Appearance and Reality/Chapter XXVI
We have seen now that Goodness, like Truth, is a one-sided appearance. Each of these aspects, when we insist on it, transcends itself. By its own movement each developes itself beyond its own limits and is merged in a higher and all-embracing Reality. It is time that we endeavoured to close our work by explaining more fully the character of this real unity. We have certainly not attempted to do justice to the various spheres of phenomena. The account which we have given of truth and goodness is but a barren outline, and this was the case before with physical Nature, and with the problem of the soul. But to such defects we must resign ourselves. For the object of this volume is to state merely a general view about Reality, and to defend this view against more obvious and prominent objections. The full and proper defence would be a systematic account of all the regions of appearance, for it is only the completed system which in metaphysics is the genuine proof of the principle. But, unable to enter on such an undertaking, I must none the less endeavour to justify further our conclusion about the Absolute.
There is but one Reality, and its being consists in experience. In this one whole all appearances come together, and in coming together they in various degrees lose their distinctive natures. The essence of reality lies in the union and agreement of existence and content, and, on the other side, appearance consists in the discrepancy between these two aspects. And reality in the end belongs to nothing but the single Real. For take anything, no matter what it is, which is less than the Absolute, and the inner discrepancy at once proclaims that what you have taken is appearance. The alleged reality divides itself and falls apart into two jarring factors. The “what” and the “that” are plainly two sides which turn out not to be the same, and this difference inherent in every finite fact entails its disruption. As long as the content stands for something other than its own intent and meaning, as long as the existence actually is less or more than what it essentially must imply, so long we are concerned with mere appearance, and not with genuine reality. And we have found in every region that this discrepancy of aspects prevails. The internal being of everything finite depends on that which is beyond it. Hence everywhere, insisting on a so-called fact, we have found ourselves led by its inner character into something outside itself. And this self-contradiction, this unrest and ideality of all things existing is a clear proof that, though such things are, their being is but appearance.
But, upon the other hand, in the Absolute no appearance can be lost. Each one contributes and is essential to the unity of the whole. And hence we have observed (Chapter xxv.) that any one aspect, when viewed by itself, may be regarded as the end for which the others exist. Deprived of any one aspect or element the Absolute may be called worthless. And thus, while you take your stand on some one valuable factor, the others appear to you to be means which subserve its existence. Certainly your position in such an attitude is one-sided and unstable. The other factors are not external means to, but are implied in, the first, and your attitude, therefore, is but provisional and in the end untrue. It may however have served to indicate that truth which we have here to insist on. There is nothing in the Absolute which is barely contingent or merely accessory. Every element, however subordinate, is preserved in that relative whole in which its character is taken up and merged. There are main aspects of the universe of which none can be resolved into the rest. Hence from this ground we cannot say of these main aspects that one is higher in rank or better than another. They are factors not independent, since each of itself implies and calls in something else to complete its defects, and since all are over-ruled in that final whole which perfects them. But these factors, if not equal, are not subordinate the one to the other, and in relation to the Absolute they are all alike essential and necessary.
In the present chapter, returning to the idea of the Absolute as a whole of experience, I will from this point of view survey briefly its main aspects. Of the attitudes possible in experience I will try to show that none has supremacy. There is not one mode to which the others belong as its adjectives, or into which they can be resolved. And how these various modes can come together into a single unity must remain unintelligible. Reserving to the next chapter a final discussion on the positive nature of this Unity, I will lay stress here on another side. The Absolute is present in, and, in a sense, it is alike each of its special appearances; though present everywhere again in different values and degrees. I shall attempt in passing to clear up some questions with regard to Nature, and I will end the chapter with a brief enquiry as to the meaning of Progress, and as to the possibility of a continuance of personal life after death.
Everything is experience, and also experience is one. In the next chapter I shall once more consider if it is possible to doubt this, but for the present I shall assume it as a truth which has held good. Under what main aspects then, let us ask, is experience found? We may say, speaking broadly, that there are two great modes, perception and thought on the one side, and will and desire on the other side. Then there is the aesthetic attitude, which will not fall entirely under either of these heads; and again there is pleasure and pain which seem something distinct from both. Further we have feeling, a term which we must take in two senses. It is first the general state of the total soul not yet at all differentiated into any of the preceding special aspects. And again it is any particular state so far as internally that has undistinguished unity. Now of these psychical modes not any one is resolvable into the others, nor can the unity of the Whole consist in one or another portion of them. Each of them is incomplete and one-sided, and calls for assistance from without. We have had to perceive this in great part already through former discussions, but I will briefly resume and in some points supplement that evidence here. I am about to deal with the appearances of the Absolute mainly from their psychical side, but a full psychological discussion is impossible, and is hardly required. I would ask the reader, whose views in certain ways may be divergent from mine, not to dwell on divergencies except so far as they affect the main result.
(1) If we consider first of all the aspect of pleasure and pain, it is evident that this cannot be the substance or foundation of Reality. For we cannot regard the other elements as adjectives of, or dependents on, this one; nor again can we, in any way or in any sense, resolve them into it. Pleasure and pain, it is obvious, are not the one thing real. But are they real at all, as such, and independently of the rest? Even this we are compelled to deny. For pleasure and pain are antagonistic; and when in the Whole they have come together with a balance of pleasure, can we be even sure that this result will be pleasure as such? There is however a far more serious objection to the reality of pleasure and pain. For these are mere abstractions which we separate from the pleasant and the painful; and to suppose that they are not connected with those states and processes, with which they are always conjoined, would be plainly irrational. Indeed pleasure and pain, as things by themselves, would contradict their known character. But, if so, clearly they cannot be real in themselves, and their reality and essence will in part fall beyond their own limits. They are but appearances and one-sided adjectives of the universe, and they are real only when taken up into and merged in that totality.
(2) From mere pleasure and pain we may pass on to feeling, and I take feeling in the sense of the immediate unity of a finite psychical centre. It means for me, first, the general condition before distinctions and relations have been developed, and where as yet neither any subject nor object exists. And it means, in the second place, anything which is present at any stage of mental life, in so far as that is only present and simply is. In this latter sense we may say that everything actual, no matter what, must be felt; but we do not call it feeling except so far as we take it as failing to be more. Now, in either of these senses, is it possible to consider feeling as real, or as a consistent aspect of reality? We must reply in the negative.
Feeling has a content, and this content is not consistent within itself, and such a discrepancy tends to destroy and to break up the stage of feeling. The matter may be briefly put thus—the finite content is irreconcilable with the immediacy of its existence. For the finite content is necessarily determined from the outside; its external relations (however negative they may desire to remain) penetrate its essence, and so carry that beyond its own being. And hence, since the “what” of all feeling is discordant with its “that,” it is appearance, and, as such, it cannot be real. This fleeting and untrue character is perpetually forced on our notice by the hard fact of change. And, both from within and from without, feeling is compelled to pass off into the relational consciousness. It is the ground and foundation of further developments, but it is a foundation that bears them only by a ceaseless lapse from itself. Hence we could not, in any proper sense, call these products its adjectives. For their life consists in the diremption of feeling’s unity, and this unity is not again restored and made good except in the Absolute.
(3) We may pass next to the perceptional or theoretic, and again, on the other side, to the practical aspect. Each of these differs from the two foregoing by implying distinction, and, in the first place, a distinction between subject and object. The perceptional side has at the outset, of course, no special existence; for it is given at first in union with the practical side, and is but slowly differentiated. But what we are concerned with here is to attempt to apprehend its specific nature. One or more elements are separated from the confused mass of feeling, and stand apparently by themselves and over against this. And the distinctive character of such an object is that it seems simply to be. If it appeared to influence the mass which it confronts, so as to lead that to act on it and alter it, and if such a relation qualified its nature, the attitude would be practical. But the perceptional relation is supposed to fall wholly outside the essence of the object. It is in short disregarded, or else is dismissed as a something accidental and irrelevant. For the reality, as thought of or as perceived, in itself simply is. It may be given, or again sought for, discovered or reflected on, but all this—however much there may be of it—is nothing to it. For the object only stands in relation, and emphatically in no sense is the relation in which it stands.
This is the vital inconsistency of the real as perception or thought. Its essence depends on qualification by a relation which it attempts to ignore. And this one inconsistency soon exhibits itself from two points of view. The felt background, from which the theoretic object stands out, is supposed in no way to contribute to its being. But, even at the stage of perception or sensation, this hypothesis breaks down. And, when we advance to reflective thinking, such a position clearly is untenable. The world can hardly stand there to be found, when its essence appears to be inseparable from the process of finding, and when assuredly it would not be the whole world unless it included within itself both the finding and the finder. But, this last perfection once reached, the object no longer could stand in any relation at all; and, with this, its proper being would be at once both completed and destroyed. The perceptional attitude would entirely have passed beyond itself.
We may bring out again the same contradiction if we begin from the other side. As perceived or thought of the reality is, and it is also itself. But its self obviously, on the other hand, includes relation to others, and it is determined inwardly by those others from which it is distinguished. Its content therefore slides beyond its existence, its “what” spreads out beyond its “that.” It thus no longer is, but has become something ideal in which the Reality appears. And, since this appearance is not identical with reality, it cannot wholly be true. Hence it must be corrected, until finally in its content it has ceased to be false. But, in the first place, this correction is merely ideal. It consists in a process throughout which content is separated from existence. Hence, if truth were complete, it would not be truth, because that is only appearance; and in the second place, while truth remains appearance, it cannot possibly be complete. The theoretic object moves towards a consummation in which all distinction and all ideality must be suppressed. But, when that is reached, the theoretic attitude has been, as such, swallowed up. It throughout on one hand presupposes a relation, and on the other hand it asserts an independence; and, if these jarring aspects are removed or are harmonized, its proper character is gone. Hence perception and thought must either attempt to fall back into the immediacy of feeling, or else, confessing themselves to be one-sided and false, they must seek completion beyond themselves in a supplement and counterpart.
