Infomotions, Inc.Humanism, philosophical essays. / Schiller, F. C. S. (Ferdinand Canning Scott), 1864-1937

Author: Schiller, F. C. S. (Ferdinand Canning Scott), 1864-1937
Title: Humanism, philosophical essays.
Publisher: London, Macmillan, 1912.
Tag(s): pessimism; lotze, hermann, 1817-1881; devil; philosophy, english 20th century; goethe, johann wolfgang von, 1749-1832. faust; immortality; kant, immanuel, 1724-1804; humanism; evolution; truth; reality; ethical; philosophy; ultimate
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LONDON : SIMPKIN, MARSHALL & CO. 1908. is. net. 




F. c. s. SCHILLER, M.A., D.SC. 







First Edition, 1903 
Second Edition, 1912 







THAT a new edition of Humanism has not appeared 
simultaneously with that of Studies in Humanism is due 
to the facts that both volumes could not be passed 
through the press together, and that Humanism needed 
rather more revision. I have also taken the opportunity 
of enlarging it by the addition of four papers published 
between 1907-9, which seemed congruous with its subject. 
They have been inserted after Essay XII in order to 
produce a minimum of dislocation in the old order. 

The only other point to which attention need be 
drawn in this Preface is that its forerunner in the first 
edition has not been found to prophesy falsely. The 
prediction that Protagoras would be found on re-examina 
tion to hold his own against Plato (p. xxi of this edition) 
has been fulfilled in Essays II and XIII-XV of Studies 
ft in Humanism, the pamphlet on Plato or Protagoras ? 
and articles in Mind Nos. 68 and 78. The prediction 
(p. x, p. xiv/i of this edition) that Pragmatism would be 
found to be primarily a criticism of the traditional Logic 
and the promise of a reformed Logic, has been to some 
extent fulfilled in my Formal Logic (1912), though a 
complete systematic exposition of the Logic of Real 
Knowing has not yet appeared, and meantime the two 
Humanism volumes together with Axioms as Postulates 
must be regarded as containing aspirations towards it. 

Lastly, it may be noted that the choice of the word 


Humanism as expressive of what is the most distinctive 
novelty in the Pragmatic Movement has been vindicated 
not only by the copious misunderstandings to which the 
obscurity and clumsiness of the word have exposed 
Pragmatism/ and by the confirmation of the ancient 
Humanism of Protagoras, but also, quite specifically, by 
the criticisms of Formal Logic. It has there been shown, 
by a systematic examination of the traditional Logic/ 
that at no point do its doctrines escape from the fatal 
dilemma either verbalism or psychology/ until it is con 
fessed that its fundamental presupposition is to abstract 
from meaning altogether. It follows that it is in fact 
impossible to abstract from the human aspect of know 
ing, and to dehumanize Logic. Expellas hominem logica, 
tamen usque recurret. The effort to do so only ends by 
making Logic meaningless and worthless, and further 
refutes itself by rendering the traditional Logic, even 
formally, self-contradictory, because after all it is not 
openly admitted to be, what in fact it is, viz., in the 
strictest sense, nonsense. 

OXFORD, June 1912. 


THE appearance of this volume demands more than the 
usual amount of apology. For the philosophic public, 
which makes up for the scantiness of its numbers by the 
severity of its criticism, might justly have expected me to 
follow up the apparently novel and disputable position I 
had taken up in my contribution to Personal Idealism 
with a systematic treatise on the logic of Pragmatism. 
And no doubt if it had rested with me to transform wishes 
into thoughts and thoughts into deeds without restrictions 
of time and space, I should willingly have expanded my 
sketch in Axioms as Postulates into a full account of the 
beneficent simplification of the whole theory of knowledge 
which must needs result from the adoption of the principles 
I had ventured to enunciate. But the work of a college 
tutor lends itself more easily to the conception than to the 
composition of a systematic treatise, and so for the present 
the philosophic public will have to wait. 

The general public, on the other hand, it seemed more 
feasible to please by an altogether smaller and more 
practicable undertaking, viz., by republishing from various 
technical journals, where conceivably the philosophic public 
had already read them, the essays which compose the bulk 
of this volume. I have, however, taken the opportunity 
to add several new essays, partly because they happened 
to be available, partly because they seemed to be needed 


to complete the doctrine of the rest. And the old material 
also has been thoroughly revised and considerably aug 
mented. So that I am not without hopes that the 
collection, though discontinuous in form, will be found to 
be coherent in substance, and to present successive aspects 
of a fairly systematic body of doctrine. To me at least 
it has seemed that, when thus taken collectively, these 
essays not only reinforced my previous contentions, but 
even supplied the ground for a further advance of the 
greatest importance. 

It is clear to all who have kept in touch with the 
pulse of thought that we are on the brink of great events 
in those intellectual altitudes which a time-honoured satire 
has described as the intelligible world. The ancient 
shibboleths encounter open yawns and unconcealed deri 
sion. The rattling of dry bones can no longer fascinate 
respect nor plunge a self-suggested horde of fakirs in 
hypnotic stupor. The agnostic maunderings of impotent 
despair are flung aside with a contemptuous smile by the 
young, the strong, the virile. And there is growing up a 
reasonable faith that even the highest peaks of speculation 
may prove accessible to properly-equipped explorers, while 
what seemed so unapproachable was nothing but a cloud- 
land of confused imaginings. Among the more marked 
symptoms that the times are growing more propitious to 
new philosophic enterprise, I would instance the conspicuous 
success of Mr. Balfour s Foundations of Belief ; the magnifi 
cent series of William James s popular works, The Will to 
Believe, Human Immortality, and The Varieties of Religious 
Experience ; James Ward s important Gifford Lectures on 
Naturalism and Agnosticism ; the emergence from Oxford, 
where the idealist enthusiasm of thirty years ago long 
seemed to have fossilized into sterile logic-chopping or to 
have dissolved into Bradleian scepticism, of so audacious a 
manifesto as Personal Idealism ; and most recently, but not 



least full of future promise, the work of the energetic 
Chicago School headed by Professor Dewey. 1 It seemed 
therefore not impolitic, and even imperative, to keep up 
the agitation for a more hopeful and humaner view of 
metaphysics, and at the same time to herald the coming 
of what will doubtless be an epochmaking work, viz. 
William James s promised Metaphysics. 


The origin of great truths, as of great men, is usually 
obscure, and by the time that the world has become 
cognizant of them and interested in their pedigree, they 
have usually grown old. It is not surprising therefore 
that the central thought of our present Pragmatism, to wit 
the purposiveness of our thought and the teleological 
character of its methods, should have been clearly stated 
by Professor James so long ago as iS/p. 2 Similarly I 
was surprised to find that I had all along been a pragma- 
tist myself without knowing it, and that little but the 
name was lacking to my own advocacy of an essentially 
cognate position in iSg2. 3 

But Pragmatism is no longer unobserved ; it has by 
this time reached the Strike, but hear me ! stage, and 
as the misconceptions due to sheer unfamiliarity are 
refuted or abandoned it will rapidly enter on the era 
of profitable employment. It was this latter probability 
which formed one of my chief motives for publishing 

1 They have published a number of articles in the Decennial Publications of 
the University ; their Studies in Logical Theory are announced, but have not yet 
reached me. Though proceeding from a different camp, the works of Dr. J. E. 
MacTaggart and Prof. G. H. Howison should also be alluded to as adding to 
the salutary ferment. For while ostensibly (and indeed ostentatiously) employing 
the methods of the old a priori dogmatism they have managed to reverse its 
chief conclusions, in a charming but somewhat perplexing way. I have on pur 
pose confined this enumeration to the English-speaking world ; but in France 
and even in Germany somewhat similar movements are becoming visible. 

2 In his Sentiment of Rationality in Mind, O.S. No. 15. 

3 In Reality and Idealism. Cp. pp. 119-121. 


these essays. The practical advantages of the prag- 
matist method are so signal, the field to be covered 
is so immense, and the reforms to be effected are so 
sweeping, that I would fain hasten the acceptance of 
so salutary a philosophy, even at the risk of prematurely 
flinging these informal essays, as forlorn hopes, against 
the strongholds of inveterate prejudice. It is in the hope 
therefore that I may encourage others to co-operate and 
to cultivate a soil which promises such rich returns of 
novel truth, that I will indicate a number of important 
problems which seem to me urgently to demand treatment 
by pragmatic methods. 

I will put first a reform of Logic. Logic hitherto has 
attempted to be a pseudo-science of a non-existent and 
impossible process called pure thought. Or at least we 
have been ordered in its name to expunge from our think 
ing every trace of feeling, interest, desire, and emotion, as 
the most pernicious sources of error. 

It has not been thought worthy of consideration that 
these influences are the sources equally of all truth and 
all-pervasive in our thinking. The result has been that 
logic has been rendered nothing but a systematic mis 
representation of our actual thinking. It has been made 
abstract and wantonly difficult, an inexhaustible source 
of mental bewilderment, but impotent to train the mind 
and to trace its actual workings, by being assiduously kept 
apart from the psychology of concrete thinking. Yet a 
reverent study of our minds actual procedures might have 
been a most precious aid to the self-knowledge of the 
intellect. To justify in full these strictures (from which 
a few only of modern logicians, notably Professors 
Sigwart and Wundt, and Mr. Alfred Sidgwick, 1 can be 
more or less exempted) would be a long and arduous 

1 Whose writings, by reason perhaps of the ease of their style, have not 
received from the experts the attention they deserve. 



undertaking. Fortunately, however, a single illustration 
may suffice to indicate the sort of difference Pragmatism 
would introduce into the traditional maltreatment. 

Let us consider a couple of actual, and probably 
familiar, modes of reasoning, (i) The world is so bad 
that there must be a better ; (2) the world is so bad that 
there cannot be a better. It will probably be admitted 
that both of these are common forms of argumentation, 
and that neither is devoid of logical force, even though 
in neither case does it reach demonstration. And yet 
the two reasonings flatly contradict each other. Now 
my suggestion is that this contradiction is not verbal, 
but deep-rooted in the conflicting versions of the nature 
of thought which they severally exemplify. The second 
argument alone it would seem could claim to be strictly 
logical. For it alone seems to conform to the canons of 
the logical tradition which conceives reasoning as the 
product of a pure thought untainted by volition. And 
as in our theoretical reflections we can all disregard the 
psychological conditions of actual thinking to the extent 
of selecting examples in which we are interested merely 
as examples, we can all appreciate its abstract cogency. 
In arguing from a known to an unknown part of the 
universe, it is logical to be guided by the indications 
given by the former. If the known is a fair sample of 
the whole, how can the conclusion be otherwise than 
sound ? At all events how can the given nature of the 
known form a logical ground for inferring in the unknown 
a complete reversal of its characteristics ? 

Yet this is precisely what the first argument 
called for. Must not this be called the illogical caprice 
of an irrational desire ? By no means. It is the 
intervention of an emotional postulate which takes the 
first step in the acquisition of new knowledge. But for 
its beneficent activity we should have acquiesced in our 


ignorance. But once an unknown transfiguration of the 
actual is desired, it can be sought, and so, in many cases, 
found. The passionless concatenations of a pure 
thought never could have reached, and still less have 
justified, our conclusion : to attain it our thought needs 
to be impelled and guided by the promptings of volition 
and desire. 

Now that such ways of reasoning are not infrequent 
and not unsuccessful, will, I fancy, hardly be denied. 
Indeed if matters were looked into it would turn out 
that reasonings of the second type never really occur 
in actual knowing, and that when they seem to do so, 
we have only failed to detect the hidden interest which 
incites the reason to pretend to be dispassionate. In 
the example chosen, e.g., it may have been a pessimist s 
despair that clothed itself in the habiliments of logic, or 
it may have been merely stupidity and apathy, a 
want of imagination and enterprise in questioning nature. 
But, it may be said, the question of the justification 
de jure of what is done de facto still remains. The votary 
of an abstract logic may indignantly exclaim Shall I 
lower my ideal of pure thought because there is little 
or no pure thinking ? Shall I abandon Truth, immutable, 
eternal, sacred Truth, as unattainable, and sanction as 
her substitute a spurious concretion of practical ex 
perience, on the degrading plea that it is what we need 
to live by, and all we need to live by? Shall I, in 
other words, abase myself? No! Perish the thought! 
Perish the phenomenal embodiment of Pure Reason out 
of Time and Place (which I popularly term "myself") 
rather than that the least abatement should be made 
from the rigorous requirements of my theory of Thought ! 

Strong emotional prejudices are always hard to 
reason with, especially when, as here, their nature is so 
far misconceived that they are regarded as the revelations 


of Pure Reason. Still, in some cases, the desire for 
knowledge may prove stronger than the attachment to 
habitual modes of thought, and so it may not be wholly 
fruitless to point out (i) that our objections are in no 
wise disposed of by vague charges of a confusion of 
psychology and logic ; (2) that the canons of right 
Thought must, even from the most narrowly logical of 
standpoints, be brought into some relation to the pro 
cedures of actual thinking ; (3) that in point of fact the 
former are derived from the latter ; (4) that if so, our 
first mode of reasoning must receive logical recognition, 
because (5) it is not only usual, but useful in the dis 
covery of Truth ; (6) that a process which yields 
valuable results must in some sense be valid, and (7) 
that, conversely, an ideal of validity which is not realizable 
is not valid, even as an ideal. In short, how can a logic 
which professes to be the theory of thought set aside as 
irrelevant a normal feature of our thinking ? And if it can 
not, is it not evident that, when reformed by Pragmatism, 
it must assume a very different complexion, more natural 
and clearer, than while its movements were shackled by 
the conventions of a strait-laced Intellectualism ? 

Secondly, Pragmatism would find an almost in 
exhaustible field of exploration in the sciences, by 
examining the multifarious ways in which their truths 
have come to be established, and showing how the 
practical value of scientific conceptions has accelerated 
and decided their acceptance. Nor is it over-sanguine 
to suppose that a clearer consciousness of the actual 
procedure of the sciences will also lead to the critical 
rejection of notions which are not needed, and are not 
useful, and facilitate the formation of new conceptions 
which are needed. 1 

1 Most opportunely for my argument the kind of transformation of our 
scientific ideas which Pragmatism will involve has received the most copious and 
admirable illustration in Professor Ostwald s great Naturphilosophie. Professor 



In the field of Ethics Pragmatism naturally demands 
to know what is the actual use of the ethical principles 
which are handed on from one text-book to another. 
But it speedily discovers that no answer is forthcoming. 
Next to nothing is known about the actual efficacy of 
ethical principles : Ethics is a dead tradition which has 
very little relation to the actual facts of moral sentiment. 
And the reason obviously is that there has not been a 
sufficient desire to know to lead to the proper researches 
into the actual psychological nature and distribution of 
the moral sentiments. Hence there is implicit in 
Pragmatism a demand for an inquiry to ascertain the 
actual facts, and pending this inquiry, for a truce to the 
sterile polemic about ethical principles. In the end this 
seems not unlikely to result in a real revival of Ethics. 

If finally we turn to a region which the vested 
interests of time-honoured organizations, the turbid 
complications of emotion, and a formalism that too often 
merges in hypocrisy, must always render hard of access 
to a sincere philosophy, and consider the attitude of 
Pragmatism towards the religious side of life, we shall 
find once more that it has a most important bearing. 
For in principle Pragmatism overcomes the old antithesis 
of Faith and Reason. It shows on the one hand that 
Faith must underlie all Reason and pervade it, nay, 
that at bottom rationality itself is the supremest postulate 
of Faith. Without Faith, therefore, there can be no 
Reason, and initially the demands of Faith must be as 
legitimate and essentially as reasonable as those of the 
Reason they pervade. On the other hand, it enables 
us to draw the line between a genuine and a spurious 
Faith. The spurious faith, which too often is all 
theologians take courage to aspire to, is merely the 

Ostwald is not a professional philosopher at all, but a chemist, and has very 
likely never heard of Pragmatism ; but he sets forth the pragmatist procedure 
of the sciences in a perfectly masterly way. 



smoothing over of an unfaced scepticism, or at best a 
pallid fungus that, lurking in the dark recesses of the 
mind, must shun the light of truth and warmth of action. 
In contrast with it a genuine faith is an ingredient in 
the growth of knowledge. It is ever realizing itself in 
the knowledge that it needs and seeks to help it on to 
further conquests. It aims at its natural completion in 
what we significantly call the making true or verification, 
and in default of this must be suspected as mere make- 
believe. And so the identity of method in Science and 
Religion is far more fundamental than their difference. 
Both rest on experience and aim at its interpretation : both 
proceed by postulation ; and both require their anticipa 
tions to be verified. The difference lies only in the mode 
and extent of their verifications : the former must doubtless 
differ according to the nature of the subject ; the latter 
has gone much further in the case of Science, perhaps 
merely because there has been so much less persistence 
in attempts at the systematic verification of religious 


It is clear, therefore, that Pragmatism is able to 
propound an extensive programme of reforms to be 
worked out by its methods. But even Pragmatism is not 
the final term of philosophic innovation : there is yet a 
greater and more sovereign principle now entering the 
lists of which it can only claim to have been the fore 
runner and vicegerent. This principle also has long been 
working in the minds of men, dumb, unnamed and 
unavowed. But the time seems ripe now formally to 
name it, and to let it loose in order that it may receive 
its baptism of fire. 

I propose, accordingly, to convert to the use of 
philosophic terminology a word which has long been 


famed in history and literature, and to denominate 
HUMANISM the attitude of thought which I know to be 
habitual in William James and in myself, which seems to 
be sporadic and inchoate in many others, and which is 
destined, I believe, to win the widest popularity. There 
would indeed be no flavour of extravagance and paradox 
about this last suggestion, were it not that the professional 
study of Philosophy has so largely fallen into the hands 
of recluses who have lost all interest in the practical 
concerns of humanity, and have rendered philosophy like 
unto themselves, abstruse, arid, abstract and abhorrent. 
But in itself there is no reason why this should be the 
character of philosophy. The final theory of life ought 
to be every man s concern, and if we can dispel the notion 
that the tiresome technicalities of philosophy lead to 
nothing of the least practical interest, it yet may be. 
There is ground, then, for the hope that the study of a 
humaner philosophy may prove at least as profitable and 
enjoyable as that of the humaner letters. 

In all but name Humanism has long been in existence. 
Years ago I described one of its most precious texts, 
William James s Will to Believe} as a " declaration of the 
independence of the concrete whole of man with all his 
passions and emotions unexpurgated, directed against 
the cramping rules and regulations by which the Brahmins 
of the academic caste are tempted to impede the free 
expansion of human life," and as " a most salutary 
doctrine to preach to a biped oppressed by many 
-ologies, like modern man, and calculated to allay his 
growing doubts whether he has a responsible personality 
and a soul and conscience of his own, and is not a mere 
phantasmagoria of abstractions, a transient complex of 
shadowy formulas that Science calls the laws of nature. " 
Its great lesson was, I held, that " there are not really 

1 In reviewing it for Mind in October 1897 (N.S. No. 24, p. 548). 


any eternal and non-human truths to prohibit us from 
adopting the beliefs we need to live by, nor any infallible 
a priori tests of truth to screen us from the consequences 
of our choice." Similarly Professor James, in reviewing 
Personal Idealism?- pointed out that " a re-anthropo 
morphized universe is the general outcome of its philo 
sophy." Only for re-anthropomorphized we should hence 
forth read re-humanized, Anthropomorphism is a term 
of disparagement whose dyslogistic usage it may prove 
difficult to alter. 2 Moreover, it is clumsy, and can hardly 
be extended so as to cover what I mean by Humanism. 
There is no need to disclaim the truth of which it is the 
adumbration, and a non-anthropomorphic thought is sheer 
absurdity ; but still what we need is something wider and 
more vivid. 

Similarly I would hint at affinities with the great 
saying of Protagoras, that Man is the Measure of all 
things. Fairly interpreted, this is the truest and most 
important thing that any thinker ever has propounded. 
It is only in travesties such as it suited Plato s dialectic 
purpose to circulate that it can be said to tend to 
scepticism ; in reality it urges Science to discover how 
Man may measure, and by what devices make concordant 
his measures with those of his fellow-men. Now measure 
ment is that in which ancient science failed. Protagoras 
alone demanded it, and Humanism need not cast about 
for any sounder or more convenient starting-point. 

For in every philosophy we must take some things for 
granted. Humanism, like Common Sense, of which it 
may fairly claim to be the philosophic working out, takes 
Man for granted as he stands, and the world of man s 
experience as it has come to seem to him. This is the 
only natural starting-point, from which we can proceed in 

1 Mind for January 1903 (N.S. No. 45, p. 94). 

2 I tried to do this in Riddles of the Sphinx, ch. v. 9 12 - But ! now think 
the term needs radical re-wording. 


every direction, and to which we must return, enriched 
and with enhanced powers over our experience, from all 
the journeyings of Science. Of course this frank, though 
not therefore uncritical, acceptance of our immediate 
experience and experienced self will seem a great deal to 
be granted by those addicted to abstruser methods. 
They have dreamt for ages of a priori philosophies 
without presuppositions or assumptions, whereby Being 
might be conjured out of Nothing and the sage might 
penetrate the secret of creative power. But no obscurity 
of verbiage has in the end succeeded in concealing the 
utter failure of such preposterous attempts. The a priori 
philosophies have all been found out. 

And what is worse, have they not all been detected in 
doing what they pretended to disclaim ? Do they not 
all take surreptitiously for granted the human nature 
they pride themselves on disavowing? Are they not 
trying to solve human problems with human faculties ? 
It is true that in form they claim to transcend our nature, 
or to raise it to the superhuman. But while they profess 
to exalt human nature, they are really mutilating it all 
for the kingdom of Abstraction s sake ! For what are 
their professed starting-points, Pure Being, the Idea, the 
Absolute, the Universal I, but pitiable abstractions from 
experience, mutilated shreds of human nature, whose real 
value for the understanding of life is easily outweighed 
by the living experience of an honest man ? 

All these theories then de facto start from the im 
mediate facts of our experience. Only they are ashamed 
of it, and assume without inquiry that it is worthless as a 
principle of explanation, and that no thinker worthy of 
the name can tolerate the thought of expressly setting 
out from anything so vulgar. Thus, so far from assum 
ing less than the humanist, these speculations really must 
assume a great deal more. They must assume, in 

PREFACE xxiii 

addition to ordinary human nature, their own met- 
empirical starting-points and the correctness (always 
more than dubious) of the deductions whereby they have 
de facto reached them. 

Do you propose then to accept as sacrosanct the 
gross unanalysed conceptions of crude Common Sense, 
and to exempt them from all criticism ? No, I only 
propose to start with them, and to try and see whether 
we could not get as far with them as with any other, nay, 
as far as we may want to get. I have faith that the 
process of experience that has brought us to our present 
standpoint has not been wholly error and delusion, and 
may on the whole be trusted. And I am quite sure that, 
right or wrong, we have no other, and that it is e.g. 
grotesque extravagance to imagine that we can put our 
selves at the standpoint of the Absolute. I would 
protest, therefore, against every form of a priori meta 
physical criticism that condemns the results of our 
experience up to date as an illusory appearance without 
trial. For I hold that the only valid criticism they can 
receive must come in, and through, their actual use. It 
is just where and in so far as common-sense assumptions 
fail to work that we are theoretically justified, and 
practically compelled, to modify them. But in each such 
case sufficient reasons must be shown ; it is not enough 
merely to show that other assumptions can be made, and 
couched in technical language, and that our data are 
abstractly capable of different arrangements. There are, 
I am aware, infinite possibilities of conceptual re 
arrangement, but their discovery or construction is but 
a sort of intellectual game, and has no real importance. 

In point of method, therefore, Humanism is fully able 
to vindicate itself, and so we can now define it as the 
philosophic attitude which, without wasting thought upon 
attempts to construct experience a priori, is content to 


take human experience as the clue to the world of human 
experience, content to take Man on his own merits, just 
as he is to start with, without insisting that he must first 
be disembowelled of his interests and have his individu 
ality evaporated and translated into technical jargon, 
before he can be deemed deserving of scientific notice. 
To remember that Man is the measure of all things, i.e. 
of his whole experience-world, and that if our standard 
measure be proved false all our measurements are vitiated ; 
to remember that Man is the maker of the sciences 
which subserve his human purposes ; to remember that an 
ultimate philosophy which analyses us away is thereby 
merely exhibiting its failure to achieve its purpose, that, 
and more that might be stated to the same effect, is the real 
root of Humanism, whence all its auxiliary doctrines spring. 
It is a natural consequence, for instance, that, if the 
facts require it, " real possibilities, real indeterminations, 
real beginnings, real ends, real evil, real crises, catastrophes 
and escapes, a real God and a real moral life, just as 
common sense conceives these things, may remain in 
humanism as conceptions which philosophy gives up the 
attempt either to overcome or to reinterpret." ] And 
whether or not Humanism will have to recognize the 
ultimate reality of all the gloomier possibilities of James s 
enumeration, it may safely be predicted that its radical 
empiricism will grant to the possibilities of pluralism a 
more careful and unbiassed inquiry than monistic pre 
conceptions have as yet deigned to bestow upon them. 
For seeing that man is a social being it is natural that 
Humanism should be hospitable to the view that the 
universe is ultimately a joint-stock affair. And again, 
it will receive with appropriate suspicion all attempts to 
explain away the human personality which is the formal 

1 James, Will to Believe (p. ix. ). I have substituted humanism for 



and efficient and final cause of all explanation, and 
will rather welcome it in its un mutilated, undistorted 
immediacy as (though in an uncongenial tongue) the a 
priori condition of all knowledge. And so it will approve 
of that personal idealism which strives to redeem the 
spiritual values an idealistic absolutism has so treacher 
ously sold into the bondage of naturalism. 

With Common Sense it will ever keep in touch by 
dint of refusing to value or validate the products of merely 
speculative analyses, void of purpose and of use, which 
betoken merely a power to play with verbal phrases. Thus 
Humanism will derive, combine and include all the doctrines 
which may be treated as anticipations of its attitude. 

For Pragmatism itself is in the same case with Personal 
Idealism, Radical Empiricism and Pluralism. It is in 
reality only the application of Humanism to the theory of 
knowledge. If the entire man, if human nature as a whole, 
be the clue to the theory of .all experience, then human 
purposiveness must irrigate the arid soil of logic. The 
facts of our thinking, freed from intellectualistic perver 
sions, will clearly show that we are not dealing with abstract 
concatenations of purely intellectual processes, but with 
the rational aims of personal thinkers. Great, therefore, 
as will be the value we must claim for Pragmatism as a 
method, we must yet concede that man is greater than 
any method he has made, and that our Humanism must 
interpret it. 


It is a well-known fact that things are not only known 
by their affinities but also by their opposites. And the 
fitness of the term Humanism for our philosophic purpose 
could hardly better be displayed than by the ready 
transfer of its old associations to a novel context. 

A humanist philosopher is sure to be keenly interested 


in the rich variety of human thought and sentiment, 
and unwilling to ignore the actual facts for the sake of 
bolstering up the narrow abstractions of some a priori 
theory of what all men must think and feel under penalty 
of scientific reprobation. The humanist, accordingly, will 
tend to grow humane, and tolerant of the divergences of 
attitude which must inevitably spring from the divergent 
idiosyncrasies of men. Humanism, therefore, will still 
remain opposed to Barbarism. But Barbarism may show 
itself in philosophy in a double guise, as barbarism of 
temper and as barbarism of style. Both are human 
defects which to this day remain too common among 
philosophers. The former displays itself in the inveterate 
tendency to sectarianism and intolerance, in spite of the 
discredit which the history of philosophy heaps upon it. 
For what could be more ludicrous than to keep up the 
pretence that all must own the sway of some absolute 
and unquestionable creed ? Does not every page of 
every philosophic history teem with illustrations that a 
philosophic system is an unique and personal achievement 
of which not even the servilest discipleship can transfuse 
the full flavour into another s soul ? Why should we 
therefore blind ourselves to the invincible individuality of 
philosophy, and deny each other the precious right to 
behold reality each at the peculiar angle whence he sees 
it ? Why, when others cannot and will not see as we 
do, should we lose our temper and the faith that the 
heavenly harmony can only be achieved by a multi 
tudinous symphony in which each of the myriad centres 
of experience sounds its own concordant note ? 

As for barbarism of style, that too is ever rampant, 
even though it no longer reaches the colossal heights 
attained by Kant and Hegel. If Humanism can restore 
against such forces the lucid writing of the older English 
style, it will make Philosophy once more a subject gentle- 



men can read with pleasure. And it can at least contend 
that most of the technicalities which disfigure philosophic 
writings are totally unneeded, and that the stringing 
together of abstractions is both barbarous and dangerous. 
Pedagogically it is barbarous, because it nauseates the 
student, and because abstract ideas need to be illumined 
by concrete illustrations to fix them in the mind : logic 
ally it is dangerous, because abstractions mostly take 
the form of worn-out metaphors which are like sunken 
rocks in navigation, so that there is no more fatal cause 
of error and deception than the trust in abstract dicta 
which by themselves mean nothing, and whose real meaning 
lies in the applications, which are not supplied. 

In history, however, the great antithesis has been be 
tween Humanism and Scholasticism. This also we may 
easily adopt, without detracting from its force. For 
Scholasticism is still one of the great facts in human 
nature, and a fundamental foible of the learned world. 
Now, as ever, it is a spirit of sterilizing pedantry that avoids 
beauty, dreads clearness and detests life and grace, a spirit 
that grovels in muddy technicality, buries itself in the 
futile burrowings of valueless researches, and conceals it 
self from human insight by the dust-clouds of desiccated 
rubbish which it raises. Unfortunately the scholastic 
temper is one which their mode of life induces in pro 
fessors as easily as indigestion, and frequently it renders 
them the worst enemies of their subjects. This is deplor 
able but might be counteracted, were it not thought 
essential to a reputation for scientific profundity at least 
to seem scholastic. Humanism therefore has before it an 
arduous fight with the Dragon of Scholasticism, which, 
as it were, deters men from approaching the golden apples 
that cluster on the tree of knowledge in the garden of 
the Hesperides. 

And lastly, may we not emphasize that the old associ- 

xxviii HUMANISM 

ations of the word would still connect with Humanism a 
Renascence of Philosophy ? And shall we not accept this 
reminiscence as an omen for the future ? For it is clear, 
assuredly, that Philosophy has still to be born again to 
enter on her kingdom, and that her votaries must still be 
born again to purge their systems of the taint of an 
inveterate barbarism. But some of these suggestions 
verge, perhaps, upon the fanciful : it suffices to have shown 
that Humanism makes a good name for the views I seek 
to label thus, and that in such extension of its meaning 
its old associations lose no force but rather gain a subtler 

To claim that in its philosophic use Humanism may 
retain its old associations is not, however, to deny that 
it must enter also into new relations. It would be vain, 
for instance, to attempt concealment of the fact that to 
Naturalism and Absolutism its antagonism is intrinsic. 
Naturalism is valid enough and useful as a method of 
tracing the connexions that permeate reality from the 
lowest to the highest level : but when taken as the last 
word of philosophy it subjects the human to the arbitra 
ment of its inferior. Absolutism, on the other hand, 
cherishes ambitions to attain the superhuman ; but, rather 
than admit its failure, it deliberately prefers to delude 
itself with shadows, and to reduce concrete reality to the 
illusory adumbration of a phantom Whole. The difference 
thus is this, that whereas Naturalism is worthy of respect 
for the honest work it does, and has a real use as a partial 
method in subordination to the whole, Absolutism has no 
use, and its explanatory value is nothing but illusion. 
As compared with these, Humanism will pursue the 
middle path ; it will neither reject ideals because they 
are not realized, nor yet despise the actual because it can 
conceive ideals. It will not think the worst of Nature, 
but neither will it trust an Absolute beyond its ken. 



I am well aware that the ideas of which the preceding 
pages may have suggested the barest outline are capable 
of endless working out and illustration. And though I 
believe myself to have made no assertion that could not 
be fully vindicated if assailed, I realize most keenly that 
a complete statement of the Humanist position far tran 
scends, not only my own powers, but those of any single 
man. But I hoped that those who were disposed to sym 
pathy and open-mindedness would pardon the defects and 
overlook the gaps in this informal survey of a glorious 
prospect, while to those who are too imperviously encased 
in habit or in sloth, or too deeply severed from me by 
an alien idiosyncrasy, I knew that I could never hope to 
bring conviction, however much, nor to avoid offence, 
however little > I might try to say. And so I thought the 
good ship Humanism might sail on its adventurous quest 
for the Islands of the Blest with the lighter freight of these 
essays as safely and hopefully as with the heaviest cargo. 


OXFORD, August 1903. 





III. TRUTH ...... 44 

IV. LOTZE S MONISM ..... 62 


A PRIORI ..... 85 









XIV. SOLIPSISM ...... 249 





OF A FUTURE LIFE . . . - 35 1 

INDEX .... 375 



The place of Conduct in Philosophy : (a) The absolutist reduction of Conduct to 
appearance ; (b) the pragmatist reaction which makes conduct primary 
and thought secondary. Is Pragmatism irrationalism ? No, but it 
explains it by exposing the inadequacy of intellectualism. Ways of 
reaching Pragmatism (i) by justification of faith against reason, (2) 
historical, (3) evolutionary. The definition of Pragmatism. Its relation 
to psychological teleology. The supremacy of Good over True and 
Real. Kant s Copernican Revolution, and the complication of the 
question of reality with that of our knowledge. A further similar step 
necessitated by the purposiveness of actual knowing. The function of 
the will in cognition. Reality as the response to a will to know, and 
therefore dependent in part on our action. Consequently (i) reality 
cannot be indifferent to us ; (2) our relations to it quasi-personal ; (3) 
metaphysics quasi-ethical ; (4) Pragmatism as a tonic : the venture of 
faith and freedom ; (5) the moral stimulus of Pragmatism. 

WHAT has Philosophy to say of Conduct ? Shall it 
place it high or low, exalt it on a pedestal for the 

1 This essay, originally an Ethical Society address, is reprinted from the 
July 1903 number of the International Journal of Ethics with some additions, 
the chief of which is the note on pp. 11-12. Its title seems of course to put the 
cart before the horse, but it is easy to reply that nowadays it is no longer im 
practicable to use a motor car for the removal of a dead horse. The paradox 
is, moreover, intentional. It is a conscious inversion of the tedious and 
unprofitable disquisitions on the metaphysical basis of this, that, and the other, 
which an erroneous conception of philosophical method engenders. They are all 
wrong in method, because we have not de facto a science of first principles of 
unquestionable truth from which we can start to derive the principles of the 
special sciences. Plato certainly failed to deduce the principles of the sciences 
from his metaphysical Idea of Good, and it may be doubted whether any one 
has ever really deduced anything from metaphysics. The fact is rather that our 
first principles are postulated by the needs, and slowly secreted by the labours, of 
the special sciences, or of such preliminary exercises of our intelligence as build 
up the common-sense view of life. 

So what my title means is, not an attempt to rest the final synthesis 
upon a single science, but rather that among the contributions of the special 
sciences to the final evaluation of experience that of the highest, viz. ethics, has, 
and must have, decisive weight. 

I B 


adoration of the world or drag it in the mire to be 
trampled on by all superior persons ? Shall it equate 
it with the whole or value it as nought ? Philosophers 
have, of course, considered the matter, though not perhaps 
as carefully nor as successfully as they ought. And 
so the relations of the theory to the practice of life, 
of cognition to action, of the theoretical to the practical 
reason, form a difficult and complicated chapter in the 
history of thought. 1 From that history one fact, however, 
stands out clearly, viz. that the claims on both sides are 
so large and so insistent that it is hardly possible to 
compromise between them. The philosopher is not on 
the whole a lover of compromise, despite the solicitations 
of his lower nature. He will not, like the ordinary man 
of sense, subscribe to a plausible platitude like, e.g. 
Matthew Arnold s famous dictum that Conduct is three- 
fourths of Life. Matthew Arnold was not a philosopher, 
and the very precision of his formula arouses scientific 
suspicions. But anyhow the philosopher s imperious 
logic does not deal in quarters ; it is prone to argue aut 
Caesar aut nullus ; if Conduct be not the whole life, it is 
naught. Which therefore shall it be ? Shall Conduct be 
the substance of the All, or the vision of a dream ? 

Now, it would seem at first that latterly the second 
alternative had grown philosophically almost inevitable. 
For, under the auspices of the Hegelizing idealists, 
Philosophy has uplifted herself once more to a meta 
physical contemplation of the Absolute, of the unique 
Whole in which all things are included and tran 
scended. Now whether this conception has any logical 
meaning and value for metaphysics is a moot point, 
which I have elsewhere treated ; 2 but there can hardly 
be a pretence of denying that it is the death of morals. 
For the ideal of the Absolute Whole cannot be rendered 
compatible with the antithetical valuations which form 
the vital atmosphere of human agents. They are partial 

1 Cp. Essay ii. on Useless Knowledge for its treatment by Plato and 

2 Riddles of the Sphinx, ch. x. , Formal Logic, p. 129 n. 


appreciations, which vanish from the standpoint of the 
Whole. Without the distinctions of Good and Evil, 
Right and Wrong, Pleasure and Pain, Self and others, 
Then and Now, Progress and Decay, human life would 
be dissolved into the phantom flow of an unmean 
ing mirage. But in the Absolute the moral distinctions 
must, like all others, be swallowed up and disappear. 
The All is raised above all ethical valuation and moral 
criticism : it is beyond Good and Evil ; it is timelessly 
perfect, and therefore incapable of improvement. It 
transcends all our antitheses, because it includes them. 
And so to the metaphysician it seems an easy task to 
compose the perfection of the whole out of the imperfec 
tions of its parts : he has merely to declare that the point 
of view of human action, that of ethics, is not and cannot 
be final. It is an illusion which has grown transparent 
to the sage. So, in proportion as his insight into absolute 
reality grows clearer, his interest in ethics wanes. 

It must be confessed, moreover, that metaphysicians 
no longer shrink from this avowal. The typical leader 
of this philosophic fashion, Mr. F. H. Bradley, never 
attempts to conceal his contempt for ethical considera 
tions, nor omits a sneer at the pretensions of practice to 
be heard in the High Court of Metaphysics. " Make the 
moral point of view absolute," he cries, 1 " and then realize 
your position. You have become not merely irrational, 
but you have also broken with every considerable 

And this is how he dismisses the appeal to practice, 2 
" But if so, what, I may be asked, is the result in practice ? 
That I reply at once is not my business " ; it is merely 
a "hurtful 3 prejudice" if "irrelevant appeals to practical 
results are allowed to make themselves heard." 

Altogether nothing could be more pulverizing to 
ethical aspiration than chapter xxv. of Mr. Bradley s 
Appearance and Reality? 

1 Appearance and Reality , pp. 500-1. 2 Ibid. p. 450. 

3 But does not this "hurtful" reaffirm the ethical valuation. which Mr. Bradley 
is trying to exclude ? 

4 That such is the ethical purport of this philosophic teaching is confirmed by 


And the worst of it all is that this whole treatment of 
ethics follows logically and legitimately from the general 
method of philosophizing which conducts to the meta 
physical assumption of the Absolute. 

Fortunately, however, there appears to be a natural 
tendency when the consequences of a point of view have 
been stated without reserve, and become plain to the 
meanest intelligence, to turn round and try something 
fresh. By becoming openly immoralist, metaphysic has 
created a demand for its moral reformation. So, quite 
recently, there has become noticeable a movement in a 
diametrically opposite direction, which repudiates the 
assumptions and reverses the conclusions of the meta 
physical criticism of ethics which we have been considering. 
Instead of regarding contemplation of the Absolute as 
the highest form of human activity, it sets it aside as 
trivial and unmeaning, and puts purposeful action above 
purposeless speculation. Instead of supposing that Action 
is one thing and Thought something alien and other, and 
that there is not, therefore, any reason to anticipate that 
the pure contemplations of the latter will in any way 
relate to or sanction the principles which guide the 
former, it treats every judgment as an act and Thought 
as a mode of conduct, as an integral part of active 
life. Instead of regarding practical results as irrelevant, 
it makes Practical Value an essential ingredient and 
determinant of theoretic truth. And so far from admitting 
the claim to independence of an irresponsible intelligence, 
it regards knowledge as derivative from conduct and as 
involving distinctively moral qualities and responsibilities in 
a perfectly definite and traceable way. In short, instead 
of being reduced to the nothingness of an illusion, Con 
duct is reinstated as the all-controlling influence in every 
department of life. 

It may be admitted, however, that all effective ethical 
effort ultimately demands a definite attitude towards 

the ingenious but somewhat flippant exposition of the same doctrine in Prof. 
A. E. Taylor s Problem of Conduct. The real problem of this book would 
appear to be why any one should trouble about such a theoretic absurdity as 
morals at all. 


life as a whole, and it therefore becomes an urgent need 
to find a philosophy which will support, or at least will 
not paralyse, moral effort. The new method of philoso 
phizing will supply this desideratum in an almost perfect 
way. It has been called Pragmatism by the chief author 
of its importance, Professor William James, whose Varieties 
of Religious Experience so many others besides the pro 
fessional readers of philosophic literature have been 
enjoying. But the name in this case does even less 
than usual to explain the meaning, and as the nature of 
Pragmatism has been greatly and conspicuously misunder 
stood, we must try to put it in a clearer light. 

We may best begin by mentioning a few of the ways 
in which Pragmatism may be reached, before explaining 
how it should be defined. For many have conceived a 
considerable prejudice against it by reason of the method 
by which William James approached it 

James first unequivocally advanced the pragmatist 
doctrine in connexion with what he called the Will to 
believe. * Now this Will to believe was put forward as 
an intellectual right (in certain cases) to decide between 
alternative views, each of which seemed to make a 
legitimate appeal to our nature, by other than purely 
intellectual considerations, viz. their emotional interest and 
practical value. Although James laid down a number of 
conditions limiting the applicability of his Will-to-believe, 
the chief of which was the willingness to take the risks 
involved and to abide by the results of subsequent ex 
perience, it was not perhaps altogether astonishing that 
his doctrine should be decried as rank irrationalism. 

Irrationalism seemed a familiar and convenient label 
for the new doctrine. For irrationalism is a permanent 
or continually recrudescent attitude of the moral con 
sciousness, the persistent vogue of which it has always 
been hard to explain. It is ably and brilliantly 

1 He had, however, laid the foundation of his doctrine long before in an article 
in Mind (1879). And, though the name is new, anticipations of the thing run 
through the whole history of thought. Indeed, this was to be expected, seeing 
that the actual procedure of the human mind has always been (unconsciously) 


exemplified at the present day by Mr. Balfour s Founda 
tions of Belief, and, in a less defensible form, by Mr. 
Benjamin Kidd. And if, instead of denouncing it, we 
try to understand it, we shall not find that it is entirely 
absurd. At bottom indeed it indicates little more than a 
defect in the current rationalism, and a protest against 
the rationalistic blindness towards the non-intellectual 
factors in the foundation of beliefs. Common Sense 
has always shown a certain sympathy with all such 
protests against the pretensions of what is called the pure 
intellect to dictate to man s whole complex nature. It 
has always felt that there are reasons of the heart of 
which the head knows nothing, postulates of a faith that 
surpasses mere understanding, and that these possess a 
higher rationality which a bigoted intellectualism has 
failed to comprehend. 

If, then, one had to choose between Irrationalism and 
Intellectualism, the former would undoubtedly have to be 
preferred. It is less inadequate to life, a less violent 
departure from our actual behaviour, a less grotesque 
caricature of our actual procedure. Like Common Sense, 
therefore, Pragmatism sympathizes with Irrationalism in 
its blind revolt against the trammels of a pedantic In 
tellectualism. But Pragmatism does more ; it not only 
sympathizes, it explains. It vindicates the rationality of 
Irrationalism, without becoming itself irrational; it restrains 
the extravagance of Intellectualism, without losing faith 
in the intellect. 1 And it achieves this by instituting a new 
analysis of the common root both of the reason and of 
the emotional revulsion against its pride. By showing 
the pure reason to be a pure figment, and a psychological 
impossibility, and the real structure of the actual reason 
to be essentially pragmatical, and permeated through and 
through with acts of faith, desires to know and wills to 
believe, to disbelieve and to make believe, it renders 
possible, nay unavoidable, a reconciliation between a 
reason which is humanized and a faith which is rationalized 

1 This passage has actually been quoted by a critic as cogent evidence that 
Pragmatism is irrationalism ! Cp. Mind, No. 75, p. 431, and No. 71, p. 426. 


in the very process which shows their antithesis to be an 

That, however, Pragmatism should have begun by 
intervening in the ancient controversy between Reason 
and Faith was something of an accident. In itself it 
might equally well have been arrived at by way of a 
moral revolt from the unfruitful logic-chopping and aimless 
quibbling which is often held to be the sum total of 

Or again, it might be reached, most instructively, by a 
critical consideration of many historic views, notably those 
of Kant and Lotze, 1 and of the unsolved problems which 
they leave on our hands. Or, once more, by observing 
the actual procedure of the various sciences and their 
motives for accepting, maintaining, and modifying the 
truth of their various propositions, we may come to 
realize that what works best in practice is what in 
actual knowing we accept as true. 

But to me personally the straightest road to Pragmatism 
is one which the extremest prejudice can scarce suspect 
of truckling to the encroachments of theology. Instead 
of saying like James, so all-important is it to secure 
the right action that (in cases of real intellectual alter 
natives) it is lawful for us to adopt the belief most 
congenial with our spiritual needs and to try whether our 
faith will not make it come true, I should rather say the 
traditional notion of beliefs determined by pure reason 
alone is wholly incredible. For is not " pure " reason a 
myth ? How can there be such a thing ? How, that is, 
can we so separate our intellectual function from the whole 
complex of our activities, that it can operate in real in 
dependence of practical considerations ? I cannot but 
conceive the reason as being, like the rest of our equip 
ment, a weapon in the struggle for existence and a means 
of achieving adaptation. It must follow that the use, which 
has developed it, must have stamped itself upon its inmost 
structure, even if it has not moulded it out of pre-rational 

1 Or, as James suggested, and as Prof. A. W. Moore has actually done 
in the case of Locke (see his Functional versus the Representational Theory 
of Knowledge), by a critical examination of the English philosophers. 


instincts. In short, a reason which has not practical value 
for the purposes of life is a monstrosity, a morbid aberra 
tion or failure of adaptation, which natural selection must 
sooner or later wipe away. 

It is in some such way that I should prefer to pave the 
way for an appreciation of the aims of Pragmatism. 
Hence we may now venture to define it as the thorough 
recognition that the purposive character of mental life 
generally must influence and pervade also our most 
remotely cognitive activities. 1 

In other words, it is a conscious application to the 
theory of life of the psychological facts of cognition as 
they appear to a teleological Voluntarism. In the light 
of such a teleological psychology the problems of logic 
and metaphysics are rejuvenated by the decisive weight 
given to the conceptions of Purpose and End. Or 
again, it is a systematic protest against the practice 
of ignoring in our theories of Thought and Reality 
the purposiveness of all our actual thinking, and the 
relation of all our actual realities to the ends of our 
practical life. It is an assertion of the sway of human 
valuations over every region of our experience, and a denial 
that such valuation can validly be eliminated from the 
contemplation of any reality we know. 

Now inasmuch as such teleological valuation is also 
the special sphere of ethical inquiry, Pragmatism may be 
said to assign metaphysical validity to the typical method 
of ethics. At a blow it awards to the ethical conception 
of Good supreme authority over the logical conception of 
True and the metaphysical conception of Real. The 
Good becomes a determinant both of the True and of the 
Real, and their secret inspiration. For from the pursuit 
of the latter we may never eliminate the reference to the 
former. Our apprehension of the Real, our comprehension 
of the True, is always effected by beings who are aiming 
at the attainment of some Good, and choose between rival 
claimants to reality and truth according to the services 

1 For a further discussion of the definition of Pragmatism, cp. Studies in 
Humanism, Essay i., and my article in the Encycl. Britann. ed. xi. 


they render. Is it not then a palpable absurdity to deny 
that this fact makes a stupendous difference? 

Pragmatism then has taken a further step in the 
analysis of our experience which amounts to an important 
advance in that self-knowledge on which our knowledge 
of the world depends. Indeed, this advance seems to be 
of a magnitude comparable with, and no less momentous 
than, that which gave to the epistemological question 
priority over the ontological. 

It is generally recognized as the capital achievement 
of modern philosophy to have perceived that a solution 
of the ontological question What is Reality ? is not 
possible until it has been decided how Reality can come 
within our ken. Before there can be a real for us at all, 
the Real must be knowable, and the notion of an un 
knowable reality is useless, because it abolishes itself. 
The true formulation therefore of the ultimate question of 
metaphysics must become Wkat can I know as real? 
Thus the effect of what Kant (very infelicitously) called 
the Copernican Revolution in philosophy is that ontology, 
the theory of Reality, comes to be conditioned by epistem- 
ology, the theory of our knowledge. 

But this truth is incomplete until we realize all that is 
involved in the knowledge being ours and recognize the 
real nature of our knowing. Our knowing is not the 
mechanical operation of a passionless pure intellect, 

Grinds out Good and grinds out 111, 
And has no purpose, heart, or will. 

Pure intellection is not a fact in nature ; it is a logical 
fiction which will not really serve even the purposes of 
technical logic. In reality our knowing is driven and 
guided at every step by our subjective interests and 
preferences, our desires, our needs and our ends. These 
form the motive powers also of our intellectual life. 

Now what is the bearing of this fact on the traditional 
dogma of an absolute truth and ultimate reality existing 
for themselves apart from human agency ? It must 
utterly debar us from the cognition of Reality as it is in 


itself and apart from our interests ; if such a thing there 
were, it could not be known, nor rationally believed in. 

For our interests impose the conditions under which 
alone Reality can be revealed. Only such aspects of 
Reality can be revealed as are (i) knowable and 
(2) objects of an actual desire, and consequent attempt, 
to know. All other realities or aspects of Reality, which 
there is no attempt to know, necessarily remain unknown, 
and for us unreal, because there is no one to look for 
them. Reality, therefore, and the knowledge thereof, 
essentially presuppose a definitely directed effort to know. 
And, like other efforts, this effort is purposive ; it is neces 
sarily inspired by the conception of some good ( end ) 
at which it aims. Neither the question of Fact, therefore, 
nor the question of Knowledge can be raised without 
raising also the question of Value. Our Facts when 
analysed turn out to be Values, and the conception of 
Value therefore becomes more ultimate than that of 
Fact Our valuations thus pervade our whole experience, 
and affect whatever fact, whatever knowledge we 
consent to recognize. If, then, there is no knowing without 
valuing, if knowledge is a form of Value, or, in other 
words, a factor in a Good, Lotze s anticipation * has 
been fully realized, and the foundations of metaphysics 
have actually been found to lie in ethics. 

In this way the ultimate question for philosophy 
becomes What is Reality for one aiming at knowing 
what ? Real means, real for what purpose ? to what 
end ? in what use ? in what context ? in preference to 
what alternative belief? The answers always come Tin 
terms of the will to know which puts the question. This 
at once yields a simple and beautiful explanation of the 
different accounts of Reality which are given in the 
various sciences and philosophies. The purpose of the 
questions being different, so is their purport, and so must 
be the answers. For the direction of our effort, itself 
determined by our desires and will to know, enters as a 
necessary and ineradicable factor into whatever revelation 

1 Metaphysics (Eng. Tr. ), ii. p. 319. 


of Reality we can attain. The response to our questions 
is always affected by their character, and that is in our 
power. For the initiative throughout is ours. It is for us 
to consult the oracle of Nature or to refrain ; it is for us 
to formulate our demands and to put our questions. If 
we question amiss, Nature will not respond, and we 
must try again. But we can never be entitled to assume 
either that our action makes no difference or that nature 
contains no answer to a question we have never thought 
to put. 1 

It is no exaggeration therefore to contend, with Plato, 
that in a way the Good, meaning thereby the conception 
of a final systematization of our purposes, is the supreme 
controlling power in our whole experience, and that in 
abstraction from it neither the True nor the Real can 
exist. For whatever forms of the latter we may have 
discovered, some purposive activity, some conception of 
a good to be attained, was involved as a condition of the 

1 That the Real has a determinate nature which the knowing reveals but does 
not affect, so that our knowing makes no difference to it, is one of those sheer 
assumptions which are incapable, not only of proof, but even of rational defence. 
It is a survival of a crude realism which can be defended only, in a pragmatist 
manner, on the score of its practical convenience, as an avowed fiction. In this 
sense and as a mode of speech, we need not quarrel with it. But as an ultimate 
analysis of the fact of knowing it is an utterly gratuitous interpretation. The 
plain fact is that we can come into contact with any sort of reality only in 
the act of knowing or experiencing it. As unknowable, therefore, the Real 
is nil, as unknown, it is only potentially real. What is there in this situation to 
sanction the assumption that what the Real is in the act of knowing, it is also 
outside that relation? One might as well argue that because an orator is 
eloquent in the presence of an audience, he is no less voluble in addressing 
himself. The simple fact is that we know the Real as it is when we know it ; 
we know nothing whatever about what it is apart from that process. It is 
meaningless therefore to inquire into its nature as it is in itself. And I can see 
no reason why the view that reality exhibits a rigid nature unaffected by our 
treatment should be deemed theoretically more justifiable than its converse, 
that it is utterly plastic to our every demand a travesty of Pragmatism which 
has attained much popularity with its critics. The actual situation is of course 
a case of interaction, a process of cognition in which the subject and the 
object determine each the other, and both we and reality are involved, 
and, we might add, evolved. There is no warrant therefore for the assumption 
that either of the poles between which the current passes could be suppressed 
without detriment. What we ought to say is that when the mind knows 
reality both are affected, just as we say that when a stone falls to the ground 
both it and the earth are attracted. 

We are driven, then, to the conviction that the determinate nature of reality 
does not subsist outside or beyond the process of knowing it. It is merely 
a half-understood lesson of experience that we have enshrined in the belief that it 
does so subsist. Things behave in similar ways in their reaction to modes 


discovery. If there had been no activity on our part, or 
if that activity had been directed to ends other than it 
was, there could not have been discovery, or that discovery. 

We must discard, therefore, the notion that in the 
constitution of the world we count for nothing, that it 
matters not what we do, because Reality is what it is, 
whatever we may do. It is true on the contrary that our 
action is essential and indispensable, that to some extent 
the world (our world) is of our making, and that without 
us nothing is made that is made. To what extent and 
in what directions the world is plastic and to be moulded 
by our action we do not know as yet. We can find out 
only by trying : but we know enough for Pragmatism to 
transfigure the aspect of existence for us. 

It frees us in the first place from what constitutes 
perhaps the worst and most paralysing horror of the 
naturalistic view of life, the nightmare of an indifferent 
universe. For it proves that at any rate Nature cannot 
be indifferent to us and to our doings. It may be hostile, 

of treatment, the differences between which seem to us important. From this 
we have chosen to infer that things have a rigid and unalterable nature. It might 
have been better to infer that therefore the differences between our various 
manipulations must seem unimportant to the things. 

The truth is rather that the nature of things is not determinate but determinable , 
like that of our fellow-men. Previous to trial it is indeterminate, not merely for our 
ignorance, but really and from every point of view, within limits which it is our 
business to discover. It grows determinate by our experiments, like human 
character. We all know that in our social relations we frequently put questions 
which are potent in determining their own answers, and without the putting 
would leave their subjects undetermined. Will you love me, hate me, trust 
me, help me ? are conspicuous examples, and we should consider it absurd to 
argue that because a man had begun social intercourse with another by knocking 
him down, the hatred he had thus provoked must have been a pre-existent reality 
which the blow had merely elicited. All that the result entitles us to assume 
is a capacity for social feeling variously responsive to various modes of stimulation. 
Why, then, should we not transfer this conception of a determinable indeter- 
mination to nature at large, why should we antedate the results of our manipula 
tion and regard as unalterable facts the reactions which our ignorance and 
blundering provoke? To the objection that even in our social dealings not all 
the responses are indeterminate, the reply is that it is easy to regard them as 
having been determined by earlier experiments. 

In this way, then, the notion of a fact-in-itself might become as much of a 
philosophic anachronism as that of a thing-in-itself, and we should conceive 
the process of knowledge as extending from absolute chaos at the one end (before 
a determinate response had been established) to absolute satisfaction at the other, 
which would have no motive to question the absolutely factual nature of its 
objects. But in the intermediate condition of our present experience all 
recognition of fact would be provisional and relative to our purposes and 
inquiries. Cp. Studies in Humanism, Essays xviii., xix. 


and something to be fought with all our might ; it may 
be unsuspectedly friendly, and something to be co-operated 
with with our whole heart ; it must respond in varying 
ways to our various efforts. 

Now, inasmuch as we are most familiar with such 
varying responsiveness in our personal relations with 
others, it is, I think, natural, though not perhaps necessary, 
that a pragmatist will tend to put a personal interpre 
tation upon his transactions with Nature and any agency 
he may conceive to underlie it. Still even ordinary 
language is aware that things behave differently according 
as you treat them, that e.g., treated with fire sugar burns, 
while treated with water it dissolves. Thus in the last 
resort the anthropomorphic humanism of our whole 
treatment of experience is unavoidable and obvious ; and 
however much he wills to disbelieve it the philosopher 
must finally confess that to escape anthropomorphism he 
would have to escape from self. And further, seeing 
that ethics is the science of our relations with other 
persons, i.e. with our environment qua personal, this 
ultimateness of the personal construction we put upon 
our experience must increase the importance of the 
ethical attitude towards it. In other words, our meta 
physics must in any case be quasi-ethical. 

It may fairly be anticipated, secondly, that Pragmatism 
will prove a great tonic to re-invigorate a grievously 
depressed humanity. It sweeps away entirely the stock 
excuse for fatalism and despair. It proves that human 
action is always a perceptible, and never a negligible, 
factor in the ordering of nature, and shows cause for the 
belief that the disparity between our powers and the 
forces of nature, great as it is, does not amount to 
incommensurability. And it denies that any of the great 
questions of human concern have been irrevocably 
answered against us. For most of them have not even 
been asked in a pragmatic manner, i.e. with a determina 
tion to test the answers by the value of the consequences, 
and in no case has there been that systematic and clear 
sighted endeavour which extorts concessions, or at least 


an answer, from reluctant nature. In short, no doctrine 
better calculated to stir us to activity or more potent to 
sustain our efforts has ever issued from the philosophic 

It is true that to gain these hopes we must make bold 
to take some risks. If our action is a real factor in 
the course of events, it is impossible to exclude the 
contingency that if we act wrongly it may be an 
influence for ill. To the chance of salvation there must 
correspond a risk of damnation. We select the condi 
tions under which reality shall appear to us, but this 
very selection selects us, and if we cannot contrive to 
reach a harmony in our intercourse with the real, we 

But to many this very element of danger will but add 
to the zest of life. For it cannot but appear by far 
more interesting than the weary grinding out of a 
predetermined course of things which issues in meaning 
less monotony from the unalterable nature of the All. 
And the infinite boredom with which this conception of 
the course of nature would afflict us, must be commingled 
with an equal measure of disgust when we realize that on 
this same theory the chief ethical issues are eternally and 
inexorably decided against us. Loyal co-operation and 
Promethean revolt grow equally unmeaning. For man 
can never have a ground for action against the Absolute. 
It is eternally and inherently and irredeemably perfect, 
with a perfection which has lost all meaning for 
humanity, and so leaves no ground for the hope that the 
appearances which make up our world may somehow 
be remoulded into conformity with our ideals. As they 
cannot now impair the inscrutable perfection of the 
Whole, they need not ever alter to pander to a criticism 
woven out of the delusive dreams of us poor creatures 
of illusion. 

It is a clear gain, therefore, when Pragmatism holds 
out to us a prospect of a world that can become better, 
and even has a distant chance of becoming perfect, 
in a sense which we are able to appreciate. The 


only thing that could be preferred to this would be a 
universe whose perfection could not only be metaphysically 
deduced, but actually experienced : but such a one our 
universe emphatically is not. 

Hence the indetermination which, as William James 
has urged, 1 Pragmatism introduces into our conception of 
the world is essentially a gain. It brings out a con 
nexion with the ethical conception of Freedom and the 
old problems involved in it, which we need not here 
consider. 2 When we do, we may see that while deter 
minism has an absolutely indefeasible status as a scientific 
postulate, and is the only assumption we can use in our 
practical calculations, we may yet have to recognize the 
reality of a certain measure of indetermination. It is 
a peculiarity of ethics that this indetermination is forced 
upon it, but in itself it is probably universal. In its 
valuation, however, we may differ somewhat from James, 
regarding it neither as good nor as ineradicable. Our 
indeterminism, moreover, cannot have the slightest ethical 
value unless it both vindicates and emphasizes our moral 

This brings us to our last point, viz. the stimulus to 
our feeling of moral responsibility which must accrue 
from the doctrine of Pragmatism. It contains such a 
stimulus, alike in its denial of a mechanical determination 
of the world which is involved in its partial determination 
by our action, and in its admission that by wrong 
action we may evoke a hostile response, and so provoke 
our ruin. But in addition it must be pointed out that 
if every cognition, however theoretical, be an act, and so 
must have a practical purpose and value, it is potentially 
a moral act. We may incur indeed the gravest responsi 
bilities in selecting the aims of our cognitive activities. 
We may become not merely wise or foolish but also 
good or bad by willing to know the good or the bad ; 
nay, our very will to know may so alter the conditions 
as to evoke a response congenial with its character. 

It is a law of our nature that what we seek that we 

1 Will to Believe, p. ix. 2 Cp. Essay xvi. 


shall, in some measure, find. Like a rainbow, Life 
glitters in all the colours ; like a rainbow also it adjusts 
itself to every beholder. To the dayflies of fashion 
life seems ephemeral ; to the seeker after permanence, it 
strikes its roots into eternity. To the empty, it is a 
yawning chasm of inanity ; to the full, it is a source of 
boundless interest. To the indolent, it is a call to 
despairing resignation ; to the strenuous, a stimulus to 
dauntless energy. To the serious, it is fraught with 
infinite significance ; to the flippant, it is all a somewhat 
sorry jest. To the melancholic, each hope is strangled 
in its birth ; to the sanguine, two hopes spring from 
every grave of one. To the optimistic, life is a joy 
ineffable ; to the pessimistic, the futile agony of an 
atrocious and unending struggle. To love it seems that 
in the end all must be love ; to hate and envy it becomes 
a hell. The cosmic order, which to one displays the 
unswerving rigour of a self-sufficient mechanism, grows 
explicable to another only by the direct guidance of the 
hand of God. To those of little faith the heavens are 
dumb ; to the faithful, they disclose the splendours of a 
beatific vision. 

So each sees Life as what he has it in him to perceive, 
and variously transfigures what, without his vision, were 
an unseen void. But all are not equally clear-sighted, 
and which sees best, time and trial must establish. We 
can but stake our little lives upon the ventures of our 
faith. And, willing or unwilling, this we do and must. 

In conclusion let us avow that after professing to 
discuss the relations of Philosophy and Practice, we 
seem to have allotted an undue share of our time to the 
former, and to have done little more than adumbrate the 
practical consequences of the new philosophy. In extenu 
ation we may urge that the stream of Truth which waters 
the fertile fields of Conduct has its sources in the remote 
and lonely uplands, inter apices philosophiae, where the cloud- 
capped crags and slowly grinding glaciers of metaphysics 
soar into an air too chill and rare for our abiding habita 
tion, but keenly bracing to the strength of an audacious 


climber. Here lie our watersheds ; hither lead the passes 
to the realms unknown ; hence part our ways, and here 
it is that we must draw the frontier lines of Right and 
Wrong. It would seem, moreover, that in the depths of 
every soul there lurks a metaphysic aspiration to these 
heights, a craving to behold the varied patterns that com 
pose life s whole spread out in their connexion. With 
the right guides such ascents are safe, and even though 
at first twinges of mountain-sickness may befall us, yet in 
the end we shall return refreshed from our excursion and 
strengthened to endure the drudgery and commonplace 
that are our daily portion. 




The idealistic art of passing into other worlds. A visit to Plato in a world 
of superior reality. The difficulty of proving the reality of such 
experiences to others unless they lead to useful knowledge. Is the true 
always useful! Aristotle denies the connexion between theoretic truth 
and practical use, and prefers the former as higher and diviner. The 
Pragmatist rejection of this dogma of the superior dignity of speculation. 
Four possibilities as to the relation of Knowledge and Action, (i) Plato s 
view : Knowledge the presupposition of Action, to which it naturally 
leads, = the True the source of the Good; (2) Aristotle s: Pure Know 
ledge unrelated to Action, the highest Truth to the Good for man ; (3) 
Kant s : the same relation, but Action ultimately superior to Knowledge ; 
(4) Pragmatism the converse of Plato s, i.e. Action primary, Knowledge 
secondary, the Good the source of the True. 

Critique of Aristotelianism, (i) Truth not superhuman, but as 
human as Good. True means true for us as practical beings. 
The recognition of objective truth a gradual achievement and = the con 
struction of a common world in which we can act together. (2) Perceived 
reality relative to our senses. (3) The eternal truths as postulates. 
(4) Theoretical principles, like practical, get their meaning from their 
use, and are called true if they prove useful. Hence necessary 
truth only = needful. Implications of the dicta the true is usefu! and the 
useless is false. No knowledge really useless, for the really useless 
is not knowledge. Examples Knowledge about the Absolute and about 
an other world unconnected with this. 

IT will readily be understood that once the idealistic art 
of waking oneself up out of our world of appearances and 
thereby passing into one of higher reality 2 is fully mastered, 
the temptation to exercise it becomes practically irresistible. 
Nevertheless, it was not until nearly two years (as men 
reckon time) after the first memorable occasion when he 
discoursed to me concerning the adaptation of the Ideal 

1 From Mind, N.S. No. 42 (April 1902), with some additions. 
2 Cp. pp. 113 note, 367-9. 



State to our present circumstances l that I succeeded in 
sufficiently arousing my soul to raise it once again to that 
supernal Academe where the divine Plato meditates in 
holy groves beside a fuller and more limpid stream than 
the Attic Ilissus. 

When I was breathlessly projected into his world, Plato 
was reclining gracefully beside a moss-grown boulder and 
listening attentively to a lively little man who was dis 
coursing with an abundance of animation and gesticulation. 
When he observed me, he stopped his companion, who 
immediately came hurrying towards me, and after politely 
greeting me, amiably declared that the Master would be 
delighted to converse with me. I noticed that he was a 
dapper little man, apparently in the prime of life, though 
beginning to grow rather bald about the temples. He 
was carefully robed, and his beard and his hair, such as it 
was, were scented. One could not help being struck by his 
refined, intelligent countenance, and hisquick, observant eyes. 

As soon as Plato had welcomed me, his companion 
went off to get, he said, a garden chair from a gleaming 
marble temple (it turned out to be a shrine of the Muses) 
at a little distance, and I naturally inquired of Plato who 
the obliging little man was. 

Why, don t you know ? he replied, don t you re 
cognize my famous pupil, Aristotle ? 

Aristotle ! No, I should never have supposed he was 
like that. 

What then would you have expected ? 

Well, I should have expected a bigger man for one 
thing, and one far less agreeable. To tell the truth, I 
should have expected Aristotle to be very bumptious and 

You are not quite wrong, said Plato with an indulgent 
smile, he was all you say, when he first came hither. 
But this is Aristotle with the conceit taken out of him, so 
that you now behold him reduced to his true proportions 
and can see his real worth. 

1 The contents of this interview have not yet been divulged, for reasons which 
will appear from the course of the present narrative. 


Ah ! that explains much. I now see why you are even 
greater and more impressive than I expected, and why he 
appears to be on such good terms with you once more. 

Oh yes, we have made up our differences long ago, 
and he has now again the same keen, unassuming spirit 
with which he first charmed me, as a boy. Not that I 
was ever very angry with him even formerly. Of course 
his criticisms were unfair, and, as you say, his great abilities 
rendered him conceited, but you must remember that he 
had to make a place for himself in the philosophic world, 
and that he could do this only by attacking the greatest 
reputation in that world, viz. mine. But you see he is 
returning, and I want to ask you how you fared after our 
last meeting. Did you find it difficult to get back to 
your world ? 

I hardly know, Plato, how I managed it. And, oh, 
the difference when I awoke in the morning ! How 
sordid all things seemed ! 

And did you tell your pupils what my answers were 
to your questions ? 

I did, and they were much interested, and, I am afraid 
I must add, amused. 

And after that what did you do ? Did you persuade 
your political men to enact laws in the Ecclesia such as 
those we showed to be best ? 

I fear I have not yet quite succeeded in doing this. 

Why, what objections have you failed to overcome ? 

I have not yet even overcome the first and greatest 
objection of all. I have not published the account of our 

Why not ? 

To tell you the truth, I was afraid ; I feared that your 
arguments might fare ill among the British Philistines. 

Why should they fare ill, seeing that, both for other 
reasons and to please you, I was conservative, wonderfully 
how, amid all my reforms, and proposed nothing revolu 
tionary, but essayed only gently to turn to the light the 
eyes of the Cave-dwellers whom you mention ? 

You don t know how insensitive they are to the light. 


Yet I was only preaching to them the necessity of 

I know that ; but your language would have sounded 

Then you should repeat it, until it sounds familiar. 

How splendidly you must have lectured, Plato ! I 
hardly dare however to follow your advice. However 
mildly I might put them, your proposals would have 
shocked the British public. 

And yet you told me that the infinitely more re 
volutionary and unsparing proposals of my Republic 
command universal admiration, and are held to be salutary 
in the education of youth. 

Ah, but then they are protected by the decent 
obscurity of a learned language ! 

Surely your language is learned enough, and by the 
time they have passed through your mind my ideas will 
be obscure enough to make them decent and safe. 

You are victorious as ever, Plato, in argument. But 
you do not persuade me, because there is another obstacle, 
even greater than that which I have mentioned. 

Will you not tell me what it is ? 

I hardly know how to put it. But though it now 
seems almost too absurd even to suggest such a thing, 
you know everybody to whom I spoke disbelieved that I 
had really conversed with you, and thought that I had 
dreamt it all, or even invented the whole matter. 

That, as you say, is too absurd. 

Nevertheless, so long as people believed this, you see 
it was vain for me to try to persuade them of the 
excellence of your proposals. For I do not happen to 
have been born the son of a king myself, and am of no 
account for such purposes. 

Still they could not have supposed that you could 
have invented all you said yourself. 

I am afraid they did. 

That was very unreasonable of them. 

I am not so sure of that. For after all they had only 
my word for it that I had really met you. 



But did they not recognize what I said, and my 
manner of saying it? 

Not so as to feel sure. 

And did they not think your whole account intrinsically 
probable and consistent ? 

I hope I made it appear so. 

Surely they did not think that you could invent a 
world like mine ? 

I suppose they thought I might have dreamt it. 

What, a world so much better, more beautiful, co 
herent and rational, and, in two words, more real, than 
that in which they lived ? 

There is nothing in all this to make it seem less of a 
dream rather than more. 

Do you think they will believe you after this second 
visit ? 

I doubt it. Why should they ? 

It would seem, then, that we have no means of con 
vincing these wretches of the truth. 

I fear not ; so long as they can reasonably maintain 
that it is no truth at all. 

You do not surely propose to defend their conduct ? 

No, but I think it is by no means as unreasonable as 
you suppose. 

I see that you are preparing to assert a greater 
paradox than ever I listened to from Zeno. 

I am afraid that it may appear such. 

Will you not quickly utter it ? You see how keenly 
Aristotle is watching you, like a noble dog straining at 
the leash. 

Let me say this, then, that though I can no more 
doubt your existence and that of the lovely world wherein 
you abide than I can my own, yet I cannot blame my 
fellow -men for refusing to credit all this on my sole 
assertion. They have not seen you, nor can they, seeing 
that you will neither descend to them nor can they rise 
to you. Your world and theirs have nothing in common, 
and so do not exist for each other. 

You forget yourself, my friend. 


True, I am a link between them. But what I have 
experienced is not directly part of their _ experience. It is 
far more probable, therefore, that I am Tying or cteluded 
than that I should establish a connexion between two 
worlds. Before they need, or indeed can, admit that 
what I say is true, I must show them how, in consequence 
of my visits to your higher world, I am enabled to act 
more successfully in theirs. You see, Plato, I am exactly 
in the position of your liberated Cave-dweller when he 
returns to his fellow-prisoners. They need not, can not, 
and will not, believe that I speak the truth concerning 
what I have seen above, unless I am also able to discern 
better the shadows in their cave below. 

And this must surely be the case. 

I notice that you assumed this, but you did not 
explain how it was that the higher knowledge of the 
Ideas, for example the ability to understand the motions 
of the heavenly bodies, was useful for enabling men to 
live better. 

But surely Knowledge is one, and the True and the 
Beautiful must also be useful. 

I am not denying that, although your friend Aristotle 
would, unless he has greatly changed his opinion ; I am 
only saying that you have assumed this too lightly. 

Instead of replying Plato looked at Aristotle, who with 
a slight hesitation ventured to suggest that possibly I was 
right, and that he had always been of the opinion that his 
master had overrated the practical usefulness of scientific 
knowledge. Plato meditated for a while before replying. 

It is possible that there are difficulties here which 
escaped my notice formerly. But did I not prove that 
the soul attuned to the harmonies of the higher sphere 
of true reality was also necessarily that most capable of 
dealing with the discords of phenomenal existence ? 

No doubt, Plato, your spectator of all time and all 
existence is a very beautiful being, and I too trust that in 
the end you may be right in thinking that Truth and 
Goodness must be harmonious. But neither in your time, 
nor in the many years that have passed since, has it 


come about that the pursuit of abstract knowledge has 
engendered the perfect man. I greatly doubt whether 
you convinced even your own brothers by your argument 
in the Republic, and you have certainly failed to convince 
those who have deemed themselves the greatest philosophers 
from the time of Aristotle to the present day. They 
would all in private scoff at the notion that speculative 
knowledge was by nature conducive to practical excellence, 
even though a few of the more prudent might not think 
it expedient to state this in public, while as for the great 
majority, they are always crying aloud that it is sacrilege 
and profanation to demand practical results from their 
meditations, and that only an utterly vulgar and ill- 
educated mind is even interested in the practical con 
sequences which theoretical researches may chance to 
have. And this temper we observe not only among the 
philosophers proper, who are few and speak a " language 
of the gods " unintelligible to the many, but also more 
patently among those who pursue the sciences and the 
arts, and hold that " Truth for the sake of Truth " and 
" Art for the sake of Art " alone are worthy of their 

Is it true, Aristotle, that you also hold such opinions ? 
May I be permitted, oh my master, to expound my 
views at length, and yet briefly, as compared with the 
importance of the subject ? You know that I do not find 
the method of question and answer the most convenient 
to express my thoughts (Plato nodded). Well, then, let 
me say first of all that I do not hold it true that specula 
tive wisdom (ao(j)ia) is the same as practical wisdom 
(fypovyais}, or that the latter is naturally developed out of 
the former. I must, therefore, with all respect agree with 
our critic from a lower world that you have too easily 
identified the two. They are quite distinct, and have 
nothing to do with each other. 

Then observing an involuntary shudder on my part, 
Oh, I know, he continued, what you are wishing to 
object. How can a-o<j>ia exist without the help of 
<f>povrj(7i<; in beings that have to act practically in a social 


life, seeing that it does not as such concern itself with the 
means of human happiness ? l I confess to an over 
statement. It is not quite true that crania and $povY)cn<s 
have nothing to do with each other. There is a connexion, 
because practical wisdom has to provide speculative with 
the material conditions of its exercise. In other words, 
men are too imperfect to live the divine life of contempla 
tion wholly and always. They must to some extent busy 
themselves with the needs of the perishable part of their 
nature, and the contingencies and changes of the sublunary 
sphere. And the regulation and satisfaction of such needs, 
the whole V\TJ of things that are capable of being otherwise 
(evSe%ofAeva>v aXXca? e^eiv), appertains to practical wisdom. 
Without it, therefore, speculative wisdom could not 
exist among men, or at least could not be self-supporting. 
But it does not follow that it thereby becomes dependent 
on practical wisdom, and still less, derivative from it. 
Practical wisdom serves speculative like a faithful servant. 
It is the trusty steward who has so to order the household 
that its master may have leisure for his holy avocations. 
It would be truer, therefore, to say that practical wisdom 
depends on speculative, without which life would lose its 
savour. But best of all is it to say that the two are 
essentially distinct and connected only by the bond of an 
external necessity. 

Having shown thus that practical and theoretical 
activity (evepjeta) are different in kind, let me explain 
next why the latter is the better, and the relation between 
them which I have described is a just one. 

They differ in their psychological character, in their 
object and in their value. Practical wisdom is the 
function of a lower and altogether inferior " part of the 
soul," of that " passive reason " (7/01)9 Tra^rt/co?) which we 
put forth only while we deal with a " matter " whose 
resistance we cannot wholly master. Speculative activity, on 
the other hand, is the divine imperishable part of us which, 
small as it is in bulk in most men, is yet our true self. 

Again the object of practical wisdom is the good for 

1 Cp. Eth, Nic. vi. 12. i. 


man and the transitory flow of appearances in the im 
permanent part of the universe. But the good which is 
the object of our practical pursuit is peculiar and restricted 
to man. It is different for men and for fishes, 1 and 
although I do not deny that man s is the higher and that 
therefore fishing is legitimate sport, I feel bound to point 
out that there are many things in the world far diviner 
than man. The object of speculation, on the other hand, 
is the eternal and immutable which is common to all. 
I mean to include under this not merely the eternal truths, 
such as the principles of metaphysics and mathematics, 
but the eternal existences of the heavenly bodies and the 
unvarying character of the perceptions which are the same 
for all beings, e.g., those of colour, shape, size, etc. 

Whence it follows, lastly, that the value of speculation 
is incomparably superior to that of practice. It is not 
useful, and that it should occasionally lead to useful 
results is merely a regrettable accident. In itself it is 
beautiful and the beautiful is self-sufficient. But it is 
not useful, because it is exalted far above the useful, and 
to demand use for knowledge is, literally, impiety. For 
to contemplate the immutable objects of theoretical truth 
is in the strictest sense to lead the life divine. For it 
contemplates the higher and more perfect, even though it 
cannot grasp the absolutely perfect as continuously as God 
can contemplate His own absolute perfection. Still to do 
this, in however passing a fashion, is to rise above death 
and impermanence and decay. It is to immortalize 

It follows, therefore, logically and in point of fact, 
that any attempt to hinder or control the concern with 
Pure Truth, is an outrage upon what is highest and best 
and holiest in human nature, an outrage which the law 
should punish and all good men rebuke, with the utmost 
severity. Truth demands not merely toleration for herself 
from the State, but also the unsparing suppression of 
every form of Error, of every one who from whatever 
motive, whether from ignorance or sordidness or a mis- 

1 Cp. Eth. Nic. vi. 7. 4. 


taken and degrading moral enthusiasm, attempts to put 
any hindrance in the way of her absolute supremacy. 

Towards the end of this diatribe, to which I had at 
various points shown myself unable to listen without 
writhing, Aristotle had wrought himself up into a state 
of fervour of which I should hardly have deemed him 
capable. Plato, however, skilfully provided for the con 
tinuation of the discussion by blandly remarking : 

Bravo, Aristotle, you have spoken most interestingly, 
and shown not only the analytic subtlety for which you 
are famous, but also that true enthusiasm which proves 
that you are not merely a logical perforating machine for 
windbags and other receptacles of gaseous matter. I will 
leave it, however, to our visitor to answer you, partly 
because the question has, it would seem, grown somewhat 
beyond my ken, and partly because I can see that he 
has not a little to say, and foresee that your differences 
will prove most entertaining and instructive. 

You are right, Plato, in thinking that I differ pro 
foundly with the doctrine to which Aristotle has just given 
such eloquent expression. But I feel that I am hardly 
equal single-handed to cope with Aristotle, and I wish 
that lames were present to support me and to persuade 
you both of what I believe to be right and reasonable. 

And who is lames ? 

