the stages A–D, D–C, C–E, E–B can be once more submitted to the same sort of analysis. But in all this interpolation of intermediate stages there is nothing to show the nature of the common principle in virtue of which the stages form a single process. We are, in fact, trying to do what we try to do wherever we establish a relation between terms, to answer a question by repeating it. And we decided at the end of our last chapter that this kind of repetition is never an answer to any question. How entirely it fails to answer the question we ask whenever we look for a cause is obvious. We want to know why B exists, and we are told that B exists because it is determined by the previous existence of A. But why does A exist? Because of the previous existence of C. And so ultimately the existence of everything depends on the existence of something else, and this again on the existence of still something else. If this is so, since nothing can exist until its cause has existed, and the cause again not until its cause has existed, then, as this unending series has no first term, nothing can ever come into existence at all. This inevitable introduction of the indefinite regress whenever we try to think out the causal principle to its logical consequences, has sometimes been treated as proving the inherent defectiveness of the human mind. What it proves rather is that Causality is not a proper formulation of the real principle of the unity of all experience.

A word may be said about the attempts which philosophers have made to extricate themselves from the difficulty without giving up Causality as an ultimate principle of explanation. The least philosophical method of escape is that of arbitrarily postulating a first cause with no preceding cause, which amounts to the same thing as a beginning of existence or a first moment of time. This way out of the difficulty obviously amounts to an arbitrary desertion of the causal principle at the point where it becomes inconvenient to remain faithful to it. Whatever the nature of the event you pitch upon as your “first cause,” the causal principle, if logically valid at all, is just as applicable here as anywhere else. |179|

Your “first cause” must have had a previous cause, or else the whole causal scheme must be, as we have contended that it is, the illogical and imperfect perversion of a genuine principle of systematic connection, useful and indeed indispensable in practice, but quite indefensible in theory.

It would not help you out of the difficulty to distinguish between a first event and a first moment of time, by postulating a first cause with an indefinite lapse of empty time before it. For the causal principle would then require you io look for the determining conditions of the first event in the preceding lapse of empty time. But this lapse, because merely empty, cannot contain the determining conditions for any special occurrence in preference to others. This is why the conception of a beginning of the causal series in time, with an empty lapse before it, has always led to the insoluble riddle, “Why did God create the world when He did, rather than at some other point of time?”

Nor can the difficulty be escaped by taking refuge in the continuity of the stream of events. For (1) as we have seen, the recognition of events as continuous processes necessarily leads to the surrender of the causal principle as inadequate to express the real connection of facts. Causality, as a special form of the category of Ground and Consequence, must stand or fall with the view of occurrences as sequences of discontinuous events. And (2) even apart from this consideration, the appeal to continuity can at best only be worked as a rejoinder to the internal analysis of a sequence into an infinite process. When it is urged that, on the causal principle, there must be an infinite number of intermediate stages between the cause and the effect in any given case, it is possible to retort that the stages are not “really” distinct, but only distinguished by an artificial abstraction, that the process is actually one and continuous, and therefore does not involve an infinite regress, except for the logician who erroneously construes it as discontinuous. But with the external regress in indefinitum you cannot deal in this way. The absence of a beginning follows as necessarily from the principle of explaining the later stages of a continuous process as conditioned by the earlier, as it does when the stages are taken to be distinct events. (This is easily seen from the simple consideration that the time-variable in your formula for the successive stages of the process may have an unlimited range of possible values from - ∞ to + ∞ {from minus to plus infinity}.)

In short, whether the succession of events be taken as continuous or not, the attempt to translate the axiom that |180| whatever happens has its ground in the nature of the whole system to which it belongs, into the doctrine that the posterior in time is completely determined by and dependent on the prior, leads straight to the infinite regress. And, as we said in our last chapter, the occurrence of the infinite regress is always a sign that there is imperfection somewhere in the thought which sets it up. For it always implies the formal contradiction of the actual summation by successive increments of an infinite series. Further considerations on this point may be deferred till we come to treat of the continuity of time.13


“(3) Plurality of Causes. Plurality of Causes is ultimately a logical contradiction, but in any form in which the causal postulate is of practical use it must recognise plurality.”