(4) With this we are naturally led to consider the practical aspect of things. Here, as before, we must have an object, a something distinct from, and over against, the central mass of feeling. But in this case the relation shows itself as essential, and is felt as opposition. An ideal alteration of the object is suggested, and the suggestion is not rejected by the feeling centre; and the process is completed by this ideal qualification, in me, itself altering, and so itself becoming, the object. Such is, taken roughly, the main essence of the practical attitude, and its one-sidedness and insufficiency are evident at once. For it consists in the healing up of a division which it has no power to create, and which, once healed up, is the entire removal of the practical attitude. Will certainly produces, not mere ideas, but actual existence. But it depends on ideality and mere appearance for its starting-point and essence; and the harmony which it makes is for ever finite, and hence incomplete and unstable. And if this were not so, and if the ideal and the existing were made one, the relation between them would have disappeared, and will, as such, must have vanished. Thus the attitude of practice, like all the rest, is not reality but is appearance. And with this result we may pass onwards, leaving to a later place the consideration of certain mistakes about the will. For since the will implies and presupposes the distinction made in perception and idea, we need hardly ask if it possesses more reality than these.
(5) In the aesthetic attitude we may seem at last to have transcended the opposition of idea to existence, and to have at last surmounted and risen beyond the relational consciousness. For the aesthetic attitude seems to retain the immediacy of feeling. And it has also an object with a certain character, but yet an object self-existent and not merely ideal. This aspect of the world satisfies us in a way unattainable by theory or practice, and it plainly cannot be reduced and resolved into either. However, when we consider it more narrowly, its defects become patent. It is no solution of our problems, since it fails to satisfy either the claims of reality or even its own.
That which is aesthetic may generally be defined as the self-existent emotional. It can hardly all fall properly under the two heads of the beautiful and ugly, but for my present purpose it will be convenient to regard it as doing so. And since in the Absolute ugliness, like error and evil, must be overpowered and absorbed, we may here confine our attention entirely to beauty.
Beauty is the self-existent pleasant. It is certainly not the self-existent which enjoys its own pleasure, for that, so far as one sees, need not be beautiful at all. But the beautiful must be self-existent, and its being must be independent as such. Hence it must exist as an individual and not merely in idea. Thoughts, or even thought-processes, may be beautiful, but only so if they appear, as it were, self-contained, and, in a manner, for sense. But the beautiful, once more, must be an object. It must stand in relation to my mind, and again it must possess a distinguished ideal content. We cannot say that mere feeling is beautiful, though in a complex whole we may find at once the blended aspects of feeling and of beauty. And the beautiful, last of all, must be actually pleasant. But, if so, then once more it must be pleasant for some one.
Such an union of characters is inconsistent, and we require no great space to point out its discrepancy. Let us first abstract from the pleasantness and from the relation to me, and let us suppose that the beautiful exists independently. Yet even here we shall find it in contradiction with itself. For the sides of existence and of content must be concordant and at one; but, on the other hand, because the object is finite, such an agreement is impossible. And thus, as was the case with truth and goodness, there is a partial divergence of the two aspects of extension and harmony. The expression is imperfect, or again that which is expressed is too narrow. And in both ways alike in the end there is want of harmoniousness, there is an inner discrepancy and a failure in reality. For the content—itself in any case always finite, and so always inconsistent with itself—may even visibly go beyond its actual expression, and be merely ideal. And, on the other side, the existing expression must in various ways and degrees fall short of reality. For, taken at its strongest, it after all must be finite fact. It is determined from the outside, and so must internally be in discord with itself. Thus the beautiful object, viewed as independent, is no more than appearance.
But to take beauty as an independent existence is impossible. For pleasure belongs to its essence, and to suppose pleasure, or any emotion, standing apart from some self seems out of the question. The beautiful, therefore, will be determined by a quality in me. And in any case, because (as we have seen) it is an object for perception, the relation involved in perception must be essential to its being. Either then, both as perceived and as emotional, beauty will be characterized internally by what falls outside itself; and obviously in this case it will have turned out to be appearance. Or, on the other hand, it must include within its own limits this external condition of its life. But, with that total absorption of the percipient and sentient self, the whole relation, and with it beauty as such, will have vanished.
The various aspects, brought together in the aesthetic object, have been seen to fall apart. Beauty is not really immediate, or independent, or harmonious in itself. And, attempting to satisfy these requirements, it must pass beyond its own character. Like all the other aspects this also has been shown to be appearance.
We have now surveyed the different regions of experience, and have found each to be imperfect. We certainly cannot say that the Absolute is any one of them. On the other hand each can be seen to be insufficient and inconsistent, because it is not also, and as well, the rest. Each aspect to a certain extent, already in fact, implies the others in its existence, and in order to become Reality would have to go on to include them wholly. And hence Reality seems contained in the totality of these its diverse provinces, and they on their side each to be a partial appearance of the universe. Let us once more briefly pass them in review.
With pleasure or pain we can perceive at once that its nature is adjectival. We certainly cannot, starting with what we know of pleasure and pain, show that this directly implies the remaining aspects of the world. We must be satisfied with the knowledge that pain and pleasure are adjectives, adjectives, so far as we see, attached to every other aspect of experience. A complete insight into the conditions of these adjectives is not attainable; but, if we could get it, it doubtless would include every side of the universe. But, passing from pleasure and pain to Feeling, we can verify there at once the principle of discord and development in its essence. The sides of content and existence already strive to diverge. And hence feeling changes not merely through outer force but through internal defect. The theoretical, the practical, and the aesthetic aspect of things are attempts to work out and make good this divergence of existence and idea. Each must thus be regarded as a one-sided and special growth from feeling. And feeling still remains in the background as the unity of these differences, a unity that cannot find its complete expression in any or in all of them. Defect is obvious at once in the aesthetic attitude. Beauty both attempts and fails to arrive at immediate reality. For, even if you take it as real apart from relation to a percipient, there is never entire accordance between its two demands for completeness and harmony. That which is expressed in fact remains too narrow, and that which is wider remains imperfectly expressed. And hence, to be entirely beautiful, the object would have also to be completely good and wholly true. Its idea would require to be self-contained, and so all-embracing, and to be carried out in an existence no less self-sufficient. But, if so, the distinctive characters of truth and goodness and beauty would have vanished. We reach again the same result if we turn to the theoretical aspect of the world. Perception or theory, if it were but true, must also be good. For the fact would have to be so taken that it exhibited no difference from the thought. But such a concord of idea and existence would certainly also be goodness. And again, being individual, it would as certainly no less be beautiful. But on the other hand, since all these divergences would have been absorbed, truth, beauty and goodness, as such, would no longer exist. We arrive at the same conclusion when we begin from the practical side. Nothing would content us finally but the complete union of harmony and extent. A reality that suggested any idea not existing actually within its limits, would not be perfectly good. Perfect goodness would thus imply the entire and absolute presence of the ideal aspect. But this, if present, would be perfect and absolute truth. And it would be beautiful also, since it would entail the individual harmony of existence with content. But, once again, since the distinctive differences would now have disappeared, we should have gone beyond beauty or goodness or truth altogether.
We have seen that the various aspects of experience imply one another, and that all point to a unity which comprehends and perfects them. And I would urge next that the unity of these aspects is unknown. By this I certainly do not mean to deny that it essentially is experience, but it is an experience of which, as such, we have no direct knowledge. We never have, or are, a state which is the perfect unity of all aspects; and we must admit that in their special natures they remain inexplicable. An explanation would be the reduction of their plurality to unity, in such a way that the relation between the unity and the variety was understood. And everywhere an explanation of this kind in the end is beyond us. If we abstract one or more of the aspects of experience, and use this known element as a ground to which the others are referred, our failure is evident. For if the rest could be developed from this ground, as really they cannot be, they with their differences can yet not be predicated of it. But, if so, in the end the whole diversity must be attributed as adjectives to a unity which is not known. Thus no separate aspect can possibly serve as an explanation of the others. And again, as we have found, no separate aspect is by itself intelligible. For each is inconsistent with itself, and so is forced to take in others. Hence to explain would be possible only when the whole, as such, was comprehended. And such an actual and detailed comprehension we have seen is not possible.
Resting then on this general conclusion we might go forward at once. We might assume that any reduction of the Absolute to one or two of the special modes of experience is out of the question, and we might forthwith attempt a final discussion of its nature and unity. It may however be instructive to consider more closely a proposed reduction of this kind. Let us ask then if Reality can be rightly explained as the identity of Thought and Will. But first we may remind ourselves of some of those points which a full explanation must include.
In order to understand the universe we should require to know how the special matter of sense stands everywhere to its relations and forms, and again how pleasure and pain are connected with these forms and these qualities. We should have to comprehend further the entire essence of the relational consciousness, and the connection between its unity and its plurality of distinguished terms. We should have to know why everything (or all but everything) comes in finite centres of immediate feeling, and how these centres with regard to one another are not directly pervious. Then there is process in time with its perpetual shifting of content from existence, a happening which seems certainly not all included under will and thought. The physical world again suggests some problems. Are there really ideas and ends that work in Nature? And why is it that, within us and without us, there is a knowable arrangement, an order such that existence answers to thought, and that personal identity and a communication between souls is possible? We have, in short, on one side a diversity and finitude, and on the other side we have a unity. And, unless we know throughout the universe how these aspects stand the one to the other, the universe is not explained.
But a partial explanation, I may here be reminded, is better than none. That in the present case, I reply, would be a serious error. You take from the whole of experience some element or elements as a principle, and you admit, I presume, that in the whole there remains some aspect unexplained and outstanding. Now such an aspect belongs to the universe, and must, therefore, be predicated of a unity not contained in your elements. But, if so, your elements are at once degraded, for they become adjectives of this unknown unity. Hence the objection is not that your explanation is incomplete, but that its very principle is unsound. You have offered as ultimate what in its working proclaims itself appearance. And the partial explanation has implied in fact a false pretence of knowledge.