1 A philosopher, Plato, of the Hyperatlanteans, very 
different from the " bald-headed little tinkers " who are 
philosophers, not by the grace of God, but by the favour 
of some wretched " thinking-shop," and a man (or shall 
I rather call him a god ?) after your own heart. But, 
alas, he has been bridled, like Theages, by his own, and 
so has not yet been enabled to set forth fully the doctrine 
which he has named l Pragmatism, and which I would 
fain advance against that of Aristotle. 

You describe a man whom I should be eager to 
welcome. You must bring him with you the next time 
you come, having told him what we have discussed. 

1 Strictly speaking, I am reminded, it was Mr. C. S. Peirce, but it would 
seem to follow from pragmatist principles that a doctrine belongs to him who 
makes an effective use of it. 


1 1 will if I can. 

As for your present difficulty, you need not be afraid. 
You shall argue, with me as judge, and I will see to it 
that Aristotle obtains no unfair advantage over you. 

You embolden me to try my best. 

I do not think that courage is what you lack. 

If I have courage, it is like yours, that which comes 
nearest to that of despair. 

I never quite despaired. 

Nor will I, though it is hard not to, to one regarding 
the present position of philosophy. 

Aristotle is beginning to think that you are not going 
to answer him. 

Then I will delay no longer. And first of all let me 
say that besides the views which have been taken by you 
and by Aristotle there seem to me to be two others, and 
that if you have no objection, I will state them, first 
recapitulating your own. 

I have never an objection to be instructed. 

I will begin with your own view then. It seemed to 
me to assume that there was no real or ultimate difference 
between the use of the reason in matters practical and 
matters theoretical. Knowledge was one and all action 
depended on knowledge, right action presupposing right 
knowledge. Knowledge, therefore, was useful, and there 
was no real opposition between the True and the Good, 
because the True could not but be good and the Good 
true. Nevertheless, Goodness was born of Truth rather 
than Truth of Goodness. Have I understood you aright ? 

You have put things more definitely than I did, but 
not perhaps amiss. 

Aristotle, on the other hand, whom we have just heard, 
clearly thinks that Truth and Goodness have nothing to 
do with each other. 

Pardon me, there is a goodness also of Truth, and 
in a sense speculative activity (Oecopia) is also action 

Yes, I know that ; you mean as exercise of function ? 
The speculative life also is something we do, it is the 


exercise of a characteristic human activity, and so has an 
excellence and contributes to our happiness. 


Very well then, what I meant was that you did not 
derive practical from theoretic activity. 

Certainly not. 

The two are as far opposed as is practically possible. 


But speculative wisdom is by far the loftier ? 

Of course. 

And far too lofty to be useful ? 

So I maintain. 

Very well again. Now for a third view. Is it not 
possible to maintain with you that the practical and the 
speculative reason are different and opposed to each other, 
but that the former is the superior, so that in the end we 
must believe and practically act on what we do not know 
to be true ? And is not this the converse of your view, 
Aristotle ? 

I suppose it is, but if that is your view, I tell you 
frankly that I never heard anything more absurd. 

In that case it is lucky, perhaps, that it is not my 

Who then has been confused enough in his mind to 
propound it ? 

It is the view of the great Scythian, Kant, who nearly 
criticized the reason out of the world. 

Ah, I know, a queer little hunchback of a barbarian ! 
He came here once, not so very long ago, but would not 
stay and could not say anything intelligible. I could only 
make out that he was seeking the Infinite (faugh !), and 
was impelled by something he called a Categorical Im 
perative (unknown alike to logic and to grammar). 
Possessed by evil demons he seemed to us. Nothing 
Hellenic about him at all events ! 

I don t wonder at what you say, nor that Plato 
agrees with you. Nevertheless, he was a remarkable 
man, on his way, perhaps, to a higher truth, to which 
we may follow him, passing through the absurdity of 


his actual view, which is far greater than I have had 
time to indicate. 

Let us go on, then, at once to something more 

I will go on then to the view of the Pragmatists. 
May one not say, fourthly, that there is no opposition 
between speculative and practical wisdom because the 
former arises out of the latter and remains always deriva 
tive and secondary and subservient and useful ? 

One may say that or any other nonsense, but if one 
does, one must say what one means. And one cannot 
always prove what one says. 

I thought that would excite you, Aristotle. But I 
thought it better to reveal to you the whole aim of my 
argument before I proceeded to reach it. 

You are still far from your aim. 

I am coming to it, in good time. Meanwhile have 
you observed that this position which I hope to reach is 
the exact converse of the first, of Plato s ? 

You mean that you also deny the opposition between 
Oecopia and 7rpa^t<;, but derive the former from the 
latter ? 

Exactly so. I entirely deny the independence of the 
speculative reason. And I assert that you were quite 
wrong in drawing the distinctions you did between the 
objects of Becopia and of 7rpat,<?. 

Do you then deny that the good which is the aim of 
practical wisdom is merely human ? 

Not at all ; but I assert that the true, which you 
imagine to be in some sense superhuman, is also merely 
human. It is the true for us, the true for us as practical 
beings , just as the good is the good for us. 

1 How so ? 

Why, quite simply. Are not colour and shape and 
size perceived by the senses ? 

1 Certainly. 

And are not the senses human, and relative to us and 
to our needs in life, in the same way as our perception of 
the good and the sweet ? 


I don t see why I need suppose them to be merely 

I don t see how you can show them to be anything 
more. How do you know that your fishes see white as 
you do? And even if they did, that would only show 
that their senses were constructed like yours, and fitted 
to see and avoid you when you dangle a worm before 
their eyes with evil intent. And, generally, how do you 
fancy you can refute Protagoras great maxim " that which 
appears to each, is ? " It is literally true, so soon as we 
look more exactly. Each being in the universe from 
your God (if indeed He be in the universe) down to the 
humblest blackbeetle, has his own individual way of 
perceiving his experience, and when we say that several 
perceive the same things what we really mean is that they 
act in a corresponding manner towards them. When you 
and I both see " red," that means that we agree in the 
arranging of colours, but leaves inscrutable (and indeed 
unmeaning} the question whether your experience in seeing 
" red " is the same as mine. 

And this agreement is both difficult, partial, and 
derivative. It is the fruit of much effort and of a long 
struggle, and not an original endowment. It has had to 
be carried to a certain pitch in order that it might be 
possible for men to live together at all. It has grown 
because it was useful and advantageous and those who 
could manage to perceive things in practically the same 
way prospered at the expense of those who could not. 
Thus the objectivity of our perceptions is essentially 
practical and useful and teleologicaL How then can you 
venture to ascribe to the gods, with whom you do not live, 
the perceptions which have come to exist as " the same " 
for your senses, only in order that you might be able to 
live with your fellow-creatures ? 

Even though our senses are different may we not 
perceive by their means the divine order of the same 
universe which higher beings perceive by such modes of 
cognition as are worthy of them ? 

Really, Aristotle, it astonishes me that you, living in 


a more real world, should still cling to the independently 
objective reality of the world you have now quitted for 
more than 2000 years. Do you perceive it now ? 

No, but I did, and it may still be a part of the world 
which I no longer perceive. 

Where then is it with reference to your present world ? 
Is it north, south, east, or west ? Or is it not in the same 
space with it at all ? 

Still it is in space. And I still perceive a world. 

So does every one who dreams. Your perceiving it, 
therefore, is no proof that it is ultimately real. And if 
you had entirely forgotten what you experienced formerly, 
would you even be able to assert that it once was real for 
you ? Would not its reality have become like unto the 
reality of a forgotten dream ? How can you venture, 
then, to attribute to all beings perception of one and the 
same world ? 

Perhaps I was mistaken about the world in which I 
then lived. But this present world at least is real, and 
seems to me fair enough to be worthy of being perceived 
even by the gods. 

It is real no doubt for you, and for me also, while I 
am in it. But you may remember that what started the 
argument was the difficulty I had in convincing the 
denizens of your former world of the superior reality of 
this in which we now are. And besides, how do you 
know that beings still higher than you, if you do not 
resent my mentioning such, may not enjoy the contempla 
tion of worlds vastly more perfect even than yours ? 

Still this process cannot go on to infinity. You must 
at last conceive a world of ultimate reality, the contempla 
tion of which by the supreme being would be absolute 

No doubt ; you are speaking of what Plato would 
call the world of Ideas. But still that does not affect the 
argument. The world and the truth and the good we 
were discussing are those relative to us? 

I see that I was wrong in basing my argument for 
absolute truth on the perceptions of the senses. But of 


the eternal truths of mathematics and the like one may 
surely affirm that they necessarily exist for all intelli 
gences ? 

Even this is more than I can grant you. 

How so ? 

They seem to me to be also relative to us ; nay, 
human institutions of the plainest kind. 

Is it not self-evident and absolutely certain that the 
straight line is the shortest between two points ? 

That is our definition of distance. It will do in the 
sense in which you use it, if I may add, " for one living 
in a spatial world which behaves like ours, and apparently 
yours, once he has succeeded in postulating a system of 
geometry which suits his world." 

I really do not understand you. 

I fear I have not the space to explain myself, and to 
show you the practical aim of our assumptions concerning 
" Space," even if I dared to discuss the foundations of 
geometry in the presence of Plato. But it really does 
not affect my point. What I desire to maintain is that 
the eternal truths are at bottom postulates, demands we 
make upon our experience because we need them in order 
that it may become a cosmos fit to live in. 

But I do not find myself postulating them at all. 
They are plainly self-evident and axiomatic. 

That is only because your axioms are postulates so 
ancient and so firmly rooted that no one now thinks of 
disputing them. 

Your doctrine seems as monstrous as it is unfamiliar. 

I can neither help that nor establish it fully at this 
juncture. Perhaps, if the gods are willing, I shall find 
another occasion l to expound to you the proofs of this 
doctrine, and even, if the gods are gracious, to convince 
you. For it seems to me that in a manner you already 
admit the principle of my doctrine. 

It would greatly surprise me if I did. 

You contend, do you not, that concerning ethical 
matters it is impossible to have the right opinion without, 

1 See Axioms as Postulates. 


at the same time or before, having the right habit of 
action, so that, as Roger Ascham has said, " ill-doings 
breed ill-thinkings, and of corrupted manners spring 
perverted judgments " ? 

And do I not contend rightly ? 

I am not denying that your view is right, though 
perhaps you over-state the impossibility of separating 
ethical theory from ethical practice. What I should like 
you to see, however, is that this same doctrine may be 
extended also to speculative matters. Why should we 
not contend that the true meaning and right understanding 
of theoretical principles also appears only to him who is 
proposing to use them practically ? Can we not say that 
the Scythian was both prudent and wise who would not 
grant that 2 and 2 made 4 until he knew what use was 
to be made of the admission ? Just as the wicked man 
destroys his intellectual insight into ethical truth by his 
action, 1 so the mere theorist destroys his insight and 
understanding of " theoretical " truth by refusing to use 
that truth and to apply it practically, failing to see that, 
both in origin and intention, it is a mass of thoroughly 
practical devices to enable us to live better. 

I cannot admit that the two cases are at all parallel. 
In practical matters indeed I rightly hold that action and 
insight are so conjoined as not to admit of separation, but 
to extend this doctrine to the apprehension of theoretic 
truth would lead to many absurdities. 

For instance ? 

Well, for one thing, you would have to go into training 
for the attainment of philosophic insight after the fashion 
of an Indian Gymnosophist whom I once met in Asia 
and who wished to convert me to the pernicious doctrine 
that all things were one. 

How did he propose to effect this ? 

Well, in the first place he declared that truths could 
not be implanted in the soul by argument, but must grow 
out of its essence by its own action. So he refused to 
give any rational account of his opinions, but told me 

1 Cp. Eth, Nic. vi. 5. 6, vi. 12. 10, vii. 8. 4. 


that if I submitted to his discipline, I should infallibly 
come to see for myself what he knew to be true. I asked 
him how, and was amused to find that he wanted me to 
sit in the sun all day in a stiff and upright posture, 
breathing in a peculiar way, stopping the right nostril 
with the thumb, and then slowly drawing in the breath 
through the left, and breathing it out through the right. 
By doing this and ejaculating the sacred word " Om " ten 
thousand times daily, he assured me I should become a 
god, nay, greater than all gods. I asked him how soon 
this fate was likely to befall me, if I tried. He thought 
enlightenment might come to me in one year, or ten, or 
more. It all depended on me. I replied that even if I 
failed to get a sunstroke I should be more likely to 
become an idiot than a god, but that I should already 
be one if I tried anything so silly. You, however, 
seem to me to be committing yourself to the same 
absurdity when you try to extend to contemplation the 
method which is appropriate only to action. 

But that, Aristotle, is just the point to be proved. 
My contention is that Pragmatism extends to the ac 
quisition of theoretical principles a method as appropriate 
to them as to practice. As for Gymnosophistic, I think 
that your Indian friend s method was really quite different 
For though he professed to reach truth by training, there 
was no rational connexion between the truths he aimed at 
and the methods he advocated, which indeed could only 
produce self-deception. In moral matters, on the other 
hand, it is, as you say, necessary to dispose the mind for 
the perception of truth by appropriate action. If we 
declined to do this we should not start with a mind free 
from bias and impartially open to every belief for that 
is impossible but with one biassed by different action in 
a different direction. So that really the training you 
demand is only what is needed to clear away the anti- 
moral prejudices to which our character would otherwise 
predispose us. Is this not so? 

Certainly ; you speak well so far. 

Thank you. May I point out next that the method 


of Pragmatism is precisely the same in theoretic as in 
practical matters ? In neither can the truth or falsehood 
of a conception be decided in the abstract and without 
experience of the manner of its working. It gets its real 
meaning only in, from, and by, its use : apart from its use 
the meaning of any " truth " remains potential. And you 
can use it only if you desire to use it. And the desire to 
use it can only arise if it makes a difference to you 
whether or not you conceive it, and, if so, how. You 
must, therefore, desire, or, as I should say, postulate it, if 
you are to have it at all. If, on the other hand, your 
practical experience suggests to you that a certain con 
ception would be useful, if it zuere true, you will reasonably 
give it a trial to see whether it is not " true," and if thus 
you discover it and find that you can work with it, you 
will certainly call it " true " and believe that it is " true," 
and has been so from all eternity, and all this the more 
confidently and profoundly, the more extensively useful it 
appears. Thus it is by hypothetically postulating what 
we desire to be true because we expect it to be use 
ful, and accepting it as true if we can in any way 
render it useful, that we seem to me manifestly to 
come by our principles. Nor do I see how we could 
really come by them in any other way, or that we should 
be prudent if we admitted their claims to truth on any 
other ground. 

Might they not be self-evident ? 

Self-evidence only seems an accident of our state of 
mind and in no way a complete guarantee of truth. To 
none do so many things seem so strongly self-evident as 
to the insane. Much that was false has been accepted 
as self-evident and no doubt still is. Its self-evidence 
only means that we have ceased to question a principle, 
or not yet begun to do so. 

And can you not see that there are intrinsically 
necessary truths ? 

Not a bit. Unless by necessary you mean needful, an 
intrinsic necessity seems to me a contradiction. Necessity 
is always dependence, and so hypothetical. 


You blaspheme horribly against the highest beings in 
the universe, the Deity and the Triangle ! 

Even though you should threaten to impale me on 
the acutest angle of the most acute-angled specimen of the 
latter you can find in your world of " necessary matter " 
(/jbrj evSe%o[jiev(0v aXXo)<? e^ew), I should not refrain 
from speaking thus. For I want you to see the exact 
point of my doctrine, and where it diverges from 
your own. 

Of course I see that. If you can prove your 
derivation of the Axioms and show that the necessary is 
only the needful, the speculative reason must say a long 
farewell to its independence. 

Perhaps it will be none the worse for that. 

At this point Plato interposed a question. 

Have I understood you rightly, most astonishing 
young man, to affirm that theoretic truth was wholly 
derivative and subservient to practical purposes ? 

You have. 

In that case would you not have to regard theoretic 
falsehood as, in the last resort, practical uselessness ? 

You are very nearly right, Plato ; the practical use 
lessness of the theoretic " truth " which turns out to be 
false is what convinces us. I am glad I have made my 
point so clear to you. 

And would you contend generally that the " useless " 
and the " false " were not two things but one, doubly 
named ? 

Not quite. For the useless is not always dismissed 
as " false." It may also be rejected as " unreal," as is 
done by those who, deeming dreams to be useless, account 
them unreal. And perhaps it might be most accurate to 
call the " useless " " unmeaning " rather than " false." But 
that hardly matters, for the unmeaning will be called 
" false " or " unreal " as suits our purpose. 

It seems however that you do not say that the false is 
useless ? 

Not until you see that when you can call it false you 
must already have discovered the limits of its use. 


And certainly I would not deprive you, Plato, of all 
men of your " noble lies" 

Nor would you say that the useful and the true were 
quite the same ? 

Not, except in the ideal state, in which no use could 
be found but for the whole truth, and all were too reason 
able and too well educated to desire to pursue seeming 
" truths " which were useless and therefore to be judged 
false. But might we not ask Aristotle to tell us all that 
logically follows from the two propositions which I am 
maintaining, viz. that whatever is true is useful and that 
whatever is useless is false ? 

Yes. I think you could assist us greatly, Aristotle, 
by doing this. 

I shall do so with the greatest pleasure, that, to wit, 
of logical contemplation. If whatever is true is useful it 
follows that (i) nothing true is useless, and (2) that nothing 
useless is true, that (3) whatever is useless is false, that (4) 
some things useful are true, and (5) not false, while (6) 
some things false are useless and (7) not useful. But since 
your second proposition that whatever is useless is false, 
is the third of those which follow from your first, that 
whatever is true is useful, being indeed its " obverted 
contra-positive," it is clear that in this also all the others 
are implied. 

What a thing it is to be a formal logician and con 
versant with the forms of immediate inference ! I myself 
have never been able to break myself of the habit of 
trying to convert an universal affirmative simply, and I 
suppose I ought now to be able to guess how far you are 
from agreeing with a statement which I found lately in a 
book by one of your Oxford sophists, 2 who seemed to be 
discussing much the same questions, that "the false is the 
same as the theoretically untenable " ? You would rather 
say that it was " the same as the practically untenable " ? 

Yes, the false is that which fails us, and causes us to 
fail. For I would go on to say that the theoretically 

1 Repiiblic, 414 C. 
2 Bradley, Appearance and Reality, p. 155. 


untenable always turns out to be so called because it is 
practically untenable. 

The sophist whom, with difficulty, I read seemed to 
see no way from the one to the other. 

I don t suppose he wished to. It would have upset his 
whole philosophy, and you know how ready philosophers 
are to declare inexplicable and not to be grasped by man 
whatever " difficulty " reveals the errors into which they 
have plunged. 

Yes, there is no Tartaros to which they would not 
willingly descend rather than confess that they have 
started on the wrong track. But even you have asserted 
the existence of a better way rather than shown it 
to us. 

I must confess, Plato, that much as I should have 
wished to show you that my way is both practical and 
practicable I have not had the time to do this. But if I 
had, I feel sure that I could do so. 

Say on ; there is no limit but life itself to the search 
for Truth. 

That is all very well for you, whose abode has been 
in these pleasant places for so long, and to whom, it 
seems, there comes neither death nor change. But 7 
have to go back. 

To your pupils ? 

Yes, and already I feel the premonitory heaviness in 
my feet It will slowly creep upwards, and when it 
reaches the head I shall go to sleep and wake again in 
another world far from you. 

I am sorry ; though it will interest us to see how you 
vanish. But before you pass away, will you not, seeing 
that all truth you say is practical, tell us what in this 
case is the practical application of the " truths " you have 
championed ? 

With the greatest pleasure, Plato, that is what I 
was coming back to. They form my excellent excuse 
for neglecting to tell men about your ideas. 

I do not quite see how. 

W T hy, so long as my knowledge of your world is 


useless to them, it is for them, literally and in the 
completest way, false ! 

1 But surely both they and you must admit that there 
is much useless knowledge ? 

There is much, of course, which is so called, and 
actually is useless for certain purposes, but nothing which 
can be so for all. Much that is " useless " is so because 
certain persons refuse to use it or are unable to do so. 
Pearls are useless to swine, and, as Herakleitos said, gold 
to asses. And so neither ass nor hog could truly call 
them precious. Or, again, often what is called useless is 
that which is indirectly useful. It is useful as logically 
completing- a system of knowledge which is useful in other 
parts and as a whole. Or perhaps in some cases the use 
is prospective and has not yet been discovered. A great 
deal of mathematics would be in this position. But if 
no use could be found for mathematics, they would sink 
into the position of difficult games, and then their only 
use would be to amuse those who liked to play with 
them. Or lastly, there is a good deal of knowledge which 
is comparatively, or as Aristotle would say, accidentally, 
useless, because the time spent in acquiring it might be 
more usefully employed otherwise. For instance, you 
might count the hairs on Aristotle s head, and the 
knowledge might enable you to win a bet that their 
number was less than a myriad. But ordinarily such 
knowledge would be deemed useless, seeing that you 
might have been better employed. 

But would these explanations cover all the facts ? 

Not perhaps quite all in our world, in which there is 
also seeming " useless knowledge," which is not really 
knowledge at all, but falsely so called ; being as it were 
a parasitic growth upon the real and useful knowledge, 
or even a perversion thereof, a sort of harmless tumour 
or malignant cancer, which would not arise in a healthy 
state and should be extirpated wherever it appears. 

Still it exists. 

As evil exists ; indeed it seems to be merely one 
aspect of the evil that exists. 


Are you not now extending your explanations so 
far that your paradox is in danger of becoming a truism ? 
Can you any longer give me an instance of really useless 
knowledge ? 

Of course not, Plato, seeing that my contention is that 
whatever is truly knowledge is useful, and whatever is 
not useful is not truly knowledge, while in proportion as 
any alleged knowledge is seen to be useless it is in 
danger of being declared false ! The only illustration I 
can give, therefore, is of knowledge falsely so-called, 
which is thought to be useful, but is really useless, and 
therefore false or, if you prefer, unmeaning. 

Even of that we should like an example. 

I see, Plato, that you are willing to embroil me with 
most of the philosophers in my world. For if I am to 
speak what is in my mind, I must say that knowledge of 
the Absolute or, what comes to the same, of the Un 
knowable, seems to me to be of the kind you require. 
Aristotle, no doubt, might speak similarly of your own 
Idea of the Good. 

Oh, but I intended it to be supremely useful both in 
knowledge and in action. 

No doubt you did, but because you were not able 
to make this plain, Aristotle would not admit it to be 

We had better let bygones be bygones. 

Very well ; let me in that case give you another 
example, which now concerns us nearly, of knowledge 
which seems false, because it seems useless. I mean 
knowledge about the world in which we now are, 
regarded with the eyes of those whom in a little while 
I shall no longer dare to call benighted dwellers in the 
Cave. Until we can make our world useful to them, it 
is false : I am a liar and you are the unreal figments of 
my creative imagination. 

You quite alarm me. Can you not devise a way, 
then, whereby we might prove ourselves useful, and so 
existent, to your friends ? 

Certainly. Could you not appear at a meeting of 


the Society for Psychical Research and deliver a lecture, 
in your beautiful Attic, on the immortality of the soul ? 
That would be very useful ; it might induce some few 
really to concern themselves with what is to befall them 
after death, and lead them perhaps to amend their lives. 
I know the Secretary of the Society quite well, and I 
think we could arrange a good meeting for you ! 

EiV^/^ei &vdpw7T. I could not think of such a 
thing : it would be too degrading. Besides, to tell you 
the truth, I have long ceased to feel any practical interest 
in the generality of men and their world. I would do 
something for you, but you already know and do not 
need persuading. Can I not do something to benefit 
you personally, whether it was useful, and therefore con 
vincing, to others or not ? 

I suppose, Plato, it is conceivable that you could, 
if you liked, but that it is very likely that you would 
not like. 

I have already told you that I will do anything 
short of mixing myself up with a world like yours. I 
once tried it, soon after I came here, but I soon discovered 
that Herakleitos was right in thinking that souls retained 
their power of smell. Indeed, I suppose my nose must 
have become absurdly sensitive, for I was driven back 
by the stench of blood before I had got very far into its 
sphere. I simply could not go on. 

I do not wonder. Things are as bad as ever in this 
respect, except that we have grown more hypocritical 
about our murders. But I can tell you how you could 
not only help me, but even persuade the others. 

1 How ? 

By useful knowledge. 

Of what ? 

Could you not by some divination predict to me 
what horses were about to win what races, or what 
stocks were going to rise or fall how far ? Such know 
ledge would be most useful and therefore truest by the 
admission of all men : it would enable me to amass great 
riches, and if I were rich enough all would believe 


whatever I might choose to say. Money talks, as the 
saying is, and none dare doubt but that it speaks the 
truth. In this manner I might get men to credit the 
whole story of my visit to you. For my credit would 
then be practically limitless. 

I suppose you are joking and do not seriously expect 
of me anything so atrocious. Besides, why should you 
attribute to me, or to any of those who have departed 
to higher spheres, any such capacity for knowing what 
goes on in the world we are glad to have abandoned ? 

I am sure I don t know ; only that is what men 
commonly suppose about such matters. They think 
that there is far more education in death than ever there 
was in life, and that even the greatest fool, so soon as 
ever he is dead, may be expected to be wise enough to 
know all things, and good enough to place his knowledge 
at their disposal. 

They seem to me as foolish as they are selfish. 

No doubt ; still there is that germ of truth about 
their action which we saw. Whatever knowledge cannot 
be rendered somehow useful cannot be esteemed real. 

Alas, that it should be so ! 

I do not on the whole regret it, although I can see it 
must annoy you to be considered as part of the non 
existent of which you always thought so meanly. But 
really I must be going, and return to my Cave to 
convince, if possible, my fellow Troglodytes that you 
still live and think, and to impress on them, if I can, 
the importance of the " two-world problem," both for 
its own sake and as an illustration of the truth of 




Importance of the question What is Truth, ? when not asked rhetorically. 

I. Answers logical, (i) Truth as agreement with reality. Breaks 
down over the question of the knowledge of this agreement. (2) Truth 
as systematic coherence. Open to objections on the ground (i) that not 
all systems are true ; (2) no system is true ; (3) many systems are true ; (4) 
truth even if system, is more than system, (i) How about systematic 
falsehood? (2) How about the imperfection of all actual systems? (3) 
Howabout the possibility of alternative systems? (4)Howabout systems not 
accepted as true because distasteful, and agreeable truth accepted without 
being systematic ? Is this last argument an invalid appeal to psychology ? 
No, for there is no pure thought, and without psychological interest, 
etc., thought could neither progress nor be described. The psychological 
side of system and coherence. The necessity of immediate appre 
hension. Coherence feelings. The infinite regress in inference, if its 
immediacy be denied. Non-logical coherence. Interest as the cement 
of coherence. 

II. Answers psychological. Question as to (i) the psychical nature 
of the recognition of truth ; (2) the objects to which this recognition is 
referred, (i) Truth as a form of value. Valuation at first random and 
individual. The ultimateness of the truth - valuation. Meaning of 
simple and complex for a pragmatist psychology. Truth-valuation 
simple for logic. 

III. (2) Objectivity of truth. Truth and fact, formal as a means 
to material truth. Subjective truth-valuations gradually organized (i) 
into subordination to individual, (2) into conformity with social ends. 
Usefulness as the principle of selection and criterion of truth. Need for 
the social recognition of truth. Special cases explained. 

Of all philosophic questions that of Truth is perhaps 
the most hackneyed and unanswerable, when treated in 
the usual fashion. Now the usual fashion is to indulge 
either in ecstatic rhapsodies about the sacredness of 

1 This paper was written for this volume in order to complete, with Axioms 
as Postulates and the two essays which precede it, the outline of a pragmatist 
theory of knowledge. It will be observed that although these four papers do 
not of course claim to be exhaustive, they supplement one another. 



Truth or in satirical derision of pretensions to have 
actually attained it. Both these procedures are assured 
beforehand of popular applause, but both render the 
question What is Truth ? one thoroughly rhetorical, 
and so perhaps the one is the proper answer to the other, 
and jesting Pilate has a right to smile at the enthusiast. 
Nor have the philosophers done much to improve the 
situation. Ever since one of the noblest Plato s noble 
lies proclaimed the doctrine that philosophers are lovers 
of truth, they have been quite willing to believe this, and 
have often found a people willing to be deceived politely 
willing to admit it But perhaps because their passion, 
even when most genuine, was too distantly platonic, 
this philosophic love of truth has hardly influenced 
perceptibly the course of things, and it might remain in 
doubt whether the Pragmatist philosopher also would 
care and dare to obtain some more substantial token of 
Truth s favours, were it not that the cheapest condemna 
tion of his enterprise is to accuse him of a malicious 
joy in the destruction of Truth s very notion. It becomes 
incumbent on him therefore to refute such slanders, and 
to make clear how exactly he proposes to approach, and 
in what sense to derive, the notion of Truth. 

This essay, therefore, must examine I. the chief 
current definitions of Truth, which lay claim to logical 
validity, and to show that they are neither tenable, nor 
even intelligible, without reference to its psychological 
character; II. to describe that psychological character; 
and III. to explain how Pragmatism extends and alters 
the traditional conceptions on the subject. 

Under the head of unpsychological, logical, or meta 
physical definitions may be instanced (i) the well-known 
dictum that truth consists in an agreement or corre 
spondence of thought with its object, viz. reality. This 
however speedily leads to a hopeless impasse, once the 



question is raised How are we to know whether or not 
our truth corresponds or agrees with its real object ? 
For to decide this question must we not be able to com 
pare thought and reality, and to contemplate each as 
it is apart from the other ? This however seems impos 
sible. Thought and Reality cannot be got apart, and 
consequently the doctrine of their correspondence has 
in the end no meaning. We are not aware of any reality 
except by its representation in our thought, and per 
contra, the whole meaning of thought resides ultimately 
in its reference to reality. Again, even if it were 
assumed that somehow the independent reality mirrored 
itself in our thought, how should we discover whether 
or not this image was true, i.e. agreed with the in 
accessible reality it claimed to represent ? This whole 
theory of truth therefore would seem futile. Having 
started from the radically untrue and unworkable 
assumption that truth and fact, thought and reality, 
are two things which have to be brought into relation, 
it is inevitably driven to the admission that no such 
relation can validly be established. 

(2) A second logical definition looks at first more 
promising. It conceives truth as essentially systematic 
coherence, the true being that which fits into a 
system, the false that which is discrepant with it. 
This has the immense advantage of not creating the 
chasm between truth and reality in which the former 
definition was engulfed. Both these conceptions remain 
immanent in the process of knowledge, which is the 
construction of a system of reality known to be true 
by the coherence of its parts. 

This account undoubtedly brings out important features 
in the nature of Truth, but as it stands, it is so in 
complete and misleading that we can hardly follow the 
fashionable logic of the day in accepting it as all we 
can reasonably want to know about truth. In fact, when 
we discount the air of mystery, the obscure phraseology 
and the pompous magniloquence with which this doctrine 
is propounded, we shall find that all it comes to is that 

in TRUTH 47 

consistency is a mark of truth, and that when we find 
that we can maintain our conceptual interpretations of 
our experiences we come to treat them as realities. But 
to take the pronouncement that truth is what jits in a 
system as therefore final would be ludicrously rash, and 
to detect the limitations of the formula, it suffices to 
consider what may be said in favour of a string of 
counter-propositions, such as, e.g. (i) that not all systems 
are true, (2) that no system is true, (3) that many 
systems are true, and (4) that even if all truth be 
systematic, it is not thereby adequately defined. 

(1) To define truth as systematic is at once to raise 
the question of systematic falsehood. For false as 
sumptions also manifestly tend to complete themselves 
in a system of inferences, to cohere together, to assimilate 
fresh facts, and to interpret them into conformity with 
themselves ; in short, to assume all the logical features 
that are claimed for truth. Does it not follow, there 
fore, that something more than systematic coherence is 
needed to determine truth ? As not all systems are true, 
must we not suggest a further criterion to distinguish true 
from false ? 

The reply to this objection would have to take the 
form largely of an acceptance thereof. It would have to 
be admitted that in proportion as a falsehood or a lie 
became more systematic, its prospects of being accepted 
as true grew greater, that coherent lies did often win 
acceptance, and that a perfectly coherent lie (or error) 
would be tantamount to absolute truth. Lies can be 
called false only when they have been found out, and they 
are found out just because sooner or later they do not 
fit into our system of truth. These systematic falsehoods 
are never quite systematic enough, and so the mimicry of 
truth by false systems, so far from subverting, rather con 
firms the doctrine that truth is systematic. 

(2) This defence paves the way for a new assault. 
It would be adequate if we really had an indefeasible 
system of absolute truth by whose aid we might detect 
the inconsistencies of the pseudo-systems. But where 



shall we find such truth ? The bodies of truth which 
de facto we acknowledge in our sciences are all partial 
systems, incomplete in themselves and discrepant with 
each other. If nothing short of absolute truth is perfectly 
systematic, and if all our systems are imperfect, is not all 
our truth tainted with falsehood, and must it not be 
admitted that no (actual) systems are true ? To talk 
of the mimicry of true by false systems is misleading ; 
we should remember that, in addition to the protective 
mimicry of Bates, there exists another form ( f Miillerian ) 
in which the mimics co-operate to advertize the undesirable 
character they have in common. And so our systems 
may all be mimicking each other and may all be false. 

Again, I think, the contention must in substance be 
admitted. The actual systems of our sciences are con 
tinually being convicted of error, and cannot seriously 
sustain their claim to the deference due only to the perfect 
system. Still, in extenuation one might urge (a) that 
ignorance is not necessarily error, nor incompleteness 
falsehood ; () that experience would seem to show that 
even when coherent systems of interpretation have to be 
recast, what occurs is a transformation rather than a 
revolution, reinterpreting rather than destroying the 
truths of the older order. Though, therefore, our 
systems may not be wholly true, we may conceive 
them as progressively approximating to the truth. And 
so (c) we must conceive them as in the end converging in 
one absolute and all-embracing system which alone would 
be strictly and indubitably true. 

(3) This last defence, however, still contains a hazardous 
assumption. Is the ideal of a complete system absolutely 
true really the straightforward, unambiguous notion which 
it seems ? Are we entitled to argue from the unity of a 
concept to a similar unity of the concrete ways of exempli 
fying that concept, and so to assume that there is one 
system and no more, into which all truth must finally be 
fitted ? The assumption is a seductive one, and underlies 
all monistic argument. But still it is an assumption, and 
begs some very puzzling questions. It assumes the 



absolute determination of the universe, and it is only on 
this assumption that the inference is cogent, that truth 
and reality can only be completely construed in one 
single way. If we doubt, or deny, or demand proof of, 
this assumption, it may well be that many alternative 
systems may be true, that reality can be constructed 
in various ways by our varying efforts. The poet may 
have exaggerated in suggesting 

There are nine-and-sixty ways 

Of composing tribal lays, 

And every single one of them is right ; 

but still the more sincerely and completely we recognize 
the presence of human activity in the construction of 
truth and reality, the more clearly is their contingence 
suggested, and the less plausible does it seem that all these 
apparently arbitrary procedures are foredoomed to issue 
in the unveiling of one single, inevitable, and pre-existing 
system. And if we doubt the legitimacy of this assump 
tion, it follows at once that we cannot decide the measure 
of truth possessed by our actual bodies of knowledge by 
the mere test of systematic coherence. System A may 
need reinterpretation into A to fit in with system B 
in the final system X ; but we might as well or better 
reinterpret B into B , so that it would fit with A into 
the final system Y. In such a case are we to consider 
A + B or A + B as ultimately true ? 

In short, our logic as well as our metaphysic will have 
to concern itself more scrupulously and less perfunctorily 
with pluralistic possibilities. 

(4) The last objection has brought out the fact that in 
assuming truth to be univocally determined by the con 
ception of a system, we went too far, and uncritically 
settled an important issue ; we have now to face a criticism 
urging that the conception of a system in another direction 
does not go far enough to determine the nature of truth. 
To win from us recognition as truth, it is not enough to 
have a number of coherent judgments connected in a 
system. The system to be true must also have value 



in our eyes ; the demand for system is but part of a 
larger demand for a harmony (actual or at least ideal) 
in our experience ; it is not merely a matter of formal 
logical consistency, but also of emotional satisfaction. 
Hence no system is judged intellectually true unless it 
is also a good deal more than this, and embraces and 
satisfies other than the abstractly intellectual aspects of 
experience. Thus no completely pessimistic system is 
ever judged completely true ; because it leaves unre- 
moved and unresolved a sense of final discord in existence, 
it must ever stimulate anew to fresh efforts to overcome 
the discrepancy. 1 And conversely, it is by no means rare 
that what impresses us as conducive to harmony should 
be declared true with little or no inquiry into its syste 
matic coherence ; indeed, it is probably such perception 
of their aesthetic self-evidence that often accounts for the 
adoption of the axiomatic postulates that form first 
principles for knowledge. 2 

Thus the notion of system proves doubly insufficient 
to define truth. There is system which is not valued 
as true, and there is truth which is so valuable that it 
need not be system. We need system only as a 
means to the higher notion of harmony, 3 and where we 
can get the latter without the former, we can readily dis 
pense with it. 

The bulk, however, of logicians would in all probability 
strenuously object to this last argument. They would 
protest against the contamination of the question of 
truth with questions of harmony and valuation. To 
refer to these is to overpass the bounds of logic, it is to 
trespass on the lower ground of psychology in which 
thought soon gets bogged in the reedy marshes of psychical 
fact. No good can come of such an intermixture of 
psychology with logic ; our criterion of truth must be 
logical, our thought pure. To talk of desire, interest, 
and feeling in a logical context is sheer madness, and to 
require logical theory to take account of their existence 
is to require it to adjust itself to the alogical. 

1 Cp. p. 200. 2 Cp. Axioms as Postulates, 48. 3 Cp. p. 189. 

in TRUTH 51 

If the defence of logical conventions is imprudent 
enough to take this ground, it can meet with nothing but 
disaster. For we shall at once have to defy the logician 
(i) to produce his pure thought ; (2) to account for the 
movement of thought by anything but an appeal to 
psychological motives, desire, feeling, interest, attention, 
will, etc. ; (3) even to describe what he conceives to 
happen in strictly logical terms and without constant 
recourse to psychology. 

The first two of these points will probably be conceded 
by all except belated Hegelians, but the third may need 
some illustration, the more so as we may draw from it 
also an independent (fifth) reason for denying the adequacy 
of the conception of truth as a system. I may point 
out therefore (5) that the ultimate terms of this (as of 
every other) definition of Truth are primarily psychological. 
If we take it that a system means a body of coherent 
judgments, it needs but a little reflection to see that the 
logical evaluation of the system presupposes its psychical 
existence, and the previous discussion of a number of 
psychological questions, (i) How, e.g. is the system 
recognized ? (2) What is the nature, and what (3) the 
cause of its coherence ? 

As to (i) it must surely be admitted that the logical 
system, to be a system for us, must be apprehended as 
such by us. Before, that is, an alleged truth can be 
subjected to logical reflection, it has to be actually judged 
true ; its truth has to be felt before it is understood. 
Even, therefore, if logic could find and reserve for itself 
among our conscious processes such a thing as a process 
of pure thought, a distinct mental act would yet be 
necessary for its apprehension, and this act would be 
psychological. In other words, no truth actually occurs 
without, in the first place, a psychic process ; hence every 
truth as such is conditioned by a variety of psychological 
influences of the kind just mentioned. 

The attempt, therefore, to represent thought and 
a fortiori truth, as wholly an affair of mediation between 
self-subsistent relations fails ; at every step in its progress 


the mediate inference has to be immediately recognized, 
and the mediate knowledge-about rests upon and returns 
into an immediate acquaintance-with. l If, therefore, 
we call them respectively thought and feeling, we 
shall have to say that an element of feeling is bound 
up with and accompanies every act of thought, and that 
no actual thought either is or can be conceived as pure. 
Moreover the movement of thought would have in any 
case to be pronounced psychological. For the selection 
of the points in the self-subsistent system, between which 
the thought mediated, could not be ascribed to the 
intrinsic nature of the system, but only to the human 
interest which effects the selection. 

Now if such be the state of the case, why on earth 
should it not be recognized in logic ? Logic, I presume, in 
the very act of constituting norms for thought, presup 
poses the facts of thought, and if all actual thinking, good, 
bad, or indifferent, is impelled by interest, then interest 
ipso facto must become a factor in the logical analysis of 
thought. Why, then, should we insist on tortuous and 
complicated misdescriptions in terms of pure thought 
of processes which are quite simple and intelligible when 
we consent to regard their full psychic nature? 2 

(2) Mutatis mutandis, what has been said of the 
logical system applies also to its coherence. The 
coherence of judgments is a psychical fact which justifies, 
nay demands, psychological treatment. We find accord 
ingly that it is (a] a matter of immediate apprehension. 
However we refine upon the logical concept of coherence, 
we can do nothing without observing that de facto judg 
ments stick together. (U] We observe also certain co 
herence feelings, whose strength is best measured by 
that of the feeling of (logical) necessity 3 which supervenes 

1 James, Princ. of Psych. i. p. 221. 

2 All the squabbles about the activity or movement of thought are due 
to perversities of this sort. Abstract thought is not active, or even alive ; it does 
not exist. What is active is the thinking being with a certain psychical idio 
syncrasy in consequence whereof he pursues his ends by various means, among 
which thinking is one. The nature of his thought everywhere refers to the 
purpose of his thinking. 

3 See Personal Idealism, p. 70, note. 

in TRUTH 53 

when we try to part the coherent judgments. Truths 
cohere when they afford us the peculiar satisfaction of 
feeling that they belong together, and that it is impossible 
to separate them. 1 

And (c) if the cohesion of our thoughts, the belonging 
together, e.g. of A B, were not immediately felt, but had to 
be established by mediate reasoning, it would follow that 
for any two truths to cohere a reason would have to be 
alleged why they should do so. But this would have to 
be another truth, and the attempt to understand the 
immediate psychical cohesion would have to be renewed 
upon this, until it became obvious that an infinite process 
was implicit in the simplest inference. 2 Is it not much 
more reasonable to suppose that the cohesiveness is a 
psychical feature of the thinking itself? Finally (cT) it 
would seem that not every sort of coherence in thought 
was regarded as logically important. The sort of 
coherences, e.g. which proceed from associations and 
lead to puns and plays upon words are relegated to that 
undignified limbo in which fallacies are huddled together. 
But if not all coherence is logical, then the logician 
plainly needs a preliminary psychology to distinguish for 
him the kind of coherence which is his concern. 

(3) If logic is to make the attempt to exclude 
psychology, the real cause of logical coherence must be 
pronounced to be extralogical. For it is nothing that 
can plausibly be represented 3 as inherent in the nature of 
thought qua thought, i.e. of thought as logicians abstractly 

1 It is never strictly impossible to reject a truth, only in some cases the 
cost is excessive. To accept, e.g. a formal contradiction, stultifies the assumption 
that definite meanings exist, and should consequently debar us from the further use 
of thinking. This is too much, and as we have an alternative we usually prefer 
to reconsider the thought that has ended in a contradiction. Moreover, if we 
desire to entertain contradictory beliefs, there is a much easier way ; we have 
merely to refuse to think them together. This indeed is what the great majority 
of men have always done. 

2 For an amusing illustration of this existence of an immediate apprehension 
in all mediate cogency see Lewis Carroll s dialogue between Achilles and the 
Tortoise in Mind, N.S. No. 14, p. 278. 

3 I am willing to suppose it just possible to translate all the features of our 
thinking into a completely and consistently intellectualist phraseology. Philo 
sophers have made endless attempts to do so, but none have succeeded, though it 
is I suppose a merit of Hegel s to have tried more elaborately, and to have failed 
more obscurely, than the rest. But the philosophers insistence on reducing 
everything to pure thought is merely one of their professional prejudices. 


conceive it. The cause of logical coherence may be 
summed up in the one word interest, and thought 
which is not set in motion by interest does not issue in 
thinking at all. If, therefore, interest is to be tabooed, the 
whole theory of thought becomes a mere mass of useless 
machinery. For it is interest which starts, propels, 
sustains, and guides the movement of our thought. It 
effects the necessary selection among the objects of our 
attention, accepting what is consonant, and rejecting what 
is discrepant, with our aim in thinking. If, then, the 
purposiveness of our thought is its central feature, psycho 
logically, how can a logic set it aside without the grossest 
travesty ? How fundamental is the fact of purposive 
interest in mental life is apparent from the cases where 
the normal control of consciousness is weakened or 
suspended. In sleepiness, reverie, dream, delirium, mad 
ness, etc., the purposive guidance of our thought grows 
lax with the result that anarchy speedily overtakes the 
soul. Thoughts cross the mind in the most illogical 
way, and though our mental images may still continue to 
mimic meaning, they have ceased to mean anything 
coherent, and pro tanto logical thinking ceases to exist. 

Thus in trying to understand the doctrine that truth is 
system we have been driven to the conclusion that in 
psychology, if anywhere, the clue to the mystery of truth 
must lie. For not only the definitions we have examined, 
but all others of the sort, must presuppose a psychological 
treatment of the psychical facts. 1 


Let us turn therefore to psychology. And to begin 
with let us formulate our psychological questions more 
precisely, as (i) what is the psycJiical nature of the 
recognition of truth ? and (2) to what part of our 
experience is this recognition attached ? 

1 The definition, e.g. that truth is what -we are forced to believe, obviously 
implies psychological presuppositions as to the nature of belief and necessity." 
Other inadequate formulas are discussed in Riddles of the Sphinx (new &&.}, pp. 83-9. 

in TRUTH 55 

To the first question the summary answer would 
appear to be that Truth is a form of Value, and for this 
reason related to, and largely interchangeable with, our 
other modes of valuation. Now such valuation of our 
experience is a natural, and in the normal consciousness 
an almost uninterrupted, process. We are for ever 
judging things as true and false, good and bad, 
beautiful and ugly, pleasant and unpleasant. So 
continuous is this habit that existence without apprecia 
tion, fact without value, is rather a figment of abstrac 
tion than a possible psychical experience. Now it is the 
de facto existence of this habit of valuation that gives rise 
to the normative sciences, and the function of logic as a 
normative science is to regulate and systematize our 
spontaneous valuations of true and false. For ot 
course these logical valuations also will need regulation. 
At first they are bestowed by individuals pretty much at 
random. Anything may commend itself to anybody, as 
true, nay, even as the truth, 1 and there are no guarantees 
that any man s valuations will be consistent with any 
other man s, or even with his own at other times. It is 
only as the needs of social intercourse and of consistent 
living grow more urgent that de facto truth grows 
systematic and objective, i.e. that there come to be 
truths which are (roughly) the same for all. And finally, 
when most of the hard work has actually been done, the 
logician arises and reflects on the genesis of truth, 
which, in the end, he mostly misrepresents. 

It is fairly plain, therefore, that the psychical fact of 
the existence of truth-valuation must be the starting-point 
for the psychological account of truth. Whether it should 
be called the foundation of the whole structure, or whether 
it should not be likened to the intrinsic nature of the 
bricks of which the structure is built up, seems to be a 
matter of the choice of metaphors. At any rate without 
this valuation there would be no truth at all. 

Of course, however, further psychological questions 
may be raised about it. We may ask, for instance, 

1 Cp. the inexhaustible variety of the systems of religion and philosophy. 



whether the fact that we judge things true and false is 
psychologically simple and ultimate, or whether we could 
not analyse out a common element of value from our 
various valuations. The answer to such questions might 
grow long and somewhat intricate, but we are hardly 
bound to go into them very deeply. It will suffice to 
point out that the simple in psychology can only mean 
what it is no use to analyse further} In other words, the 
distinction of simple and complex is always relative 
to the purpose of the inquiry. The elements out of 
which the complex states of mind are put together do 
not exist as psychic facts. In the actual experiencing, 
most states of consciousness form peculiar and recognizable 
wholes of experience, which feel simple. Thus the taste 
of lemonade is emphatically not the taste of sugar plus 
the taste of lemon ; though of course it is by squeezing 
the lemon and dissolving the sugar that we compose the 
lemonade and procure ourselves the taste. The ex 
periences which really are complex to feeling are 
comparatively rare, as e.g. when we feel the struggle 
of incompatible desires. On the other hand, when we 
reflect upon our experience, it is easy enough to represent 
it all as complex, and to break it up into factors, which, 
we say, were present unobserved in the experience. But 
the justification of this procedure is that it enables us 
to control the original experience, and the factors which the 
analysis arrives at are whatever aids this purpose. It 
is in no wise incumbent on us to go on making distinc 
tions for their own sake and from inconsistent points of 
view, without aim and without end. Indeed the practice 
of aimless analysis, though it seems to form the chief 
delight of some philosophers, must be pronounced to be 
as such trivial, irrelevant, and invalid. We have a right 
therefore to declare simple and ultimate what it is 
useless to treat as complex for the purpose in hand, and 
in this instance we shall do well to avail ourselves of this 

1 I owe this definition to Prof. A. W. Moore s excellent account of the 
functional theory of knowledge in Locke in the Chicago University Contributions 
to Philosophy, vol. iii. p. 23. 

in TRUTH 57 

right. For an analysis of the valuation true and false/ 
whether or not it is possible for other purposes, would 
hardly be germane to logic. 


We are however still sufficiently remote from what 
is ordinarily meant by truth. For truth is conceived 
as something objective and coherent, while the truth- 
valuations we have recognized are individual claims, and 
so far seem chaotic. We may have found indeed the 
bricks out of which the temple of Truth is to be built, but 
as yet we have but a heap of bricks and nothing like a 
temple. Before, moreover, we can venture to erect the 
actual structure of objective Truth we must consider (a) 
the nature of the ground over which the truth-valuation 
is used, (If) the way in which our bricks cohere, i.e. the 
formal nature of truth. 

As to (a), the use of truth lies in the valuation of 
fact : truth is value in the apprehension of fact. 
The objects of our contemplation when valued as true 
become facts, and facts (or what we take to be such) 
become available for knowledge when valued as true. 
The system of truth therefore is constructed by an inter 
pretation of fact. But this interpretation conforms to 
certain building laws, as it were. It consists in the use 
of concepts, and postulates the fundamental principles of 

Hence () these result in a certain formal character of 
truth. Every assertion formally claims to be true, and 
causes endless confusion if this formal claim is identified 
with real, and even absolute, truth. Again, whatever is 
harmonious ( consistent ) with the fundamental assump 
tions of our conceptual interpretation of reality is in one 
sense true. Any non-contradictory collocation of words 
has formal truth. But it is truth in a narrower sense 
than that required for material truth. 1 In its fullest 

1 Cp. p. 98 note. 


sense our truth must harmonize, not only with its own 
formal postulates but with our whole experience, and it 
may well be that the merely formal truth of consistency 
is never able to attain results sufficient for our wider 
purpose, and so is not fully true. In point of fact it is 
useful within limits ; to show that a truth follows 
formally is not enough to prove it de facto true, but tests 
our premisses ; to show that it involves a formal flaw is 
not enough to invalidate it, but requires us to re-word it. 
For we would rather renounce our conclusion than the use 
of our formal principles. 

After premising which we may return to our problem 
of constructing an objective truth out of subjective truth- 
valuations, of, as we saw, the most varied nature. Every 
one of these subjective valuations is the product of a 
psychological interest, and aims at the satisfaction of 
such an interest. But even in the individual there is 
much regulation of his subjective valuations, and some 
consolidation and subordination of interests under the 
main purposes of his life. Hence many of his initial 
interests will be suppressed, and the valuations which 
ministered to them will tend to be withdrawn, to be 
judged useless and, ultimately, false. In other words, 
there begins to operate among our subjective truth- 
valuations the great Pragmatist principle of selection, viz. 
that the useless is not to be valued as true. The use 
appealed to and the truth extracted by this criterion 
are wholly psychological and, at first, only individual. 
But not even of the individual is it true to say that his 
feeling a thing true and calling it so makes it so. His 
intuitions, guesses, and demands have to be verified, and 
are sifted by the manner of their working. Thus the 
question of the sustaining of the valuation after it is 
made is a distinct one ; and is perhaps the one we mostly 
want to raise when we inquire : What is truth? 

This question becomes more intricate, but also more 
interesting, when we take into account the social environ 
ment. For man is a social being, and truth indubitably 
is to a large extent a social product. For even though 

in TRUTH 59 

every truth may start in a minority of one, its hold upon 
existence is exceedingly precarious, unless it can con 
trive to get itself more extensively appreciated. Truth 
is one of the few things of which no one desires a 
monopoly. Those unfortunate enough to have acquired 
and retained an exclusive view of truth are usually secluded 
in prisons or asylums, unless their truth is so harmlessly 
abstruse as not to lead to action, when they are sometimes 
styled philosophers ! Truth, then, to be really safe, has to 
be more than an individual valuation ; it has to win social 
recognition, to transform itself into a common property. 

But how ? It is by answering this question that 
Pragmatism claims to have made a real advance in our 
comprehension of truth. It contends that once more, """^ 
only more signally and clearly than in the individual s 
case, it is the usefulness and efficiency of the propositions 
for which truth is claimed that determines their social 
recognition. The use-criterion selects the individual 
truth-valuations, and constitutes thereby the objective 
truth which obtains social recognition. Hence in the 
fullest sense of Truth its definition must be pragmatic. 
Truth is the useful, efficient, workable, to which our 
practical experience tends to restrict our truth-valuations ; 
if anything the reverse of this professes to be true, it is 
(sooner or later) detected and rejected. 

As an account of Truth this is not so much a 
speculative theory as a description of plain fact. When 
ever we observe a struggle between two rival theories of 
events we find that it is ultimately the greater con- 
duciveness of the victor to our use and convenience that 
determines our preference and its consequent acceptance 
as true. Illustrations of this fact might be multiplied 
without limit, because in every advance of knowledge 
there is always something of a struggle between the old 
values which seemed true, and the new, which are better. 
The shocking cases occur when the convenience of a 
science is sacrificed to that of its practitioners, and 
doctrines continue to be taught, like formal logic, though 
they are known to be false. These exemplify an 



illegitimate use of the pragmatic principle. As a 
legitimate case we may allude to the well-known fact 
that what decided the rejection of the Ptolemaic epicycles 
in favour of the Copernican astronomy was not any 
sheer failure to represent celestial motions, but the 
growing cumbrousness of the assumptions and the grow 
ing difficulty of the calculations which its truth involved. 
Similarly when I affirm (as I have now been doing for 
a good many years) that the metaphysical theory 
of the Absolute is false, I only mean that it is useless, 
that it simplifies nothing and complicates everything, and 
that its supposed advantages are one and all illusory. 
And I hope that as the pragmatist way of looking at 
things grows to be more familiar, more of my philosophic 
confreres will allow themselves to perceive these simple 

Of course there still remain complications of detail 
about the doctrine that social usefulness is an ultimate 
determinant of truth. It is obvious, for example, that 
delicate questions may arise out of the fact that not only 
does what works receive social recognition, but also that 
what receives social recognition for this very reason 
largely works. Effete superstitions always try to sustain 
their truth in this way. Again, there may be old- 
established mental industries which have outlived their use 
fulness, but have not yet been condemned as false. Other 
truths again are intrinsically of so individual a character 
that society accepts, e.g. Smith s statement that he has a 
headache, or that he dreamt a dream, on his ipse dixit. 
And while new truths are struggling for recognition, it 
may come about that much that is useful is thought to 
be useless and vice versa, and that the discrepancy 
between truth as it is supposed, and as it turns out, to be, 
grows great. Then, again, few societies are so severely 
organized with a sole view to efficiency as not to tolerate 
a considerable number of useless persons pursuing 
useless knowledge, or useful knowledge in a useless 
way. Of course there is a certain amount of social 
pressure brought to bear upon such persons, but it is not 

in TRUTH 61 

enough to produce complete social agreement, and the 
elimination of all discrepant truth. Indeed, the toleration 
of socially useless, and even pernicious, truths, which are 
individually entertained, seems on the whole to be 
increasing. This only shows that we can afford the 
luxury. In earlier times the thinkers of divergent views 
had short shrift granted them, and so, partly as the result 
of much past brutality, we now enjoy considerable bodies 
of objective truth. And considering how much use 
philosophers have always made of this indulgence to 
differ from their fellows, it would be gracious if they at 
least gave honour where honour was due, and appreciated 
the labours of their ancestors, instead of attributing the 
whole credit of the conformity which exists to the initial 
constitution of the Absolute. Or if they insist on it, 
they might at least, in common fairness, attempt to tell us 
to whom the discredit should attach for the discrepancy 
and nonconformity, which exist no less and are by far 
more troublesome, even if they are too indolent to help 
in the practical work of science, which enlarges the limits 
of practical agreement and constitutes objective truth. 

To sum up ; the answer to the question What is 
Truth ? to which our Pragmatism has conducted us, is - 
this. As regards the psychical fact of the truth-valuation, 
Truth may be called an ultimate attitude and specific 
function of our intellectual activity. As regards the 
objects valued as true, Truth is that manipulation of 
them which has after trial been adopted as useful, primarily 
for any human end, but ultimately for that perfect 
harmony of our whole life which forms our final aspiration. 



Lotze s proof of Monism fails because ( i ) he was not entitled to postulate an 
underlying unity of things ; (2) his argument for it is unsound and con 
tradictory ; (3) it has no scientific value, nor (4) can it be equated with 
God ; nor (5), even when it has been, does it contribute anything to 
religious philosophy, (i) A Unity of the Universe or Absolute, on 
Lotze s own showing, is not needed to explain the interaction of things, 
and in its sole tenable form is insufficient to refute Pluralism. Lotze s own 
view of Substance refutes his Absolute. (2) Lotze not entitled to hypos- 
tasize his unity, nor is its immanent causality more intelligible than the 
transeunt causality of things. The argument from commensurability 
is invalid. Can commensurability be conceived as a fortuitous growth ? 
(3) The Absolute guarantees neither causality, nor orderly succession, 
nor change, nor rationality, nor the existence of spiritual beings. (4) Its 
identification with God is assumed and not proved, and really impossible. 
(5) It aggravates the problem of Freedom, Change, and Evil. A real 
God must be a moral being and provable a posteriori from the facts of 
our actual world. All the a priori proofs worthless because too wide. 

LOTZE S reputation as a sound and cautious thinker 
deservedly stands so high that any attempt to question 
the cogency of his argument is naturally received with 
suspicion, and needs to be fully and clearly established 
before its conclusions can win acceptance. As, however, 
no true view is in the long run strengthened by stifling 
the objections against it, and no false view can in the end 
be considered beneficial to the highest interests of man 
kind without thereby implying a profoundly pessimistic 
divorce between Truth and Goodness, I will venture 
to set forth my reasons for denying the success of Lotze s 
proof of Monism. And while I trust that my criticism 

1 Reprinted (with some additions) from The Philosophical Review of May 1896. 



will always remain sensible of the extent of my obligations 
to the author criticized, I feel it would be useless to try 
to conceal on that account the extent of my divergence 
from him, and so will commence by stating the proposi 
tions which I hope to establish in the course of this 

They are as follows : 

I. That Lotze had not on his own principles any ground 
for seeking an underlying unity of things. 

II. That his argument in reaching it is unsound, and 
conflicts with his own truer insight. 

III. That, when reached, it throws no light on any 
of the problems it is supposed to explain. 

IV. That it is not essentially connected with the religious 
conception of a God, nor with Lotze s treatment of that 

V. That even when it is so connected, it does not 
contribute anything of value to religious philosophy. 

I am aware that these propositions do not mince 
matters, and that I shall probably be called on to explain 
how a thinker of Lotze s eminence should have laid 
himself open to such sweeping censure. I may therefore 
fittingly preface my remarks by a theory of the way 
in which such lapses are psychologically explicable. The 
theory I would advance is in brief that the elaborate 
thoroughness and detail of Lotze s discussions occasionally 
avenge themselves on Lotze also, by generating a readiness 
finally to accept the first clue out of the labyrinth which 
offers itself, so that at the end of a chapter full of the 
subtlest and minutest criticism he sometimes consents 
to adopt views which certainly would not have passed 
muster at the beginning. A similar effect produced on 
the reader, who is loth to believe that the display of 
so much acumen should be followed by momentary 
relapses into untenable positions, relaxes his critical atten 
tion, and so possibly explains his acquiescence in Lotze s 
conclusions. I have sometimes felt that the process 


in question is well exhibited, e.g. in the chapter on Time 
in the Metaphysics^ and that the disproportionate abrupt 
ness and the obscurity of its conclusion are similarly 
conditioned by a temporary lapse of the critical faculty. 

The fullest statement of the grounds on which Lotze 
asserts the existence of an underlying unity of things is 
of course to be found in the sixth and seventh chapters 
of the Metaphysics (since the Outlines of the Philosophy 
of Religion merely accepts it as established in the Meta 
physics], and though the argument is well known, it will 
not be inappropriate to sketch its course in so far as 
it bears on the present discussion. It will be remembered 
that Lotze is driven to postulate a unity of things by 
the metaphysical difficulties discovered in the conception 
of Causation, taken as the assertion that one thing 
influences another. The impossibility of explaining such 
transeunt causation compels to the inference that things 
are not really separate and independent, but embraced 
in a unity which is the medium in which they exist, 
and renders superfluous any further question as to how 
change in A passes over to become a change in 
B. Thus by means of this unity, which in the 
Philosophy of Religion is frankly called the Absolute, all 
transeunt becomes immanent action, and is held thereby 
to have been explained. The next step, which it requires 
careful reading to recognize as an advance at all, is 
to treat this unity as prior to, and more real than, the 
plurality of things it serves to connect. Accordingly 
(Met. 70) it is hypostasized as the single truly existing 
substance, and it is explained at length how the self- 
maintenance of the identical meaning of this Absolute 
may be conceived as producing the world of experience 
with its regular succession of phenomena. The discussion 
closes with a vigorous protest against recognizing things 
as anything more than actions of the Absolute upon 
spiritual beings, which, by being centres of experience, 
are thereby rendered independent of the Absolute 

( 97, 98). 

It seems on the face of it that the argument ends in 


something very like self-contradiction, inasmuch as it 
seems to assert that spiritual beings are ipso facto 
independent of the Absolute, after inferring the existence 
of that Absolute from the fact that things (in which 
spiritual beings are presumably included, even if they do 
not constitute the whole class) could not be independent. 1 
But it may be shown that verbal contradictions are not the 
only nor the most serious flaws to be found in Lotze s 

I. It is in the first place by no means clear that a 
unity of things must be specially provided to account for 
the fact that things act on one another. This necessity 
only exists if the problem it is to solve is a valid one, i.e. 
if the fact of interaction really requires explanation. If it 
does not, there is no basis for any further argument. 
And it may be plausibly contended that it does not. 

For interaction is essential to the existence of the 
world in a more fundamental manner than even Lotze 
suggests. It is the. condition of there being a world at all. 
Without it there could be no things, no plurality, and 
hence no assemblage of things, no world. For each of 
the possible constituents of a world, holding no sort of 
communication with any other, would remain shut up in 
itself. It is easy to illustrate this by showing that in 
every case in which we predicate the coexistence of 
several things, we imply that they, directly or indirectly, 
act on one another. E.g. in the case of the gravitation 
of all the bodies in the universe, the interaction is direct ; 
in the case, e.g., of Hamlet and the Chimera it takes place 
through the medium of a mind which connects them. 
But interaction in some way there must be, if coexistence 
is to be recognized. We may therefore confidently 
affirm that without interaction there is no coexistence, and 
without coexistence there is no world. The existence of 

1 Lotze generally prefers to use unabhdngig when proving that there must 
be an all-embracing unity, selbstandig when showing that the unity cannot 
embrace the conscious centres of experience. But he sometimes, as e.g. in 
Outlines of Philosophy of Religion, 18, uses selbstandig also in the first case, so 
that the verbal conflict is complete. The English translation obscures the point 
by rendering selbstandig by self-dependent in 98 and by independent in 



interaction is just as primary a fact as the existence of the 
world itself, and the assertion that things act on one 
another is, in Kant s phrasing, an analytical proposition, 
which merely expands what was already asserted in 
saying there is a world. 

But is this latter proposition one which requires 
explanation ? Have we not learnt from Lotze himself 1 
that it is an improper question to ask why there should 
be a world at all, since the given existence of the world 
is the basis and presupposition of all our questionings ? 
That has always seemed to me one of the most luminous 
and valuable of Lotze s contributions to philosophy, and 
if it is an error to attempt to derive the existence of the 
world, it must be equally mistaken to derive the interaction 
of the world s elements. For coexistence and interaction 
have been shown to be equivalent. 

The problem of interaction, therefore, disappears. 
Or rather, it is merged in that of the existence of a 
world in general of which it is a variant. And the 
existence of a world is not a problem for philosophy. 
There is not, then, on Lotze s principles any need to 
recognize any unity of things other than that which 
consists of their actual interactions. Having a plurality 
of interacting things given it, our thought may distinguish 
a unity implied in this, viz. the possibility of their 
interaction. But this unity is not more real or more 
valuable than the plurality, but less so. Nor can it be 
extolled as the ground of all reality. It is merely an 
ideal reflection of the actual. It does not assert more 
than that when a thing is actual it must be conceived as 
also possible, and in this case we are forbidden to pry 
into the questions how either the actuality or the 
possibility came about. So far from unity in this sense 
therefore being a royal road to Monism, it is the common 
ground which Monism shares with Pluralism ; nay, it is 
the very fact which, by implying plurality, renders 
possible the metaphysical doctrine that plurality is the 
ultimate term of all real philosophic explanation. 

1 E.g., Met. 5 and 11, Trans, pp. 36, 46. 


Similar conclusions may be extracted from Lotze s 
theory of substantiality. He tells us ( 37, Trans, p. 
i oo) that the notion of a kernel of substance is a useless 
superstition, that "it is not in virtue of a substance con 
tained in them that things are, they are when they are 
able to produce an appearance of there being a substance 
in them." All this is excellent and most important. For 
it marks the abandonment of the unknowable substrate 
view of substance and the return to the older and truer 
conception of Aristotle, that a thing is what it does, 
that substance is actuality (evepyeia) and not potentiality 
(SiW/u?). 1 But presumably this declaration is applicable 
also to "the single truly existing substance" (Trans. 70, 
p. 167), and we ought then to say it is not in virtue of 
a single substance underlying them that things are ; they 
are when they are able to produce the appearance of there 
being such a substance. In other words, we have no real 
right to infer that there is a substantial One underlying 
the interactions of the Many. 2 The unity which is 
involved as a conceptual possibility in the actual plurality 
is a unity in the Many and of the Many, and must not 
be hypostasized into anything transcendent or more truly 
existent. If it is, the problem of the relations of the One 
and the Many at once becomes insoluble, simply because 
by calling it existent we are compelled to construe its 
existence as analogous to that of the Many, which it 
cannot be if its function is to be that of uniting the 
Many. Is not then the necessity of the One as the 
world-ground an illusion of the same order as that of an 
underlying substance ? 3 

It appears, then, that Lotze sets out to find a unity 
which, on his own showing, he did not need to find, and 
finds it in a way which conflicts with the implications of 
his own doctrine of the self-evidence of the world s exist 
ence and of his own view of substantiality. 

II. In tracing the further development of Lotze s 

1 See the essay on Activity and Substance, 1,7. 

2 Cp. p. 224, note. 

* Cp. Kiddies of the Sphinx, ch. x. 



conception of the Unity of Things, the point of capital 
importance is the process whereby the unity becomes 
hypostasized into a real existence superior to the plurality 
which it unites. To explain interaction there is only 
needed a unity in the Many, not a One creating and 
embracing the Many, a union, not a unit. And, as we 
have seen, this union does not need explanation. Lotze, 
I however, having failed to see that in its general and 
abstract form the possibility of causation needs not to be 
deduced, has to reject transeunt action as inexplicable 
and to try to substitute immanent action in its place. 
We are accordingly told that the interactions of things 
become intelligible when regarded as the ways in which 
the Absolute changes its states. The question as to why 
it is intrinsically a more intelligible conception that a 
being should change its own states rather than those of 
another is not raised in this connexion. We are merely 
told that de facto we do not " scruple about accepting it 
as a given fact" ( 68, Trans, p. 164). Yet in 46 
Lotze had clearly seen that while we treat " this immanent 
operation, which develops state out of state within one 
and the same essential being, as a matter of fact calling 
for no further effort of thought," " this operation in its turn 
remains completely incomprehensible in respect of the 
manner in which it comes about." " We acquiesce in the 
notion of immanent operation, not as though we had any 
insight into its genesis, but because we feel no hindrance 
to recognizing it without question as a given fact." Does 
not this pretty decisively admit that the superior in 
telligibility of immanent as compared with transeunt 
action is not logical but merely psychological, and due to 
the familiarity with it which we seem to find in our own 
inner experience ? 

But is it permissible to argue that because immanent 
action passes unchallenged in our own case it should 
therefore do so likewise in the case of the Absolute ? 

Perhaps we shall be able to decide this when we have 
analysed the reasons why it seems natural to us that one 
state of our consciousness should be followed by another. 


Let us ask then why we should change. This question 
may be taken in two senses, according as the stress is 
laid on the we or on the change. In the first case 
the question will refer to the preservation of identity in 
immanent change, and can be answered only by an appeal 
to inner experience. That A v A 2 , A 3 are all states of A 
is in our own case based on our feeling of our continuity 
and identity. We can change, because we are conscious 
beings with a feeling of our identity. But in so far as 
we have here the ground for our easy acceptance of the 
conception of immanent action, it is evidently inapplicable 
to the Absolute. We can neither feel the Absolute s 
continuity like our own, nor even infer it like other 
people s on the analogy of our own. For if the Absolute 
can be conceived as conscious at all, its consciousness 
would differ radically from ours in that it would be all- 
embracing, not merely in the sense of having representa 
tions of all things within it, but in the sense of actually 
being and feeling the inner and unique continuity of each 

If, secondly, we ask why we change, instead of remaining 
as we are, our common reason seems unhesitatingly to 
answer, either because we are stimulated from without, or 
because our psychical condition is disequilibrated, is one 
of unsatisfied desire, so that we long to change it. In 
neither case do we consider ourselves subject to unprovoked 
and capricious changes. In the first case, immanent change 
in ourselves distinctly presupposes transeunt action upon 
us from without and consists only of our self-maintenance 
against such action. In the second case there is pre 
supposed a defect of nature which puts a good we desire 
beyond our reach. But in the Absolute immanent change 
can be explained in neither of these ways. There is 
nothing outside it to stimulate it to self-maintenance. 
Nor can we not rashly ascribe to an Absolute which is to 
have any religious value an essential want or defect in its 
nature. The very considerations, therefore, that render 
immanent action intelligible in our own case are utterly 
unthinkable in the Absolute s ; the very reasons which 


render it natural that we should change render it 
very unreasonable that the Absolute should. If it does 
change, both the fact and the manner of that change must 
remain wholly inexplicable facts. And if transeunt action 
be a mystery, immanent action in the Absolute is not 
only as great a mystery, but, in addition, comes very near 
to being an absurdity. 

Taking next the argument from commensurability 
(Met. 69), I cannot see either that it validly leads to 
any conclusion at all, or to the conclusion Lotze desires. 
It argues from the fact that all things are comparable or 
commensurable to a ground of this commensurability. If 
all things had been quite incommensurable, like, e.g. t 
sweet and red, there would have been no principle of 
connexion between them. There would have been no 
reason to expect the consequence F from the relation of 
two incommensurables A and B, rather than any other. 
For that relation would have been the same as that of A 
to M or B to N or M to N. Hence there would be no 
reason for any definite connexion whatever. Commensur 
ability, therefore, being a fact, its origin from a single root 
in the permanent immanence of the elements of the world 
in one being is rendered probable. 

Now this argument seems to lack cogency. Its 
very statement seems defective, and involves an un 
distributed middle in arguing from the common incom 
mensurability of the relation of A to B and of M to N to 
their identity, in spite of the fact that incommensurables 
may be very various. And even if we overlooked this, 
the logical inference from the supposition that every pair 
of the world s elements stood in the same relation would 
seem to be not to a world of a chaotic and infinite variety, 
but to one of eternal monotony, in which whatever com 
bination of elements was tried the same consequence 
always ensued ! 

Nor, looking at the matter more broadly, can I see 
that commensurability proves anything. In a very general 
sense it must, of course, be granted ; for if the elements 
of a proposed universe had turned out to be absolutely 


incommensurable, no world could have resulted. There 
cannot, therefore, be any things strictly incommensurable 
in the world, even red, sweet, and loud are comparable 
at least as sensations, and it is mere tautology to say 
that the elements forming a world must have been com 
mensurable to form a world. Nor does this carry us 
beyond the possibility of interaction which we saw was 
implied in actual plurality. 

Moreover, it would seem that by arguing from the 
existence of commensurability to a source of commensur- 
ability Lotze rendered his argument obnoxious to an 
objection which he elsewhere admits to be valid. The 
course of his argument here runs parallel to that of the 
old teleological argument, which has been so successfully 
challenged by Darwinism. 1 The teleological argument in 
biology proceeded from the given existence of adaptation 
in structure to an intelligent source of that adaptation 
i.e. it argued from an adaptation to an adapter. But 
Darwinism seemed to show that the same result might 
occur without supposing any original and pre-existent 
fitness of structure, merely by the survival of better 
adapted structures. As against this objection Lotze 
admits that the old teleology loses its demonstrative force : 
he admits (Phil, of Religion, 1 1 s. f.) that the completely 
automatic origin even of the most perfectly adapted 
system is not impossible, but only improbable, and that 
it is not unthinkable (ibid. 1 2 s. f.) that an original Chaos 
should develop itself into a purposively ordered nature. 

But if so, a logical extension of the same argument 
would seem to be fatal to Lotze s position here. Why 
should not the initial commensurability of the elements 
of the world itself have arisen by a process of natural 
selection similar to that which has guided its subsequent 
development? Given the necessary conditions, and the 
argument seems to work equally well. Just as in the 
biological field it presupposed the possibility of indefinite 
variation in all directions, so here in ontology it might, 
it seems, suppose an indefinite multitude of elements of 

1 See, however, the essay on Darwinism and Design. 



possible worlds, some commensurable, the immensely 
greater number not. If so, it would be possible to con 
ceive the world as constituting itself out of a fortuitous 
concourse of the atoms which happened to be congruous 
or commensurable, while those which were not would 
simply stay out, and appear in the actual results as little 
as the countless variations which did not survive. In 
both cases the essence of the argument would be the 
same, and consist in destroying the unique peculiarity of 
the actual result by regarding it as one out of an indefinite 
number of possible results. Against the atheism thus 
implicit in the Darwinian method Lotze s argument seems 
to afford no adequate protection. He cannot show that 
the inference he draws to an underlying unity of the 
world is the only one conceivable. The supposed origin 
of a commensurable world out of an indefinite number of 
commensurable and incommensurable elements is thinkable. 

Whether, to be sure, it is also tenable is another 
question, which, personally, I would answer by a strenuous 
negative. For if the immense majority of things were 
really incommensurable with us and our world, they would 
be unknowable. Hence we could have no positive ground 
for affirming their existence. And we have no right to 
affirm unknowables merely for the sake of discrediting 
the known. Hence this bare possibility could not, to my 
mind, be actually propounded as an explanation of the 
order of nature, nor held to detract from the purposiveness 
we actually find there. But this protest does not help 
Lotze ; the bare possibility of thinking such a process is 
enough to set aside his contention that his own solution 
is alone conceivable. 1 His argument moved wholly in 
the region of abstract metaphysics, and as an abstract 
possibility the Darwinian plea seems just as sound. We 
may not have the right to apply it to our actual world, 
but Lotze s argument is in no better case. 

Altogether, then, it would seem as if not proven was 
the most lenient verdict that could be passed on Lotze s 
derivation of the Unity of Things. 

1 Cp. Microc. ii. p. 598. 


III. But what shall we say of the metaphysical value 
of this conception in the explanation of things ? 

(1) It has already been shown that it does nothing to 
solve the problem of Causation and to relieve the difficulty 
Lotze discovers in the action of things on one another. 

(2) Does it explain, then, the orderly succession of 
events ? Lotze labours hard to show this. He regards 
the changes of the world as being so ordered by the 
Absolute as to preserve at each moment the unchanging 
self-identity of the Absolute, the equation M=M, and to 
give " a new identical expression of the same meaning," 
in a harmony which is " not pre-established, but which at 
each moment reproduces itself through the power of the 
one existence." This hypothetical meaning of the Absolute 
has to explain all the peculiarities about the succession 
of events which Lotze finds in the world and all those he 
wishes to find. Nor, obviously, is it possible to gainsay 
him so long as that meaning is admitted to be inscrutable. 
One can protest only that an inscrutable meaning is no 
better than none at all. But for all that I would contend 
that the introduction of the Absolute had made events 
not easier to understand but harder. At first indeed it 
might seem, as Lotze argues (Met. 72), that when one 
thing in the world changes, the rest must maintain the 
identical meaning of the world by counterbalancing 
changes. But what if we raise the question why anything 
should change at all ? 

(3) It will appear, I think, that no rational case is 
made out for the existence of change at all. The 
conception of the Absolute in itself contains no suggestion 
of change. Its sole aim, apparently, is to keep on 
affirming its own identity in an eternal tautology, and 
why it should pretend to change in doing this remains 
unintelligible. The only thing we know about it, viz. 
the unchanging identity of the meaning it preserves in 
the world, distinctly suggests an equal immutability for 
the expression of that meaning. Thus the fact of change 
has to be accepted as empirically characteristic of the 
Absolute, but it is rendered more unintelligible by the 


assertion that all the changing aspects of things always 
mean one and the same thing. 

(4) The belief that the world has a meaning, that 
the riddle of life has an answer, has always been the 
common inspiration of religious, philosophic, and scientific 
minds. To be disabused of it would plunge us into the 
deepest abyss of negation where scepticism fraternizes 
with pessimism. Hence it is at first reassuring to hear 
Lotze speaking so emphatically of the meaning of the 
universe as the supreme law which determines the suc 
cession of events. It is not until one attempts to work 
out the conception in connexion with his Absolute, that 
one is regretfully forced to the conclusion that the 
meaning of the universe is really unmeaning. 

Lotze tells us that the meaning of the Absolute has 
to be maintained against the changes set up, we know 
not how, in its parts. That is the reason why B follows 
on A in orderly succession. But how can any action of 
the parts of the whole conceivably imperil the identical 
meaning of the whole ? They have not a irov <TT> 
outside the universe whence they could break in upon 
its order and affect its meaning or value. And if these 
could be in any way jeopardized, why should not any 
means be as competent to re-establish the equation 
M Ma.s any other ? Why should not C or X or Y follow 
as effectively on A as B ? Where there is absolute choice 
of means, unvarying order becomes inexplicable. One 
would expect rather an agreeably various or sportively 
miraculous succession of events. Thus the introduction 
of an Absolute, on which no laws are binding, because 
it makes them all, really leaves the order of the world 
at the mercy of a principle which for ever threatens to 
reduce it to Chaos. 

Nay, more ; neither the existences nor the changes 
of the world can have any meaning if they are absolutely 
dependent on the Absolute, and are merely instruments 
in the expression of its identical meaning. That 
meaning may be expressed by one thing as well as by 
another, it may be preserved by one variation as surely 


as by another. Thus both events and existences lose 
all special significance and intrinsic relation to the supposed 
meaning. The same holds true of the past of the world 
with respect to its subsequent course. The caprice of 
the Absolute cannot be controlled even by its own past. 

(5) The foregoing will have shown, I hope, that 
Lotze was not very successful in avoiding the besetting 
sin of all Monism, whenever it is sincerely scrutinized, 
viz. that of reducing the Many to mere phantoms, whose 
existence is otiose and impotent. But a disregard of 
the practical absurdities that might result from too rigid 
a theory was not one of Lotze s weaknesses, and so when 
we come to the last sections of his ontology we find him 
saving the significance of the Many by a volte-face 
which is assuredly more creditable to his heart than to 
his head. He recognizes that beings which are merely 
immanent in the Absolute have no raison d etre, and so 
denies the existence of things. Spiritual beings, on the 
other hand, in virtue of their consciousness, detach 
themselves from and step out of the Absolute ; they stand 
as it were on their own feet and become independent 
members of the cosmos. I heartily agree ; but I am at 
a loss how to reconcile this with the previous course of 
his argument. What use was there in emphasizing the 
one ground of all existence, if finally everybody that is 
anybody is to escape and detach himself from the 
underlying unity of the Absolute ? Doubtless Lotze s 
doctrine is here completely in accord with the facts, 
doubtless it is true, as Professor Pringle Pattison says, 
that a spiritual being preserves its own centre even in 
its dealings with the Deity ; no doubt also Lotze s 
own doctrine required such quasi-independent spirits to 
provoke Providence by the freaks of their free will and 
to generate the necessary friction in order to make the 
Absolute s maintenance of its identical meaning something 
more than child s play ; but how is the incomprehensible 
feat accomplished ? 