§ 9 (c). The indefinite regress may be shown to be inherent in Causation by a different line of argument, without appealing to the principle of the continuity of time. As the reader is doubtless aware, it was a favourite doctrine of John Stuart Mill, that whereas the same cause is always followed by the same effect — in the absence of counteracting circumstances — the same effect need not be preceded by the same cause. An effect may be “produced” on different occasions by entirely different sets of antecedents. Thus death may be due either to disease or to violence, and both the disease and the violence may have very different forms, yet the result is the same, namely, death. Heat may ensue from friction, percussion, chemical combination, and so forth. This doctrine of the Plurality of Causes is an obvious result of generalisation from the important practical consideration that different means will often lead us to the same end, so that where we cannot employ one we can often fall back on another.

Mill’s critics have not failed to point out that his doctrine is based on the rather illogical combination of a concrete cause with an abstract effect. He considers the “effect” in its utmost generality simply as a state or quality, e.g., “heat,” “death,” and rightly contends that this general state or quality may issue on different occasions from different combinations of conditions. But he fails to observe that in any concrete case this effect exists in a special form, and with special modifications corresponding to the special character of the antecedents. Death, for instance, may result from a thousand circumstances, but the total effect in each case is never mere death, but death in some one special shape. A man who is shot and a man who is drowned are both dead, but one is dead with the special symptoms of death by |181| drowning, the other with those of death by shooting. The water will kill you and a bullet will kill you, but death with a bullet-hole does not come from drowning, nor death with one’s lungs filled with water from a gunshot. If you take cause and effect at the same level of concreteness, they are always strictly correlative. Any variation in the one must have a corresponding variation in the other, for circumstances which vary without affecting a result are by definition no part of its conditions.

So far Mill’s critics among the inductive logicians. But we can push the argument a step further, and show that it leads logically to a dilemma, (1) There cannot really be more than one “cause” for one “effect”; yet (2) in any sense in which we can single out one “effect” from the rest of the contents of the universe, and assign it its “cause,” there is always a possibility of the Plurality of Causes. We will consider the alternative of this dilemma separately.

(1) Cause and effect must be strictly correlative. For to say that there may be variations in the cause not followed by corresponding variations in the effect, is to say that there can be conditions which condition nothing; and to admit variation in the effect without variation in the cause, is to allow that there are occurrences which are at once, as effects, determined, and yet again are not determined, by the assemblage of their antecedents. Thus Plurality of Causes is excluded by the very conception of a cause as the totality of conditions. Following up this line of thought further, we see that it leads to a perplexing result. The “totality of conditions” is never a real totality. For there are no such things as isolated effects and causes in the world of events. The whole fact which we call an effect is never complete until we have taken into account its entire connection with everything else in the universe. And similarly, the whole assemblage of conditions includes everything which goes to make up the universe. But when we have thus widened our conception of the cause and the effect, both cause and effect have become identical with one another and with the whole contents of the universe. And thus Causation itself has disappeared as a form of interconnection between the elements of Reality in our attempt to work out its logical implications.

This is an inevitable consequence of the continuous interconnection of all Reality established by our examination of the problem of the One and the Many in Chapter II. In other words, you never have reached the full cause of any event until you have taken into account the totality of its conditions, i.e. the totality of its connections with all the rest of existence. But |182| this totality cannot be obtained in the form presupposed by the phrase “totality of conditions” as a plurality of events. For to obtain it in this fashion would mean to sum an infinite series. But when you abandon the form, of the infinite series, cause and effect alike become identical with the systematic whole of Reality.