We may verify this result at once in the proposed reduction of the other aspects of the world to intelligence and will. Before we see anything of this in detail we may state beforehand its necessary and main defect. Suppose that every feature of the universe has been fairly brought under, and included in these two aspects, the universe still remains unexplained. For the two aspects, however much one implies and indeed is the other, must in some sense still be two. And unless we comprehend how their plurality, where they are diverse, stands to their unity, where they are at one, we have ended in failure. Our principles after all will not be ultimate, but will themselves be the twofold appearance of a unity left unexplained. It may however repay us to examine further the proposed reduction.
The plausibility of this consists very largely in vagueness, and its strength lies in the uncertain sense given to will and intelligence. We seem to know these terms so well that we run no risk in applying them, and then imperceptibly we pass into an application where their meaning is changed. We have to explain the world, and what we find there is a process with two aspects. There is a constant loosening of idea from fact, and a making-good once more in a new existence of this recurring discrepancy. We find nowhere substances fixed and rigid. They are relative wholes of ideal content, standing on a ceaselessly renewed basis of two-sided change. Identity, permanence, and continuity, are everywhere ideal; they are unities for ever created and destroyed by the constant flux of existence, a flux which they provoke, and which supports them and is essential to their life. Now, looking at the universe so, we may choose to speak of thought wherever the idea becomes loose from its existence in fact; and we may speak of will wherever this unity is once more made good. And, with this introduction of what seems self-evident, the two main aspects of the world appear to have found an explanation. Or we possibly might help ourselves to this result by a further vagueness. For everything, at all events, either is, or else happens in time. We might say then that, so far as it happens, it is produced by will, and that, so far as it is, it is an object for perception or thought. But, passing this by without consideration, let us regard the process of the world as presenting two aspects. Thought must then be taken as the idealizing side of this process, and will, on the other hand, must be viewed as the side which makes ideas to be real. And let us, for the present, also suppose that will and thought are in themselves more or less self-evident.
Now it is plain, first, that such a view compels us to postulate very much more than we observe. For ideality certainly does not appear to be all produced by thought, and actual existence, as certainly, does not all appear as the effect of will. The latter is obvious whether in our own selves, or in the course of Nature, or again in any other of the selves that we know. And, with regard to ideality or the loosening of content from fact, this is everywhere the common mark of appearance. It does not seem exclusively confined to or distinctive of thinking. Thought does not seem co-extensive in general with me relational form, and it must be said to accept, as well as to create, ideal distinctions. Ideality appears, in short, often as the result of psychical changes and processes which do not seem, in the proper sense, to imply any thinking. These are difficulties, but still they may perhaps be dealt with. For, just as we could set no limits to the possible existences of souls, so we can fix no bounds to the possible working of thought and will. Our mere failure to discover them here or there, and whether within ourselves or again outside us, does not anywhere disprove their existence. And as souls to an unknown extent can have their life and world in common, so the effects of will and thought may show themselves there where the actual process is not experienced. That which comes to me as a mechanical occurrence, or again as an ideal distinction which I have never made, may none the less, also and essentially, be will and thought. And it may be experienced as such, completely or partly, outside me. My reason and my plan to other finite centres may only be chance, and their intelligible functions may strike on me as a dark necessity. But for a higher unity our blind entanglement is lucid order. The world discordant, half-completed, and accidental for each one, is in the Whole a compensated system of conspiring particulars. Everything there is the joint result of two functions which in their working are one, and every least detail is still the outcome of intelligence and will. Certainly such a doctrine is a postulate, in so far as its particulars cannot be verified. But taken in general it may be urged also as a legitimate inference and a necessary conclusion.
Still in the way of this conclusion, which I have tried to set out, we find other difficulties as yet unremoved. There is pleasure and pain, and again the facts of feeling and of the aesthetic consciousness. Now, if thought and will fail to explain these, and they, along with thought and will, have to be predicated unexplained of the Unity, the Unity after all is unknown. Feeling, in the first place, cannot be regarded as the indifferent ground of perception and will; for, if so, this ground itself offers a new fact which requires explanation. Feeling therefore must be taken as a sort of confusion, and as a nebula which would grow distinct on closer scrutiny. And the aesthetic attitude, perhaps, may be regarded as the perceived equilibrium of both our functions. It must be admitted certainly that such an attitude if the unity alike of thought and will, remains a source of embarrassment. For it seems hardly derivable from both as diverse; and, taken as their unity, it, upon the other side, certainly fails to contain or account for either. And, if we pass from this to pleasure and pain, we do but gain another difficulty. For the connection of these adjectives with our two functions seems in the end inexplicable, while, on the other hand, I do not perceive that this connection is self-evident. We seem in fact drifting towards the admission that there are other aspects of the world, which must be referred as adjectives to our identity of will and thought, while their inclusion within will or thought remains uncertain. But this is virtually to allow that thought and will are not the essence of the universe.
Let us go on to consider internal difficulties. Will and understanding are to be each self-evident, but on the other hand each evidently, apart from the other, has lost its special being. For will presupposes the distinction of idea from fact—a distinction made actual by a process, and presumably itself due to will. And thought has to start from the existence which only will can make. Hence it presupposes, and again as an existing process seems created by, will, although will on its side is dependent on thought. We must, I presume, try to meet this objection by laying stress on the aspect of unity. Our two functions really are inseparable, and it therefore is natural that one should imply and should presuppose the other. Certainly hitherto we have found everywhere that an unresting circle of this kind is the mark of appearance, but let us here be content to pass on. Will and thought everywhere then are implicated the one with the other. Will without an idea, and thought that did not depend upon will, would neither be itself. To a certain extent, then, will essentially is thought; and, just as essentially, all thought is will. Again the existence of thought is an end which will calls into being, and will is an object for the reflections and constructions of theory. They are not, then, two clear functions in unity, but each function, taken by itself, is still the identity of both. And each can hardly be itself, and not the other, as being a mere preponderance of itself; for there seems to be no portion of either which can claim to be, if unsupported and alone. Will and thought then differ only as we abstract and consider aspects onesidedly; or, to speak plainly, their diversity is barely appearance.
If however thought and will really are not different, they are no longer two elements or principles. They are not two known diversities which serve to explain the variety of the world. For, if their difference is appearance, still that very appearance is what we have most to explain. We are not to go outside will and thought, in order to seek our explanation; and yet, keeping within them, we seem unable to find any. The identity of both is no solution, unless that identity explains their difference; for this difference is the very problem required to be solved. We have given us a process of happening and finitude, and in this process we are able to point out two main aspects. To explain such a process is to say why and how it possesses and supports this known diversity. But by the proposed reduction to will and thought we have done little more than give two names to two unexplained aspects. For, ignore every other difficulty, and you have still on your hands the main question, Why is it that thought and will diverge or appear to diverge? It is in this real or apparent divergence that the actual world of finite things consists.
Or examine the question from another side. Will and thought may be appealed to in order to explain the given process in time, and certainly each of them contains in its nature a temporal succession. Now a process in time is appearance, and not, as such, holding of the Absolute. And, if we urge that thought and will are twin processes reciprocal and compensating, that leaves us where we were. For, as such, neither can be a predicate of the real unity, and the nature of that unity, with its diversity of appearance, is left unexplained. And to place the whole succession in time on the side of mere perception, and to plead that will, taken by itself, is not really a process, would hardly serve to assist us. For if will has a content, then that content is perceptible and must imply temporal lapse, and will, after all, surely can stand no higher than that which it wills. And, without an ideal content, will is nothing but a blind appeal to the unknown. It is itself unknown, and of this unknown something we are forced now to predicate as an adjective the unexplained world of perception. Thus, in the end, will and thought are two names for two kinds of appearance. Neither, as such, can belong to the final Reality, and, in the end, both their unity and their diversity remains inexplicable. They may be offered as partial and as relative, but not as ultimate explanations.
But if their unity is thus unknown, should we call it their unity? Have they any right to arrogate to themselves the whole field of appearance? If we are to postulate thought and will where they are not observed, we should at least have an inducement. And, if after all they fail to explain our world, the inducement seems gone. Why should we strain ourselves to bring all phenomena under two heads, if, when we have forced them there, these heads, with the phenomena, remain unexplained? It would be surely better to admit that appearances are of more kinds, and have more aspects, than only two, and to allow that their unity is a mode of experience not directly accessible. And this result is confirmed when we recall some preceding difficulties. Pleasure and pain, feeling, and the aesthetic consciousness would hardly fall under any mere unity of intelligence and will; and again the relation of sensible qualities to their arrangements, the connection of matter with form, remained entirely inexplicable. In short, even if the unity of thought and will were by itself self-evident, yet the various aspects of the world can hardly be reduced to it. And, on the other side, even if this reduction were accomplished, the identity of will and thought, and their diversity, are still not understood. If finitude and process in time is reduced to their divergence, how is it they come to diverge? The reduction cannot be final, so long as the answer to such a question falls somewhere outside it.
The world cannot be explained as the appearance of two counterpart functions, and with this result we might be contented to pass on. But, in any case, such functions could not be identified with what we know as intelligence and will; and it may be better perhaps for a little to dwell on this point. We assumed above that will and thought were by themselves self-evident. We saw that there was a doubt as to how much ground these two functions covered. Still the existence of an idealizing and of a realizing function, each independent and primary, we took for granted. But now, if we consider the facts given to us in thinking and willing, we shall have to admit that the powers required are not to be found. For, apart from the question of range, will and thought are nowhere self-evident or primary. Each in its working depends on antecedent connections, connections which remain always in a sense external and borrowed. I will endeavour briefly to explain this.