The points mentioned should, I believe, suffice to prove 
my contention that the Absolute is not a principle of 



explanation that has any scientific or philosophic value. 
It resolves no difficulties, it aggravates many, it creates 
some of an utterly insoluble character. And by undoing 
his own work in the case of conscious beings and insisting 
on detaching them from his Absolute, Lotze himself may 
be considered to have afforded practical confirmation of 
this view. 

IV. It remains to discuss the identification of the Unity 
of Things with the Deity. In the Outlines of the PJtilosophy 
of Religion Lotze accepts the Unity of Things which 
renders interaction possible as the basis of the conception 
of God, thereby making his metaphysical argument his 
means of proving the existence of God. One might have 
expected him therefore to go on to develop the conse 
quences of this conception and to show how they agreed 
with the religious notions on the subject. This is not, 
however, what Lotze actually does. He makes no attempt 
to show that the Unity of Things, as discovered by 
metaphysics, must be susceptible of the religious predicates, 
must be conceived as personal, holy, just, and wise, nor 
that these attributes may be empirically inferred from the 
manner in which the Absolute unites the universe. Instead 
of this, he contents himself with entitling his second chapter 
Further Determinations of the Absolute/ and then goes 
on to prove that God cannot rightly be conceived as other 
than spiritual and personal. Now against the contents of 
this chapter I have not a word to say ; his argument in 
it seems to me most admirable and cogent. What I do 
wish to protest against is the way in which he shifts his 
ground, is the per d/3 avis et? aXXo 761/05 which his method 
at this point involves. For instead of developing a 
metaphysical conception, he here passes over to a criticism 
of popular conceptions of and objections to the nature of 
the Deity, and these are in every case disposed of by 
arguments which have nothing to do with the Absolute s 
function of unifying the world. Thus the spirituality of 
God is proved by showing that materialism is inadequate 
and dualism sterile ; His personality, by showing that 
while no analogy in our experience justifies conceptions 


like those of an unconscious reason or impersonal spirit, 
our own personality is so imperfect that perfect personality 
is capable of forming an ideal which can be attributed to 
the Deity. But what has all this to do with the Unity of 
Things ? Such arguments are quite independent of his 
metaphysical monism, and are not brought into any logical 
connexion with it merely by calling the Unity of Things 
God. It would have been far more to the purpose to 
show how the Unity of Things could be personal and 
moral. But this is what no monist ever succeeds in doing. 
1 would contend, then, that just as the hypostasization 
of the Unity of Things was unnecessary in the Metaphysics, 
so its deification is unnecessary in the Philosophy of 
Religion. Not even for monotheistic religions is there 
any necessary transition from the assertion of one Absolute 
to that of one God. For the unity of the Godhead in 
monotheism is primarily directed against the disorders of 
polytheism, and intended to safeguard the unity of plan 
and operation in the Divine governance of the world ; it 
cannot be equated with the unity of the Absolute, unless 
the conceptions of plan and guidance are applicable to 
the latter. But this is just what we have seen they are 
not : the Absolute could have no plan and could guide 
nothing ; its unity therefore has no religious value. 

The reason, then, for this hiatus in Lotze s argumenta 
tion is simply this, that an Absolute is not a God and 
that none of the Divine attributes can be extracted from 
it. Hence Lotze must perforce derive them from con 
siderations of a different kind. 

V. In the sequel, moreover, this derivation of the Deity 
from the metaphysical unity of things is for the most part 
ignored, and the interesting discussions in which Lotze 
elucidates the nature of the fundamental religious concep 
tions presuppose nothing but the traditional conceptions 
and historically given problems of religious philosophy. 
Throughout the whole of this most valuable part of Lotze s 
book ( 21-70) I cannot find that he expresses any 
opinion rendered logically necessary by his doctrine of 
the Absolute, while there seem to be several, e.g., the 



defence of Free Will, which accord with it but badly. As 
already stated, Lotze cannot dispense with this conception 
in order to uphold the conception of a Divine governance, 
which re-establishes the identical meaning of the world 
against the disturbances due to free actions. And it is 
in this way that he explains the fact that the world 
exhibits a succession of phases, all of which, we are 
required to believe, mean one and the same thing. But 
the reflection is obvious that these free actions also 
are included in the Absolute, and that their existence is 
one of its given characteristics. Metaphysically, therefore, 
we have to say that the Absolute is subject to these un 
caused perturbations, which exhibit its internal instability. 
It is this inner instability which is the ultimate ground 
for change, and the question which in the Metaphysics 
( 83) Lotze tried so hard to put aside, viz. as to the 
reason why the Absolute is in motion, returns with renewed 
force. Lotze had there contended that the motion must 
be accepted as a fact and its direction likewise. But can 
the kind of motion be similarly accepted ? We may not 
in ordinary life require an explanation when we see a 
man walking in the usual fashion, but when we see him 
staggering along as though about to fall and only just 
preserving his equilibrium, we think that such a mode of 
progression requires an explanation, and probably put it 
down to alcohol. Yet this somewhat undignified simile, 
si parva licet componere magnis, exactly expresses the 
characteristic motion of the Absolute according to Lotze. 
The world is ever recovering the equilibrium which is 
constantly endangered ; it maintains itself in a constant 
struggle against the consequences of its own inner in 
stability. And what we call Evil is merely one of the 
incidents of the struggle. If then it were true that the 
motion of the world required no explanation, it would be 
equally true that the evil of the world required none. 
But this is not only a conclusion monstrous in itself, but 
one by no means accepted by Lotze. He admits that 
the problem of Evil is a real one, and only regrets the 
failure of all the solutions proffered. But of this more 


anon. At present I content myself with noting that 
though the admission of Free Will affords a logical ground 
for the conception of a Divine guidance and providence, 
it re-arouses scruples about the Absolute which had only 
with difficulty been quieted. 

It is not until we come to 71 that the Unity of 
Things intervenes again in Lotze s discussion, and then it 
intervenes with disastrous effect. For it is appealed to 
only to refute the attempt to account for the existence of 
Evil by the limitations of the divine activity by the original 
nature of the world s constituents. But, Lotze remarks, if 
so, it would be necessary to assume a second superior 
deity in order to account for the action of the first upon 
such a world. And if we admit that the Deity is to be 
identified with the unity which makes interaction possible, 
it must be admitted that his objection is quite sound. But 
with this rejection of a Deity who can have an intelligent 
purpose, and a need to guide the course of the world, 
just because he is not unlimited in the choice of his 
means, vanishes the last hope of solving the problem 
of Evil. 

The magnitude of this problem and the futility of all 
the solutions he mentions is quite frankly confessed by 
Lotze both in Philosophy of Religion ( 70-74) and in the 
Microcosm ( Trans, ii. pp. 716 ff.). He admits that 
pessimistic inferences might quite well be drawn from this 
failure of philosophy, and does not believe that pessimism 
can theoretically be refuted. But pessimism is merely a 
cheap and easy way of getting rid of the problem, and he 
himself prefers to cling to the belief in a solution he can 
not see, and to persevere in a search which is nobler and 
more difficult Thus in Lotze also knowledge finally has 
to take shelter with faith and to return dejected to the 
home whence it set out with such sanguine hopes of 
making clear the riddle of existence. Lotze s language is 
certainly frank enough, and if frankness were all that is 
needed his honest declaration of his insolvency might be 
condoned. But one has a right to expect that a philo 
sopher whose arguments lead him into such manifest 



bankruptcy should be prompted thereby to re-examine 
and possibly to revise his premisses ; and this Lotze fails 
to do. The suspicion that the nature of the Absolute 
which he has identified with the Deity may have something 
to do with the lamentable failure of his attempts to 
account for Evil never seems to enter his mind. The 
conclusions of his philosophy may be in the most patent 
conflict with the facts, but so much the worse for the facts. 
We are bidden to have faith in the impossible, if necessary, 
and pessimism is waved aside with a sneer as being too 
easy and obvious. 

Now that a writer ordinarily so sympathetic as Lotze 
should have acquiesced in so flimsy a theodicy shows, I 
think, the desperate straits to which he was reduced, and 
seriously detracts from the value of his religious philosophy. 
I am very far from denying that an element of faith must 
enter into our ultimate convictions about the world ; for 
whoever admits the reality of Evil and the possibility of 
its elimination thereby declares his faith in an ideal which 
is not yet realized. But surely we have a right to demand 
that our intellect should only be required to believe in a 
solution which it does not see, not in one which it sees to 
be impossible. Now the nature of faith is of the latter 
sort on Lotze s theory, as we shall see and as he all but 
admits. It may be meritorious to attempt what is difficult, 
but it is mere folly to attempt the impossible. Very few, 
therefore, whether pessimists or otherwise, are likely to be 
attracted by Lotze s faith. And his sneer at pessimism 
is a little ungenerous. Pessimism may be cheap and easy 
and obvious intellectually. That is an excellent reason 
for meeting it with the strongest, most comprehensible 
and obvious arguments we can, to prevent simpler minds 
from falling into it. But pessimism is assuredly not a 
cheap and easy view to hold emotionally. The burden of 
most lives is so heavy that none can desire to crush them 
selves down utterly by dwelling on the futility and worth- 
lessness of it all. No one, therefore, is willingly a pessimist : 
every one would fain believe in a more inspiriting view. 
But all the encouragement Lotze gives is that pessimism 


is theoretically tenable and any other view is extremely 
difficult ! 

Yet he is quite right ; that is all the encouragement he 
is able to give. He cannot account for the existence of 
Evil ; he cannot deny that it conflicts utterly with hig : 
conception of God. For he has from the very first scorned 
the common philosophic device of calling God a powej- 
which has no moral attributes or preferences. His Gocj 
is intended to be theistic and not a mere cloak forf 
pantheism. Yet by identifying God with the Absolute] 
he inevitably opens the way for this very kind of pantheism. 
Once equate God with the totality of existence, and no! 
one can understand how there can be in the All art 
element which is alien to the All. All the phases of 
existence, therefore, are alike characteristic of the All; 
God is evil as well as good, or better still, non-moral and 
indifferent, manifesting himself in all things alike. But 
this conception, to which its premisses irresistibly drive 
Lotze s argument, no less than every other form of Monism, 
is certainly neither the God of what is commonly under 
stood as religion, nor can it do the work of one. It is as 
impotent as a practical power as it was sterile as a 
theoretical principle. Its sole value would seem to have 
been to have drawn attention to certain incompatibilities 
and inconsistencies in the existing conception of the Deity. 

And the importance of this service should not lightly 
be disparaged. If Lotze s careful, candid, and yet sym 
pathetic examination failed to clear away the incompati 
bilities alluded to, we may be sure that others will not 
succeed, and that it is time to consider whether the 
requirements both of religion and of philosophy may not 
be better met by a different conception of the Deity. 
We must not be tempted by the ease with which an 
(unmeaning) Absolute is arrived at to accept it in lieu of 
the more difficult demonstration of a real God. And I 
believe that a clearer conception of the Deity, more clearly 
differentiated from the All of things, could not fail also to 
be of the greatest practical value. At present the con 
ception of the Deity is not clearly defined ; it melts away 




into mist at various points ; it requires a certain atmo 
sphere to be perceived. But a God who requires an 
atmosphere has to be kept at a certain distance by his 
worshippers, and so is conducive neither to intimacy of 
communion nor to robustness of faith. This, however, 
is a line of thought I must leave to theologians to work 

The general philosophical conclusion which I would 
draw from Lotze s lack of success in defining the con 
ception of God is that of the futility of the a priori 
proofs of God s existence. Their common weakness lies 
in their being far too abstract. They are in consequence 
applicable to the conception of a universe as such and 
not to our particular world. Thus the ontological proof 
argues that there must be a God from the fact that 
there is a world at all ; the cosmological, from the fact of 
causation taken in the abstract : the physico-theological, 
even, is made to argue quite generally from order to a 
designer thereof. Lotze s proof from interaction is of 
an exactly similar character. It argues generally and 
abstractly from the existence of interaction to a ground 
of interaction. It is, in fact, a form of the ontological 
proof, since interaction is the presupposition of there 
being a world at all. 

Now the flaw in all these arguments is the same. 
They fail because they attempt to prove too much. If 
they hold at all, they hold quite generally and are 
applicable to any sort of a world. In any world we 
could argue from its existence to a God, from its change 
to a First Cause, from its arrangement to a designer, 
from its interaction to a single ground of its possibility ; 
the argument is in each case quite unaffected by the 
nature of the world about which it is used. It follows 
that the God derived by such an argument must 
similarly be catholic in his applicability and indifferent 
to the contents of the world. The best and the worst of 
thinkable worlds must alike have God for their cause and 
for the ground of their interaction. The inference from 
the world to God would be equally good, therefore, in 


Heaven and in Hell. The deity, therefore, inferred by 
this mode of argumentation must be essentially indifferent 
to moral distinctions, and this is the ultimate reason why 
the attempt to ascribe moral attributes to him in the end 
invariably breaks down. In Lotze s case, e.g., the world 
would just as much imply a God whether its interactions 
were perfectly harmonious or utterly discordant ; and God, 
therefore, cannot be conceived as a principle deciding 
which of these thinkable cases is to be realized. 

Now all this is not at all what we wanted the proofs 
of God s existence to do. We did not want a proof 
which held good in all thinkable universes, but one 
which should hold in our actual given world, and give us 
an assurance that whatever might be the misfortunes of 
possible universes, there was in our actual world a power 
able and willing to direct its course. But this the proofs 
haughtily declined to do ; they mocked us instead with 
characterless deities for application to any universe. 
Yet there is not, at least in the case of the cosmological 
and physico - theological proofs, any reason why they 
should not be given a specific application. On the contrary, 
a much stronger argument can be made for assuming a 
cause and beginning of its motion for our existing order 
of things than for a universe as such, for interpreting 
the actual order and development of our world by an 
intelligent purpose than a mere order in the abstract. 
Even the ontological proof, if we adopt Lotze s version of 
its real meaning (Phil, of Religion, 6), may be given 
a more pointed reference by making it express the con 
viction that the totality of the True and the Good and 
the Beautiful must be provided with a home in our world. 

Thus the objections to all the proofs may be obviated 
by making them proofs a posteriori, and basing them, not 
on the nature of existence in the abstract, but on the 
nature of our empirical world. The same might be done 
also with the argument from interaction : it might be 
claimed that the peculiar nature of the interaction of 
things was such that a single underlying existence might 
be inferred in our case, although in general a unity in the 


Many was alone needed. And indeed Lotze comes very- 
near at times to seeing that this was the proper method 
of proving the unity of things, as, e.g., when (Met. 85, 
90) he insists that his Absolute is never actual as an 
abstract form which subsequently receives a content, but 
always has a perfectly determinate and concrete value. 
But if so, why did he use such perfectly abstract 
arguments in order to prove its existence ? Why did he 
not derive the Absolute in its concreteness from the 
concrete facts in which it manifests itself? Had he done 
so, he would have disarmed most of the above criticism 
and would have closed the road to many a misconception 
and many a difficulty. It would have been needless to 
ask, e.g., why the Absolute should be in motion, for in 
arriving at it we should have had to state the reason not 
only for the motion but also for its amount and direction. 
Again, it would have been superfluous to puzzle ourselves 
as to how the One united the Many ; for it would have 
been as a definite mode of combining the Many that we 
should have found the One. 

No doubt such methods of discovering first principles 
are less easy, less sweeping, and therefore less attractive ; 
the philosopher moves more smoothly in a cloudland 
where he can manipulate abstractions which seem to 
assume whatever shape he wills. But the philosophic 
interpretation of the concrete experiences of life is far 
safer and, in the end, more satisfying. And whatever the 
defects of his own practice, it is to Lotze as much as to 
any one that we owe the conviction that even the most 
imposing castles which philosophers have builded in 
the air have had no other source than the experience of 
the actual whence to draw their materials and their 



Importance of geometry as a type of philosophic method, and consequently of 
the metageometrical ideas. I. Fallacy of the fourth-dimension analogy. 
Non-Euclidean three dimensional spaces, come with Euclidean under 
the genus of general geometry. They form coherent and thinkable 
systems analogous to Euclid s, but so far not useful because too com 
plicated. II. I^ecessity of distinguishing between perceptual and 
conceptual spaces. Geometrical spaces all alike conceptual constructions, 
~" and the physical world not in any one of them. III. Philosophic im 
portance of this. The certainty of geometry not peculiar, but 
identical with the logical necessity of consistent assumptions elsewhere. 
The real validity of geometry empirical and = its usefulness when 
applied. Universality and necessity of geometrical judgments as results 
of postulation. Kant s account of space vitiated by his failure to observe 
the ambiguities of the term. 

FROM the days of Pythagoras and Plato down to those 
of Kant and Herbart the mathematical sciences, and 
especially geometry, have played so important a part in 
the discussions of philosophers as models of method and 
patterns of certitude, that philosophy cannot but be 
extremely sensitive to any change or progress occurring 
in the views of mathematicians. Accordingly the philo 
sophic world was considerably startled, not so many years 
ago, to hear that certain mathematicians and physicists 
had had the audacity to question the assumptions con- 

1 From the Philosophical Review of March 1896, since when the subject has 
not, of course, stood still. I am painfully aware that as an account of meta- 
geometry this paper is quite inadequate, but as students of philosophy are still 
obfuscated with the mystical mathematics of metaphysicians, and as the capital 
importance of the distinction of perceptual and conceptual space is still ignored, 
even so slight a treatment may retain some pedagogical value. 



cerning the nature of Space, which had been consecrated 
by the tradition of 2000 years and set forth in the 
geometry of Euclid. The possibilities of non-Euclidean 
spaces, which were as yet necessarily ill-defined and ill- 
understood, promptly attracted the adherents of all views 
for which orthodox science appeared to have no room, 
and no notion seemed too fantastic to become credible, if 
not intelligible, in space of four or more dimensions. 
The mathematicians themselves, who were engaged in 
elaborating the new conceptions, were too busy or too 
uncertain of their ground to resist successfully this 
inundation of extravagance, and the consequent discredit 
into which the subject fell seems to have killed the 
general interest in it everywhere but in France. Mean 
while mathematicians proceeded quietly with the work of 
analysing the new conceptions and of testing them by 
deducing their consequences, and thereby reached a clearer 
consciousness of their import. The result has been that 
saner views have begun to prevail, and that the sensational 
features of the new geometry have been mitigated or 
eliminated. The question has become arguable without the 
opposing champions considering each other respectively 
unintelligible cranks or unimaginative stick-in-the-muds. 
Not but what the rhapsodical view still periodically finds 
expression in print, 1 but the tendency of the interesting 
exchange of opinions which has been going on for the 
last few years in the French philosophical and scientific 
journals between MM. Delbceuf, Renouvier, Poincare, 
Calinon, Lechalas, De Broglie, etc., seems to me to be 
decidedly in the direction of agreement based upon a 
retreat from extreme and extravagant positions on either 
side. In other words, the blare of trumpets which 
announced and advertized the arrival of the new claimant 
to scientific recognition is over, the pachydermatous ears 
of the established conservatism have recovered from the 
shock, and preparations are being made to assign to the 
newcomer a definite place in the array of the sciences. 
The time then seems to be becoming opportune for 

1 E.g. , Monist, iv. p. 483. 


attempting to summarize some of the results of this 
controversy, with a view to (a) bringing out the most 
important points established by the new metageometry/ 
(b} considering what light they throw on the nature of 
Space, (c) estimating what changes will have to be made 
in the references to geometry which philosophers have 
been so addicted to making. It is indeed possible that 
the attempt is still premature, that the parties are still too 
bitter to be completely reconciled, that the subject is still 
too inchoate and chaotic for its full significance to be 
determined. In that case the present writer would 
console himself with the reflection that his efforts can at 
least do no harm, and may possibly even do good by 
inducing philosophers to revise their antiquated notions 
concerning the meaning of the conception of Space. 

I. I shall begin, therefore, by referring to a point which 
the metageometers do not seem to have satisfactorily 
established, and that is the value of the conception of a 
fourth dimension. I say advisedly of the conception, 
for the actual existence, or even the possibility of 
imagining, a fourth dimension seems to have been 
practically given up. The chief value of the conception 
seems nowadays to be situated in the possibility of 
making symmetrical solids coincide by revolving them in 
a fourth dimension. But this seems a somewhat slender 
basis on which to found the conception of a fourth 
dimension, and the same end could apparently l also be 
achieved by means of the conception of a spherical 
space. Here then, probably, is the reason why of late 
the fourth dimension has not been so prominent in the 
forefront of the battle, and why its place has, with a great 
advance in intelligibility, been taken by spherical and 
pseudo-spherical three-dimensional space. 

It is on rendering these latter thinkable that the non- 
Euclideans have concentrated their efforts, and, so far as I 
can judge, they have, in a large measure, been successful. 
It has been shown that Euclidean geometry may, nay, 
logically must, be regarded as a special case of general 

1 Cp. Delboeuf, Rev. Phil. xix. 4. 


geometry, and as logically on a par with spherical and 
pseudo-spherical geometry. It is a species of a genus, 
and the differentia which constitutes it is the famous 
postulate of Euclid/ which Euclid postulated because he 
could not prove it, and which the failures of all his 
successors have only brought into clearer light as an 
indispensable presupposition. The non-Euclideans, on 
the other hand, have shown that it does not require proof, 
because it embodies the definition of the sort of space 
dealt with by ordinary geometry ; and that in both of its 
equivalent forms, whether as the axiom of parallels or of 
the equality of the angles of a triangle to two right angles, 
it forms a special case intermediate between that of spherical 
and that of pseudo-spherical space. In spherical space 
nothing analogous to the Euclidean parallels is to be 
found ; in pseudo-spherical space, on the other hand, 
not one, but two parallels may be drawn through any 
point. So while spherical triangles always have their 
angles greater than two right angles, the pseudo-spherical 
triangles always have them less than two right angles. 
Moreover, the Euclidean case can always be reached by 
supposing the parameter of the non-Euclidean spaces 
infinitely large. So much for the possibility of a general 
geometry, including the Euclidean amongst others. 

It has also, I think, been shown that the non-Euclidean 
geometries would form coherent and consistent systems, 
like the Euclidean, in which an indefinite number of 
propositions might be shown to follow from their initial 
definitions. They are, that is to say, thoroughly thinkable 
and free from contradiction, and intellectually on a level 
with the Euclidean conception of space. They are 
thinkable, but (as yet) no more ; and this explains their 
defence against the two objections upon which their more 
unprejudiced opponents incline to lay most stress. It is 
objected (i) that there is, e.g., no such thing as a spherical 
space, only a spherical surface. True ; but there is nothing 
to prevent us from conceiving the peculiar properties of a 
spherical surface as pervading every portion of the space 
it bounds. We can conceive a spherical surface of a 


constant curvature making up the texture of space, just as 
well as the Euclidean plane surface. This intrinsic texture 
would produce uniform and calculable deformation or 
crinkling in all bodies immersed in it, and these might 
conceivably be aware of this deformation as they moved 
in a non-Euclidean space, just as they are now aware of 
the direction of their movements. In the Euclidean 
case the homogeneity of Space is entire in all respects, 
in the spherical only in some. It is argued (2) that meta- 
geometry is dependent on Euclidean geometry, because it 
is reached only through the latter. But it is not clear 
that it may not be logically independent, even though 
historically it has developed out of Euclidean geometry, 
and even though psychologically the latter affords the 
simplest means of representing spatial images. And it 
has become clear that both the conception of a manifold 
and that of a general space admitting of specific 
determinations is logically prior to that of Euclidean 

Theoretically, then, metageometry seems to be able 
to give a very good account of itself. But it must be 
confessed that this at present only accentuates its practical 
failure. It is admitted that Euclidean geometry yields the 
simplest formulas for calculating spatial relations, and even 
M. Calinon x hardly ventures to hope that non-Euclidean 
formulas will be found serviceable. Metageometers 


mostly confine themselves to supposing imaginary worlds, | 
of which the laws would naturally suggest a non-Euclidean 
formulation. 2 In short, practically the supremacy of the 
old geometry remains incontestable, because of its greater t- u r 
simplicity and consequent facility of application. 

II. I pass on to the second question, the light thrown 
by non-Euclidean geometry on the nature of Space. In 
this respect incomparably its most important achievement 
seems to have been to force upon all the distinction 
between perceptual and conceptual space, or rather spaces. 
On this point both parties are at one, and we find, e.g., 

1 Rev. Phil, xviii. 12. 

2 E.g. , M. Poincar6, Rev. de MM. iii. 6, pp. 641 ff. 


M. Delbceuf 1 and M. Poincar6 2 stating the characteristics 
of Euclidean space and its fundamental distinction from 
perceptual space in almost identical terms. The former is 
one, empty, homogeneous, continuous, infinite, infinitely 
divisible, identical, invariable ; the latter is many, filled, 
heterogeneous, continuous only for perception (if the 
atomic view of matter holds), probably finite, not infinitely 
divisible and variable. Both sides agree that our physical 
world is neither in Euclidean nor in non-Euclidean space, 
both of which are conceptual abstractions ; their dispute 
is merely as to which furnishes the proper method for 
calculating spatial phenomena. 3 Thus all the geometrical 
spaces are grounded on the same experience of physical 
space, which they interpret and idealize differently, while 
seeking to simplify and systematize it by means of the 
various postulates which define them. 

But if conceptual and perceptual space are so different, 
have they anything in common but the name ? If the 
former are abstracted from the latter, upon what principles 
and by what methods does the abstraction proceed ? 

I conceive the answer to this important question to be, 
by the same methods as those by which real or physical 
space is developed out of the psychological spaces. For, 
as M. Poincare 4 well shows, we form our notion of real 
space by fusing together the data derived from visual, 
tactile, and motor sensations. That fusion is largely 
accomplished by ignoring the differences between their 
several deliverances and by correcting the appearances to 
one sense by another, in such a manner as to give the 
most complete and trustworthy perception of the object. 
We manipulate the data of the senses in order to perceive 
things (in real space), and at a higher stage the same 
purposive process yields conceptual space, of course at 
first in its simplest form, the Euclidean. And (though I 
have not found this stated) all the characteristics of 
Euclidean space may be shown to have been constructed 

1 Rev. Phil, xviii. n. 2 Rev. de Mtt. iii. p. 632. 

3 Cp. Calinon, Rev. Phil, xviii. 12, " Sur I ind^termination gomtrique de 
1 univers." 4 Loc. cit. 


in this manner. Just as, e.g., the varying appearances of 
things to the different senses were ignored in order to 
arrive at their real place, so the varying and irregular 
deformations to which they are subjected at different 
places, when abstracted from, lead to the homogeneity of 
space. They are slight enough to be neglected, but if 
they were larger and followed some definite and simple 
law, they might suggest a non-Euclidean geometry. 
Similarly, geometrical space is one and infinite, because 
so soon as we abolish any boundary in thought, we can 
abolish all ; it is infinitely divisible, because so soon as 
the division is conceived of as proceeding in thought the 
same act may be repeated as often as we please. And 
so on ; geometrical space appears throughout as a con 
struction of the intellect, which proceeds by the ordinary 
methods of that intellect in the achievement of its peculiar 
purposes. Nor is there anything new or mysterious about 
the process ; no new faculty need be invoked, no new 
laws of mental operation need be formulated. 

III. That the philosophic importance of this result is 
capital, is surely evident. The certainty of geometry is 
thereby shown to be nothing but the certainty with 
which conclusions follow from non-contradictory premisses; 
in each geometry it flows from the definitions. The 
certainty with which the sum of the angles of a triangle 
may be asserted to equal two right angles in Euclidean 
geometry, is precisely the same as that with which it 
may be shown to be greater or less in non-Euclidean 

This shows that certainty in the sense of intrinsic con 
sistency has nothing to do with the question of the value 
and real validity of a geometry. The latter depends on 
the possibility of systematizing our spatial experience by 
means of the geometry. Our experience being what it 
is, we find the Euclidean the simplest and most effective 
system, alike to cover the facts and to calculate the 
divergences between the ideal and the actual results ; and 
so we use it. But if our experience were different, a 
non-Euclidean system might conceivably seem prefer- 


able. In short, as applied, a geometry is not certain, but 
useful. 1 

Again, the necessity of geometry is simply the necessity 
of a logical inference hypothetical, and in no wise 
peculiar to geometry. Similarly, the universality of 
geometrical judgments is by no means peculiar to them, 
but may be explained as arising out of the methodological 
character of the assumptions on which they rest. If we 
decide to make certain assumptions because they are the 
most serviceable, we can certainly know beforehand that we 
shall always and under all circumstances judge accordingly. 
To expect us to do otherwise, would be to expect us to 
stultify ourselves. And certainly we have a great in 
terest in upholding the universal validity of geometrical 
judgments. Is it a small thing to be able to draw a 
figure on paper in one s study, and on the strength of it, 
and by virtue of the homogeneity of space, to draw 
inferences about what happens beyond the path of the 
outmost sun ? Should we not be incredible idiots, if we 
allowed any cheat of appearances to cajole us into a 
moment s doubt of so precious an organon of knowledge ? 
It would seem, then, that the chief result of metageometry 
is to raise into clearer consciousness the nature of the 
complex processes whereby we organize our experiences, 
and to assimilate the case of space to our procedure 
elsewhere. 2 

But it has already become abundantly evident that a 
view of Space, such as that propounded, provokes conflicts 
with ancient and venerable views that have long adorned 
the histories of Philosophy. Among them Kant s con 
ception of the apriority of Space is pre-eminent. 

At a cursory glance it might indeed seem as though 
the new geometry afforded a welcome support to the 
Kantian position. If Euclidean geometry alone could 
prove the possibility of synthetic judgments a priori, could 
enrich us with absolutely certain knowledge absolutely 
independent of experience, could sustain an all-embracing, 

1 Cp. Poincar^ s La Science et r Hypothese, pp. 66-7. 
2 Cp. Axioms as Postulates, 40-43. 


though empty, form of pure intuition, surely now that it 
is reinforced by an indefinite number of sister sciences, a 
boundless extension of our a priori knowledge might 
reasonably be anticipated. Unfortunately it proves a 
case of too many cooks and the embarrassment of 
riches, rather than of the more the merrier. To suppose 
three a priori forms of intuition corresponding to the three 
geometries is evidently not feasible, for they are in hope 
less conflict with each other. If it is a universal and 
necessary truth that the angles of a triangle are equal to 
two right angles, it cannot be an equally universal and 
necessary truth that they are greater, according as we 
happen to be speaking of a Euclidean or of a spherical 
triangle. Clearly, there must be something seriously 
wrong about the assumed relation of geometry to space, 
or about the import of the criterion of apriority. Just as 
the de facto existence of geometry seemed to Kant to 
prove the possibility of an a priori intuition of Space, so 
the de facto existence of metageometry indicates the 
derivative nature of an intuition Kant had considered 

And the analysis thus necessitated rapidly discovers 
the seat of the error. Kant, like all philosophers before 
and far too many since his time, regards the conception 
of Space as simple and primary and the word as un- C 
ambiguous. He does not distinguish between physical 
and geometrical space, between the problems of pure and 
of applied geometry. Hence he is forced to make his 
Anschauung an unintelligible hybrid between a percept 
and a concept, to argue alternately that space could not 
be either, and to infer that it must therefore be some third 
thing. The possibility that it might be both never struck 
him. Still less did he suspect that each of these alternatives 
was complex, and that perceptual space was constructed 
out of no less than three sensory spaces, while it was 
susceptible of three different conceptual interpretations. 
What Kant calls space therefore is not really one, but 
seven, and the force of his argument is made by their 
union. Confined to any one of them, the argument falls 


to pieces. When we see these facts as clearly as the 
development of metageometry has compelled us to see 
them, we must surely confess that the Kantian account of 
Space is hopelessly and demonstrably antiquated and can 
lend no support to the rest of his system. And should 
we not henceforth take care to eschew the vice of talking 
vaguely of space without specifying what kind of space 
we mean, whether conceptual or perceptual, and what 
form of each ? Even pedagogically, one would think, 
there can no longer be any advantage in confusing what 
is capable of being so clearly distinguished. 

It would exceed my limits if I were to try to investigate 
whether Kant has not been guilty of a parallel confusion 
between felt succession and conceptual time in his account 
of the latter, still more were I to discuss whether after the 
withdrawal of the forms of pure intuition any meaning 
could continue to be assigned to the Kantian conception 
of the a priori} I shall conclude, therefore, with the modest 
hope that some of the many professed believers in the 
Transcendental Aesthetic will not disdain to define their 
position in face of the development of modern meta 

1 Cp. Axioms as Postulates, 10-25. 



Significance of Dr. McTaggart s admission that the Hegelian Dialectic cannot 
explain the reality of succession in Time. The reason of its failure, 
viz. that Time, Change, and Individuality are features of Reality we 
abstract from in our formation of Concepts. Hence abstract metaphysics 
always fail to account for Reality. Must we then either accept sceptic 
ism or reject a procedure on which all science rests ? No ; for to admit 
the defects of our thought-symbols for reality need merely stimulate us to 
improve them. As for science, it uses abstractions in a radically differ 
ent way, to test and to predict experience. Thus law is a methodo 
logical device for practical purposes. Science practical both in its origin 
and in its criterion, and ethics as the science of ends conditions meta 
physics. Such an ethical metaphysic accepts and implies the reality of 
the Time-process. And therefore it has a right to look forward to the 
realization of its ends in time, and forms the true Evolutionism. 

I DO not know whether Dr. McTaggart s interesting 
investigation of the relations of the Hegelian Dialectic 
to Time (or rather to the Time-process ~) has obtained 
the attention it merits, but the problem he has so ably 
handled is of such vital importance, and the attitude of 

j l A reply, in Mind, N.S., No. 13 (January 1895), to Dr. McTaggart s 
f articles in N.S. , Nos. 8 and 10, which were subsequently included in his Studies 
\ in the Hegelian Dialectic, chap. v. , to which Dr. McTaggart has appended a 
i note (pp. 197-202) replying to me (so far as his standpoint permitted). His 
chief contention is that the timeless concept is not, ;as I maintained, a methodo 
logical device but a necessity of thought. To which the reply is that all 
necessities of thought are primarily methodological devices. See Axioms as 
Postulates. I have reprinted the article as it stood, in order not to blur its 
anticipations of Pragmatism. 

2 I prefer to use the latter phrase in order to indicate that I do not regard 
Time as anything but an abstraction formed to express an ultimate character- 
istic of our experience, and in order to check, if possible, the tendency of 
metaphysicians to substitute verbal criticism of that abstraction for a consideration 
of the facts which we mean when we say, e.g. that the world is in Time. To 
this tendency, Dr. McTaggart also sometimes succumbs (e.g. Studies in the 
Hegelian Dialectic, pp. 161-3), an d it seems to me to be at the root of most 
of the metaphysical puzzles on the subject. 



current philosophy towards it is so obscure, that no 
apology is needed for a further discussion of his results. 
That those results came upon me with the shock of 
novelty I cannot, indeed, pretend ; for the impossibility 
of reconciling the truth of the Dialectic with the reality 
of the Time-process has long been familiar to me as the 
chief, and, to me, insuperable difficulty of the Hegelian 
position. I propose, therefore, to take for granted the 
reluctant conclusion of Dr. McTaggart s almost scholastic 
ingenuity, namely, that there is no known way of 
reconciling the (admitted) existence of the Time-process 
with the (alleged) eternal perfection of the Absolute 
Idea at all events until some other commentator of 
Hegelism has attempted to revise and refute Dr. 
McTaggart s arguments and I wish to consider what 
inferences may be drawn from it with respect to the 
method of metaphysical speculation in general. 

Before doing so, however, a word ought, perhaps, to be 
said on what Dr. McTaggart himself inclines to regard 
as the positive result of his inquiry, the fact namely that 
he has not been able to show that there is no possible 
synthesis of the Absolute Idea with the Time-process, 
and that he is consequently "entitled to believe that one 
more synthesis remains as yet unknown, which shall 
overcome the last and most persistent of the contradictions 
inherent in appearance." For faint as is the hope which 
nourishes this belief, and groundless as are the assumptions 
from which that hope may, I think, be shown to spring, 
one may yet congratulate Dr. McTaggart on the candour 
with which he distinguishes his faith in the Unknown 
Synthesis from the cogency of a logical demonstration, 
and on the diffidence with which he declines to avail 
himself of the easy convenience of Mr. Bradley s maxim 
that " what may be, and must be, that certainly is." 
For certainly, if one does not scruple to regard utter 
ignorance as the possibility that may be, and the 
subjective need of saving one s own theory as the 
necessity that must be, there is no difficulty which 
cannot be evaded by the application of that maxim and 


no contradiction which cannot be so reconciled. My 
only fear would be that if such an axiom were admitted 
at the beginning of philosophy, it would also prove its 
end. Dr. McTaggart, however, is to be congratulated on 
having eschewed the dangers of Mr. Bradley s short way 
with the insoluble, and on preferring to base his accept 
ance of conflicting views on the ancient, time-honoured 
and extra-logical principle of Faith. Still more admir 
able, perhaps, is the robustness of a faith which overlooks 
the curious inconsistency of denying the metaphysical 
value of Time, and yet expecting from the Future the 
discovery of the ultimate synthesis on which one s whole 
metaphysic depends. For myself I avow that such faith 
is beyond my reach. If I were driven to the conclusion 
that the inexorable necessities of my mental constitution 
directly conflicted with patent and undeniable facts of 
experience, I fear I should be beset by a sceptical distrust 
of the ultimate rationality of all things rather than solaced 
by visions of an unknown synthesis. 

But in this case I hope to show that there is no 
need to respect a faith one cannot share, and that Dr. 
McTaggart has given more to faith than faith demands. 

If the contradiction cannot be solved, it can at least 
be exposed and explained. And unless I am very much 
mistaken, it will appear that the incompatibility between 
the assertion of the reality of the Time-process and its 
comprehension by any system of eternal logical truth 
(whether Hegel s or any one else s) has its origin in very 
simple and obvious considerations. 

Dr. McTaggart cannot find room for the reality of 
the Time-process, i.e. of the world s changes in time and 
space, within the limits of Hegel s Dialectic. But is 
this an exclusive peculiarity or difficulty of Hegel s 
position ? Is the Time-process any more intelligible on 
the assumptions of any other purely logical l system, as, 
for instance, on those of Plato or Spinoza ? I think 
the difficulty will be found to recur in all these systems. 
And this shows that it is not accidental, but intrinsic 

1 I.e. intellectualist. 



to the modus operandi of all systems of abstract 

They cannot account for the time-factor in Reality, 
because they have ab initio incapacitated themselves from 
accounting for Time as for change, imperfection and 
particularity for all indeed that differentiates the realities 
of our experience from the ideals of our thought. And 
their whole method of procedure rendered this result 
inevitable. They were systems of abstract truth, and 
based on the assumption on which the truth of abstraction 
rests. 1 They aimed at emancipating philosophy from 
the flux to which all human experience is subject, at 
interpreting the world in terms of conceptions, which 
should be true not here and now, but eternally and 
independently of Time and Change. Such conceptions, 
naturally, could not be based upon probable inferences 
from the actual condition of the world at, or during, any 
time, but had to be derived from logical necessities 
arising out of the eternal nature of the human mind as 
such. Hence those conceptions were necessarily abstract, 
land among the things they abstracted from was the time- 
^aspect of Reality. 

Once abstracted from, the reference to Time could 
not, of course, be recovered, any more than the indi 
viduality of Reality can be deduced, when once ignored. 
The assumption is made that, in order to express the 
truth about Reality, its thisness, individuality, change 
and its immersion in a certain temporal and spatial 
environment may be neglected, and the timeless validity 
of a conception is thus substituted for the living, changing 
and perishing existence we contemplate. Now it is not 
my purpose here to dispute, or even to examine, the 
correctness of this assumption itself. What I wish here 
to point out is merely that it is unreasonable to expect 
from such premisses to arrive at a deductive justification 

1 I have in this sentence purposely used truth in two senses, in order to 
emphasize a distinction, which is too often overlooked, between the conceptual 
interpretation of reality, which is truth in the narrower sense, and the validity 
or practical working of those conceptual symbols, which constitutes their truth in 
a wider sense. In the former sense truth is merely a claim which may, or 
may not, be ratified by experience (see below, p. 100, and above, p. 57). 


of the very characteristics of Reality that have been 

The true reason, then, why Hegelism can give no 
reason for the Time-process, i.e. for the fact that the 
world is in time/ and changes continuously, is that it was 
constructed to give an account of the world irrespective 
of Time and Change. If you insist on having a system 
of eternal and immutable truth, you can get it only by 
abstracting from those characteristics of Reality, which 
we try to express by the terms individuality, time, and 
change. But you must pay the price for a formula that 
will enable you to make assertions that hold good far 
beyond the limits of your experience. And it is part of 
the price that you will in the end be unable to give a 
rational explanation of those very characteristics, which 
had been dismissed at the outset as irrelevant to a 
rational explanation. Thus the whole contradiction 
arises from a desperate attempt to eat one s cake and 
yet have it, to secure the eternal possession of absolute 
truth and yet to profit by its development in time ! 
Surely this is not a fitting occasion for invoking that 
supreme faculty of Faith to which philosophy, perhaps 
as much as theology, must ultimately make appeal ! 

If these considerations are valid, the idea of accounting 
for the time-process of the world on any system of 
abstract metaphysics is a conceptual jugglery foredoomed 
to failure, and must be declared mistaken in principle. 
But there remain two questions of great importance : 
(i) Do such systems of abstract metaphysics lose all 
value ? (2) Is there any other way of manipulating the 
time-process so as to fit it into a coherent systematic 
account of the world ? 

In answering the first question it will be necessary to 
supplement the negative criticism of the claims of abstract 
metaphysics by tracing the consequences of their utter 
rejection. I have so far contended that no abstract 
metaphysic could say the last word about the world, on 
the ground that it was ex vi definitionis forced to reject 
some of the chief characteristics of that world. But if it 

ioo HUMANISM vi 

cannot give us the whole truth, can it give us any truth? 
Is not the alternative to the rejection of the full claims 
of Hegelism (and kindred systems) a sceptical despair of 
the power of the reason to find a clue out of the labyrinth 
of experience ? 

Such a plea would not be devoid of a certain plausi 
bility. Stress might be laid on the fact that the funda 
mental assumption of all abstract metaphysics is the 
fundamental assumption also of all science, that the whole 
imposing structure of the laws of nature is formulated 
without reference to the temporal and spatial environment 
and the individual peculiarities of the things which obey 
these laws, and so likewise lays claim to an eternal 
validity. How then can Metaphysic dare to reject an 
assumption which supports the whole of Science ? Again, 
it may be urged that from its very nature philosophy is 
an interpretation of experience in terms of thought, and 
must necessarily exhibit the intrinsic peculiarities of human 
thought. If abstraction, therefore, is characteristic of all 
our thinking, if all truth is abstract, it would seem that 
all philosophy must stand or fall with the abstract formulas 
in which alone our thought can take cognizance of reality, 
and may not dream of casting off the shackles, or denying 
the sufficiency, of the systems of abstract truth which the 
ingenuity of the past has propounded. 

Nevertheless I incline to think that it is possible to 
steer the human reason safely through between the Scylla 
of Scepticism and the Charybdis of an Idea absolutely 
irreconcilable with experience. But to do so it is im 
perative to define exactly the part played by abstraction 
in a philosophic account of the world. 

Evidently, in the first place, it does not follow that 
because all truth in the narrower sense (v. note, p. 98) is 
abstract, i.e. because all philosophy must be couched in 
abstract terms, therefore the whole truth about the universe 
in the wider sense, i.e. the ultimate account that can be 
given of it, can be compressed into a single abstract 
formula, and that the scheme of things is nothing more 
than, e.g. the self-development of the Absolute Idea. To 


draw this inference would be to confuse the thought- 
symbol, which is, and must be, the instrument of thought, 
with that which the symbol expresses, often only very 
imperfectly, viz. the reality which is known only in 
experience, and can never be evoked by the incantations 
of any abstract formula. If we avoid this confusion we 
shall no longer be prone to think that we have disposed 
of the thing symbolized when we have brought home 
imperfection and contradiction to the formulas whereby 
we seek to express it an accusation which, I fear, might 
frequently be made good against the destructive part of 
Mr. Bradley s " Appearance and Reality " to suppose, e.g., 
that Time and Change cannot really be characteristic 
of the universe, because our thought, in attempting to 
represent them by abstract symbols often contradicts 
itself. For evidently the contradiction may result as well 
from the inadequacy of our symbols to express realities 
of whose existence we are directly assured by other factors 
in experience, and which consequently are data rather 
than problems for thought, as from the merely apparent 
character of their reality ; so the moral to be drawn may 
only be the old one, that it is the function of thought to 
mediate and not to create. 1 If so, our proper attitude 
will be this, that while we shall not hesitate to represent 
the facts of experience by conceptual symbols, we shall 
always be on our guard against their misrepresenting 
them, and ever alive to the necessity of interpreting our 
symbols by a reference to reality. In this manner I 
conceive that it would be possible to utilize the terms 
of abstract metaphysics, whenever they seemed to yield 
useful formulas, without erecting them into fetishes and 
giving them the entire mastery over our reason. From 
the tyranny of abstractions there would thus always be 
an appeal to the immediacy of living experience, and by it 
many a difficulty which appals on paper would be shown 
to be shadowy in the field. And conversely, it would 
perhaps be possible for philosophy to grapple somewhat 
more effectively with the real difficulties of actual life. 

1 Dr. McTaggart has commented on this passage (Studies, pp. 110-3). 



Nor can I see why philosophers should fight shy of 
such a procedure. For surely the admission that philosophy 
is an interpretation of experience in terms of thought 
does not preclude us from the reinterpretation of our 
symbols by a reference to experience wherever that may 
seem expedient and profitable. Why should we commit 
ourselves to a task which must prove either illusory or 
impossible, that of the rational deduction of the self- 
evident ? It is true that philosophic explanation came 
into being because experience is not wholly self-explaining. 
But to admit this is not to imply that everything requires 
explanation. For all explanation must set out from 
certain data, which may either be accepted as facts or 
considered self-evident, and in no wise necessitate or justify 
the attempt to explain everything, an attempt which must 
ultimately derive everything from nothing, by the power 
alone of an intentionally obscure vocabulary. What the 
data of such an ultimate explanation of the world should 
be, admits, of course, of further discussion ; but I can see 
no reason in the nature of philosophy as such why the 
characteristic of Time should not be one of them. And 
I if by a frank recognition of the reality of Time, Im 
perfection and Individuality we can reach a deeper, more 
complete and workable insight into the facts of experience, 
why should our philosophy be worse than one which is 
driven to reject them by ancient prejudices concerning 
the perfections which the world ought to possess ? 

The abstractions of metaphysics, then, exist as ex 
planations of the concrete facts of life, and not the latter 
as illustrations of the former ; and the Absolute Idea also 
is not exempt from this rule. Nor is it to a different 
conclusion concerning the subordination of abstract meta 
physics that we are led by the consideration of the first 
argument adduced in their favour, the fact that all science 
shares their assumption. 

That all science abstracts from the particularity and 
time-reference of phenomena, and states its laws in the 
shape of eternal and universal truths, is in a sense true. 
But this fact will not bear the inference it is sought to 


draw in favour of abstract metaphysics, and must not be 
allowed to prejudice the inquiry into the proper method 
of discovering an ultimate theory of the universe. For in 
the first place the treatment of its initial assumption by 
science differs widely from that of metaphysics. Science 
does not refuse to interpret the symbols with which it 
operates ; on the contrary, it is only their applicability to 
the concrete facts originally abstracted from that is held 
to justify their use and to establish their truth. The 
mathematical abstractions which enable astronomers to 
calculate the path of a star are justified by their ap 
proximate correspondence with its observed position, and 
if there were any extensive or persistent divergence between 
the calculation and experience, astronomers would be quite 
ready to revise their assumptions to the extent even of 
changing their fundamental notions concerning the nature 
of space. But in the case of metaphysics the same 
principle is not, apparently, to apply. If the Dialectic of 
the Absolute Idea does not accord in its results with the 
facts of life, we are not to suspect the Dialectic. It 
possesses an intrinsic certainty by right divine which no 
failure can be admitted to impair. If the logical (or 
rather psychological} development of the Idea fails to 
account for the development in time, we may at the 
utmost postulate an unknown synthesis. This may be 
philosophy, but it does not look like science. 

In the second place, let us ask why science abstracts 
from the particularity of reality. Not, certainly, because 
it does not observe it. Nor yet because it ascribes to 
the deductions from its universal laws a precision which 
they do not possess. On the contrary, it cheerfully admits 
that all the laws of nature are hypotheses, represent not 
the facts but tendencies, and are to be used merely as 
formulas for calculating the facts. But why should we 
want to calculate the facts by such universal formulas ? 
The answer to this question brings us to the roots of the 
matter. We make the fundamental assumption of science 
that there are universal and eternal laws, i.e. that the 
individuality of things together with their spatial and 



temporal context may be neglected, not because we are 
convinced of its theoretic validity, but because we are 
constrained by its practical convenience. We want to be 
able to make predictions about the future behaviour of things 
for the purpose of shaping our own conduct accordingly. 
Hence attempts to forecast the future have been the 
source of half the superstitions as well as of the whole 
of the science of mankind. But no method of divination 
ever invented could compete in ingenuity and gorgeous 
simplicity with the assumption of universal laws which 
hold good without reference to time ; and so in the long 
run it alone could meet the want or practical necessity 
in question. 

In other words this assumption is a methodological 
device, and ultimately reposes on the practical necessity of 
discovering formulas for calculating events in the rough, 
without awaiting or observing their occurrence. To assert 
this methodological character of eternal truths is not, of 
course, to deny their validity for it is evident that unless 
the nature of the world had lent itself to a very consider 
able extent to such interpretation, the assumption of 
eternal laws would have served our purposes as little as 
those of astrology, necromancy, chiromancy, and catoptro- 
mancy. What, however, must be asserted is that this 
assumption is not an ultimate term in the explanation of 
the world. 

This does not, of course, matter to Science, which is 
not concerned with such ultimate explanation, and for 
which the assumption is at all events ultimate enough. 
But it does matter to philosophy that the ultimate theoretic 
assumption should have a methodological character. To 
say that we assume the truth of abstraction because we 
wish to attain certain ends, is to subordinate theoretic 
truth to a teleological implication ; to say that, the 
assumption once made, its truth is proved by its prac 
tical working, by the way in which it stands the test of 
experience, is to assert this same subordination only a 
little less directly. For the question of the practical 
working of a truth will always ultimately be found 


to resolve itself into the question whether we can live 
by it. 

In any case, then, it appears that scientific knowledge 
is not an ultimate and unanalysable term in the explana 
tion of things : Science subordinates itself to the needs 
and ends of life alike whether we regard its origin 
practical necessity, or its criterion practical utility. But 
if so, the procedure of Science can no longer be quoted in 
support of the attempt to found our ultimate philosophy 
upon abstract and eternal universals. If the abstraction 
from time, place, and individuality is conditioned by 
practical aims, the next inquiry must evidently concern 
the nature of these practical aims, to which all theoretic 
knowledge is ultimately subsidiary. And if these aims 
can be formed into a connected and coherent system, it 
will be to the discipline which achieves this that we shall 
iook for an ultimate account of the world. Is there then 
a science which gives an orderly account of the ends of 
life that are or should be aimed at ? Surely Ethics is as 
much of a science as abstract metaphysics, and if it be 
the science of ultimate ends, it seems to follow that our 
ultimate metapJiysic must be ethical} 

Let us consider next what the attitude of such an 
ethical metaphysic would be to the metaphysical preten 
sions of abstract universals and of the Time -process 
respectively. It seems clear, in the first place, that prac 
tical aims, or a system thereof, do not easily lend themselves 
to statement in terms of abstract universals. For an end 
or purpose seems to be intrinsically the affair of a finite 
individual in space and time, and the attempt to regard 
the timeless, immutable and universal as possessed of ends 
seems to meet with insuperable difficulties. If, therefore, 
the ultimate explanation of the world is to be in terms of 
ends, it would seem as though it must be in terms of 
individual ends, realized in and through the Time-process. 
Nor is there anything repugnant to reason in the con 
ception of an end realized in a time-process that would 
render it difficult for a teleological explanation to admit 

1 All this seems a very fairly definite anticipation of modern pragmatism (1903). 



the reality of the Time-process. On the contrary, if the 
transition from means to end were instantaneous, the dis 
tinction between them would vanish, and lose all meaning. 
Still less has it been found repugnant either to the reason 
or to the feelings of men to regard the Time-process as 
the realization of an end or even of a multitude of in 
dividual ends, e.g. as a process of spiritual redemption. 
There is, therefore, perfect harmony between an ethical 
metaphysic and the existence of individuals in Time and 
Space, while that existence is found to be irreconcilable 
with any abstract metaphysical formula. 

We must conclude, then, that the method of explaining 
the ultimate nature of the world by an abstract universal 
formula, or a series of such, is not supported by the 
methodological use of similar formulas in the natural 
sciences, which, rightly considered, leads to very different 
inferences. What compensation then has it to offer us 
for its inability to take account of many of the chief data 
which a comprehensive philosophy has to explain ? Surely 
the full reality which has to be explained is the individual 
in the Time-process. And though it will remain no trivial 
task to exhibit the rationality of the Real, it has yet 
become evident that rationality is but one of several attri 
butes to be predicated of Reality, and that a mere ration 
alism or panlogism, therefore, can never be anything but 
a one-sided philosophy. 

We have to consider next the second question raised 
(on p. 99) as to whether by pursuing a different method 
philosophy is able to recognize the reality of the Time- 
process. And if such philosophic recognition is possible, 
what is the metaphysical value and methodological bearing 
of the reality of Time (or rather of the Time-process) ? 
Or is there possibly, as Dr. McTaggart suggests (Joe. cit. 
p. 1 66), "something about Time which renders it unfit, 
in metaphysics, for the ultimate explanation of the 
universe " ? The prejudice to this effect is no doubt well- 
founded from the standpoint of a philosophy whose initial 
abstraction excludes Time. But if we decline to hamper 
ourselves by a method which fails de facto to account for 


Time and imperfection, while its claim de jure had to be 
disallowed as ignoring the supreme practical limitations 
under which the whole understanding operates, the case is 
different It has already been shown that an ethical 
metaphysic has no difficulty in conceiving the ultimate 
end as realizable in the Time-process. And indeed from 
such a standpoint it is possible to indicate an explanation 
even of the Becoming which is so puzzling a characteristic 
of the Real, and the source of all our conceptions of Time 
and Change it may be ascribed to the struggle of finite 
existence to attain that ultimate end. Instead of being 
left over as an inexplicable surd at the conclusion of a 
metaphysical explanation, the Time-process thus becomes 
an integral part of that explanation, and a fruitful source 
of inquiry opens out to philosophy concerning its value in 
the discovery and estimation of ultimate truth. It would 
be impossible within the limits of this essay to attempt 
any detailed account of the metaphysical conclusions to 
which the admission of the reality of the Time-process 
would lead. Suffice it to say that I am convinced that 
the system we should arrive at would prove no less 
coherent and complete than any of the great systems of 
abstract metaphysics, and that the difficulties which it 
may at first seem to involve are due to an (inconsistent) 
reversion to the methods of abstract metaphysics. 

There are, however, two points which it seems necessary 
to emphasize. The first is that a metaphysic of the Time- 
process will stand in the same relation to the explanation 
of phenomena by their history, as a metaphysic of abstract 
ideas stands to their explanation by universal laws, i.e. 
the Historical Method will represent the application in 
science of the metaphysical principle. But while to an 
abstract metaphysic the Historical Method must ultimately 
be foolishness, a metaphysic of the Time -process will 
justify that method by expressing it in a metaphysical, i.e. 
final, form. And this alone would suffice to prove its 
superiority ; for nowadays we can as little dispense with 
the explanation of things by their history as with their 
explanation by universal laws. A philosophy, then, 



which admits both and vindicates the use of the one, with 
out invalidating the other (even though it regards its 
importance as methodological and subordinate rather than 
as supreme), is manifestly superior to a philosophy which 
absolutely rejects one of the most valuable of the working 
assumptions of science. And if we regard the fact that 
there is a development of the world in Time as the essence 
of Evolution, it is obvious that only a theory which accepts 
this Time-process as an ultimate datum will be capable 
of yielding a philosophy of Evolution and is worthy of 
the name of Evolutionism. 

The second point concerns the ultimate difficulties 
which are left over in every known system of philosophy, 
and form antinomies which are insoluble for the human 
reason as it stands. Such on Dr. McTaggart s theory are 
the existence of change and imperfection, such, in his 
opinion, would be the beginning of the Time-process on 
mine. Now in face of these facts an abstract metaphysic 
is in an extremely awkward position. If it scorns to 
excuse its failure by pious phrases concerning the infinite 
capacity of a non-human mind to solve the insoluble, if it 
dreads to have recourse to the more impious dpybs Xoyo<? 
of Mr. Bradley, and to postulate an Absolute which 
will absorb, submerge, suppress, and reconcile all 
difficulties ex officio, in a manner no doubt highly satisfac 
tory to itself and Mr. Bradley, two alternatives remain. 
Either the idea that a contradiction is a necessary proof 
of falsehood must be given up, and one or both sides of 
the antinomy must be accepted in spite of everything 
in which case it is hard to say what weapon would be left 
wherewith to refute the most patent absurdities ; or one 
must hope for such an enlargement of the human reason 
as will give it an insight into what is at present incom 
prehensible. For the difficulties in question have been 
under scrutiny too long to render it credible that any 
thinkable solution has been overlooked. If, however, 
a development of the human mind be admitted, the 
reality of the Time-process, in which that development 
takes place, can no longer be denied, and abstract meta- 


physic becomes indebted to it for the means to solve its 
difficulties. Is it not curious then to go on maintaining 
that the Time-process is unfit to form a factor in an ulti 
mate philosophy ? 

An evolutionist philosophy, on the other hand, would 
not only be entitled, but bound, to await a solution of its 
difficulties from the secular development of the Time- 
process which had generated them. For its ultimate 
appeal is not to the abstract reason but to experience, to 
the Time-process in which that reason develops. It is 
consequently an ignoratio elenchi to infer that a view lead 
ing to an antimony is false, unless it can be shown that 
the antinomy is a permanent one. But not only is this 
impossible, but a solution ambulando may be expected on 
two grounds, (i) Reality, i.e. the data of our reasonings, 
may so change as no longer to suggest the antinomy. 
For instance, the problem of imperfection would vanish if 
reality attained to perfection and not even a memory 
remained of the imperfect. And (2) the antinomy might 
be resolved by such a development of the mind as would 
enable it to see through its present difficulties. I am 
aware that many of our present philosophers have a rooted 
objection to putting their hope in the future ; yet it is 
only in the direction of an abandonment of the prejudice 
against the reality of Time that I can descry a future for 
hope, a future for philosophy, and a philosophy for the 



Four questions about Reality (i) how do we come to assert it, (2) its 
primary character, (3) its criteria, (4) its ultimate character. Epistemo- 
logical and metaphysical reality. Primarily everything is real, but none 
of the current criteria for sifting it absolutely trustworthy in theory. 
Their value is practical, and practical value is really the ultimate 
criterion. Can we claim speculative value for such a test ? Yes, if the 
whole process of knowing be conceived as an attempt to render our 
experience harmonious. At present our success is imperfect, and so 
divergent views may still be taken of ultimate reality. Hence it is 
unnecessary to regard the real as a combination of abstract universals, 
and quite possible to treat a plurality of individual persons as ultimate. 

THE readers of Mr. Ritchie s papers will have learnt by 
this time that they may expect to be entertained with 
a clear account of his views, neatly phrased and intelligibly 
presented, and not disdainful of an occasional touch of 
humour. And in these respects they will have not been 
disappointed by his brilliant disquisition on What is 
Reality ? in the May number of the Philosophical 
Review. But if they sought fresh light on one of the 
most puzzling and fundamental of philosophic problems, 
it is to be feared that they were not equally well satisfied. 
Mr. Ritchie s paper is polemical rather than investigatory, 
and he seems more concerned to make dialectical points 
against his adversaries than to probe his subject to the 
bottom. And as his adversaries views are very various, 
and often have little in common but their disagreement 

1 From the Philosophical Review of September 1892. The late Professor D. G. 
Ritchie, whose premature demise I, in common with all his pupils, have not 
ceased to deplore, reprinted the article to which this is a reply in a volume ot 
essays entitled Darwin and Hegel (1893), pp. 77-108. 



with Mr. Ritchie s, and as, moreover, they are not stated 
or definitely referred to, the total effect is somewhat 
confusing. Nor is the confusion improved by the way 
in which Mr. Ritchie discusses some two or three different 
questions about reality in the same breath. The justifica 
tion in his mind for this procedure evidently lies in the 
fact that they all offer a basis for objections to his own 
views, which he would, perhaps, not object to have called 
Neo-Hegelian. But this does not constitute any intrinsic 
kinship between the views he criticizes, and his discussion 
would have gained largely if he had added to his 
classification of the various sorts of reality a classification 
of the various questions that may be raised about it. It 
would be too much, perhaps, to expect Mr. Ritchie to 
excel the rest of his school as much in substance as he 
does in style, but it seems evident that he has, as little 
as they, kept clear of the Hegelian confusion of epistemo- 
logy and metaphysics, to which Professor Seth l has of late 
drawn so much attention. 

There are at least four questions, which Mr. Ritchie s 
paper trenches upon. They are 

I. How do we know that there is any reality at all, or 
how do we come to assert an external world ? 

II. What is reality at the beginning of inquiry, i.e. 
what is the primary datum to be explained ? 

III. How is it to be explained by what criteria do 
we inquire into reality ? 

IV. What does reality turn out to be after inquiry ? 
Of these, I. and III. seem to be epistemological, while 

II. is psychological, and IV. plainly metaphysical. Mr. 
Ritchie does not seem to distinguish II. from III., 
attributes his answer to III. without more ado to IV., and 
refers to I. only at the end, by way of meeting a logical 
objection to his view of IV. This confusion is shown also 
in his method of proof. His real purpose is to establish 
certain metaphysical views as to the nature of ultimate 
reality, but he treats his subject for the most part as 
if it were an epistemological inquiry into the criteria 

1 Now Professor Pringle Pattison. 



of reality, and when, after establishing his metaphysical 
view of reality to his satisfaction, he is confronted l by 
the logical impossibility of identifying thought with its 
object, he suddenly throws us back upon the primary 
subjectivity of all experience. And all this without a 
hint of a /xera/Sacrt? et? d\\o yevos. The connexion 
is no doubt clear enough to Mr. Ritchie s mind, if, as must 
be supposed, he follows T. H. Green in his fearful and 
wonderful leap from the fact that all phenomena appear 
to some individual self to the conclusion that they are, 
therefore, appearances to a universal self; but he might at 
least have warned us that his opponents have repeatedly 
declared their inability to compass such saltatory exercises, 
and regard the two halves of the argument as belonging 
respectively to epistemology and to metaphysics, and the 
transition from the one to the other as a paralogism. 

If, however, we refuse to take this Greenian salto 
mortale, it is evident that the first question must be 
settled before any of the rest can arise at all. For, as 
Professor Seth has so well pointed out, realism and 
idealism mean very different things according as they 
are taken in an epistemological or a metaphysical sense, 
and " it is possible to be epistemologically a strenuous 
realist and an idealist in the metaphysical sense of the 
term." 2 Nay, " it is only in virtue of epistemological 
realism that we can avoid scepticism, and so much as 
begin our journey towards metaphysical idealism." If, 
then, epistemological idealism is solipsism and "twin 
brother to scepticism," it must be surmounted before the 
nature of reality can be discussed. If it is not surmounted 
cadit quaestio it becomes futile to discuss whether 
the real is one or many, whether its criterion is consistency 
or what, if there is no objectivity at all. Mr. Ritchie has, 
of course, a perfect right to call a halt here, and to refuse 
to discuss anything further until his opponents have 
successfully emerged from the clutches of subjective 
idealism. But once they have been permitted to escape, 

1 Darwin and Hegel, p. 102. 
* Philosophical Review, i. p. 142. 


once he has conceded the objectivity of the phenomena 
which form the content of consciousness, he is not entitled 
to revert to the prior question. In other words, the 
discussion of the question What is reality ? presupposes 
a settlement of the question Is there reality ? in the 
affirmative. It is only when reality has been admitted to 
exist that we can begin to distinguish the real from the 
unreal, and to enumerate the different sorts and criteria 
of each. 

It is necessary in the next place to put the primitive 
datum explicandum in the proper light. The primary 
psychological fact is that everything that is is real, and 
that the burden of proof lies on those who deny that 
anything is real. Nor does Mr. Ritchie dispute this, 
though he minimizes its importance, and apparently fails to 
see that reality in this sense rests on a totally different 
footing from all others. For it is the primary fact which 
all the rest are more or less complete theories to explain, 
and to which they must be referred in order to test their 
validity. If they prove capable of explaining what they 
set out to explain, we may reach a loftier view of reality, 
which will transfigure our primary datum for us, but 
which even so cannot be considered in abstraction from 
its basis ; if they do not, the other senses of reality 
are worthless. For their work is hypothetical and 
derivative, and if the conditions under which we ascribed 
reality to these interpreters of reality are not fulfilled, 
their raison d^etre has vanished. But reality survives 
even though its inscrutable flux of phenomena should 
laugh to scorn the attempts at comprehending it which 
it provokes. 

But this unique position of primary reality Mr. Ritchie 
quite fails to appreciate. 1 Hence it is on the basis of an 

1 He does not even succeed in proving the unreality of dreams, by saying 
that they are not self-coherent nor follow in an intelligible sequence on the 
events of previous dreams. For their incoherence is not, as a rule, intrinsic, 
nor anything that exists for the dream consciousness in the actual experiencing : 
it is an ex post facto judgment (resting usually on an imperfect memory) which is 
passed on them in our waking life. But awaking involves a breach of continuity, 
and the consciousness which condemns the dream-experience is no longer the 
consciousness which experienced it. And are we so sure that the coherence of 
our waking life would survive a similar breach of continuity, such as might be 


n 4 HUMANISM vn 

insufficient recognition of the psychological data that he 
proposes to consider what reality is. This question is 
plainly an ontological one, but Mr. Ritchie treats it as if it 
were epistemological, and = How do we know a pheno 
menon to be (ultimately) real? I.e. he substitutes for 
the ontological inquiry into the ratio essendi of reality an 
epistemological inquiry into its ratio cognoscendi or the 
criterion of reality, and then unhesitatingly attributes to 
his results a metaphysical validity. Yet he seems quite 
unaware that such a method, even if successful, would be 
defective and inadequate. Even at its best, even if it 
could be shown that reality could be known only as 
a coherent system of thought-relations, it would not 
necessarily follow that reality was nothing more, and he 
would not necessarily have proved anything but the 
impotence of his thought to grasp reality, by reducing 
his symbolical expressions for reality to absurdity and 
contradiction. Thus his proofs cannot prove what he 
desires, and his refutations only recoil upon his method. 

But it may be shown also that his criterion is not 
valid. He suggests l a triple test of rationality, a triple 
basis for the metaphysical assertion that reality is 
thought, (i) "The agreement between the inferences 
drawn from the experience of our different senses ; (2) 
the agreement between the judgments of different 
persons; (3) the harmony of present experience with 
the results of their and our previous experience, constitute 
between them the test of reality." It is to be feared that 

effected, e.g. by death if we awake after it? For comparison therefore 
with the intelligible sequence of successive dreams, we should require an 
intelligible sequence in successive lives to make the parallel complete. Unless, 
then, Mr. Ritchie has a transcendent knowledge of another life, whereby he 
judges our waking life to be real, because of its coherence and intelligibleness 
from the standpoint of the former, his comparison fails. It is true that we 
sometimes suspect our dreams while still dreaming (though as all dreams are 
near waking, we cannot be said to be nearer waking then). But does not 
our waking life lie under the same suspicion on the same grounds? If it is 
permissible for once to appeal from the plain man to the man of genius, is it 
not a mad, mad world, my masters ? Have not seers, prophets, and 
philosophers in all ages testified that our earthly life was but a dream? And 
if to these divinely-inspired dreamers we owe all the religions that have 
swayed the lives of men, must not dreams and hallucinations be accounted most 
real in Mr. Ritchie s ethical sense ? 
1 Loc. cit. p. 80. 


" between them " they fall very far short of giving a 
trustworthy test of reality. 

(1) The first is open to objection as a matter of fact. 
It is doubtful how far the testimonies of the various 
senses really corroborate one another, and how far they 
are not rather incommensurable and referred to the same 
thing for reasons of practical convenience. Are after 
images and overtones, which regularly accompany sights 
and sounds, to be esteemed unreal because we generally 
find it convenient to neglect them ? And yet it is hard to 
say to what data of touch they correspond. Again, what 
can this criterion make of cases of hyperaesthesia of one 
sense, or of an occasional activity of some special 
sensitiveness ? Are they to be rejected because they 
necessarily lie beyond confirmation by the other senses ? 
So far as this criterion goes, there is nothing to prevent 
a real thing from contravening it, and an unreal thing 
from conforming to it. Is Pepper s ghost unreal because 
it cannot be touched ? Or is a hallucination affecting 
several senses to be esteemed real ? 

(2) The second criterion is no better than the first. 
So Mr. Ritchie smells a rat, in the case of his hypo 
thetical mouse, 1 and limits its value by stipulating that 
B, C, D, and E (who do not see it) should have good 
eyesight. But how is it to be established that A (who 
does see it) does not considerably surpass them in the 
delicacy of his senses ? In this difficulty, Mr. Ritchie 
proposes to call in expert opinion in the shape of " a 
hungry cat." (What scorn he would pour on such an 
appeal to the lower animals if it were a question of 
establishing the objectivity of an apparition !) Very 
good. But how if the cat side with the minority ? It is 
to be hoped that Mr. Ritchie will prefer science to 
democracy, and the authoritative judgment of Athanasius 
and the cat against the rest of the world ! If he does 
not, he might work out an amusing theory making the 
Referendum the ultimate test of reality. That, at least, 
would be a definite method of utilizing the experience 

1 Loc. cit. p. 80. 


of others, such as is at present lacking. We act quite 
inconsistently in sometimes submitting to the superior 
delicacy of the expert s senses, and sometimes rejecting 
it. A room full of unmusical or inartistic people would 
hardly dispute about tones or colours with a single 
musician or painter, but an assembly of non-sensitives 
would probably deny that Macbeth saw a ghost (though 
who more qualified than Macbeth to see the ghost of 
Banquo ?). The colour-blind, perhaps because they are 
in a minority, do not dispute the objectivity of colours 
they cannot see, but upon what logical principle should 
we be less forbearing towards those who claim to see 
the ultra-violet and infra-red rays of the spectrum, or the 
luminosity of a magnetic field ? In short, just as the ex 
cluding value of non-conformity was impaired in the 
first case by the possibility of genuine hyperaesthesia in 
the individual, so in the second it is impaired by the 
possibility of collective hyperaesthesia. And just as in 
the first case conformity did not exclude error, owing to 
the possibility of complex hallucination, so it fails in the 
second, owing to the possibility of collective hallucina 

(3) The third criterion at first seems more valuable 
until we recollect that every new fact and every new 
experience is in some degree out of harmony with and 
contradictory of our previous experience. 1 Would it not 
be strange, then, to allow our own inexperience, and the 
stupidity of our ancestors to exercise an absolute censor 
ship over the growth of knowledge? Besides, it so 
happens that in most cases when universal experience * 
is appealed to, its voice is self-contradictory. (What 
right have we, e.g. to reject countless traditions in order 
to prove that miracles are contrary to experience ?) 

But perhaps Mr. Ritchie does not contend that any 
one of his criteria is singly sufficient as a test of reality 
and proposes to employ them collectively. But if so, 
should he not show some probability that they will 

1 As " Herakleitos" says (in Mind I p. 28), " is not the new of two things 
one, either itself false, or what renders all else false ? " 


always, or even normally, tend in the same direction ? 
And even if they did, this would establish, not the 
collective theoretic certainty of criteria, each of which was 
individually fallible, much less a necessary basis for meta 
physical inferences, but only a sort of practical probability, 
which it might be convenient to act upon. Thus the 
boasted rationality of the real reduces itself to this : upon 
Mr. Ritchie s own showing rationality is not an ultimate 
test, but resolvable into the three criteria he mentions, 
and in the end their value turns out to be practical ! 

Yet it may be that humbling the pretensions of this 
pseudo-rationality does good service in drawing attention 
to the commonest and most influential of the practical 
tests of reality, which may be said to have underlain and 
guided the development of all the rest. It lies in the 
fact emphasized by Professor James in his wonderful 
chapter on the perception of reality 1 that that is ad 
judged real which has intimate " relation to our emotional 
,and active life," i.e. practical value. It is this criterion 1 
which has constituted the objective world of ordinary 
men, by excluding from it the world of dreams, hallucina 
tions, and the transient though normal illusions of the 
senses. It is this which accounts for the superior reality 
so often ascribed to feelings, especially to pleasure and 
pain, which Mr. Ritchie mentions. 2 It is this which 
absorbs into it Mr. Ritchie s fifth, or ethical/ sense of 
reality. It is this, lastly, which has moulded the whole 
development of the intellect, and so pervades all Mr. 
Ritchie s criteria and reduces them to dependence upon it. 
Hence if we are to speak of any main (derivative) sense 
of reality at all, it must certainly be conceded to 
Professor James that " whatever things have intimate and ; 
continuous connexion with my life, are things of whose ] 
reality I cannot doubt." 

But though there can be no doubt of the practical 
importance of this criterion, there may be much about its 
speculative value. The history of the practical struggle 
which has evolved us and our minds seems to offer but 

1 Princ. of Psych, ii. 295. 2 Darwin and Hegel, pp. 82-3. 


slender guarantees that our faculties should have been 
fitted for, and our energies directed towards, those aspects 
of reality which are of the greatest theoretic importance, 1 
and hence arguments from practical or moral necessity, 
universal desires, and the like, are not usually supposed 
to yield the safest approach to the ultimate reality of 

And not only must it be said that Mr. Ritchie s tests 
are not, properly speaking, rational at all, but it must be 
pointed out that he actually shrinks from mentioning in 
this place the test of rationality in its simplest and 
severest shape, viz. that of conformity to the necessary 
laws of our thought. The omission is surprising, and 
one would fain ascribe it to the perception that it would 
have been too palpable a begging of the issue to have 
made conformity with the laws of thought the test of 
reality in an argument designed to show that reality 
ultimately lay in the determinations of our thought. Or 
can it be due to the fact that the chief characteristic of 
reality is its Becoming, and that Becoming and its 
defiance of the law of Contradiction is what our thought 
has never been able to grasp ? Yet the criterion is not 
without value. We are reluctant to admit facts and 
explanations which seem to contravene it, such as, e.g. 
the four-dimensionality of Space and the illusoriness of 
Time, and would only accept them as inferences, e.g. from 
the untying of Zollner s knots and the alleged occurrence 
of premonitions, in the very last resort. 

What then is the result of a critical survey of the 
various criteria of reality ? Is it not that though all may 
be of service, none can be entirely relied upon as the 
ratio cognoscendi of reality ? There is no royal road to 
omniscience any more than to omnipotence, even though 
we do not hold with Mr. Ritchie that the two coincide. 
The cognition of reality is a slow and arduous process, 
and of its possession we cannot be sure until we possess 
it whole. The only certain and ultimate test of reality is 
the absence of internal friction, is its undisputed occupa- 

1 Else should we not have developed, e.g. an electric sense? 


tion of the field of consciousness, in a word, its self- 
sufficiency. It is because reality does not display this 
character that thought has to be called in to interpret it. 
If it did, there would be no distinction between real and 
unreal, between what is really presented and merely 
imagined, between the self and the world, and there 
would be no such thing as thought. As Professor James 
so well points out l a hallucinatory candle occupying the 
whole field of consciousness would be equivalent to a real 
one. But as a matter of fact the contents of consciousness 
present no such permanence and self-evidence ; their 
initial state is a fleeting succession of conflicting presenta 
tions which supplant and contradict one another. Some 
of these are frequently followed by painful, others by 
pleasurable feelings, and the penalty of idle acquiescence 
in the flux of phenomena is rapid death. So a dire 
necessity is laid upon the subject to distinguish himself 
from the world, and to set about thinking how phenomena 
may be controlled. He naturally begins by ascribing to 
the phenomena which are followed by pains or other 
practically important consequences a reality not shared 
by the rest. This first interpretation of the chaos of 
presentations is probably the first for which we can have 
direct testimony, and represents the view of reality taken 
by savages and small children. It is merely an extension 
of this view when the plain man, in the condition of 
natural realism distinguishes hallucinations, fancies, and 
dreams from true reality. 

To effect this he uses whatever tests seem most 
practically useful among others those of coherence 
and consistency. Thus, the plain man s view is simply 
the first stage in the attempt to reach a harmony of the 
real. The view of the physicists represents a second and 
subsequent stage. And Mr. Ritchie s philosophy of the 
ultimate nature of reality is possibly a third. Each leads 
on to the other, because each is successively recognized 
not to be a coherent and consistent account of the world 
and not to eliminate the irrational and unsatisfactory 

1 Princ. of Psychology, ii. 287. 



element in experience. The plain man s things, the 
physicist s atoms, and Mr. Ritchie s Absolute, are all of 
them more or less persevering and well-considered schemes 
to interpret the primary reality of phenomena, and in this 
sense Mr. Ritchie is entitled to call the sunrise a theory. 1 
But the chaos of presentations, out of which we have (by 
criteria ultimately practical] isolated the phenomenon we 
subsequently call sunrise, is not a theory, but the fact 
which has called all theories into being. 

In addition to generating hypothetical objects to 
explain phenomena, this process of the interpretation ot 
reality by our thought also bestows a derivative reality on 
the abstractions themselves with which thought works. If 
they are the instruments wherewith thought accomplishes 
such effects upon reality, they must surely be themselves 
real. Hence philosophers have long asserted the reality 
of Ideas, and we commonly hold the triangle and the 
space of mathematical abstraction to be the real triangle 
and the real space. (Mr. Ritchie s fourth sense.) Similarly 
the goals to which the methods of our thought tend its 
intrinsic ideals acquire a hypothetical reality of a lofty 
order. For it is evident that if the real nature of 
phenomena is to be discovered by the way of thought, 
the supreme ideals of that thought must be, or be realized 
by, the ultimate reality. But it would not follow that 
these ideals would render reality mere thought. For they 
might point either at a reality which should transcend 
thought, or at one of which thought should be but a 
single activity even as it is now the activity of real 

But it is needless to discuss what would happen to 
thought if reality had been rendered harmonious, in view 
of the fact that no philosophy has succeeded in doing this. 
The whole attempt is dependent for its validity on its 
success, and its success is, to put it mildly, imperfect. 
The scientific view of atoms goes behind the popular view 
of things, because it holds that the latter do not construct 
a tenable view of phenomena. Mr. Ritchie would treat 

1 Darwin and Hegel, p. 91. 


the atoms similarly. But would he seriously contend that 
he can already give an entirely consistent, coherent, and 
intelligible view of the whole world, giving a reason why 
everything is exactly what it is and not otherwise ? Of 
course Mr. Ritchie does not lay claim to such omniscience. 
But if he cannot, in what respect is he better than those 
publicans and sinners, the plain men and the realists ? 
If he cannot, why make such a fuss about formal coherency 
and consistency as the test of reality ? By his own 
admission they represent a postulate which is never 
actually realized, and for aught we know never can be. 
If he cannot, lastly, what boots it to explain that though 
reality is not thought for us, it is for God ? l This free 
and easy appeal to the Deity, in the midst of a discussion 
of human knowledge, in order to silence an opponent and 
to fill up any gap in the argument, ought surely to be as 
severely reprobated as the mediaeval practice of ascribing 
any ill-understood fact or bit of knowledge to the agency 
of the Devil. The question is not whether to a divine 
mind, supposing its existence to be tenable in Mr. Ritchie s 
sense, Reality is Thought, but whether that assertion is a 
valid defence against the objection that Mr. Ritchie has 
given away his case when he has admitted that reality is 
not thought to human minds. Until, then, Mr. Ritchie 
can bring rather more convincing proof of his approaching 
apotheosis and omniscience, it must be contended that he 
has neither made out his assertion that rationality is the 
test of reality, nor its connexion with the metaphysical 
dogma that the real is ultimately the thought of a 
divine mind. 