(2) On the other hand, the usefulness of the causal postulate depends entirely upon our ability to establish single threads of Causality within the stream of events, i.e. on our ability to assign particular assemblages of events, less than the “totality,” to particular subsequent events as their necessary and sufficient condition. Unless we can do this we can formulate no rules for the practical employment of means for the production of a desired result, and, as we have already seen, it is the necessity of knowing the means to our ends which is the primary, and indeed the sole, motive for the establishment of the causal postulate. Now, to effect this assignation of particular causes to particular effects, we have to make use of a distinction which is more practically necessary than theoretically defensible. We distinguish between indispensable conditions and accessory circumstances, which may or may not be present without affecting the nature of the special result in question. Now it is clear that the making of this distinction depends upon the separation of a certain part of the “total” stream of events from the rest, and its isolation as “the special result in question.” And this isolation, as we have’ seen, must always rest upon arbitrary abstraction. When once this arbitrary abstraction of some one part or aspect of the stream of events from its context has been made, we are compelled to recognise the existence of the context from which we have abstracted by saying that any effect may enter into or form part of a variety of different larger effects, according to the nature of the context in which it occurs. And, from the very principle of the complete correlation of condition and conditioned, it follows that what we call the special or partial effect will be preceded by varying conditions, according as it enters into different larger wholes or contexts. Thus any form of the causal postulate of which we can make effective use necessitates the recognition of that very Plurality of Causes which we have seen to be logically excluded by the conception of cause with which science works. As we contended above, any form of the principle in which it is true is useless, and any form in which it is useful is untrue.

The final result of our discussion, then, is that the causal |183| postulate according to which events are completely determined by antecedent events leads to the belief that the stream of events is discontinuous. This belief is inherently self-contradictory, and therefore ultimately untrue. The principle of Ground and Consequence cannot therefore be adequately represented by the causal postulate, however indispensable that postulate may be in practice. Whether the conception of a continuous stream of events affords any better formulation of the principle of the systematic interconnection of all Reality, we shall be better able to judge after the discussions of our third book. If it does not, we shall have to recognise that the conception of temporal succession itself is not adequate to express the way in which the Many and the One of real existence are united, i.e. that time is not real, but only phenomenal.


“The ‘necessity’ of the causal relation psychological and subjective.”


§ 10. A word may be said here as to the nature of the “necessity” which we ascribe to the connection of cause and effect. There can be little doubt that the origin of this “necessity” must be found in our own feelings of constraint when our action is dictated from without. It is clear, however, that we have no right to ascribe this feeling of constraint to the event which is determined by its connection with the rest of the system of Reality All that is meant in science by the “necessity” of the causal relation is that given the conditions the result follows, and not otherwise. In other words, if you assert the existence of the conditions, you are logically bound to assert the existence of the result. The constraint thus falls within ourselves, and is of a hypothetical kind. So long as your purpose is to think logically, you feel constraint or compulsion when, after asserting the condition, you seek for any reason to escape asserting the result. It is one of the conspicuous services of Hume to philosophy, that he for the first time brought out clearly this subjective character of the “necessity” of the causal relation, though it must be admitted that he went on to complicate his argument by an admixture of error when he sought to base the necessity of the logical inference from Ground to Consequence on the psychological principle of Association.


“Immanent and Transeunt Causality: Consistent Pluralism must deny
transeunt Causation, but cannot do so successfully.”


§ 11. Before closing our discussion of Causality, we must briefly take note of certain special difficulties by which the problem has been complicated in the systems of some eminent philosophers. A distinction has often been drawn between Transeunt |transeunt (of a mental act) producing an effect outside of the mind.| and Immanent Causality. In so far as the changes of state of one thing are regarded as occasions of change of state in others, the relation has been technically called one of |184| Transeunt Causality; the determination of a thing’s change of state by its own previous changes has, on the other hand, been named Immanent Causality. As a consequence of this distinction, grave difficulties have arisen in connection with the notion of Transeunt Causality. Such Causality, i.e. the determination of the changes of one thing by the changes of others, is of course an essential feature in the pre-scientific view of the world of experience as a multiplicity of interacting things.

For systematic Pluralism this conception inevitably presents insoluble difficulties. For it is impossible to reconcile the ultimate absolute independence of the various real things with the admission that the sequence of states in any one depends upon sequences of states in any of the others. If a plurality of things are ultimately independent of each other, it is manifest that each must form a complete whole, self-determined and containing the ground of its details entirely within itself. Conversely, if a thing cannot be explained by a principle of purely internal systematic connection, but requires for its complete explanation reference to an outside reality with which it stands in interconnection, its independence can be only partial. Hence Pluralism, in its more consistent forms, has always sought to deny the reality of Transeunt Causality, and to reduce all causal relations to the internal determination of the states of a thing by its own previous states. Historically, the principal devices which have been adopted for this purpose are (a) Occasionalism, and (b) the theory of a Pre-established Harmony.