Thought and will certainly contain transitions, and these transitions were taken above as self-evident. They were regarded as something naturally involved in the very essence of these functions, and we hence did not admit a further question about their grounds. But, if we turn to thought and will in our experience, such an assumption is refuted. For in actual thinking we depend upon particular connections, and, apart from this given matter, we should be surely unable to think. These connections cannot be taken all as inherent in the mere essence of thought, for most of them at least seem to be empirical and supplied from outside. And I am entirely unable to see how they can be regarded as self-evident. This result is confirmed when we consider the making of distinctions. For, in the first place, distinctions largely seem to grow up apart from our thinking, in the proper sense; and, next, a distinguishing power of thought, where it exists, appears to rest on, and to work from, prior difference. It is thus a result due to acquired and empirical relations. The actual transitions of thinking are, in short, not self-evident, or, to use another phrase, they cannot be taken as immanent in thought. Nor, if we pass to volition, do we find its processes in any better case; for our actions neither are self-evident nor are they immanent in will. Let us abstract from the events in Nature and in our selves with which our will seems not concerned. Let us confine our attention wholly to the cases where our idea seems to make its existence in fact. But is the transition here a thing so clear that it demands no explanation? An idea desired in one case remains merely desired, in another case it turns into actual existence. Why then the one, we enquire, and not also the other? “Because in the second place,” you may reply, “there is an action of will, and it is this act which explains and accounts for the transition.” Now I will not answer here that it is the transition which, on the other hand, is the act. I will for the moment accept the existence of your preposterous faculty. But I repeat the question, why is one thing willed and not also the other? Is this difference self-evident, and self-luminous, and a feature immediately revealed in the plain essence of will? For, if it is not so, it is certainly also not explained by volition. It will be something external to the function, and given from outside. And thus, with will and thought alike, we must accept this same conclusion. There is no willing or thinking apart from the particular acts, and these particular acts, as will and thought, are clearly not self-evident. They involve in their essences a connection supplied from without. And will and thought therefore, even where without doubt they exist, are dependent and secondary. Nothing can be explained in the end by a reduction to either of these functions.
This conclusion, not dependent on psychology, finds itself supported and confirmed there. For will and thought, in the sense in which we know them, clearly are not primary. They are developed from a basis which is not yet either, and which never can fully become so. Their existence is due to psychical events and ways of happening, which are not distinctive of thought or will. And this basis is never, so to speak, quite absorbed by either. They are differentiations whose peculiar characters never quite specialize all their contents. In other words will and thought throughout depend on what is not essentially either, and, without these psychical elements which remain external, their processes would cease. There is, in brief, a common substance with common laws; and of this material will and thought are one-sided applications. Far from exhausting this life, they are contained within it as subordinate functions. They are included in it as dependent and partial developments.
Fully to work out this truth would be the business of psychology, and I must content myself here with a brief notice of some leading points. Thought is a development from a ground of preceding ideality. The division of content from existence is not created but grows. The laws of Association and Blending already in themselves imply the working of ideal elements; and on these laws thought stands and derives from them its actual processes. It is the blind pressure and the struggle of changed sensations, which, working together with these laws, first begins to loosen ideal content from psychical fact. And hence we may say that thought proper is the outcome, and not the creator, of idealizing functions. I do not mean that the development of thought can be fully explained, since that would imply a clear insight into the general origin of the relational form. And I doubt if we can follow and retrace in detail the transition to this from the stage of mere feeling. But I would insist, none the less, that some distinguishing is prior to thought proper. Synthesis and analysis, each alike, begin as psychical growths; each precedes and then is specialized and organized into thinking. But, if so, thought is not ultimate. It cannot for one moment claim to be the sole parent and source of ideality.
And if thought is taken as a function primary, and from the first implied in distinction and synthesis, even on this mistaken basis its dependent character is plain. For the connections and distinctions, the ideal relations, in which thought has its being—from where do they come? As particular they consist at least partly in what is special to each, and these special natures, at least partly, can be derived from no possible faculty of thinking. Thought’s relations therefore still must depend on what is empirical. They are in part the result of perception and mere psychical process. Therefore (as we saw above) thought must rest on these foreign materials; and, however much we take it as primary and original, it is still not independent. For it never in any case can absorb its materials into essential functions. Its connections may be familiar and unnoticed, and its sequences may glide without a break. Nay even upon reflection we may feel convinced that our special arrangement is true system, and may be sure that somehow its connections are not based on mere conjunction. But if we ask, on the other hand, if this ideal system can come out of bare thought, or can be made to consist in it, the answer must be different. Why connections in particular are just so, and not more or less otherwise—this can be explained in the end by no faculty of thinking. And thus, if thought in its origin is not secondary, its essence remains so. In its ideal matter it is a result from mere psychical growth, its ideal connections in part will throughout be pre-supposed and not made by itself. And a connection, supposed to be made, would even be disowned as a fiction. Hence, on any psychological view, these connections are not inherent and essential. But for the truer view, we have seen above, thought altogether is developed. It grows from, and still it consists in, processes not dependent on itself. And the result may be summed up thus; certainly all relations are ideal, and as certainly not all relations are products of thinking.
If we turn to volition, psychology makes clear that this is developed and secondary. An idea, barely of itself, possesses no power of passing over into fact, nor is there any faculty whose office it is to carry out this passage. Or, for the sake of argument, suppose that such a faculty exists, yet some ideas require (as we saw) an extraneous assistance. The faculty is no function, in short, unless specially provoked. But that which makes will, or at least makes it behave as itself, is surely a condition on which the being of will is dependent. Will, in brief, is based on associations, psychical and physical at once, or, again, upon mere physiological connections. It pre-supposes these, and throughout its working it also implies them, and we are hence compelled to consider them as part of its essence. I am quite aware that on the nature of will there is a great diversity of doctrine, but there are some views which I feel justified in not considering seriously. For any sane psychology will must pre-suppose, and must rest on, junctions physical and psychical, junctions which certainly are not will. Nor is there any stage of its growth at which will has absorbed into a special essence these presupposed workings. But, if so, assuredly will cannot be taken as primary.
The universe as a whole may be called intelligible. It may be known to come together in such a way as to realize, throughout and thoroughly, the complete demands of a perfect intellect. And every single element, again, in the world is intelligible, because it is taken up into and absorbed in a whole of this character. But the universe is not intelligible in the sense that it can throughout be understood; nor, starting from the mere intellect, could you anticipate its features in detail. For, in answering the demands of the intellect, the Whole supplements and makes good its characteristic defects, so that the perfected intellect, with these, has lost its own special nature. And this conclusion holds again of every other aspect of things. None of them is intelligible, as such, because, when become intelligible, they have ceased also, as such, to be. Hence no single aspect of the world can in the end be explained, nor can the world be explained as the result either of any or all of them. We have verified this truth above in the instance of thought and of will. Thought is not intelligible because its particular functions are not self-evident, and because, again, they cannot be derived from, or shown to be parts immanent in itself. And the same defect once more belongs also to will. I do not mean merely that will’s special passages are not intellectual. I mean that they are not intelligible, nor by themselves luminous, nor in any sense self-evident. They are occurrences familiar more or less, but never containing each in itself its own essence and warrant. That essence, as we have seen, remains a fact which is conditioned from without, and it therefore remains everywhere partly alien. It is futile to explain the whole as the unity of two or more factors, when none of these can by itself be taken as evident, and when the way, in which their variety is brought together, remains in detail unintelligible.
With this result it is time that we went forward, but I feel compelled, in passing, to remark on the alleged supremacy of Will. In the first place, if will is Reality, it is incumbent on us to show how appearance is related to this ground. And, on our failure, we have an unknown unity behind this relation, and will itself must take the place of a partial appearance. But, when we consider will’s character, the same conclusion is in any case plain. What we know as will implies relation and a process, and an unsolved discrepancy of elements. And the same remark holds of energy or activity, or of anything else of the kind. Indeed, I have dwelt so often on this head that I must consider it disposed of. I may, however, be told perhaps that this complexity is but the appearance of will, and that will itself, the real and supreme, is something other and different. But, if so, the relation of appearance to this reality is once more on our hands. And, even apart from that, such an appeal to Will-in-itself is futile. For what we know as will contains the process, and what we do not know as will has no right to the name. It may be a mere physical happening, or may imply a metaphysical Reality, and in either case we have already dealt with it so far as is required. In short, an appeal to will, either in metaphysics or in psychology, is an uncritical attempt to make play with the unknown. It is the pretence of a ground or an explanation, where the ground is not understood or the explanation discovered. And, so far as metaphysics is concerned, one can perhaps account for such a barren self-deception. The mere intellect has shown itself incompetent to explain all phenomena, and so naturally recourse is had to the other side of things. And this unknown reality, called in thus to supply the defects of mere intellect, is blindly identified with the aspect which appears most opposed. But an unknown Reality, more than intellect, a something which appears in will and all appearance, and even in intellect itself—such a reality is not will or any other partial aspect of things. We really have appealed to the complete and all-inclusive totality, free from one-sidedness and all defect. And we have called this will, because in will we do not find one defect of a particular kind. But such a procedure is not rational.
An attempt may perhaps be made from another side to defend the primacy of will. It may be urged that all principles and axioms in the end must be practical, and must accordingly be called the expression of will. But such an assertion would be mistaken. Axioms and principles are the expression of diverse sides of our nature, and they most certainly cannot all be considered as practical. In our various attitudes, intellectual, aesthetic, and practical, there are certain modes of experience which satisfy. In these modes we can repose, while, again, their absence brings pain, and unrest, and desire. And we can of course distinguish these characters and set them up as ideals, and we can also make them our ends and the objects of will. But such a relation to will is, except in the moral end, not inherent in their nature. Indeed the reply that principles are willed because they are, would be truer than the assertion that principles are just because they are willed. And the possible objection that after all these things are objects to will, has been anticipated above (p. 474). The same line of argument obviously would prove that the intelligence is paramount, since it reflects on will and on every other aspect of the world. With this hurried notice, I must dismiss finally the alleged pre-eminence of will. This must remain always a muddy refuge for the troubled in philosophy. But its claims appear plausible so long only as darkness obscures them. They are plainly absurd where they do not prefer to be merely unintelligible.