This question as to the ultimate nature of reality, 
forming the ultimate problem of ontology, brings us to 
the fourth and last question which may be raised about 
reality. And enough has been said concerning the 
imperfections of our methods of interpreting reality, to 
render it clear that we are as yet hardly entitled to 
give any very confident answer to this question. From 
a purely scientific standpoint, I can see no reason for 

1 Darwin and Hegel, p. 88. 

122 HUMANISM vii 

attempting to prejudge the answer. It is pre-eminently a 
question to be met with a solvitur ambulando. From 
other points of view no doubt several different answers 
may be given, and Mr. Ritchie s pantheistic doctrine 
doubtless remains tenable, even though its epistemological 
basis be insecure. But at least as much may be claimed 
for the doctrine which Mr. Ritchie is most anxious to 
refute, the doctrine which denies most emphatically that 
existence is ever reducible to essence, and holds that the 
individual is the real. 

At all events it is, I think, possible to show that this 
doctrine is neither uncritical nor unable to maintain itself 
against Mr. Ritchie s objections. Mr. Ritchie regards it 
as the uncritical product of the popular Vorstellung, 
because it makes its appearance at a very early stage in 
the interpretation of reality. But this should rather speak 
in its favour, if it is able to reassert its validity after the 
fullest critical examination of the facts and of objections 
such as Mr. Ritchie s. 

Those objections arise in the first place out of his 
failure to appreciate the development in our conceptions 
of individuality and reality which has corresponded to the 
evolution of the objects which they symbolize, and in 
the second, out of his misunderstanding the respective 
positions which his opponents logic assigns to thought- 
symbols and that which they symbolize. To say that the 
individual is the real and that the real is individual, is to 
make a proposition concerning a reality beyond it. It 
draws our attention to a fact which its terms cannot fully 
express. It is an adjectival description of reality in terms 
of thought-symbols. But it is not substantival. It is no 
definition of reality, but a reference to it, which expresses 
a characteristic feature intelligibly to real beings who can 
feel the extra-logical nature of reality. Hence it does not 
even necessarily state the essence of reality ; x for the 
theoretic validity (not the practical convenience) of the 
doctrine of essence is called in question, and the fortunes 
of the expression certainly do not affect the existence of 

1 I should now (1903) define essence systematically in terms of purpose. 


reality. But Mr. Ritchie treats it as if the sum and 
substance of all reality were supposed to be contained in 
it, and dissects it mercilessly in order to show that there 
is nothing in it. But in criticizing the terms of the 
proposition he thinks he annihilates also the reality 
beyond it. He is mistaken ; for he tramples only on the 
shadow of his foe. The individual and the real (i.e. the 
thing symbolized by those symbols of our speech) are not 
a couple of categories, nor even fully defined concepts. 
They are just sign-posts, which to a purely thinking 
mind might convey no meaning, or the contradictory 
meanings Mr. Ritchie criticizes, but which are meant for 
beings who are real as well as rational. Mr. Ritchie 
wilfully strips himself of one of his chief means of 
understanding the world when he abstracts from his own 
reality, and is then puzzled to find that he must be 
either nothing or an unknowable thing-in-itself, if he be 
not a bundle of universal thought-relations. So he comes 
to the absurd conclusion that he is made up of the 
products of one of his own activities ! Does not this 
remind one of the hero of Andersen s fairy tale, who 
became subservient to his shadow ? And so it is not 
surprising that to one who holds that the individual is 
the real, his polemic l should appear a cr/aa/m^ia, which 
cannot grasp the logical position of reality, and results 
only in a series of hystera protera. 

For example, the individual is not everything which 
is called one things are called one because we attribute 
to them this extra-logical character of individuality. Nor 
is the individual what can be expressed by a single term 
because the latter is only the nearest logic can get to 
expressing individuality. The individual is not a spiritual 
or thinking substance because the whole category of 
substance rests upon and is abstracted from the individual, 
is an attempt thought makes to symbolize a substantivity, 
which its own adjectivity never properly expresses. The 
individual is more than a meeting-point of universals, 
because universals are not individuals, nor able to form 

1 Darwin and Hegel, pp. 93-100. 

124 HUMANISM vn 

one, however many of them meet together. But they 
never do meet in numbers sufficient for a quorum : the 
attempt to reduce the individuals to universals generates 
an infinite process, which is never equivalent to the finite 

It is not, then, any logical difficulty which compels 
us to modify the original sense of the assertion that 
individuality is an ultimate and definitely determined 
characteristic of reality, but the general flux of reality 
itself. The individual also is in process, and so individu 
ality becomes a characteristic of which reality may be 
seen to have less or more. The individuality of a drop 
of water is very evanescent ; the individuality of a 
schoolboy, or even of a mule, is often found to be a very 
stubborn fact. Once we have degrees, we can form a 
standard of individuality ; and the scale may be prolonged 
inferentially beyond what is actually given. Individuality 
thereby becomes a hypothesis and an ideal, as well as a 
characteristic of reality. The atom of physics is such a 
hypothetical prolongation of the individual in one direction. 
Monads and the like, are prolongations in another, and, in 
the writer s opinion, a far more promising, direction. So 
we can come to say that an individual is lacking in 
individuality, i.e. shows this universal characteristic of 
reality too indistinctly, seems to lend himself too easily 
to explanation by universals, seems to borrow too much 
from others, and the like. 

But this in nowise trenches upon the value of individu 
ality. It simply postulates that we must learn to think 
of the individuality of the real as we have learned to 
think of its reality, not as a completed being, but as 
a becoming, i.e. as being a process. That which we 
designate by the term individuality is a varying and 
growing quantity, never wholly absent, but not always 
fully developed. At the one end of the process are the 
atoms of which we can hardly discern the individuality. 
At the other end are let us say the angels individuals 
so perfectly individualized that, as mediaeval doctors 
taught, each would form a species by himself. 


And with all deference to the magni nominis umbra, 
wherewith the Absolute has overshadowed the minds of 
philosophers, it seems to me that it is to some such 
conclusion as this that the course of science tends, rather 
than to a single merely rational universal law, from 
which all existences might be necessarily deduced by purely 
logical processes. Of the difficulties which the latter 
alternative involves Mr. Ritchie gives us a sample on 
page 95, which is valuable as containing a recognition by 
one of his school, belated and inadequate though that 
recognition be, of the gravity of questions that should 
have been considered before ever it was enunciated that 
reality was Thought. This is not the place to discuss 
what meaning, if any, can be attached to the dictum that 
Thought realizes (does not this covertly reassert the 
distinction it pretends to explain away ?) itself in its 
Other in order to return into itself, but it may be 
remarked that Mr. Ritchie s dilemma which drives him 
to such a solution, presents no difficulties to those who 
hold that the real is individual. For if the universe be 
constituted by the interactions of real individuals, some 
or all of whom display as one of their activities what we 
call thought, there is no such irrational and alien 
Other as troubles Mr. Ritchie ; for what confronts 
thought is merely the whole of which it is the part and 
the practical interpreter. Nor does thought itself ever 
claim more for itself than this, whether it be in its 
reference of every proposition to a reality beyond it, or 
in its recognition of the necessity that an activity pre 
supposes a real being as its substrate, or in its ultimate 
foundation of all proof on the self-evident. 1 

Thus it is only an infirmity of our reason, causing us 
to hypostasize abstractions, which leads us to speak of 
universal laws of nature, as if they were more than 
shorthand expressions for the habitual interactions of 
realities. But as the subtlety of our insight draws nearer 

1 This remark no longer seems to me adequate : the value of self-evidence 
seems psychological rather than logical, and proof no longer needs foundations, 
if it can postulate its premisses and increase their probability indefinitely by the 
confirmations of experience. Cf. Formal Logic, ch. xviii. 2-3. 

126 HUMANISM vn 

to the subtlety of nature, the crudeness of our universal 
laws begins to appear. We grow better able to appreciate 
the real individuality of things, and so substitute specific 
1 laws for general. We no longer ascribe John Doe s 
death to the universal mortality of humanity, but get the 
doctor to tell us precisely why John Doe, and no other, 
died. As we know him better, we do not account for a 
friend s conduct because he is a man, but by a because 
he is this man. In all our explanations we seek to get 
down to the particular, to do justice to the individual 
peculiarity of things, to enlarge the part assigned to 
personal idiosyncrasy. On the other hand, the less we 
know about a thing the more confidently can we lump it 
together with others and the more general are the state 
ments which the calculus of probabilities emboldens us to 
make about it. Hence though in the case of the lower 
orders of individuality such appreciation of the peculiar 
nature of each thing may still be an impracticable and 
indefinitely distant ideal, with regard to higher orders the 
principle is well established. We could hardly say with 
the poet that the proper study for mankind is man, if 
there were not, even in the meanest, an inexhaustible 
store of idiosyncratic reactions, an individuality, in 
short, which becomes more and more conspicuous as we 
pass from the lower to the higher, and looks less and less 
like a combination of abstract universals ! Hence, if we 
are to hazard any assertions concerning Omniscience, is 
it not clear that it could have no use for universals, and 
so far from regarding the individual as compounded of 
them, would apprehend the idiosyncrasy of each thing in 
its action, without the clumsy mediation of universal 
laws ? 

In conclusion, then, let us contend against Mr. Ritchie 
that other views than his own of ultimate reality are 
tenable, that they answer the epistemological and meta 
physical difficulties at least as well as his, and are at 
least as deserving of the name of idealism (if Berkeley 
retains any claim to the doctrine he discovered !), and 
that they are far concreter and in closer interaction with 


the sciences than a metempirical misconception like the 
Absolute. Nor need we blush to own that a view like 
ours would not prove the popular Vorstellung of persons 
wholly false (even though it would tend to regard things 
as being only persons of a lower development of 
individuality), and so might prove more attractive to the 
plain man. For it is possible to be critical, without 
disregarding either humanity or reality. 




Question as to the Value of the Argument from Design in the light of 
Darwinism. Its theological Importance ; its intrinsic flaws. The 
Darwinian explanation of adaptation without adapting, by Variation and 
Natural Selection. Is it final ? I. Natural Selection proves too much ; 
it would apply equally to automata. But if intelligence is wholly 
inefficacious why was it developed? II. The causes of Variation lie 
beyond the scope of Darwinism, and to explain Evolution, therefore, 
other factors must be added. III. Natural Selection does not necessarily 
lead to change of species, nor exclude degeneration, nor guarantee pro 
gression. A variable factor, therefore, must be added. IV. Darwinism 
. does not explain the origin of adaptation, but presupposes it. Nor need 
the struggle to adapt be more than the preservation of this initial adapta 
tion. The struggle for bare existence brings no growth of adaptation ; 
it is only when intelligence aims at ends and transforms the struggle for 
life into one for good life that improvement comes. V. The true signi 
ficance of Darwinism in the discovery of Natural Selection. Indefinite 
variation a methodological assumption justified as a simplifying abstrac 
tion. VI. But if it is understood as a description of actual fact, it rules 
out teleology a priori and quite apart from fact. Teleology and the 
calculus of probability. Hypothetically it is always possible to postulate 
a non-teleological context to any apparently teleological event. Per 
contra it is practically impossible to disprove the teleological interpreta 
tion, and ultimately both views are postulations of a will to believe and 
rest on an act of faith. VII. Summary : Darwinism not incompatible 
with teleology if its assumptions are taken as methodological, and it is 
arbitrary to take them as more. It is not necessarily hostile to teleology 

^ and even indirectly furthers it by throwing into relief the miracle of pro- 
jjress. Evolutionism not necessarily unteleological. 

THE question which is proposed for consideration in the 
present essay concerns the value of what has been called 
the Argument from Design, in the light, not so much of 

1 Published in the Contemporary Review for June 1897. It had been my 
intention to have followed this paper up with discussions of other scientific views 
of Evolution (which explains my success in avoiding so much as the mention of 
Prof. Weismann s name), and finally to attempt the philosophic formulation of 



the very various and widely spread modes of thought 
grouped together under the name of Evolutionism, but 
rather of the particular form of Evolutionism which has 
been popularized by the labours of Charles Darwin, and not 
undeservedly bears his name. In face of the Darwinian 
theory, and the account it gives of the pedigree of life, 
are we any longer entitled to entertain the notion that a 
more than human intelligence has anywhere or in any 
way contributed to the making of what now exists ? Is 
there any evidence to be found in the constitution or 
working of any part of nature which directly testifies to 
a divine creator ? These are old questions which, in 
some form or other, men have probably asked ever since 
they were men, and will probably continue to ask until 
they have become beasts or angels. Their practical 
importance will readily be admitted. For clearly our 
attitude towards life will be very different, according as 
we believe it to be inspired and guided by intelligence, 
or hold it to be the fortuitous product of blind 
mechanisms, whose working our helpless human intelli 
gence can observe but in no wise control. 

Although the Argument from Design has been taken 
as a rough description of the subject to be treated, it will 
yet be convenient, at the outset, both to restrict and 
to expand its scope. It will be restricted in that the 
discussion will turn exclusively on the argument as based 
on living nature ; it will be expanded, in that its 
subject will include the question of the action of intelli 
gence generally in producing the present condition of 1 
things. That is to say, the possibility that though no 
traces of a divine intelligence are to be found in the 
history of the organic world, there has yet to be admitted 
the action of human and animal intelligence, will not be 
overlooked. For the world may have been brought into 
its present shape by intelligent efforts, if not by intelligent 

the conception of Progress which the current science assumes and the current 
metaphysic denies, without comprehending its nature. But dis aliter visum, and 
the paper (to which IV. and the end of VI. are additions), seemed worth 
including even as a fragment. For a discussion of the ultimate philosophic 
significance of Teleology, cp. Axioms as Postulates, 45. 



direction. We are not bound to assert a divine activity 
so soon as we have asserted the activity of intelligence. 
So it has to be confessed that before the Argument from 
Design has any theological value, three things have to be 
shown (i) that intelligence, i.e. action directed to a 
purpose, has been at work ; (2) that the intelligence has 
not been that of any of the admitted existences ; and (3) 
that from its mode of action this intelligence may fairly 
be deemed divine. 

But if it is necessary to draw attention to a leap 
which the theologian s logic is too apt to commit, it is no 
less important to point out that the denial of the 
Argument from Design logically leads much further than 
its opponents commonly dare to go. For it would seem 
that a complete denial of design in nature must deny 
the efficacy of all intelligence as such. A consistently 
mechanical view has to regard all intelligence as otiose, as 
an epi-phenomenal by-product, or fifth wheel to the cart, 
in absence of which the given results would no less have 
occurred. And so, if this view were the truth, we 
should have to renounce all effort to direct our fated and 
ill-fated course adown the stream of time. Our con 
sciousness would be an unmeaning accident. On the 
other hand, if intelligence played the part in history 
alleged by the second theory of its action, we might still 
cherish a hope of steering the bark that carries our 
fortunes at least into a temporary harbour ; if that of the 
first theory, we might be moved to strain every muscle at 
the behest of a helmsman who could envisage the goal 
with unerring eye. 

We have, then, three alternatives, of which the old 
Argument from Design undertook to represent one. 
It was a simple-minded argument, as befitted a time 
when the eventful history through which life has passed, 
and the real intricacy of its phenomena, were as yet 
scarcely suspected. It contented itself with observing 
the variety and ingenuity of the means whereby living 
beings attained their ends. The structure of the eye and 
the ear, the prescience of instinct, the processes of growth 


and birth, etc., provided it with inexhaustible material for 
respectful admiration. Surely all this could not be the 
result of blind chance, of unintelligent matter it pro 
ceeded from the hand of God. 

In more modern language, the Argument from Design 
essentially argued from the existence of adaptation to the 
existence of an adapter. Beings would not have been so 
admirably fitted for their conditions of life unless they 
had been intelligently fitted for them. And the 
adaptations were so wonderful that the adapter must 
have been divine. 

Now, it is easy to see that in this shape the Argument 
from Design has several weak points quite apart from the 
attacks which Darwinism has made on it. (i) The 
thought of evolution, of a cosmic process, revealing itself 
in the course of time, the thought that lends grandeur 
and strength to the modern versions of the ancient plea, 
was entirely foreign to it. Consequently it took the 
process of adapting, whereby the adaptation arose to be 
instantaneous and complete. Consequently it was sadly 
perplexed by the fact that many adaptations were far 
from perfect. When Helmholtz pointed out the optical 
defects of the eye, and the ease with which they might 
have been remedied, the defenders of the old teleology 
were at a loss to answer a sacrilegious but exceedingly 
awkward criticism. They could not admit what now the 
teleological evolutionist may say without wincing viz. 
that the adaptations in themselves, and as they now 
exist, form a somewhat imperfect and insufficient testi 
mony for divine agency, and no testimony at all for a 
divine omnipotence. And, (2) it was not shown that 
animal intelligence might not have constructed the 
adaptations actually found. This suggestion could be 
ruled out only so long as the belief in the fixity of species 
prevailed ; but it became far more tenable so soon as 
practically unlimited time was allowed to intelligent 
effort to reach the degree of adaptation exhibited. And 
so there was nothing for it but to ascribe to the direct 
contrivance of the Deity every adaptation and every 

132 HUMANISM vm 

instinct found in the organic world, to burden, for 
example, the divine conscience with the fiendish ingenuity 
with which a sphex-wasp stings into helplessness the 
caterpillars it has selected to be the living food of its 
young. The defence of the divine intelligence, in short, 
was maintained at a ruinous expense to the divine 

Thus the old Argument from Design was in a bad 
way even before Darwinism appeared upon the scene with 
pretensions to deliver the coup de grace. Darwin himself, 
it is true, did not assert that no adapter existed. But he 
did what was more effective ; he suggested an alternative 
way in which adaptation might have arisen. This was 
not immediately fatal to the theory of intelligent effort 
as such ; for in human beings, at least, that theory 
was generally admitted as a vera causa, and so could be 
co-ordinated with the Darwinian explanation. But it 
did leave the theory of an inferred divine adapter in 
the logically indefensible position of being an additional 
and superfluous explanation of facts already sufficiently 
explained in other ways. 

Darwin s alternative consisted in showing that the 
existence of adaptations is conceivable and possible, 
although there has been neither an adapter nor any process 
of active adapting, but merely a sifting or eliminating of 
the unfitter. To show this, he required only two of the 
postulates of his theory (a) the existence of variability 
in living organisms ; and (b~) the struggle for existence 
among them leading to the survival of the fitter, or com 
paratively fit, and the elimination of the unfitter, or 
comparatively unfit. The variability of organisms was 
further conceived as of such a character as to lead to 
what were called accidental variations in every direction. 
This was to indicate that no special tendency to vary in 
any direction more than in any other was to be assumed, 
and that the causes of variation, which Darwin forbore to 
investigate, did not favour one sort of variation rather 
than another. Darwin, therefore, supposed nature to 
start with an indefinitely large supply of variations, some 


adaptive, the immensely greater number not. These 
were sifted by the process of Natural Selection, which 
eliminated the non-adapted and ill-adapted, so that only 
the fit survived, and after a time organisms would be, in 
a general way, adapted to their conditions of life. The 
process by which these adaptations arose, therefore, was 
a purely mechanical one, and did not imply any in 
telligence. The sifting of variations by natural selection 
would no more imply a purposive ordering than the 
successive depositing of lighter and lighter detritus as a 
river flows out into the sea. 

The anti-teleologically minded, to whom the support 
which biological facts had seemed to give to the belief in 
design had long been hateful, were naturally delighted 
with this easy and obvious way of disposing of the 
appearance of intelligent adaptation. They loudly pro 
claimed the disappearance of the Argument from Design, 
and even their critics only ventured to object that 
Darwinism had substituted one kind of teleology for 
another, and made the good (or survival) of the organism 
determine the conduct adopted by the race. This was a 
poor consolation, and, in my opinion, an illusory one. 
For it is not for the sake of the organism s good that the 
conduct is adopted, but it so happens that conduct can 
only become prevalent when it has survival -value, 
and that the prevalent conduct and that adapted to the 
conditions of life must coincide. In reality the process 
is not teleological, but purely mechanical. This appears 
quite clearly if it is supposed to act upon beings conceived 
to be devoid of all intelligence, and it turns out that it 
acts equally well. If animals were mere automata, their 
variations would be sifted by natural selection in just the 
same way, and it is quite possible and legitimate to apply 
Darwinian methods of argument to astronomical physics 
and the chemistry of the elements. 

But if the Darwinian assumptions are equally applicable 
to automata, they are, ultimately and in principle, just as 
fatal to the view that animal intelligence plays any part 
at all in the history of life as they are to the belief in its 



divine direction, and this logical implication is already 
appearing in the ultra-Darwinian writings. It is quite 
consistent of them to speak of the omnipotence of 
natural selection and to reject or minimize all other 
possible factors, like intelligent effort, use and disuse, 
physical and chemical conditions, etc., as directive forces 
in Organic Evolution. 

If, then, Variation and Natural Selection are the alpha 
and omega of the matter, and adequate to account for all 
the facts, it would seem to be beyond doubt that there is 
no longer any place for any sort of teleological argument. 
Nevertheless, it may reasonably be contended that this 
inference would be entirely erroneous, for the reasons to 
be presently set forth. 

I. The ease with which the Darwinian argument dis 
penses with all intelligence as a factor in survival excites 
suspicion. It is proving too much to show that adaptation 
might equally well i.e. as completely, if not as rapidly 
have arisen in automata. For we are strongly persuaded 
that we ourselves are not automata, and strive hard to 
adapt ourselves. In us at least, therefore, intelligent effort 
is a source of adaptation. And the same will surely be 
admitted in the case of the higher animals. How far 
down the possibility of such intelligent co-operation in a 
greater or less degree is admissible, depends very much 
on people s preconceived notions ; but we are, at all events, 
unable to fix any definite inferior limit beyond which 
influence of intelligence cannot penetrate. Intelligence, 
therefore, is a vera causa as a source of adaptations at 
least co-ordinate with Natural Selection, and this can be 
denied only if it is declared inefficacious everywhere, if all 
living beings, ourselves included, are declared to be 

But should this be attempted and it would seem to 
be involved, e.g. in the assumption of psychophysical 
parallelism a peculiar difficulty arises on the basis of 
the Darwinian theory itself. If intelligence has no 
efficacy in promoting adaptation i.e. if it has no survival- 
value, how comes it to be developed at all? On thej 


Darwinian assumptions only those qualities can be 
developed which have a value for survival. This must 
be true also of intelligence, which, consequently, cannot 
be mere surplusage. 

It must therefore be admitted that Darwinism is 
demonstrably wrong and refutes itself, if it seeks to deny 
the possibility of purposive adaptation and to regard all 
adaptation as the result of a mechanical natural selection. 
If, however, intelligence is re-admitted as a vera causa, 
there arises at least a possibility that other intelligence 
besides that of trie known living beings may have been * 
operative in the world s history. 

II. We may scrutinize the initial assumptions of 
Darwinism from which the anti-teleological consequences 
flowed. We may ask whether variation is really as 
indefinite and accidental as represented. Is it really 
so impossible to say anything about its causes ? 

We are here entering on a battlefield of science where 
the reputations of experts are still being made and 
unmade. Hence it behoves a philosopher to be careful. 
Nevertheless one may venture to make some remarks on 
the general aspects of the question, and to assert that the 
matter cannot possibly be left where Darwinism would 
leave it. Thus (i) Darwinism puts aside the question of 
the origin of variations. They are accidental, that is, 
beyond the pale of inquiry. Yet it seems to be a 
perfectly good and legitimate scientific question to ask 
whence these variations ? What, in Professor E. D. Cope s 
parlance, was the origin of the fittest? how, in Dr. J. G. 
Schurman s words, do you account for the arrival as well 
as for the survival of the fittest ? * 

(2) Darwinism assumes the occurrence of indefinite 
variation in every direction. That assumption is, as we 
shall see, essential and quite justifiable as a methodological 
device in examining the facts and in working out the 
theory of Natural Selection ; but we have a perfect right 
to ask whether it is actually itself a fact. That is, the 
study of the variations which actually occur is a perfectly 

1 Ethical Import of Darwinism, p. 78. 

136 HUMANISM vm 

legitimate one, and as initiated e.g., in Bateson s recent 
work on the subject l it very distinctly suggests that 
variation is frequently discontinuous, and that it is to 
these discontinuous sports rather than to the accumula 
tion of slight differences that we have to look for the 
origin of many new species. 

In both these respects, then, the non- Darwinian 
evolutionists seek to penetrate deeper into the nature of 
Organic Evolution than Darwin needed to do when he 
established the reality and importance of Natural Selection, 
and when Darwin s followers speak of the omnipotence of 
Natural Selection, they fail to observe that their opponents 
have really turned their flank. For while they do not 
deny the reality of Natural Selection, they go on to solve 
problems which, on the basis of Darwinism, cannot be 
discussed. Hence the Darwinians have not really any 
logical locus standi e.g., in many of their objections to the 
Lamarckian factors in evolution. Biologists must be 
left a free hand in their attempts to determine the nature 
and source of the variations actually occurring, and in 
their theories to account for them. If, after admitting 
the existence of natural selection, they go on to say 
that variations are not indefinite and their causes not in 
determinable, Darwinian orthodoxy has no right to interfere. 
Or if it mistakenly does try to interfere, its defeat is certain. 
For it is practically certain that some influences which 
can only be called Lamarckian must affect both the 
number and the character of the variations. Living 
organisms are subject to the general physical and 
chemical laws of nature, and these render variations in 
certain directions practically impossible. It is very 
probable also that they produce certain definite effects 
upon the organisms exposed to them, and thus give a 
definite direction to variation. Thus the force of gravity 
imposes limits on the size to which organisms can grow 
upon the earth ; high and low temperatures produce 
definite effects upon all living tissue. Starvation also will 
stunt the growth of all organisms. The efficacy, then, of 

1 Materials for the Study of Variation. 


these additional factors in determining both what sort of 
variations can occur, and in what directions organisms 
can vary, can hardly be disputed. Yet this admission 
would seem to be a sufficient refutation of the extreme 
claim that Natural Selection alone is competent to 
account for everything and exhausts the list of the factors 
in organic evolution which are logically admissible. 

It follows that if the Darwinian factors are not an 
adequate and complete account of what really happens, 
we are at liberty to supplement them by any additional 
factors we may require. Some such factors, such as 
geographical isolation, are, of course, admitted even by 
the ultra-Darwinians ; others, like sexual selection and 
the inherited effects of use and disuse, were adopted by 
Darwin himself; others, again, like the sensibility of 
organisms and their conscious efforts to attain their ends, 
are at least tolerated as worth discussing. What part, if 
any, these factors actually play in the history of organisms 
is still sub judice and cannot here be determined. It is 
enough for the present argument that Darwinism is not 
entitled to bar them out a priori as methodologically 
inadmissible. For if they are not inadmissible, a breach 
is made in the iron barrier with which the original con 
ception of a mechanically complete Darwinism shut out 
every possibility of teleology. It is so far attenuated 
that it can no longer reject a priori the suggestion of the 
possibility of one more teleological factor, viz. of a 
purposive direction of the course of variation. Such a 
purposive direction would still be hard to prove, because 
its action would be cloaked under a mass of other causes 
of variation, and because it would perhaps only display 
itself clearly in the occurrence of variations leading on to 
new species or new eras ; but it would no longer be unthink 
able, and that would be no slight step towards a teleology. 

III. It has been shown so far that if Darwinism is, as 
may easily be done, made into a dogmatic denial of the 
share of intelligence in Organic Evolution and of the 
admissibility of determinable causes, of a limited number, 
and of a definite direction of variations, it is demonstrably 

138 HUMANISM vm 

wrong ; we shall go on to assert that in any form it 
leaves unexplained the main point, the very point it was 
invented to explain, viz. Organic Evolution itself. This 
may seem a startling statement when one remembers that 
what led Darwin to propound his theory was precisely 
the evidence for Organic Evolution, the evidence of the 
descent of the existing forms of life from widely different 
ancestors. Yet the statement is made under a due sense 
of responsibility and with a full intention of proving it. 

Darwin put forward his theory as an account of the 
origin of species it is asserted that there is nothing in 
his theory in itself to account for the origination of 
species. At least, in the sense that Darwinism formulates 
causes which would logically lead to the evolution of new 
forms of life. The Darwinian factors only state certain 
conditions under which organisms have evolved, but they 
contain nothing that would necessarily cause them to 
evolve. They simply state that Natural Selection is a 
general condition under which all life exists, whether it 
evolves or not. It is equally applicable to species which 
change and species which do not. Every form of life is 
continually subject to the action of Natural Selection, 
weeding out the unfit and promoting the survival of the 
fit. But it does not follow that any particular form of 
life will be transformed. The conditions of success may 
be so various and so variable that on the whole no 
possible variation can obtain the victory over any other, 
and as a whole the species remains as it was. Let us 
illustrate the way in which a species under natural 
selection may yet persist unchanged. Suppose there is 
in a definite area an animal, say an anemone, which has 
a certain range of temperature and is variable, so that 
while the mass of the species is violet, it tends to vary in 
the direction both of blue and of red. Suppose, further, 
that the blue variety can stand the cold best and the red 
the heat, while the violet is intermediate in these respects. 
Now suppose a succession of unusually cold seasons. 
Clearly the blue anemones will flourish at the expense of 
the violet, and the red will nearly die out. Next suppose 


a succession of warm seasons ; clearly the red will recover 
their strength and the preponderance of the blue will be 
reduced. At the end of the cycle, red, blue, and violet 
will very likely exist in their original proportions. That 
is, though the Darwinian factors, variability and natural 
selection, have been fully and continually operative, the 
species has not changed. Such a case, though I have 
intentionally chosen an imaginary one, is not merely 
hypothetical ; it is illustrated by a small but sufficient 
number of persistent species which have remained 
unchanged from very early geological times. Darwin 
himself 1 mentions the Nautilus, the Lingula, and the 
order of the Foraminifera, antique stick - in - the - muds 
literally and metaphorically, which are the Chinese of the 
animal world and have persisted without change from the 
Laurentian and Silurian ages. And over shorter periods 
a similar persistence under Natural Selection is the normal 
condition of the organic world. Indeed, specific stability 
is a much commoner result of Natural Selection than 

And further, not only are the Darwinian factors 
perfectly compatible with a changeless persistence of 
species, but they are equally well satisfied by change in a 
direction which is the reverse of that which is actually 
found to prevail. For not merely progressive evolution 
but also degeneration may come about under the impartial 
operation of variability and Natural Selection. Under 
certain circumstances the more lowly organized may be 
the fitter i.e. the better adapted to cope with the 
conditions of life that prevail at the time ; and then 
the higher must either die out or degenerate. Hence 
biologists are familar with countless instances of de 
generation everywhere. We ourselves are degenerate in 
far more obvious and undeniable ways than sensationalists 
like Nordau contend. We have lost our fur all except 
a few patches on the head our ancestral tails, our pineal 
eye, our sturdy claws and prehensile toes, the tapering tips 
of our ears and the graceful power of attentively pricking 

1 Origin of Species, ii. pp. 83, 90, 117. 

140 HUMANISM vm 

them up ; the vermiform appendix indeed remains as a 
joy to the evolutionist and a profit to the doctor, but to 
the patient the useless and dangerous relic of a damnosa 
kereditas. And all this degeneration has taken place 
under the action of Natural Selection. 

Not but what there has also been much progression, 
and that in the aggregate its amount has far exceeded 
that of degeneration. This is just the reason why we 
speak of the history of life as an evolution. Life has 
been on the whole progressive ; but progress and retro 
gression have both been effected under the same law of 
Natural Selection. How, then, can the credit of the 
result be ascribed to Natural Selection ? Natural Selection 
is equally ready to bring about degeneration or to leave 
things unchanged. How, then, can it be that which 
determines which of the three possible (and actual) cases 
shall be realized ? Let us grant that Natural Selection is 
a permanent condition of life, from which no beings can 
at any time escape. But for this very reason it cannot 
be the principle of differentiation which decides which of 
the alternative courses the evolution of life will in fact 
pursue. It cannot be Natural Selection that causes one 
species to remain stationary, another to degenerate, a third 
to develop into a higher form. The constant pressure 
which it exercises on organisms does not in the least 
explain the actual course of evolution any more than 
the constant pressure of the atmosphere determines the 
direction in which we walk. The cause of the particular 
changes which have led to the existing forms of life cannot 
be found in an unchanging law of all life ; it must be 
sought in forces whose intermittent action has made an 
instrument of Natural Selection. 

It is clear, then, that to explain the changes which 
have resulted in the existing forms of life some variable 
factor has to be added to Natural Selection. And as to 
the nature of this factor Darwinism, qua Darwinism, tells 
us nothing. There may have been one or more of them, 
they may have been of all sorts. They may have been 
nothing more recondite than climatic changes or geo- 


graphical isolation, to mention two of Darwin s favourite 
explanations when Natural Selection stands in need of 
something to help it out in order that it may proceed to 
the origination of species. Now clearly these causes of 
the transmutation of species, and others that might be 
instanced, are under the proper conditions adequate to 
produce new species though there is no apparent reason 
why they should so predominantly produce higher species 
but that does not concern us here. The point to be 
emphasized is that these additional factors lie beyond the 
scope of the peculiarly Darwinian factors, which can have 
nothing to say on the question whether they are to be 
accepted or rejected. So long as the action of Natural 
Selection as a permanent and universal condition of life 
is conceded, there is nothing further to be said by the 
Darwinian theory. If, then, there is no other scientific 
objection to it, the notion of a purposive direction of 
variation becomes admissible. Nay, it would be possible 
to combine a belief in special creation with that in Natural 
Selection, and claim that while Natural Selection alone 
could not give rise to a new species, Natural Selection 
plus special creation might account for the distribution and 
succession of species. We should thus reach the paradoxi 
cal result, that whereas Natural Selection was expressly 
invented to supersede special creation, there is no necessity 
to regard the two theories as incompatible ! I mention 
this paradox merely to illustrate by it the helplessness of 
mere Natural Selection and the necessity of appealing to 
subsidiary theories in order to account for the facts of 
Organic Evolution. 

Of course, there is an abundance of such subsidiary 
theories, and many of them are quite unteleological. One 
may, for instance, continue to object to teleology on a 
variety of general grounds. Only those objections will 
not be specially grounded in Darwinism, and so far as 
the latter goes, it will not be possible to rule out the 
supposition that the process of Evolution may be guided 
by an intelligent design. 

IV. A further logical limitation of Darwinism is of a 

142 HUMANISM vin 

still more fundamental character. We have seen that 
Darwinism can supply no theory of the origin of Variation. 
Nor does it necessarily lead to the transmutation of species. 
Nor does it as such involve a growth of adaptation or 
yield an adequate account of Progress. But more than 
all this, it does not even give an account of the origin of 
adaptation. A little reflection will show that a certain 
amount of adaptation must always be conceived to pre 
exist before Natural Selection can begin to operate, the 
amount, namely, which is requisite to enable the organisms 
to exist, out of which the fit are subsequently to be 
selected. There must be an existence of the fit before 
there can be a survival of the fitter, and beings must be 
capable of existing at all before the question of their 
living better and surviving can be raised. Hence the 
initial degree of adaptation needed for the existence of 
organisms in the world together must always be pre 
supposed by the Darwinian theory. It must renounce 


therefore its claim to have accounted for adaptation as 

such, and so to have wholly superseded the teleological 

Indeed, it may be questioned whether it ever involves 
any growth of adaptation, or does more than describe the 
means by which an already existing adaptation is preserved 
through changes in the conditions of existence. It is clear 
that a thing must be before it can be selected. And to be, 
it must always be adapted to the conditions of existence. 
It cannot be said to grow better adapted, unless it actually 
manages to exist more copiously, or fully, or easily. But 
can this be said to be true of the ordinary Darwinian 
version of the history of organisms ? Is it true that they 
have grown better adapted, and are better able to survive ? 
Is not the struggle for existence, now as ever, a struggle 
for a bare livelihood ? It boots not to suggest that many 
or most of the beings who now just manage to exist 
would have lived in comfort in a former age ; for apart 
from the dubious truth of the assertion, it is clear the 
fitness of each being must be measured by its ability to 
exist under the conditions of its own time and place. 


What seems to happen is rather this : we start with 
adaptation, with a sufficient equilibrium between the 
organism and its conditions of life to allow of its existence 
(for a season). But this equilibrium is constantly en 
dangered by the changes in its conditions of life ; hence 
there is constant need for an adaptive response to these 
changes, for novelty of adaptation. This response some 
somehow manage to effect, and so survive ; the rest do 
not, and therefore perish. And it is this process which 
we dignify with the name of Natural Selection. But it 
is the name only for the mechanism which just keeps 
alive the sacred fire of life ; it neither lights it nor improves 
its radiance. Nor do we come upon any incontestable 
traces of improvement until we come upon the traces of 
intelligence. It is only with beings that aim at ends, 
conceive goods and frame ideals of better living, that there 
begins that funding of the power over life which renders 
possible the pursuit, not of mere life, but of good life, and 
transfigures the struggle for existence by an ethical ideal. 
Natural Selection is a universal condition of life, but it 
is not for us a model or a guide. It is non-moral and 
relieves us of no moral responsibility ; it remains within 
our power to mould it well or ill. 

V. It will, perhaps, be objected that in the anxiety to 
invalidate the anti-teleological implications of Darwinism 
we have gone too far, and denied its whole scientific 
importance. For what is the value of Natural Selection 
if it does not explain Evolution ? Such a result is too 
monstrously paradoxical to be accepted as the outcome of 
any argument, however solid it may seem. 

This objection should be welcomed by anticipation, 
because it leads on to a discussion of the real scientific 
value of the Darwinian theory, and in so doing traces to 
its real source the prima facie conflict between Darwinism 
and teleology. In reality there is not involved in any 
thing that has been said any disparagement of Darwin s 
tireless scientific labour, nor does anything that has been 
said in the slightest detract from the permanent value and 
immense importance of his work. What is disputed is 


not the valuable part of his work, nor the true meaning 
of his theory, and these remain intact when a misinter 
pretation of his theory and a misapplication, of his results 
are controverted. 

What, then, is the true significance of Darwin s work ? 
It is to have established once and for all the reality, univers 
ality and importance of Natural Selection as a condition of 
organic life. That has been its main achievement rather 
than the refutation of crude theories of creation and 
teleology, or even the assignment of an all-sufficient cause 
for the changes of organic forms. It is somewhat difficult 
to establish this view by direct citation from the utterances 
either of Darwin or of the other leading Darwinians, for 
the reason that Darwin stumbled upon Natural Selection 
in the endeavour to prove Evolution, and never was greatly 
interested in, or even competent to discuss, the logic of 
his theory. Hence its fundamental conceptions are intro 
duced quite innocently and without formal definition, as 
if their meaning could not possibly be mistaken ; hence, 
also, terms like indefinite, endless, fortuitous, sometimes 
only mean, respectively, not obviously limited, in sufficient 
quantities, and unexplored ; sometimes, as will be shown 
presently, they seem, quite unconsciously, to mean much 
more. 1 This state of things is, however, explained when 
we remember that there is abundant autobiographical 
evidence that Darwin himself elaborated his theory in 
support of evolutionism against creationism, and by con 
crete examples rather than by abstract deductions ; for 
by such methods he would naturally not become fully 
conscious of its logical implications. Hence the extraction 
of the logical root of the Darwinian theory becomes a 
matter of philosophical interpretation which may be repre 
sented somewhat as follows. 

Suspecting Natural Selection to play a part in the 
Evolution of life, Darwin had to determine what part of 

1 Similarly Darwinian discussions of the definition of higher and lower, 
of the persistence of lower forms and of the source of progression generally find 
refuge in our immense ignorance of the past, and exhibit only the reluctance of 
their authors to tie themselves down to precise formulations. Cp. Origin of 
Species, ii. pp. 117, 151, 243, 274. Wallace, Darwinism, p. 120. 


the total effect was due to the factor which he called 
Natural Selection. To solve this problem he adopted, 
no doubt instinctively, the method by which all scientific 
investigation proceeds in dealing with a complicated 
problem. This method is that of abstraction, of abstrac 
tion as a means of simplification. We isolate the factor 
of which we seek to determine the value by taking cases 
in which the other factors may be supposed to neutralize 
each other, and so to be irrelevant to the result. Our result 
is abstract, but, if the analysis has been carefully done, 
it is applicable to the concrete facts. 

This is precisely what Darwin did. The phenomena 
of life are immensely complicated, and there was ample 
reason to suppose that they were affected by all sorts 
of influences. To lay bare the effect of Natural Selection, 
it was necessary to simplify them by constructing an 
ideal case from which other influences might be excluded. 
This is the logical significance of the fundamental 
assumptions of Darwinism. Darwin knew that organisms 
varied. He did not know how much, or in what direction. 
But if there was a definite direction about the variation 
of organisms, this clearly might in various ways retard 
or accelerate the action of Natural Selection, and would 
in any event cloak it. It is obvious, for example, that 
if a race of elephants tend to vary in the direction of 
whiteness, then, though that variety may be weaker and 
less well equipped for the struggles of life, there will 
always be a certain supply of not-yet-eliminated white 
elephants. 1 Again the fate of the variety will be widely 
different, according as men consider them unlucky and 
kill them, or sacred and watch over them with especial 

In order, therefore, to avoid the initial complications 
introduced by a possible tendency of variation in a 
definite direction, it was logically necessary for Darwin 
to assume that as a whole Variation had no definite 
direction. Variations occurred of all sorts, advantageous, 

1 It is supposed that albinos tend to be produced by in-breeding, and hence 
the supply is always kept up in spite of Natural Selection. 




disadvantageous, and indifferent, hence, as a whole, 
Variation was indefinite. Darwin, that is, did not 
facilitate his task by supposing a mass of favourable 
variations to give Natural Selection a good start ; 
favourable variations were no commoner than they would 
have been if they had been drawn at random from an 
indefinite supply of possible variations of all sorts. 

Similarly, in order to avoid the complicating question 
whether these variations were not produced by definite 
causes, and so tended in a definite direction, Darwin said 
in effect Let us suppose these indefinite variations to 
be accidental. That is, let us waive the question of 
where they came from. In this way he arrived at the 
assumption of indefinite accidental variation on which 
his theory proceeded. 

It is clear, then, that this essential assumption of 
Darwinism was originally methodological, that it was a 
simplification of the facts assumed for purposes of analysis 
and easier calculation. This is, of course, an everyday 
procedure in all the sciences, and if a methodological 
assumption has been skilfully selected, it does excellent 
service. Now Darwin s assumption was an exceedingly 
skilful one : for whether or not it was true that Variation 
was absolutely indefinite and void of direction, it yet 
ordinarily seemed sufficiently indefinite to enable the ideal 
theoretical case to throw a most instructive light upon 
the actual facts. 

Perhaps the character of the assumption of indefinite 
variation is best illustrated by a parallel methodological 
fiction which has also played a great part in history. 
I refer to the assumption of the economic man in 
political economy. In order to build up the science of 
wealth, the early economists disentangled the primary 
laws of wealth-production by the methodological assump 
tion of the economic man. They said : Let us consider 
man as a wealth -producing animal ; let us suppose, 
therefore, that the production of wealth is his sole object 
in life. In that case the economic man must be taken 
as (i) absolutely laborious, as never distracted from his 


work by emotional indisposition or laziness, as a perfect 
wealth-producing machine ; (2) he must be taken as 
absolutely intelligent, as always using the best means to 
his end, as knowing how to use his labour to best 
advantage, and how to sell its products in the most 
advantageous manner ; (3) he must be taken as absolutely 
selfish, as absolutely disregardful of any consideration but 
that of how he could acquire the largest possible amount 
of wealth. Having thus simplified economic facts, let us 
see what will happen. So they proceeded to build up 
the science of abstract economics. When it was objected 
to them that their methodological assumption, the economic 
man, did not exist in reality, the wiser among them 
replied : Of course we know that, but the conditions 
of actual business are sufficiently close to what they 
would be under our ideal conditions to have much light 
thrown on them by the latter. And they gave thereby 
a clue through the labyrinth of facts to the economists 
who succeeded them, and were able by means of it to 
calculate the effects in various departments of the 
inaccuracy of the methodological assumption of the 
economic man. 

Now the economic man is an exact parallel to the 
accidental and indefinite variation of Darwin. They 
are both methodological assumptions, travesties of the 
truth, if taken as full and complete accounts of the actual 
facts, epoch-making and indispensable organa of science, 
if properly used. And the parallel extends still further. 
As philosophers are well aware, there is everywhere in 
the sciences a tendency to forget that methodological 
assumptions are not necessarily true because they are 
useful, 1 a tendency to assert as a fact what was at first 
assumed as an abstraction and a fiction for greater 
convenience in examining the facts. Alike in ordinary 
life and in science we are almost without exception given 
over, not to the adoration of an unknown god, but to the 
worship of forgotten abstractions and methodological 

1 Even so excellent a thing as Pragmatism may be overdone ! In fact it 
usually is, by its critics and in popular thinking, when methodological assumptions 
of limited applicability are mistaken for absolute truths. 

148 HUMANISM vm 

fictions, and happy is he who can avoid bending the knee 
to such bogeys. 

For this idolatry leads to terrible confusions, as these 
very cases show. When the economic man is taken 
seriously, and made a practical ideal, he leads to results 
which are incompatible with the maintenance of political 
and social cohesion, and with the sanctity of moral laws. 
And he provokes a reaction even worse than himself 
in the direction of revolutionary socialism. 

So, too, with the Darwinian assumption. When it is 
taken as a fact and as the last word on the subject of 
evolution, it leaves no room for the Argument from 
Design, and leads to consequences entirely inconsistent 
with any teleology. Moreover, the misrepresentation 
of the principle of indefinite variation is a very easy and 
common one, and has been adopted in this very article in 
exhibiting the conflict between Darwinism and teleology. 
But, once it is recognized as a misinterpretation, as a case 
of confusing a method of examining facts with the facts 
themselves, the danger of any further conflict is averted. 

It remains to give practical confirmation of this inter 
pretation of the real meaning of the Darwinian principle. 
To do so, it may be pointed out, in the first place, that 
Darwin assumed the indefiniteness of Variation initially 
upon utterly insufficient evidence, or, rather, upon no 
relevant evidence at all. For he was not in the position 
to make any positive statements about the variations that 
actually occurred, and had not had the time to study 
them exhaustively. In fact, it is only in these days that 
the actual facts of Variation are beginning to be observed 
and recorded, and many generations of workers will 
probably pass away before it will be possible to state 
with approximate certainty what variations actually take 
place, and can be conceived as likely to take place. If, 
then, Darwin s knowledge of Variation were to be regarded 
as the logical basis for asserting Variation to be in fact 
indefinite, the foundations of Darwinism would have been 
extremely insecure, and Darwin ought to have begun 
with an exhaustive study of variations before broaching 


his theory. Did he, as was to be expected from so 
exceptionally cautious an inquirer, subject himself to this 
preliminary investigation ? He did nothing of the sort. 
He simply pointed to the known variety of variations as 
approximately illustrative of his conception of indefinite 
variation, and went ahead. I can find nothing more 
formal than a request 1 that the endless number of slight 
variations and individual differences occurring in our 
domestic productions, and in a lesser degree in those 
under nature, be borne in mind. In other words, he did 
not attempt to prove the existence of indefinite variation 
in its literal sense ; he took it for granted for the methodo 
logical reasons aforesaid. Was it wrong to do this ? 
Not unless science is deprived of the right of making 
methodological assumptions. And the practical justifica 
tion of Darwin s procedure is seen in the fact that his 
theory has in the ripeness of time provided a guiding 
thread and an impetus to the study of facts that might 
otherwise long have eluded the grasp of science. 

VI. That the facts of Organic Evolution really play 
a very small part in producing the speculative bearing 
of Darwinism will appear also if we inquire into the 
reason of its anti-teleological action as commonly under 

For it turns out that the destructiveness of Darwin 
ism is a by-product of the theory which lurked in the 
innocent-looking phrase, indefinite variation. 

We have seen that, as a method of investigating the 
facts, this phrase is thoroughly defensible ; but then in that 
shape it does not really touch the question of teleology at 
all. For if the variations are only called indefinite in order 
to determine the working of Natural Selection, then the 
possibility of their purposive occurrence is not thereby 

On the other hand, let us take the phrase as a 
description of an actual fact. If there are an indefinite 
number of variations, and if they tend in an indefinite 
number of directions, it follows that the variations in any 

1 Origin of Species, \. p. 97. 



one direction will not be more than an infinitesimal portion 
of the whole. It is not necessary, therefore, to adduce 
any special cause for those particular variations ; they 
need not be regarded as due to anything more than 
chance, that is, to causes which do not in any intelligent 
way discriminate in their favour. That advantageous 
variations should occasionally occur is no more remark 
able, or in need of explanation, than that by throwing 
dice long enough we should occasionally throw sixes. 
If, then, indefinite variation be an actual fact, no special 
intelligence need be assumed to account even for the 
most abnormal variation. In other words, a principle has 
been adopted which rules out the hypothesis of intelligent 
direction a priori, if we forget or fail to perceive that 
indefinite variation is a methodological assumption. And 
being a priori, the principle would rule out the hypothesis 
whatsoever the facts were, and however much they might 
suggest the action of intelligence. Intelligence is non 
suited by the way in which the question is put, and 
irrespective of the facts of the case. 

Yet all this is due to nothing more mysterious than 
an application of the calculus of probabilities, for, as all 
who are even slightly familiar with this calculus are 
aware, even the most improbable result may be expected 
to occur if a sufficiency of cases be given. It is highly 
improbable, for example, that any one should, by fair 
dealing, acquire a hand containing thirteen trumps at 
whist. But if he had played some 640,000,000,000 
hands, he might fairly expect to hold all the trumps on 
one occasion. Everything that happens may be due to 
chance, and no matter how improbabilities are multiplied, 
we never altogether eliminate the infinitesimal probability 
that everything is due to chance. Supposing we were 
to try to persuade an obstinate materialist that our 
conduct was dictated by a purpose and due to intelligence, 
and was not the action of an automatic mechanism which 
had by some strange chance put on a delusive appearance 
of purposiveness. However intelligently we acted, we 
could not convince our adversary, if he were permitted 


to regard our action as one out of a series of actions 
displaying no intelligence. He would cheerfully admit 
that the action seemed intelligent, and by itself would 
justify the inference to a real intelligence behind it. But 
he would urge, if I take it as the one intelligent action 
out of an indefinite number of unintelligent actions, there 
is nothing in it that need cause surprise or calls for the 
assumption of real intelligence. We might try to convince 
him by multiplying the symptoms of intelligence, but in 
vain. For, though he would admit the growing improb 
ability of such a continuous series of apparently purposive 
actions, he could still expand the context of non-purposive 
actions rapidly enough to maintain his theory of their 
chance origination. 1 

If, therefore, an indefinite number of non- adaptive 
variations be really granted, no adaptations, however 
numerous and complete, can ever prove an intelligent 
cause of variation. Even if all the known facts testified 
aloud to the operation of an adapting intelligence, the 
Darwinian assumption might still be used to disprove all 
teleology, if unbounded license were given for the invention 
of hypothetical variations ! Now, of course it is not 
contended that variations as known are all obviously 
adaptive ; it is claimed rather that we do not know 
enough about them to say what their actual character 
is. But it must most strenuously be asserted that the 
Darwinian theory cannot be quoted as destructive of the 
action of purposive intelligence in organic evolution until 
the occurrence of indefinite variation has been raised from 
the position of a methodological device to that of an 
incontestable fact. 

Even then it may be doubted whether the fortuit 
ous character of the facts could ever be rendered incon 
testable. To defy refutation by the facts the teleologist 
has merely to adopt a device analogous to that of his 
opponent. Just as the latter could always assume a 
non-teleological extension of what seemed a teleological 
ordering, so the former can always assume a secret 

1 Cp. pp. 71-2. 



teleology within the seeming chance. This he can do in 
several ways ; most thoroughly by assuming that the 
order purposed exactly coincided with the results of a 
fortuitous distribution, and was intended so to do. This 
ingenuity, however, would somewhat overreach itself. It 
would have to conceive the intelligence immanent in the 
world s order as one aiming at concealment. For our 
only method of discriminating between the results of 
design and chance is to observe a deviation from the 
fortuitous distribution (which betrays no preference for 
any particular result) in the direction of what may be 
conceived as a more valuable result. Hence in the case 
supposed, the deviation being nil, we should have no 
reason to suspect the presence of intelligence. And 
generally, one would have to hold that a supposition 
which rendered the results of design and chance 
undistinguishable abolished also the difference between 
the two conceptions ; a world governed by such an 
intelligence would be no better than one wholly due to 
chance. * By supposing, therefore, that the design 
makes no difference, the teleologist would defeat his 

But he can assume the intelligent deviation to be of 
whatever magnitude the facts demand, and by assuming 
it to be small enough he can suppose a purposively 
guided order which mimics chance, just as the anti- 
teleologist could explain design as a mimicry by chance. 
And so he can conceive a (really) teleological order in- 
finitesimally different from one merely fortuitous, and the 
mere tabulation of statistics will never decide its actual 
character. The mere record of the throws will never tell 
us that once in a hundred throws the dice came up sixes 
by intelligent design (of a nefarious kind). And yet that 
single throw might have sufficed to win the game ! Now 
in the history of Organic Evolution the really valuable 
events which help on progress are certainly of the 
extremest rarity. It is only once in an aeon that 

1 Cp. James, Varieties of Religious Experience, pp. 443-7, and Philosophical 
Conceptions and Practical Results, pp. 9-11. 


an accidental variation distinguishes itself from a 
myriad others by lifting organic structure permanently 
on to a higher plane. It is only once in centuries that a 
genius is born who does the same for social progress : 
the great events in history are utterly unique, and turn 
the course of things so thoroughly that they need never 
be repeated. But all uniqueness makes a mock of Science, 
which explains by rinding uniformities. 

Hence the teleological and the anti-teleological interpre 
tation of events will never decide their conflict by appealing 
to the facts : for in the facts each finds what it wills and 
comes prepared to see. And yet the facts will not wholly 
bear out either, so long as they present traces of what we 
can describe as disorder in the one case, or order in the 
other. The decision therefore needs an act of choice ; it 
eminently calls for the exercise of our will to believe ; 
it rests, like all the ultimate assumptions of our knowledge, 
upon an act of faith. 

VII. The position, then, is this: i. If we take the 
Darwinian assumptions as methodological, they are 
perfectly legitimate, most fruitful and valuable, and 
establish the fundamental biological law of Natural 
Selection. But there is no conflict with the belief in 
teleology, and the Argument from Design remains un 

2. If we take the Darwinian assumption as representing 
a fact, it is certainly destructive of all teleology. But the 
fact is not established and is open to grave doubts on 
scientific grounds, while its destruction of the teleological 
argument is simply a foregone conclusion a priori. 

3. If, while admitting that indefinite variation has not 
been shown to exist, we yet contend that it is the sole 
working assumption by which the facts can be investigated, 
and that the possibility of a purposive guidance must be 
rigidly excluded from Science, we simply beg the question. 
For certainly, if all the evidence is to be interpreted in 
accordance with such canons, no evidence for teleology 
can ever be found. One need not object to people 
wearing blue spectacles if they like they are in fact 

154 HUMANISM vm 

often useful, if not ornamental but it is ludicrous to 
maintain that everything is blue because we insist on 
looking through the spectacles. 

This ought to constitute a sufficiently explicit answer 
to the question, Is Darwinism, properly understood, 
necessarily hostile to teleology ? Not only have we been 
able to answer that question by an emphatic negative, 
but we have uncovered the source of the misunderstanding 
which led to the question. We might go on to raise 
rather the opposite question, and ask, Does Darwinism 
in any way tend to strengthen the Argument from Design 
and the belief in teleology ? That would, perhaps, be 
asking too much; its services in this respect seem to be 
mostly of an indirect sort. It is often invigorating to be 
attacked, especially when the assult can be successfully 
repulsed, and perhaps in this sense the Argument from 
Design is the stronger for having been impugned in the 
name of Darwinism. 

More can perhaps be extracted from another point 
brought out by Darwinism viz. from the fact that 
Natural Selection is a universal law of life operating 
indifferently, whether there is stagnation, degeneration, or 
progression. From this it may be inferred that the 
ghastly law of struggle for existence, the cruel necessity 
which engages every living thing in almost unceasing 
warfare, while not itself the cause of progression, is yet 
capable of being rendered subservient to the cause of 
progression. The progress, the adaptations, actually found, 
are certainly not due to Natural Selection : yet neither 
does Natural Selection form an obstacle to their occurrence. 
Nay, we may conjecture that the power which makes for 
progress, a power which we may divine to work for 
nobler ends, is lord also of Natural Selection, and can 
render it a pliable instrument of its purpose, a sanction to 
enforce the law of progress, a goad to urge on laggards. 

What that power may be Darwinism cannot directly 
tell us. Before we could ascribe to it a pronouncedly 
teleological character, we should have to measure our 
strength against a number of possible factors in Organic 


Evolution as mechanical as Darwinism. But I believe it 
could be shown that all these mechanical laws of Evolu 
tion, from Spencer s law of differentiation downwards, fail 
just where Darwinism pure and simple failed viz. in 
accounting for the historical fact of progress. Either, 
therefore, we should have to admit that an as yet unformu- 
lated mechanical law of Evolution accounted for progres 
sion, or that it was due to an agency of a different order, 
to the guidance of an intelligent and purposive activity. 
It may be suggested, however, that a critical examination 
of the current mechanical theories of Evolution must 
distinctly strengthen the belief that there has been opera 
tive in the history of life an intelligent force to which we 
must ascribe the progression and direction of the process 
of Evolution. And inasmuch as Darwinism occupies a 
leading place among these mechanical theories, its exam 
ination will greatly conduce to that result. 

We have discussed so far only mechanical theories of 
Evolution. But in itself Evolution is not necessarily 
bound to be mechanical ; it is perfectly possible to regard 
it as the gradual working out of a divine purpose. And 
once we adopt the evolutionist standpoint, it is clear that 
the Argument from Design is materially and perceptibly 
strengthened, (i) Positively, because Evolutionism lets 
us as it were behind the scenes and shows us how means 
are adapted to ends in the gradual process of Evolution. 
This renders easier and more comprehensible the belief 
underlying all teleology in a power that intelligently 
adapts means to ends. (2) Negatively, Evolutionism 
greatly weakens the objection to the teleological argument 
based on the imperfection of existing adaptations. We 
are no longer compelled to proclaim everything already 
perfect ; it suffices that we can find nourishment for the 
faith that everything is being made perfect. 

If, then, Evolutionism strengthens the Argument from 
Design, the latter indirectly owes a debt of gratitude to 
the theories which have facilitated the adoption of the 
Evolutionist standpoint. And among these Darwinism 
stands pre-eminent. Evolutionism was as old as one of 



the earliest of Greek philosophies ; l but it was not until 
Darwinism made it a household word that it could force 
its way into the consciousness of men at large. And as 
a philosopher who regards Evolutionism in some form as 
affording the most hopeful method of approaching the 
mystery of existence, I am inclined to hold that when 
historical perspective has cleared away the molehills we 
have made into mountains, it will be here that will be 
found Darwin s most momentous and enduring service to 
knowledge and to mankind. 

1 That of Anaximander : see Mind I p. 129. 



To prove that Pessimism is an ultimate attitude of -will. 

(i) It is not merely disappointed hedonism. (2) It may result from the 
breakdown of any ideal of value. Now any system of values may be 
judged (a) adequate, (b) inadequate, (c) inapplicable, to Life. Similarly in 
judgments of Fact, reality is judged (a) knowable (b) unknowable, 
(c) inexhaustible. But the critical solutions (c) reduce themselves to (b). 
All our modes of Valuation stand and fall together, and Truth is 
among them. Hence Optimism and Pessimism become ultimate alterna 
tives. Still Pessimism is secondary. Practical value of this issue. 

THE aim of this essay is to show that logically 
Pessimism should be taken in a far wider and more 
fundamental sense than is commonly assigned to it, and 
that when this is done, it forms an attitude towards the 
ultimate questions of philosophy which is not susceptible 
of being resolved into any other, and cannot be refuted, 
but only accepted or rejected. It forms one of those 
ultimate alternatives the choice between which, rests 
essentially upon an act of will. 

In attempting to establish this view, it will be 
convenient to start by determining what we are to under 
stand by the term Pessimism. It has been customary 
to subordinate the treatment of the subject too much to 
the particular views of representative pessimist writers, 
and to pay too little regard to the logical connexion of 
the pessimist positions. Hence, a belief has become 
current that Pessimism might be summed up in the 
assertion that life was not worth living, because in it the 

1 Reprinted (with- a few additions) from the International Journal of Ethics, 
for Oct. 1897. 


158 HUMANISM , x 

pains predominated over the pleasures, and the whole 
question was thus reduced to one of the possibility and 
result of the hedonistic calculus. Now, it is true that 
the doctrines of Schopenhauer and von Hartmann lend 
themselves to such a narrowing of the issue, but I believe 
that it is possible to demonstrate the essential shallowness 
and logical inadequacy of a transition which is psycho 
logically so easy as to have been made almost universally. 
In the argument that life is not worth living because it 
involves an excess of pain, the second clause states a 
reason for the first, and, if it is proved, the conclusion 
clearly follows. What has not been observed, however, 
is that even if it should not be proved, the conclusion may 
yet be true, because it may rest on other reasons. To 
argue that because one ground for a conclusion is unsound, 
the conclusion itself cannot be established, would evidently 
be nothing else than the familiar logical fallacy of denying 
the antecedent until it has been shown that no other 
grounds are possible. But this is not the case here. 
The condemnation of life, which Pessimism essays to 
pronounce, does not necessarily rest on a single basis : it 
forms an attitude of thought which has been linked with 
the assertion of the predominance of pain by a mere 
accident of historical development. It is quite possible to 
condemn life on various grounds without holding it to be 
predominantly painful. It is possible to condemn it, not 
because it has too little pleasure, but because it has too 
little of the other ends which are recognized as good in 
themselves, because it has too little virtue or knowledge 
or beauty or duration. Life may shock us into a denial 
of its value also by its moral, its aesthetic, its intellectual 
deficiencies : it may seem so brief, so nauseatingly petty 
and contemptible that the game is not worth the candle. 
In all such cases the Pessimism cuts itself adrift from its 
supposed hedonist basis ; and, even where the hedonist 
standard is retained, it need not be of an egoistic 
character. It may be sympathy with the misery of 
others that tempts us like the Buddha, like the Preacher 
in Thomson s City of Dreadful Night, to condemn life. 


Again, it is possible to argue, more subtly, that the 
unhappiness is the effect rather than the cause of the 
worthlessness of life. It is " not that life is valueless 
because it is unhappy, but that it is unhappy because it is 
valueless." l 

But what enables man thus to apply to life the 
standards by which it is itself condemned ? Nothing 
surely but the fact that he is capable of framing an ideal 
of worth, an ideal of something worth striving for and of 
holding it up to reality as a mirror in which to behold its 
deficiencies. It is because we systematize our valuations 
and so form ideal standards which alone bestow true 
value upon life, that we can condemn it because it 
nowhere allows us to attain perfect happiness or full 
knowledge or complete goodness or aesthetic harmony. 

Now it is evident that the deficiencies in life which 
the formation of these ideals enables us to detect will act 
as a potent stimulus to progress so long as the deficiencies 
seem comparatively small and the ideals appear attainable ; 
if, however, we allow our ideals to outgrow our means of 
reaching them, the chasm between them and the actual 
will become too deep to be bridged by hope ; we shall 
despair of attaining our heart s desire and bitterly condemn 
the inadequacy of the actual. Thus Pessimism will ever 
hover like a dark cloud over the path of progress, ready to 
oppress with gloom alike the cowardice that despairs and 
the temerity that outstrips, prematurely and recklessly, the 
limitations of the practicable. It is a natural and almost 
inevitable phase in spiritual development, which results 
whenever any object of desire is found to be unattainable, 
and it has no exclusive affinity for the details of a petti 
fogging calculation of probable pleasures and pains. The 
sole reason why the question of Pessimism has mostly 
been debated on a hedonistic basis is because Happiness 
is the one ideal which is universally comprehended, which 
allures by its elusive glitter even the coarsest and most 
commonplace of men. 

Having thus freed Pessimism from its entanglement in 

1 Riddles of the Sphinx, p. 99. 



hedonistic disputes, we may proceed to determine its 
deepest nature. This nature would seem to consist in 
the denial of the value of life, in whatever terms and by 
whatever standards it may be formulated. If Pessimism 
springs from the experience of pain, it will deny the value 
of life because happiness is unattainable ; if from moral 
indignation, because goodness is unattainable ; if from 
aesthetic disgust, because beauty is unattainable ; if from 
scepticism, because knowledge is unattainable. But in 
each case the value of life will be denied. It makes no 
difference to Pessimism whether a man despair because 
the world is so miserable, or so bad, or so hideous, or so 

It follows from this that Pessimism is essentially a 
certain definite attitude towards the great and well- 
recognized class of judgments which are known as judg 
ments of Value ( Werturtcile). Now, judgments of Value 
are possible about everything that is experienced, and are 
usually contrasted with judgments of Fact in that they do 
not inquire what a thing zs, but what it is worth. And, 
like the primary judgments of Fact, alike whether they are 
ethical, aesthetical, or merely emotional or affective, they 
are primarily relative, i.e. they assert that something has 
value for this purpose or that, for this aspect or that, of 
human nature. But just as the logical judgments must 
ultimately be accommodated in a coherent system of Truth, 
so the judgments of Value must ultimately all be referred 
to some supremely valuable end of action, or Summum 
Bonum. It will be possible then to estimate life as a 
Whole by this supreme standard of Value, and to discuss 
whether it satisfies it or not. If, as the outcome of such 
discussion, it shall appear that no coherent system can 
be framed, and that our valuations fail, their failure 
will create the situation on which Pessimism forms the 
emotional reaction. 

Now as the result of such discussion, only three alter 
natives seem thinkable : 

I. We may conclude that Life is adequate to the 
attainment of the supreme end of action, and that, 


consequently, it has value and is worth living. This is 
the position taken by every form of Optimism. 

II. We may decide that Life is inadequate to meet 
the requirements of the standard applied to it ; that, 
consequently, it has no value, and so is not worth living. 
This is the conclusion implied in every form of 

III. We may object on principle to the attempt to 
answer the question, and contend that it should not be 
raised, arguing, e.g., that it does not follow from the fact 
that the value of everything in life may be determined, 
that we can determine the value of life as a whole. 
This may be called the agnostic or with a reference to 
the Kantian denial of metaphysics and its analogous 
answer to the ultimate question of knowledge the 
critical answer. 

It is worth pointing out that these three modes of 
treating the ultimate question of Value correspond exactly 
to the ultimate modes of answering the question as 
to the ultimate Fact. We answer the final problem of 
theoretic knowledge also in three ways: (i) We may 
declare that existence is ultimately knowable, and explain 
its nature in more or less tentative systems of constructive 
metaphysics. (2) We may deny that in the end any 
thing can be known. This is the sceptical attitude. 
(3) We may protest that human knowledge is not com 
petent to solve its ultimate problems, and has no right 
to raise the question. This is the attitude of a Criticism 
which shrouds the ultimate metaphysical truth in the 
unfathomable obscurity of the Thing-in-itself, and yet 
Tantalus-like, is ever tormented by the phantom of a 
satisfaction which it believes to be hopelessly beyond its 

Whichever kind of ultimate question, then, we raise, 
whether that of the nature of ultimate facts or that of 
their valuation, three alternatives seem possible. But we 
can hardly avoid asking further whether they are all 
equally tenable. That is a difficult question which I 
cannot here discuss exhaustively. The proper academic 




thing to do would be, I suppose, either to evade an 
answer altogether or to decide in favour of the third 
alternative, which is nearly as unsatisfactory as no 
answer at all, and to finish up with a learned sneer at 
those who venture on dogmatic conclusions. But, 
for once, I should like to dare to be dogmatic at least 
to some extent and to indicate some reasons at least for 
eliminating that third alternative. 

For it seems to me that it reduces itself to the second, 
that the emotional value of no answer is equivalent 
to an answer in the negative. Nor can I see why, if 
judgments of Value are rightly and properly made, they 
should not be applicable to the scheme of things as a 
whole. Certainly we make this assumption in the case 
of the judgments of intellectual Value, i.e. in determin 
ing the value of our judgments of Fact. We assume that 
because judgments of relative truth and falsity are made, 
the former can ultimately be fitted into a coherent and 
congruous system of Truth. That is, we recognize that 
in the end Truth too is Value?- and decline to predicate 
the truth of any fact which seems discordant with 
our system. Indeed it is by such a reference to logical 
values that we discriminate among the facts which 
claim reality, and grant or refuse their application. 

But if we are entitled to hold that there is Truth, and 
not merely judgments relatively true, in other words, 
that is, that our logical valuations may be combined into a 
system, and that the ideal of Truth is applicable to Reality 
and controls it, why should we not be equally entitled 
to affirm similar validity for the ideals of Goodness and 
Happiness ? 2 If Experience as a whole can be judged 
true or false, coherent or incoherent, why should it not 
be judged as a whole good or bad ? At all events, it 
cannot be taken for granted, without attempt at argument, 
that human judgments of good and bad mean 
nothing to the whole, while (equally human) judgments 
of true and false may be appealed to to extract its 
inmost mysteries. 3 

1 Cp. pp. 54-5. 2 Cp. pp. 345-6. 3 Cp. pp. 9- ic, 


Moreover, the attempt to draw such a distinction 
would seem to break down even on the theoretic side. 
Granted that our theoretical account of the world had 
denied to all the judgments of Value, except those 
which use the predicates of true and false, all 
ultimate significance, yet the fact would remain that 
such judgments were made and formed an integral part 
of life. They would remain, therefore, as an inexplicable 
factor in the world. And the more we realized the 
importance of this factor and the manner in which it 
permeates all our activities and directs even the intellect 
when it is seeking to deny it, the more doubtful should 
we become whether we had explained anything while 
this was left inexplicable. That is, we should inevitably 
be impelled towards scepticism on the theoretic side, and 
the practical reflex of scepticism is, as I have elsewhere 
shown, nothing else than Pessimism. 1 

It remains to ask whether the problems of Value or of 
Fact are more ultimate, and whether ultimately the one 
may not be subordinated to the other. I believe that 
they may and must, and that the antithesis between 
them is ultimately pernicious because all values are facts 
and all facts are values, i.e. products of one or other of our 
modes of valuation. 2 

But once more I can only very briefly indicate the 
ground for this conclusion. I shall here confine myself 
to observing that mere intellection is impotent (77 Sidvoia 
avrrj ovOev /ai>et), that the human mind is essentially 
purposive, that in its activity the judgments and ideals 
of Value supply the motive power to the judgments of 
Fact, and that, in the absence of anything valuable to 
be reached by them, no reason can be assigned why such 
judgments should be made. Hence if judgments of Fact, 
in spite of their illusory logical independence, seem 
psychologically to be rendered possible by and rest on 

1 Riddles of the Sphinx, ch. iii. and iv. 

2 The issue raised by Pragmatism here may be stated as being whether logical 
valuations alone shall be allowed to constitute facts, or whether this privilege 
may not, under the proper conditions, be extended to the rest. And however the 
question is decided, it is obvious that the conception of Truth needs further 
scrutiny and can no longer be naively taken for granted. 

164 HUMANISM ix 

judgments of Value, does not the question What is life 
worth ? become the most ultimate of all ? Thus, with 
respect to this question, Optimism and Pessimism seem 
to supply the sole alternatives ; nor does it seem feasible 
still further to reduce their multiplicity to unity by 
alleging any formal ground for subordinating Pessimism 
to Optimism. For, as we have seen, the same ideals 
which, while they are regarded as attainable, confer Value 
upon existence, once they are despaired of, plunge us 
into irremediable Pessimism. The most that can be said 
is that just as in logical judgments negation results from 
the failure of an affirmation, just as scepticism springs 
from a painfully achieved distrust of knowledge, so 
Pessimism is always secondary, and results from the 
breakdown of some optimistic scheme of Value. But 
even so it would seem to follow that Pessimism must be 
theoretically possible so long as such a scheme of Value 
can be felt to be inadequate and rejected ; that is, so 
long as there persists a breach between the ideal and the 

What, then, is the practical conclusion to which the 

argument conducts us ? It has vindicated for the 

question of Pessimism a position of paramount theoretic 

importance which would entail a far more serious 

treatment than is generally accorded to it in the teaching 

of Philosophy. And in view of the vast accumulations 

of unco-ordinated and uncorrelated knowledge which 

Philosophy has in these days to think over and digest, in 

order that mankind may not utterly lose its bearings in 

the cosmos, philosophers may well shrink from taking up 

the burden of a problem of such magnitude and difficulty 

as that of Pessimism. But even if Philosophy could 

renounce its task of giving a rational account of every 

phase of experience, we might yet hesitate to hold that its 

acceptance of this problem would be pure loss, or in the 

end would prove detrimental to its true interests. To 

assume responsibility is potentially to acquire power, and 

no question is better calculated than this of Pessimism to 

make Philosophy a power in human life, for none can 


bring it into closer contact with the actual problems of 
men s lives. And does not the whole history of its past 
show that Philosophy has never been more flourishing and 
influential than in periods when it has seemed to make 
some response to the outcry of the human soul, to the 
question What shall I do to be saved ? If, then, 
Philosophy takes courage to do its duty, if it addresses 
itself to the question of the Value of Life and grapples 
with the Demon of Despair that besets the souls of many, 
who shall say that there is not still in store for it a career 
of unprecedented splendour among the forces that may 
mould the destinies of man ? 

" - 




M. the real hero of Faust, but his character concealed behind his masks. 
He is really a philosophic pessimist who knows his opposition to be 
futile. His pessimism compared with Faust s. How he has grown 
cheerful and an intellectualist. The meaning of Gretchen s criticism. 
M. as the Schalk. Not seriously concerned to win Faust s soul. 
Absurdity of the vulgar interpretation. M. as Faust s redeemer. But 
he has recourse to miracle ; which spoils the argument from Faust s 
redemption. The possibility of redeeming M. 

IT has often been remarked that the Devil tends to 
become the real hero of any work of art into which he 
enters. However that may be, he is certainly the hero 
of the greatest poem in modern literature, of Goethe s 
Faust, Properly to appreciate Mephistopheles, it is 
fortunately not necessary to depreciate the other chief 
characters of the drama, to minimize Gretchen as an 
episode which usually comes earlier in the history of a 
German student, and to disparage Faust as an effete 
pedant, who, even when saved by the might of the Devil 
and the gracious permission of the Deity, remains to the 
end essentially commonplace and thoroughly deserving of 
eternal reunion with so excellent a Hausfrau as Gretchen 
would doubtless have developed into. 

But there certainly is a touch of paradox about the 
assertion that Mephistopheles is the real hero of Faust, 
and so it becomes necessary to clear away the prejudices 
that have obscured his character. We must try to 
understand Mephistopheles himself, to understand, that is, 
why he has become a rebel against the divine order, to 



reconstruct his history, to conjecture how he became the 
Devil he is, to perceive wherein his devilry consists. 
What we need is, in short, a sympathetic study of his 
personality and point of view, which, without daubing 
him with luminous paint in the hope of representing him 
as an angel of light, shall do justice to the interest of 
his character and function, and to the brilliance of his 
achievements. Indeed, we may even generalize and say 
that a sympathetic appreciation of the Devil is always 
an essential of every real Theodicy, of every vindication 
of the Divine Justice which scorns to stultify itself by 
effecting an illusory reconciliation of God and the Devil 
by means of their common absorption in the Absolute, 
and to reduce them, along with everything else, to vapid 
aspects of that all-embracing but neutral unity. 

Let us examine therefore the fascinating personality 
of Mephistopheles, whom every man and most women 
(other than a sweet innocent like Gretchen) must surely 
have preferred to Dr. juris Faustus, and with whom the 
more experienced Helen of Part II. has clearly to the 
discerning eye a secret understanding. 

The chief difficulty in understanding Mephistopheles 
arises from his fondness for disguises. He is always 
masquerading. He masquerades as the dutiful attendant 
in the courts of Heaven, whose antics almost wrest a smile 
of approval from the gravity of God ; 1 he masquerades 
as an unattached poodle in search of a master, 2 as a 
travelling scholar, 3 as a nobleman in gorgeous robes of 
gold and crimson, 4 as a capped and gowned professor, 
as a limping charlatan, 6 as a king of beasts, 7 a ratcatcher, 8 
a magician, 9 a financier, 10 a showman, 11 a prompter, 12 
a doctor, 13 a Phorkyad, 14 a duenna, 15 a strategist, 16 a 
minister, 17 and a fool. 18 And he knows his weakness and 
several times alludes to it, e.g. 

1 Prologue in Heaven. 
2 Scene ii. 
3 Study, Scene iii. 
4 Scene iv. 
5 Ibid. 
6 Cellar, Scene vi. 

7 Witches Kitchen, Scene vi. 
8 Street, Scene xix. 
9 Part II. Act. I. 
10 Ibid, Scene iv. 
11 Ibid. Scene vi. 
12 Ibid. Scene vii. 

13 Act II. Scene i. 

14 Ibid. Scene iii. 
18 Act III. 
16 Act IV. Scene ii. 
17 Act V. Scene iii. 
18 Act V. Scene vi. 


Komm, gib mir deinen Rock und Miitze, 
Die Maske muss mir kostlich stehn. 

and again 

Mein Maskchen da weissagt geheimen Sinn ; 
Sie fiihlt, dass ich ganz sicher ein Genie, 
Vielleicht sogar der Teufel, bin. 

But after all the subtlest of his disguises, his most habitual 
mask, is one which deceives all the other characters in 
Faust, except t/ie Lord, and has, so far as I know, utterly 
deceived all Goethe s readers except myself. I mean his 
disguise as a mediaeval devil. That of course is his great 
part, and he plays it very well, with an exquisitely 
humorous perception of its absurdity. For of course he 
knows quite well that he is nothing of the sort. Indeed, 
he is often telling us so, either because he wearies of the 
grotesqueness of the disguise imposed on him by universal 
prejudice, or because he knows that he will warn in vain 
a besotted audience which insists that he shall appear in 
horns and hoofs and full regimentals as a devil. 

And yet the success of this mask constitutes the real 
tragedy of his situation. To have to play the part of an 
obscene and silly mediaeval fiend, even in jest, renders him 
ridiculous. It impedes the expression of his genius, it 
obscures the spiritual grandeur of his attitude, and in 
the end conducts him to what seems a most grotesque 
conclusion. For, like Job, he is ignominiously smitten 
with boils, and leaves the scene as the vanquished victim 
of an overpowering literary tradition. 

To appreciate therefore the real subtlety and depth of 
his spirit we must strip off this mask also and recognize 
his real genius. For Mephisto is a genius, as even 
Gretchen, a highly prejudiced witness, must admit. 