(a) Occasionalism. Occasionalism has appeared in the history of Philosophy as a professed solution of the special problem of the apparent interaction between body and mind, taken as two entirely disparate and independent realities, though it is equally applicable in a wider sense to the more general problem of the apparent connection of any two independent real things. The doctrine is most closely associated with the names of the Cartesians, Arnold Geulincx and N. Malebranche, but was in part also adopted by Berkeley as a consequence of his belief in the pure passivity of non-mental things. Starting from the Cartesian conception of mind and body as two entirely independent and disparate kinds of reality, Geulincx and Malebranche were confronted by the apparent fact that mental states lead to modifications of bodily state in voluntary motion, and vice versa, bodily states determine the occurrence of mental states whenever a sensation follows upon a stimulus. |185|

The “natural view of the world” unhesitatingly accepts these cases as instances of interaction or Transeunt Causality on exactly the same level as the origination of change of state in one body by change in another, and Descartes himself had acquiesced in this interpretation. But such a view, as his successors saw, is quite incompatible with the alleged disparateness and independence of the two orders of existence, the bodily and the mental. Geulincx and Malebranche accordingly took refuge in the doctrine that the interaction is only apparent. In reality there is a complete solution of continuity wherever the series of changes in the one order terminates and that in the other begins. What really happens, they taught, is that God adapts the one series to the other. On the occurrence of the bodily stimulus, God intervenes to produce the sensation or emotion which is required to harmonise our action with our environment. Similarly, on the occurrence of a volition, God interferes to set the corresponding movement going in our bodily organism.

Thus the change in the one order is merely an occasion for the intervention of God, who is the actual cause of the corresponding change in the other. Within each order the series of changes once initiated are then supposed to be causally connected. The divine interference only comes in where the two orders come into contact. Berkeley adopted half of this doctrine without the complementary half. Inasmuch as, according to him, physical or non-mental things are mere complexes of presentations, or, in his own terminology, “ideas,” and ideas are purely inert, the real cause of every sensation must be God, who thus directly intervenes to give us an indication of the further sensations we shall receive according to the action we take on the present presentation. Transeunt Causality in the reverse direction, the immediate origination of bodily movement by volition, Berkeley seems to have admitted without criticism as a self-evident fact.14

It will not be necessary here to discuss the half-hearted version of Occasionalism adopted by Berkeley. It is clear that the admission of direct origination of bodily, change by mental cannot be consistently combined with the denial of all Transeunt Causality in the reverse direction. If all physical existence, my own body included, is nothing more than an inert complex of presentations, it is just as hard to see how |186| it can be the recipient of mentally originated change as to see how it can originate mental change. What is not in any sense active cannot be passive, for passivity is simply repressed and thwarted activity.

We confine ourselves, then, to Occasionalism of the thorough-going type. Now, against such Occasionalism there is the obvious objection that it transforms the whole course of our existence into one long succession of miracles, a point upon which Leibnitz is fond of insisting in his criticisms of Malebranche. And the doctrine is not really consistent with itself for two reasons, (1) It is clear that, according to any possible definition of Causation, the doctrine of Occasionalism involves causal interaction between God on the one hand and both the supposedly disparate orders of reality on the other. Changes in either order definitely determine the intervention of God to originate definitely determined changes in the other order. Thus God’s internal determinations are at once causes and effects of changes in either order. But if, e.g., a material change of state can be the cause of a determination in God, the whole basis of the denial that a change in the material order can originate change in another order of reality, is swept away. The nett result of the theory is simply to reestablish the transeunt action of the two orders on each other by means of a roundabout circuit through the mind of God.

What Geulincx and Malebranche really had in mind was the simple reflection that we cannot tell how a physical change can bring about a mental change, or vice versa.15 But this problem is not advanced in the least by introducing God as a third factor. How a change in the one order can bring about a determination in the mind of God, and how again God brings about the corresponding change in the other order, are simply two insoluble problems of the same kind as that they were intended to explain. After the introduction of God as third factor in the causal process, the fact still remains as before, that certain definite changes in the one order ensue upon definite changes in the other, and this is precisely the fact which is denoted by the name of Transeunt Causality.