We have found that no one aspect of experience, as such, is real. None is primary, or can serve to explain the others or the whole. They are all alike appearances, all one-sided, and passing away beyond themselves. But I may be asked why, admitting this, we should call them appearances. For such a term belongs solely of right to the perceptional side of things, and the perceptional side, we agreed, was but one aspect among others. To appear, we may be told, is not possible except to a percipient, and an appearance also implies both judgment and rejection. I might certainly, on the other side, enquire whether all implied metaphors are to be pressed, and if so, how many phrases and terms would be left us. But in the case of appearance I admit at once that the objection has force. I think the term implies without doubt an aspect of perceiving and judging, and such an aspect, I quite agree, does not everywhere exist. For, even if we conclude that all phenomena pass through psychical centres, yet in those centres most assuredly all is not perception. And to assume that somehow in the Whole all phenomena are judged of, would be again indefensible. We must, in short, admit that some appearances really do not appear, and that hence a license is involved in our use of the term.
Our attitude, however, in metaphysics must be theoretical. It is our business here to measure and to judge the various aspects of things. And hence for us anything which comes short when compared with Reality, gets the name of appearance. But we do not suggest that the thing always itself is an appearance. We mean its character is such that it becomes one, as soon as we judge it. And this character, we have seen throughout our work, is ideality. Appearance consists in the looseness of content from existence; and, because of this self-estrangement, every finite aspect is called an appearance. And we have found that everywhere throughout the world such ideality prevails. Anything less than the Whole has turned out to be not self-contained. Its being involves in its very essence a relation to the outside, and it is thus inwardly infected by externality. Everywhere the finite is self-transcendent, alienated from itself, and passing away from itself towards another existence. Hence the finite is appearance because, on the one side, it is an adjective of Reality, and because, on the other side, it is an adjective which itself is not real. When the term is thus defined, its employment seems certainly harmless.
We have in this Chapter been mainly, so far, concerned with a denial. All is appearance, and no appearance, nor any combination of these, is the same as Reality. This is half the truth, and by itself it is a dangerous error. We must turn at once to correct it by adding its counterpart and supplement. The Absolute is its appearances, it really is all and every one of them. That is the other half-truth which we have already insisted on, and which we must urge once more here. And we may remind ourselves at this point of a fatal mistake. If you take appearances, singly or all together, and assert barely that the Absolute is either one of them or all—the position is hopeless. Having first set these down as appearance, you now proclaim them as the very opposite; for that which is identified with the Absolute is no appearance but is utter reality. But we have seen the solution of this puzzle, and we know the sense and meaning in which these half-truths come together into one. The Absolute is each appearance, and is all, but it is not any one as such. And it is not all equally, but one appearance is more real than another. In short the doctrine of degrees in reality and truth is the fundamental answer to our problem. Everything is essential, and yet one thing is worthless in comparison with others. Nothing is perfect, as such, and yet everything in some degree contains a vital function of Perfection. Every attitude of experience, every sphere or level of the world, is a necessary factor in the Absolute. Each in its own way satisfies, until compared with that which is more than itself. Hence appearance is error, if you will, but not every error is illusion. At each stage is involved the principle of that which is higher, and every stage (it is therefore true) is already inconsistent. But on the other hand, taken for itself and measured by its own ideas, every level has truth. It meets, we may say, its own claims, and it proves false only when tried by that which is already beyond it. And thus the Absolute is immanent alike through every region of appearances. There are degrees and ranks, but, one and all, they are alike indispensable.
We can find no province of the world so low but the Absolute inhabits it. Nowhere is there even a single fact so fragmentary and so poor that to the universe it does not matter. There is truth in every idea however false, there is reality in every existence however slight; and, where we can point to reality or truth, there is the one undivided life of the Absolute. Appearance without reality would be impossible, for what then could appear? And reality without appearance would be nothing, for there certainly is nothing outside appearances. But on the other hand Reality (we must repeat this) is not the sum of things. It is the unity in which all things, coming together, are transmuted, in which they are changed all alike, though not changed equally. And, as we have perceived, in this unity relations of isolation and hostility are affirmed and absorbed. These also are harmonious in the Whole, though not of course harmonious as such, and while severally confined to their natures as separate. Hence it would show blindness to urge, as an objection against our view, the opposition found in ugliness and in conscious evil. The extreme of hostility implies an intenser relation, and this relation falls within the Whole and enriches its unity. The apparent discordance and distraction is overruled into harmony, and it is but the condition of fuller and more individual development. But we can hardly speak of the Absolute itself as either ugly or evil. The Absolute is indeed evil in a sense and it is ugly and false, but the sense, in which these predicates can be applied, is too forced and unnatural. Used of the Whole each predicate would be the result of an indefensible division, and each would be a fragment isolated and by itself without consistent meaning. Ugliness, evil, and error, in their several spheres, are subordinate aspects. They imply distinctions falling, in each case, within one subject province of the Absolute’s kingdom; and they involve a relation, in each case, of some struggling element to its superior, though limited, whole. Within these minor wholes the opposition draws its life from, and is overpowered by the system which supports it. The predicates evil, ugly, and false must therefore stamp whatever they qualify, as a mere subordinate aspect, an aspect belonging to the province of beauty or goodness or truth. And to assign such a position to the sovereign Absolute would be plainly absurd. You may affirm that the Absolute has ugliness and error and evil, since it owns the provinces in which these features are partial elements. But to assert that it is one of its own fragmentary and dependent details would be inadmissible.
It is only by a licence that the subject-systems, even when we regard them as wholes, can be made qualities of Reality. It is always under correction and on sufferance that we term the universe either beautiful or moral or true. And to venture further would be both useless and dangerous at once.
If you view the Absolute morally at all, then the Absolute is good. It cannot be one factor contained within and overpowered by goodness. In the same way, viewed logically or aesthetically, the Absolute can only be true or beautiful. It is merely when you have so termed it, and while you still continue to insist on these preponderant characters, that you can introduce at all the ideas of falsehood and ugliness. And, so introduced, their direct application to the Absolute is impossible. Thus to identify the supreme universe with a partial system may, for some end, be admissible. But to take it as a single character within this system, and as a feature which is already overruled, and which as such is suppressed there, would, we have seen, be quite unwarranted. Ugliness, error, and evil, all are owned by, and all essentially contribute to the wealth of the Absolute. The Absolute, we may say in general, has no assets beyond appearances; and again, with appearances alone to its credit, the Absolute would be bankrupt. All of these are worthless alike apart from transmutation. But, on the other hand once more, since the amount of change is different in each case, appearances differ widely in their degrees of truth and reality. There are predicates which, in comparison with others, are false and unreal.
To survey the field of appearances, to measure each by the idea of perfect individuality, and to arrange them in an order and in a system of reality and merit—would be the task of metaphysics. This task (I may repeat) is not attempted in these pages. I have however endeavoured here, as above, to explain and to insist on the fundamental principle. And, passing from that, I will now proceed to remark on some points of interest. There are certain questions which at this stage we may hope to dispose of.
Let us turn our attention once more to Nature or the physical world. Are we to affirm that ideas are forces, and that ends operate and move there? And, again, is Nature beautiful and an object of possible worship? On this latter point, which I will consider first, I find serious confusion. Nature, as we have seen, can be taken in various senses (Chapter xxii.). We may understand by it the whole universe, or again merely the world in space, or again we may restrict it to a very much narrower meaning. We may first remove everything which in our opinion is only psychical, and the abstract residue—the primary qualities—we may then identify with Nature. These will be the essence, while all the rest is accessory adjective, and, in the fullest sense, is immaterial. Now we have found that Nature, so understood, has but little reality. It is an ideal construction required by science, and it is a necessary working fiction. And we may add that reduction to a result, and to a particular instance, of this fiction, is what is meant by a strictly physical explanation. But in this way there grows up a great confusion. For the object of natural science is the full world in all its sensible glory, while the essence of Nature lies in this poor fiction of primary qualities, a fiction believed not to be idea but solid fact. Nature then, while unexplained, is still left in its sensuous splendour, while Nature, if explained, would be reduced to this paltry abstraction. On one side is set up the essence—the final reality—in the shape of a bare skeleton of primary qualities; on the other side remains the boundless profusion of life which everywhere opens endlessly before our view. And these extremes then are confused, or are conjoined, by sheer obscurity or else by blind mental oscillation. If explanation reduces facts to be adjectives of something which they do not qualify at all, the whole connection seems irrational, and the process robs us of the facts. But if the primary essence after all is qualified, then its character is transformed. The explanation, in reducing the concrete, will now also have enriched and have individualized the abstract, and we shall have started on our way towards philosophy and truth. But of this latter result in the present case there can be no question. And therefore we must end in oscillation with no attempt at an intelligent unity of view. Nature is, on the one hand, that show whose reality lies barely in primary qualities. It is, on the other hand, that endless world of sensible life which appeals to our sympathy and extorts our wonder. It is the object loved and lived in by the poet and by the observing naturalist. And, when we speak of Nature, we have often no idea which of these extremes, or indeed what at all, is to be understood. We in fact pass, as suits the occasion, from one extreme unconsciously to the other.