And what is rare in a genius, he is also a wit and a 
philosopher, of the profoundest, and this combination 
renders the Faust the finest study of philosophic Pessimism 
in any language. Not one of the professed pessimists, 
not even the Buddha, not even Schopenhauer, not even 
James Thomson, has succeeded in expressing the dire 
philosophy of negation more effectively and consistently 


than the poet in his sketch of Mephistophelianism. Clear, 
candid, and consistent, Mephistopheles records his incisive 
and uncompromising protest against the whole order of 
the world, and scorns to practise any concealment of his 
meaning. If his doctrine has escaped detection, it has 
been by reason of his Bismarckian frankness in divulging 
it. One can only suppose that people have been too 
much distracted by the show of his diabolism to perceive 
this, too greatly fascinated by the horns and hoofs of his 
ruminant mask to recognize beneath his pranks the 
corroding wit, the Galgenhumor, of a despairing sage. 

Yet from the first his words were plain. In his very 
first interview with Faust he reveals himself 

Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint, 

Und das mit Recht ; denn alles, was entsteht, 

1st wert, dass es zu Grunde geht ; 

Drum besser war s, dass nichts entstiinde. 

And similarly in the Prologue in Heaven he had 
protested against the misery and futility of existence, 
and when the Lord asked him whether he would ever 
come only to bring accusations against his creation and 
to disapprove of everything 

Kommst du nur immer anzuklagen ? 
1st auf der Erde ewig dir nichts recht ? 

he at once replies 

Nein, Herr ! ich find es dort, wie immer, herzlich schlecht. 

It is this conviction of the intrinsic worthlessness of 
existence that turns him into an agency of destruction. 
Not-being is preferable to Being, and so it is good to 
destroy. But it is unnecessary to hate : Mephisto, 
though as a good pessimist he heartily wishes our extinc 
tion, is not the enemy of mankind. Nay, he even pities 
the wretches whose torment is his function, and sickens 
of his job 

Die Menschen dauern mich in ihren Jammertagen, 
Ich mag sogar die Armen selbst nicht plagen. 


Mephisto then is perfectly clear about his position. 
And he also sees its hopelessness. He is too complete a 
pessimist to suppose that his protest can be of avail. 
He is well aware that he cannot destroy the world he 
condemns, either wholesale or in detail. 

Und freilich 1st damit nicht viel getan. 
Was sich dem Nichts entgegen stellt 
Das Etwas, diese plumpe Welt, 
So viel als ich schon unternommen, 
Ich wusste nicht ihr beizukommen. 

If he evades therefore Faust s retort 

So setzest du der ewig regen, 
Der heilsam schafifenden Gewalt 
Die kalte Teufelsfaust entgegen, 
Die sich vergebens ttickisch ballt ! 
Was anders suche zu beginnen, 
Des Chaos wunderlicher Sohn ! 

it is not that he is under any illusion. He, the Lord, 
and Faust all agree that his work for evil is futile and 
productive of good. He has therefore every right to 
announce himself as 

Ein Teil von jener Kraft, 

Die stets das Bose will und stets das Gute schafft. 

Nor does he deny the Lord s description of his beneficent 
and stimulating, but from his own point of view futile, 

Des Menschen Tatigkeit kann allzuleicht erschlaffen, 

Er liebt sich bald die unbedingte Ruh ; 

Drum geb ich gern ihm den Gesellen zu, 

Der reizt und wirkt und muss, als Teufel, schaffen. 

It is instructive to compare this pessimism with that 
to which Faust had succumbed at the beginning of the 
action, and to see how much deeper it cuts. Faust s 
discontent with the cosmic scheme is quite a petty, 
personal, and superficial affair. In Faust s first soliloquy 
the jaded old professor, who has exhausted all the know 
ledge of his age and finally himself, has, naturally enough, 
discovered that all is vanity. His lowered vitality can 


no longer sustain even the ideal to which he had 
sacrificed his life. So he despairs even of knowledge. 
As a last wild attempt he tries the short cut of magic. 
But the spirit world does not open out its splendours 
to the invocations of lassitude and fear. Faust shows 
himself deficient in the daring needed to meet the Earth- 
spirit as an equal, and so he is repulsed. Then in 
humiliation and disgust he turns to question the worth 
of life in the characteristic phrases of a bookworm ! 

Soil ich vielleicht in tausend Biichern lesen, 
Dass iiberall die Menschen sich gequalt, 
Dass hie und da ein Gliicklicher gewesen ? 

He makes a first, and therefore ineffectual, attempt to 
poison himself, but (a true German !) is restrained by 
sentimental reminiscences of the faith of his childhood. 
This scene alone would be enough to prove that he has 
in no wise overcome the love of life. He does well, 
therefore, to confess 

Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach, in meiner Brust ! 

whereof the one clings closely to his earthly life. It is 
hard to suppose that his life is in serious danger ; so 
feeble an attempt at suicide is not the symptom of a 
serious pessimism. 

In his second interview with Mephisto, Faust is more 
impressive. His tedium vitae rises to the superb de 
nunciation of life which begins 

In jedem Kleide werd ich wohl die Pein 
Des engen Erdenlebens fiihlen, 

and culminates in the comprehensive curse which ends 

Fluch sei der Hoffnung ! Fluch dem Glauben ! 
Und Fluch vor alien der Geduld ! 

This forms the high-water mark of Faustian pessimism. 
But even here the skilled psychologist will note an 
undertone of nervous irritation and impatience which 
stamps it as a passing ebullition, provoked, perhaps, by 
the stimulating presence of Mephisto. 


It is clear, then, that in point of profundity Faust s 
pessimism cannot vie with that of Mephistopheles ; you 
might string together the woes of a dozen Fausts and yet 
fail to fathom the clarified depths of Mephisto s world- 
negating indignation. And Mephisto s pessimism is not 
merely profound ; it is also individual. It is neither the 
regulation abstraction of the text-books, nor derived from 
any bookish source whatever. It takes its peculiar colour 
ing from his personal character. 

Mephistopheles is essentially a cheerful pessimist. 
Cheerful pessimism sounds paradoxical, and I hardly 
think that an abstract logic, scorning the lessons of 
psychology, would credit its existence. But if we 
consider the point psychologically it will seem natural 
enough. It is only in its primary form that pessimism 
is incompatible with cheerfulness ; the lapse of time 
here, too, may work the strangest transformations. Now 
Mephistopheles is very old ; indeed, it is mainly his preter 
natural age that renders him a supernatural being. His 
pessimism, therefore, is likewise very old ; it has confronted 
the inane spectacle of life s nothingness for aeons. If there 
fore we would understand him, we must seize this clue : 

Bedenkt der Teufel, der ist alt, 
So werdet alt ihn zu verstehn. 

Now in ordinary life the pessimist rarely grows old 
enough to grow cheerful. Pessimism is not a creed 
conducive to longevity. But even within the narrow 
limits of ordinary life it seems hardly possible that 
pessimistic emotion should long retain the intensity of 
its first outburst. Here, as elsewhere, time must surely 
dull the sharpness of the initial agony. If we can 
endure to live on at all we must always somehow 
adapt ourselves to life. Passionate pain must smoulder 
down into settled sentiment, which becomes less emo 
tional and more intellectual as it grows older. Now 
Mephistopheles has long survived the discovery of the 
vanity of life. For untold ages he has lived with, and 
despite, this thought, as a critical spectator of all life s 


futile cruelties. And so he has grown accustomed to its 

O glaube mir, der manche tausend Jahre 

An dieser harten Speise kaut. 

His wounds are scarred over, though their memory 
remains. Is it not natural then that he should long have 
ceased to feel the misery of life, and long have replaced 
it by a merely intellectual conviction, which would scarce 
impede the pleasurable exercise of his faculties ? We are 
often told that with a hard heart and a good digestion a 
man can stand much : how much more a demon who 
could certainly dispense with a heart, and probably with 
a digestion ? And so he is not personally miserable. 
The note of personal suffering mingles no longer with his 
indictment of the world : nay, he may even feel relief at 
having cast off all personal responsibility for the senseless 
spectacle. Well may he be serene, and even gay his 
pessimism, like his witches elixir, is very old and 

Das auch nicht mehr im mindsten stinkt. 

In a word, Mephisto has become a thorough intellectualist, 
and complete intellectualism is perhaps the most diabolical 
thing we can conceive. For to evil-doing, as to all other 
carnal pleasures, cometh satiety at the last. Moreover 
our possibilities are limited. But not so to evil think 
ing : to the idle curiosity of intellectual contemplation 
nothing is good, nothing evil, nothing sacred, nothing 
shocking, but everything is food for a reflection, cold and 
unending and unsparing. It peeps and pries upon a 
mother s grave ; it is equally at home in Heaven and in 
Hell. Once therefore it has judged and passed its 
condemnation, there is no obvious reason why any 
recrudescence of feeling should lead it to reverse its 

It is this intellectualism which Gretchen has detected 
in Mephisto, and which forms the really valid ground 
for her otherwise thoroughly feminine dislike. Not 
that of course we should be justified in taking Mephisto 


altogether at her valuation. Indeed, there is a pre 
posterous incongruity in the thought of judging the 
cosmic spirit of negation by the feminine intuitions of a 
little grisette, who is madly in love and furiously jealous 
of the ascendency which a more powerful mind has over 
her lover. We must allow a large discount for a woman s 
instinctive mischief-making when she intervenes between 
man and man. 

Es tut mir lang schon weh, 

Das ich dich in der Gesellschaft seh . 

Gretchen fears and hates him because she suspects in 
him, and rightly, a danger to her love, an obstacle to a 
mesalliance which would have domesticated Faust and 
unfitted him for further ventures. And so she insinuates 
all she can, and has apparently succeeded in getting her 
view accepted by the public. 

Wo er nur mag zu uns treten, 

Mein ich sogar, ich liebte dich nicht mehr 

is her last and unfairest appeal. 

That too is an old, old story, as old as the way of a 
man with a maid. 

Still in a way Gretchen is right despite the defects 
of her grammar 

Man sieht, dass er an nichts keinen Anteil nimmt ; 
Es steht ihm an der Stirn geschrieben, 
Dass er nicht mag eine Seele lieben. 

Only that is Mephisto s intellectualism. He himself sees 
clearly that the struggle is for the control of Faust, 
and that if the liaison with Gretchen is to come to a 
respectable conclusion there is an end of his designs on 
Faust (or rather of the Lord s designs whereof he is the 
instrument). And so he takes ruthlessly effective steps 
to bring about a separation. Gretchen is an obstacle in 
his path, and so she is removed. But he never expresses 
the least hatred for her : the expression of her hate he 
interprets as a tribute to his intellectual eminence, and 
takes quite coolly 


Sie fuhlt, dass ich ganz sicher ein Genie, 
Vielleicht sogar der Teufel, bin. 

The paradox of Mephisto s combination of cheerfulness 
with pessimism is thus explained by the recognition of 
his age and intellectualism. But these very features seem 
to render more urgent another difficulty. Mephistopheles 
is far too clear-sighted not to see that all his efforts are 
futile, that he is ever being overruled by a higher power 
and turned into another s agent. 

Why then does he persist in his activity ? 

The readiest reply to this would doubtless be Why 
should he not ? If all things are futile, why one thing 
more than any other ? To a thorough pessimist what 
does it matter what he does ? 

In general this reply is sound enough, but I hardly 
think that it explains the peculiar features of this case. 
I should incline rather to question whether after all it is 
so sure that Mephistopheles does persist in efforts whose 
futility he recognizes. The answer will depend on how 
seriously you take him. 

If you take him quite seriously, you must certainly 
answer Yes. He professes to the end to busy himself 
with Faust s damnation. But are you intended, or even 
entitled, to take him seriously ? It seems to me that we 
have the highest authority for holding that Mephisto is 
not serious. The Lord himself tells us that Mephisto is 
the Schalk, the imp or merry-andrew, among fiends 

Von alien Geistern, die verneinen, 

1st mir der Schalk am wenigsten zur Last. 

And throughout the play he acts up to this character. 
Hatred, gloom, and gravity are foreign to his nature. It 
was by eschewing these that he escaped from the miseries 
of his pessimism. He no longer despairs of life, because 
he has trained himself to laugh at it, forming thus the 
counterpart of the Lord, der sick das Lachen abgewohnt, 
who has seen the high seriousness of all things. So 
Mephistopheles laughs at a world he cannot alter, or 
abolish. His satisfaction comes from satirizing all the 


world, from the unimpeded exercise of his sarcastic wit. 
He mocks at God, men and angels, nay, even at professors ! 
Nor does his mockery spare himself. He is as ready to 
make a fool of himself as of any one. But withal he is 
always good-tempered and good-humoured : not even 
Faust s very trying temper ever leads him on to lose 
his own. 

Is it at all likely then, that he should be grimly in 
earnest about his diabolic mission ? Is it his serious 
ambition to capture the soul of Faust ? 

Why then should he, in the very act of engaging in his 
wager with the Lord, ostentatiously proclaim that he cares 
nought for the dead ? 

Fur einen Leichnam bin ich nicht zu Haus. 

A remark by the way, the truth of which is fully attested 
by his preference of earth to hell as a place of residence. 
Or, again, does he seriously believe that a contract signed 
with blood is needed ? Why, then, does he turn the whole 
thing into farce ? Once more, does he really want Faust s 
services in hell ? What for ? What possible use could 
he have for a more than middle-aged German professor ? 
And would a serious-minded and conscientious devil allow 
himself to be cheated of his prey, by a sheer lapse of 
attention ? And why finally, if he desired to see Faust 
damned, did he not leave him severely alone? Had he 
done so, would not Faust eventually have committed 
suicide, and so have inevitably fallen into his domain ? 

Surely these questions answer themselves. The vulgar 
interpretation of Mephistopheles is absurd. The truth is 
that Mephistopheles is never serious. He knows that the 
whole conception of a soul -hunting devil is a mediaeval 
anachronism. He knows also that he can do nothing, 
that however reluctant, his freedom is but semblance, that 
he is a helpless instrument in the hands of a God who 
tells him outright Du darfst nur fret erscheinen. And so 
being deprived of every other satisfaction, he derides the 
cosmic order which constrains him. Wherefore he plays 
the fool throughout. He is bent on amusing himself \ 


not on ruining Faust, or capturing souls by methods 
whose crudity would shame a Hottentot magician. Had 
he been serious, would he ever have dreamt of accepting 
the impossible bet which the Lord proposes ? 
Zieh diesen Geist von seinem Urquell ab. 

Would he have assented to the preposterous conditions 
Faust imposes on him ? For Faust so little does he 
know wherein to seek satisfaction of soul proposes to 
consider himself damned when he shall consider himself 
satisfied, and demand the continuation of the present 

moment : 

Werd ich zum Augenblicke sagen, 
Verweile doch, du bist so schon ! 

is to be the signal for his damnation \ 

The absurdity of this is plain : A man who is capable 
of declaring himself satisfied is not damned : he is happy 
or a liar. And if Heaven be the satisfaction of desire, he 
has ipso facto attained Heaven. It was philosophically 
impossible, therefore, that the story should end in anything 
but the salvation of Faust. 1 

Thus it is that the encounter with Mephisto sets Faust s 
feet upon the pathway of salvation. Mephistopheles is 
Faust s real redeemer. He it is who rescues Faust from 
the fatal listlessness into which he had fallen and revives 
his interest in life. Faust is never nearer damnation than 
before Mephistopheles appears. Not that, as we saw, he 
was really likely to commit suicide just yet. He would 
doubtless have pursued his theoretical study of the subject 
a little further first, and perhaps, e.g. have tried to read 
through the Sacred Books of the East. But the inanity of 
his life would have continued to prey upon him, and after 
a few more fits of depression and a few more attempts, he 
might have succeeded. For, as he justly says, he was at 
a critical time of life ; too old to amuse himself, too young 
to refrain from yearning and trying 

1 Unless, indeed (as Vischer, the witty author of the Third Part of Faust, 
suggested), Faust s severest trials only begin after he has got to Heaven, and has 
to act as pedagogue to the blessed boys (selige Knaben] mentioned in the final 



Ich bin zu alt um nur zu spielen, 
Zu Jung um ohne Wunsch zu sein. 

Then Mephistopheles enters his life and revives his 
interest in it, by telling him about the worlds unrealized 
which cannot be read up in books. Before they start 
together Faust has recovered the use of the imperative, 
and demands to be initiated into every form of human 
experience. Mephisto laughs at the psychological im 
possibility involved, and has difficulty in dissuading 
Faust from reverting to his old hankering after the 
infinite. But he slowly makes a man of him. Faust 
scorns the animal pleasures of the coarsest debauchery. 
He escapes lightly from the snares of the affections 
in the brief tragedy of Gretchen, which scars his soul 
with mingled memories of ecstasy and guilt. He pays 
his homage to the aesthetic ideal by his descent into 
the fairyland of Art. But even Helen cannot paralyse a 
spirit l so astutely guided : he returns, to be initiated into 
the realities of politics. Thus in the end Mephistopheles 
bridges for him the gulf twixt word and deed which he 
had once imagined could be traversed by a trick of 
mistranslation. 2 And so Faust finds his real life s work 
in action. It is working and ruling that mature him and 
make him ripe for the life eternal. But to what, I should 
like to know, does he owe this whole career, if not to the 
unwearying aid of Mephistopheles ? How else could the 
philosopher have become king, the obscure pedant a 
prince of the Empire ? 

Not that on this account we need ascribe to Mephisto 
any special merit, or suppose that his motives will bear 
scrutiny. Mephisto knows no doubt that he is redeeming 
Faust ; but he does not help him in order to save him, 
any more than he attends him, in order to tempt him. 
The truth is that tempting is not seriously in his line : 
amusing is, and indeed I suspect that if the tradition be 
true that cards are a diabolic invention, it may well have 

1 Wen Helena paralysirt, 
Der kommt so leicht nicht zu Verstande. 
2 Cp. Scene in the Study. 


been to Mephisto that we owe them, but rather to his 
ingenuity in amusing himself than to his desire to 
ruin others. He seems to make his one solitary 
attempt at tempting in the excursion into Auerbach s 
cellar, but even there a doubt remains. If Mephisto 
meant it as a serious temptation to drunkenness, how 
are we to explain the incorrigible frivolity with which 
he sacrifices all prospect of success by playing pranks 
upon the worthy topers ? Does he not here, as always, 
prejudice his alleged design by a reckless pursuit of the 
moment s joke ? And after that Mephisto only obeys 
orders, and finds the ways and means for the whims of 
Faust. 1 His position is indeed sufficiently abject. He 
is ruled by Faust, and overruled by the Lord, and 
perfectly aware of it. But he manages none the less 
to get some fun out of his servitude, and is never in 
better form than when, quite gratuitously and without 
the least advantage to his supposed design, he is taking 
Faust s pupils for him and playing the professor. And 
after all, as he knows that in any case he can accomplish 
nothing, he does not greatly care what he does. Never 
theless, it is somewhat curious that he does not play the 
fool still more extensively, stays so long with Faust, and 
abstains from wrecking the joint enterprises in which they 
were engaged. I can only suppose that he must have 
found Faust personally amusing, and that his restless 
striving was interesting to a mind which could never 
delude itself into thinking any end worth the attaining. 

Nevertheless, it is very remarkable that even Mephisto- 
pheles cannot save Faust without a miracle. That is the 
great flaw, psychologically speaking, in the poem. The 
Faust we meet at first has sunk to such a state that 
a moral miracle alone can save him. He has almost, 
if not wholly, lost the taste for life, the faith in life, and 
the vitality to respond to the new vistas which Mephisto s 
art displays. To offer such a man all the delights of 

1 It is true that, as in tradition bound, he takes Faust with him to the 
Walpurgisnacht. But was not Faust by this time wearying of Gretchen and 
ready to desert her ? So Mephisto points out with calm scorn in repelling Faust s 
coarse reproaches (scene in the Field). 


earth is as futile as to crown a dyspeptic king of 
Cocagne, or to equip a blind man with the ring of Gyges. 
He is too old to enjoy, too young to be indifferent. 

At his first interview Mephistopheles attempts to 
reawaken Faust s love of life by conjuring up seductive 
dreams. But at their second meeting Faust receives him 
with imprecations on life. This convinces Mephistopheles 
that a miracle is necessary. Faust must be rejuvenated. 
By drinking the witch s potion he rids himself of the 
infirmities which thirty years of study have heaped upon 
his body and his spirit. This is the turning-point of the 
plot. Without this renewal of youth could Faust have 
captivated Gretchen or eloped with Argive Helen ? And 
what savant of fifty-five would not trust himself, even 
without the devil s aid, to achieve great things, nay, perhaps, 
to realize the Platonic dream of the domination of the wise, 
if he could suddenly find himself restored to the vigour 
of five and twenty ? 

But such a miracle must hopelessly break up the 
natural course of psychological development, and so 
Goethe s Faust does not answer the practical question which 
Pessimism forces on our notice, the question, namely 
What to do with those for whom life has lost its savour ? 
I must confess that so far as human sight as yet extends 
this problem seems insoluble. Perhaps a good rest, a dip 
in Lethe, and the resumption of a more attractive life 
might be therapeutic agents of sufficient power, and 
something of the sort may possibly yet be found to be 
among the resources of Providence. 

But how about Mephisto s own salvation ? His case is 
very different, and it has to be considered, without the 
poet s aid, 1 merely by a study of his character. We must 
note first that his pessimism is not of Faust s type ; his 
vitality is not exhausted, nor has he wearied of the world 
or of himself. He is still willing to be amused, and is 
certainly amusing. So far therefore from sinking into 

1 In private conversation Goethe seems however to have realized that the 
spiritual problem he had chosen required to be completed by the salvation of 
Mephistopheles. Only he did not think his contemporaries were enlightened 
enough to tolerate this notion. 


the inaction of despair, he is the stimulus to progress in 
a world which, but for him, would grow inert. Says 
the Lord 

Des Menschen Tatigkeit kann allzuleicht erschlaffen ; 

Er liebt sich bald die unbedingte Ruh ; 

Drum geb ich gern ihm den Gesellen zu, 

Der reizt und wirkt, und muss, als Teufel, schaffen. 

There is activity enough about Mephisto and to spare; 
but it is of the wrong kind. It is frivolous, for all the 
pessimism out of which it grew. It has no serious 
purpose of its own, and now aims only at an intellectual 
play with a scheme of things it confronts without 
approving. And this is just the reason why it is impotent, 
why it becomes subservient to an alien end. Aiming at 
nothing, Mephistopheles, the unbelieving scoffer, cannot 
but become a servant of the Lord. But he is a bad servant 
and an unwilling, and remains a blot upon a universe 
which condones such service, and so reveals its imperfection 
and its impotence. Impotent though he seems, his mere 
existence indicates the limitation of what we fondly 
deemed Omnipotence. 

The redemption, therefore, of Mephisto is the postulate 
of a complete Theodicy, on grounds both metaphysical 
and moral. Our moral sensibility demands that there 
shall be no hopeless evil. And our reason enforces this 
demand by showing that we cannot call good a world of 
which any part is evil, without destroying the whole 
meaning of good. For metaphysics the ultimate solidarity 
of things is such as to demand universal salvation. No 
universe is perfect in which any part is imperfect ; forj 
the suffering of any part that is imperfect must produce a \ 
sympathetic tremor in the whole. But these are topics I 
which perhaps transcend the bounds of literary criticism ; " 
though they might well provide food for thought for the i 
theologians who have prided themselves on the popularity , 
of their hells, and for the philosophers who have too easily \ 
proved the perfection of the world by excluding from its ] 
notion all that makes perfection worth the having. 1 

1 c p . P. 3 . 


" It is clear, then, that Mephisto must be saved. But he 
I can be saved only by working on his actual character. 
He must be led to remould himself. He must be driven 
f out of his idle intellectualism, out of his critical role of an 
unconcerned spectator of all time and all existence, includ 
ing his own actions. It is here that the real difficulty lies. 
If he were merely inert, he could, like man, be forced into 
action. But he is active enough ; only he feels no 
responsibility for his actions, which he regards as dis 
passionately as the operations of natural forces. 

The only chance therefore would seem to be to get 
him to take up his personal responsibility, to reverse the 
policy which has driven him into his attitude of passive 
and futile, but unanswerable, protest. He must no longer 
be overruled in every action ; he must no longer feel 

Du darfst auch da nur frei erscheinen, 

that his spontaneous agency is mere illusion. Give him 
real freedom to choose alternatives, real power to try his 
hand at shaping a world that will realize his ideals, and 
he may then convince himself, that it is better to help on 
the Divine purpose than to thwart it. Whether he will or 
not remains uncertain, as in the case of every one of us ; 
but it is from this contingency alone that the real interest 
and tragic significance of the cosmic drama spring. This 
much at least seems clear, that a theodicy which strives 
to oppress opposition by omnipotence must overreach 
itself: sheer force can overcome Mephisto as little as 



I. Mr. F. H. Bradley s antithesis of Appearance and Reality as a catchword. 

II. His criterion of the non-contradiction of ultimate reality. But 
(i) the criterion not ultimate, and used too recklessly. It is applied to 
merely verbal difficulties. It is meaningless to call an unknowable 
Absolute real, and this explains nothing about appearances. Nothing 
even apparently real can be really contradictory. Non-contradiction is only 
a special form of Harmony, and the rejection of contradiction is only a 
form of the struggle towards satisfaction. Other modes of reaching 
harmony. Harmony a postulate. (2) The criterion stultifies itself by 
condemning everything, nor is it saved by the doctrine of Degrees. 

III. A valid doctrine of the relation of appearance to reality must 
eschew the transcendence which renders Mr. Bradley s Absolute futile. 
Necessity of retaining a grasp on reality throughout. The growth of 
reality: (i) the reality of immediate experience our starting-point and 
end. (2) Higher realities inferred to explain it, but remain secondary. 
Their variety and relativity to purpose and need of a final synthesis in 
(3) ultimate reality. IV. As to this, five principles to be laid down : (i) 
Ultimate Reality must be made a real explanation. (2) Appearances 
must be really preserved. (3) Primary reality of immediate experience 

, to be recognized. The reality even of dreams. The reality of the higher 
world of Religion. How Idealism makes a difference. (4) The greater 
efficiency of the higher reality. (5) Why Ultimate Reality must be 
absolutely satisfactory. Because otherwise it would not be regarded as 
ultimate. Why truth cannot be evil. If it were, its pursuit would 
cease. Only complete satisfaction would bring finality of knowledge, 
and that only if not merely conceived, but actually experienced. The 
beatific vision as the ideal of knowledge. 

THE ambition of this paper is not, as might perhaps 
wrongly be conjectured from a hasty perusal of its title, 

1 This essay appeared in Mind for July 1903 (N.S. No. 47). The chief 
additions are in IV. (3), (4), and (5). The constructive problem it deals with 
is that indicated at the end of Axioms as Postulates (Personal Idealism, p. 133). 


1 84 HUMANISM xr 

to provide an Outline of Cosmetic Philosophy, and still 
less to carry owls to Athens by exhorting philosophers 
to an observation of social proprieties they have rarely 
shown any tendency to set aside. Its aim is rather to 
examine the nature and scope of the familiar antithesis 
between appearance and reality, the vogue of which 
I cannot but regard as the chief constructive result of 
the work of the greatest of English sceptics, Mr. F. H. 
Bradley. In Oxford, at all events, this antithesis has 
been an immense success. It is ever hovering on the 
tongue alike of tutor and of tiro in philosophical 
discussion, and provides them with a universal solution 
for the most refractory of facts. It seems to have 
become the magic master-key which opens and closes 
every door, the all -accommodating receptacle into 
which every mystery may be made to enter and to 
disappear ; in short, it is just now the greatest of the 
catchwords wherewith we conjure reason into topsy 
turvydom and common sense out of its senses. If its 
Olympian author ever deigned to look upon the struggles 
and contentions of lesser and lower mortals, he would 
doubtless be vastly amused to see what an Alpha and 
Omega of Philosophy had sprung invulnerable from his 
subtle brain. But being myself immersed in the struggle 
of teaching and having a certain responsibility in seeing 
to it that what is called thought involves thinking and 
affords proper training in mental precision and clearness, 
I find that this antithesis has become to me a consider 
able nuisance, and also, it must be confessed, a bit of a 
bore. I propose, therefore, to probe into it a little, and 
to examine its pretensions, with a view to seeing whether 
the relation of appearance to reality cannot be put 
on a different and, to me, more satisfactory footing. 


I must begin however by raising a very general, and, 
I think, very fundamental, objection to Mr. Bradley s 
method of constructing the wonderful edifice of his 


metaphysics. I venture to assert with the utmost 
trepidation, and at the risk of being crushed, like Mr. 
Bradley s other critics, by a sarcastic footnote to his 
next article, that in putting forward his fundamental 
assumption that ultimate Reality is such that it does 
not contradict itself, and in erecting this into an absolute 
criterion, he builds in part on an unsound foundation 
which has not reached the bottom rock, in part on an 
airy pinnacle, a sort of what in Alpine parlance is called 
a gendarme, which will not bear the weight of the 
mountains of paradox which are subsequently heaped 
upon it. 

(i) By the first charge what I mean to convey is 
that the ultimateness of Mr. Bradley s absolute criterion 
has been taken for granted far too easily. But before 
adducing reasons for this contention, I must disavow 
every intention of impugning the validity of the Principle 
of Contradiction as such. I accept it fully and without 
reserve ; nay more, I use it every day of my life. But 
my intellectual conscience impels me to ask As what 
must I accept it ? And in what sense ? To these 
questions Mr. Bradley s criterion of non- contradiction 
appears to supply no obvious answer. It is enunciated 
quite abstractly, and it is not clear to me that, as stated, 
it has a sense adequate to bear the metaphysical structure 
put upon it, or indeed any sense at all. 1 

The meaning of Mr. Bradley s absolute criterion (as 
of everything else) must therefore be sought in its 
applications. But Mr. Bradley s applications seem to 
warrant the utmost suspicion, if not of the principle 
in the abstract, yet of the sense in which it is actually 
used. A principle which asserts itself alone contra 
mundum, and convicts the whole universe of self-con 
tradiction may surely give pause to the most reckless. 
There is no need, therefore, to question the principle in 

1 As Mr. Alfred Sidgwick well says, " every fact that changes its character in 
the least degree proves to us daily that the Laws of Thought, those pillars of 
elementary logic, are too ideal and abstract to be interpreted as referring to the 
actual things or particular cases that names are supposed to denote." Distinction 
and the Criticism of Beliefs, p. 21. Cp. my Formal Logic, ch. x. 



the abstract : in the abstract it may mean anything or 
nothing. But in the particular way in which Mr. Bradley 
proceeds to use it, it is open to much exception, and I 
find myself unable to admit its claim to ultimateness, 
while it is obvious that Mr. Bradley has for once simply 
taken over his allegation from the classical (and intel- 
lectualist) tradition of Herbart and Hegel. I shall 
discuss however only the former point, as it is clear that 
if the Principle of the impossibility of self-contradiction 
in the Real can be shown not to be ultimate, it will 
follow that Mr. Bradley was wrong in taking it to be such. 

My first question must be to inquire what shall be 
held to constitute such self-contradiction as will render a 
supposed reality amenable to the jurisdiction of the 
absolute criterion ? Mr. Bradley appears to hold that 
any quibble will suffice to bring an aspirant to reality 
before the revolutionary tribunal of his incorruptible 
philosophy, and that an unguarded phrase, such as 
ordinary language can scarcely abstain from, is evidence 
enough for ordering off to instant execution the wretched 
appearance which had dared to simulate reality. But 
surely justice should require some more decisive proof of 
iniquity than the fact that something which claims to be 
real can be formulated in what appear to be contradictory 
terms ? For may it not be the contradiction rather than 
the reality which is appearance ? Yet such apparent 
contradiction is all that Mr. Bradley s negative dialectics 
seem in the great majority of instances to prove. It is a 
result which does not astonish me, but seems to be of 
little value. In words everything can be made to look 
contradictory, and Mr. Bradley has but completed the 
work of Gorgias and Zeno, with his own peculiar brilliance 
and incisiveness. But I do not see that this necessarily 
proves more than that language has not yet been rendered 
wholly adequate to the description of reality. 

And it ought not to be necessary to remind serious 
thinkers that to dazzle the spectators by a display of 
dialectical fireworks is not to explain the universe. The 
most illusory of seeming realities is worthy, not merely of 


being ridden down and riddled with contradictions and 
left for dead upon the field, but also of being understood. 
And I am at a loss to see how to call it self-contradictory 
and then forthwith to invoke a self-subsistent, in 
accessible Absolute, which includes all appearances and 
transcends all apprehension and inexplicably atones for 
the incurable defects of our actual experience, is to explain 
it, or anything else whatsoever. 

As against such cavalier methods I should protest that 
only propositions are properly contradictory, that only a 
reasoning being can contradict itself, and that it is an 
abuse of language to describe our use of incompatible 
statements about the same reality as an inherent con 
tradiction in the reality itself. Indeed, I should combat 
Mr. Bradley s contention that everything sooner or later 
turns out to be self-contradictory with the axiom that 
nothing which exists, in however despicable a sense, can 
really be contradictory. The very fact of its existence 
shows that the contradictions, which our thought dis 
covers in it, are in some way illusory, that the reality 
somehow (to use Mr. Bradley s favourite word in this 
connexion) overpowers, swallows, reconciles, transcends, and 
harmonizes them. 1 If therefore it appears contradictory, 
the fault is ours. It is, in Herbart s language, a zufallige 
AnsicJit. It can be purged of its apparent contradiction, 
and it is our duty to effect this and to interpret it into a 
harmony with itself which our mind can grasp. Only 
of course I can see that this purification may require 
something more than a dialectical juggle with terms : we 
may need a real discovery, we may have to make a real 
advance, before the refractory ore of appearance will 
yield us the pure gold of reality. 

I have intentionally used a word which seems to me 
to give the clue out of the labyrinth into which Mr. 
Bradley has beguiled the fair maid, Philosophy. The 
conception of Harmony seems to me to be one legitimately 
applicable to ultimate reality and to contain a meaning 

1 Unless indeed the internal conflict which is described as a contradiction 
be the essential nature of all reality as such as some extreme pessimists have 

i88 HUMANISM xi 

which I vainly look for in that of contradiction. It 
forms a postulate higher and more ultimate than that of 
non-contradiction, which indeed seems to be only a special 
case thereof, viz. that of a harmony among the contents 
of our thought. The contradictory involves a jar or 
discord in the mind, which most people in their normal 
condition feel to be unpleasant (when they perceive it), 
and this is the first and immediate reason why we avoid 
contradictions and reject the contradictory. The second 
reason is that our Thinking rests on the Principle of 
Contradiction, and that if we admitted the contradictory, 
we should have (if we were consistent) to give up thinking. 
But thinking is too inveterate a habit (at least in some of 
us), and on the whole too useful, to permit of the serious 
adoption of this alternative. 

_Thus the struggle to avoid and remove contradictions 
appears as an integral part of the great cosmic striving 
towards satisfaction, harmony, and equilibrium, in which 
even the inanimate appears more suo to participate. 1 In 
this struggle the intellectual machinery which works by 
the Principle of Contradiction plays an important part, 
and we should fare but ill without its aid. 

But it is not our sole resource. An apparent contra 
diction can be cleared out of the road to harmony by 
other means than a course of dialectics terminating in a 
flight to an asylum ignorantiae, miscalled the Absolute, 
(i) I would venture therefore to remind Mr. Bradley of 
many excellent things he has himself said about the 
jmmediacy of feeling. (2) It would seem that in certain 
modes of aesthetic contemplation the so-called self-con 
tradictions of the discursive reason may vanish into a 
self-evident harmony. (3) It is well known that our 
immediate experience enables us to accept without scruple 
or discomfort, as given and ultimate fact, what philo 
sophers have vainly essayed for centuries to construe to 
thought. The fact of change is perhaps the most flagrant 
example. But in the last resort our own existence, 
and that of the world, is similarly inconceivable and 

1 See p. 214. 


underivable for a philosophy which makes a point of 
honour of systematically denying the factual, and labours 
vainly to reduce all immediate acquaintance with to 
discursive knowledge about. And lastly, (4) if the 
worst should come to the worst, the solution ambulando 
which in this instance we may translate by going on 
is always open to a philosophy which has not wantonly 
insisted on closing the last door to hope by assuming the 
unreality of time (i.e. of the experience-process). 1 

For these reasons then I am forced to conclude that 
Mr. Bradley, in appealing to the principle that the Real 
is not self-contradictory, has not succeeded in expressing 
it in its complete and ultimate form. His absolute 
criterion is not the whole truth, but a part of the greater 
principle of Harmony. And inasmuch as our experience 
is plainly not as yet harmonious, it is clear that the 
principle is a Postulate. We must conceive the Real 
to be harmonious, not because we have any formal and 
a priori assurance of the fact, but because we desire it to 
be so and are willing to try whether it cannot become so. 

(2) My second charge can be dealt with more sum 
marily. It concerns the immense disproportion between 
the foundation of Mr. Bradley s system and the super 
structure he has built upon it. Mr. Bradley argues from 
his absolute criterion to the conclusion that everything 
which is ordinarily esteemed real, everything which any 
one can know or care about, is pervaded with unreality, 
is mere appearance in a greater or less degree of 
degradation. 2 In this Mr. Bradley appears to carry the 
policy of thorough to an excess which renders his whole 

1 Cp. p. 109. 

2 I cannot here criticize this doctrine of degrees as fully as it deserves. It 
appears to be the only obstacle to our accounting Mr. Bradley s philosophy the 
purest scepticism (or rather nihilism), but I cannot but regard it as thoroughly 
indefensible, and even unintelligible. For, as Capt. H. V. Knox has pointed out 
to me, it seems impossible even to state it without recurring to a number of the 
lower categories which Mr. Bradley had previously invalidated. Otherwise the 
consideration of the different atnounts of rearrangement required for the con 
version of appearances into the Absolute, of the greater or less internals 
separating them from it, of the varying lengths of time needed to see through an 
appearance, would seem to be simply irrelevant, and unable to establish the 
distinctions of kind among appearances which are aimed at. Yet strangely 
enough, Time, Space, and Quantity have themselves been written down as mere 



method unendurable. If only he had exempted a few 
trifles, like religion and morality, from this reduction to 
illusion, we might have tolerated his onslaughts on the 
abstractions of metaphysics ; as it is, there is nothing that 
can withstand the onset of his awful Absolute. 

Now if anything of the sort had happened to a 
philosophic argument of my own, I should have been 
appalled. I should have felt that something had gone 
wrong, that some secret source of error must have sprung 
up somewhere, or that I must somehow have misunder 
stood my principle. If the result of my intellectual 
manipulations of the world had been to convict it of 
radical absurdity, I should have regarded this as a 
reflection, not on the universe, but on the method I had 
used. I should have felt I had failed intellectually, 
and must try again in another way. 1 I should never 
have dared to condemn the universe in reliance on so 
tenuous an argument from so narrow a basis. In the 
last resort I might even have doubted the validity of my 
principle. I should certainly have doubted its application. 
Mr. Bradley, apparently, is exempt from any such scruples, 
but, at the risk of making a deplorable exhibition of the 
crassest common-sense, I must submit that a system 
which culminates in so huge a paradox thereby discredits 
its foundations. And so Mr. Bradley s final Ascension 
from the sphere of Appearances and Reception into the 
bosom of the Absolute reminds me of nothing so much 
as of the fabled rope-trick of the Indian jugglers. 


Only a strong conviction of its necessity, together 
with a habit of outspokenness learnt from Mr. Bradley s 

appearances (Appear, and Real. pp. 362, 364, 369. etc., first ed. ), and Mr. 
Bradley makes no attempt to show how the reality of appearances can be re 
habilitated by a reversion to points of view which themselves are appearances. 
It is as though to atone for his haste in calling all men liars, the psalmist had 
proceeded to accept the testimony of the most egregious liars to the veracity 01 
the rest. 

1 Mr. Bradley s critical canon is apparently the reverse of this. E.g. in dis 
cussing the sense in which the self is real, he argues that " if none defensible can 
be found, such a failure, I must insist, ought to end the question." App. and 
Real. p. 76. 


own example, could have embarked me on so painful a 
criticism of the cardinal doctrine of Appearance and 
Reality. Before proceeding from it to the easier and 
more congenial task of expounding what I conceive to 
be the real relation of these conceptions, I must however 
add a word on a point already hinted at, viz., that Mr. 
Bradley has not really extricated us from that slough of 
agnosticism, to which their more porcine instincts are ever 
drawing back even philosophers to wallow. Indeed, his 
facetious remark about Spencer s Unknowable, 1 that it 
is taken for God " simply and solely because we do not 
know what the devil it can be," might, with quite as much 
propriety, be applied to his own Absolute. For though 
he has reserved for it the title of Sole and Supreme 
Reality, it is only used to cast an indelible slur on all 
human reality and knowledge. It absorbs, transcends, 
transmutes, etc., all our knowledge and experience. It is 
therefore quite as unknowable as Spencer s monstrosity, 
and adds insult to injury by dubbing us and our concerns 
mere appearances. And after all the scorn we have seen 
poured on the futility of an unknowable reality as the 
explanation of anything, it passes my comprehension how 
these consequences of his doctrine should have escaped 
the notice, I do not say of his disciples, but of Mr. 
Bradley s own acuteness. 

It is useless however to speculate how far Mr. Bradley 
knows himself to be a sceptic, until he chooses to confess, 
and we had better concern ourselves with the true 
relation of reality to appearance. Mr. Bradley s funda 
mental error seems to be his ^copto-pos, the separation 
he has effected between them by violently disrupting 
their continuity. Once we do this, we are lost. The 
reality we have severed from its appearances can 
never be regained, and we remain, as Mr. Bradley holds, 
enmeshed in a web of appearances, and impotent to attain 
a knowledge or experience of Reality. But all this 
appears to be the consequence of a gratuitous error of 
judgment. We should never have admitted that in 

1 App. and Real. p. 128, footnote. 



grasping a higher reality we were abandoning the reality 
of the lower. In the ascent to Truth we can never lose 
touch with a continuous reality. I should liken the 
advance of knowledge to a severe rock-climb on which we 
must secure our handhold and our foothold at every step. 
Rightly used, the rope of metaphysical speculation is an 
added safeguard which unites the workers at their different 
posts ; it must not be made into an instrument to juggle 
with. Mr. Bradley, on the other hand, seems to tell us 
that we can never reach the summit of our ambitions 
unless we can throw our rope up into the air and climb 
up after it into the hypercosmic void. 

We must begin therefore with reality as well as end 
with it, and cling to it all the way as closely as we can. 
We must not argue, if appearance, not reality, but 
though appearance, yet reality. Unless we do this any 
ultimate Reality we may vainly imagine will effect no 
contact with our knowledge and our life, but float off into 
the Empyrean beyond our ken. 

Now the only reality we can start with is our own 
personal, immediate experience. We may lay it down 
therefore that all immediate experience is as such real, 
and that no ultimate reality can be reached except from 
this basis and upon the stimulation of such immediate 
experience. From this we start ; to this, sooner or 
later, we must in some way return, under penalty of 
finding all our explanations shattered, like bubbles, into 

In other words, the distinction of appearance and 
reality is not one which transcends our experience, but 
one which arises in it. It does not constitute a relation 
between our world and another, nor tempt us to an im- 
possible excursion into a realm inexorably reserved for the 
supreme delectation of the Absolute. It always remains 
relative to our knowledge of our world. 1 And it in no 
wise warrants any disparagement of mere appearances. 
The most transparent of appearances, so long as it exists 

1 If I am quibbled with I will even say that for me it remains relative to 
my knowledge of my world. And I will deny that this means solipsism. 


at all, retains its modicum of reality, and remains, from 
one important point of view, fundamentally real. 

For let us consider how we proceed to ascertain the 
higher realities which are rashly thought to abrogate the 
lower. We start, indubitably, with an immediate ex 
perience of some sort. But we do not rest therein. If 
we could, there would be no further question. Our 
immediate experience would suffice ; it would be the sole 
and complete reality. Appearances would be the reality 
and reality would truly appear. In heaven, no doubt, 
such would be the case. But our case, as yet, is different : 
our experience is woefully discordant and inadequate. In 
other words, our experience is not that of a perfect world. 
We are neither disposed, therefore, nor able, to accept it 
as it appears to be. Its surface-value will not enable us 
to meet our obligations : we are compelled therefore to 
discount our immediate experience, to treat it as an 
appearance of something ulterior which will supplement 
its deficiency. We move on, therefore, from our starting- 
point, taking our immediate experience as the symbol 
which transmits to us the glad tidings of a higher reality, 
whereof it partly manifests the nature. 

The realities of ordinary life and science, such as the 
1 external world and the existence of other persons, are all 
of this secondary order : they rest upon inferences from 
our immediate experience which have been found to 
work. 1 They are thus pragmatically true, and the 
process of reaching them is everywhere the same : 
we experiment with notions which are suggested to 
our intelligence by our immediate experience, until we 
hit upon one which seems to be serviceable for some 
purpose which engrosses us. We then declare real the 
conception which serves our purpose, nay more real, 
because more potent, than the immediate experience for 
the satisfaction of our desire. Only, as life is complex, 

1 Of course I do not deny, and indeed in a different context I should 
even insist, that the assumption of these higher realities alters our immediate 
experience for us. That indeed is the chief proof of their value : assumptions 
which make no difference are otiose and so invalid. And we should hardly get 
where we want, if we could not each day start a little higher up, 


i 9 4 HUMANISM xi 

its sciences are many and its purposes are various ; so 
there will be a multitude of such higher realities con 
flicting with each other and competing for our allegiance. 
And, superficially, they will look very different. Never 
theless, the ultimate realities of the physicist, whether 
they be atoms or ions or vortex-rings or electrons, have 
reached their proud position by no other process than 
that by which the savage has devised the crudities of his 
Happy Hunting Grounds or the old-fashioned theologian 
the atrocities of his Hell. They remain on the same 
plane of interpretation, and all alike are attempts, more 
or less successful, to supplement some unsatisfactory 
feature or other in our primary experience. 

It is easy to see how from this point we may reach 
the conception of an Ultimate Reality. The higher 
realities are conceived differently for the purposes of 
our various sciences and various pursuits, and so there 
will arise a need for an adjustment of their rival claims, 
and a question as to which (if any) of them is to be 
accepted as the final reality. Is the real world, e.g., the 
cosmic conception postulated by geometry, or by physics, 
or by psychology, or by ethics ? Is it a whirl of self- 
moving matter, or a chaos of mental processes, or must 
we assume a Prime Mover and a Self? Again, it is 
obvious that a higher reality may afford very imperfect 
satisfaction from some points of view and may have to 
be transcended by one still higher, and that this process 
cannot cease until we arrive at the conception of an 
Ultimate Reality capable of including and harmonizing 
all the lower realities. And this, of course, would con 
tain the final explanation of our whole experience, the 
final solution of our every perplexity. 


Thus the struggle to attain a glimpse of such an 
Ultimate Reality forms the perennial content of the 
drama of Philosophy. But that struggle is foredoomed 


to failure, unless we can manage to avoid certain pitfalls 
and to hold fast to certain guiding principles. 

(1) The Ultimate Reality must be made into a real 
explanation. It must never therefore be allowed to become 
transcendent, and to sever its connexion with the world 
of appearances which it was devised to explain. There 
must always be preserved a pathway leading up to it 
from the lowest appearances and down to them from 
the Throne of Thrones, in order that the angels of the 
Lord may travel thereon. If this be neglected, the 
ultimate reality will become unknowable, incapable of 
explaining the appearances, and therefore invalid. 1 

(2) The appearances must be really preserved. 
They must not be stripped of their reality or neglected 
as mere appearances, merely because we fancy that we 
have seen in them glimpses of something higher. So 
long as they exist at all, they are real. The world 
really is coloured, and noisy, and hard, and painful, and 
spacious, and fleeting, notwithstanding the objections ot 
our wiseacres, and there is excellent sense even in 
maintaining that the earth is flat (some of it) and that 
the sun does rise and set. Even a nightmare does 
not become less real and oppressive because you have 
survived, and traced it to too generous an indulgence in 
lobster salad. 

For (3) it must never be forgotten that the immediate 
experience is after all in a way more real, i.e. more directly 
real, than the higher realities which are said to explain 
it. For the latter are inferred and postulated simply and 
solely for the purpose of explaining the former, and 
their reality consequently rests for us upon that of the 
former. Or in so far as the higher realities are more than 
inferences, they become such by entering into immediate 
experience and transfiguring it. 2 

The dependence of all ulterior reality upon immediate 

1 It is clear that this objection alone would justify the rejection of Mr. 
Bradley "s Absolute. But, so far as I can understand it, it seems to be constitu 
tionally incapable of complying with any of the conditions I am laying down. 

2 The simplest example of this is the way in which the results of thought 
attain immediacy in perception. 

196 HUMANISM xi 

experience is easy to illustrate. I sit in my armchair 
and read, what I will call one of the more severely 
scholastic works on philosophy. There appears to me my 
friend Jones who has come to tell me that my friend 
Smith has been arrested on a charge of bigamy and wants 
me to bail him out. I have no reason to doubt the 
veracity of Jones or the reality of the situation. I feel 
therefore the urgent necessity for instant action, and, 
hastening to the rescue, I awake with a start ! It was 
all a dream, you will say. On the contrary, I reply, it 
was all a reality. While I lived through it, the experience 
was as vivid and real as anything I ever experienced. 
It is so still : the thought of Smith s bigamy he happens 
to be the primmest of old bachelors still affords me 
uncontrollable amusement. It is true that I have now 
modified my opinion as to the order of reality to which 
the experience belonged. I had thought that it belonged 
to our common waking world ; I now regard it as belong 
ing to a more beautiful dream-world of my own. 1 We 
see, therefore, how the higher reality depends on the 
immediate. The reality of Smith s excessive susceptibility, 
of Jones s visit, and of the bigamy itself, rested upon and 
was relative to that of my dream-experience. When my 
experience changed, I was no longer entitled to infer the 
existence of my previous realities in the world of my 
waking life. 2 

The application of this principle is quite general. A 
change in any particular appearance may entirely in 
validate the argument for the reality which served to 
explain it in its previous condition ; its annihilation 
would destroy the ground for the assumption of this 
reality ; and the annihilation of all appearances would 
obviously destroy all the reasons for assuming any 
reality. 3 The principle is one of considerable speculative 
importance, for it enables us to conceive how we should 

1 And possibly also of Jones, if (as sometimes happens) he also dreamt the 
story he told me. 

2 Cp. pp. 18, 32, 43, 369. 

3 Hence we may say that Mr. Bradley s maltreatment of appearances 
destroys all reality. 


think the reality of a lower to be related to that of a 
higher world of experience, if and when we experienced 
such a transition from one to the other. And to Religion, 
of course, this is a point of capital importance. For 
unless we can conceive how the higher or spiritual 
world can transcend and absorb, without negating, the 
lower or material world, the postulates of the religious 
consciousness must continue to seem idle fairy tales to 
the austere reason of the systematic thinker. 

Moreover this dependence of derivative realities on 
primary experience has a most important bearing on the 
philosophic status of Idealism. At present Idealism 
remains in the position of an unprofitable paradox, 
because none of those who have professed a theoretic 
belief in it have cared or dared to act upon their theory. 
And so the argument for it is among those which, in 
Hume s phrase, admit of no answer and carry no con 
viction ; and yet, strangely enough, idealist philosophers, 
so far from being disconcerted by it, seem to be rather 
proud of this fact. Why else should they perpetually 
be apologizing for what they conceive to be the paradox 
of their doctrine, and explaining that it really leaves the 
empirical reality of things entirely untouched ? Idealism, 
they say, opens no royal roads to higher realms : it 
makes no practical difference to the reality of anything, 
save, perhaps, that it enables the philosopher to recoil 
at will upon a point of view not understanded of the 

To all of which, as humanists, we must reply, that this 
defence but aggravates the charge. It proves Idealism to 
be either worthless or pernicious : the latter, if its sole 
function is to gratify a philosophic pride ; the former, if 
it really makes no difference. And while a temporary 
air of paradox is not unbecoming to the youth of a novel 
view, it is the plain duty of every doctrine that seriously 
pretends to maintain itself as truth before the public to 
turn itself into an accepted truism as quickly as it can. 
If therefore Idealism really means anything, it must enable 
the idealist to regard reality differently from tlie realist, 

198 HUMANISM xi 

and to act differently in virtue of his truer insight. To 
say that Idealism makes no difference is thus to pronounce 
its utter condemnation. It is to admit that it is the same 
thing as Realism, variously named, i.e. to render it a 
useless subtlety. And must we not as pragmatists 
concede, that if it were really useless^ it would incon- 
testably be false ? * 

To be true at all, therefore, Idealism must make a 
difference, but what shall we say it is ? It seems to me 
that if Idealism is right in its fundamental contention that 
existence is experience, and if we really try to live up to 
this insight, the difference which it ought to make is quite 
clearly this : that while the idealist does not deny the relative 
reality and pragmatic value of his actual experience, he 
does not feel bound to commit himself in his inmost soul 
to the assertion also of its absolute reality. That is, he 
will make a certain inward reservation as to the ultimate 
reality of an imperfect world ; he will hold himself free 
to contemplate with a certain irony the brute facts of an 
experience he cannot wholly master, free also to uphold 
in their despite the ultimate validity of the ideals his 
spirit craves ; in short, he will possess a reserve of 
strength not open to his rivals, wherewith to meet the 
buffetings of circumstance. Practically also he will be 
more alert to seize upon whatever chances offer to effect 
improvements in an actual order he does not hold to be 
definitive ; he will hold himself prepared to advance to 
worlds of a higher and more harmonious order, 2 and to 
welcome whatever indications of their possibility may 
float within his ken. The vision of the realist, on the 
other hand, conceiving himself to be cognizant of a final, 
rigid, and independent reality, should be undeviatingly 
fixed upon and bounded by the brute facts of his actual 
experience ; this he must regard as final, and he will thus 
debar himself from all experiments that might extend its 
borders or transform the context, and so the texture, of 
his universe. As for the soi-disant idealists who can 
draw no inference from their creed, we must contend that 

1 Cp. pp. 38-40. 2 Cp. pp. 18, 22, 368. 


they have really failed to grasp its meaning, and are 
unworthy of the name they have assumed. For the bow 
of Odysseus belongs to him alone who can bend it, and, 
if need be, use it upon the enemies of truth. 

(4) The reality of the higher reality must be made to 
depend throughout on its efficiency. This follows implicitly 
from what we have already established. Immediate 
experience forms the touchstone whereby we test the 
value of our inferred realities, and if they can contribute 
nothing valuable to its elucidation, their assumption is 
nothing but vanity and vexation of spirit. For what 
started the whole cognitive process was just the felt un- 
satisfactoriness of our immediate experience; our inferences 
must approve themselves as specifics against this disease, 
by their ability to supplement the actual, by the power 
they give us to transform our experiences. The trans 
mutation of appearances therefore must not be represented 
as an inscrutable privilege of the Absolute ; it must be 
made a weapon mortal hands can actually wield. This 
in fact is what we are continually doing ; it is the whole 
aim of our conceptual manipulation of experience. If to 
think it left reality the same, we should not waste 
our lives upon what is to most a painful and irksome 
business ; but in point of fact our thought ministers to 
our perceptions and so alleviates the burden of life. The 
results of our past thought enter into and transform our 
immediate perceptions and render them more adequate as 
guides to action. And this is what we want our thought 
to do and why we value it. Intellectualist prejudice 
indeed has interpreted this process into an excuse for 
analysing perception into thought ; it is better regarded 
as a proof of the practical value of thought and of the 
teleological character of conception. 

What will in the last resort decide, therefore, whether 
an inferred reality really exists or is merely a figment of 
the imagination, is the way it works, and the power which 
its aid confers. The assumption, e.g., of the earth s 
rotundity is true, and preferable to the flat-earth theory, 
because on the whole it works better and accounts better for 



the course of our experience. Similarly, if I am comparing 
the merits of the scientific theory that the transmission of 
light is effected by the vibrations of a hypothetical reality 
called the ether with those of a more poetic theory that 
it is due to the flapping of equally hypothetical cherubs 
wings, my decision will certainly be affected by the 
consideration that I can probably discover regular ways of 
manipulating the ether, but can hardly hope to control the 
movements of the cherubs. 

An assumed reality, then, approves itself to be true in 
proportion as it shows itself capable of rendering our life 
more harmonious ; it exposes itself to rejection as false 
in proportion as it either fails to affect our experiences, or 
exercises a detrimental effect upon them. Knowledge is 
power, because we decline to recognize as knowledge what 
ever does not satisfy our lust for power. 

It follows (5) that Ultimate Reality must be absolutely 
satisfactory. For that is the condition of our accepting 
it as such. So long as the most ultimate reality we have 
reached in thought or deed falls short in any respect of 
giving complete satisfaction, the struggle to harmonize 
experience must go on, lead to fresh efforts, and inspire 
the suspicion that something must exist to dissolve away 
our faintest discords. We cannot acquiesce therefore in 
what we have found. Or rather our acquiescence in it 
would at most betray the exhaustion of despair. To this we 
might be reduced for a season, but the hope would always 
rise anew that somehow there was something better, truer 
and more real lurking behind the apparent ultimates of 
our knowledge. For illustration I need merely appeal to 
the well-known fact that an other world is always 
conceived as a better world. The absolutely satisfactory 
alone would rise superior to such doubts. It would be 
psycJiologically impossible to suspect it of bearing hidden 
horrors in its breast. The thought is no doubt abstractly 
conceivable, but a human mind could hardly be found 
seriously to entertain it. Similarly we might play with 
the idea of a progress in knowledge which should not 
only fail to be a progress in harmony, but should reveal 


fresh horrors at every step, until by the time absolute 
truth had been reached the cumulative cruelty of what 
we were forced to recognize as ultimate reality surpassed 
our most hideous imaginings as far as our knowledge 
surpassed that of a Bushman. Now I do not for a 
moment suppose that common sense can be terrified with 
such suggestions into regarding them as more than the 
nightmares of a mind distraught, and I venture to think 
that a pragmatist philosophy can show that common sense 
is right. For there is a serious fallacy in the notion that 
the pursuit of Truth could reveal a chamber of horrors 
in the innermost shrine, and that we could all be forced 
to acknowledge and adore an ultimate reality in this 
monstrous guise. If this were truth, we should decline 
to believe it, and to accept it as true. We should insist 
that there must be some escape from the Minotaur, some 
way out of the Labyrinth in which our knowledge had 
involved our life. And even if we could be forced to 
the admission that the pursuit of truth necessarily and 
inevitably brought us face to face with some unbearable 
atrocity an undertaking which seems so far to have over 
taxed even Mr. Bradley s ingenuity a simple expedient 
would remain. As soon as the pursuit of truth was 
generally recognized to be practically noxious, we should 
simply give it up. If its misguided votaries morbidly 
persisted in their diabolical pursuit of truth regardless of 
the consequences, they would be stamped out, as the 
Indian Government has stamped out the Thugs. Nor is 
this mere imagining. The thing has happened over and 
over again. All through the Middle Ages most branches 
of knowledge were under black suspicion as hostile to 
human welfare. They languished accordingly, and some 
of them, such as, e.g., Psychical Research, are still under 
a cloud. It is hardly necessary to allude to Comte s 
drastic proposals for the State regulation of science, and 
every teacher knows that the Civil Service Commissioners 
in the last resort prescribe what shall be taught (and how) 
throughout the land. In short the fact is patent to all 
who will open their eyes that in a thousand ways society 

202 HUMANISM xi 

is ever controlling, repressing, or encouraging, the cognitive 
activities of its members. 1 

And not only would this be done, but it would be an 
entirely reasonable thing to do in the case supposed. If 
the pursuit of knowledge really aggravated, instead of 
relieving, the burden of life, it would be irrational. If 
every step we took beyond appearances were but an 
augmentation of the disharmony in our experience, there 
would be no gain in taking it. The alleged knowledge 
would be worse than useless, and we should fare better 
without it. We should have to train ourselves therefore 
to make the most of appearances, to make no effort to 
get behind them. And natural selection would see to it 
that those did not survive who remained addicted to a 
futile and noxious pursuit. This then would be the worst 
that could happen ; the frivolity and thoughtlessness of 
the day-fly might pay better than the deadly earnest of 
the sage. But the day-fly would have become incapable 
of assenting to the extravagances of ultra-pessimism, 
simply because it would not think of what was coming. 

From the worst possibility let us turn to the best. 
The best that has been mentioned is that by Faith and 
daring we should find an experience that would conduct 
us to the fortunate thought of an ultimate reality capable 
of completely harmonizing our experience. And a merely 
intellectualist philosophy would have no reason, I presume, 
to ask for more than this. But just as before we conceived 
the principle of non- contradiction to be a form of the 
wider principle of harmony, so now we can hardly rest 
content with a reality which is merely conceived as the 
ground of complete satisfaction. For so long as it remains 
a mere conception, it must remain doubtful whether it 
could be realized in actual fact. To remove this doubt, 
therefore, our ultimate reality would have actually to 
establish the perfect harmony. By this achievement alone, 
i.e. by returning to our immediate experience and trans 
muting it into a form in which doubt would have become 
impossible, would it finally put an end to every doubt of 

1 Cp. pp. 58-60 and 342-4. 


its own ultimateness. But by this same achievement it 
would have dissolved our original problem. The antithesis 
of appearance and reality would have vanished. 
Ultimate reality having become immediate experience 
the two would coincide, and we should have entered into 
the fruition of their union. 

And so should we not finally catch a glimpse of an 
ideal which, in its own way, theology has dreamt of as 
the Beatific Vision ? The ideal of knowledge, as of 
the life to which it ministers, would not be an infinitely 
complex system of relations about which one might argue 
without end, but the vision, or immediate perception, of a 
reality which had absorbed all truth and so had become, 
as it were, intellectually transparent, and in which the 
whole meaning of the cosmic scheme was summed up 
and luminously comprehended not only understood, but 
seen to be very good, and more than this, to be supremely 
beautiful. In other words, the bliss which Aristotle tried 
so hard to attribute to a Deity scornful of all communion 
with a suffering universe, could never be derived from a 
discursive thinking upon thought ; l it would have to 
take the form of an aesthetic contemplation of the perfect 
and all-embracing harmony. 2 

1 Not that Aristotle s j i^tris is really discursive. His thought (though not 
always his language) has really quite outgrown the Platonic antithesis of sensation 
and thought. 

2 For suggestions as to how this Beatific Vision can be conceived as attainable, 
see the next essay. 



Need for a reconstruction of the conception of Substance by means of the 
Aristotelian conception of Evtpyeia. 

I. Its historical antecedents. The antithesis of the Process and Per 
manence view of existence, Eleaticism Heracliteanism Platonism. 
Aristotle s criticism of Plato s ofoia as mere potentiality his advance in 
forming the conception of eWpyeta. 

II. Aristotle s statement of his doctrine. E^/ryaa as Substance not a 
form of Kbijffu but vice versa. When perfected it no longer implies 

motion or change. Hence the Divine activity is continuous and 
eternal and fvtpyeia d/a^o-fas. 

III. Its consequences. Perfect happiness the transition from Time to 
Eternity Evtyyeia aKivqula^ a scientific conception of Heaven. 

IV. The paradoxes of the doctrine. How can there be activity, life, or 
consciousness without change ? 

V. Their explanation. The difficulty not in the facts but in the arbi 
trary interpretation we have put upon them. Thus (l) the equilibrium 
of motions is conceivable as the perfection, not as the cessation, of 
motion, (2) perfect metabolism would transcend change, and (3) so 
would a perfect consciousness. 

VI. Advantages of so conceiving Activity. Rejection of Becoming 
and Rest as ideals. Conceivableness of Heaven and Eternity. 
Avoidance of the Dissipation of Energy. Spencer s see-saw as to 
the interpretation of equilibration. 

VII. The old theory of Substance worthless. If Substance is conceived 
as the substratum of change it becomes unknowable and explains nothing. 
Berkeley detected this in the case of material, Hume in that of 
spiritual substance. Psychology has recently found it out in the case of 
the Soul and physics in that of matter. Energy as the only physical 
reality. Lotze s criticism and reconstruction of substantiality. 

VIII. The Activity without motion as the ultimate ideal of Being. 
Activity the sole substance how it produces the illusion of a substratum 
in which reality is never found. It is in proportion as the real actualizes 
its possibilities in a harmonious form that it assumes the features of 
an ultimate ideal. The value of such an ideal. 

1 The greater part of this appeared in Mind, N.S. 36, Oct. 1900, under the 
title of The Conception of "Evtpyeia. AKivrjo-las. But it has been revised and con 
siderably expanded. 



MY aim in this essay is to throw out some suggestions for 
a reconstruction of the conception of Substance which the 
work of the sciences so sorely needs, but to which modern 
philosophy, although Hume had cleared the ground by 
showing the worthlessness of the old notion of substance, 1 
has as yet contributed little of a really constructive char 
acter. 2 This aim I hope to achieve by going back to 
Aristotle and extricating from an unmerited obscurity the 
Aristotelian ideal of Being, which seems to me to have 
formulated the only useful and tenable conception of Sub 
stantiality nearly 2300 years ago. I am aware that this 
sounds incredible, and would be so, if that conception had 
ever been properly understood. But this has never been 
the case ; for reasons arising partly from the facility with 
which appearances generate the vulgar notion of Substance 
as the unchanging substratum of change, but also not 
unconnected with the brevity of Aristotle s extant utter 
ances on the subject. The worst of packing truth in a 
nutshell is that, so bestowed, it cannot safely navigate the 
stream of time and will at best float down it without notice. 
My first task, therefore, will be to expound more fully 
the Aristotelian conception of Energeia, to show how it 
culminates in an activity which transcends change and 
motion (evepjeia a/ai/T/o-ia?), and to remove the paradoxes 
which this seems superficially to involve. I can then 
proceed to show that this conception completely supersedes 
the vulgar notion of Substance, that it alone is of service 
in the sciences and competent to satisfy the intellectual 
and emotional demands we must make upon our conception 
of ultimate Being, and thereby not only removes a number 
of misconceptions which have been a constant source of 
trouble in science and philosophy, but goes far to relieve 
philosophy from the opprobrium of terminating in incon 
ceivable mysteries. 

1 I refer of course to his criticism of the Self in the Treatise, 

2 For, of course, the Kantian assertion that Substance is an a priori category 
by which we recognize the permanent in change is unprofitable verbalism. It 
explains neither the formation of the notion, i.e. how we come by this ideal, nor 
its meaning^ i.e. what in concrete fact it is to persist through change, nor its 
application, i.e. how we discern substances and discriminate them from things 
which only seem so. 



I propose to trace, therefore, (i) the historical ante 
cedents of Aristotle s doctrine, (2) his own statements of 
it, (3) its consequences, (4) the objections to it, (5) the 
answers to these, (6) its advantages over rival theories of 
substance, (7) the worthlessness of the latter, and finally 
(8) the value of the Aristotelian conception as an ultimate 

The history of thought, like that of politics, has largely 
been the history of great antitheses which have kept up 
their secular conflict from age to age. In the course of 
that history it may often have seemed that the one side 
of such an antithesis had finally triumphed over the other, 
but in the next generation it has often appeared that its 
rival had rallied its forces and restated Its position to such 
effect that the preponderance of opinion has once more 
swung back to its side. Perhaps the most important 
metaphysically of these antitheses is that which has at 
different times been formulated as that between Tevea-is 
and Ov<r[a, Evepyeia and f/ E^9, Becoming and Being, 
Change and Immutability, Process and Permanence, and 
it will be necessary to cast a rapid retrospect over its 
varying fortunes in order to appreciate the full significance 
of Aristotle s doctrine. 

It will suffice for this purpose to start with the 
metaphysic of the Eleatics, taking it as the extremest, 
crudest, most abstract, and therefore most impressive, 
representative of what we may call, for purposes of reference, 
the permanence-view of the ultimate nature of existence. 
In the Eleatics the affirmation of Being took the form 
of a rigid immutable "Qv, whose uncompromising unity 
reduced all motion, change and plurality to an inexplicable 
illusion, and remorselessly crushed out the whole signifi 
cance of human life. This uncanny Monism was defended 
with a dialectical ability which has never since been 
equalled, and Zeno s proofs of the impossibility of motion 
are still full of instruction for philosophers of all schools. 


But in the philosophy of Herakleitos Nemesis overtakes 
the Eleatics. Herakleitos affirms against them the ultimate 
reality of Becoming, the unlimited all-pervading Process, 
which unremittingly surges in the circling road, the 0805 
avw KCLTW, wherein all things stream away (irdvra pel ical 
ovSev /jievei). In spite of the somewhat sinister denial of 
permanence implied in this addition, Heracliteanism may 
well have seemed to restore to the universe the life which 
Eleaticism had made impossible. 

But in Plato the pendulum swings back again to 
the side of ovaia. Rightly or wrongly, he detected in 
Heracliteanism consequences which seemed to him fatal 
to the possibility of knowledge, and instead of seeking 
to determine the actual limits of the Flux and betaking 
himself to the practical methods science has since elaborated 
in order to know it, he preferred to reject Heracliteanism 
and to propound a revised, and greatly improved, Eleati 
cism. He points out our need of a TTOV crro>, which is 
not swept away in the Flux, of a fixed standard whereby 
to measure and render knowable the flow of Becoming, 
and in his theory of Ideas he conceived himself to have 
supplied this demand. In it plurality is, in a manner, 
recognized in the plurality of the Ideas, united though 
they are in the Idea of the Good, while the phenomenal 
world is admitted not to be wholly illusory, being p^era^v 
rov OVTOS KCU ^ OJ/T05, intermediate between the Ideas 
and the principle of impermanence, the mystery of which 
Plato seems to have thought he could resolve by calling 
it the Non-Existent. 

In the end, however, the Idea remains the only true 
reality, and the Idea as such is unchanging Being, out 
of Space and Time. Hence to call anything, e.g., 
Pleasure, a Becoming (yeveo-i<i) is ipso facto to cast 
a slur upon its reality and to disqualify it for the position 
of the Chief Good which must be, he thinks, an abiding 

In Aristotle the tables are once more turned. To 
Aristotle the real world, i.e. the world whereof we desire 
an explanation, is after all the world of change in which 



we move and live, rather than the system of immutable 
and timeless laws which we devise for its explanation. 
Hence Plato s changeless ousiai seem to him too distant 
and divorced to explain the world. A conception of 
Substance which is to explain the facts of the world must 
not subsist in an impassible immutability in the super- 
celestial seclusion of a transcendent TOTTO? vorjros : if 
Substance meant no more than this, it would be a mere 
potentiality (SiWyu-i?). If ovala, therefore, is not immanent 
and does not assert itself in the world of phenomena, but 
remains an inert and secluded Svvafjus, it is lifeless and 
worthless. For the potentiality owes its visibility, its 
value, nay, its very existence, to the glow shed upon it 
by the actual exercise of function (energeia}. Hence the 
universal (/ca06\ov), if it is to be truly valuable either 
for science or for practice, must be in the world and 
pervade it ; or, in his technical phrase, must display itself 
in actuality (evepyeia) by the way it actually works. Not 
that Aristotle denies the validity of the considerations 
which led Plato to frame his conception of ovala ; he 
denies only its adequacy. In his anxiety to escape out 
of the Heraclitean flux Plato had overshot the mark : 
he had committed himself to a conception of Being too 
rigid and remote to explain the Becoming of phenomena. 
The highest conception must be Rvepyeia and not Awa/u?, 
the actual functioning of a substance whose real nature 
is only so revealed. 

This too is the ultimate reason why, in his Ethics, 
Aristotle denies that aperr) is the Good, and contends that 
the Good, RvSai/Aovia, must be the exercise of the et<? 
(Svz/a/u?), evepyeta tear dpertjv, A merely statical treat 
ment of the truly valuable will not suffice : the Good is 
not merely dyadrj (f>v<Tis, it is dyadrj (frvais in exercise, and 
a disposition (et?) is only valuable as the basis and 
potentiality of an evepyeia. In this way the whole of 
Aristotle s philosophy, both in its constructive and in its 
critical aspects as a reply to Plato, may be enunciated in 
the one word, Energeia It has indeed always been 
more or less recognized that into this technical term 


Aristotle has packed all that was most distinctive, most 
original, most fundamental, and most profound in his 
philosophy. Now in philosophy all real originality is 
constructive for you cannot pull down without a standing 
ground whence to effect the operation and all real con- 
structiveness is also critical, for, as the earliest Pharaohs 
already knew, the most effective and unanswerable way 
of abolishing your rival s constructions is to use them up 
in your own. Hence it is that Aristotle s conception of 
Energeia constitutes both his really effective criticism of 
Plato, a criticism whose massive weight is far more 
crushing than the querulous and dialectical quibbling 
which he so often seems to substitute for serious apprecia 
tion of his master s work, and also the really decisive step 
in his advance beyond Plato. But the step was such a 
great one, and advances into regions so remote from our 
habitual modes of thinking, that not even the lapse of 
twenty centuries has rendered it easy to follow in his 


It follows from his rehabilitation of the Process-view 
of the world that Aristotle has (a] to establish the 
superiority of his conception of evepyeia over the Platonic 
conception of ova-La, (b} that he has to distinguish it from 
the conception of Kivr)<ns or yevecris, which had succumbed 
to the Platonic criticism. 

The first point is of course easy enough to establish. 
It suffices to point out that a substance apart from its 
activity is an abstraction, or, in Aristotle s words, that the 
actuality is naturally prior to the potentiality, that to be 
is to be active} This simple truth, that a substantiality 
which does nothing is nothing, is now of course familiar 
enough, and perhaps best known in the Herbartian 
formula, without causality no substantiality, though it 
lies at the roots also of Hume s criticism of substantiality. 
But the very fact that it has so often to be reaffirmed 

1 Cp. esp. Eth. Nic. ix. 7. 4 (1168 a 6) tffjj.v d tvepyeiq.. 




shows the strength of the natural prejudices against which 
it has had to contend. 

The same remark applies with tenfold force to the 
second point, viz. the difficulty of grasping the constructive 
aspect of the conception of Energeia. It has not ceased 
to appear paradoxical to us because of our inveterate, but 
quite illogical, habit of regarding a function (eVepyeta) as 
a sort of process (ye^ec?), or even when we try to be 
particularly scientific as ultimately reducible to a sort 
of motion. In other words, we ordinarily subsume 
Aristotle s evepyeia under the conception of what he would 
have called Kivrjcn^. And if we do this, his notion of an 
activity without motion (evepyeia afcwrjo-ias) must seem 
the very height of paradox, a paradox whereof the edge 
has not been blunted by the progress of two thousand years. 

But the fault is ours ; we have unwittingly employed 
conceptions which are the precise opposite of the device 
whereby Aristotle turned the flank of the Platonic criticism 
of Becoming and established his own conception of Evepyeia. 
In superseding by it the Platonic ovtria he could not, of 
course, merely revert to the earlier conceptions of be 
coming and motion whose logical annihilation Plato 
had effected. He was bound to provide something new 
in his conception of Energeia, and to distinguish it from 
both its precursors. And he does it. He does not fall 
into the trap to which we succumb when we regard a 
function (evepyeia) as a sort of process (yeveais ), or, 
materialistically, try to reduce all things to matter in 
motion. He does the very opposite. Instead of classify 
ing -evepyeia under fclvrja-is, he simply makes evep<yeia 
the wider and supremer notion, and subsumes /civrjo-is 
under it as a peculiar species, viz. an imperfect evepjeca. 1 

1 Cp. e.g. Physics, iii. 2, 201 b 31, rj icivrjffis frtpyeia ^v TIJ elvat doKei 
dreXrjj 5^, viii. 5, 257 b 8, 1-ffTiv T\ Klvr)ais tvre\x fM KIVTJTOV dreXijs. De 
Anima, ii. 5, 417 a 16, HffTiv i] Klvijcrts frtpyfid TIS, dreX^s JJLVTOI : iii. 2, 
431 a 5, (/xitcercu rb fjv alcO^rbv K 6vTos TOV alffOijriKou frepyelq. 
TTOIOVV oil yap 7rd<rx ovd dXXotoCrat (sc. rb ala-6-r}TiK6i>), dib &\\o fldos 
TOVTO KiPTjtrfajj r) yap Ktvrjffis areXovs tvtpytia, fjv r; d aTrXws tvtpyfia ertpa 
T) TOV Tre\ffffJ^vov. Metaph. 0, 6, 1048 b 29 jraaa yap Klvrjais dreX^y. 

Cp. also Eth. Nic. x. 3, 1174 a 19, where it is explained that iiSovri is not 
Klvrpis, because it does not need perfecting (being indeed what itself perfects 
Ivepyeia), while Kifrjffis does. 


that is, arises from the longing of the 
imperfect for the perfect, of the matter (vX-^) for the 
form (6*809) ; it is simply the process whereby it reaches 
whatever degree of perfection the inherent limitations of 
its nature concede to it. 

Efe/>76ia, on the other hand, does not essentially or 
necessarily imply motion or change. In fact in the 
typical case, the perfect exercise of function by the 
senses, there is neither motion (/aV^o-t?) nor change 
(aA,A,ot&)<7i9) nor passivity (jrdwxeiv) ; the appropriate 
stimulus rouses the organ to activity and the organ 
functions naturally in grasping it ; * when this process is 
free from friction ( impediment ) perception is perfect and 
accompanied by pleasure (f)ovrf). 

Man, unfortunately, only catches brief glimpses of this 
happy state of things : our activity cannot be sustained, 
because, owing to the defectiveness (irovripia or <ai;XoT?79) 
of a composite nature adulterated with matter (vXij), we 
grow weary and allow our attention to wander and cannot 
be continuously active (crwe^ctk evepyetv}. 2 But God is 
not so hampered ; his is a pure and perfect nature ; he is 
pure Form, unimpeded by Matter, and always completely 
and actually all that he can be. Hence the divine 
eVeyem is kept up inexhaustibly, 3 and ever generates the 
supreme pleasure, simple and incorruptible, of self- 
contemplation (1/6770-49 7/0770-60)9), which constitutes the 
divine happiness. It follows, as a matter of course, that 
this evep<yeia is above and beyond Kivrjcrts ; it is lvpyeia 
d/civrja-Las or rjpe^ia. Hence in a famous passage whose 
fame is yet unequal to its merits 4 we are told that " if 
the nature of anything were simple, the same action 
would ever be sweetest to it. And this is the reason 
why God always enjoys a single and simple pleasure ; for 
there is not only an activity of motion, but also one void 
of motion, and pleasure is rather in constancy 5 than in 

1 Eth. Nic. x. 4. 5, 1174 b 14. * Ibid. x. 4. g, 1175 a 4. 

3 This is true also of the heavenly bodies, by reason of their more perfect OXfj. 
Cp. Metaph. 1050 b 22. 

4 Eth. Nic. vii. 14. 8 (1154 b 25-31). 

5 rjpf/ cannot be translated rest without misleading. For rest to us = 
non-activity, which to Aristotle is tantamount to non-existence, He uses the 



motion. And change of all things is sweet, as the poet 
hath it, because of a certain defect." ] 

The immense significance of this passage has been 
strangely overlooked and the commentators say singularly 
little about it. Thus, of the two latest editors of the 
Ethics, Prof. Stewart accuses Aristotle of waxing poetical, 
while Prof. Burnet finds nothing to say about it at all ; 
and as this has occurred after I had vainly attempted to 
call attention to it, 2 I think I may assume that still 
further comment is needed to help modern minds to 
grasp the beauty and importance of Aristotle s thought. 


It follows from the above that the perfect or divine 
life is one of unceasing and unchanging activity, which is 
also an eternal consciousness of supreme happiness. And 
yet nothing happens in it. It is eternal, not in the illusory 
sense in which geometrical triangles and epistemological 
monstrosities (like e.g. Green s Eternal Self -Consciousness} 
are put out of Time by a trick of abstraction, but because 
it can be shown to have a positive nature, which precludes 
the conditions which engender time-consciousness. For, 
as Aristotle was well aware, (objective) Time is a creature 
of Motion ; it depends on the motions whereby alone it 
can be measured ; it is the number of motion (/az^crea)? 
apt6/ji6<i). If then tcivrja-is arises out of the imperfection 
of an eVepyeta, the perfecting of an evep<yeia will necessarily 
involve the disappearance of Time, together with that of 
Motion. Or, as I have elsewhere expressed it, 3 Time is 
the measure of the impermanence of the imperfect, and 
the perfecting of the time-consciousness would carry us 
out of Time into Eternity. In other words, the conception 
of Rvepyeia A/a^tna? is a scientific formulation of the 

word in order to express the steady and effortless maintenance of a perfect 
equilibrium. Cp. An. Post. ii. 19, where the same word is used to describe the 
emergence of the logical universal, i.e. of the constancy of meaning, out of the 
flux of psychological ideas. : Cp. also Metaph. A. 7, 1072 b 16. 