Of course the problem would alter its character if God were conceived as another expression for the total system of Reality. The doctrine of Occasionalism would then become simply a statement of the view that no two things are really |187| independent, and that it is in virtue of their inclusion in a larger systematic whole that what we call separate things can influence each other. But, in spite of numerous passing utterances which point to this view, it is quite certain that Occasionalism was seriously intended by its authors as a solution of the problem of Causality on strictly traditional theistic lines.

(2) A second defect of the doctrine lies in the failure of its originators to extend it to all cases of causal relation. It is a mere prejudice when Geulincx and Malebranche allow themselves to assume that the sequence of physical change on preceding physical change, or mental change on preceding mental change, is more self-explanatory than the sequence of a mental change on a physical. In both cases we can ascertain that one state definitely follows a previous one; in neither can we answer the ultimately unmeaning question, by what machinery this sequence is brought about. For any answer must obviously consist in the interpolation of an intermediate link, and with regard to the production of this intermediate link the same question arises, and thus we come to the indefinite regress, the invariable indication that we have been asking an unmeaning question.

(b) The Pre-established Harmony. More philosophical was the attempt of Leibnitz to reconcile Pluralism with the apparent interaction of things. According to Leibnitz, every ultimately real thing or monad is a self-contained whole; it contains, therefore, in itself the ground of the sequence of its own states. Hence there can be no real origination of change in one monad by the occurrence of change in another. The life of every monad must consist purely in the development of its own internal nature. As Leibnitz phrases it, there are no windows in the monads through which states and qualities can fly from one to another. Yet some account must be taken of the apparent fact that, since the world of experience is not a chaos, the changes in one thing seem to be connected by definite law with the changes in others.

Now, according to Leibnitz, this apparent interaction can only be accounted for, if we decline to tolerate the perpetual miracle of Occasionalism, by the theory of a Pre-established Harmony between monads. If the whole of the independent monads are of such a nature that each, while actually following the law of its own development, behaves in the way required by the internal development of all the rest, then, though each is really self-contained, there will be the appearance of interaction. Leibnitz illustrates the possibility |188| of such a harmony by the case of two clocks which keep time with each other, without either the actual regulation of the one by the other, or the maintenance of a connection between them, simply because each is properly constructed; and again, by the case of a number of musicians playing from the same music but concealed from each other’s observation, who keep time and tune simply because each is playing his own score correctly.

Probably this is the most satisfactory hypothesis which can be devised for the conciliation of apparent interaction with a radical Pluralism. But its logical defects are apparent on the face of it. When we ask to what the harmony between the internal states of the several monads is ultimately due, Leibnitz hesitates between two answers. It is due, according to one account, to the choice of God, who in His wisdom saw fit to establish the best of all the possible worlds. But at the same time it was God’s recognition of the harmony between the monads of this special world-system which led Him to give it the preference over other antecedently possible systems, and to bring it rather than any other from mere possibility into actual existence.

Now it seems clear that, if the creative activity of God is to be taken seriously, the relation of God to the system must be one of Transeunt Causality. But if Transeunt Causality is admitted in the single case of God’s attitude towards the monads, it no longer seems obvious why it should be denied as regards the attitudes of the monads among themselves. For there is now at least one property of each monad of which the ground lies not in itself but in God, namely, its actual existence;16 and the principle that every monad is the ground of all its own properties once being deserted, there remains no further reason for denying interaction. If, on the other hand, we lay stress on the view that the harmony is no mere result of an arbitrary creative act, but is a property contained in the concept of the world of monads, thought of as merely possible, why may we not equally well think of a world of interacting and interconnected and therefore not ultimately independent things as possessing equal claims to realisation? The Pluralism of Leibnitz, from which his denial of Transeunt |189| Causality logically follows, seems to rest upon nothing better than uncriticised prejudices.17


“Both transeunt and immanent Causality are ultimately appearance.”


§ 12. We may briefly indicate the view as to the problem of Transeunt Causality which is involved in our discussion of the causal postulate. For any purpose for which it is possible and desirable to think of the world as a plurality of things, Transeunt Causality must be maintained. For precisely because the things in the world in the end form a connected system, the complete ground of the states of a thing cannot lie in itself but only in the whole system. In any sense in which there are a plurality of things, and in which the principle of ground and consequence can be approximately represented by the causal determination of subsequent occurrences by anterior occurrences, we must be prepared to find that the states of one thing appear among the conditions of the subsequent states of other things.