I will briefly apply this result to the question before us. Whether Nature is beautiful and adorable will depend entirely on the sense in which Nature is taken. If the genuine reality of Nature is bare primary qualities, then I cannot think that such a question needs serious discussion. In a word Nature will be dead. It could possess at the most a kind of symmetry; and again by its extent, or by its practical relation to our weaknesses or needs, it might excite in us feelings of a certain kind. But these feelings, in the first place, would fall absolutely within ourselves. They could not rationally be applied to, nor in the very least could they qualify Nature. And, in the second place, these feelings would in our minds hardly take the form of worship. Hence when Nature, as the object of natural science, is either asserted to be beautiful, or is set up before us as divine, we may make our answer at once. If the reality of the object is to be restricted to primary qualities, then surely no one would advocate the claims we have mentioned. If again the whole perceptible world and the glory of it is to be genuinely real, and if this splendour and this life are of the very essence of Nature, then a difficulty will arise in two directions. In the first place this claim has to get itself admitted by physical science. The psychical has to be adopted as at least co-equal in reality with matter. The relation to the organism and to the soul has to be included in the vital being of a physical object. And the first difficulty will consist in advancing to this point. Then the second difficulty will appear at once when this point has been reached. For, having gone so far, we have to justify our refusal to go further. For why is Nature to be confined to the perceptible world? If the psychical and the “subjective” is in any degree to make part of its reality, then upon what principle can you shut out the highest and most spiritual experience? Why is Nature viewed and created by the painter, the poet, and the seer, not essentially real? But in this way Nature will tend to become the total universe of both spirit and matter. And our main conclusion so far must be this. It is evidently useless to raise such questions about the object of natural science, when you have not settled in your mind what that object is, and when you supply no principle on which we can decide in what its reality consists.
But turning from this confusion, and once more approaching the question from, I trust, a more rational ground, I will try to make a brief answer. Into the special features and limits of the beautiful in Nature I cannot enter. And I cannot discuss how far, and in what sense, the physical world is included in the true object of religion. These are special enquiries which fall without the scope of my volume. But whether Nature is beautiful or adorable at all, and whether it possesses such attributes really and in truth,—to the question, asked thus in general, we may answer, Yes. We have seen that Nature, regarded as bare matter, is a mere convenient abstraction (Chapter xxii.). The addition of secondary qualities, the included relation to a body and to a soul, in making Nature more concrete makes it thereby more real. The sensible life, the warmth and colour, the odour and the tones, without these Nature is a mere intellectual fiction. The primary qualities are a construction demanded by science, but, while divorced from the secondary, they have no life as facts. Science has a Hades from which it returns to interpret the world, but the inhabitants of its Hades are merely shades. And, when the secondary qualities are added, Nature, though more real, is still incomplete. The joys and sorrows of her children, their affections and their thoughts—how are we to say that these have no part in the reality of Nature? Unless to a mind restricted by a principle the limitation would be absurd, and our main principle on the other hand insists that Nature, when more full, is more real. And this same principle will carry us on to a further conclusion. The emotions, excited by Nature in the considering soul, must at least in part be referred to, and must be taken as attributes of Nature. If there is no beauty there, and if the sense of that is to fall somewhere outside, why in the end should there be any qualities in Nature at all? And, if no emotional tone is to qualify Nature, how and on what principle are we to attribute to it anything else whatever? Everything there without exception is “subjective,” if we are to regard the matter so; and an emotional tone cannot, solely on this account, be excluded from Nature. And, otherwise, why should it not have reality there as a genuine quality? For myself I must follow the same principle and can accept the fresh consequence. The Nature that we have lived in, and that we love, is really Nature. Its beauty and its terror and its majesty are no illusion, but qualify it essentially. And hence that in which at our best moments we all are forced to believe, is the literal truth.
This result however needs some qualification from another side. It is certain that everything is determined by the relations in which it stands. It is certain that, with increase of determinateness, a thing becomes more and more real. On the other hand anything, fully determined, would be the Absolute itself. There is a point where increase of reality implies passage beyond self. A thing by enlargement becomes a mere factor in the whole next above it; and, in the end, all provinces and all relative wholes cease to keep their separate characters. We must not forget this while considering the reality of Nature. By gradual increase of that reality you reach a stage at which Nature, as such, is absorbed. Or, as you reflect on Nature, your object identifies itself gradually with the universe or Absolute. And the question arises at what point, when we begin to add psychical life or to attribute spiritual attributes to Nature, we have ceased to deal with Nature in any proper sense of that term. Where do we pass from Nature, as an outlying province in the kingdom of things, to Nature as a suppressed element in a higher unity? These enquiries are demanded by philosophy, and their result would lead to clearer conclusions about the qualities of Nature. I can do no more than allude to them here, and the conclusion, on which I insist, can in the main be urged independently. Nothing is lost to the Absolute, and all appearances have reality. The Nature studied by the observer and by the poet and painter, is in all its sensible and emotional fulness a very real Nature. It is in most respects more real than the strict object of physical science. For Nature, as the world whose real essence lies in primary qualities, has not a high degree of reality and truth. It is a mere abstraction made and required for a certain purpose. And the object of natural science may either mean this skeleton, or it may mean the skeleton made real by blood and flesh of secondary qualities. Hence, before we dwell on the feelings Nature calls for from us, it would be better to know in what sense we are using the term. But the boundary of Nature can hardly be drawn even at secondary qualities. Or, if we draw it there, we must draw it arbitrarily, and to suit our convenience. Only on this ground can psychical life be excluded from Nature, while, regarded otherwise, the exclusion would not be tenable. And to deny aesthetic qualities in Nature, or to refuse it those which inspire us with fear or devotion, would once more surely be arbitrary. It would be a division introduced for a mere working theoretical purpose. Our principle, that the abstract is the unreal, moves us steadily upward. It forces us first to rejection of bare primary qualities, and it compels us in the end to credit Nature with our higher emotions. That process can cease only where Nature is quite absorbed into spirit, and at every stage of the process we find increase in reality.
And this higher interpretation, and this eventual transcendence of Nature lead us to the discussion of another point which we mentioned above. Except in finite souls and except in volition may we suppose that Ends operate in Nature, and is ideality, in any other sense, a working force there? How far such a point of view may be permitted in aesthetics or in the philosophy of religion, I shall not enquire. But considering the physical world as a mere system of appearances in space, are we on metaphysical grounds to urge the insufficiency of the mechanical view? In what form (if in any) are we to advocate a philosophy of Nature? On this difficult subject I will very briefly remark in passing.
The mechanical view plainly is absurd as a full statement of truth. Nature so regarded has not ceased at all (we may say) to be ideal, but its ideality throughout falls somewhere outside itself (Chapters xxii. and xxiii.). And that even for working purposes this view can everywhere be rigidly maintained, I am unable to assert. But upon one subject I have no doubts. Every special science must be left at liberty to follow its own methods, and, if the natural sciences reject every way of explanation which is not mechanical, that is not the affair of metaphysics. For myself, in other ways ignorant, I venture to assume that these sciences understand their own business. But where, quite beyond the scope of any special science, assertions are made, the metaphysician may protest. He may insist that abstractions are not realities, and that working fictions are never more than useful fragments of truth. And on another point also he may claim a hearing. To adopt one sole principle of valid explanation, and to urge that, if phenomena are to be explicable, they must be explained by one method—this is of course competent to any science. But it is another thing to proclaim phenomena as already explained, or as explicable, where in certain aspects or in certain provinces they clearly are not explained, and where, perhaps, not even the first beginning of an explanation has been made. In these lapses or excursions beyond its own limits natural science has no rights. But within its boundaries I think every wise man will consider it sacred. And this question of the operation of Ends in Nature is one which, in my judgment, metaphysics should leave untouched.
Is there then no positive task which is left to metaphysics, the accomplishment of which might be called a philosophy of Nature? I will briefly point out the field which seems to call for occupation. All appearances for metaphysics have degrees of reality. We have an idea of perfection or of individuality; and, as we find that any form of existence more completely realizes this idea, we assign to it its position in the scale of being. And in this scale (as we have seen) the lower, as its defects are made good, passes beyond itself into the higher. The end, or the absolute individuality, is also the principle. Present from the first it supplies the test of its inferior stages, and, as these are included in fuller wholes, the principle grows in reality. Metaphysics in short can assign a meaning to perfection and progress. And hence, if it were to accept from the sciences the various kinds of natural phenomena, if it were to set out these kinds in an order of merit and rank, if it could point out how within each higher grade the defects of the lower are made good, and how the principle of the lower grade is carried out in the higher—metaphysics surely would have contributed to the interpretation of Nature. And, while myself totally incapable of even assisting in such a work, I cannot see how or on what ground it should be considered unscientific. It is doubtless absurd to wear the airs of systematic omniscience. It is worse than absurd to pour scorn on the detail and on the narrowness of devoted specialism. But to try to give system from time to time to the results of the sciences, and to attempt to arrange these on what seems a true principle of worth, can be hardly irrational.
Such a philosophy of Nature, if at least it were true to itself, could not intrude on the province of physical science. For it would, in short, abstain wholly and in every form from speculation on genesis. How the various stages of progress come to happen in time, in what order or orders they follow, and in each case from what causes, these enquiries would, as such, be no concern of philosophy. Its idea of evolution and progress in a word should not be temporal. And hence a conflict with the sciences upon any question of development or of order could not properly arise. “Higher” and “lower,” terms which imply always a standard and end, would in philosophy be applied solely to designate rank. Natural science would still be free, as now, to use, or even to abuse, such terms at its pleasure, and to allow them any degree of meaning which is found convenient. Progress for philosophy would never have any temporal sense, and it could matter nothing if the word elsewhere seemed to bear little or no other. With these brief remarks I must leave a subject which deserves serious attention.
In a complete philosophy the whole world of appearance would be set out as a progress. It would show a development of principle though not a succession in time. Every sphere of experience would be measured by the absolute standard, and would be given a rank answering to its own relative merits and defects. On this scale pure Spirit would mark the extreme most removed from lifeless Nature. And, at each rising degree of this scale, we should find more of the first character with less of the second. The ideal of spirit, we may say, is directly opposite to mechanism. Spirit is a unity of the manifold in which the externality of the manifold has utterly ceased. The universal here is immanent in the parts, and its system does not lie somewhere outside and in the relations between them. It is above the relational form and has absorbed it in a higher unity, a whole in which there is no division between elements and laws. And, since this principle shows itself from the first in the inconsistencies of bare mechanism, we may say that Nature at once is realized and transmuted by spirit. But each of these extremes, we must add, has no existence as fact. The sphere of dead mechanism is set apart by an act of abstraction, and in that abstraction alone it essentially consists. And, on the other hand, pure spirit is not realized except in the Absolute. It can never appear as such and with its full character in the scale of existence. Perfection and individuality belong only to that Whole in which all degrees alike are at once present and absorbed. This one Reality of existence can, as such, nowhere exist among phenomena. And it enters into, but is itself incapable of, evolution and progress.