2 Riddles of the Sphinx, p. 443, new ed. p. 424. 3 Ibid. ch. ix. n. 


popular theological conceptions of Heaven and Eternity. 
We have merely to add that this motionless functioning 
is suffused with a glow of aesthetic delight, to get a 
complete conceptual interpretation of what theology has 
called the Beatific Vision. 


But of course all this sounds unfamiliar and fantastical 
and is not quite easy to grasp if it had been, the notions 
of Heaven and Eternity would hardly have become 
targets for so much cheap scorn. And it is needless also 
to deny that there seems to be a paradox here which 
demands a defence. 

The paradox is that it has been implied that there 
can be activity, life, and consciousness without change, 
imperfection, or decay. This seems an utter paradox 
because in our actual experience consciousness is a 
succession of mental states or processes, because life is 
sustained by a continual metabolism, and activities are 
recognized only by the changes which they exhibit. We 
are therefore accustomed to regard a changeless activity 
as equivalent to rest, i.e. as cessation of activity, as death. 

About these facts, of course, there is no dispute. All 
motions are measured by the unequal rates of change, and 
when bodies maintain the same position relatively to each 
other, they are taken to be at rest. Similarly, it is not 
to be denied that vital function consumes living tissue, 
and no one would dream of disputing that consciousness 
is a continuous flow of experiences. 

The only question is as to what inferences we are 
entitled to draw from these facts, and by what conceptions 
we are to interpret a transcending of change such as is 
conceivable, though not imaginable. 

Accordingly I propose to show: (i) That we are not 
entitled to infer from the facts the impossibility of an 
evepyeia dicwqcrta*; ; (2) that it is by this conception 
rather than by that of rest that the ultimate ideal of 


2i 4 HUMANISM xn 

existence should be interpreted. I shall consider the 
conceptions of Motion, Life, and Consciousness in turn. 

(a) It has long been admitted that Motion tends to 
equilibrium, and that in a perfect equilibrium there would 
be no (perceptible) motion and no available energy. 

Under the name of the dissipation of energy this fact 
of its equilibration has become notorious. It is the great 
bugbear of physics which has given rise to the gloomiest 
vaticinations concerning the inevitable decadence and 
ultimate doom of the universe. 1 

This whole difficulty arises out of our habit of con 
templating equilibration as cessation of Motion or Rest. 
An equilibrated universe cannot change and its latent 
energy cannot be used to change it. Ergo such a universe 
is played out. 

But why should we not regard this situation as a case 
of ^vepjeia Atciwrja-ias, as a perfecting of Motion until it 
has everywhere become perfectly regular, steady, smooth 
and frictionless ? Logically, in fact, this seems a far 
preferable alternative. 

"Suppose, e.g. an equilibrium of temperature. If two 
bodies are at equal temperatures, does that mean that 
they have ceased to have temperature? Have they 
ceased to radiate out heat, or (to put it in terms of the 
current theory about heat) to exhibit the molecular 

1 Strictly the degradation or dissipation of energy is said to apply only to 
finite portions of the universe, and consolation is sometimes sought in the thought 
that the universe is possibly infinite, and that in an infinite anything may happen. 
Now it is true that the doctrine of the dissipation of energy ceases to apply to an 
infinite universe, but the reason is merely that in view of an actual infinity, all 
propositions become unmeaning. And an infinite universe or whole involves a 
contradiction in terms, and is a pseudo-conception which can be reached only by 
a confusion of thought. (Cp. Riddles of the Sphinx, ch. ix. 2-9.-) Emotionally 
too the worthy people who regard infinity as something delightful and magnificent 
seem to have not the faintest notion of what an infinite universe would really be like. 
What it means is that in no conceivable way, from no conceivable point of view, 
would it exhibit any finality or security of any kind. It would be what Prof. 
James calls a nulliverse, an indefinite plurality of things, which could never be 
got together into a unity, an amorphous heap whose conduct would be utterly 


vibrations which appear to our temperature-sense as heat ? 
Surely not : it means that each body receives as much 
heat as it radiates, that the molecular motions 
proceed with entire regularity and constant velocities. 
But if so, is it not a condition of Activity (ev&pyeia), not 
of Rest ? 

(<5) In the case of Life it is much easier to conceive 
perfection as a changeless activity, because we are more 
inclined to regard life as depending on a harmony 
of changes rather than on their mutability, on the mere 
instability of organic processes. Thus if with Spencer we 
conceive life as an adjustment of internal to external 
relations ( mutual adjustment would be better!), it is 
evident that the success of life will depend on the degree 
of correspondence, however attained, between the organism 
and its environment. Perfect correspondence therefore 
would be perfect life, and might be conceived as arising 
by a gradual perfecting of the correspondence until the 
organism either adapted itself completely to an unchanging 
environment or instantaneously and pari passu to a 
changing one, in such wise that the moment of non- 
adaptation (if any) was too brief to come into consciousness. 
In either case the relation of the organism to its 
environment would be unchangingly the same. It would 
persist therefore in being what it was, in expressing its 
nature in its activities, without alteration or decay, gaining 
nothing and losing nothing, because of the perfect 
equipoise of waste and repair. 

That such an equilibrium is not unthinkable may 
be illustrated also by the conceptions of a balance of 
income and expenditure, of the stationary state of 
economics and of perfect justice as a social harmony in 
which each maintains his own position in society without 
aggression on others. Surely in none of these cases could 
it be asserted that there was a cessation of social or 
industrial relations. Once more, does not the apparent 
paradox arise merely out of the habit of interpreting 
evepyeia aKivrjalas as a cessation of activity ? 

Yet it is this latter view which is really unthinkable, 

216 HUMANISM xn 

as may be illustrated by taking a hypothetical case, that 
of an adaptation or harmony on the verge of the per 
fection, the possibility of which is in dispute. 

It must be admitted that in the stage immediately 
preceding perfect adaptation the organism is very much 
alive, and moreover carries on its life with a minimum of 
friction and a maximum of success. In such a life 
difficulties would exist only to be overcome, and no 
process of adapting would be more than momentary. 

Now suppose it to become instantaneous. We are 
required to believe that in the very instant when the last 
trace of maladaptation is eliminated, life suddenly and 
inexplicably ceases, and the organism, which but the 
moment before had been rejoicing in its might, is, with 
scarce a noticeable change, suddenly smitten with meta 
physical annihilation ! 

Is not this incredible ? Could a catastrophe like this 
be paralleled by anything in nature or literature except 
the tragic fate which overwhelmed Lewis Carroll s Baker 
" in the midst of his laughter and glee," when the Snark 
he had so successfully chased turned out to be a Boojum, 
and he " softly and silently vanished away " ? And so, 
does not the principle of continuity compel us to think 
the aicwrjcria of perfect adaptation, to which all /a^cret? 
point, as life and activity (^w^ teal evepyeia), as Aristotle has 

(c] To Consciousness it seems at first harder to apply 
this same interpretation. For what most impresses us 
about consciousness is the flux of Becoming, which is the 
world s aspiration to Being. Consciousness flows with a 
fluidity which is quite incapable of precise, and almost 
of intelligible, statement. It is a perpetual transition 
from object to object, not one of which it can retain for a 
fraction of a second, and in which nothing ever occurs 
twice. To suggest, then, that it may persist, in an 
eternal fixation of unchanging objects, would seem to be 
the very acme of insanity. 

Nevertheless, the Aristotelian theory here also has no 
quarrel with the facts : it only contends for their better 


and more logical interpretation. To infer from the facts 
the relativity of all consciousness and Hobbes dictum 
sentire semper idem et nil sentire ad idem recidunt, appears 
to it either a truism or an error, and in no wise decisive. 1 
It is a truism, if it asserts that sensation in time involves 
change, and that all our experience is in time. It is an 
error, if it is taken as the starting-point of an argument 
which either proposes to conduct us out of consciousness 
and to represent it as an unmeaning accident in a scheme 
of things which when perfectly equilibrated would tran 
scend it, or even to bind us Ixion-like on an unresting 
wheel of change. 

For the facts are susceptible of a better interpretation. 
May we not regard the flow of appearances as a defect, 
not as a merit, of consciousness, engendered as an 
adaptive response to the vicissitudes of a defective world ? 
May not impermanence in consciousness (as elsewhere) 
mark the Trovrjpta of a ^ucrt? impotent to function without 
ceasing (crfi/e^w? evepyelv) ? 

At all events it seems to be the case that (i) we strive 
to prolong and retain pleasant states and objects of 
consciousness ; (2) the fluttering of attention is protective, 
and necessary to survival under conditions which render it 
unsafe to become too much absorbed by the object of our 
attention (or attentions), lest something to which we have 
failed to attend should absorb us in a too literal sense ; 
(3) even where practical exigencies do not compel us, we 
have to shift the objects of our attention because they are 
never found to be wholly satisfactory. May it not be 
argued also that the unsatisfactoriness is the cause of the 
impermanence, and not vice versa ? But could we once 
attain an object of contemplation which was wholly 
satisfying, should we not seek to retain it in consciousness 
for ever? If he had achieved the Best (TO apiarrov), could 
any one be mad enough to wish to change it, for the worse? 
if he had passed the gates of heaven, could he lust again 
for the impurities of earth ? 

Surely it follows, as Plato saw, from the very notion of 

1 Cp. Riddles of the Sphinx, ch. xii. 5. 

218 HUMANISM xn 

the Good that it must be a permanent possession ; it 
follows also, as Aristotle saw, that if we are to be conscious 
of it at all (and if not, how can it be a good ?), it must be 
as an evepyeia aKivrja-ias. I suspect, therefore, that the 
objection to evepyeia cucwrjffias is at bottom one to the 
whole notion of an attainable Good. But whether the 
advocates of this objection are nai vely optimistic enough 
to imagine that an unattainable ideal, recognized as such, 
continues to be an ideal a rational being can aim at, or 
whether they are pessimistic enough to renounce all ideals 
altogether, it is their notion and not that of evepyeia which 
involves a fundamental paradox. 

But, as before, let us test the rival interpretations 
by examining consciousness in the moment immediately 
preceding its hypothetical fixation. It would have to 
be reached, of course, by a progressive development of 
consciousness in fulness and intensity and power of atten 
tion, and by the gradual suppression of all interruptions and 
discords. There can be no doubt, therefore, that it would 
be consciousness of a very high order, i.e. a contemplation, 
most pleasant and unimpeded, of whatsoever most delights 
the soul. If now we eliminate the last faint source of 
trouble and unrest and disturbance, the last distraction 
which prevented us from concentrating our attention wholly 
upon what most it loves to dwell upon, why should con 
sciousness go out rather than go on ? Will it not become 
rather absolutely constant and continuous, and remain con 
scious sensu eminentiorit 


An Activity void of Motion then is conceivable, if 
only we will make an effort to see through the confusions 
of our vulgar view. Nay, in the end it would seem that it 
alone was conceivable as the ideal of Being. 

For of the alternatives none are ultimately thinkable. 
The conception of Becoming, as philosophers have been 
driven to recognize from Parmenides to Hegel, is infected 
with insoluble contradictions, which disappear only if we 


follow Aristotle in conceiving it as essentially imperfect, as 
evepyeLa dreXrfc. To do this renders it intelligible, for we 
can then regard all the processes we actually observe as 
pointing forward to an ideal of a perfectly and equably 
self-sustaining activity, to attain which would relieve them 
of their contradictions. 

The ideal of Rest, on the other hand, is wholly illusory : 
there is no rest anywhere attainable for the virtuous any 
more than for the wicked. It is non-existent as a fact, 
and it is non-existence as a conception. For if anything 
could really cease to be active, it would pro tanto cease to 
be. 1 The only Weltanschauung therefore which could 
appropriately take up the ideal of Rest would be one like 
Mainlander s, which regards the world s history as the long 
protracted agony of the Absolute s suicide. 

Compared with these, the advantages of the conception 
of Rvepyeia A.KiVT)<rta<s are manifest. 

It enables us to give a scientific interpretation of the 
religious conception of Heaven and to differentiate it from 
that of Nirvana ( = bliss conceived as rest ). It involves 
a positive conception of Eternity and explains the transition 
from Time to Eternity. 

We avoid, moreover, sundry difficulties. We may, e.g. t 
dismiss the apprehension that an equilibration of cosmic 
energy must be regarded as the final destruction of cosmic 
activity. We may thus avoid henceforth Spencer s strange 
see-saw in regarding equilibration now as universal death, 
now as perfect life, according as physical or biological 
analogies come uppermost in his mind. 

The chapter on this subject in First Principles is most 
instructive. It affords an admirable example of the con 
fusion engendered by a lack of the conception of evepyeia 
aicivr)<ra<j t and so it may be useful to trace Spencer s 
utterances in detail. It will be seen that he keeps on 
contradicting himself as to the character of equilibration 
on alternate pages, and speaks with a double voice 

(a) By the first voice it is conceived as death or 

1 Cp. Riddles of the Sphinx, ch. xii. 6. 



cessation of activity. Thus 173: "there finally results 
that complete equilibration we call death" 176: "the 
final question of Evolution is ... incidental to the 
universal process of equilibration ; and if equilibration 
must end in complete rest . . . and if the solar system is 
slowly dissipating its forces . . . are we not manifestly 
progressing towards omnipresent death ? " He answers 
that even though the " proximate end of all the trans 
formations we have traced is a state of quiescence" an 
" ulterior process may reverse these changes and initiate 
a new life" (Hence, too, the see-saw of Evolution and 
Dissolution is deduced in ch. xxiii.) Again in 182 he 
asks, " Does Evolution as a whole, like Evolution in detail, 
advance towards complete quiescence ? Is that motionless 
state called death, which ends Evolution in organic bodies, 
typical of the universal death in which Evolution at large 
must end?". . . "If, pushing to its extreme the argument 
that Evolution must come to a close in complete equili 
bration or rest, the reader suggests that, for aught which 
appears to the contrary, the Universal Death thus implied 
will continue indefinitely, it is legitimate to point out " 
that we may " infer a subsequent Universal Life " if we 
suppose equilibration to be again upset, or (more properly) 
unattainable. In short, equilibration = death. 

(b} The above seems unequivocal enough until we 
listen to the second voice, which exactly inverts the 
valuation of equilibration and non- equilibration, and 
implies the equation, equilibration = life. E.g. 173 
(init.\ death is explained as due to a failure of equili 
bration. 1 7 3 (s-fy, the life of a species depends on an 
equilibration between the forces that tend to increase and 
to destroy it. 174, an equilibration or correspondence 
between idea and fact is the end of mental evolution, 
and " equilibration can end only when each relation of 
things has generated in us a relation of thought "... 
and then " experience will cease to produce any further 
mental evolution there will have been reached a perfect 
correspondence between ideas and facts ; and the intel 
lectual adaptation of man to his circumstances will be 


complete." So, of moral and emotional adaptation 
" the limit towards which emotional adaptation perpetually 
tends ... is a combination of desires that corresponds to 
all the different orders of activity which the circumstances 
of life call for "... and this "progressive adaptation ceases 
only with the establishment of a complete equilibration 
between constitution and conditions." Again, 174 
(X/".), " Thus the ultimate state ... is one in which the 
kinds and quantities of mental energy generated . . . are 
equivalent to, or in equilibrium with, the various orders 
... of surrounding forces which antagonize such motions." 
175, Equilibrium is held up as the economic ideal from 
which the fluctuations of over- and under-production 
depart. It is the all-inclusive ne plus ultra of the adapta 
tion of " man s nature and the conditions of his existence." 
It is also the social ideal, and limits the process towards 
heterogeneity " the ultimate abolition of all limits to the 
freedom of each, save those imposed by the like freedom 
of all, must result from the complete equilibration between 
man s desires and the conduct necessitated by surrounding 
conditions." And compare lastly the sublime conclusion of 
the chapter ( 1 76), in which equilibrium, guaranteed by the 
Persistence of Force, secures to us the prospect of perfect 
happiness by affording " a basis for the inference that there 
is a gradual advance towards harmony between man s 
mental nature and the conditions of his existence," and 
" we are finally bidden to believe that Evolution can end 
only in the establishment of the greatest perfection and 
most complete happiness " ! 

The italics, of course, are mine throughout. As for 
the contradiction, it is striking, but easily explicable. 
The suppressed middle term, which connects the two 
conflicting views of the value of perfect equilibration, is 
the absence of motion or change. This being a charac 
teristic both of death and of complete adaptation, the 
interpretation wavers in the most tantalizing way. But 
no one who has grasped the doctrine of Energeia can 
doubt that equilibration must be conceived as Life and 
as the perfection of Activity. 

222 HUMANISM xii 


And now what shall we say of Substance ? Is it not 
plain that we have acquired of it a conception which will 
help it out of the mire in which it has floundered over 
long ? A brief reminder of the history of the conception 
may suffice to make this clear, and perhaps impress on us 
the tragic slowness with which truth prevails. As its 
very name implies, it has been usual to regard substance 
as a permanent substratum which persists through change 
and constitutes the real essence or being of a thing, 
that which makes it what it is. It is the thing itself or 
in itself, the hidden core of its intrinsic nature which is 
the real source of its behaviour, however thickly it may 
seem to be overlaid with variable states, the accidents 
which the exigencies of its interaction with other things 
may impose upon it. And there can be no doubt that 
the behaviour of things renders this thought extremely 
plausible. For some features in the behaviour of things 
are so much more persistent and characteristic than others 
that we cannot but esteem them differently. The dis 
tinction, therefore, of the perdurable substance and the 
fleeting accidents is natural, and, in the first instance, 
of great practical value. But as formulated in the con 
ception of Substance, the distinction overshoots the mark. 
It fails to express the very difference it was intended to 
bring out, and when it is thought out, it lapses into 
impotent absurdity. 

For the distinction was not really meant to be one 
between what was accessible and inaccessible to observa 
tion, nor is a hard and fast line to be drawn between 
* essential and accidental attributes. So soon as we 
inquire, therefore, what is the nature of Substance as it 
really is in itself and apart from its accidents, the futility 
of our conception is revealed. It appears that, strictly 
speaking, all we know about a thing is its accidents/ and 
that we cannot comprehend how even its most essential 
properties inhere in its substance. The substance thus 


becomes either a needless nullity or an unknowable, an 
inscrutable substratum which is conceived to underlie 
everything, but explains nothing, just because it is un 
knowable and can neither be experienced nor examined. 
In this form, therefore, the conception of Substance has 
no value for any purpose whatsoever, either philosophic 
or scientific. 

But philosophers have been slow to find this out, 
though it is a melancholy satisfaction that, even so, they 
have anticipated the scientists. Berkeley, arguing from 
the current notion of Substance, had the genius to per 
ceive that material substance was a philosophic super 
fluity. Hume promptly extended this argument to the 
destruction of spiritual substance. He pointed out that 
apart from its states there was no self or soul. So he 
resolved the self into the sequence of its states of con 
sciousness. 1 

Both Berkeley and Hume were fully justified in their 
criticism. How right they were the sciences proceeded 
to discover on their own account. In the last thirty years 
it has become quite a commonplace in psychology to 
proclaim soul-substance useless, and to conceive the 
mind as consisting of a stream of consciousness. And 
at the present moment physicists seem to be finally 
making up their minds that the matter which had 
lingered on in physics as the substrate of physical pheno 
mena is mere scaffolding, and that all scientific facts 
can really be more simply and conveniently conceived as 
transformations of energy. Now it would not yet be 
true to say that the conception of Energy in modern 
science coincides with the ancient conception of Energeia. 
But they agree in rejecting the old notion of substance 
as a substratum. It is clear, moreover, that they are 
akin in spirit, and that in the hands of a master like 
Prof. Ostwald 2 the conception of energy is rapidly 

1 J. S. Mill similarly sees that Substance is only postulated as a support for 
phenomena, and that if we think away the support and suppose the phenomena 
to remain without any agency but an internal law, every consequence, for the sake 
of which Substance was assumed, will follow without Substance. Exam, of 
Hamilton, p. 252. 

2 See his admirable treatise on Naturphilosophie. 

224 HUMANISM xn 

approximating to that of Energeia. Indeed the chief 
difference at present is that whereas Energeia avowedly 
and consciously stands for a theory of substance, Energy 
still seems to crave for a backbone of substantiality. 
Thus the scientific auguries seem favourable to a reform 
of the conception, while an inveterate error may well be 
judged to be decrepit when its patrons discover it to be 
of no avail. 

Alike in philosophic and in scientific circles then, it 
seems to be pretty generally agreed that the old view of 
Substance is worthless. It lingers on chiefly because 
reconstruction has not kept pace with criticism. And 
yet Lotze s criticism of Substantiality brings him (un 
consciously it would seem) very close to the Aristotelian 
conception. After pointing out the uselessness of the 
substratum view he declares l that " it is not in virtue of 
a substance contained in them that things are, they are 
when they are able to produce the appearance of their 
being such a substance." It is thus out of the behaviour 
of a thing that we construct its essence, and this should 
properly be regarded, not as an intrinsic power but rather 
an immanent and individual law which maintains its 
identity and guides its varying reactions in its dealings 
with the other members of the cosmos. Lotze s con 
struction is excellent so far as it goes, but still entangled 
in polemic against the catchwords which it is striving to 
supersede. And so he hardly makes plain what is this 
individual law, and how the illusion of an underlying 
substance is produced. It is better, therefore, to start at 
once from Aristotle on the straight road to truth, than 
to attain it after devious wanderings among the paths of 


The Aristotelian conception of Energeia is our best 
starting - point because it affords no foothold for an 
unknowable substratum. Indeed of such a view of 

1 Metaphysics, 37. 


substance it is the final refutation. For it a substratum 
could only be the potentiality of an actuality which was 
the true substance, and so far from explaining the latter 
would need it for its own explanation. As evepyeia is 
prior to Svvapis, so is the behaviour of a thing to the 
substance conceived to render that behaviour possible. 1 
The truth therefore is that the activity is the substance : a 
thing is only in so far as active. So it is the activity 
which makes both the essence and the accidents, both 
of which are as it were precipitated from the same 
process of active functioning. The essence is merely such 
aspects of the whole behaviour as are selected from among 
the rest by reason either of their relative permanence or 
of their importance for our purposes. 2 And so we may 
define the substratum which we have feigned as the 
hidden source of substantiality as being nothing but 
an attempt to express the thought of a permanent 
possibility of activity. But true reality does not reside 
among the tangled roots of things. We have no need 
to dig down vainly to a subject, which is not thought 
or will or feeling, but only has them, in derision, in 
order to discover our true self. To find true Being 
we must look upwards to the Ideal, not downwards to the 
unknowable. Our true self is not what underlies thought, 
will and feeling, but what combines them in a perfect 
harmony. 3 Reality is not what transcends experience 
but what perfects it. 

Let us once conceive, therefore, a Being which has 

1 This principle really involves the rejection of several popular superstitions in 
philosophy. For instance, the so-called a priori element in knowledge stands 
in the relation of duvapis to actual knowledge, and, so far from explaining it, 
needs to have its assumption justified by its convenience for the purposes of actual 
knowing. Similarly, the ultimate reason why we may not argue monistically from 
the actual plurality of things to the higher reality of an all-including world-ground 
is that the plurality is actual (tvepydq.), while the unity is only implicit (, 
and rests on our experience of the former. It is, therefore, of secondary reality 
and value. Cp. p. 67. 

2 These two criteria are, of course, convergent. For a permanent aspect is 
naturally one which it is important for us to take into account, while an 
important aspect is naturally one which we try to render permanent. J. S. Mill 
(Examination of Hamilton, p. 239) recognizes the first only when he says that 
the sensations answering to the Secondary Qualities are only occasional, those 
answering to the Primary, constant. 

3 Cp. Riddles of the Sphinx, p. 140. 




realized all its potentialities, and our difficulties disappear. 
For we shall then have transcended the conditions which 
engender the illusion of an inscrutable background of 
* substance. At present our existence seems immersed 
in a sea of possibilities which are the objects of our 
unceasing hopes and fears : nothing is ever quite all that 
it is capable of being ; nothing can ever wholly realize 
itself in any single moment. Hence the potential every 
where extends beyond the actual, and the shadow of an 
incalculable and inexplicable Thing-in-itself is cast over 
the whole of experience and obstructs the portal that 
should lead from knowledge to reality. At present, then, 
we must admit that nothing is ever all it might be. If, 
however, we imagined any being overcoming this defect 
and attaining to a complete and harmonious self-expression 
in its activities, how could it any longer even suggest a 
shadowy region of possibilities bound up with its actual 
self and inhering behind the scenes in a substratum which 
is the substance both of the actual and of the potential ? 
In the coincidence of the actual and the potential which 
the realization of the latter would involve, there would 
vanish our antitheses of essence and accident, of 
ideal and real, of appearance and reality. For the 
< appearance would have become the reality/ and the 
real would have fully appeared. 

Such is the ideal of Being Aristotle has attributed 
to the divine perfection, such the full import of his 
fvepyeia aKivr)a-ia<;. Nor is there any reason for confining 
this perfection to the Deity : we can quite well conceive 
a cosmos composed of beings whose activities had thus 
transcended change. Indeed, I cannot see how in the 
end perfection is conceivable in any cheaper way : it is 
only in a universe made up of a finite number of con 
stituents, each of which is individually perfect, that 
perfection can be predicated of the whole, and that the 
perfection of any part can be secured against the irruption 
of intrusive discords. Whether of course there is any 
possibility of actually realizing any such ideal is quite 
another question, and no one could be more keenly 


conscious than myself of the bitter contrast between such 
dreams of metaphysics and the stern facts of our daily 
life. But once upon a time our fairest facts, our most 
uncontroverted truths, were but the visions of a dream, 
divined by a prescience that slowly hardened into 
science ; 1 and so perchance even dreams like these may 
come true, or rather may be made to come true, if we try. 
It is, moreover, certain that if we dismiss such thoughts as 
idle dreams, dreams they will remain, and no end will ever 
come to the conflict and the friction that wear out our 
world ; whereas, if we consent to look for possibilities of 
harmony, our willingness may be the first condition of 
success. And even for the proximate purposes of 
ordinary life, there is perhaps some practical value in the 
contemplation of a metaphysical ideal which can stimulate 
us to be active, and to develop all our powers to the 
utmost, while at the same time warning us that such 
self-realization must assume the form, not of a hideous, 
barbarous, and neurotic restlessness, nor of an infinite (and 
therefore futile) struggle, but of an activity which, 
transcending change and time, preserves itself in an 
harmonious equipoise. 

1 See Axioms as Postulates, passim. 



I. Humanism resembles Humism in being an anti - apriorist, pragmatist 
empiricism ; but II. differs in being neither scepticism nor intellectualism. 
Nor does it surrender to Hume s criticism of Causation and Activity. 
III. Cleverness of Hume s criticism of the Volitional theory of Causa 
tion. IV. Its unsoundness and inconclusiveness. V. Inability of 
Rationalism to refute Hume : Voluntarism as the alternative. 

THE human mind, by nature, abhors novelties far more 
than a vacuum, and when they are forced upon it by the 
course of its experience, its natural instinct is to close its 
eyes to their existence or to explain them away. Now 
this is as easy as it is natural. For nothing is absolutely 
new. Everything, therefore, can always be conceived as 
an old thing in a new guise, and, with a little stretching 
of the one and carving of the other, be classified under 
the existing rubrics. In this way we are enabled to 
blind ourselves to the vicissitudes of science and to retain 
our comfortable belief in the uniformity of nature. 

But though it is practically certain that, so soon as 
it is seriously attempted, accommodation will always be 
found (or made) for novelties within the fabric of any 
science, their classification at first is somewhat uncertain 
and goes frequently astray. It behoves, therefore, those 
who are interested in them to see to it that they are 
classified correctly. 

Hence it will be useful and enlightening to discuss the 
attempt to classify the new Humanism as an extended 

1 Republished with a few additions from the Proceedings of the Aristotelian 
Society, 1907. 



form of Humism. As in all such cases, there is some 
logical foundation, as well as much psychological excuse, 
for the attempt to apperceive the new in terms of the old. 
It contains some truth, and is partly right. But it is also 
largely wrong. 

To consider this classification in its former aspect 
first ; it is obvious that Humism and Humanism are both 
empiricisms of a pronounced type, and that this constitutes 
an important resemblance between them. Again, there 
seems at any rate to be a certain likeness in their attitude 
towards the metaphysics of the period. The fascinating 
style and the more than Socratic irony of Hume do indeed 
render it difficult to determine the exact motives of his 
philosophizing. But we shall not, probably, go far wrong, 
if we suppose that his opposition to dogmatism, alike 
whether it took the form of religious bigotry or of 
philosophic narrow-mindedness, gave zest to his interest 
in philosophy. Hume seems to take an impish delight in 
upsetting religious and philosophic orthodoxies, and his 
own doctrines seem rather to be selected with this purpose 
than held with any absolute assurance of their intrinsic 
worth. Hume is quite willing to admit their defects : 
after they have served their purpose and done their 
emancipating work, he is quite ready to disavow his 
instruments and to affect an attitude of gentlemanly 
unconcern about the abstruse inanities of theologians and 
metaphysicians. This temper, indeed, would appear to be 
the essence of his scepticism. Psychologically regarded, 
it does not lie in his doctrine, but in his attitude towards 
theoretic difficulties. 

Now, superficially regarded, the Humanist attitude 
may seem quite similar. It is somewhat lacking in 
that reverence for academic dogmas, technicalities and 
shibboleths, which it is often supposed to be desirable 
and possible to inculcate into the young. It is certainly 
critical of very deep-rooted assumptions which have 
hitherto passed current without challenge. It is singu 
larly modest in the claims it makes for its own principles. 
It makes no attempt to represent them as absolute 

230 HUMANISM xin 

truths, but puts them forward tentatively as practically 
efficient working principles, which are worthy of being 
tried but susceptible, nevertheless, of unceasing improve 
ment. And to a dogmatic metaphysician this hardly 
seems to be claiming truth for them at all. He finds 
it easy, therefore, and natural to treat Humanism as a 
mode of scepticism, and as involving a denial of truth 
altogether. Then again the humaneness and urbanity of 
allowing every one a vote in the making of truth, of 
allowing every mode of experience and of aspiration to 
count for what it may turn out to be worth, seem 
monstrous laxity, which must be fatal to the discipline 
of the intellectual world, and can proceed from nothing 
but infamous indifference to the sanctity of truth. 
Thus Humanism, to dogmatically biassed eyes, not only 
seems to introduce universal suffrage into the philosophic 
world, but to enable Plato s democratic man to usurp 
the throne of the Philosopher-King. 

So, however strenuously Humanists may disclaim evil 
designs, there is one belief which they can hardly hope to 
eradicate all at once, viz. the hoary tradition that universal 
experience shows that relativism and subjectivism must 
end in scepticism and anarchism. 

Such are, I believe, the feelings and reasonings of 
those who, without being hopelessly committed to some 
self-contradictory and untenable form of intellectualism, 
look upon the new philosophy with suspicion, and conceive 
it as a revival of Humism. And yet, now that we have 
indulged their misgivings to this extent, we may fairly 
call upon them to notice in their turn the important and 
deep-seated differences, both in attitude and in doctrine, 
which exist between the theories they are seeking to 
classify together, (i) For one thing, the Humanists are 
not distinguished amateurs, concerning themselves with 
philosophy only to clear out of the way an obstacle to 


worldly wisdom, but hard-working professionals, them 
selves leading the academic life, and exposed to all the 
rigours of the academic atmosphere. (2) They do not 
themselves draw the sceptical conclusions attributed to 
them, but protest that their doctrines mean a rescue 
and a reform and an advance of philosophy. (3) Such 
a reform, they declare, is rendered necessary by the 
deplorable state to which metaphysics has been reduced 
by the collapse of idealism into scepticism, while an 
advance is no less urgently required if philosophy is to 
keep pace with the developments of the sciences, particu 
larly of psychology and biology. As regards doctrine, 
again, the differences are at least as well marked as the 
resemblances. For though both Humanism and Humism 
may be classified as empiricisms, there is evidently ample 
room for divergence within empiricism. 

It is not too much to say that the philosophic 
character of an empiricism depends entirely on how it con 
ceives experience. Now Humanism manifestly conceives 
experience very differently from Humism. (i) It does 
not accept Hume s psychology with its associationism and 
its sensationalism. Its voluntaristic is essentially different 
from his sensationalistic empiricism, and by comparison 
with the latter may even be called a sort of apriorism. 
For a postulate, however much it may have been suggested 
by experience, is still an anticipation of nature, which we 
bring to the facts. It has to be assumed before it can be 
proved. Even though it was meant for application to 
experience, it was assumed because it was desired, even 
though it serves as a guide in experimentation and a 
major premiss in argumentation, it is clearly prior to the 
experience we try to organize thereby. It becomes, there 
fore, from one point of view, a merely verbal question 
how the Humanist voluntarism should be classified, and 
if the form of intellectualism against which it had to 
contend had been sensationalistic instead of rationalistic, 
it would doubtless have laid more stress on the very real 
affinities of the postulate with the a priori. 

In fact its epistemological achievement may be said to 



have destroyed the old antithesis between empiricism 
and apriorism by rendering both terms ambiguous, and 
propounding a middle way which forms a third alternative 
to the epistemological dilemma. Of the dogma all know 
ledge comes from experience it inquires, aye, but from 
a passive experience or an active ? Of the dogma all 
knowledge implies an a priori] it inquires but how a 
priori^ Is it prior as a mere fact of our (present) mental 
constitution, and so powerless to guarantee its own future 
continuance, or as an intelligent act of faith ? Clearly, 
then, a voluntarist a priori, adopted upon the bare sug 
gestion of experience for its methodological value, and 
established by its continued working, does not fit into the 
old classification at all. 

(2) Humanism does not accept Hume s criticism of 
causation and his denial of activity, as all intellectualisms 
are (more or less unwillingly) compelled to do. (3) It 
is not naturalistic ; because it regards the mechanical 
conception of nature as itself a construction for human 
purposes, which is valuable and valid because, and in so 
far as, it subserves these purposes. (4) It is not deter 
ministic, as rationalisms are logically bound to be, but 

Thus it agrees with Hume only (i) in the belief that 
the course of events has something to teach us, and brings 
real enlightenment, because it cannot be predicted with 
absolute certainty, i.e. in a common empiricism ; it agrees 

(2) that no apriorism can ever give the guarantee it aims 
at, and assure us of the future, because any necessity of 
thought may change if human nature changes ; it agrees 

(3) in a common pragmatism, i.e. in their agreement that 
practical efficiency of a conception is relevant to its truth, 
and may be pleaded in answer to apparent theoretical 
defects. But even here the differences are very marked. 
Hume s pragmatism hardly seems to be sincere ; it is 
always suspiciously suggestive of a blind to disguise his 
scepticism. Again, Hume s appeal to the pragmatic 
principle is quite arbitrary and capricious : he uses it to 
save the face of common sense and (perhaps) of science, 


but not to rehabilitate philosophy or religion. Lastly, he 
neither generalizes the principle nor claims for it any 
theoretic validity : i.e. for Hume, as for the rationalist, 
and as for Kant, there is still an implicit dualism between 
theory and practice, and a sort of independence of the 
former, even though this redounds only to its own 


On the whole, therefore, it can hardly be contended 
that the classification of Humanism as Humism is either 
a very exact or a very fruitful way of assimilating the 
new to the old. Nay, we may go farther and maintain 
that upon some of the most important points of philosophi 
cal debate there is a profound antithesis between Humism 
and Humanism, and a very marked congruity between 
the former and Rationalism. To illustrate by three 
typical cases: (i) Rationalism and Humism are both 
intellectualism ; Humanism is not ; (2) both deny the 
conception of Activity, which Humanism emphasizes and 
exploits ; (3) Rationalism has in consequence to accept 
Hume s criticism of Causation, whereas Humanism is 
enabled to reject it. 

The first of these points is really so obvious that a 
simple statement would suffice for it, if it did not lead to 
far-reaching consequences which have not yet been 
observed. As it is, it may be well to point out that, from 
a voluntarist standpoint, the differences in intellectualisms 
are quite secondary. Rationalism and Sensationalism 
can always strike up an alliance against Voluntarism 
which is cemented by their common appeal to a dark, 
dumb, irrational, and inexplicable background of feeling. 1 
In the shadow of vague terms, whose inveterate ambiguity 
extends back to the days of Plato, 2 all voluntary action 

1 Mr. Sturt (Idola Theatri, ch. v. and ix. ) has done good service by point 
ing out how essentially this conduces to the " passivism " of a rationalistic 
intellectualism like Mr. F. H. Bradley s. 

2 Who in the Theaetetus (1568) includes pleasure, pain, and, desire in the list 
of ai 

234 HUMANISM xm 

may be reduced to feeling, which can be equated with 
sensation, which, again, can be taken as purely cognitive, 
whenever it is convenient, until every trace of man s free 
and self-directive activity is wiped out from the philosophic 
picture. Hence, both intellectualisms can agree on the 
essential points that (i) intellection is the only philo 
sophically valuable human function ; that (2) nothing but 
intellection is necessary to cognition ; that (3) the purer 
the intellection, the less alloyed with whatever other 
elements are reluctantly admitted into our nature, the 
truer and more trustworthy its results ; that (4) cognition 
means rendering the mind passively receptive of an already 
determined, rigid and independent object, variously 
denominated reality or truth ; that (5) in consequence 
of all these considerations, anything in the nature of 
human activity or initiative can only (if it exists) exercise 
a malign and disturbing influence on our cognitive pro 
cedure, and must therefore be abstracted from in scientific 
theory, and repressed in practice. 

Humanism, on the contrary, maintains (i) that intellec 
tion is not the only valuable function in human life, nor 
the source of its value ; (2) that not merely does intellec 
tion not suffice to explain cognition, but that it does not 
even explain itself, for the reason that real knowing is 
never a purely intellectual process, but essentially pre 
supposes such non-intellectual aspects as desire, interest, 
and purpose, which enter into and control all cognitions ; 
that (3) it is frequently not true to say that the purer 
the intellection, the more valuable the results ; that (4) in 
consequence cognition, whether perceptual or conceptual, 
is never a merely passive recognition of an already made 
object, but always an interaction with a reality which is 
still capable of being moulded to some extent by our 
action ; (5) that human activity, therefore, is nothing 
science need be ashamed of or metaphysics frown upon, 
but is rather the fountain-head of philosophic understand 
ing, which can neither be ignored nor repressed. It will 
subsequently appear that this difference of attitude 
towards human activity, which is deducible from the 


general standpoint of intellectualism, foreshadows the 
welcome it has accorded to Hume s attack upon the con 
ception of activity. 


Hume s criticism of the conception of power or activity 
is quite as clever, and quite as paradoxical as his criticism 
of the conception of cause. It is even more essential to 
his naturalism and more radically destructive in its 
philosophic effects. Yet, strange to say, it has provoked 
no remonstrance. The champions of the a priori make 
no fuss about it, the bodyguard of the Pure Reason raise 
no hue and cry : it is silently and tamely acquiesced in. 
It is never denounced in lectures as one of the twin pillars 
of Hume s all-corrupting scepticism ; its consequences are 
never dwelt on ; it is never criticized ! This extraordinary 
state of things seems to be due simply to the domination 
of intellectualism, which has neither the interest nor the 
ability to contest the assumptions lurking in Hume s 
ingenious argument. 

The argument itself does not occur in the body of the 
Treatise of Human Nature}- In writing the Treatise, 
Hume appears to have been chiefly concerned to puzzle 
the philosophers ; so he deals chiefly with the opinions 
of the learned. Now as these were then, much as now, 
still under the spell of the intellectualist tradition traceable 
to Plato, Hume took no notice of the common-sense 
explanation of the source of the notion of power or agency. 
He conceives himself to be contending throughout against 
a metaphysical a priori knowledge of causation by means 
of which effects could be predicted with certainty prior to 
all experience. His problem is to find a connexion such 
that " from a simple view of the one " we can " pronounce 
that it must be followed by the other." 2 It is to such 

1 It is astounding, but characteristic, that, in view of this, the preface to 
T. H. Green s edition of Hume should contain the assertion that the only essential 
difference" between the Treatise and the Enquiry is " in the way of omissions" 
made in the latter. 

2 Treatise, ed. Selby-Bigge, p. 161. 

236 HUMANISM xm 

philosophic accounts of causation that he addresses his 
triumphant challenges, when he " desires to have pointed 
out to him " the impression from which the idea of 
necessary connexion could possibly be derived. 

But after publishing the first volume of the Treatise, 
Hume was bound to come across remonstrances based on 
a primitively human view of causation which may fairly be 
called the original philosophy of mankind. This is the 
volitional theory of causation, which models itself on the 
voluntary control of the bodily organs and accepts the 
immediately experienced sequence of volition and motion 
as all we need know of the inner nature of causation. 
Upon this view the impression which gives rise to the 
idea of causal efficacy would be simply the every-day 
experience of voluntary motion, and this simple answer to 
Hume s theory would be easily and obviously fatal to his 
whole position. 

Hume, therefore, was bound, if possible, to invalidate 
this theory, and nothing testifies more strikingly to his 
supreme cleverness than the way in which he meets this 
difficulty. He promptly inserted in the Appendix to the 
Treatise a short passage, in which he points out, very 
lucidly and consistently, that there is no reason why the 
sequence of volition and motion should be treated (by 
him) differently from any other, or regarded as more 
intelligible. 1 But how seriously he took this volitional 
theory is attested by the elaborate refutation bestowed on 
it in the Enquiry? 

Its gist may be summed up as follows: (i) Hume 
starts, as in the Appendix, from his own analysis of 
causation as an established truth, and points out that 
the supposed immediate experience of causal agency is 
nothing more than a regular sequence, which must 
accordingly engender the custom or expectation which 
is the causal nexus. 

(2) He clearly states his presupposition that real 

1 Green and Grose barely mention the fact in their edition, but make no 

2 51-53 and note to 6o - 


knowledge of causal efficacy must be prior to experience : 
" were the power or energy of any cause discoverable by 
the mind, we could foresee the effect even without ex 
perience." * 

(3) He argues specifically that the feeling of power 
which accompanies voluntary motion is illusory, because 
(a) the union of soul and body and the operation of the 
one on the other is avowedly a mystery ; because ($) 
voluntary control varies greatly with the various organs. 
Why, on this theory, " has the will an influence over the 
tongue and fingers and not over the heart or liver ? " 
Again, a man suddenly paralysed is as conscious as ever 
of a power to command his limbs, though the usual 
motions no longer ensue. As, however, consciousness 
never deceives (a comically scholastic maxim !) it never 
really testifies to any real power. " We learn the in 
fluence of our will from experience alone." (c) Volitions 
are not the immediate antecedents of voluntary motions. 
There are a number of intermediary processes in the 
brain and the nerves and the muscles, of which we 
are not conscious. Ergo, the original power felt, the 
sentiment or impression or sensation of m sus, or 
endeavour, is no proof of a power to move the limbs. 

Hume proceeds to argue similarly that neither the 
felt effort in overcoming the resistance of bodies, nor the 
voluntary control of our conscious states, can have given 
rise to the idea of power ; but the latter of these need 
not be considered by us, as primitive reasoners cannot 
certainly be credited with introspectiveness enough to 
have observed it. 


The extreme brilliance of this argument is undeniable, 
but this hardly explains the acceptance it has won from 
philosophers of all schools, as different as Reid, Hamilton, 

1 Ed. Selby-Bigge, p. 63; cp. also p. 78, note: "These sensations" (of 
effort) "which are merely animal, and from which we can a priori draw no 
inference, we are apt to transfer to inanimate objects." 



Mill, and Kant 1 It is difficult not to believe that its 
success was largely due also to their intellectualist pre 
judices and their unawareness of its real scope. For in 
itself Hume s argument, though brilliant, is by no means 
invulnerable. Indeed, with a little care, we may detect 
in its proof several flaws and gaps. 

Hume s analysis of the way causes are imputed by 
us does not go nearly deep enough. 

1 I ) He had no right whatever to start with events 
and their sequences, and to assume that the problem 
was how to connect them. Human activity penetrates 
more deeply into the making of objects of knowledge 
than either Hume or Kant suspected. It not only 
turns sequences into consequences, but singles out 
sequences and events by selection of the relevant, in 
a way that is always risky, and must always seem 
arbitrary to an intellectualism which is looking for a 
fool-proof method of absolute cogency. Hume s em 
piricism takes over uncriticized the pragmatic realities of 
common sense, which has analysed experience into a 
coming and going of things and persons in space and 
time, and tries to distinguish them still further into a 
series of impressions of which each is to be a distinct 
existence. But to a more radical empiricism experience 
presents itself as a continuous flow, out of which events/ 
effects and sequences have to be singled out by 
strenuous efforts, and the causal principle is an instru 
ment of analysis. The determinate sequences, therefore, 
for which causal connexions have to be discovered are 
themselves creations of human attention and interest, and 
do not exist as such, apart from our volitional activity. 
Hence they cannot validly produce a basis for a denial 
of that activity. 2 

(2) It seems to be profoundly vitiated by a confusion 
between the historical origin and the logical validity of 

1 Cp. J. S. Mill, Logic, III. 5, n. Mill, like Hume, assumes that the 
volitional theory cannot be true, if it is not certain previous to trial. 

2 Cp. Formal Logic, ch. xx. 3. It is clear that in correcting this funda 
mental error of Hume s we dispose also of all the philosophies which have 
assumed with him that the task of philosophy is to find principles of synthesis. 
Kant s whole problem, e.g. disappears altogether. 


the volitional theory of causation. Hume argues, very 
plausibly, that the theory is not valid, and infers that it 
could not have served as the prototype of our causal 
notions. But this is clearly an ignoratio elencki. Obviously 
it is no answer to an account of the origination of a belief 
to show that the belief arrived at is wrong. Still less is it 
this to show that a further belief derived from this erroneous 
belief is also wrong. For our truest and most valuable 
beliefs have frequently originated in what are now despised 
as childish errors. The confusion grows worse when we 
observe that Hume professedly was not inquiring into the 
validity but into the origin of the belief in causal efficacy. 
His explanation thereof rested on the psychological im 
possibility of suggesting any other source for it but uni 
formity plus expectation ; not on the logical defects of 
the proposed alternatives. Hence he involves himself in 
verbal contradictions which are almost comical. On the 
same page he declares x both that " every idea is copied 
from some preceding impression or sentiment, . . . there 
is nothing that produces any impression, nor consequently 
can suggest any idea of power " and also that we have a 
" sentiment of a nisus or endeavour " and "feel a customary 
connexion between ideas " and transfer these " feelings " 


(or " sensations ") to objects. 

Whether, therefore, the volitional theory be right or 
not, Hume s case, as presented by himself, is fatally 
damaged by the mere suggestion that the immediate 
experience of voluntary motion was the source whence 
men first derived their notion of causal efficacy. That 
historically this was the origin of the belief is nowadays 
beyond doubt, nor does Hume really deny it. Men and 
the higher animals all begin their intellectual careers as 
animists, and animism means that all motion is interpreted 
on the analogy of voluntary agency, which is a familiar 
experience to us all long before it is analysed, reflected 
on or explained away. If, however, Hume had explicitly 
admitted this as the historical origin of the idea of 
causation, he would have found himself compelled to face 

1 Ed. Selby-Bigge, p. 78. 



the voluntaristic and humanistic interpretation of experi 
ence as a whole, and would have found a way to his 
own associationism blocked or lengthened. 

(3) The argument that the volition-motion sequence 
is like any other, and explicable in the same way, is. 
valid enough if Hume s assumption is granted. But if 
it is not, it is simply a petitio. And voluntarists are in 
no wise bound to grant it. 1 They may reasonably reply : 
You must not calmly beg the question of the nature 
of sequences in a sense favourable to yourself. The real 
question is which sequences are to be chosen as clues to 
the interpretation of the rest. As to this we and you 
differ. We start ab intra from the sequences which we 
most directly experience, and, treating them as typical, 
logically arrive at the conceptions of causal efficacy and 
necessary connexion. We admit, of course, that our 
method is sheer " anthropomorphism." But then we are 
Humanists, and know it. You on the other hand only 
cripple yourself by trying to ignore the human character 
of your intelligence, and refusing to acknowledge the 
validity of your immediate experience. You insist on 
starting ab extra from the sequences which you observe 
in the outer world. You assume, that is, that you can 
know no more about yourself than about any one else. 
And lo, you have no difficulty in showing that you can 
know as little about yourself as about any one else ! 
But what have you gained ? You have only rendered all 
the happenings in the world opaque to your intelligence. 
And what have you proved ? Only that the facts are 
obligingly ambiguous enough to submit to either inter 
pretation. This we do not dream of denying, and we 
think your interpretation very clever. But it is quite 
arbitrary, wrongheaded and superfluous. Moreover, it is 
vain, because it has not refuted ours, on the advantages 
of which we forbear to enlarge. 

(4) The assumption that knowing a cause supplies 
also a priori knowledge of the effect may have been 
made by rationalists who (more or less inconsistently) 

1 Cp. Studies in Humanism, p. 230. 


held also the volitional view of causation. If so, Hume s 
reply that the limits of our voluntary control of bodies 
have to be ascertained from experience is so far valid. 
But it clearly is not self-evident that if volition is the 
true type of causation this must be known to us before 
experience. And so Hume s argument does not touch 
voluntarists who are also empiricists. For these will 
naturally disclaim any a priori knowledge of causes and 
regard it as the most natural interpretation of experience 
to suppose that the consciousness of power is not only 
the source of the notion, but also good evidence in its 
favour until there is reason to reject it. They will simply 
say what causes are, and wherein and to what extent 
we are causes, and what effects we can produce, all this 
we learn only from experience. And why on earth 
should we not? Why should we not all, from the baby 
to the paralytic, have to find out the limitations of our 
powers from experience ? Surely you would not have us 
assume that we must be born with a complete a priori 
idea of power and a similar knowledge of all that we are 
and can ? Such an assumption would be enough to make 
nonsense, not only of our theory, but of any theory on 
any subject whatsoever ! 

(5) The most solid part of Hume s argument, how 
ever, is that which disputes the value of the psychological 
consciousness of agency on physiological grounds, and 
thus leads on to the epiphenomenal view of mind and the 
reduction of conscious beings to automata. Indeed it is 
difficult to see what reply was open to voluntarists at the 
time. At present, however, thanks to the development of 
evolutionary and genetic views of life, adequate replies are 
easily forthcoming. 

For example, we may say that the general principle 
underlying the gradations and variations of voluntary 
control of different parts of the body is the welfare and 
efficiency of the organism as a whole. Also that it is in 
general beneficial to concentrate consciousness (which 
is connected with what are physiologically the most 
expensive functions of the higher brain centres) upon 


242 HUMANISM xm 

those functions which have to be performed in a variable 
manner, and consequently need the aid of reflection. 
Functions, on the other hand, which are regular and can 
be performed in the same way, can be allowed to become 
automatic, and even unconscious, at least under normal 
circumstances. It will then appear that these biological 
principles amply explain " why the will has influence 
over the tongue and fingers, and not over the heart 
and liver." l The functions of the one must be 
conscious, those of the other are better carried on by 

The same principles suffice to deal also with the lapsed 
intermediaries between the volition and the motion, which 
now escape our consciousness. Historically all these 
intermediate processes may be regarded as mechanisms 
which have been developed for the better performance of 
the motions or the better husbanding or directing of the 
consciousness. They have, therefore, no interest for 
themselves, and there is no reason why their normal 
functioning should be conscious. 2 Primitive organisms, 
however, manage to perform all the vital functions, for 
which we now have specialized organs, without such 
mechanisms. We must suppose, therefore, that in their 
case there are no intermediaries involved in voluntary 
motion, and that so the testimony of consciousness was 
once literally accurate. It is substantially accurate also in 
the higher organisms. For if it is generally true that 
function moulds structure, and if all structures are acquired, 
then the organism is made by the mode of life it has 
chosen, and as a whole, with all its mechanisms, it is best 
regarded as an embodied will. 

As for the failures of voluntary control which are due 
to morbid degenerations in the organs, how can they 
prove voluntary control to be unreal ? Surely the 

1 The existence of individual variations in the extent of this voluntary control 
is a strong confirmation of this explanation. There are well-attested cases on 
record where even the beating of the heart could be arrested at will, and it is well 
known that some people can wag their ears, while others have this power only 
over their tongue. 

2 In most of these cases, however, the withdrawal of consciousness is not 
absolute. For disturbances of normal functioning are usually felt as pains. 


breakdown of a machine does not prove that it was not 
constructed by intelligence ? It proves only that the 
intelligence was not unlimited. 

On the whole, therefore, Hume cannot be said to have 
refuted the volitional theory of causation. It yields an 
answer to Hume which is much simpler, directer, completer, 
more congruous with common sense and better supported 
by historical and anthropological evidence than any other. 
Why, then, has no rationalist even attempted to answer 
Hume along these lines ? Why do they all continue to 
torment themselves, and to excruciate their readers, 
by devising devious, obscure, ambiguous, far-fetched, 
complicated theories to vindicate so simple and successful 
a human practice as that of postulating causes ex analogia 
kominis, the more so that the answers they achieve 
always fail to answer the essential point, 1 or at best 
wander away into metaphysical principles so remote from 
our experience that they cannot even be applied to it, 
and so answer neither Hume s nor any other question, 
and in no wise vindicate our actual human practice ? 
One can hardly believe that the reason was wholly an 
instinctive hatred of Humanism, a reluctance to recognize 
man as a measure of things, and human activity as a real 
force and a real clue to the nature of the world. 

The reason in part cannot but have been a failure to 
realize the full significance of Hume s results. For this 
is far more than the refutation of an uncritical theory of 
causation, far more than the substitution for it of Hume s 
own theory, far more even than the establishment of a 
naturalistic and mechanical treatment of the human mind. 
That a thorough-going Naturalism follows logically and at 
once from Hume s proof that the conception of human 
agency rests upon an illusion, is indeed a matter of course. 

1 In Kant s case I take this to be the question why in the end the data given 
to the mind should be, and ever continue to be, such that the mind can construct 
a cosmic order out of them. 



But for this very reason too much importance should not 
be attached to it. It follows indeed that it is a sad waste 
of energy for psychologists and epistemologists, who have 
in principle assented to Hume s assumptions, subsequently 
to contend for the recognition of mental activity in any 
shape or form. For even though mental activity were (as 
I believe it to be) the most real and essential and all- 
pervasive and ineradicable fact in our nature, and implicit 
even in the very theories which seek to set it aside, it 
would yet be vain to try to extort a recognition of 
its existence from the Humian assumptions, or to 
describe it in naturalistic terms. How can any one, e.g. 
confute a polemic which begs the point at issue with the 
superb audacity of Hume s argument in the Appendix to 
the Treatise ? l First he professes a desire to find a 
perception on which the causal connexion could be 
based; then he assumes (i) that "if perceptions are 
distinct existences, they form a whole only by being 
connected together " ; (2) that " no connexions among 
distinct existences are ever discoverable by human under 
standing." Whence it would clearly follow that, even if 
we had a perception of causal connexion, it could not, 
ex hypothesi^ serve as a principle of connexion, by the very 
fact of its being a perception, and so doomed to remain 
a distinct and disconnected existence ! 2 

Thus the very attempt to prove the existence of 
activity to those who insist on taking up a point of view 
from which it cannot be seen, is a mistake. The true 
retort to their attitude is to show that it is arbitrary, and 
does not go deep enough, and that better alternatives 
exist. Mr. Bradley, however, is quite right from his own 
point of view, as an intellectualist, as a logician, and as a 
pupil of Hume, to wage war upon the concept of Activity : 
he is wrong only in imagining that a conception which 
has been expunged from psychology and expelled from 

1 P. 635, ed. Selby-Bigge. 

2 It is not so clear why " the connexion or determination of the thought to pass 
from one object to another" which "we only feel" should not yield the 
internal impression " required ; but Hume s large and loose way of equating 
impression, sensation, and perception, greatly helps him in ruling out this 


science can be restored by metaphysics without a mon 
strous paradox. 

But, after all, Naturalism in psychology is a small and 
comparatively harmless affair. It has its uses, and as a 
temporary expedient may even be salutary for the restricted 
purpose of a special science. There is nothing, therefore, 
in its use that need alarm philosophy. It can always be 
regarded as methodological, and need not be taken as 
true beyond the point at which it ceases to be useful. 
If the Humian denial of Activity merely meant Naturalism, 
philosophy could well survive the demonstration. 

There are, however, other consequences implicit in 
Hume s denial which might well appal all but the ex- 
tremest sceptics, or rather nihilists. If we have the 
courage to work out the implications of Hume s philo 
sophy completely, it will be seen to come to much more 
than a revised notion of causation, or than scepticism 
about some axioms of science. What it comes to is an 
utter cancellation of all ideas of agency, activity, cause, 
power, efficacy, force, energy, not only in us, but through 
out the Universe. All these terms, it should be noted, 
are not merely inexact adumbrations of more efficient 
truths, unsuited for the clear thinking of the sciences ; 
they are essentially illusory and unmeaning, and to be 
wiped out of the vocabulary of those who would see 
reality as it truly is. The whole world would thus be 
reduced to a mere sequence of events, to a flow of 
uncomprehended happenings within us and without us, of 
which we should be the impotent spectators, inscrutably 
endowed with a consciousness which might be written off 
the ledger of the Universe without affecting its sum total 
in the least degree. To ask what makes the Flow 
flow ? is futile ; to control it, is impossible ; to observe 
it, is vain ; all we can do (if we can do aught) is to let 
ourselves drift > and to cultivate as much equanimity or 
indifference as we can muster towards what is fated to 
befall us. In short, the systems of all the sciences are 
shattered, and the world, whether psychical or physical, 
relapses into Chaos. 

246 HUMANISM xm 

For it would be a great delusion to imagine that the 
conceptions of the physical sciences can escape from the 
general debacle of the products of the human intelligence. 
Their fundamental conceptions, when they are analysed, 
always, sooner or later, imply ineradicable references to 
human experiences which have been declared illusory. 
Thus matter ultimately refers to our feelings of resistance. 
So does force. Motion involves place, and place 
human experience of the difference between here and 
there and of voluntary change of place, in default of 
which we should have no ground for ascribing the changing 
appearances to the motion of unchanging bodies in space 
rather than to alterations in the appearances themselves. 
Energy involves both the motion and the work 
experience. And so forth. The physical realities, 
therefore, being dependent on what have become psychical 
illusions, are themselves rendered illusory. In no place 
and in no sense have we a right to use any of the tabooed 

The only mystery which apparently remains over is 
one which the theory disdains to notice, viz. how all 
these incriminated terms have come into being at all, and 
why, if they signify nothing and are not true, they are so 
useful and indispensable. Can it be that some demon, 
more humorous than Hume himself, is compelling us to 
believe, or at least to behave as if we believed, what we 
know is not true ? This difficulty, however, may be 
respectfully left for intellectualism to contemplate with 
care. Our Humanism, by the simple expedient of 
starting from our immediate experience, and declining to 
admit that it is deceptive and invalid, merely because 
Hume has exercised his ingenuity to make it appear so, 
dissolves the whole mirage of Humian magic. 1 

If only rationalists would follow our example, what a 
relief it would be to students of philosophy ! For what 
ever the more than Spartan fortitude with which we 
endure the difficulties of our subject, do we not all suffer 
from the paradoxes which its concessions to Hume have 

See James on The Experience of Activity, in A Pluralistic Universe. 


imposed on rationalistic philosophy ? Should we not 
confess in our candid moments that it would be a relief 
to get rid of the paradox, for example, that in the whole 
universe there either is no agency or activity at all, or 
that such agency resides solely in the whole to the 
exclusion of its parts ? 

What again of the Kantian answer to Hume ? 
What a giant paradox it is ! How strange that the slur 
of subjectivity which Hume has cast upon our notion of 
causation should be held to be removed by extending its 
scope ! And all in vain, because after all the mind does 
not create the world it makes, and remains dependent 
on experience for the means to discriminate between a 
casual and a causal, an objective and a subjective 
sequence. Why then does it not find its material 
refractory ? How does it know that it will not become 
so in the future ? Perhaps it may. But if so, are we 
not back in complete empiricism, and might not the 
whole a priori machinery just as well be flung upon the 
scrap-heap? It is, however, nowadays being pretty 
widely recognized that Kant s answer to Hume is no real 
answer at all ; but the reason why Kant could not 
excogitate any real answer is capable of being elucidated. 
It becomes, at any rate, much clearer when we perceive 
that having missed the only real answer, viz. the volitional, 
he had to have recourse to the paradox of ascribing to a 
being who has been deprived of all agency, power and 
initiative, the power of enacting rules a priori to which 
the course of events must conform ! But is it not clearly 
impossible to combine the Kantian assertion of the 
reality of mental activity with an acceptance of the 
Humian denial of all human activity? 

It would seem then that in this case, as in that of the 
Humian psychology, Kantian Rationalism is unable to 
shake off a humiliating dependence upon an insidious 
doctrine which has managed to beguile it into positions 
whence an effective rejoinder is no longer possible. It 
would be interesting to trace out in detail the final fiasco 
of rationalistic intellectualisms in their controversies with 

248 HUMANISM xm 

sensationalism, starting from Plato s Theaetetus ; but this 
would be to re-write the history of philosophy with a proper 
attention to the existence of voluntary activity. Enough, 
at any rate, has been said to show, not only that the 
affiliation of Humanism to Humism is extremely mis 
leading, but also to suggest, perhaps, that in reality the 
boot is on the other leg, and that it is intellectualism 
alone which is groaning or grovelling in the grip of 




The argument from action to belief proves the sincerity of Humanist dis 
claimers of solipsism. But there are transitions to solipsism from (i) 
absolute, (2) subjective idealism, (3) Aristotelianism, (4) most modern 
philosophies, even (5) the New Realisms. These become crypto- 
solipsistic, becauset hey ignore the processes by which the knower arrives 
at objects and compares them with his former objects and those of 
others, and overlook the selectiveness of thought and the existence of 
error. (6) The interdependence of subject and object also leads to 

The Humanist rejection of solipsism and its pragmatic confirmation. 
It is not theoretically cogent, but the appeal of solipsism to the analogy 
of dream life is false. The dreamer and the maker of dreams. The 
pragmatic refutation of all practicable solipsism. 

" SOLIPSISM is the most detestable form of wickedness 
that ever entered into the mind of a philosopher." This 
pronouncement, the solipsissima verba of an intelligent 
undergraduate, once occurred in an Oxford examination 
paper. It should afford philosophers much food for 
reflection. At first sight it seems to evince only an in 
sufficient apprehension of the philosophic mind s capacity 
for crime. There is a not ignoble apologia for the 
Speculative Life in the suggestion that if philosophers 
were not allowed to indulge in it they might be com 
mitting murders instead of paralogisms. Even so the 

1 When one considers what an appalling amount of time and energy is 
annually consumed in Examinations, and how little any of the parties to them 
have to show for it, it is surprising that they are so rarely utilized for the purpose 
of gauging the trend of current thought upon the subjects examined on. That 
they can be made to afford instruction to others than the examiners will, I 
hope, be a conclusion distinctly suggested by the present article, which is largely 
inspired by the answers to a question set in 1908 in the Oxford School of Literae 
Hiimaniores, and is reprinted from Mind, No. 70. 


250 HUMANISM xiv 

Philosopher- Villain has been, as Plato himself has testi 
fied, 1 a good deal commoner than the Philosopher-King. 
Possibly however the writer was desirous only of 
complimenting his tutor (who was one .of the examiners) 
and of taking an optimistic view of his character. But 
supposing him to have been sincere, why should he have 
regarded so practically innocuous a thing as Solipsism as 
an offence, and have classified it as a form of wicked 
ness, however mild ? And what did he mean by 
Solipsism ? 

These questions are worthy of investigation, and I 
feel myself peculiarly fitted for the task. For though 
not myself a solipsist, I have been repeatedly mistaken 
for one. I may be presumed therefore to hold views 
sufficiently akin to Solipsism to appreciate it fairly, and 
yet to be interested in distinguishing myself from it. 

Inherently of course Solipsism is an absurd predicate 
to fasten on to a Humanist philosophy. Humanism is 
essentially social, and therefore pluralistic. But for this 
very reason it cannot treat the problem of Solipsism with 
that curious mixture of hauteur and frivolity to which 
monistic philosophies are driven. It may honestly admit 
and sympathetically examine the case for Solipsism, and 
gather therefrom much instruction about the processes by 
which individual valuations acquire social currency. A 
monistic philosophy on the other hand is always haunted 
by the dread that if the One which alone truly is should 
turn out to be in any real sense spiritual, it may be 
. driven to admit that Solipsism is the ultimate truth. It 
is tempted, therefore, to hedge, and to obscure its logical 
implications, and to fix a gulf between the theoretic 
meaning of its principles and its practical consequences. 

A Humanist can afford to be more candid because 
no logical necessity impels him. He is quite free in the 
matter. If he wanted to be a solipsist he could be. If 
he were, he need not hesitate to say so. He would be 
afraid of no one, for he would see that there was no one 
to be afraid of. But if he did not want to be a solipsist, 

1 Republic, 487 D. 

xiv SOLIPSISM 251 

and denied that he was, this assurance should suffice, 
because it would yield a trustworthy guarantee. And if 
it could be observed that in his actions he did not ignore 
the existence of- others, but recognized them as beings 
with thoughts, wills and tempers of their own, for which 
he was both unable and unwilling to undertake the 
responsibility, the guarantee would be complete. 

For it is a unique peculiarity of a Humanist s philo- \ 
sophy that in it it is possible to argue back from a 
behaviour to the belief that underlies it. He holds that 
the reality of a belief depends on, and is tested by, its 
applicability. His beliefs therefore must be acted on, and 
he cannot afford the luxury of theoretic beliefs, which 
cannot be acted on in practice. If he acts on a belief, 
he must hold it true ; if he does not act on it, he 
does not truly believe it. In all other philosophies the 
highest truths may be unpractical and inapplicable to 
life, while the beliefs implied in action may be secretly 
despised as practical makeshifts. Hence arise endless 
possibilities of nonsense, ambiguity and misconstruction, 
not to say disingenuousness. For if what is believed 
to be the highest truth should be nonsensical verbiage, 
it cannot be detected by the test of practice, which can 
eliminate only errors that are acted on. Errors that 
remain purely theoretical cannot be got rid of, because 
they cannot be tested in the only final way. It cannot, 
therefore, be inferred that if such a philosopher behaves 
as if his fellow-men were other than himself, or he himself 
were other than God, he really believes this. He may 
only be pretending, or finding it necessary to convey a 
false impression for practical purposes, because in his 
philosophy there is no necessary connexion between 
theory and practice. Now in practice no one actually 
behaves as if he not only owned the world, but also 
was the world ; but whereas in the humanist s case 
it is possible to infer from his actions that he does 
not believe that he is the world, in the case of other 
philosophers it is not. Humanism, therefore, may safely 
be believed when it disavows Solipsism ; other philosophies 

252 HUMANISM xiv 

may be Solipsisms at heart, though they do not avow this 
in their behaviour. 

But what is Solipsism ? It may best be defined 
perhaps as the doctrine that all existence is experience, 
and that there is only one experient. The Solipsist 
thinks that he is the one. 

Now if this is thought out, it will be seen that very 
many sorts of philosophers are ultimately solipsists or 
as good as solipsists. When they do not themselves see 
this, they may fitly be called crypto-solipsists. Crypto- 
solipsism may also be ascribed to any view which needs 
Solipsism for its logical completion, and so the various 
sorts of Solipsism add up to a formidable total. 

1. That the absolute idealist is a solipsist need only 
be barely stated. For the matter has been threshed out 
elsewhere. 1 He is a solipsist because he believes that the 
Absolute is the sole experient, and that he is himself the 
incarnate Absolute. A good many absolute idealists, 
moreover, see this, and are proud of being the Absolute. 2 
But it is needless to linger over this distressing sort of 
philosophic megalomania, as its nature is so clear. 

2. Subjective idealists are classed as solipsists, 
almost by acclamation ; and yet this attribution seems 
in their case far more disputable. For a good many of 
them are also charged with pluralism, and it is hard to 
see how one can be both a pluralist and a solipsist. 
Why moreover should not Berkeley s pluralistic universe 
of Spirits be taken by us as seriously as it was intended ? 
It may have been a mistaken compliment to the Deity 
to impose on him the duty of lurking behind every 
particle of matter, but this is no reason for denying 
the communion of spiritual beings. The only difficulty 
Berkeley s system here presents is that of explaining how 
the individual comes to suspect a transcendent cause 

1 Cp. Studies in Humanism, Essay x. 

2 We learn however from one answer that when the writer (under ether) 
dreamt that he was the Absolute and that in fact Solipsism was true, he felt 
very lonely and miserable. Could one be sure of this, it would avenge on the 
Absolute its callous indifference towards the sufferings of the world. 

xiv SOLIPSISM 253 

beyond the flow of appearances ; but this difficulty is 
common to nearly all philosophies, so that we should be 
ill-advised to press the point. 

3. Aristotle on the other hand is clearly a crypto- 
solipsist, and if Aristotelians took their master seriously 
and tried to live up to his precepts, they should all be 
solipsists. For though at first sight Aristotle seems a 
perfect type of common-place realism, he has a queer 
streak of romance at the bottom of his mind, which 
nearly always in the end transfigures his conclusions. 
And so it ought not to surprise us that he has put 
up Solipsism as his supreme ideal. He makes his 
God into an incorrigible solipsist. For he is completely 
wrapped up in the contemplation of his own experience 
(1/0770-69 vorja-ews), in the ecstatic enjoyment of his own 
eternal perfection. God thinks only of himself, not of 
the world ; avrov apa voei, Aristotle gleefully declares, 
and the rest of the world does not exist for him. Unlike 
Olympian Zeus, he is non-social, and leads a /3to? yitoi/am;?, 
like a beast. Nevertheless Aristotle thinks we ought to 
imitate and emulate his God ; he insists that such imita 
tion is not futile flattery, but the best and highest thing 
we can do. Thus the Theoretic Life and the injunction 
O TT&X? fjia\icrra adavari^eiv mean be as solipsistic as 
you can, as your imperfect v\t] will allow. The con 
cluding romance of the Nicomachean Ethics^ therefore, 
means that Solipsism is the highest truth. 

4. If it is permissible to consult the opinions of the 
young and to accept them as omens of the future, we 
shall have to say that most of the historically famous 
philosophies are logically solipsisms, or at least will 
hereafter be treated as such. For the answers to the 
Greats question mentioned at the outset unequivocally 
teach that the ranks of the Solipsists include Berkeley 
(without a scruple), Hume (despite his annihilation of 
the self), Locke (despite his belief in external reality), 
Descartes (because he is supposed to have started that 
pernicious falling away from Aristotle which is called 

1 Book x, ch. 7 and 8. 



modern philosophy), Fichte and Lotze (because they were 
German idealists), all personal idealists, pragmatists and 
humanists en bloc and as a matter of course, and last, but 
not least, Dr. Rashdall, who was even said to be the 
typical solipsist. Evidently, if these voces populi are to be 
believed, the solipsists are a very formidable band, both 
here and in Hades. On the other hand some may 
perversely think that these dicta are not so much con 
tributions to the history of philosophy as reflections upon 
the way this subject is taught in Oxford. 

5. Still Solipsism is strangely insinuating, beyond 
doubt, and, especially when disguised as Crypto-Solipsism, 
worms its way into the most unlikely places. It has for 
example a curious affinity for the New Realism. To 
illustrate this it will happily not be necessary to examine 
all the New Realisms seriatim ; for their name is legion, 
and they agree in little but this that none of them can 
find any obvious escape from the old difficulties of the 
Old Realism. It will suffice therefore if we try to under 
stand the reason of this affinity, and then trace its working 
in two or three of the most notable brands of New 

To attribute solipsistic leanings to New Realisms seems 
at first a paradox which is not adequately vindicated by 
the common experience of the meeting of extremes. 
But there are in this case real logical grounds for the 
coincidence. The New Realist gets so absorbed in his 
object that he entirely neglects his subject, and so is not 
on his guard against his own subjectivity. Hence his 
account of the Real becomes de facto his own private 
view of it, which cannot be accommodated to any one 
else s and is at bottom a fabrication of his own idio 
syncrasy. Thus Solipsism finds it easy to enter into New 
Realisms and to possess them in at least four distinct ways. 

(i) New Realisms are mostly uncritical because they 
are so unpsychological. Despising the study of the 
history and pedigree of mind, the New Realist accepts as 
real whatever he thinks he perceives, without inquiring as 
to how he came to perceive it. Consequently he is hardly 

xiv SOLIPSISM 255 

conscious that he is not infallible, but is frequently forced 
to correct his first perceptions by subsequent experiences. 
His trust in the perception of the moment blinds him to 
the need of withholding his assent from his objects, of 
recognizing how his ideas pervade them, and of amend 
ing both by long and painful testing. He falls a prey 
to the intuitions of the moment, and never inquires how 
true intuitions are discriminated from false. 

(2) In consequence of never comparing his perceptions 
at different times with each other, he never asks himself 
how his perceptions accord with those of others. Hence 
he fails to notice the social and human character of truth, 
and to discover that the most imperative reason for 
assuming the existence of subjective ideas lies in the 
necessity of a social compromise. When A and B perceive 
reality differently, it is easier, humaner and better to 
ascribe to both an idea of reality than to assert the 
unreality of one of these perceptions and to leave them to 
fight out which one it is. Reality is thus cleared of a 
contradiction which can be treated as merely subjective. 
New Realism on the other hand, after ruling out the 
problems of intersubjective adjustment as psychological 
irrelevance, unwittingly bases its analysis on the single 
case of a knower knowing his world, without regard to 
the worlds of others. And this procedure is naturally 
and essentially solipsistic. 

(3) Even this case of a single mind at a given moment 
it cannot analyse effectively for lack of psychological 
interest. Hence it fails to perceive the all-pervading 
selectiveness of all thought, and to reflect on the important 
fact that whatever is perceived has been conditioned by 
the direction of attention upon it, and preferred to some 
thing else that might have been perceived if the attention 
had been directed otherwise. About the totality of reality 
an infinity of truths may be enunciated or perceived ; 
hence the one which is enunciated or perceived is necessarily 
the outcome of an enormous amount of selection. And 
it is obvious that the ground of this selection cannot 
lie in the reality as such, but must proceed from the 

256 HUMANISM xiv 

interests of the selecter. The facet of reality which is 
affirmed cannot have been selected by itself. For alike 
in active and in passive experiencing reality is always 
present as a whole. Hence the mere perceiving of any 
particular reality already implies an immense adjustment 
or cutting down of reality to subjective interests, which if 
unchecked may easily develop into Solipsism. 

(4) Being of a trustful and dogmatic character, the 
New Realism does not expect to be deceived and misled 
into error. It is consequently ill-equipped to deal with 
the deceitfulness of nature in a world in which everything 
genuine is mimicked, protectively or aggressively, and even 
a childlike faith in absolute truth is no guarantee of in 
fallibility. Hence so long as the New Realist refuses to 
be critical and to study this whole apparatus of deception, 
he will accept all its results as real just as they appear to 
him, and once more glides into an unwitting Solipsism. 

But it is high time to illustrate these generalities by 
their application to three selected cases of New Realism. 
All of these appear to be psychogenetically joint products 
of incapacity to reply to Mr. G. E. Moore s refutation of 
Idealism, and of unwillingness to carry Kantian principles 
out completely into a consistent account of mental activity, 
for fear of lapsing into subjectivism ; but as two of 
these have not yet appeared in the philosophic arena, 
they must be described anonymously as secret doctrines 
endemic in two of our leading colleges. 

(a) The first of them is the more lively, or less stable, 
form, and varies perceptibly from year to year. It is 
convinced that the troubles of dogmatic philosophy began 
when Locke introduced ideas into it, and that if ideas 
are abolished all will be well. It has no ideas, therefore, 
in its theory of knowledge. It starts from a definition of 
knowledge as an immediate apprehension of what is. It 
perceives realities, and not copies of them. There is, 
therefore, no gap between subject and object, and no 
need to interpose ideas between the mind and reality and 
to puzzle oneself vainly about their correspondence. 
The mind is caught fast in the embrace of that which is, 

xiv SOLIPSISM 257 

and nothing can divorce them. By thus shutting out 
ideas it hopes to leave no loophole for the demon of 
subjectivity to enter in. 

The theory has its difficulties, doubtless, especially 
when asked to explain the nature of error, but on the 
whole it is very reminiscent of Aristotle and seems very 
sensible. It reproduces, almost completely, the view 
of reality initially taken by an unsophisticated human 

And yet its weak point lies just here. It is good for 
a human mind. But not for more. So soon as the 
problem is complicated by the introduction of a second 
mind, its solution ceases to satisfy. For the second 
mind also perceives reality quite as spontaneously, con 
fidently, intuitively. Only it does not perceive quite 
like the first Each naturally maintains that it perceives 
rightly, and the other wrongly. The result is a row. To 
allay this disturbance, and to render social life possible, 
therefore, a compromise has to be affected between the 
conflicting claims of divergent minds. Common sense 
rules that to avoid quarrels neither shall be deemed to 
be in direct contact with the object as it really is. For 
if both had an immediate and inerrant apprehension of 
what is, the actual divergence between its results would 
plainly be impossible. But both are supposed to recognize 
one and the same object in their own subjective way. 
The common world of reality is variously reflected in 
the various individuals that cognize it. Thus to avoid 
greater evils a subjective factor is introduced into all 
knowing ; the ideas of various minds are interpolated 
between the mind and the realities it tries to know, but 
can never apprehend immediately. All perception of 
reality thus becomes representative, and is subject to 
subjective distortion, and how far this may go can never 
be determined a priori. 

Hinc illae lacrimae ; hence the long agony of the theory 
of knowledge, from Descartes to Kant and from Kant to 
Humanism. For the whole problem of what it means for 
two minds to know the same thing, and of how it can be 


258 HUMANISM xiv 

called the same if they know it differently, rushes back 
upon us. 

For Humanism indeed the coast remains clear and the 
answer simple. It merely bids us complete the work of 
Kant (most infelicitously called by him Copernican) by 
describing the psychical functioning to which our data are 
conformed in their integrity, i.e. without mutilating, 
depersonalizing and sublimating them by fictions of a 
Bewusstsein ilberhaupt. The subjectivity which was 
thought to vitiate cognition and refused to be eliminated, 
is a blessing not a curse ; for it is really that which gives 
the needful cue to the objective ordering of the initial 
mess of crude experience. It is the importance of some 
of its contents for the purposes of human life which 
confers upon them a superior reality ; it is the usefulness 
of some ideas which leads to their (intersubjective) re 
cognition as true and objectively valid, and effectively 
discriminates them from the vagrant fancies that are 
rejected as worthless and therefore remain merely sub 
jective. For a mind, however, which has become replete 
with fixed ideas that the thinker s personality must at all 
costs be ignored, that the study of psychical fact is 
incompatible with that of physical order, that the genesis 
of knowledge has no relation to its nature, and that once 
science condescends to take note of the individual it is for 
ever debarred from noticing anything else, this Humanist 
way of producing objectivity will seem to demand far 
too radical a rethinking of old prejudices. It will be 
rejected doubtless ; but what will be done about the 
problem ? 

It may be suggested to the New Realist that the 
simplest way of maintaining his original position and 
escaping from the difficulties of this whole criticism is to 
turn solipsist. He cannot find room for the objects of 
other minds, but he can get rid of the other minds. If 
he will systematically refuse to recognize the other minds 
that seem to disagree with him, he avoids the complication 
which such recognition inevitably introduces. He is left 
alone with his objects, and no one can question the right- 

xiv SOLIPSISM 259 

ness of his perceptions. In words perhaps this position 
may be thought to fall short of Solipsism, because there 
are still realities for him to perceive. But he has 
become the autocratic judge of this whole reality ; and 
this is in substance Solipsism. He is the only mind in the 
world, of which he is the sole experient. Oto? 