But again, since the apparently separate things are not entirely independent, but are the detailed self-expression of a single system, Transeunt Causality must in the end be appearance. Inasmuch as all interconnection between things depends upon their inclusion in the single system of Reality, it may be said that, when you take the whole into account, all Causality is ultimately immanent. But again, as we have already seen. Immanent Causality is an imperfect way of expressing the systematic connection of all existence according to the principle of Ground and Consequence. Fully thought out, Immanent Causality, as the determination of one state of the whole by a preceding state, is transformed into the concept of the interconnection of the various states by the purely logical principle that they form together the detailed expression of a single coherent principle of structure. And thus all Causality is finally imperfect appearance.

A point of some interest is the following. As we have seen, only individual experiences can in the end possess the kind of relative independence and internal unity which thought seeks to express in the notion of a thing. We may add that just in the degree to which any existence has this individuality, and thus forms a self-contained whole, will its behaviour have its ground within the thing itself. Hence the more completely individual a thing is, the more will the |190| conditions upon which its states depend appear when we apply the postulate of Causality, to be included in other states of the same thing. Thus the more individuality a thing has, the more fully will it appear to exhibit Immanent as distinguished from Transeunt Causality in its internal structure, that is, the less will be the modifications that structure undergoes in its intercourse with other things. If we like to denote the maintenance of unchanged internal structure against instigations to change from without by the term “empirical activity,” we may express our result by saying that the more individual a thing is, the more empirically active it is.

When we come to deal with the special problems of moral and social life, we shall have to face further questions as to the connection of causal determination with moral freedom and responsibility, and again with conscious purposive action for ends. Our previous discussion will then be found to have cleared the way for these more complex questions, by removing the difficulties which arise when the causal postulate is mistaken for an axiomatic principle of the interpretation of the systematic nature of Reality.


Consult further:
B. Bosanquet, Essentials of Logic, pp. 164, 165; Logic, vol. i. p. 253 ff., vol. ii. p. 212 ff.
F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, chaps. 5 (Motion and Change), 6 (Causation), 7 (Activity), 8 (Things).
H. Lotze, Metaphysic, bk i. chaps. 4 (Becoming and Change), 5 (Nature of Physical Action).
L. T. Hobhouse, Theory of Knowledge, pt. 2, chaps. 8, 15 (for discussion of “Plurality” of Causes).
Karl Pearson, Grammar of Science, chaps. 3 and 4.
B. Russell, Philosophy of Leibniz, chaps. 4, 1 1 (Pre-established Harmony).
James Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism, pt. I, lectures 2-6.
Hume’s famous discussion of Causation (Treatise of Human Nature, bk. i. pt. 3, §§ 3-15) seems to me to have lost little of its value, and to be still perhaps the most important single contribution of modern Philosophy to the systematic discussion of Causality.


1^ For a discussion of the same point in dealing with energy, see Professor Schuster, British Association Report, 1892, p. 631.

2^ W. McDougall in Mind for July 1902, p. 350.

3^ See the admirable remarks of Bosanquet in Companion to Plato’s Republic, pp. 275, 276.

4^ On the category of Ground and Consequent and the principle of Sufficient Reason, consult Bosanquet, Logic, bk. i. chap. 6, and bk. ii. chap. 7.

5^ It is no answer to this suggestion to urge that the present, being real, cannot be conditioned by the future, which is unreal. Such a rejoinder commits the metaphysical petitio principii {circular reasoning} of taking for granted that only the present is real. It is obvious that one might say with equal cogency that the past, being over and gone, is now unreal and therefore cannot influence the real present.

6^ For a fuller explanation of what is meant by continuity, consult Bedekind, Stetigkeit und irrationale Zahlen, specially §§ 3-5, or Lamb’s Infinitesimal Calculus, chap. I. Readers who have been accustomed to the treatment of continuity by the older philosophical writers should specially remark (1) that continuity is properly a characteristic of series, and (2) that though continuity implies indefinite divisibility, the reverse is not, as was sometimes assumed by earlier writers, true. The series of rational numbers is a familiar illustration of endless divisibility without continuity.