It may repay us to discuss the truth of this last statement. Is there, in the end and on the whole, any progress in the universe? Is the Absolute better or worse at one time than at another? It is clear that we must answer in the negative, since progress and decay are alike incompatible with perfection. There is of course progress in the world, and there is also retrogression, but we cannot think that the Whole either moves on or backwards. The Absolute has no history of its own, though it contains histories without number. These, with their tale of progress or decline, are constructions starting from and based on some one given piece of finitude. They are but partial aspects in the region of temporal appearance. Their truth and reality may vary much in extent and in importance, but in the end it can never be more than relative. And the question whether the history of a man or a world is going forwards or back, does not belong to metaphysics. For nothing perfect, nothing genuinely real, can move. The Absolute has no seasons, but all at once bears its leaves, fruit, and blossoms. Like our globe it always, and it never, has summer and winter.
Such a point of view, if it disheartens us, has been misunderstood. It is only by our mistake that it collides with practical belief. If into the world of goodness, possessing its own relative truth, you will directly thrust in ideas which apply only to the Whole, the fault surely is yours. The Absolute’s character, as such, cannot hold of the relative, but the relative, unshaken for all that, holds its place in the Absolute. Or again, shutting yourself up in the region of practice, will you insist upon applying its standards to the universe? We want for our practice, of course, both a happening in time and a personal finitude. We require a capacity for becoming better, and, I suppose too, for becoming worse. And if these features, as such, are to qualify the whole of things, and if they are to apply to ultimate reality, then the main conclusions of this work are naturally erroneous. But I cannot adopt others until at least I see an attempt made to set them out in a rational form. And I can not profess respect for views which seem to me in many cases insincere. If progress is to be more than relative, and is something beyond a mere partial phenomenon, then the religion professed most commonly among us has been abandoned. You cannot be a Christian if you maintain that progress is final and ultimate and the last truth about things. And I urge this consideration, of course not as an argument from my mouth, but as a way of bringing home perhaps to some persons their inconsistency. Make the moral point of view absolute, and then realize your position. You have become not merely irrational, but you have also, I presume, broken with every considerable religion. And you have been brought to this by following the merest prejudice.
Philosophy, I agree, has to justify the various sides of our life; but this is impossible, I would urge, if any side is made absolute. Our attitudes in life give place ceaselessly the one to the other, and life is satisfied if each in its own field is allowed supremacy. Now to deny progress of the universe surely leaves morality where it was. A man has his self or his world, about to make an advance (he may hope) through his personal effort, or in any case (he knows well) to be made the best of. The universe is, so far, worse through his failure; it is better, so far, through his success. And if, not content with this, he demands to alter the universe at large, he should at least invoke neither reason nor religion nor morality. For the improvement or decay of the universe seems nonsense, unmeaning or blasphemous. While, on the other hand, faith in the progress or persistence of those who inhabit our planet has nothing to do with metaphysics. And I may perhaps add that it has little more to do with morality. Such faith can not alter our duties; and to the mood in which we approach them, the difference, which it makes, may not be wholly an advantage. If we can be weakened by despondence, we can, no less, be hurried away by stupid enthusiasm and by pernicious cant. But this is no place for the discussion of such matters, and we may be content here to know that we cannot attribute any progress to the Absolute.
I will end this chapter with a few remarks on a subject which lies near. I refer to that which is commonly called the Immortality of the Soul. This is a topic on which for several reasons I would rather keep silence, but I think that silence here might fairly be misunderstood. It is not easy, in the first place, to say exactly what a future life means. The period of personal continuance obviously need not be taken as endless. And again precisely in what sense, and how far, the survival must be personal is not easy to lay down. I shall assume here that what is meant is an existence after death which is conscious of its identity with our life here and now. And the duration of this must be taken as sufficient to remove any idea of unwilling extinction or of premature decease. Now we seem to desire continuance (if we do desire it) for a variety of reasons, and it might be interesting elsewhere to set these out and to clear away confusions. I must however pass at once to the question of possibility.
There is one sense in which the immortality of souls seems impossible. We must remember that the universe is incapable of increase. And to suppose a constant supply of new souls, none of which ever perished, would clearly land us in the end in an insoluble difficulty. But it is quite unnecessary, I presume, to hold the doctrine in this sense. And, if we take the question generally, then to deny the possibility of a life after death would be quite ridiculous. There is no way of proving, first, that a body is required for a soul (Chapter xxiii.). And though a soul, when bodiless, might (for all we know) be even more subject to mortality, yet obviously here we have passed into a region of ignorance. And to say that in this region a personal continuance could not be, appears simply irrational. And the same result holds, even if we take a body as essential to every soul, and, even if we insist also (as we cannot) that this body must be made of our everyday substance. A future life is possible even on the ground of common crude Materialism. After an interval, no matter how long, another nervous system sufficiently like our own might be developed; and in this case memory and a personal identity must arise. The event may be as improbable as you please, but I at least can find no reason for calling it impossible. And we may even go a step further still. It is conceivable that an indefinite number of such bodies should exist, not in succession merely, but all together and all at once. But, if so, we might gain a personal continuance not single but multiform, and might secure a destiny on which it would be idle to enlarge. In ways like the above it is clear that a future life is possible, but, on the other hand, such possibilities are not worth much.
A thing is impossible absolutely when it contradicts the known nature of Reality. It is impossible relatively when it collides with some idea which we have found good cause to take as real. A thing is possible, first, as long as it is not quite meaningless. It must contain some positive quality belonging to the universe; and it must not at the same time remove this and itself by some destructive addition. A thing is possible further, according as its meaning contains without discrepancy more and more of what is held to be real. We, in other words, consider anything more possible as it grows in probability. And “Probability,” we are rightly told, “is the guide of life.” We want to know, in short, not whether a thing is merely and barely possible, but how much ground we have for expecting it and not something else.
In a case like the present, we cannot, of course, hope to set out the chances, for we have to do with elements the value of which is not known. And for probability the unknown is of different kinds. There is first the unknown utterly, which is not possible at all; and this is discounted and treated as nothing. There is next something possible, the full nature of which is hidden, but the extent and value of which, as against some other “events,” is clear. And so far all is straightforward. But we have still to deal with the unknown in two more troublesome senses. It may stand for a mere possibility about which we know nothing further, and for entertaining which we can find no further ground. Or again, the unknown may cover a region where we can specify no details, but which still we can judge to contain a great diversity of possible events.
We shall soon find the importance of these dry distinctions. A bodiless soul is possible because it is not meaningless, or in any way known to be impossible. But I fail to find any further and additional reason in its favour. And, next, would a bodiless soul be immortal? And, again, why after death should we, in particular, have any bodiless continuance? The original slight probability of a future life seems not much increased by these considerations. Again, if we take body to be essential—a body, that is, consisting of matter either familiar or strange—what, on this ground, is our chance of personal continuance after death? You may here appeal to the unknown, and, where our knowledge seems nothing, you may perhaps urge, “Why not this event, just as much as its contrary and opposite?” But the question would rest on a fallacy, and I must insist on the distinction which above we laid down. In this unknown field we certainly cannot particularize and set out the chances, but in another sense the field is not quite unknown.
We cannot say that, of the combinations possible there, one half is, for all we know, favourable to a life after death. For, to judge by actual experience, the combinations seem mostly unfavourable. And, though the character of what falls outside our experience may be very different, yet our judgment as to this must be affected by what we do know. But, if so, while the whole variety of combinations must be taken as very large, the portion judged favourable to continued life, whether multiform or simple, must be set down as small. Such will have to be our conclusion if we deal with this unknown field. But, if we may not deal with it, the possibility of a future life is, on this ground, quite unknown; and, if so, we have no right to consider it at all. And the general result to my mind is briefly this. When you add together the chances of a life after death—a life taken as bodiless, and again as diversely embodied—the amount is not great. The balance of hostile probability seems so large that the fraction on the other side to my mind is not considerable. And we may repeat, and may sum up our conclusion thus. If we appeal to blank ignorance, then a future life may even have no meaning, and may fail wholly to be possible. Or if we avoid this worst extreme, a future life may be but barely possible. But a possibility, in this sense, stands unsupported face to face with an indefinite universe. And its value, so far, can hardly be called worth counting. If, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to use what knowledge we possess, and if we judge fairly of future life by all the grounds we have for judging, the result is not much modified. Among those grounds we certainly find a part which favours continuance; but, taken at its highest, that part appears to be small. Hence a future life must be taken as decidedly improbable.
But in this way, it will be objected, the question is not properly dealt with. “On the grounds you have stated,” it will be urged, “future life may be improbable; but then those grounds really lie outside the main point. The positive evidence for a future life is what weighs with our minds; and this is independent of discussions as to what, in the abstract, is probable.” The objection is fair, and my reply to it is plain and simple. I have ignored the positive evidence because for me it has really no value. Direct arguments to show that a future life is, not merely possible, but real, seem to me unavailing. The addition to general probability, which they make, is to my mind trifling; and, without examining these arguments in detail, I will add a few remarks.
Philosophy, I repeat, has to justify all sides of our nature; and this means, I agree, that our main cravings must find satisfaction. But that every desire of every kind must, as such, be gratified—this is quite a different demand, and it is surely irrational. At all events it is opposed to the results of our preceding discussions. The destiny of the finite, we saw everywhere, is to reach consummation, but never wholly as such, never quite in its own way. And as to this desire for a future life, what is there in it so sacred? How can its attainment be implied in the very principles of our nature? Nay, is there in it, taken by itself, anything moral in the least or religious at all? I desire to have no pain, but always pleasure, and to continue so indefinitely. But the literal fulfilment of my wish is incompatible with my place in the universe. It is irreconcileable with my own nature, and I have to be content therefore with that measure of satisfaction which my nature permits. And am I, on this account, to proclaim philosophy insolvent, because it will not listen to demands really based on nothing?