($) The second type of New Realism seems less 
extreme, and one might prognosticate for it a longer life. 
It makes attempts to account for the existence and correc 
tion of error, and for the growth and improvement of 
knowledge. To do so it has to admit the presence of 
a subjective contribution in our perceptions of reality ; 
but it regards this as the source only of error and 
opinion. Between opinion and knowledge it fixes 
a great gulf, like Plato in the Republic. Knowledge is 
of the object, and though it involves a relation of the 
mind, it must not be supposed to alter the nature of its 
terms. Hence the object in the cognitive relation is just 
as it was (or would be) in itself, and nothing about it is 
dependent on the mind s knowing it. This last corollary 
is of course somewhat difficult to defend, when it 
is questioned. So is the gulf between opinion and 
Knowledge. It might prove hard to adduce an un 
equivocal example of Knowledge/ and to show that 
what is so called is ever more than opinion, and, of 
course, if no Knowledge can be found, its total effect is 
sceptical. Again the theory is hard put to it to assign 
a tolerable position to a good many facts, e.g. those of 

But it is when confronted with the facts of error and 
difference of opinion that this New Realism most clearly 
seems to falter. When A and B both claim to apprehend 
reality, but differ irreconcilably as to what reality is, it is 
at a loss to decide which of them is right. And yet the 
need for such decisions cannot lightly be denied. For 
such differences are deep-seated and persistent. Two 
men may even agree entirely as to the facts, so far as 

1 Odyssey, x. 495. 



human science can express them ; yet they may still be 
worlds apart in their attitude towards them. What the 
one hails with joy, the other may recoil from with abhor 
rence. For example, one may worship the syllogism, and 
another despise it, though both may agree upon the 
perfection of its form. One man may shrink from 
immortality, another from extinction. To one the belief 
that all is one may be an inspiring gospel, to another the 
paralysis of all effort and the grave of all interest in life. 
Does it not seem piteously inadequate, then, to decree all 
such differences out of existence by calling them differ 
ences of opinion, proving only that there is no Knowledge 
of the matters they concern ? Moreover it is vain ; for 
men differ as to the truth about all things (even about 
mathematics so soon as one gets beyond the merest 
verbal trifling), 1 and differ most signally about the matters 
of the highest import, such as God, Freedom and Im 
mortality, and the meaning and value of life. This New 
Realism, therefore, has either to confine itself to the 
abstract enunciation of the veriest platitudes, such as 
that everything either is or is not, though no one can 
tell which, or to exclude from the realm of knowledge 
proper everything that is really important and therefore 
in dispute, and to assume an agnostic attitude on such 
questions as, e.g., whether God exists and the like. 

Hence once more a great temptation comes upon the 
New Realist. He could treat the whole body of his own 
opinions as Knowledge, if only he could suppress the 
pestilent opinions that conflict with his. This be could 
do in two ways, either practically or theoretically. Of 
these the practical way would doubtless be preferable in 
itself, were it not impracticable ; however much he may 
desire to produce unanimity by the old effective methods, 
ruthless persecution for the sake of establishing a philo- 

1 Nay, Prof. Poincare" has recently declared (1912) that the difference between 
the pragmatist, and the Cantorian attitude in mathematics is theoretically in 
soluble, because it proceeds from a difference in mental type. As, however, it is 
part of the pragmatists case that such differences exist, and can only be evaluated 
practically, this is in effect a verdict in their favour. Cp. Studies in Humanism, 
ch. xii. 10. 



sophic theory of knowledge would not be tolerated in 
these days. 

In theory, however, Solipsism grants him the means to 
achieve his end. If he can persuade himself that he 
alone experiences, he can hold that whatever he feels 
certain of is Knowledge, and the opinions of others 
need no longer contradict his. He can treat them as 
illusory equally with themselves, and he will consistently 
ignore the opinions and cut their authors. 

The difference between this type of New Realism and 
the first will be plainly this, that whereas Solipsism was 
a necessity for the truth of the theory in the first case, in 
the second it is only a convenience. 

(c] A third crypto-solipsistic form of New Realism has 
been promulgated by Prof. S. Alexander in his pre 
sidential address to the Aristotelian Society (1908). 
Like so many realists, he has assumed the chief crux, 
viz. that perception is unequivocally of the object, and 
that the object is not mental but physical. It is assumed 
also that perception makes no difference to the object, 
and that therefore a hundred persons may all see the 
same tree. So far this is only nai ve Realism, and not 
obviously untenable. But what are we to think of the 
further doctrine that the memory also of the tree is a 
physical object ? Do the hundred persons have the same 
memory-object, or does each have his own, and are there 
as many objects as there are memories ? If so, the one 
perceived tree has magically blossomed into a hundred 
remembered ones, and these must all be related to the 
tree and to each other. And what of the changes 
memory-objects undergo ? Are they too all physical 
and not mental ? The only way to reduce this plethoric 
wealth of physical objects to something like a manage 
able compass would seem to be that of Solipsism, and 
this might also relieve the theory of the embarrassments 
in which its obvious and avowed inability to account for 
error at present involves it. 

6. One more example of a constructively solipsistic 
doctrine may complete our survey. The doctrine that 



Subject and Object are mutually interdependent is crypto- 
solipsistic. It begins, tamely enough, by holding that the 
Object must exist for a Subject, and no subject can exist 
without objects. This doctrine, in its proper meaning, is 
a purely verbal truth, an affair of definitions, stating the 
meaning of the words subject and object. But in 
Oxford it is, for some inscrutable reason, still regarded as 
important ; and strangely enough is credited to idealism, 
instead of being classed as thoroughgoing relativism. 

At any rate the doctrine becomes either Solipsism or 
nonsense so soon as an attempt is made to apply it. If 
it seriously means to affirm that the existence of the 
Object is conditional upon that of the Subject, it implies 
that whenever a subject dies the world of objects must be 
annihilated with it. But this is clearly not what happens 
to our common world whenever one of us dies. It 
follows therefore either that the death of a subject is 
inconceivable and impossible, or that what died was not a 
subject, or that the common world is not an object, or 
that what was annihilated was not the common world 
and so that the latter is not dependent on its relation to 
a subject. But the first of these alternatives seems 
contrary to fact, while the last is contrary to the theory ; 
the others render it irrelevant to the problem of know 
ledge. For what we wanted to know was what happened 
to the objective world when a subject died, on the 
idealistic assumption that a subject is implied in the 
persistence of every object. Clearly if this is so, the per 
sistence of the Object after the death of a subject shows 
that the Subject which sustained it does not die when one 
of us dies (alike whether that death means our extinction 
or our transfer to a different world). We, therefore, and 
our world are not Subject and Object in the sense re 
quired by the theory. The Subject is not one of us, but 
must be a category, or a Cosmic Ego, or what not. But 
if so, how is it, and its Object, relevant to the nature of 
our knowledge ? There is on the one hand the deathless 
Subject of an indestructible world, and on the other we, 
who are not subjects in this sense, perceiving objects 

xiv SOLIPSISM 263 

after our kind ; and between the two there is no real 
connexion. The Subject, doubtless, may continue to 
perceive the changeless world which forms its Object 
throughout all the mischances of our mortal life ; but we 
never perceived that world, and to our questions about 
the relation of our world to our minds we get no answer. 
The whole doctrine has thus become an irrelevant 
speculation concerning a Subject and an Object about 
which we only know that they are not human, nor 
humanly knowable ; it leaves unexplained and un 
intelligible the position of the pseudo - subjects and 
pseudo-objects which surround us. 

Once more the only way of really making the theory 
mean anything and of really correlating subject and 
object is to construe it solipsistically. The consistent 
idealist must hold that since with the Subject there would 
pass away the Object, it is only if, and so long as, he is a 
subject that a world of objects can endure. 

It is possible that by this time the force of the argu 
ment may be producing an impression that for company s 
sake every philosopher, who cannot bear to stand alone 
and to lead the /3ib<? ^ovwr^, had better own to 
Solipsism. But such intimidation will not daunt the 
Humanist nor cause him to desist from his endeavour (i) 
to refute Solipsism and (2) to solve the solipsistic puzzle. 

(i) The Humanist s refutation of Solipsism is simple 
and sufficient. He is not a solipsist, because he chooses 
to believe in the existence of others. He believes this 
not so much for the sentimental reason that he does not 
want to be alone in the universe, but because he does not 
want to regard himself as the author of his whole experi 
ence. He will not take the responsibility of being all 
there is in a world such as is now provided. He does 
not desire to be any or all of the other minds, nor the 
totality of reality. He sees that he cannot be the 
Absolute without being also the Devil (and an insane 
Devil at that !), and so he prefers to be neither Absolute 
nor Devil. 

264 HUMANISM X iv 

Now this position seems eminently reasonable, but if 
any one declines to accept it, the Humanist cannot compel 
dissentients to adopt it. He cannot compel them not to 
be solipsists, if they prefer to regard him and everything 
else as just creatures of their disordered imaginations ; 
nor does it follow from the nature of his theory that he 
should have this power. Whereas to a solipsist it must 
appear extremely puzzling, as well as annoying, that he 
should not be able to avoid contradiction and resistance 
at the hands of what ex hypotliesi are his own creatures. 

The Humanist refutation of Solipsism, then, begins 
frankly with a postulate. Into the origin of this postulate 
it is no more necessary to inquire here than in other cases. 
For it seems unmeaning to discuss the antecedent reason 
ableness of a thing not yet in existence. The human 
reason must have something to reflect on before it can 
discuss the value of anything. A postulate, therefore, 
has to be made before it can be justified. The origin, 
therefore, of our fundamental postulates can only be 
deduced in a mythical form. But we are not really 
concerned with it. Whether it was an inspiration or a 
random guess, the postulate that there are others has 
come into existence. Once made, it has of course been 
tested by its working. And it will hardly be disputed 
that it has worked very well. It is therefore accounted 
reasonable and true by the generality of mankind, who 
are not philosophers. And a Humanist philosopher at 
any rate is not easily persuaded that in so vital a point 
the experience of mankind is wrong. He will therefore 
claim the right to hold the postulate true, because, and so 
long as, it works. 

It will be noticed that the refutation of Solipsism by 
the success of this postulate is thoroughly pragmatic. It 
is neither a priori nor absolute. It does not rest on 
presuppositions about the possibilities of all experience. 
It does not profess to show that Solipsism is unthinkable. 
It is willing to allow that Solipsists may exist, and even 
flourish. It is willing to listen to what they have to say 
for themselves. It makes no higher claim for its own 

xiv SOLIPSISM 265 

postulate than that it seems to provide a congenial and 
adequate way of handling the facts of human experience. 
If that experience should alter, it admits that it might be 
necessary to revise our postulates. But while it endures 
as it is, a successful postulate is as true and as reasonable 
as truth can be. 

But does not this concede too much and admit that a 
reasonable Solipsism also may be possible ? To deny 
this possibility a priori would be to deny that there may 
be legitimate differences of opinion, conditioned by the 
deep-seated differences of human personalities. It would 
imply a relapse into that absolutistic intolerance, which 
has provoked so many inhuman attempts to reduce all 
thought to the level of a mechanical uniformity, and 
renders the pretensions of metaphysical system-mongers 
so ludicrous a series of failures. It does not follow then 
from the fact that Solipsism may reasonably be denied 
that it may not reasonably be upheld. This latter con 
tention therefore demands distinct examination. 

(2) If the belief in other minds is a postulate, any one 
may, if he chooses, try to dispense with it. But he still 
remains under the obligation of devising an alternative 
scheme for the conduct of his life. Let him, therefore, 
try. His position is that his whole experience is like a 
dream, and he interprets his waking experience by his 
dream experience, instead of vice versa, like the generality 
of men. He believes that he makes his dream and all 
the creatures in it, and this belief he extends to all the 
incidents of his life. 

There seems to be nothing theoretically absurd or 
untenable about such Solipsism : it may even claim the 
merit of greater consistency as compared with the vulgar 
view that interprets solipsistically dreams alone. 1 But 
the solipsist would have of course to adapt his theory 
somehow to his practice. He must not for example be 
led to imagine that because life was a dream of his, he 
could know beforehand how the dream was going. For 
if he imagined this, events would soon refute his theory. 

1 Cp. Studies in Humanism, ch. xx. 16-18. 



In other words his Solipsism would have to be empirical^ 
and not a priori, precisely as is our ordinary solipsistic 
interpretation of dreams. 

A Solipsism so conceived would seem to be harmless. 
It would make no practical difference. Our solipsist 
would have to recognize in the persons and objects of his 
dream quite as much independence and ability to 
resist the control of his will as the most benighted 
pluralist. He would have to treat them as other than 
his dreaming self. We all usually pay this amount of 
respect to the creatures of our dreams. If the solipsistic 
theory of their nature is to be retained, it is on condition 
that it remains a mere theory which is not allowed to 
affect conduct. Should it be allowed to do so, it would 
of course spell disaster, and would refute itself in the one 
really final way, viz. by the elimination of its holder. 

Nevertheless it is a point deserving of consideration 
whether theoretic exception should not be taken to an 
assumption which Solipsism shares with Common Sense. 
Both assume it as self-evident that the solipsistic inter 
pretation of dream life is valid, i.e. that the self that has 
the dream is identical with the self that makes the dream. 
This, however, may be disputed. The dreamer is the 
victim, and not the maker, of the dream which surprises 
and torments him. Hence every dreamer, and every 
solipsist, is not really one but two. The strange possi 
bilities of such an inherent duality in the self are 
vividly illustrated by the famous Beauchamp case so 
graphically recorded by Dr. Morton Prince, 1 in which, 
apparently, the maker of dreams obtained control of 
the body. If then after the fashion of Miss Beauchamp 
every solipsist is accompanied by his Sally, it might 
become a subtle question whether the dreamer or the 
maker of dreams was really entitled to be a solipsist, and 
how sincerely the former could really take a solipsistic view 
of his complex personality. But it will probably be vain 
to raise this point ; metaphysicians have always been too 
neglectful of ordinary people s dreams to be critical of 

1 The Dissociation of a Personality (1906). 

xiv SOLIPSISM 267 

their own ; and besides the subject is too recent, too 
sensational, and above all too psychological, to appeal to 

For a philosophy, however, which is content to stop 
short at the theoretic level there is no other way of 
refuting the Solipsism which we have described. But 
for a philosophy which insists that theoretic doctrines 
must be capable of application to practice the last word 
is not yet said. It will fasten on the very feature in this 
Solipsism which exempted it from theoretic refutation, 
and justify thereby its final condemnation. A Solipsism, 
it will say, which must in practice recognize other minds 
and acts as if they were real and makes no practical 
difference in the solipsist s behaviour, does not logically 
differ from the view it simulates in practice. 

On pragmatic principles this objection seems sound and 
insuperable. If a solipsism admits that it must in practice 
behave as if other beings were real, then it has plainly 
passed into its other, and can no longer boast of a separate 
existence : it has suffered the same fate as an offensive 
ghost which, according to Plutarch, once made itself a 
nuisance in the Plataean territory. When it declined to 
yield to entreaty or exorcism, the Plataeans simply caused 
an image of it to be placed over the spot it haunted, and 
then, though no doubt it continued to occupy the same 
space, it was no longer a supernatural, but merely an 
aesthetic, eyesore a. hideous statue being something 
wholly natural. To any solipsism, on the other hand, 
which will not in practice admit the existence of other 
minds, the sufficient reply is that it is impracticable. And 
the fact that neither of these retorts constitutes a con 
clusive refutation of Solipsism in the eyes of philosophies 
which have assumed a different conception of the relation 
of theory to practice, leaves Solipsism a thorn in the flesh 
(or perhaps a squib in the vitals) only of those other 



The claim to infallibility is logically involved in the belief in absolute truth, 
and is held by the Pope in a less extreme form than by the philosopher. 
It legitimates intolerance and leads to persecution and social discord. 
Common sense evades its practical absurdities by assuming that no 
human truth is ever absolute. But this leads to scepticism. 

It is better, therefore, to drop the absolutist assumption altogether, and 
to humanize truth, making it mean the best view devised up to date. This 
legitimates and promotes toleration and social harmony. But it shocks 
all dogmatists. And so the Roman Church will probably suppress 
Modernism, and refuse to give up its dogma-enacting powers, baleful as 
they have proved even to itself. 

A DETACHED spectator of the follies of mankind could 
not but be profoundly impressed by the widespread 
interest which has been aroused throughout the world by 
the Pope s Encyclical against what is called Modernism. 
In many quarters the Papal condemnation is regarded as 
a sort of Congo atrocity in the spiritual world. But no 
reason is given why Protestants and Agnostics, Jews and 
Infidels, should interfere, even in thought, with the way 
in which internal discipline is administered in a Church 
which has always proclaimed its resolution to prescribe 
with authority and to enforce unquestioning obedience. 
Why should sympathy be lavished on persons who are 
oppressed because they refuse to liberate themselves by 
leaving an institution which excommunicates them ? In 
these days when no Church is strong enough to persecute 
effectively, and it has become quite an arguable position 
that the best way of furthering the spiritual development 

1 This paper appeared in the Hibbert Journal for October 1908. For further 
light on the genesis of intolerance cp. my Formal Logic, ch. xxv. 



of mankind would be to break up all ecclesiastical 
institutions, why should Roman ways of enforcing discipline 
be denounced with indignation ? Why should not those 
who do not relish them be left to make their choice 
between submission and departure ? They have been 
surreptitiously trying to combine the advantages of an 
ancient and highly picturesque community with those of 
an unrestricted freedom of individual thought ; they have 
been detected and sharply called to order. Why then 
should they be pitied and paradoxically helped from 
outside to stay inside by people who would gladly welcome 
them if they would come out ? 

In other quarters the Pope s procedure meets with 
strong approval, and rationalist philosophers may be 
heard condemning Modernism as fervently as Pragmatism. 
The perplexities of the controversy, moreover, are only 
deepened when one observes how curiously vague and 
general are the Modernist s replies to the Papal accusa 
tions. It is all very well to denounce the obscurantism 
of the Vatican and to prophesy the disastrous failure of 
the Papal policy ; but it would have been more to the 
purpose to show how any other course would have been 
consistent with Papal authority. 

Thus the whole situation forcibly suggests a suspicion 
that the facts have not been fully put before the public. 
Modernism is clearly suspected of being something far 
more dangerous and subversive than the Pope s examples 
prove ; and both its allies and its enemies appear to think 
that there is more at issue than merely the domestic 
question of what latitude of thought the Roman Church 
can tolerate. 

A belief that this is truly so, that this suspicion is 
amply justified, that the issue is really one of vital im 
portance to the whole human race, and that this can be, 
and ought to be, made clear, is the raison d etre of this 

What is really at stake and what really arouses so 
much interest is the old conflict between the claim to 
infallibility and the right to persecute on the one side, 

270 HUMANISM xv 

and the freedom of thought and the duty of toleration on 
the other. This it is that evokes so much feeling on both 
sides, when it is (more or less clearly) perceived ; and 
rightly, for the question is plainly one of universal import 
and worth fighting over. It should, however, have been 
explained that the decision of this question does not 
rest with popes and theologians, but with philosophers 
and scientists : for it depends ultimately on the view that 
is taken of Truth. 

Very few have understood the claim to infallibility. 
Nearly all would scout the idea that we may all be 
infallible, even the silliest of us, if we will only equip 
ourselves with a suitable view of Truth. In non-Catholic 
countries it is commonly supposed that the infallibility of 
the Pope is the acme of theological extravagance, and 
that the Vatican Council of 1870 irretrievably stultified 
Romanism for ever in the eyes of reason by its enunciation 
of this monstrous dogma. In point of fact, infallibility is 
an essential postulate implicit in all rationalistic philosophy, 
and the dogma of the Roman Church is merely the 
religious formulation of a belief which it shares with 
nearly all its critics. The infallibility of the Pope differs 
from that of the philosopher and the common man only 
in being limited, relatively reasonable and couched in 
singularly guarded and moderate terms. For the Pope, 
when he claims to be infallible, does not believe himself 
to be infallible on all and sundry subjects, but only when 
speaking on matters of religious faith, and that solemnly 
and in his capacity as head of an infallible Church. And 
he takes great care not to say when he is speaking in this 
capacity, so that practically the dogma is comparatively 
innocuous. Whereas the common man claims infallibility 
for every thought that may chance to come into his head 
at any time, whether or not it agrees with what he said 
a moment ago. He attributes, moreover, to every one 
else a similar endowment with infallibility, regardless of 
the consequences. 

It is true, no doubt, that the man in the street is 
unaware of the monstrous claim he makes. But this 


does not alter the facts that both he and the Pope believe 
themselves to hold the same theory of Truth, and that 
this theory implies a claim to infallibility. The sole 
difference is that whereas the Pope draws its consequences 
consistently, cautiously, and with moderation, the man in 
the street does so inconsistently, wildly, and extra 
vagantly. And then the latter turns upon the former 
and roundly accuses him of demanding what is repugnant 
to reason ! 

Yet the Pope and the man in the street both profess 
belief in the existence of absolute truth. Both also 
believe in their own capacity to enunciate it. But an 
absolute truth is one which could not under any circum 
stances become false. Whoever enunciates it, therefore, 
could not (so far) possibly be wrong-. But what is this 
but to claim infallibility ? 

As ordinarily assumed, however, this claim is wildly 
absurd. For when men fail to agree in enunciating 
absolute truths, each has as good a right to think himself 
infallible as the other. Every man, therefore, who in good 
faith makes a statement he believes to be true, and believes 
that truth is absolute, must claim infallible truth for his 
statement, and infallibility pro tanto for himself, its maker. 
He becomes a little pope in posse in his own eyes. And 
he must insist on enforcing his rights. All must agree 
with him. The facts that his pronouncements do not 
meet with universal acceptance, and indeed that no two 
men ever quite agree, cannot affect the theoretic validity of 
his claim. Nor can it be impugned by the fact that 
others put forward conflicting claims with equal assurance. 
Each must abide by his own vision of absolute truth. 
Whoever does not see the same as he does must be 
either a fool or a knave : a fool if he cannot see it, a 
knave if he will not admit that he sees it. He must be 
made to see it, therefore, by fair means or foul. The 
social consequences may be imagined. There must be 
war unceasing and unsparing upon earth, until one and 
the same Truth, immutable, infallible, and absolute, is 
established upon it, and is seen and accepted by all without 



exception. Thus persecution becomes a duty and tolerance 
a crime. 

Common Sense, of course, would be the first to shrink 
with horror from the consequences of its own doctrine. 
For, unlike philosophy, it will never press logic to 
absurdity. It will decline, therefore, to take the claim 
to infallibility with such tragic earnestness in practice. It 
will much prefer to point out that while no doubt it is 
imperative to believe that absolute truth exists, it would 
be decidedly presumptuous to suppose that any one had 
got it. In fact there is no very urgent necessity to regard 
absolute truth as anything but an ideal. In practice no 
one can really work with it. Not only does it lead to 
endless quarrels when different men all claim to be 
absolutely right, but even the same man entangles himself 
by enunciating incompatible truths with equal absoluteness 
at different times. And so it will finally be suggested that 
perhaps this inconvenient infallibility had better be dropped, 
and even smile approval on a paradoxical philosopher who, 
perceiving the awkwardness of the situation, comes forward 
with proposals to attenuate its virulence by contending 
that though every judgment any one makes is necessarily 
infallible for the time being, yet there is nothing in this 
to prevent any one from superseding and annulling his 
infallible judgment by another equally infallible, and as 
shortlived, the moment after. 1 

It is clear, however, that reluctance to follow out the 
logical consequences of an unpalatable doctrine is not 
strictly the right way to atone for its initial ferocity. 
It is far more consistent to interpret absolute truth 
absolutistically than to draw its fangs in such a lax and 
easy-going democratic way. It will never do to let 
common sense steer us straight into scepticism, by sur 
rendering the belief that some one must have absolute 
truth. If, we should argue, absolute truth exists, it is 
clear, no doubt, that the common man has not got it. 

1 Such is actually the purport of Mr. F. H. Bradley s doctrine of the in 
fallibility of the last judgment (cf. Mind, N.S. , No. 66, and my comments in No. 
67- PP- 373-6). 


But some one must have it, else it would not exist, and 
then there would be no truth at all. Even if it is among 
the prerogatives of deity, it is reasonable to suppose that 
it has been deposited with some human representative. 
Let us search the world, therefore, for one whom we can 
regard as such a depositary of absolute truth, and submit 
to his authority. And whom shall we find to satisfy 
these conditions better than the Pope ? His infallibility 
is infinitely more credible than that of the man in the 

Such a train of thought must surely appeal very 
powerfully to all who feel a spiritual craving to submit 
themselves to authority, who long to shuffle off the 
responsibility for their acts, and to find some one who 
will guide and direct them. And their name is legion. 
If, therefore, there were no Pope, he would have to be 
invented for such souls. His Holiness need not fear that 
his faithful will desert him. There is no reason to think 
that the anima naturalitcr Vaticana is becoming extinct. 
He must, however, eschew the restriction of his claim to 
faith and morals. The absolutistic view of truth logically 
demands that truth be fully unified. A plurality of 
authority implies a plurality of truth ; and this is inadmis 
sible. The Pope, therefore, must be the infallible 
authority in art, politics, and science, as well as in 
religion. There is, moreover, a practical reason for this 
arrangement. If there is no single infallibility to cover 
the whole realm of thought, if there are a number of 
authorities all claiming to speak infallibly in the name 
of their respective sciences, it is impossible to avoid con 
flicts and collisions between them ; and this must dis 
credit, weaken, and perhaps destroy, the whole principle 
of authority as such. 

Before, however, this unification of authorities is finally 
achieved, it is easy to predict that a prolonged period of 
painful contention must ensue. The world at present 
contains a great number of conflicting authorities, of 
which it is by no means clear that the Roman Church 
is the strongest and best fitted to survive ; it contains also 




many recalcitrants against all authority, and an appreciable 
number of philosophers who, though they insist on the 
absolute authority of Reason, will admit no reason but 
their own. It seems improbable, therefore, that this 
doctrine of the infallibility of those who speak in the 
name of absolute truth will make for social peace and 
quiet. For all parties are in duty bound by their 
allegiance to absolute truth to wage war unflinchingly 
upon all views but their own, and wherever they can to 
oppress, suppress, and persecute by all means in their 
power. History, therefore, will repeat itself. Its blood 
stained pages tell too eloquently how thoroughly man 
has tried to live up to his supposed obligations, and the 
psychological intolerance which has become so natural 
in man shows how deeply the corollaries of his belief in 
the absoluteness of truth have sunk into his soul. 

Is it not possible, therefore, to pay too high a price 
even for absolute truth ? In modern times there is 
probably a growing number of men to whom the price 
to be paid will seem excessive and such consequences 
seem repulsive. It is time, therefore, that for their benefit 
we considered the alternative which, apprehended with 
various degrees of clearness, underlies the modern revolt 
against mere authority, the Modernist attitude towards 
religion, and the extensive sympathy therewith. 

Let us return to the practical but illogical compromise 
whereby Common Sense robbed the intolerant belief in 
the absoluteness of Truth of all its terrors. A single 
step beyond it in the same direction will take us into a 
new world, a very paradise of freedom. Common Sense 
was willing to admit that in point of fact absolute truth 
was not in any man s possession, and that however 
confident men might feel about the truth they had, they 
were often, if not always, victims of an illusion, and 
might as well allow for this possibility in their behaviour 
towards their fellows. For its immediate purpose of 
mitigating the acerbity of absolutist theory and securing 
social intercourse this compromise is plainly adequate. 
It works well enough in practice. Theoretically, however, 


it is more than dubious. It is most unpleasantly and 
directly suggestive of sceptical inferences. If it is held 
that most men most of the time are deluded when they 
suppose themselves to be enunciating absolute truth, if it 
is impossible to show that any one ever succeeds in 
enunciating such a thing, what does the doctrine of 
absolute truth become but a subtle and insidious means of 
discrediting all human truths ? Is not this the explana 
tion of that paradox of philosophic history, viz. that 
consistent rationalism always in the end collapses into 
scepticism ? 

It is clear then that absolute truth is not really an 
operative idea. It is an ideal that ever recedes into the 
distance when we try to grasp it. Men are not really 
infallible, and cannot treat each other as such. The truths 
they actually deal in are not absolute. The common-sense 
belief that they are is really an ill-considered prejudice. 

Let us candidly confess, therefore, that not only do 
we not have absolute truth, but that what we have is 
enough to content us. Let us boldly say that we do not 
need absolute truth, that it is a superfluity and an encum 
brance, and get rid of it in theory as well as in practice. 
Let us frame a new conception of Truth. Let us strip 
her aegis of the rigours and terrors that compelled 
reluctant assent but rendered her unapproachable in her 
warlike armour, and teach her to dwell peaceably in our 
midst, to speak our language, and to interest herself in 
our life. Let us, in a word, humanize Truth, instead of 
idolizing her as a goddess who is more than half a 
demon. Let us define the true no longer as what is 
cogent and compulsory and irresistible, but as what is 
attractive and valuable and satisfying. Let Truth mean 
whatever can satisfy our cognitive cravings, whatever can 
answer a logical problem. And let it mean our best 
answer for the time being. Let it be conceived, that is, 
as essentially progressive and improvable, and therefore 
as superseded by new truth and turning into error so 
soon as something superior to the old dawns upon any 
human soul. 


Thus Truth will no longer shine upon us from afar 
with the dim glimmer of an infinitely distant nebula. It 
will no longer dazzle us with the delusive flashes of a 
will-o -the-wisp that is really error. It will be a torch 
kindled by human will and wielded by human hands (or 
rather a succession of such torches, each rekindled as the 
last expires), always lighting the way for man as he passes 
onwards. The objects it illumines will come into its 
sphere as man s life requires them ; they will drop back 
into the limbo of the useless, out of which they were 
drawn, as they are used up or improved upon. 

From such a reconstitution of the idea of Truth it is 
clear that man must gain immensely. And, apart from 
the glamour of words, even Truth will lose nothing. 
Even its absoluteness is not wholly lost. It is only 
avowed to be what it is an ideal, the culmination of 
Truth s working value, the perfect satisfaction of every 
cognitive ambition. As such it may still yield the remote 
and emotional consolation which was all it could afford 
before, when the illusions of verbiage were purged away. 
The human truth which alone we have and alone we 
need, on the other hand, will be a very real and potent 
influence. It must enormously enlarge the liberty of 
thought. It must enormously enhance humaneness of 
discussion. It must utterly explode the foundations of 
dogmatism and intolerance. 

For nothing at first can be true but what can 
commend itself to some one and satisfy some spiritual 
need. Conversely, whatever can do this can claim 
truth ; it has a claim to be heard and tested, even 
though it be merely the fleeting inspiration of a moment. 
Every man has a vote in the making of truth ; any man s 
truth may be elected, any man s vote may decide the 
election. But no man has a right to use force ; no man 
has a right to impose his convictions on any other : 
superior attractiveness alone effects conversions in the 
conflict of opinions. Nor has any one a right to argue 
that because he is right every one else must be wrong : 
Truth is plural, and can adjust herself, like a rainbow. 


to every man s sight and point of view. Hence an 
indefinite variety of truths may be valid relatively to a 
variety of differently constituted and situated persons. 
Toleration mounts the throne left vacant by Infallibility. 

But what a blasphemous travesty of Truth, what a 
hideous anarchy it must all seem to absolutists, dogmatists, 
pedants, authoritarians of all sorts ! How it must seem 
to them to shiver into atoms the whole edifice of Truth 
and the foundations of all intellectual order ! No wonder 
they must support Rome against the inroads of such 
modernity ! No wonder they are almost speechless with 
horror and incoherent with indignation ! For the mirage 
of an absolute Truth in the skies is dissolved beyond 
recall, and its worshippers are left desolate. To them it 
seemed the real thing. It never was the real thing, and 
they have lost nothing but an illusion. But they do not, 
and perhaps will not, see this. All that was of real value 
remains. The terrestrial realities remain of which the 
celestial phantasmagoria was the reflection. There 
remains the practical necessity of living together and 
agreeing upon the conditions of a common life. Man 
remains with his gregarious nature, his lack of originality, 
his respect for tradition, his easy acquiescence in the 
habitual, his dislike of innovation, his preference for order 
and system, his eagerness to think the world a cosmos 
in short, with all the forces that weld society together. 

More than enough remains, therefore, for the compact 
ing of our intellectual order. The real and objective 
becomes that which it is socially convenient to recognize, 
in a rich variety of senses. Objective truth will be that 
which all or most can agree on, and fits in best with the 
course of their experience. It articulates itself into 
systems of truths which are more substantial, more useful, 
and probably more durable, than the transcendent vision 
which was sacrificed. Certainly these systems are at 
present plural, not because Truth cannot be conceived as 
one for the plural truths can easily be conceived as con 
verging towards a single consummation but because men 
do not, in fact, agree. Whether they can agree remains 

278 HUMANISM xv 

to be seen ; they have every motive to agree, and have 
lost the strong stimulus they had to insist obstinately on 
their individual infallibility. But, on the other hand, the 
notion of agreement has itself become less exacting : men 
can agree to differ ; they can maintain all individual 
views which do not clash with those of others or lead to 
social discord. In short, the existing situation will be 
altered only by the infusion of a more tolerant temper 
into all opinions. 

But has not all this carried us far away from the 
Modernist movement in the Church of Rome ? Not at 
all ; it has brought us to its core. Modernism, in its 
philosophic forms, 1 is essentially the recognition by certain 
more enlightened or sensitive clerics of the intellectual 
forces which are drawing men in religion, as in science 
and philosophy, towards the humanistic conception of 
Truth which we have sketched. They have perceived at 
last what the lives of laymen have always dumbly attested, 
that religion is not primarily a matter of theology but of 
religious experience, and is nowhere reducible to a rigid 
chain of incontrovertible syllogisms. They have therefore 
abandoned the intellectualistic travesties of religion, which 
kill its spirit to embalm its letter, and offer long strings of 
pseudo-rational propositions as a satisfaction to a reason 
which easily detects their imposture and is itself seeking 
for something more nutritious than pure intellect. But 
such dogmas, as M. Leroy has shown, are utter failures as 
purely intellectual propositions : they neither can nor do 
compel assent ; as such, they can neither be defended nor 
even made to mean anything that matters. So to under 
stand the meaning of dogmas and the nature of religious 
beliefs is a fatal mistake. They are not really intellectual 
products at all, and therefore cannot be attacked (or 
defended) as such. No religion really rests on the 

1 Its historical criticisms of ecclesiastical tradition are quite a different affair. 
Here the trouble arises out of the attempt to reduce religious truth to historical, 
and history to science. But historical truth differs fundamentally from scientific 
in that the evidence on which it rests cannot be multiplied at pleasure. And to 
assume that religious truth rests solely on historical testimony is to beg some vital 


impersonal support of pure reason ; nor can it be kept 
from moving with the times by chains of rusty syllogisms. 
For the truth is that dogmas are essentially secondary 
expressions of the vital value of a religion, the by-products 
of a spiritual life that was never nourished on pure 
intellect. They are, as it were, the lifeless fossils of a 
living faith, and remain unmeaning marvels unless they 
are re-enveloped in the life which grew them. That life, 
moreover, is primarily an individual attitude of soul : 
however closely it is wrapped in a spiritual environment, 
each soul must nourish itself and grow in its own con 
genial fashion. 

The chief paradox of the situation is that these facts 
of the spiritual life should have been so intensely perceived 
in the Roman Church. For at first sight they look such 
a supreme vindication of Protestantism, such a sanctioning 
by psychologic science of the evangelical or mystic. But 
it must never be forgotten that, like all science, psychology 
is catholic and impartial. Every religion may be vindi 
cated by the psychologic tests in so far as it is genuine, 
i.e. really nourishes the spiritual life. It speaks well for 
the intelligence of the Catholic Modernists that they 
should have discovered this. But they had discovered 
also that the idea of a Church, of an historical association 
with a corporate confidence in the truth of its position, 
has very great religious value. They were probably not 
wrong in thinking that the Roman Church could flourish 
exceedingly on Modernist lines. 

But will it ever prefer to do so ? It is very hard to 
say. It must be a very hard question to decide for the 
astute directors of Papal policy. Superficially, no doubt 
the present indications are that this bold and novel policy 
will not be adopted. Ancient institutions, whether they 
are called Churches, bureaucracies, or universities, never 
do adopt a bold and novel policy : they are always under 
the control of men too old to run the risk of such a policy. 
Modernism, therefore, will be crushed, and Medievalism 
will prevail ; a mechanical uniformity will be enforced, 
even at the cost of schism. But appearances are no- 

280 HUMANISM xv 

where more deceptive than in matters ecclesiastical, and 
history does not confirm the view that the Pope always 
knows his own business best. It is quite conceivable 
that in due course, when the more cautious sympathizers 
with modern thought have risen by dint of years to 
the higher posts in the hierarchy, and the pressure of 
circumstances has convinced the less fanatical conservatives 
that something must be done, some successor of Pius X. 
will be moved to issue another Encyclical which, after 
splitting a vast number of hairs to prove that what is 
now sanctioned is not identical with what was condemned 
before, will define the sense in which a Modernist attitude 
may be permitted, and concede the substance of what has 
lately been denied. 

There would be both psychological and historical 
warrant for this prophecy. The opposition to any novelty 
of thought is always largely a matter of individual 
psychology. The human mind becomes less open to 
new impressions as it grows older, and in all institutions 
the high authorities are always old, and often stupidly 
conservative. Progressiveness and open-mindedness are 
tender plants which must be carefully cultivated, and 
often forced. Historical analogy points to the same 
conclusion. The making of dogmas usually ends by 
making orthodoxy a razor-edge between two opposite 
heresies which have been successively condemned. It 
is formulated so as to conceal the facts that when new 
ideas arose the old men in authority conservatively 
condemned them, and that when, nevertheless, they 
triumphed, words had to be found that would not break 
too abruptly with the old traditions. 

Such, however, are what may be regarded as the 
normal psychological and political obstacles to the 
progress of human thought, and they are in no wise 
peculiar to the Roman Church. What complicates the 
situation in her case is that there are other serious 
objections to innovation which render her the least likely 
of the Churches to modernize her basis. By so doing 
she could probably purchase an ignoble peace and 


enduring prosperity, but only at the cost of two things 
which have hitherto been very dear to her. In the 
first place, she would have to renounce the right to 
persecute. Truly a trivial matter this, it may be thought, 
seeing that it cannot nowadays be exercised. But it is 
one thing to suspend it in practice and for prudential 
reasons, and quite another to give it up in theory and 
on principle. Principles which cannot be carried into 
practice often grow all the dearer for their pathetic 
impotence, as is proved by intellectualist philosophies. 
Moreover, to renounce this right would not only break 
with much historical tradition, but would also sacrifice 
the ambition of recovering the lost power of the Church. 

Secondly, the right of making dogmas (of the old 
quasi-rational sort) would have to be abandoned. The 
Church would have to follow the example set by Science 
and, more recently, by philosophy. Science for some 
time past has been too busy and too rapidly progressive 
to find it worth while to formulate into fixed dogmas 
her working theories, which, in the words of Sir J. J. 
Thomson, form "a policy and not a creed." It has 
grown accustomed to use them merely for what they 
are worth, and so long as they are worth it. In philosophy 
the discovery of the proper attitude towards dogmas has 
been of slower growth, though philosophic Humanism is 
quite clear as to their value and the mischief they have 

But religion hitherto has always stood for the eternal 
fixity of dogma, once it has been defined. In most 
Churches, indeed, this power of making dogma has long 
been in abeyance. They have been too tightly wedged 
into an antiquated creed which none of its members could 
construe literally, or tied to some paralysing political 
concordat, or too loosely organized to act corporately. 
But this inability has usually been construed as a 
disability, and the power of making dogma has seemed 
a mark of the superior progressiveness and unity of 
Rome. Acceptance of Modernism, however, would mean 
the sacrifice of this flattering prerogative. 

282 HUMANISM xv 

Here again, however, it might be argued that the 
apparent loss would be a real gain. For the making 
of dogma is always a perilous business. In making 
dogmas it is hard to avoid making heretics. And the 
more heretics a Church makes the less catholic does 
it become. It is extraordinary what losses the Roman 
Church has incurred by her indulgence in the dogma- 
making instinct. Was a disagreement about the cal 
culating of that most inconveniently migratory festival, 
Easter, worth the bisection and permanent weakening 
of Christendom ? Was the defining of the Trinity and 
the Incarnation in terms which however satisfactory 
they seemed to the orthodoxy of the time have long 
changed their meaning so as to have become unintelligible 
worth the loss of Africa and Asia to Mohammedanism, 
and the destruction of the best of the Northerners, the 
Arian Goths ? The world in all probability would long 
ago have been Christian, the Roman Church would have 
been truly catholic, but for the disastrous practice of 
defining dogmas, and the intolerance of which this was 
the cause and the effect. Will history repeat itself? 
Will dogma be made though the angels weep ? Will 
Rome decide in accordance with her past traditions, yfotf 
dogma, ruat coelum ? It will be immensely hard to break 
with them, and the traditional policy will necessarily 
have immense strength. But who can say? Not even 
Pius X. But the situation is very interesting, though 
decidedly more comfortable for those who can watch from 
without the distractions of an embarrassed Church. 



I. Does Determinism blot out the criminal s responsibility for his crimes ? 

And would he fare better at the hands of Science, if he were 
treated as irresponsible ? If he cannot help offending, can society help 
punishing ? Belief in social reform presupposes an alternative and better 
course of events. Is, then, a belief in Freedom irrational, and should 
Determinism make no difference to practice ? 

II. The scientific value of Determinism as a methodological postulate. Law 

as the instrument of prediction. But this ignores novelty, and our 
postulate s confirmation is only empirical. The value of Determinism 
diminished by our ignorance, and largely sentimental. The caricaturing 
of Libertarianism. Free choice not motiveless. Freedom demanded 
and explained by the moral struggle, and so thinkable and possible. 
The clash of rival postulates leaves us free to choose between them. 
Does this prove Freedom ? 

IF the Social Revolution should ever pass from the 
region of vague sentiment into that of crude and cruel 
fact, there is at least one class of learned men whose 
extinction may be prophesied with as great confidence as 
that of priests and kings. When the amiable exhortation 
of the French revolutionist has been acted on, and the 
neck of the last king has been constricted with the 
entrails of the last priest, the last millionaire will no 
doubt have been smothered with the unsaleable remainders 
of the last professor of philosophy. 

Such at any rate is the estimate of the value of 
philosophy Mr. Robert Blatchford s pamphlet, Not Guilty, 
A Defence of the Bottom Dog, very distinctly manages to 

1 This essay appeared in the Oxford and Cambridge Review for November 1907. 


284 HUMANISM xvi 

convey. It is an appeal on behalf, not merely of the 
downtrodden and unsuccessful, but also of the degraded 
and criminal classes, and an indictment of what is, or 
passes for, justice, human and divine. He defends his 
clients on the ground, mainly, that they are the helpless 
victims of heredity and environment, whose brute instincts 
have been further brutalized by the horrible conditions 
under which they have been nurtured. And he denies in 
toto the right of society to condemn and to punish those 
who could not have been other than they are. 

In other words, Mr. Blatchford (and with him pre 
sumably the whole party of militant Socialism) is 
essentially concerned with the old philosophic theme of 
Freedom and Responsibility, complicated though it is no 
doubt for modern minds with the problems of atavism, 
heredity and variation. But he scorns to seek the aid of 
technical philosophy. He is weary of the learned who 
darken counsel with technical verbiage. He has no use 
for useless learning, for " the tangle of Gordian knots tied 
and twisted by twenty centuries full of wordy but un 
successful philosophers" (p. 169), nor can he understand 
(p. 1 6) why "the world is paying millions of money and 
bestowing honours and rewards in profusion upon the 
learned and wise and spiritual leaders who teach it to 
believe such illogical nonsense " as a man s responsibility 
for his acts. He prefers instead to argue the whole 
matter out again for himself, to reiterate the old fallacies, 
to repeat the old inconsequences, to be stopped at the old 

Mr. Blatchford would possibly be surprised to find 
how much precedent there is for all his positions, if he 
had the curiosity and leisure to trace them back to their 
origins. Even his condemnation of the futility of philo 
sophy is no new thing, and is mild compared with the 
things which philosophers have been in the habit of 
saying of each other. The opinion which the greatest 
philosophers have entertained of the efforts of their 
colleagues has usually been a low one. Herakleitos, the 
great Ephesian, used all his predecessors as illustrations 


of his maxim that much learning did not teach intelli 
gence. And the philosopher- pedant has never been 
denounced more brilliantly and incisively than by Plato. 

As for the use of Determinism as an excuse for the 
bad man, it has been one of the earliest inferences to be 
drawn from moral philosophy. No sooner had Socrates 
put forward the suggestion that virtue was (a sort of) 
knowledge, and thereby laid the foundation of a scientific 
study of morals, than this dictum was improved into a 
reductio ad absurdum of morality. It was at once pointed 
out that if virtue was knowledge, then vice must be 
ignorance, and that no one was vicious willingly, any 
more than ignorant. Vice, therefore, was involuntary, 
and no one should be blamed for being vicious. The 
retort, fixed for us in the Ethics of Aristotle (iii. 5. 17), 
that by the same reasoning virtue might be proved 
involuntary, could not arrest the controversy : it had 
merely to be accepted (as it promptly was by the Stoics) 
to bring upon the scene full-blown Determinism, and to 
inflict upon ethics a perennial problem which the majority 
of philosophers at the present day probably regard as 
insoluble, to wit that of reconciling the strict determination 
of every event with the moral demand that it shall, 
nevertheless, be possible to break the chain of circum 
stance in order to choose the right. 

Clearly, therefore, Mr. Blatchford s contentions have 
abundant plausibility as well as many precedents. There 
is much excuse also for the lapses of his logic. The 
spectacle of human folly, crime, and misery is so harrowing 
that only the coolest intellects can bear coldly to criticize 
and carefully to examine proposals that promise a whole 
sale alleviation of the burden of man. And yet unless 
Mr. Blatchford s clarion is merely to create confusion and 
dissension in the ranks of the army with which man is 
battling with his secular foes, these are just the points to 
be scrutinized. The chief source of human suffering is 
not social. It is not a consequence of man s imperfect 
control of his own nature, nor of the imperfect develop 
ment of his social sympathies and the resulting inhumanity 

286 HUMANISM xvi 

to his kind. It springs from our inadequate control of 
the forces of nature, and can be relieved only by the 
gradual growth of the knowledge which is power. If the 
Socialists could prevail upon the nations of the earth 
to abandon the folly of their internecine strife, to put 
down their monstrous armaments, and to devote a tithe 
of their annual cost to scientific research, they would 
achieve more for the advancement of humanity, and 
even for their own aims, in twenty years, than they 
are likely to accomplish by centuries of merely political 

But, even in dealing with those evils which are either 
social in their nature or capable of being mitigated by 
social expedients, we must be cautious. We must beware 
of letting our sentiment run away with our logic, and 
of adopting a philosophy which would ultimately stultify 
and sterilize all efforts at reform. We must not, therefore, 
allow our sympathy for the weak to unman us. We 
must not allow our pity for the degraded to drag us down. 
In making allowances for the victims of unfavourable 
circumstances we must seek to brace, and not to relax, 
their powers of resistance. We must, therefore, preach 
Freedom to them and not Fatalism, Effort and not 
Acquiescence. Still less must we ourselves begin by 
acknowledging the omnipotence of Fate. We must not 
despair of victory. We must vindicate the power of our 
persistent efforts to reshape the world within us and 
without us. In other words, we must uphold the reality 
of Human Freedom. 

It is not, therefore, from any lack of sympathy with 
the humanitarian aspects of Mr. Blatchford s argument 
that it seems to us open to criticism. What we desire to 
attack is the logical inconsequence of his position. What 
we desire to show is that Robert Blatchford the Determinist 
cuts the throat of Robert Blatchford the social reformer. 
And what we desire to establish is that, whatever politics 
we favour, any advocacy of practical interference with the 
existing order of nature, nay our whole rational life, 
presupposes and implies the reality of our Freedom and 


the rejection of Determinism. But, of course, it is one 
thing to exhibit the practical importance and necessity of 
Freedom and another to establish its theoretical validity 
as a philosophic interpretation of the facts of life, and in 
this larger undertaking we shall have to encounter the 
arguments of many of the philosophers of the past and 
nearly of all the present. 

We may, however, at once proclaim that there is an 
enormous logical gap between Mr. Blatchford s theoretical 
position, and the practical consequences he seeks to draw 
from it. If we grant the former, we not merely need not, 
but cannot, assent to the latter. If we contend for the 
latter, we must begin by ignoring the former. 

If it is true that " no man is answerable for his own 
acts," because he has had " no part in the creation of his 
own nature " (p. I o), if it is true that " law is based upon 
the false idea that men know what is right and what is 
wrong, and have power to choose the right," whereas 
really men are not good or bad, but merely weak or 
strong, fortunate or unfortunate (p. 19), if it is true that 
wrong-doers are " ignorant " or " diseased " or " insane " or 
" mentally deformed," and hark back " atavistically " to 
the savage and the beast, if it is true that our social 
conditions are bad, and acting on bad natures, create 
much vice and crime, if it is true that our "justice" is 
imperfect and ineffectual, and that our " punishments " 
largely fail either to reform the criminal or to protect 
society if all this is true, does it follow that " all praise 
and blame are undeserved," and that no one ought to be 
punished (p. 203) ? And does it follow that Mr. Blatch 
ford s client, the " Bottom Dog," would fare better if he 
were transferred from the jurisdiction of morals to the 
tender mercies of Science, and were " entitled to be 
j.udged by the standard we apply to beasts " (p. 207) ? 

Mr. Blatchford is very confident : he defies us (p. 209) 
to deny one statement he has made, " to break one link 
of the steel chain of logic I have riveted upon our meta 
physicians, our moralists, our kings, our judges and our 
gods," and tells us that " if all those (inferences) are not 



true, this book is not worth the paper it is printed on " 
(p. 203). 

Well, let us see. Let us appraise the value of human 
beings according to the new ideals, with the coldly com 
mercial and unsentimental eye of natural science, regarding 
no man as an end in himself and every one merely as an 
instrument to social well-being, and let us see where the 
" Bottom Dog " will come out. 

The answer is not hard to get. For Sir Francis Galton 
has studied the social value of the different types of human 
being. He has calculated that the average value to the 
community of an Essex labourer s baby at birth is about 
$, i.e. that moderate sum would be the present value 
of the surplus of his production over his consumption 
of wealth during an average life. A baby genius (or 
even talent) would, of course, be worth buying up at many 
thousands of pounds by an intelligent society, and the new 
science of Eugenics has for its ultimate aim an increase in 
the natural supply of such valuable infants. A baby 
criminal, on the other hand, or idiot, or lunatic, or weakling, 
or wastrel, clearly possesses only negative value for social 
purposes. Such creatures are a dead loss to the com 
munity, which has to keep up prisons, asylums and hospitals 
for their sakes, and to employ judges, doctors, clergymen 
and policemen to cope with them. Not only do they fail 
to enrich the community by useful work, but they are a 
heavy burden upon it, and probably have to be supported 
for the greater part of their lives at the public expense. 
Clearly, therefore, society would be better without them, 
and if Science could prevent their birth, it would 
unquestionably do so ; if it could detect them after 
birth, it would extinguish them as speedily as possible. 
No sentiment of pity or prejudice about justice and right 
would impede its mercilessly reasonable calculations. 
The darker the colours in which the wretchedness of the 
" Bottom Dog " is painted the more urgent would become 
the case for his scientific and systematic suppression. 

But would this conclusion commend itself either to 
Mr. Blatchford or to his client ? Yet he comes very 


near to confessing that such, on scientific principles, 
would be the right and rational way of dealing with the 
criminal. If the criminal is a recrudescence of the beast 
in man, and comparable to a tiger or a shark (p. 2 1 3), 
why on earth should he not be treated as such ? Surely 
Mr. Blatchford would not preserve him from extermination 
merely in order that he might provide sport for our 
judges and our police? In one passage (p. 215) Mr. 
Blatchford admits that " although the prisoner ought not 
to be punished, it is imperative that he be restrained. 
Quite a sensible conclusion, no doubt ; but as an argu 
ment for leniency how verbal and how feeble ! Mr. 
Blatchford can, of course, insist on reserving the word 
"punishment" for the retribution inflicted on misdeeds, 
and deny the application of the name to the treatment 
which aims at the protection of society and the reclama 
tion of the offender. But would not such a defence 
savour of the hair-splitting of the philosophers whom 
Mr. Blatchford so despises ? Besides, has he a right to 
ignore the facts that the actual treatment of anti-social 
conduct is largely inspired by the preventive, and even 
by the reformatory, views of " punishment," and that even 
a spice of vindictiveness, if there is fore-knowledge that 
the commission of a crime will lead to social execration, 
may act as a powerful deterrent from crime. 

If, moreover, it is admitted to be " imperative " to 
" restrain " offenders, surely the cheaper and more effective 
the means the better. Science could certainly suggest 
modes of prevention far more efficacious than the punish 
ments now in vogue, while at the same time cheaper and 
socially more advantageous. But it is probable that they 
would strike us all as strange and cruel. For example, it 
would be cheaper to brand or to mutilate than to imprison, 
and far more terrifying to vivisect than to hang. More 
over, in cases where even this deterrent failed, society 
might console itself with the thought that it would reap 
great benefits from the advance of knowledge derivable 
from scientific executions. In the present state of moral 
sentiment, while the criminal is regarded as a responsible 


2 9 o HUMANISM xvi 

person who can to some extent control his actions, there 
is little or no prospect of any such scientific revision of 
punishments. But on what grounds could Mr. Blatchford 
object to schemes of this kind ? Surely by appealing 
from current morality to Science he has precipitated his 
protege" from the frying-pan into the fire. 

But even this is not all. Mr. Blatchford has fallen 
into what is logically a still graver inconsequence. He 
has so far argued and we, to humour him, have joined 
with him quite in the ordinary common-sense way, as 
if the mode and amount of the punishment of offenders 
were an open question and dependent on the arbitrament 
of society. But this wliole mode of reasoning involves the 
assumption of human freedom and a denial of Determinism ! 
He and we have both assumed that even though the 
criminal could not but commit his crime, yet society at 
least was free to punish him, or to pardon, or to send 
him to a hospital. But if Determinism is the true philo 
sophy, this assumption is utter nonsense, and an alternative 
to the punishment is just as unthinkable as to the crime. 
Society can no more help itself than the criminal. 
Whatever is and happens, must be and happen. Nothing 
could possibly be otherwise. The murderer must commit 
his crime, the police must catch him, the jury must convict, 
the judge must condemn to death, the executioner must 
hang, Mr. Blatchford must take society to task and scold 
it and denounce its institutions, and fail to carry convic 
tion ; he must contradict himself and use just the bad 
arguments he does and all this must have been pre 
destined from all eternity ! 

It is astonishing that so good a reasoner as Mr. 
Blatchford should not have perceived the incongruity ; 
but like most Determinists he has tacitly assumed freedom 
enough to grease the wheels of justice and to retain a 
meaning in responsibility. 

Hence it is by no momentary lapse that he falls into 
an affirmation of Free Will. He is forced repeatedly to 
use arguments which are nonsense unless Freedom is 
real, because his whole case requires him to use them. 


He could not be a social reformer without them. How 
else could he argue that the social order can and should 
be changed, or assert that disease may be prevented 
(P- 9)> or Sa 7 that we ought not to blame or punish (pp. 
J 9 99> etc.), or declare (p. 236) "man cannot be blamed : 
society cannot be blamed. But both can be altered: 
by environment," or bring forward any measures for the 
altering and improvement of the social order ? For all 
these things imply that at least two courses of events 
are possible possible really and not merely to our 
ignorance and that it depends on human choice and 
action which of them is to be realized. But in a fully 
determined world whence are they to come ? It is vain 
to suggest that somewhere or other there may be " a man 
with reason and knowledge and inclination for the task of 
improving society or the individual by teaching one or both." 

If such a being exists, he will be one of the determined 
forces of the universe, and as powerless as any of the rest 
to alter its predestined course. The universe is destined 
to be saved or to be damned we do not know which. 
And if we did know, it would not matter, seeing that we 
could not act otherwise than we do. That, inexorably, is 
the implication of Determinism. If we wish, then, to 
think the world as alterable for the better, as capable of 
varying its course, we must introduce some free agency 
into it to infuse some indetermination into it. A very 
little will suffice. A very little freedom will falsify the 
doctrine that everything is foredoomed in one single and 
inevitable way, and that nothing can change its character. 
Once there are real alternatives, and real choices, and 
real freedom in the world, man can master his fate and 
remould himself. 

This is the ennobling faith which every reformer must 
hold ; but it is not Determinism. It is utterly incompatible 
with Determinism of any sort or kind ; and if Mr. Blatch- 
ford wishes to be consistent, he must choose between it 
and Determinism. His choice will be a free and most 
momentous one, but this need not prevent him from 
weighing the alternatives which are put before him. 

292 HUMANISM xvi 

If he chooses Determinism, he renounces the attempt 
to alter society and to guide its fated course. But he 
may think that he has saved himself and the world from 
the taint of irrationality which the belief in Freedom 
would set upon it. But this surely would be a delusion. 
If it is impossible and irrational to choose, then his very 
choice of Determinism commits him to at least one 
irrational act of choice. If he replies that this seeming 
choice too was determined, and that he could not have 
chosen otherwise, then the belief that he did really choose 
at least was an illusion. 

Moreover, he will find that although he, by some 
fortunate necessity, was impelled to think (what he 
believes to be) the truth, others are by that same necessity 
constrained to remain deluded and to believe in a 
freedom which is irrational and impossible. Thus, one 
way the world has of exhibiting its rationality to 
a Determinist is to engender necessary errors and 
delusions ! 

Again, in spite of his enlightenment, he will find it 
just as impossible as heretofore to avoid relapsing into 
forms of speech and modes of thought which have mean 
ing only if the freedom they imply is not an illusion. 
To be consistent, Determinism should erase from language 
all such terms as can/ may, ought, should, need 
not, if/ either . . . or/ perhaps/ Nor is this a mere 
question of words ; when we use them, we really mean 
them and really imagine, however mistakenly, that we 
are speaking of real possibilities and alternatives. But 
this is all wrong, if Determinism is right. We should 
cleanse our minds of the attitudes of thought which 
correspond to all this Libertarian language. Doubts, 
hypotheses, possibilities, choices and alternatives should 
be as impossible in thought as they are in reality. If, 
however, as is probable, Mr. Blatchford also should 
despair of clearing his mind of these delusions, must 
he not resign himself to regard a universe which oj 
necessity engenders and harbours them as truly expressive 
of the nature of things ? But why in this case should 


a universe which fosters such illusions strike him as 
particularly hopeful or rational ? 

If on the other hand he chooses to believe in Freedom 
and prefers a world in which there can be real alternatives, 
he will choose a world which can (perhaps) be altered 
and improved. In such a world, of course, the desire 
for reform can be rational, and the ordinary assumptions 
of his words and thoughts and acts will not be stultified. 

But he will not, even so, escape from the charge of 
irrationality. For the first move of the Determinist will 
be to bring this indictment against the free universe. 
Such a universe cannot, he contends, be fully determined ; 
and if there is to be detected anywhere within it the 
slightest trace of indetermination, its rationality is com 
promised beyond redemption. If, he declares, there is 
anything anywhere of which the behaviour is undeter 
mined, to however small an extent, the rational order 
of the world is irretrievably ruined. Everything must 
be absolutely fixed ; or else everything must get so loose 
as to dissolve itself in chaos. The menace is so terrible, 
the danger is so imminent, that it would seem to need 
the recklessness of a sceptic to reply that since the 
irrationality of the universe was manifest in either case, 
he at least considered himself free to choose whichever 
form thereof best pleased him ; while it would require an 
unusual amount of philosophic courage to resist intimida- 
ation and to dare to question the conclusiveness of the 
deterministic plea. 

Here then we come to the great antithesis of Freedom 
and Determinism, which may well claim to be the blue- 
ribbon problem of philosophy. Its claim to this proud 
position rests in the first place on the fact that it is one 
of the few philosophic problems which are capable of 
interesting the ordinary man. Every one is capable of 
feeling its central difficulty, the conflict and compulsion 
of motives and the apparently free decision of the will. 
Every one also can perplex himself with the apparently 
unanswerable arguments for Determinism. And so, 
secondly, the problem seems a typical example of the 

294 HUMANISM xvi 

inherent debility of human reason, which here is driven 
to assert the impossibility of what seems plain fact, and 
involves itself in irrationality, whichever of the alternatives 
it chooses. 

This, however, is by no means wholly displeasing to 
the ordinary man, who readily reconciles himself to a 
situation which puzzles the professors of philosophy. He 
can the better enjoy this speculative deadlock, that it 
causes hardly any practical inconvenience. For in prac 
tice we all agree to use language which (as we saw) 
implies the reality of possibilities, alternatives and free 
choices. The Determinist no doubt uses (or should 
use) all this phraseology with a mental reservation. He 
believes it to be an illusory consequence of our mortal 
ignorance, and consoles himself with the thought that if 
he knew everything, all this evidence of Freedom would 
disappear. But this pious hope cannot be said to make 
any practical difference. As an agent he must, in the 
actual state of his knowledge, behave as if there were real 
freedom in the world. 

Hence it has been, very plausibly, contended that the 
whole question is devoid of practical importance. If, 
whatever the speculative position we may prefer, whether 
we are Libertarians, Determinists or Sceptics, we are all 
bound in our action to assume that some acts are free 
and some alternatives real, while others are determined 
and calculable, what need is there to solve the theoretic 
problem ? Has it not practically solved itself? What 
difference does it make which theory is true, if they all 
lead to the same behaviour ? Nay, upon the latest and 
most approved principles of pragmatic logic, must we 
not hold that theories which lead to the same results in 
practice are not really different at all, but only verbally 
various ways of saying the same thing ? 

This attractive way, however, of cutting the Gordian 
knot appears to rest upon a misconception. The believer 
in Freedom at least cannot admit that his belief makes 
no difference to his acts, nor believe that the Determinist s 
belief has no influence on his behaviour. He must point 


out that if it is true that the alternative theories make no 
practical difference the reason is that one of them, viz. the 
Determinist, cannot be acted on, and that therefore the 
pragmatic test cannot be applied to it. If and so long 
as the Determinist acts as if he were free and able to 
choose between alternative possibilities, the theory his 
acts imply cannot be discriminated by its results from 
that implied in the Libertarian s acts. But so soon as 
the Determinist feels that he has no choice, and acts on 
his belief, the Libertarian holds it will make a distinct 
difference in his action. He will subject himself to all 
the paralysing influences of Fatalism. He will abandon 
the attempt to control his impulses. He will relax his 
efforts to overcome the natural tendencies of his char 
acter, and to resist the pressure of his environment. And 
if one considers what the natural tendencies of the average 
man at present are, it does not seem probable that the 
effect of such self-indulgence will in the main be good 
and elevating or even conducive to the survival of 
Determinists. Thus the preaching of Determinism may 
do much harm, by relaxing the fibres of men s moral 
nature and by tempting them to let themselves drift upon 
a current of lazy habit, which they take to be the irresist 
ible stream of Fate. No doubt in practice a consistent 
Determinist will hardly be found. But this is not to 
show that Determinism is harmless, nor is it an argument 
in its favour : and even temporary fits of slackness may 
be morally disastrous. 

Of course no harm will come of a merely theoretic 
Determinism. To be refuted by its results a theory 
must be acted on. Until it is acted on, its truth remains 
in suspense, as a claim which has not been tested, or as a 
plaything of idle speculation. And to show that it cannot 
be acted on is to show, not that Determinism is harmless, 
but that it is meaningless. 

It would be too much, however, to expect Determinists 
to assent to this conclusion. For it follows logically from 
their assumption that no moral revolution will result from 
the adoption of Determinism, because no man is free to 



adopt it, or not, as he pleases. Whatever view any one 
adopts, he was fated to adopt. Whatever the moral 
degeneration or dissolution the future may have in store 
for us, it was preformed and predestined by the immutable 
order of the universe. Hence it must seem idle to a 
Determinist to deprecate or to deplore what no skill or 
thought could have averted. It is silly to resent the 
inevitable, and this does not become less silly if we 
perceive also that our very resentment was inevitable 

We come, therefore, finally upon one of the most 
remarkable peculiarities of the Free-Will controversy, 
namely the fact that an argument which is valid and 
cogent for those who have adopted one set of assumptions 
has no cogency at all for those who have adopted the 
other. Superficially this seems a paradox which lends 
itself to sceptical conclusions : and these have accordingly 
been drawn by most of the philosophers who observed this 
singularity. But this is really a mistake : the true signi 
ficance of the fact is quite different. In the end it turns 
out to be a legitimate consequence of the reality of choices. 
It merely means that, when we have chosen, we can abide 
(up to a certain point) by the consequences of our choice, 
and keep at bay the interpretations which would stultify 
it. Hence we must expect to find that in a sense a con 
sistent Determinism cannot strictly be refuted, refuted 
that is by the purely, or merely, intellectual considerations 
which it would itself accept as a conclusive refutation. 
But we shall also find that the demand for such refutation 
is itself an error, and that the possibility of a wilful (and 
not necessitated) Determinism is quite consistent with the 
reality of our Freedom. We shall also strive to vindicate 
the plain man s faith in Freedom by explaining what is 
the real nature of our Freedom, and by showing how it 
may be conceived as a rational doctrine. 



We have shown so far not only that it is grossly in 
consistent in a Determinist to propose to reform the world, 
but also that he could not act, either rationally or at all, 
except on the assumption of Freedom. But we made no 
attempt to explain either the truth contained in Deter 
minism and the reason of its plausibility, or the real 
nature of Freedom, nor did we try to answer the case 
against Freedom as it is commonly presented. The whole 
question, consequently, seems to have been left in a 
thoroughly inconclusive and unsatisfactory condition. 

We may now begin by considering the truth in 
Determinism. Why is it that we all so frequently assume 
that the future is fixed, that events can be calculated 
beforehand, and that predictions can be made which will < 
come true ? Why is it that so many philosophers go 
further still and assume that all events are in this way 
fully determined, and regard the idea that any event 
should still be indeterminate, uncertain, incalculable or as 
they technically say contingent, as fatal to science and 
as the very height of irrationality and absurdity ? 

The answer to this question will easily be found by 
any one who has trained himself to note that the truths 
we assume are always relative to some purpose in 
which we are interested, and are not asserted aimlessly 
and at random. Now mankind has always been intensely 
interested in forecasting the future for the best and most 
cogent of reasons. For had we been unable to devise 
methods of prediction, we should have remained the 
helpless sports of circumstance. It is very unlikely that 
we could have survived, and it is certain that we could 
not have prepared for and controlled the course of 
experience, even to the extent we now can. Hence 
foreknowledge of the future is man s capital achievement, 
an achievement of the greatest practical and vital value. 
Man is distinctively the animal that looks before and 
after, that observes the present, and studies the past, in 



order to control the future. Naturally enough, his intelli 
gence has been adjusted to and moulded upon this vital 
necessity. And not only his intelligence, but his whole 
nature. He has grown a strong intellectual and emotional 
bias towards any idea that helps him to achieve his 
purpose. He is willing and eager to hail it as true. 
Hence there has arisen a desire for prediction, a passion for 
certainty, which in some selected spirits (philosophers to 
wit) may be over-developed and rise to quite unreasonable 
and self-defeating heights. 

But how was this desire to foretell, and so to control, 
the future, to find its satisfaction ? Well, mankind did 
not know ; but mankind was willing to try. It tried in 
all sorts of ways, and very queer and superstitious most 
of them now seem to us. What oracle have human faith 
and human craving left unconsulted, what mode of divina 
tion have they failed to think of, from what mode of 
propitiation have they shrunk, to what mode of magic 
have they scrupled to immolate their dearest and their 
best ? A potent array of institutions and observances, a 
long list of pseudo-sciences, an astounding record of 
irrational absurdities and atrocities, attest the reality and 
persistence of the human desire to lift the veil of the 
future. For this purpose the noblest of the ancients did 
not disdain, as augurs to watch the flight of birds, as 
haruspices to inspect the sacrificial entrails ; they were 
proud to keep the Sybil s prophetic books or to trick the 
fates and to pamper the prescience of the sacred chickens 
with cunningly diluted gruel. No sooner had man looked 
at the stars than the thought at once occurred to him 
that these wonders of the sky must be fraught with signi 
ficance for his terrestrial fortunes. And so he proceeded 
to conceive the marvels of their rhythmic motions as 
instruments of calculation, until the wisest of the ancients 
did not deem it a waste of time to observe the con 
junctions of planets that determined the fates of men, or 
the portents of flimsy comets that were supposed to take 
a keen interest in the fortunes of the solar system. Modern 
astronomy is as much indebted to astrology for its birth 


as to the practical necessity of determining the length 
of the year and so the recurrence of the seasons and the 
right time for the exercise of agricultural foresight. Most 
of the ancient modes of divination, such as chiromancy, 
geomancy, catoptromancy, rhabdomancy, sortilege and 
incubation, have become merely learned names to most of 
us. But their equivalents still survive, sustained by their 
occasional success in satisfying human desires. The law, 
even now, does not think it derogatory to its majesty to 
persecute the poor palmists and fortune-tellers who try to 
make a precarious living out of the curiosity of those who 
despair of calculating their personal future by more 
scientific means. And whenever a gathering of under 
graduates has inspirited a table to turn, it is always asked 
to indicate what horse is going to win whatever is the 
next important race. 

But it must not be thought that the history of human 
credulity is merely a sickening and abject record of 
human folly, which has no value for Science. For out of 
all this mass of wild experimenting experience has 
selected what was workable. By outcasting superstitions 
Science segregates itself. Magic is the mother of Science, 
much as Error is of Truth ; it is inferior to its offspring, 
not in its conception or its pedigree, but in its efficiency. 
Science is a system of magic formulas, which after many 
trials and with many tribulations man has made. But 
the formulas (or laws ) of Science really and habitually 
work, and so verify themselves and are accepted as true : 
those of its unsuccessful and discarded rivals are only 
occasionally supported by a coincidence or by the 
psychic tendency of many beliefs to verify themselves. 

A scientific formula which does not work is impossible 
by definition. For if a formula fails to work when 
applied to the phenomena it was devised to control, it is 
condemned as false, and we seek to supersede it with a 
better. Nevertheless the fundamental ideas of Science 
are the same as those of pseudo-science or of magic. 
They are all ineradicably and intensely human, as 
befits the descendants of the human passion to control 

300 HUMANISM xvi 

experience. Astrology, for example, rests on the same 
assumption as the most scientific Determinism, and only 
carries it one step further. It represents as calculable fact 
what Science as yet is content to treat as an unattained 
ideal, and so far from being intrinsically absurd the claim 
of astrology should be what every man of science must in 
theory aspire to. For if it is true, as Science assumes, 
that the universe is a fully determined and connected 
system, it ought theoretically to be possible to start in it 
from any changes which occur at any point, and, if we 
know them well enough to trace out their connexions, to 
calculate out the determinate alterations they must entail 
at any other point. Why not, therefore, observe the 
wanderings of the planets, and predict thereby whether 
our neighbour s dog is destined to recover from the 
mange ? Nothing can be so lofty as to tear itself away 
from the causal connexion wherewith Science grasps it, 
nothing so mean as to escape from its clutches. Scientific 
law cares for the least as for the greatest. 

The conception then of law has proved our magic 
passport to the order of nature. It has worked so well 
that many of us have quite forgotten its homely and 
human origin, and abstracting it from its context, have 
grown to regard it with superstitious reverence. It is 
often looked upon as a magical and a priori thing, which 
has no origin in the experience it controls and no 
dependence on the nature which obeys it. We even 
hope by thus exalting it to extract from it a guarantee 
that the course of nature, which has heretofore behaved 
conformably with our idea of law, will for ever continue 
to show itself thus amenable to our needs. But we may 
postulate and proclaim a priori necessities of thought as 
much as ever we please ; we cannot prove that it is an a 
priori necessity of thought that the course of nature 
should for ever conform to our a priori necessities of 
thought. And even if it were, it would not set at rest 
the question as to what can guarantee a complete harmony 
between our thought and things. 

But of all such a priori thinking our wishes are the 


fathers. The truth is much simpler and more prosaic. 
We have found that by assuming all events to be 
determined by laws which (by a process of continuous 
approximation) we can discover and formulate, we can 
reduce chaos to cosmos, and control our lives. But Law 
means Determinism. It means that there are series of 
events such that, once we know their law, we can start 
from A and predict B, and then C, and then D, and so 
on for ever, in an absolutely certain sequence. If we 
choose to believe that anything was able and likely to 
follow upon anything else, the conception of law would 
be abrogated. But if we choose to believe in law, we 
believe that the course of events is in principle calculable 
and predictable. And if we discover enough laws, 
i.e. hit upon formulas which work, we can, more or less 
approximately, forecast what is going to happen and take 
measures accordingly. 

This then is the true reason why we all have a bias 
towards Determinism, in so far as we sanction and pursue 
the aim of Science. We will to believe in law, and law 
involves determination, so that Determinism seems to 
become the price of prediction. So whenever we want to 
forecast the future, we turn Determinists, and calculate 
as though the future were already determined. We must 
do this, or give up the attempt at prediction. In so far 
as a thing is free to act thus or otherwise, its action 
is unpredictable. This then is the meaning of call 
ing Determinism the universal postulate of Science 
as such. 

But are the postulates of Science true ? Of this 
nothing can assure us but experience, and experience 
pursued to the point at which nothing new can happen 
any longer. In our experience this is not (yet ?) true. 
Novelties are still intruding on us daily. And so in 
point of fact our scientific guesses are often wrong in 
detail, and deficient in exactitude. In all the sciences 
laws of nature are being rejected, re-enacted, revised 
and re-modelled daily. They are true only in so far 
as they work, and are able to anticipate results which 



experience confirms. There is no more mystical nor 
higher test of their truth. 

Nor does the general postulate that there are specific 
laws really rest upon any other ground. It too is held to 
be true, because it works. And no cunning of philo 
sophic system-building can really safeguard it any other or 
any a priori truth. Our postulate might cease to work at 
any point or time. However dear and indispensable it 
had been to us, however deeply we had grafted it upon 
the roots of our being, however strenuously we might 
protest against a failure that would put us to intellectual 
confusion, we should have to submit to the rulings of 
experience and to recognize the de facto limitations of 
our principle. In point of fact our intellectual debacle 
would not be quite so terrible as is often represented. 
If our postulate ceased to be usefully applicable to our 
experience, we should say that it had only seemed to be 
true, but was not, and search for some more tenable 
assumption. Or again it might work for some things 
and not for others. There is nothing inconceivable in a 
universe only partly subject to law. It would be incon 
venient, no doubt, especially if we were uncertain about 
the limits of its law-abidingness, and we should therefore 
admit the existence of this defect only in the last 
extremity. Some heroic souls might even persist to the 
last in their faith that the whole must be subject to law, 
though no mortal vision could ever detect its laws. But 
the majority of men would judge it better to get half a 
loaf than no bread, and would content themselves with 
believing the world as calculable as they could practically 
make it, and would not declare the world irrational and 
Science vain, merely because they could not calculate 

If then the world, or any part of it, happened to be 
free and therefore incalculable, we should so far find it 
inconvenient. But the inconvenience need not be con 
siderable, if in point of fact the sphere of Freedom is 
restricted and its amount is not great. Hence the in 
convenience of abandoning a complete Determinism may 


easily be less than that of believing our direct experience 
of Freedom, our immediate consciousness of the reality 
of choices, to be quite illusory. For, as we saw in 
the first part, Determinism also, by implying this con 
sequence, administers a severe shock to our faith in the 
rationality of existence. 

In point of fact and as things stand, the inconvenience 
of the belief in Freedom is wholly sentimental from the 
standpoint of the Determinist, and wholly imaginary 
from that of the Libertarian. For all practical purposes 
the belief in Freedom does not cause the slightest 
inconvenience. For owing to the limitations of our 
actual knowledge, there is always a great multitude of 
events which we consider to be theoretically calculable, 
but either cannot calculate at all in practice, or can 
calculate only so roughly as to leave extensive scope 
for what might be free variations. If, therefore, some 
of these events were really incalculable, it would make no 
practical, but only a sentimental, difference to us. For, 
alike whether we thought them true or not, we should 
of course continue to treat as calculable all of them we 
wanted to calculate, and so should score as many successes 
as heretofore. 

Secondly, and this is a still more important mitigation 
of the alleged inconvenience, we often as it is find our 
selves in the position of having to deal with what we 
believe to be fully determined events, but with a know 
ledge of their nature so imperfect that we cannot but 
distrust the accuracy of our forecasts. But we do not on 
this account despair of calculating. For it is often 
possible, nevertheless, to calculate within what limits the 
actual result is likely to lie, or again to work out the 
alternatives which the defects of our knowledge leave 
open. In both these cases, therefore, all that is affected 
is, not the deterministic method of calculation, but only 
the confidence with which we regard its results. 

If now we abstain from conceiving Freedom (wrongly) 
as an agency which is by nature infinite and unlimited, 
either in its power of breaking down habit and upsetting 

304 HUMANISM xvi 

expectation, or of suggesting alternatives, what reason is 
there why the admission of a certain flavour of Freedom, 
of a certain degree of indetermination, should seriously 
interfere with our actual practices of calculation ? Con 
sider e.g. the case of human action. There is no practical 
difference in the way we regard it, despite the tremendous 
contrast of our theories. As it is, both Determinists and 
Libertarians are fully aware that they hardly ever know 
the character and circumstances of their fellow-men well 
enough to make sure of foreseeing their exact behaviour. 
Both agree also that it would be preposterous on this 
account to regard human actions as utterly incalculable. 
Both parties are agreed that whether there is freedom in 
human action or not, human action is more or less 
calculable ; both parties hold that it presents to our 
knowledge a finite number of alternatives and a limited 
extent of possibilities. And both parties are fully 
entitled by their theories to come to this practical agree 
ment. Which is of course the reason why both parties 
can live together sensibly in society. 

The Libertarian, however, would be disposed to declare 
the whole inconvenience an imaginary bugbear of the 
opposing theory. For he would deny the necessity of 
conceiving free acts as quite incalculable. He would 
claim that his theory also was fully competent to satisfy 
the practical and the scientific demands for a foreseeing 
of events, even though it was bound to reject the meta 
physical theory into which they had been perverted. 

For why after all, he might urge, should Freedom be 
conceived as an infinite and uncontrollable force which is 
radically disruptive of all rationality and order in the 
universe ? Because certain philosophers desire to conceive 
iit so for controversial purposes? Because Determinists 
cannot bear to be deprived of a bogey which forms their 
sole argument against Freedom ? Why should what he 
believes to be the truth be sacrificed to the interests of a 
philosophic party ? How thoroughly characteristic of a 
certain type of philosopher ! Your philosopher is a most 
exacting creature. If you give him an inch, he at once 


takes an ell, and claims the all. He must have all or 
nothing. He will not compromise with the clearest facts. 
If the facts confute his favourite theory, he denounces the 
scepticism of their upholders. So here. A world that 
is not absolutely determined, he is determined to treat 
as a chaos. Nothing like our actual world can satisfy 
any of his demands. For he is never satisfied to use a 
principle just for what it is worth and in cases where 
experience shows it to be applicable. He is always 
wanting to make it absolute, and to apply it to the 
universe without reservation and discretion, dogmatically 
and a priori. And it is little enough he knows about 
the universe ! His metaphysical knowledge is a gigantic 
bluff. For it is one of his oddities that the less he knows, 
the more confident he grows. If, for example, there is 
the least ground in his experience for holding that the 
world is (in some one) sense one, his imagination will 
forthwith proclaim it as a universal and necessary truth 
that the universe is one also in innumerable other senses 
and is under an a priori pledge to behave itself according 
to his desires and expectations also in a multitude of 
other respects, which he has not inquired into and about 
which he knows nothing ! Those, of course, who love 
the philosophic type of mind will understand engaging 
little idiosyncrasies such as these, and make allowance 
for them. But to the plain man s common sense they 
must often prove perplexing and alarming. 