7^ There would arise further difficulties as to whether the magnitude of this lapse is a function of A, or whether it is the same in all cases of causal sequence. But until some one can be found to defend such a general theory of causal sequence it is premature to discuss difficulties of detail.

8^ For the English reader the best sources of information as to the “descriptive” theory of science are probably volume i. of Professor Ward’s Naturalism and Agnosticism; and Mach, the Science of Mechanics (Eng. trans.). Students who read German may advantageously add Avenarius, Philosophie als Denken der Weltgemäss dem Prinzip des kleinsten Kraftmasses, Professor J. A. Stewart is surely mistaken (Mind, July 1902) in treating the doctrine as a discovery of “idealist” metaphysicians. Whatever may be thought of some of the uses to which “idealists” put the theory, they cannot claim the Credit of its invention.

9^ Cf. Mach, op. cit., p. 483 ff.; Pearson, Grammar of Science, chap. 4.

10^ E.g., eclipses can be calculated equally well for the future or the past.

11^ Infra, Bk. III. chap. 4. It will be enough to refer in passing to the curious blunder which is committed when the principle of Causality is confounded with the doctrines of the Conservation of Mass and Energy. That the principle of Causality has nothing to do with these special physical theories is manifest from the considerations: (1) That it is at least not self-evident that all causal relation is physical. Philosophers have indeed denied that one mental state directly causes another, but no one has based his denial on the assertion that there can be no causality without mass and energy. (2) The principle of Causality, as we have seen, is a postulate. If we are ever to intervene successfully in the course of events, it must be possible with at least approximate accuracy to regard events as determined by their antecedents. The doctrines of conservation of mass and energy are, on the contrary, empirical generalisations from the observed behaviour of material systems. Neither science nor practical life in the least requires them as an indispensable condition of success. In practical life they are never appealed to, and the ablest exponents of science are most ready to admit that we have no proof of their validity except so far as it can be established by actual observation. In short, they are largely a posteriori, while the principle of Causality is, as already explained, a priori. See infra, Bk. III. Chap. 6, §6.

12^ Neither can have a first term, because each has two opposite senses, positive and negative in the one case, before and after in the other.

13^ I suppose I need not remind my reader that when a number is spoken of as the actual sum of an infinite series (as when 2 is called the sum of the series 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + … to infinity), the word sum is used in a derivative and improper sense for the limiting value assumed by the sum of n terms as n increases indefinitely). See Lamb, Infinitesimal Calculus, p. 11.

14^ For the various views here summarised, see as original sources, Geulincx, Metaphysica Vera, Pars Prima, 5-8; Malebranche, Entretiens sur la Metaphysique et sur la Religion, 7th dialogue; Berkeley, New Theory of Vision, pp. 147, 148; Principles of Human Knowledge, §§ 25-33, 51-53, 57, 150; Second Dialogue between Hylas and Philonous.

15^ Geulincx expresses the principle in the following formula (op. cit., pt. i, 5): quod nescis quomodo fiat, id non facis {you are not the cause of that which you do not know how to do}.

16^ Not that existence can intelligibly be treated as a property; on this point Kant’s famous criticism of the “ontological proof” seems conclusive. But from the point of view of Leibnitz it must be imagined as an additional predicate, somehow added by the creative act of God to those already contained in the concept of the world as “possible.”

17^ For Leibnitz’s doctrine consult further, The Monadology, etc., of Leibniz, edit, by R. Latta, Introduction, pts. 2 and 3, and translations of Monadology, New System of the Communication of Substances, with the First and Third Explanations of the New System. Also see the elaborate criticisms of B. Russell, The Philosophy of Leibniz, chap. 4 and following chapters.



Alfred Edward Taylor
1869 to 1945
British idealist philosopher
Fellow, Merton College, Oxford 1891–1896
Lecturer in Greek and Philosophy, University of Manchester 1896–1903, Frothingham Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, McGill University 1903–1908, Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of St. Andrews 1908–1924
Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Edinburgh 1924–1941


AE_Taylor
 

Reference

Taylor, Alfred E. Elements of Metaphysics, 8th ed. London: Methuen and Co., Limited, 1927.

Reproduced here is the complete eighth edition of A. E. Taylor’s Elements of Metaphysics. Other online editions are missing some pages. This work is in the Public Domain.


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