But the demand for future life, I shall be told, is a genuine postulate, and its satisfaction is implicated in the very essence of our nature. Now, if this means that our religion and our morality will not work without it—so much the worse, I reply, for our morality and our religion. The remedy lies in the correction of our mistaken and immoral notions about goodness. “But then,” it will be exclaimed, “this is too horrible. There really after all will be self-sacrifice; and virtue and selfishness after all will not be identical.” But I have already explained, in Chapter xxv., why this moving appeal finds me deaf. “But then strict justice is not paramount.” No, I am sure that it is not so. There is a great deal in the universe, I am sure, beyond mere morality; and I have yet to learn that, even in the moral world, the highest law is justice. “But, if we die, think of the loss of all our hard-won gains.” But is a thing lost, in the first place, because I fail to get it or retain it? And, in the second place, what seems to us sheer waste is, to a very large extent, the way of the universe. We need not take on ourselves to be anxious about that. “But without endless progress, how reach perfection?” And with endless progress (if that means anything) I answer, how reach it? Surely perfection and finitude are in principle not compatible. If you are to be perfect, then you, as such, must be resolved and cease; and endless progress sounds merely like an attempt indefinitely to put off perfection. And as a function of the perfect universe, on the other hand, you are perfect already. “But after all we must wish that pain and sorrow should be somewhere made good.” On the whole, and in the whole, if our view is right, this is fully the case. With the individual often I agree it is not the case. And I wish it otherwise, meaning by this that my inclination and duty as a fellow-creature impels me that way, and that wishes and actions of this sort among finite beings fulfil the plan of the Whole. But I cannot argue, therefore, that all is wrong if individuals suffer. There is in life always, I admit, a note of sadness; but it ought not to prevail, nor can we truly assert that it does so. And the universe in its attitude towards finite beings must be judged of not piecemeal but as a system. “But, if hopes and fears are taken away, we shall be less happy and less moral.” Perhaps, and perhaps again both more moral and more happy. The question is a large one, and I do not intend to discuss it, but I will say so much as this. Whoever argues that belief in a future life has, on the whole, brought evil to humanity, has at least a strong case. But the question here seems irrelevant. If it could indeed be urged that the essence of a finite being is such, that it can only regulate its conduct by keeping sight of another world and of another life—the matter, I agree, would be altered. But if it comes merely to this, that human beings now are in such a condition that, if they do not believe what is probably untrue, they must deteriorate—that to the universe, if it were the case, would be a mere detail. It is the rule that a race of beings so out of agreement with their environment should deteriorate, and it is well for them to make way for another race constituted more rationally and happily. And I must leave the matter so.
All the above arguments, and there are others, rest on assumptions negatived by the general results of this volume. It is about the truth of these assumptions, I would add, that discussion is desirable. It is idle to repeat, “I want something,” unless you can show that the nature of things demands it also. And to debate this special question, apart from an enquiry into the ultimate nature of the world, is surely unprofitable.
Future life is a subject on which I had no desire to speak. I have kept silence until the subject seemed forced before me, and until in a manner I had dealt with the main problems involved in it. The conclusion arrived at seems the result to which the educated world, on the whole, is making its way. A personal continuance is possible, and it is but little more. Still, if any one can believe in it, and finds himself sustained by that belief,—after all it is possible. On the other hand it is better to be quit of both hope and fear, than to lapse back into any form of degrading superstition. And surely there are few greater responsibilities which a man can take on himself, than to have proclaimed, or even hinted, that without immortality all religion is a cheat and all morality a self-deception.
- See above Chapter xvii. and below Chapter xxvii.
- Compare Chapters ix., xix., xx. and xxvii., and Mind, N. S. 6. I had hoped elsewhere to write something on the position to be given to Feeling in psychology. But for the purpose of this volume I trust, on the whole, to have said enough.
- This distinction, I have no doubt, is developed in time (Mind, No. 47); but, even if we suppose it to be original, the further conclusion is in no way affected.
- In the foregoing chapter we have already dealt with the contradictions of Goodness. For the nature of Desire and Volition see Mind, No. 49. Compare also No. 43, where I have said something on the meaning of Resolve. There are, indeed, instances where the idea does not properly pass into existence, and where yet we are justified in speaking of will, and not merely of resolve. Such are the cases where I will something to take place after my death, or where again, as we say, I will now to do something which I am incapable of performing. The process here is certainly incomplete, but still can be rightly called volition, because the movement of the idea towards existence has actually begun. It has started on its course, external or inward, so as already to be past recall. In the same way when the trigger is pressed, and the hammer has also perhaps fallen, a miss-fire leaves the act incomplete, but we still may be said to have fired. In mere Resolve, on the other hand, the incompatibility of the idea with any present realization of its content is recognised. And hence Resolve not aiming straight at present fact, but satisfied with an ideal filling-out of its idea, should not be called volition. The process is not only incomplete, but it also knowingly holds back and diverges from the direct road to existence. Resolve may be taken as a case of internal volition, if you consider it as the bringing about of a certain state of mind. But the production of the resolve, and not the resolve itself, is, in this case, will.
- The possibility of some margin of pleasure falling outside all finite centres, seems very slight (Chapter xxvii.). So far as that pleasure is an object, the relation is certainly essential.
- The question of degrees in beauty, like that of degrees in truth and goodness, would be interesting. But it is hardly necessary for us to enter on it here.
- I have not thought it necessary here to point out how in their actual existence these aspects are implicated with one another. All the other aspects are more or less the objects of, and produced by, will; and will itself, together with the rest, is an object to thought. Thought again depends on all for its material, and will on all for its ideas. And the same psychical state may be indifferently will or thought, according to the side from which you view it (p. 474). Every state again to some extent may be considered and taken as feeling.
- On this point see Mind, No. 47.
- With the above compare, again, Mind, No. 47.
- How what seems a faculty of analysis can be developed I have endeavoured to point out in the article above referred to.
- I have left out of the account those cases where what works is mainly Blending. Obviously the same conclusion follows here.
- It is intelligible also, I have remarked above in Chapter xix., in the sense of being distinguishable content.
- On the difference between these see Chapter xxvii.
- I do not think it necessary to restate any qualification required here by parts of Nature taken as not perceived. I have dealt with this sufficiently in Chapters xxii. and xxiv.
- The defect and the partial supersession of mere mechanical law has been touched on in Chapters xxii. and xxiii. It would be possible to add a good deal more on this head.
- This image is, I believe, borrowed from Strauss.
- The so-called fear of extinction seems to rest on a confusion, and I do not believe that, in a proper form, it exists at all. It is really mere shrinking from defeat and from injury and pain. For we can think of our own total surcease, but we cannot imagine it. Against our will, and perhaps unconsciously, there creeps in the idea of a reluctant and struggling self, or of a self disappointed, or wearied, or in some way discontented. And this is certainly not a self completely extinguished. There is no fear of death at all, we may say, except either incidentally or through an illusion.
- I have attempted to show this in an article on the Evidences of Spiritualism, Fortnightly Review, December, 1885. It may perhaps be worth while to add here that apparently even a high organism is possible, which apart from accidents would never die. Apparently this could not be termed impossible in principle, at least within our present knowledge.
- See, above, Chapter xxiv., and, below, Chapter xxvii.
- The probability of an unknown event is rightly taken as one half. But, in applying this abstract truth, we must be on our guard against error. In the case of an event in time our ignorance can hardly be entire. We know, for example, that at each moment Nature produces a diversity of changed events. The abstract chance then, say of the repetition of a certain occurrence in a certain place, must be therefore much less than one half. On the other side again considerations of another kind will come in, and may raise the value indefinitely.
- The argument based on apparitions and necromancy I have discussed in the article cited above, p. 503. There, on the hypothesis that extra-human intelligences had been proved, I attempted to show that the conclusions of Spiritualism were still baseless. I had no space there to urge that the hypothesis itself is ridiculously untrue. The spiritualist appears to think that anything which is not in the usual course of things goes to prove his special conclusion. He seems not to perceive any difference between the possible and the actual. As if to open a wide field of indefinite possibilities were the same thing as the exclusion of all others but one. Against the spiritualist, open or covert, it is most important to insist that all the facts shall be dealt with, whether in man alone or, perhaps also, in the lower animals. The unbroken continuity of the phenomena is fatal to Spiritualism. The more that abnormal human perception and action is verified, the more hopeless it becomes to get to non-human beings. The more fully the monstrous results of modern séances are accepted, the more impossible it becomes, in such a far-seeing and such a silly world of demons, to find any sort of test for Spirit-Identity. As to facts my mind is, and always has been, perfectly open. It is the irrational conclusions of the spiritualist that I reject with disgust. They strike me as the expression of, and the excuse for, a discreditable superstition.
- The reader, who desires to follow out this point, must be referred to Hegel’s Phänomenologie, 449-460.
- I have said nothing about the argument based on our desire to meet once more those whom we have loved. No one can have been so fortunate as never to have felt the grief of parting, or so inhuman as not to have longed for another meeting after death. But no one, I think, can have reached a certain time of life, without finding, more or less, that such desires are inconsistent with themselves. There are partings made by death, and, perhaps, worse partings made by life; and there are partings which both life and death unite in veiling from our eyes. And friends that have buried their quarrel in a woman’s grave, would they at the Resurrection be friends? But, in any case, the desire can hardly pass as a serious argument. The revolt of modern Christianity against the austere sentence of the Gospel (Matt. xxii. 30) is interesting enough. One feels that a personal immortality would not be very personal, if it implied mutilation of our affections. There are those too who would not sit down among the angels, till they had recovered their dog. Still this general appeal to the affections—the only appeal as to future life which to me individually is not hollow—can hardly be turned into a proof.