In this case, moreover, the metaphysician s logical 
temper works very unjustly. He refuses to regard the 
forecasting of human action as a matter of practical con 
venience and its principle as a matter of scientific method. 
He insists on taking it as something absolute and meta 
physical, as an indefeasible revelation of the ultimate 
nature of things. So he is not only driven to misconceive 
its meaning and to exaggerate its scope, but is blinded 
to obvious facts which every one else has no difficulty in 
seeing, and beguiled into a most outrageous and in 
defensible travesty of the indeterminist position. 

During the last thirty years quite a number of dis- 




tinguished British philosophers have set out to discuss 
the question of Freedom. Most of them have confused 
the issue by playing upon the different senses of the 
word. Not a few of them have attempted to hoodwink 
the public by assurances that self-determination was 
the only kind of Freedom thinkable or ethically needed. 
But every one of them has propounded the same caricature 
of the freedom of indetermination. And not one of them 
has made the slightest attempt to show that the doctrine 
they denounced was actually held by any Libertarian, 
or formed a logical deduction from which no Libertarian 
could escape. 1 

Now the caricature of Freedom which is in vogue for 
controversial purposes is, briefly, this : If you allege that 
there can be anything, however slightly, undetermined 
about any action, you allege the reality of motiveless 
choice. But this, so far from safeguarding responsibility, 
really renders responsibility impossible. For you allege 
that there is nothing in the agent s character or circum 
stances to determine his act in one way or the other. 
But if any choice is motiveless, all choice is motiveless. 
Any one, therefore, may do anything. The Pope is as 
likely to advocate atheism in his next Encyclical and to 
make a Cardinal of Mr. Blatchford as to condemn 
modernism and the writings of M. Loisy ; the Tsar is as 
likely to declare for the Social Revolution as for further 
repression, and to become a Jew as to rebuild his navy. 
Thus all reasonable expectation is defeated ; all continuity 
of character is destroyed, and with it all responsibility, 
which rests on the connexion between action and char 
acter. In short the inevitable conclusion is that a world, 
into which the least taint of Freedom enters, lapses into 

Now though common sense might find it pretty hard 
to dissect this sort of argument and to refute its premisses, 
it has little hesitation in declaring that its conclusions are 

1 Henry Sidgwick forms an honourable exception to whom these remarks do 
not apply. The discussion in his Methods of Ethics is scrupulously fair, and 
excellent so far as it goes. 


absurd. Nobody has ever believed that in declaring in 
favour of free-will he was committing himself to any 
such consequences. Nobody, therefore, could possibly be 
a Libertarian, if this were what Libertarianism meant. 
Probably, therefore, the Determinists have merely cari 
catured their opponents position. 

Investigation speedily raises this probability to a 
certainty. The grotesque cockshy which serves as the 
type of Libertarianism for the purpose of deterministic 
refutations is an absurd exaggeration of certain of its 
implications. But it is probably prompted, not so much 
by conscious unfairness as by an unconscious bias. It is 
derived ultimately from an unwillingness to take from 
experience our notions, either of the nature or of the 
range, of our Freedom. For if philosophers had only 
been willing to admit that alike what our freedom was, 
how much of it we had, how powerful it was, how far it 
baffled expectation, how far it loosened the joints of the 
universe, were all questions to be decided by empirical 
observation, they could hardly have helped seeing that 
their proof of the impossibility of Freedom was fallacious, 
and that Freedom, so far from being a puzzle leading to 
terrible consequences, was involved in every unbiassed 
description of the act of choice. 

-The central fallacy in the Determinist argument lies in 
the assumption that if a choice is real, it is necessarily 
motiveless. This assumption, however, rests on a confu 
sion between three distinct conceptions choice, absence of 
motive, and indetermination. Choice (in the Libertarian 
sense) implies indetermination, but not absence of motive. 
A choice is necessarily between alternatives, but these 
would not be such if they did not appeal to the chooser 
and influence his character. It is a choice, therefore, 
between alternative goods, and these goods are motives to 
action which cannot all be realized together. Choice, 
therefore, implies motives, but if it is a real choice, it is 
really free to choose between them. Motiveless choice, 
therefore, is an implicit contradiction. Now all the 
terrible consequences of Libertarianism as depicted by the 



Determinist, follow not from the choice, but from its 
assumed lack of motive. They are repudiated, therefore, 
in repudiating the latter. 

Again, it is an error to conceive indetermination as 
absence of motive. Lack of decision is not the same as 
lack of motive. What is indeterminate in the act con 
templated as free/ is precisely what is determined by the 
choice between the motives. The act, therefore, is in 
determinate until we choose, and determine it. The 
indetermination is real, but it is determinable, and so 

Now that such is the nature of the indetermination in 
acts of free choice is precisely what introspection reveals. 
We never feel that we have to choose out of an infinite 
expanse of possibilities. The alternatives, which appeal 
to us and are real for us, are never numerous. Our 
character, our circumstances, our history, our habits, our 
ideals and notions of what is good/ do by far the greater 
part of the selection and immensely narrow down the 
field of abstract possibility. This is a simple fact of 
direct observation. But it is no less obvious that though 
all these forces determine by far the greater part, say 
nine-tenths, of our conduct, and form a fairly rigid frame 
work which our freedom presupposes and with which, 
and upon which, it operates, yet they nevertheless do not 
determine everything, but allow scope for apparently 
free choices, which are accompanied by a heightened 
and peculiar sense of power and responsibility. Why, 
then, should we refuse to acknowledge this fact ? Why 
should we not admit it as evidence that the choices, which 
seem real and feel real, are real ? 

Certainly the convenience of conceiving events as 
determined affords no cogent reason for blinding ourselves 
to the facts. We have seen that there are limits to the 
convenience of methodological fictions. Nor does the 
difficulty lie in the conception of our nature which we 
have to entertain, if we would think it capable of 

For we have merely to think our nature as partly 


plastic, and such that all its reactions have not yet grown 
rigid. We know that habits grow upon us, and that 
when they are firmly fixed, they irresistibly control our 
conduct. But while they are growing, may there not be 
a stage in which our response is still variable and really 
indeterminate, however determinate it may grow after 
wards ? And why regard this as irrational ? Is it not 
the essential function of reason to keep habits plastic in 
their responses to the requirements of life ? Do we not 
know that, if anything can raise us out of the rut of 
hampering habit, it is reason ? Is not reason con 
tinually breaking up the habits which have grown too 
rigid for our good, restoring the plasticity of youth, and 
clearing the ground for fresh growth. This, if we look 
not to the abstract word, but to what it really does, is the 
true meaning of reason. 

This, moreover, is why the experience of Freedom is 
so closely bound up with the moral struggle. For at first 
the old habits and desires, which have become bad, will 
frequently prevail over reason ; in the end they will be 
transformed into new habits which are good. But while 
the process lasts, there will be a plastic stage in which 
action will be variable and indeterminate. 

Clearly, therefore, Freedom is a concomitant of mental 
and moral growth, a consequence of an incomplete and 
therefore plastic nature. The alternatives, moreover, be 
tween which we freely choose, will be the outcome of 
that nature. Both will always spring from that nature, 
and remain connected with it by psychological lines of 
descent which our logic can retrace. Our choices, there 
fore, will be real for our natures under our circumstances. 
Whichever alternative our act selects, will seem continuous 
with what we were and did before. It will not appear 
upon the scene as an unforeseen irruption from nowhere. 
It will seem to us a probable and reasonable thing to 
have done. It will astonish no one who knows, or thinks 
he knows, us. But we should not have judged otherwise 
the alternative which was rejected. Had it been enacted, 
our friends would still have said they quite expected it. 

310 HUMANISM xvi 

Before the event, therefore, either event seems equally 
probable. After the event, both still seem intelligible, 
though (according to the Determinist) only that which 
actually occurred was ever possible. But is it not absurd 
to say of such a doctrine that it destroys the continuity 
of character and the rationality of the universe ? Has 
it not rather succeeded in satisfying the demand for a 
calculable order of events by representing Freedom as a 
choice between alternatives all of which are calculable, 
and in a manner rational ? 

It would seem, therefore, that the conception of Free 
dom, just as the plain man experiences and understands 
it, is quite rational and philosophic, and that it can be 
refuted only by being travestied. But can we assume 
the offensive in our turn and refute Determinism ? 

The difficulty of this undertaking is due to a very 
simple cause. We have seen that the truth underlying 
metaphysical Determinism is its usefulness when conceived 
as a method of Science. It follows from this use that 
every fact presented by every science is capable of being con 
ceived deterministically. Consequently we never seem to 
get at any facts which can be used against the deterministic 
view. Even our freely chosen alternative may be repre 
sented as the only one which could have been chosen. 
Hence a direct disproof of Determinism seems impossible. 

Our attack, therefore, must be more subtly planned. 
We may ask why does any one choose to be a Deter 
minist ? Now any one regarding Determinism merely as 
a postulate of Science has, of course, a cogent answer. 
If we desire to know and to predict and to prepare, we 
have no other choice. We must adopt the assumption 
which enables us to attain our end. So far from ques 
tioning this assumption the Libertarian must try to show 
that his own position is not incompatible with it. 

He may, however, draw attention to the voluntary 
character of this fundamental postulate. Apparently, he 
may infer, the power of choice and the desire to attain 
ends are superior even to this great principle. For they 
select and constitute it. We can choose to adopt the 


Determinist principle. We do choose to adopt it, 
because we prefer it to its alternative and it yields us 
what we want, viz. the power to control events. Now 
perhaps it may be denied that this refutes Determinism, 
because even though our choice seems free, it may really 
be determined. But still the fact shows that our human 
contribution to our conception of reality cannot be quite 
a negligible quantity and not worth mentioning. Is it 
not strange that the helpless victims of Fate should play 
such a leading part in the making of that Fate ? 

A still more curious fact for Determinism to consider 
is that though the whole world may be thought of as 
determined, it is just as easy and just as reasonable to 
think of it as pervaded by a streak of Freedom. The 
Libertarian view, as we have described it, is just as 
possible and as rational as the Determinist ; i.e. it is 
just as capable of interpreting the facts. If one or the 
other is to be preferred, it must be by an act of choice. 
But this choice cannot be determined by logical considera 
tions. For as a purely logical theory either will work. 
Our choice, therefore, must be a logically undetermined, 
i.e. a free, one between theories whose intellectual appeal 
seems equal, because both yield consistent interpretations 
which cover the whole field of nature. 

Even, therefore, if a Determinist should never choose 
again, must he not exercise his freedom at least once 
in adopting his theory ? Must he not prove its truth 
and make the interpretation which supplies his evidence, 
by a fiat of his will ? But is not a Determinism which 
depends for its establishment on a free choice a self- 
contradiction of Determinism ? We can be Determinists 
only because we are determined to deny our freedom. 
And because we are free, we are free to do even this ! 

In any case is it not a humiliation for Determinism 
to have to recognize a free choice underlying its whole 
fabric ? For it has defined such choices as irrational. 
To a Libertarian on the other hand the situation seems 
quite reasonable. He has not defined choice as irrational 
as such, and has no prejudice against a free one. 

312 HUMANISM xvi 

Nothing could be more natural to him than that the 
affirmation and the denial of Freedom should both be free 
choices. As William James aptly says, " Freedom ought 
to be freely espoused by men who can equally well turn 
their backs upon it." 

Nor is the philosophic situation we have reached a 
paradox. It is quite in accord with the results of 
examining other fundamental questions. It is becoming 
clearer and clearer that ultimately our convictions every 
where rest upon acts of faith and of choice, which make 
demands upon the moral virtue of courage, and must 
precede what is called the proof of their truth. The 
fact that we must believe that we are free to some extent 
and that our consciousness of choice is not delusive, and 
so must choose Freedom rather than Necessity, does not 
stand alone. We must, for example, have faith also and 
must choose to believe that the world is orderly rather 
than chaotic, in order to acquire the notion of the 
uniformity of nature ; i.e. we must choose Science rather 
than impotence. We must choose to believe that our 
experience is real and no dream, and that its incidents 
are not the figments of a nightmare ; i.e. we must choose 
a society rather than a solipsism. And lastly, we must 
choose to believe that the struggle of life is worth living 
and worth trying, and not worthless ; i.e. we must choose 
a sort of optimism and not a pessimism. 

In none of these cases, perhaps, can our position be 
established coercively against the contrary bias. For in 
all of them we have to make our venture and to choose 
our side, before we get the evidence which verifies and 
confirms our choice. 

But what finer proof could there be of the fact that 
the functions of our intellect are intimately bound up 
with those of our will and our moral qualities, and that 
our reason is designed to co-operate with our feelings 
and our instincts, and not to hold stupidly aloof and to 
criticize without understanding the dumb faiths of the 
living creeds which guide man s responses to the require 
ments of life ? 



Is man really distinguished above other animals by his preoccupation with 
death ? If he is, he will show a concern about his future life of which 
there are few traces. Naturally, because hating to think of death, we 
avoid thinking of a future life. The practical inconvenience of the 
thought, and its relegation to the realm of faith. Is Spiritism an 
exception ? Yes, but that is why it fails to become popular. Other 
religious doctrines held in a peculiar manner, and called up or dismissed 
according to the sentiment of the moment. Why, then, has an entirely 
contrary impression prevailed? (i) the indifference of the mass versus 
the vocal few ; (2) the memory of bygone interest. The possibility of 
testing the issue and discovering the facts by the questionnaire of the 
American Branch of the Psychical Research Society. Social taboos as 
bars to inquiry. The world not unknowable. The old fear of know 
ledge. Magic and Science. The need of social support in discovery. 

IT is a venerable commonplace that among the melan 
choly prerogatives which distinguish man from the other 

1 This essay appeared in the Fortnightly Review for September 1901. It 
was intended to draw attention to the inquiry mentioned on pp. 328-330. Some 
3000 answers were obtained, and, so far as they bear on the question which 
directly concerns the Society for Psychical Research, viz. to what extent is there 
a desire to know ? they have been discussed by me in a report in Part 49 of 
the Proceedings of the S. P. R. The whole material, however, is so extensive 
and psychologically so valuable as to need fuller treatment when some one 
finds time to do it. 

I may here avail myself of the occasion of expressing my conviction that 
there exist a number of questions concerning the psychological foundations of 
ethics, aesthetics, and logic which urgently need study by statistical methods. 
We have always to find out how men actually do feel and think before we can 
safely generalize or systematize as to what they ought to feel and think. Now at 
present the actual facts are very imperfectly known, even in the case which 
has received most attention, that of the religious consciousness. As a rule 
writers have been content to go for their facts to their own preconceptions or to 
the analysis of their own individual consciousness. At most, they have noted, in 
a cursory and reluctant way, the more obvious varieties of sentiment whose 
existence was forced upon them by their notoriety. But there is no guarantee 
that all the relevant types of sentiment are even known to science ; we have 
certainly no data for gauging their relative frequency. A question like this, e.g. 




animals and bestow a deeper significance on human life 
is the fact that man alone is aware of the doom that 
terminates his earthly existence, and on this account 
lives a more spiritual life, in the ineffable consciousness 
of the sword of Damokles which overshadows him and 
weights his lightest action with gigantic import. Nay, 
more ; stimulated by the ineluctable necessity of facing 
death, and of living so as to face it with fortitude, 
man has not abandoned himself to nerveless inaction, to 
pusillanimous despair ; he has conceived the thought, he 
has cherished the hope, he has embraced the belief, of a 
life beyond the grave, and opened his soul to the religions 
which baulk the king of terrors of his victims and defraud 
him of his victory. Thus, the fear of death has been 
redeemed and ennobled by the consoling belief in immor 
tality, a belief from which none are base enough to 
withhold their moral homage, even though the debility 
of mortal knowledge may debar a few from a full 
acceptance of its promise. Such are the themes of 
endless dithyrambs, of inexhaustible eloquence on the 
part of our poets and preachers, such the constituents of 
a volume of uncontested literary tradition which the 
hardiest sceptic could scarcely dare to question. 

And yet to one regarding human action in the merely 
inquisitive temper of psychologic science this mass of 
literary conventions is by no means above suspicion. 
If we look closely, is it so certain that it fully represents 

What percentage of human beings use respectively aesthetical, emotional, 
prudential, and strictly ethical modes of valuation in their judgments concerning 
the actions commonly classed as moral ? is at present simply unanswerable. 
But it ought to be capable of being answered, if not with mathematical exactness, 
yet with practically sufficient accuracy. And until we can answer it ethics will 
never be a science, and moralists will continue to beat the air and to tilt at 
windmills. I should propose, therefore, as a counsel of perfection, to be adopted 
on that happy day (now, I trust, approaching) when philosophers will no longer 
content themselves with idle speculation, but will speculate only to interpret and 
investigate the facts which form the final test of speculation, that societies be 
formed for the study of the psychological facts of actual human sentiment in 
these regions. Such societies would have to formulate their questions in a 
simple, interesting, and concrete way, to circulate them and to tabulate the 
answers. Such methods would, I believe, prove more fruitful than the laborious 
mimicry of physiology which at present passes for experimental psychology, 
though they need not conflict with the latter, and indeed might incidentally 
suggest to it some experiments really worth making. 


the actual sentiments and accords with the actions of 
men ? Is the assumption either of a universal conscious 
ness of death or of a universal desire for immortality 
really so irrefragable ? Certainly the evidence in its 
favour is far scantier and more ambiguous than we were 
inclined to suppose, and there are ugly facts which seem 
to put a different complexion on the matter. The 
ordinary conduct of men affords but little support for 
the notion that their life is a constant meditation upon 
death, tempered by the joyful anticipation of immortality. 
A visitor from Mars, dispassionately inquiring into human 
conduct and motive, might find it hard to detect more 
foreknowledge of death in men than in animals. From 
the palace to the hovel, from the laboratory to the 
oratory, he would find men everywhere pursuing ends of 
the earth, earthly, living for the present, or if circumstances 
forced them to take thought for the morrow, concerning 
themselves only with their immediate future in this 
world ; while of the other- worldliness, so often preached 
and preached against in the literature, he would hardly 
find a trace. To find it a dominating, or even an 
important, influence in human psychology he would have 
to seek it, not in the churches or the universities, and still 
less amid the bustle of active life, but in the asylums in 
which are secluded the unhappy victims of religious 
mania or melancholy, in whom an insane logic has 
overpowered the healthy indifference to death and its 
consequences, which characterizes the make-up of the 
normal mind. And this impression would be enhanced 
rather than erased if our Martian critic at last succeeded 
in observing the tremendous shock which the ordinary 
man receives when he for the first time truly realizes that 
his days are numbered. For such effects would seem to 
testify to the success with which the thought of death has 
until then been kept out of consciousness. 

Of course the fact that men habitually live in the 
present, hating to think of the future, and detesting any 
thing that reminds them of death, has not, in another 
connexion, escaped the sagacity of moralists and 



preachers. Many of their happiest efforts are concerned 
with castigating this particular form of human weakness 
and exhibiting its insensate folly. And in so doing our 
teachers have been no doubt abundantly justified. Only 
it appears to have escaped their notice that this count of 
their indictment against human nature accords none too 
well with their doctrine that death and immortality are 
absorbing objects of meditation. If it be true that we 
are culpably careless of the future, recklessly bent on 
suppressing all thought of death, it can hardly be that 
we live oppressed by the shadow of death, and consumed 
with desire for the consolations of a future life. 

For if there is something wrong about the tradition as 
to the psychological importance of the thought of death, 
a similar error will probably be found to pervade also the 
traditional estimate of the importance of immortality. 
Unless men think constantly of death, they have no 
occasion to think of a future life. And as a matter of 
fact there seems to be the same dearth of tangible and 
indisputable evidence to attest the existence of a wide 
spread preoccupation with the possibility of a future life. 

Subjects which arouse wide and deep human interest 
will not down : from their deep-seated springs they 
bubble up through the crust of convention and inundate 
the arid surface of human life. They are constantly talked 
about, they fill the columns of the newspapers, they demand 
and obtain State support, they are lectured upon at the 
universities, they are cultivated by societies of enthusiasts, 
they are fostered by abundant supplies of the sinews of 
war. But of any symptom of the kind, to bear out the 
doctrine that men are keenly desirous of establishing 
their immortality, or even interested in the question at 
all, our Martian philosopher would detect little or nothing. 
It is a subject hardly ever mentioned in conversation, and 
indeed one which it would be bad form to allude to 
seriously. Ghost stories, usually of a palpably absurd 
and apocryphal kind, find admission into the newspapers 
only towards the end of the silly season, when the giant 
gooseberry has ceased to grow and the sea-serpent to 


agitate its cumbrous coils. No State has ever appointed a 
Royal Commission to inquire into the alarming allega 
tion that its citizens are immortal, and cannot, if the worst 
comes to the worst, be finally disposed of by the hangman ; 
no Legislature has ever contained a member faddy enough 
to hold that the decision of this question had an important 
bearing on the greatest happiness of the greatest number, 
and to demand from the supreme official of a State 
Church a report on the prospective condition of the masses 
in the future life, and suggestions aiming at its amelioration. 
At no university are there any researches conducted with 
a view to a scientific solution of the problem ; at most of 
the seats of learning, indeed, the attempt to do so would, 
in spite of our boasted freedom of research, be extremely 
hazardous, while a scientist who came forward with 
evidence tending to discredit and disprove the detested 
doctrine would be received with impunity and applause. 

But, it will be objected, are you not overlooking 
the churches, and are they not conspicuous enough in 
advocating the hope of immortality to the very verge 
of nausea ? Precisely so, I would reply, the churches 
have their own peculiar methods of handling the subject, 
and men have their own peculiar methods of treating 
matters of religious faith. That is why the religious 
dogma of immortality cannot without reserve be adduced 
as evidence of a spontaneous human interest in the alleged 
fact. What the dogma means and what it proves may be 
considered later ; at present it need only be urged that 
to be interested in immortality as a matter of religious 
faith, is not necessarily, nor usually, to be interested in it 
as a matter of scientific fact, or to think about it as a 
factor in ordinary life. 

If you set aside the testimony of the churches, what 
of the Society for Psychical Research ? Is it not a 
society, and learned, and devoted to the scientific elucida 
tion of this very problem ? And does not its existence 
dispose of the reproach that men do nothing to investigate 
the supreme mysteries of their existence ? 

Now it would ill become one who has been a patient 



member of this much-enduring society for eighteen years 
(ever since it flashed across him that the subject had 
never been investigated) to depreciate its importance and 
its value ; but when this eminently respectable body is 
expected to atone for the apathy of a whole world, and 
put forward as conclusive proof of the existence of 
universal interest in a future life and as the exemplar and 
high-water mark of scientific research into its possibility, 
it is hard to refrain from the exclamation Parturiunt 
monies ! For what is the Psychical Research Society that 
for its sake judgment should not be passed upon the world? 
In the first place its officials would probably protest 
vehemently, and not without reason, against the assump 
tion that its only, or even its chief, object was to conduct 
a scientific investigation into the question of a future life. 
In the second place its membership, after twenty years of 
strenuous and not unfruitful labour, remains stationary at 
less than 1500. In the third place its subscription is a 
guinea, and its gross income seems to be less than ^2000. 
Can any one who reflects what these figures mean cling 
to the preposterous delusion that men are actively desirous 
of finding out about their future ? In the whole wide 
world, it seems, there are almost 1500 persons taking an 
annual guinea s worth of scientific interest in finding out 
whether they have anything to look forward to after 
death, and if so what; nearly 1500 persons who are 
willing to pay for the possibility of this knowledge as 
much as for a box seat at a theatre ! And observe that 
we are assuming what is very improbable, viz. that all the 
members are really interested and regular subscribers. 
Again, the total sum contributed to Psychical Research is 
well under ^2000 ! It would be hard to mention a human 
fad or hobby, however trivial and despicable, which cannot 
make a better showing, to which there are not devoted 
more money, more time, more zeal, than to what is 
supposed to be the most important of all questions. If 
people really thought so, why don t they subscribe to 
have the matter properly investigated, and why should it 
be easier to raise the funds for a hospital for leprous cats 


than for a laboratory in which to test the prima facie 
evidence for human immortality ? 

Surely the paradox of such a state of affairs would be 
a sheer impossibility, if there really existed any desire for 
probing into the mystery of death. Is it not obvious on 
the face of it then, if there exists a desire for a future life 
in any sense, it is not a desire for scientific knowledge 
thereof, but a feeling of a very peculiar character which 
well merits further analysis? It is an attempt at such an 
analysis that I shall venture to contribute to the study of 
human psychology. 

There is clearly some grave error in the plea embodied 
in the literary tradition we began by stating. But I am 
very far from thinking that it is mere cant and sheer 
humbug, or consciously deceptive. I hope to show rather 
that it springs in good faith from a natural illusion, and 
even that, in a manner, while distorting, it reflects a real 
truth about human feeling. And in explaining away this 
misleading tradition, I hope at the same time to divest of 
its paradoxical appearance the suggestion that the vast 
majority of men either do not desire a future life at all, or 
only do so in such a curious and limited way that this desire 
is a negligible quantity in the estimation of their actions. 

I shall most fitly begin by suggesting an explanation 
of the phenomenon that de facto so little account is taken 
of the inevitableness of death. That this must be the 
case is a result which follows from the general principle 
that our attitude towards all the aspects of life, must be 
such as will enable us to act vigorously and efficiently. 
Applied to the prospect of death, this principle renders 
it certain that the thought of death cannot be allowed 
to paralyse action, that means must be discovered for 
carrying on the business of life in death s despite. Of 
such means two are most prominent, the suppression of 
the thought of death by a resolute and systematic 
determination not to entertain it, and a religious rein- 
terpretation which so transfigures it that it no longer forms 
an impediment to action. Of these the latter is clearly 
the more truly logical and satisfactory, but as a matter 



of fact men mostly prefer (and probably always have 
preferred) the former alternative, and for ever strive to 
thrust the unwelcome thought into the background of 
consciousness. This is why all but the most inevitable 
mention of it is tabooed in polite society. The method 
on the whole is a social success, though it probably breaks 
down at least once in the final crisis of every one s life. 

The next step in our investigation will be to consider 
how our attitude towards death affects the desire for a 
future life. Now we know that most of the religions have 
insisted on the fact of immortality and made it man s 
great consolation in view of the prospect of death. Or, 
at least, that is what the religious doctrines appear to aim 
at. But it also seems probable that the great majority 
of men, instead of thinking of death tempered with 
immortality, prefer not to think of death at all. Hence 
it is natural that what is associated with the thought of 
something so distasteful should itself become distasteful. 
Need we look further for the reason why the prospect of 
a future life is, by the generality of men, regarded without 
enthusiasm and, as far as may be, ignored ? Nor is it 
strictly accurate to say that this attitude has passed quite 
unobserved in the literature. Plato, who, in spite of efforts 
of modern commentators to prove the contrary, was of all 
thinkers perhaps the most seriously interested in the 
question of immortality and the most resolutely bent on 
moralizing the doctrine and rendering it effective, exactly 
hits off the great underlying mass of human feeling in 
the description he gives of the psychological history of 
Kephalos, the good old man who has learnt wisdom from 
the experience of a long life. In the Republic ( 3 3 i ) he 
is represented as confessing that, throughout youth and 
manhood, he paid no heed to the legends about Hades, 
laughing them to scorn, but now that he had come to 
realize that his days were drawing to a close, he was 
tormented by the fear lest there should after all be some 
foundation for the belief in a future life. 1 Very much 

1 I find that Mr. Norman Pearson has taken much the same view as I have of 
man s actual feelings, in the Nineteenth Century for August 1883. 


the same feeling peeps out through the conventional 
phraseology in the story of the old gentleman who, being 
a churchwarden of (in his own opinion) the most immacu 
late orthodoxy, was asked by Frederic Myers what he 
supposed would happen to him after death. After much 
hesitation he reluctantly admitted that he supposed he 
would enter into eternal bliss, but he did wish Mr. Myers 
would not bring up such depressing topics. 

The old gentleman was quite right ; a future life, no 
matter how gorgeously it is depicted, is, and must be, a 
depressing subject for people of his sort, comfortable, pro 
sperous, and self-satisfied. For they feel that before they 
can make their triumphal entry into Heaven they have to 
make their exit from a world in which they are far more 
thoroughly at home than in any heaven they have ever 
heard of. Hence the difficulty about the rich man s 
entering the Kingdom of Heaven is not on the celestial 
side alone. The rich man, for his part, is not in a 
hurry to get there. And inasmuch as people of this kind 
set the tone in society, it is no wonder that scientific 
investigation of immortality is not encouraged. People 
do not want to hear about it, and above all they do not 
want to know about it. 

For if once they knew, it would be most inconvenient. 
They would have to act on their knowledge, and that 
might upset the habits of a lifetime. And the older one 
gets the less one likes that. What the decision was 
would not so much matter ; whether science decided for 
immortality or for annihilation, the blissful ignorance that 
enabled one to ignore the subject in ordinary life would 
be gone for ever. Hence an uncertainty to which we have 
grown adapted is instinctively or deliberately preferred to 
a knowledge that would involve the readjustment of 
ingrained habits. 

It is curious to trace how the various religions, one 
after the other, effect their submission to this imperious 
demand of humanity. On the face of it, of course, they 
start pledged to uphold the entirely contrary thesis that 
life should include a proper meditation of death and 


322 HUMANISM xvn 

immortality, and seem to constitute an imposing mass of 
testimony for the contention that the future life is one of 
our chief interests. But in practice their doctrines are 
satisfactorily accommodated to the temper of humanity. 
The religions renounce the attempt of maintaining im 
mortality as a matter of fact, and of adducing tangible 
evidence in its favour. The doctrine becomes a dogma 
which has to be accepted by faith, and the obligation of 
raising it to positive knowledge is implicitly or expressly 

To illustrate : the Resurrection of Our Lord need not 
and ought not to have become a matter of faith in any 
other sense than the death of Queen Anne, or any other 
event in history. The circumstances attending that event 
were not originally matters of faith at all : to the Apostles 
and other witnesses they were matters of direct experience. 
There was a time therefore when the exact course of 
events might have been ascertained, conceivably even to 
the satisfaction of persons like the critical experts of 
the Psychical Society. And so they would never have 
become matters of faith, if contemporaries in general had 
supported a Society for Psychical Research and been 
keenly observant and vigilantly interested in supernormal 
happenings : for they would then have done their duty by 
posterity and compiled records which would have left as 
little doubt about the facts and involved as little special 
strain upon our faculty of faith as any other of the events 
that fall without our direct experience. Thus it is the 
negligence of the past which imposes on us the burden 
of faith. Now that such a very simple and obvious 
reflection should have an air of unfamiliarity is surely 
signal proof of how habitual has become our distortion of 
the original sense of religious propositions, of how far we 
have drifted from a treatment of them as plain statements 
of fact. But for this we should regard the evidential 
defects of our records as appropriate occasions, not for 
affirmations of a faith which glories in its heroism, but for 
expressions of regret similar to those which other gaps in 
our records of the past evoke. 


The only exception to this peculiar way of transmuting 
the purport of the religious doctrine of immortality seems to 
be exhibited by Spiritism, which for this very reason is 
inexpressibly shocking to what one may call the religious 
sense of decency. For Spiritism is a religion whose sole 
essential dogma seems to be the assertion of the possibility 
of (in a manner) unifying this world with the next by 
communicating with the departed, and whose sole essential 
rite is the practice of such communication. This is what 
renders the psychology of Spiritism so interesting and 
worthy of analysis. In the first place it should be noted 
that it is not a scientific movement (in spite of a few 
notable exceptions), but a religion, nay, in all probability, 
the most ancient of all religions. And yet as a religion 
Spiritism has been and is a failure, and it may be suggested 
that the reason is just that it does treat the future life as a 
hard (and somewhat crude) fact. This is the source both 
of its strength and of its weakness. Of its strength, because 
no other doctrine can minister with such directness to the 
bereaved human heart, no other consolation can vie with 
its proffer of visible and tangible tokens that love outlasts 
death and that the separation death inflicts is not utter 
and insuperable. And so long as this craving for a sign 
possesses our souls, Spiritism will continue to win adherents, 
who embrace it, not in a calm temper of scientific research, 
but in an emotional convulsion, and, it may be, with a 
pathetic eagerness to deceive themselves. 

But such agonies cannot be permanent. The wave of 
feeling subsides, and with it passes the attractiveness of 
Spiritism. Its weakness is that it appeals to emotions 
which cannot permanently occupy the mind, and it is a 
weakness far more fatal than the objections currently 
urged against it, its vulgarity, its frauds, etc. Vulgarity, 
fraud, nay, sheer absurdity, have never been insuperable 
obstacles to the success of a religious movement which 
was in other respects congenial to human nature, and there 
was no reason a priori why Spiritism should have proved 
less successful than, e.g. Christian Science. 

A typical illustration of the psychology of Spiritism is 

324 HUMANISM X vn 

afforded by the history of a friend of mine, who, having 
lost his wife, long derived much consolation from the 
belief that he was, by automatic writing, receiving 
communications from her spirit. His spiritist enthusiasm 
was, however, seriously checked when he discovered 
that his spirit guide did not take at all kindly to 
his growing interest in a young lady in the flesh. 
He has now married again, and is quite convinced 
that the automatic messages, which once seemed so 
expressive of his first wife s personality, were merely the 
productions of his own subconsciousness. In time he 
will doubtless chime in with the current doctrine that there 
is something intrinsically degrading in the notion that our 
departed dear ones can still communicate with us, continue 
to be interested in us, and are watching us all the time. 

It is the notion of this espionnage which is intolerable 
and constitutes the unpardonable offence of Spiritism, in 
the self-centred eyes of those who have never stopped to 
reflect what intolerably dreary and irritating functions 
they would assign to the departed. 

It seems pretty clear then that the anomalous case 
of Spiritism does not upset the results we have already 
arrived at : it forms a temporary anodyne for over 
wrought feelings ; it cannot give permanent satisfaction, 
because it arouses the opposition of feelings which in the 
long run are more powerful. And in any case its interest 
in the future life is emotional and not scientific. 

The other religions are more artful. They advocate 
the belief in immortality indeed, but with a significant 
distinction. The future life is a vision that floats before the 
eye of faith, not a brutal fact to be thrust upon a reluctant 
attention. The world can stomach a future life so dis 
creetly formulated. Indeed, it rather likes the notion. 
There are times when we are out of sorts and the spectre 
of death will not down, and blank annihilation stares us 
in the face, and then it is a great comfort to turn to some 
religious tradition of another and a better life. We may 
even go so far as to consider heavens and hells agreeable 
topics for an occasional sermon, or like to use them. 


metaphorically, to strengthen our assertions. But all this 
in no wise implies that they are taken as facts and must 
be acted on as such. On the contrary, it is just because 
the religious doctrines of immortality are not taken as 
facts that they are accepted. For we are accustomed to 
accept matters of faith only at a large discount from their 
face value, and their acceptance scarcely affects the value 
of the hard-money facts of everyday life. Hence the 
religious doctrines with respect to the future life form a 
sort of paper currency, inconvertible with fact, which suits 
people and circulates the better because of its very badness. 
Their function is to conjure up pleasing and consoling 
visions whenever we are in a mood for them, to provide a 
brighter background for life than sheer extinction ; but they 
are never allowed to grow insistent enough seriously to 
affect action. They are entertained in a complacent spirit 
of half belief, but no sensible man (and the mass of man 
kind are always appallingly sensible with respect to 
whatever does not tempt them !) allows himself to be 
distracted in his business and upset in his calculations by 
such shadowy possibilities. Consequently their practical 
effect is small and utterly out of proportion to their 
pretensions. The human spirit accepts them indeed in 
a religious I had almost said a Pickwickian sense, 
and uses whatever elements in them minister to its 
needs : it rejects the indigestible remainder. 

And here one cannot help thinking the churches make a 
grave mistake. They do not seem to realize that the 
cultivated minds of the present day have come to include 
in the indigestible remainder the greater part of what 
has hitherto been regarded as most distinctive dogma. 
Fortunately or unfortunately, neither Heaven nor Hell 
retains its efficacy, even for the purposes above described. 
Men no longer dream themselves in Heaven nor dread 
themselves in Hell. This puts the churches into the 
humiliating position of offering men the reward of a 
heaven which hardly any one desires, and of threatening 
them with the penalties of a hell which every one believes 
to be reserved for people a great deal worse than them- 

326 HUMANISM xvn 

selves. Myers s churchwarden, who has already been 
quoted, may have reached an unsurpassable pinnacle of 
impeccable orthodoxy, but as an illustration of celestial 
attraction he is a failure. Similarly, when I expressed 
these opinions concerning the attractiveness of the notion 
of Heaven in the Spectator^ I elicited no contradiction, 
but only a number of anecdotes bearing out my conten 
tion. As for Hell, I never met but one man who 
professed to believe that he himself was destined to 
eternal damnation, but as he made this avowal with a 
smiling countenance, and without the least effort to alter 
his ways, his testimony must be received with caution. 
In view of this disappointing situation (for surely the fear 
of Hell, at least, was among the more effective, if also 
among the cruder, of the argumentative incentives to 
virtue), it might be well if the churches admitted some 
what greater latitude into their myths of the future life 
(if myths are all we are to be allowed to have) ; both 
the thought of spirit -communication and that of re 
incarnation appear to possess powers of consolation (in 
certain moods) that might advantageously be utilized. 

It seems probable, therefore, that so far from modifying 
the impression produced by men s manifest indifference to 
and dislike for any scientific investigation of the question 
of their immortality, their attitude towards the religious 
doctrines only confirms our conclusions. The religious 
dogmas are accepted because they are what men desire, 
and so far as they are this : they yield a vague, remote 
guarantee against annihilation, which may be summoned 
up or dismissed at pleasure, and does not involve any 
immediate practical consequences. What is also very 
convenient, this policy enables men to avoid a scientific 
decision of the question and to give to every attempt 
thereat an air of religious impropriety : thus there is 
avoided all occasion for any practical readjustment, any 
rearrangement of life, which grows progressively more 
irksome and difficult as age advances. But inasmuch as 
influence increases with age, and our great authorities 

1 November 24, 1900. 


are all old, it is easily seen that the weight of all religious 
and scientific authority must be naturally opposed to any 
divergence from the established tradition. For the only 
sort of future life which would have any attraction for the 
old would be one in which they could go on very much 
as on earth. But I very much doubt whether, even then, 
they would care to pass through the ordeal of death in 
order to secure it. 

It remains to account for the fact that the literary 
tradition has taken such a very different view of human 
psychology. Why has everybody always conspired to 
write as though the question of immortality were of the 
most tremendous importance and absorbing interest, if de 
facto the great majority of men have always avoided it as 
much as ever they could ? I believe the answer to be 
exceedingly simple. The makers of the literary tradition 
have expressed what seemed true to them at the time of 
writing, what was true for them ; and yet the mass of 
men were always indifferent or hostile. 1 Of course, how 
ever, the dumb, recalcitrant masses gave no sign of their 
dissent from a doctrine they were trying to dismiss from 
their minds, and hence the writers had it all their own 
way. In other words, the fallacy in the argument that 
all men naturally crave for immortality is identical with 
that in the proof of the efficacy of prayer by means of 
the votive offerings in the temple of Poseidon. Just as 
those who prayed and perished were not in a position 
to make offerings, so those who are not interested in a 
subject do not write books about it. 

1 I should very much doubt whether the ages of faith were a real exception. 
No doubt it was, in those days, possible to get great and striking effects out of 
people by playing on their fears of Hell. But these effects were possible just 
because people were still more systematically averse from thinking on the subject, 
and still more contentedly ignorant and uncritical. Hence the crudest and most 
atrocious threats would be sufficient to drive men frantic in extremis, and the 
ruffianly baron, who had lived more brutally than any beast, would eagerly sign 
away the whole of the fruits of his lifelong rapine in order to make his peace 
with God. I believe there is more real religion in the world at present than ever 
before, i.e. more lives conducted with a sense of constant communion with higher 
powers, as well as far more of the reasoned faith which only superficially resembles 
the unthinking acceptance of dogmas felt to be unintelligible, that so often usurps 
the name of faith. But just because we are more religious, we are less prone to 
an uncritical acceptance of whatever monstrosity comes to us in the disguise of 



Moreover in this case the illusion is greatly heightened 
by a very general psychological fact which at first sight 
seems to support the literary view. For it is probable 
that at one time or other (mostly in youth) nearly 
every one is in trouble about his soul and takes a keen 
interest in the question of a future life. But as a 
rule, the interest is short-lived and soon dies out, or 
rather, is trampled out by the social disapproval of the 
pretension to be more troubled about such matters than 
one s elders and betters. But the memory of this interest 
persists and wins from every one an easy, though nominal, 
assent to the assertions of those who expatiate on the 
importance of the question. The truth is that many have 
felt the importance of the subject, but that at any given 
moment only an infinitesimal fraction actually feel it, so 
that there is never any effective demand for its investiga 
tion. Even in the elect ranks of the Society for Psychical 
Research it is probable that the same law has been at 
work, and that the reason for the apathy of most of its 
members is that they have long lost the keenness of 
interest which originally nerved them to the prodigious 
effort of joining the Society. 

It may be thought that the novel interpretation of 
human action and feeling which we have been considering 
is thus as fully established as it can be by argument. But 
in a matter of this sort one ought not to content oneself 
with argument while proof is attainable. And fortunately 
in this case the actual facts can be ascertained so soon as 
a sufficient number of persons desire to ascertain them. 

The American Branch of the Society for Psychical 
Research has, under the auspices of Dr. Richard Hodgson, 
issued a circular, or questionnaire, designed to test and to 
bring out the feelings with which the prospect of a future 
life is actually regarded. It runs thus : 

There is a widespread literary tradition that men naturally 
desire a future life. From this assumed fact it has been variously 
argued that (i) such a universal desire cannot be destined to 
disappointment, and (2) it must vitiate convictions and engender 
illusory evidence in its own support. 

But there is some reason to suppose, both from the ordinary 


conduct of men and from sporadic declarations of individuals, that 
this tradition is very far from accurately representing the facts, and 
that these are actually more various and complicated. Moreover, 
it should not be forgotten that in India the literary tradition seems 
to be exactly reversed, and it is assumed that men naturally crave 
for extinction or absorption in the Absolute. 

It becomes a question, therefore, what the actual sentiments of 
men are, and what, consequently, is the actual bias with which they 
are likely to receive the doctrines and the evidence that bear on 
the subject. 

Both these questions are capable of being determined with 
sufficient precision by instituting a statistical inquiry over a 
sufficiently wide field collecting answers until it becomes evident 
that the percentages of the various types of answer have become 

To determine the nature of men s actual sentiments and actual 
bias should be a matter of great interest, not only to the S.P.R. 
and psychologists generally, but also to every religious organization. 
For both the scientific labours of the former and the moral exhorta 
tions of the latter are likely to be in some degree, at least, ineffectual, 
so long as they are conducted in ignorance, and so in disregard, of 
what men really want. It is only when the facts have been 
ascertained that they can be argued from for the various purposes 
of the scientist, the philosopher and the theologian. 

First of all, therefore, it is necessary to discover the nature of 
human sentiment ; and to obtain it in its purity, it is desirable to 
exclude, as far as possible, all extraneous influences, whether of a 
religious or of a scientific kind. It is, of course, recognized that 
these may and often do influence sentiment, that they may engender 
or check it, and also that there may be a marked divergence 
between conviction or belief and sentiment. But as it is primarily 
the nature of the sentiment which has to be determined, these other 
considerations should be excluded as far as possible. 

Hence the subjoined questions should be understood as directly 
referring only to the personal preferences, sentiments, or desires of 
those who answer them, quite irrespective of their religious faith or 
reasoned convictions, the influence of which, where it exists, may 
be recorded in answer to Question III. 

N.B, All names will be regarded as strictly confidential. 


I. Would you prefer (a) to live after death or (b} not ? 
II. (a) If I. (), do you desire a future life whatever the conditions 

may be ? 

(b} If not, what would have to be its character to make the 
prospect seem tolerable ? Would you, e.g., be content 
with a life more or less like your present life ? 

330 HUMANISM xvn 

(c) Can you say what elements in life (if any) are felt by you 
to call for its perpetuity ? 

III. Can you state why you feel in this way, as regards Questions I. 

and II.? 

IV. Do you NOW feel the question of a future life to be of urgent 

importance to your mental comfort ? 
V. Have your feelings on Questions I. II. and IV. undergone 

change ? If so, when and in what ways ? 

VI. (a) Would you like to know for certain about the future life, or 
(b) would you prefer to leave it a matter of faith ? 

It will be evident, I think, to any one who reads this 
questionnaire that if a sufficiently extensive collection of 
answers can be made to be representative of the senti 
ments of the educated classes in America and England, 
the views expressed in this article will be thoroughly 
tested, and the question of the actual nature of human 
sentiment can no longer remain obscure. And in 
addition a great mass of psychological material will have 
been accumulated, the critical sifting of which cannot 
fail to throw much light upon a number of most important 
questions of a religious, philosophical, and moral character. 
The results would be sure to be important and almost 
sure to be surprising. For unless the argument of this 
paper has been wholly mistaken, they would diverge very 
widely from the literary tradition. 

Personally I shall be greatly surprised if the returns 
do not show that active and intense preoccupation with 
the question of a future life is an exceedingly rare state 
of mind. And yet if I should be wrong in this estimate, 
I should not be disappointed. For if it should turn out 
that real and extensive interest in the question actually 
exists, I should feel that the chief, and hitherto insuperable, 
obstacle in the way of actual scientific investigation of 
the question of fact was at length giving way. 

I refer to the social taboo of any serious inquiry to 
which at present the scattered individuals who at any 
given time desire to know are compelled to submit. 
This taboo seems to rest its appeal on the highest and 
most respectable motives, religious and scientific. It is 
enunciated with an air of the profoundest wisdom and 


couches its warnings in the solemn voice of immemorial 
experience. Yet I feel sure that the census of senti 
ments will not have to proceed far to make it clear 
that the traditional attitude of society rests neither upon 
reason nor upon religion, but really upon a blind feeling 
or instinct, against the domination of which all self- 
respecting persons will revolt as soon as they recognize 
its existence in themselves and in others. 

It will consequently become possible for the few who 
desire to know the truth, and are prepared to take the 
steps ordinarily adopted in complicated scientific investiga 
tions, to treat the social taboo with the proper disrespect 
and to pursue their course without being thwarted by the 
many who do not desire to know and have hitherto held 
it to be their duty to prevent any one from finding out. 

The present situation is indeed not far short of farcical, 
or rather would be entirely so, but for the pathos of the 
self-delusion which it implies, and the torture which it 
inflicts on its victims. We profess to believe that a 
knowledge of the fate which awaits each one of us in 
the comparatively near future would be, of all knowledge, 
the most precious. We lament, with many marks of 
sincerity, that the inscrutable wisdom of higher powers 
has inexorably precluded us from the attainment of this 
knowledge. We confess to have experienced, perhaps 
more than once, unspeakable agonies when we were 
forced to face death in our own persons or in those of 
our dear ones. Yet what do we do to extricate ourselves 
from this tragic situation ? 

We tell ghost stories ! This we have done for at 
least ten thousand years, and the supply is as plentiful as 
ever. It is also, scientifically, as unsatisfactory as ever, 
for the social atmosphere still renders a serious testing 
of this material practically impossible. Is it not absurd 
therefore that we can neither stop retailing them, nor 
make a real effort to discover of what facts they are the 
adumbration ? 

The answer is simple. Ghost stories are what, on the 
whole, we desire them to be : they fulfil their function 

332 HUMANISM xvn 

best by remaining as they are. They were never intended 
to be verified or investigated, and if they could be made 
scientifically valuable they would cease to be so emotion 
ally, and would no longer serve to surround terrestrial 
existence with the foil which enhances its brilliancy. And 
instead of being the victims of an unkind fate which baffles 
our desire to know, we are ourselves the agency which 
keeps us ignorant. 

It is as little true here as in any other matters of 
scientific inquiry that we are confronted with an inscrutable 
universe whose nature we were never intended to discover. 
It is true, here as elsewhere, that society entertains a 
fierce fear of knowledge, a savage suspicion that to eat 
of the fruits of the tree of knowledge is a sin deserving 
of death, which thousands of years of contrary experience 
have done but little to eradicate. Social control of the 
scientific instinct, the desire to know, is as real, and 
almost as stringent, as formerly, 1 even though in respect 
to a few favoured subjects of research, which are supposed 
to lead to materially useful results, it has been sufficiently 
relaxed to enable them to rise above the dense atmosphere 
of social intolerance which is continually being exhaled 
by our constitutional indolence and dislike of any re 
adjustment of our habits and actions. 

But in all other subjects the social atmosphere makes 
all the difference between success and failure, as the 
individual consciously or unconsciously breathes in its 
subtle influence. We fancy ourselves exceedingly en 
lightened and tolerant because we have (though only 
for a couple of hundred years) given up the sport of 
witch-baiting, and no longer regard all forms of scientific 
curiosity as black magic to be checked by summary 
and premature cremation. But, even as there are many 
ways of killing a dog other than hanging him, so there 
are many subtler and more effective ways of producing 
conformity to social sentiment other than overt persecu 
tion, and the social factor in the discovery and recognition 
of truth remains of paramount importance. Truths which 

1 Cp. pp. 58-60. 


lie in directions socially disapproved can either not be 
discovered at all, or when discovered remain a dead letter. 
As a rule indeed the absence of social hostility is not 
enough, but more or less active co-operation is necessary. 
The notion that a lonely thinker can spontaneously set to 
work upon some subject of inquiry which interests him, 
make discoveries of far-reaching import, and get them 
accepted and acclaimed by an admiring world is surely 
an illusion which the history of science should be sufficient 
to dispel. The lonely thinker has need of libraries, 
laboratories, and leisure, and without the consent of 
society he cannot get them. Single-handed and single- 
minded against the world he can do nothing : strive and 
labour as he may, he must sooner or later succumb to 
the overwhelming pressure of his environment. 

And in no region of possible knowledge is the power 
of the social atmosphere more obvious, or the need for 
social co-operation greater, than in everything that con 
cerns the mystery of death. And nowhere else has 
individual curiosity been more brutally crushed out. 
Whoever conceives a desire to know the truth about the 
future life engages in a struggle with social forces which 
is almost sure to end in tragedy. To begin with he is 
deluged with assurances that what he desires to know 
cannot be known, and stuffed with pseudo-proofs, scientific, 
philosophic, and religious, to persuade him to drop the 
subject. If these do not satisfy him and he persists, he 
is next told that his desire is bad form, that he must 
not appear odd, or make himself ridiculous by prying 
into matters which the wisdom of the ancients has from 
time immemorial decided to lie beyond mortal ken. 
My boy, his parent or guardian will finally say to him, 
if he is unusually sympathetic and candid, I can well 
remember the time when I, too, felt about it just as you 
do now, and would have given worlds to know. So I 
read a number of books on the subject, and even went to 
a seance or two. But I got very little out of it, and when 
I found that I was thrown into the company of all sorts 
of queer persons and things, and heard that my friends 

334 HUMANISM xvn 

were beginning to express serious concern for my sanity, 
and that I was endangering my professional reputation, 
I very wisely dropped the matter. Be sensible, therefore, 
and take my word for it, we are not meant to know about 
these things. Suppress your morbid craving for truth. 
You will soon get over it, and think as every one else does. 
As a piece of wordly wisdom this advice is unex 
ceptionable, and not to be disregarded by any who 
would avoid the madhouse or the workhouse. But 
scientifically regarded, it is somewhat lacking in con- 
clusiveness. A question which, on account of the 
resistance of social sentiment, it has never yet been 
possible to investigate with the dispassionate, and yet 
persistent, curiosity of science, can hardly be said to be 
settled. And if it should turn out as one of the results 
of the inquiry described above that on the one hand social 
sentiment has the character I have supposed, and on the 
other that a small (or even a considerable) number of 
persons are desirous of a real investigation, the latter 
would have a chance, slender perhaps, but at all events 
such as they have never had before, of combining to effect 
their object. The Society for Psychical Research, in 
particular, would, have to change its tactics. Instead of 
pouring out volume after volume of minutely and dully 
accurate reports of sittings with its Mrs. Pipers and Mrs. 
Thompsons, which the world ignores until the lapse of 
time, by removing the first-hand witnesses beyond the 
reach of cross-examination, has rendered its evidence as 
inconclusive as the testimony which in the past has failed 
to move the world, it would have to address itself, in the 
first instance, to modifying the existing sentiment of 
society. And whether it succeeded or not, it might at 
least induce us to be more honest with ourselves, and to 
cease from our insincere lamentings over the impossibility 
of a knowledge than which the gods could bestow no 

o o 

more embarrassing gift upon the generality of men. 




I. Is Immortality an Ethical Postulate ? Yes, if it can be shown to be implied 

in the validity of our ethical valuation of the world. Objections : (a) a 
pure morality needs no reference to another world. But there is moral 
waste if goodness of character perishes, and ultimate moral failure when 
physical life becomes impossible on earth ; (b} it is immoral to relegate 
the sanctions of morality to another world. Not if future happiness and 
misery are conceived as the intrinsic consequences of moral goodness and 
badness ; (c} we cannot live for two worlds at once. Depends on how they 
are conceived. The thought of a future life morally bracing, and, like 
all forethought about the future, a mark of superior mental development. 

II. What is the value of an Ethical Postulate ? The postulate is not emotional 
but rational, and affirms the validity of our moral judgments. It is part 
of a system of postulates which all proceed similarly. Moreover, the 
ideals we postulate are coincident and bound up together. Ultimately 
Truth, Goodness, Happiness and Beauty must all be postulated or 
rejected together. The alleged superior validity of the ideal of Truth 

An ethical postulate, however, does not prescribe any special mode of its 
realization, for which we must look to scientific experience. There are 
also other questions which may modify, though they cannot subvert, our 
ethical demand. 

WE are so accustomed in these days to hear the world-old 
traditions of the human race denied or ignored simply 
because they are old that the antique flavour inevitably 
attaching to any argument about Immortality almost 
suffices to secure its condemnation unheard. Yet such 
scornful treatment of authority is not justified by the 
present state of our knowledge. On the contrary, the 
antiquity and wide prevalence of an idea in themselves 
constitute a prima facie claim upon the attention of the 

] First published in the New World for September 1897. 



unprejudiced. Even on our most modern principles of 
evolutionist explanation, it means that the idea is some 
how a response to a widely felt and persistent element in 
our experience. Its very antiquity, therefore, gives it 
an authority which may not be lightly set aside. 

Still I do not wish to argue this question of Immortality 
on the basis of authority. There is another side also 
to the influence of authority, when that authority is old. 
It is probable in such cases that the idea supported by 
authority will be disfigured by the dust of ages, overgrown 
by all sorts of parasitic fungi of fancy, and rendered 
ridiculous by the incrustations of fossil formulas, until its 
best friends hardly know it and it becomes intellectually 
contemptible, morally outrageous and aesthetically re 
pulsive to its foes. As something of this sort has probably 
happened to the idea of immortality, it will be the plan 
of this paper to argue the question on the sole ground 
of reason ; its only stipulation being that the appeal be 
really made to the light of reason, shining without let or 
hindrance, and so far as possible, freed from all coloured 
spectacles of religious or scientific orthodoxy that might 
check its transmission. 

The subject of Immortality is, however, too extensive 
for me to attempt to discuss it as a whole, and my 
efforts will be confined to a single aspect of it the 
ethical. That is, I shall not try to determine whether 
there is immortality as a fact, but only whether the 
science of ethics needs this conception for its own 
perfection. Putting the question more technically, I 
propose to consider two things. First : Is Immortality 
an ethical postulate ? Must a moral being, i.e. a 
being that can be judged good or evil, as such be 
deemed immortal ? Secondly : If so, what does an 
ethical postulate prove ? What is its general significance 
or logical status in the world of thought ? The first of 
these questions is exclusively ethical. The second enters 
upon the realm of metaphysics, and may be expected to 
involve so much subtler and more difficult considerations 
that I would gladly evade it altogether if possible. But, 


unfortunately, to enforce the due respect for an ethical 
postulate, the case must be carried to the supreme court 
of metaphysics. Moreover, it is only the discussion of 
its metaphysical value that gives the ethical argument any 
direct bearing on the question, not here to be discussed 
as such, whether there is immortality as a matter of fact. 

Let us take up, then, the first question, whether 
immortality is an ethical postulate. What can be urged 
in favour of this view ? The argument for it is exceedingly 
simple : it consists in showing that without immortality it 
is not possible to think the world as a harmonious whole, 
as a moral cosmos. To show this, one has not to appeal 
to anything more recondite than the fact that in our present 
phase of existence the moral life cannot be lived out to 
its completion, that it is not permitted to display its full 
fruitage of consequences for good and for evil. When 
ever Might triumphs over Right ; whenever the evildoers 
succeed and the righteous perish ; whenever goodness is 
trampled under foot and wickedness is exalted to high 
places ; nay, whenever the moral development of character 
is cut short and rendered vain by death, we are brought 
face to face with facts which constitute an indictment of 
cosmic justice, which are inconsistent with the conception 
of the world as a moral order. Unless, therefore, we can 
vindicate this order by explaining away the facts that 
would otherwise destroy it, we have to abandon the 
ethical judgment of the world of our experience as good 
or bad ; we have to admit that the ideal of goodness is 
an illusion of which the scheme of things recks not at all. 

But if we refuse to do this (and whether we are not 
bound to refuse to abandon our ideals at the first show of 
opposition will presently be considered), how shall the 
ethical harmony be restored if not by the supposition of 
a prolongation and perfection of the moral life in the 
future ? Only so can character be made of real signifi- 


338 HUMANISM xvm 

cance in the scheme of things ; only so is it something 
worth possessing, an investment more permanent and 
more decisive of our weal and woe than all the outward 
goods men set their hearts upon, rather than a transitory 
bubble to whose splendour it matters not one whit whether 
it be pure translucence refracting the radiance of the 
sunlight, or the iridescent film that coats decay. 

The ethical argument for immortality, then, is simply 
this, that, if death ends all, the moral life cannot be lived 
out, moral perfection is impossible, and the universe can 
not be regarded as at heart ethical. But in spite of 
its simplicity this argument has been misunderstood in 
a variety of ways. Let us briefly consider the chief of 

It is objected by well-meaning people, who rather 
pride themselves on their advocacy of a purer and higher 
morality, that the ethical sphere does not need supple 
menting by a future life. They grow indignant at the 
thought that the good men do is buried in their graves, 
and does not survive to inspire and direct succeeding 
generations. They bid us therefore fight the good fight 
disinterestedly and without selfish reward, in order that 
our grandchildren, if we have any, may enjoy the fruits 
of our self-denial, and that the world may be the better 
for our efforts. 

To this the reply is twofold. It is idle to say that 
Goodness is not wasted because the results of actions 
reverberate throughout the ages. The good men do may 
persist and work well or ill, but the good men are surely 
perishes. The human character itself passes away, and 
its effects are transmitted only through the characters of 
others. The character itself is an indefeasible and 
inalienable possession of the owner, and by no flight of 
the imagination can it be transferred to others. Whatever 
worth, therefore, we assign to character, that worth is lost 
to the world if immortality be denied. And, moreover, it 
is only in their effect upon his own character that a man s 
actions can be surely classified as good or bad. What 
the effect of actions will be on others, now or subsequently 


no one can foretell : the real objection to doing too much 
for posterity is, not that posterity has done nothing for 
us, but the uncertainty as to what the effect on posterity 
will be. For that depends largely on the character of 
others, and quisque suos patimur Manes. Each can 
assume full responsibility for his own actions and his own 
character alone ; the rest lies largely on the lap of the 
gods. If, then, you deny the persistence of character, you 
have denied the real basis of the moral order. 

But, secondly, supposing even that humanity profited by 
our efforts, how far would this go towards re-establishing 
the moral order of the world ? If the immortality of the 
individual be an illusion, surely that of the race is a 
transparent absurdity. If there is certainty about any 
prediction of science, it is surely, as I have elsewhere put 
it, this, that our racial destiny is " to shiver and to starve 
to death in ever-deepening gloom." ] The prospective 
fortunes of the race, then, do not redeem the moral 
character of the universe. If the view of mechanical 
science be the whole truth about the universe, the race is 
of just as little account as the individual ; suns and stars 
and the hosts of heaven will roll on in their orbits just as 
steadily and unfeelingly whether we prosper or perish, 
struggle on or resign ourselves to despair. Cosmically, 
the earth and all it bears on its surface is of infinitesimal 
importance : what does it matter then whether any one 
brood of mites that crawls upon it is better or worse than 
its successors, any more than whether it laboriously grubs 
up a few atoms of a shining yellow or of a shining white 
metal and fights about the ratio ? No ; the worthy 
people who think that George Eliot s choir invisible can 
make a noise to compete with the whirl of worlds 
decidedly delude themselves, and an immortality of 
influence is no adequate ethical substitute for personal 

A second objection does not pretend to improve on 
the ethic of immortality, but criticizes it by descanting on 
the turpitude of basing morality on fears of Hell and 

1 Riddles of the Sphinx, p. 105, new ed. p. 104. 

340 HUMANISM xvm 

hopes of Paradise. This objection also is urged by many 
worthy persons ; and I have known some who have been 
sustained through life by the pride they took in showing 
that they could be just as moral without knowing why, as 
they were when they thought their eternal salvation 
depended on their conduct. But theoretically this objection 
surely rests on a misconception. The rewards and 
punishments for conduct are not to be looked upon as 
motives to conduct, but as the natural results of conduct, 
inevitable in a morally ordered universe. In an ethical 
universe, Goodness cannot be associated with persistent 
misery, because that would be an outrage upon the moral 
order ; Badness must ultimately involve unhappiness, be 
cause only such retribution will reaffirm the outraged 
supremacy of the moral order. Rewards and punishments, 
then, are but incidents in that completion of the moral 
life for the sake of which immortality was postulated ; 
they are not in themselves the sole motives for leading 
such a life. The very suggestion that they may be 
supposed to be, on whatever side it is urged, shows an 
imperfect appreciation of the nature of the moral life, 
indicative of a coarser moral fibre and of a lower stage 
of ethical development. 

But we need not on this account entirely condemn 
this mode of regarding immortality. Fears and hopes of 
what may happen hereafter may not be the highest 
motives to morality ; they may enforce as an external 
sanction what should be an intrinsic conviction ; but they 
are not therefore valueless. For, if they are effective, 
they at least accustom men to right conduct, 1 and thus 
form the basis of sound habit, which is the actual founda 
tion of all conduct in any case, and the necessary 
prerequisite for sound reflection upon conduct and the 
attainment of any higher view of morality. Our moral 
enthusiasm, therefore, need no more frown upon these 
lower motives than it need disband the police on the 
ground that a truly moral community should not need 

1 Cp. pp. 33-5. 


Still more radical than the objections we have con 
sidered is a third objection which denounces the essential 
immorality of looking to a future life at all in connexion 
with our conduct here. The habit of contemplating a 
future life, it is urged, engenders a pernicious other- 
worldliness most detrimental to proper behaviour in this 
world. We cannot live for two worlds at once. The 
future life dwarfs the present ; the supposed significance 
of the eternal life hereafter destroys the real significance 
of our life here and now. 

Again, I think the objection labours under a mis 
conception. It holds good only against a conception of 
immortality which, like the Buddhist Nirvana, for example, 
conflicts and competes with the ethical view of this world : 
We cannot live for two worlds at once, only if the 
principles of conduct required in them are fundamentally 
different. If extinction is the end to which we should 
aspire hereafter, then certainly it would be folly to prepare 
for it by a strenuous life on earth. The objection is 
irrelevant to an immortality which is postulated as the 
completion of mundane morality, which is not so much 
other- worldliness as better -worldliness, suggested by the 
ethical defects of our actual experience. In reality such 
a view indefinitely deepens the significance of the present 
life. Think what is involved in the assertion that char 
acter is permanent and indestructible, and passes not 
from us however the fashion of our outward life may 
change ! Think of it, that we can never escape from 
ourselves, from the effect of our deeds on our character, 
and that every deed leaves its mark upon the soul, a mark 
which may be modified and counterbalanced, but can never 
be undone to all eternity ! Will not the effect of such a 
belief be to make us realize the solemnity of life as we never 
did before, to nerve us to that unremitting self-improvement 
without which there is no approximating to the moral 
ideal ? Instead of losing its significance, does not every 
act of life become fraught with infinite significance ? 
Instead of becoming careless about ourselves, will it not, 
then, become worth our while to bestow upon our own 

342 HUMANISM xvm 

character-building a care that would otherwise have been 
disproportionate? For, as most of them are thoroughly 
aware, ordinary people are quite good enough for ordinary 
purposes. Why, then, should they strive laboriously to 
change and remould themselves, and fall, perchance, into 
the exaggerated virtue of Jane Austen Beecher Stowe de 
Rouse, who was " good beyond all earthly need " ? Is it 
not much more convenient to stay as one is, and to reply 
to the ambitions of an unquiet conscience as the General 
of the Jesuits replied to the Pope who wished to reform 
them, Sint ut sunt aut non sint, Let them be as they 
are or not be at all ? Is it not always inconvenient to 
think of the future, and is not the future life altogether 
too big a thing to think of? And is not this, and not 
any logical or scientific difficulties which the thought 
involves, the real reason why men seek to banish it 
from their consciousness, why it is hardly ever more 
than a half belief in most men s minds ? Human inertia, 
all that keeps us commonplace and sordid, unheroic 
and unaspiring is, and always has been, dead against 
it. And that is why moral reformers have always in 
sisted on it. For their function is to overcome moral 

It is, however, some consolation to think that the past 
course of Evolution seemingly sanctions the belief of 
those who would have us take account of a future which 
extends into another life. Certainly the expansion of the 
future, of which our action takes account, is one of the 
most marked characteristics of a progressive civilization. 
The animal looks into the future not at all, and the 
savage but little ; but, as civilization grows, the future 
consequences of action become more and more important, 
and are prepared for more and more. When we have 
dared to forecast the future of the race when our coal 
supply shall be exhausted ; when we have looked un 
flinchingly upon that unimaginably distant period when 
the sun s light shall fail, shall we shrink from rising to 
the contemplation of a future that extends immeasurably 
further ? 



By thus replying to these three objections I hope to 
have sufficiently established the first part of my thesis, 
that immortality is in truth an ethical postulate. But 
the second part still remains to be answered, namely, the 
question, What is an ethical postulate really worth ? 
What is its value metaphysically ? Is it more than an 
impulse of ethical emotion which shrinks into nothingness 
under the calm gaze of scientific truth ? Does it amount 
to demonstration ? 

One often hears it said that immortality is an emo 
tional postulate, unreasoning if not unreasonable ; and 
that hackneyed phrase, the hope of immortality/ bears 
involuntary witness to the fact that the argument is not 
supposed to amount to demonstration. Now this is just 
the mental attitude towards the subject which I deprecate 
and wish to controvert. The people who cherish the 
hope of immortality I regard as people who, for the reasons 
given above, sometimes hope there is no immortality, or at 
least have not much faith in their own argument. It is 
more especially for the benefit of such weak-kneed 
brethren that I would maintain the following doctrine : 

The ethical postulate of immortality is not an emo 
tional postulate, but as rational as any postulate, and 
has as good a claim for recognition in our ultimate 
metaphysic. Or, if they still prefer to regard it as emo 
tional, and quote Von Hartmann s remark on the subject 
that metaphysical truths cannot be based on emotional 
postulates, I shall reply that, ultimately, truths will no 
where be found to rest on any other grounds. 

(1) Hence immortality, as an ethical postulate, is of 
the same nature as certain other postulates without which 
we cannot harmonize our experience. 

(2) It is bound up with those other postulates. 

(3) Its assumption is justified in precisely the same 
way as that of the other postulates. 

(4) If they cannot accept this as demonstration they 
will get no better anywhere in the world. 



(i) Taking these points in order, let us ask what is 
the nature of an ethical postulate. It is nothing but the 
affirmation of the cosmic significance of the ideal of Good 
ness, of our ethical valuation of things. It claims that the 
universe is not merely a fact, but has a certain value which 
we call ethical. It is at bottom a moral universe, and 
potentially resolves itself into an ethical harmony. Now 
the logical method by which this argument proceeds is 
this : Given a part, to find the whole ; given a few 
fragmentary data, to construct therefrom an ideal which 
may validly be used to interpret the data. It is the 
same method which is used by the palaeontologist when, 
from a tooth or a bone, he reconstructs some long-extinct 
form of life. The question, then, resolves itself into this : 
Have we the right to assume that our ethical data cohere 
and may be fitted together into an ethical ideal ? 

And (2), in sustaining this procedure the ethical con 
sciousness does not stand alone. Its claim is supported 
by our procedure elsewhere. All the ideals of ultimate 
value are constituted in the same manner. How do we 
make good the claim that anything in the universe is 
beautiful ? We assume that our judgments concerning 
beauty are not devoid of significance, but may be har 
monized in an ideal of Beauty to which the nature of 
things is somehow akin. How do we make good the 
claim that happiness is possible ? We believe in the 
prophetic significance of the pleasurable states of con 
sciousness in our experience, and out of them frame the 
ideal of Happiness which we assume reality may realize. 

Lastly, how do we make good the claim that the 
world is knowable ? We assume that its facts somehow 
cohere, and may be arranged in an orderly system of 
Truth or Knowledge. In other words, we try to look 
upon reality as realizing our ideals of Knowledge, Beauty, 
Goodness and Happiness, and thereby constitute it a 
cosmos, knowable, beautiful, ethical and delightful. But 
in each case we are checked by the same obstacles. 
The ideals certainly do not float on the surface of life. 
They are not congruous with the raw facts of experience. 


They have to be sought with infinite pains, and ere we 
have dragged them forth and proved them valid, lo, death 
comes and, ruthlessly impartial, cuts short the careers of 
the man of science and of the man of pleasure. Life is 
imperfect and fragmentary all round, not only in the 
eyes of ethics. Emotionally, intellectually and aestheti 
cally, life as it stands is no less inadequate than ethically. 
The ideals of Happiness, Knowledge and Beauty postulate 
realization no less and in no other way than Goodness ; 
the murky atmosphere of earth, poisoned by the breath 
of death, no less derides their possibility. What we ask, 
then, for one we ask for all, and we ask it in obedience 
to the same law of our being, that life must show itself 
congruous with the ideals from which it draws its value. 

And (3), these ideals are not only cognate, but 
coincident ; we cannot in the last resort affirm one while 
denying the rest ; nothing short of a complete harmony 
can wholly satisfy us. Truth, Goodness, Happiness and 
Beauty are all indispensable factors in Perfection, the 
varying facets which the one ideal reveals to our various 
modes of striving. 1 

This is generally denied only by the votaries of the 
ideal of Truth, and so it will perhaps suffice if I content 
myself with pointing out to them how untenable is their 
position. We have all heard some postulate of human 
feeling met with the cold sneer of a short-sighted science 
and the query, Why should the universe take account of 
goodness and its completion ? Well, I contend that if 
this sneer is worth anything it must be extended so as to 
include all human activity, that we might with equal 
cogency go on to ask, Why, then, should the universe 
take account of Knowledge and its establishment, or of 
Happiness and its attainment? We have, I claim, no 
logical ground for supposing the world to be knowable, 
and yet utterly disregardful of Happiness and Goodness. 
For a world supposed to be wholly knowable, i.e. wholly 
harmonious with our intellectual demands, while remaining 
wholly discordant with our emotional nature, would ipso 

1 See Riddles of the Sphinx, ch. xii. 9. 

346 HUMANISM xvm 

facto include an intellectually insoluble puzzle which would 
render it fundamentally unknowable. Nay, more, is not 
the supposition directly self- contradictory ? Does not 
a knowable world satisfy at least one of our emotional 
demands, the desire for Knowledge? It cannot be 
then, as alleged, utterly out of relation to our emotional 
nature. But if it can satisfy one such postulate, why not 
the rest ? 

The ideals, then, stand and fall together. They are 
rooted in the unity of the human soul, in the final soli 
darity of life s endeavours. And when the supreme need 
arises, the outcry of the soul can summon to its aid all 
the powers that minister unto its being ; it wields a spell 
that reaches from the iciest altitudes of scientific abstraction 
to the warmest pulsations of concrete emotion, and from 
the most ethereal fancy of the purest intellect to the 
blindest impulse of agonizing passion ; it can extort from 
every element of our nature the confession of its solidarity 
with the rest of life, and set it in array on that dread 
battlefield whereon the Gods contend against the Giants 
of Doubt, Disorder, and Despair. 

For it is because of this solidarity of the ideals that 
the denial of them confronts us with the gravest issues. 
They all assert, in varying form but with unvarying 
intent, the same great principle the conformity of the 
world with the capacity of our nature. And unfamiliar 
as some of the applications of this principle may be to 
our ordinary habits of thinking, we have to remember 
that the principle itself can hardly be impugned. For 
inasmuch as in the end our world is human experience, 
and a world which we neither did nor could experience 
would not be one we need argue or trouble about, this 
principle really amounts to an assertion of the intrinsic 
coherence and potential harmony of the whole of 
experience. Without it where should we be? What 
would our attitude have to be towards a world in which 
the ultimate significance of our ideals was denied, that is, 
a world which was no world, a world in which nothing 
really meant anything, nothing was really good or 


beautiful or true, and in which the hope of happiness was 
nothing but illusion ? To say that the prospect of such 
a world would reduce us to the most despairing depths of 
the most abject Pessimism hardly depicts the full horror of 
the situation : it would be a world of which the hopelessness 
would disarm even the suicide s hand. For, in a world 
which had really renounced its allegiance to the ideal, all 
action would be paralysed by the conviction that nothing 
we desired could ever be attained, because the existent was 
irreconcilably alienated from the desirable. The foundations 
of the cosmos would be shattered, and we should have to 
realize that nothing is worth doing because nothing has 
any worth, because human valuations have no significance 
in establishing the nature of things. We should be 
plunged, in other words, in that unfathomable abyss 
where Scepticism fraternizes with Pessimism, and they 
hug their miseries in chaos undisguised. 

(4) We can reject, then, the principle on which the 
ethical postulate of immortality rests only at the cost of 
entire Scepticism and utter Pessimism. By those not 
prepared to pay that price the principle must be accepted, 
like the other assumptions that render the world a fit 
sphere for the satisfaction of other human activities. 
Take, for instance, the assumption that the world is a 
knowable cosmos. Is this proved ? Certainly not ; nor 
can it be until everything is known : until then it always 
remains possible that the world may not turn out really 
knowable at the last. Can we avoid assuming it ? 
Certainly not ; without it we could not take a single step 
towards any science or practice. We simply must assume 
that the world is an intelligible world, if we are to live in 
it. As a matter of fact we do assume it, all except a few 
who bury their dissent in the seclusion of the madhouse. 
Is the assumption confirmed ? Yes, in the only way in 
which such fundamental assumptions ever are confirmed : 
the further we trust it the more we know, the more 
confident in it we grow. 

The assumption of a moral cosmos is made and 
confirmed in the same way. We cannot prove it to be 

348 HUMANISM xvm 

correct so long as the world is not morally perfect ; we 
cannot wholly exorcize the recurrent dread that, after all, 
the moral order may of a sudden lapse into chaos before 
our eyes : but we cannot organize our moral experience 
without this assumption, and in the course of moral 
development our confidence in it grows. 

But, it may be said, if there is no essential difference 
between the assumption of a moral and that of an 
intellectual order in our experience, how is it that the 
former appears so much less certain than the latter ? 
Why are we so much more confident that the world is 
subject to natural than to mpral law ? Why are moral 
so much more commoner and more successful than 
intellectual sceptics ? These facts are not to be disputed, 
but perhaps they can be explained. Undoubtedly the 
moral order is not so strong as the scientific, and its 
principles have not such a hold on human nature. The 
rebels against the moral order are not all in prison ; our 
rascals largely run about unhanged. Moral insanity is 
pleaded in mitigation of the punishment which it should 
render inexorable. But the difference is due simply to 
the different amounts of experience behind the two 
assumptions. Historically man was a knowing being 
long before he was an ethical being. He had lived long, 
as Aristotle said, before he had lived well ; both in time 
and in urgency, perceptual adaptation to the physical 
order took precedence over ethical adaptation to the 
social order. Man had to assume, therefore, the principles 
that constituted the world a knowable cosmos long before 
he needed to assume a moral order. Hence the beliefs in 
the uniformity and calculability of Nature and the like 
have a much greater and more unequivocal mass of racial 
experience and hereditary instinct behind them than any 
moral instinct we have yet acquired. But this does not 
show that the nature of the several assumptions is not 
essentially the same. 

If the argument of this paper has commended itself so 
far, there will probably be little difficulty in granting the 
last point, that the demonstration of Immortality proffered 


by the ethical argument is as complete as any that can 
be devised. But, to enforce the point, allusion may be 
made to the fact that demonstration is in its very nature 
what the logicians call hypothetical. It proceeds in the 
form, If A is, then B must be. But how are we to know 
that A is ? The premiss has to be assumed or conceded 
in every demonstration. The utmost we can do is to rest 
our demonstration on an assumption so fundamental that 
none will dare to question it ; and this we here seem to 
have accomplished. For what could be more fundamental 
than the assumption on which the ethical argument rests 
that the elements of our experience admit of being 
harmonized, that the world is truly a cosmosl If this be 
not absolute certainty, it is at least certainty such that, 
while no assertion of any special science is less hypothetical, 
none rests upon an equally indispensable assumption. 

On the whole, then, the ethical argument for im 
mortality seems logically as sound and metaphysically as 
legitimate as any argument can well be ; but it will not 
be amiss to allude in closing to two points about which 
nothing has so far been said. The first is the fact that, 
when immortality has been shown to be an ethical 
postulate, nothing has been decided as to the content of 
that idea. All we know is that immortality must be of 
such a sort as to be capable of being an ethical postulate. 
And it is quite possible that the science of ethics would 
on this ground find much to protest against in many of 
the traditional forms of the belief in immortality, while it 
would find little to object to in others which are less 
familiar. It is difficult, for instance, to see how eternal 
damnation could be regarded as an ethical postulate, 
while some appropriate modification of the Hindu notion 
of karma might seem ethically welcome. But though 
ethics could thus prohibit certain ethically outrageous 
beliefs in immortality, it cannot aspire positively to 
determine the way in which its postulate is to be realized. 
That problem lies beyond its scope, and has to be 
determined, if at all, by considerations of a scientific and 
metaphysical character. Hence the moral argument for 

350 HUMANISM xvm 

immortality is in a manner incomplete : first, because a 
moral postulate cannot as such inform us as to the 
method of its realization ; and secondly, because, disguise 
it as we may, our faith in a cosmic order which includes 
the moral remains still capable of further confirmation. 
For, however firm our trust in the rationality of life, few 
would contend that the discovery of scientific facts 
consonant with our ethical demands would add nothing 
to the assurance of their faith. 

And so, lastly, a word must be said on the subject of 
these scientific and metaphysical arguments about im 
mortality which were excluded as irrelevant to the ethical 
aspect of the question, in order to bring out the important 
fact that, however they may be supposed to result, the 
ethical argument maintains its independent validity. So 
far as I can see, these further arguments may result in 
three different ways. They may confirm the ethical 
argument in which case our confidence in immortality 
will be strengthened. They may balance each other in 
which case they will leave the field open for the ethical 
argument. Or, in the worst event, they may prepon- 
deratingly conflict with it. But, even so, it would not 
follow that they were right and the ethical argument was 
wrong, at least until the plea for the essential solidarity 
of the ultimate postulates had been invalidated. A world 
in which the ethical ideal is abrogated and annulled 
cannot be a harmonious world ; and if it be not 
harmonious throughout, we can feel no confidence that it 
is harmonious in any part. In other words, so long as 
we trust in the ultimate presupposition of all knowledge 
and all action, we could never quite trust the non-ethical 
arguments that are supposed to plunge us in perplexity. 




The use of Philosophy in scientific inquiry the general logical criticism of 
fundamental postulates and working methods. This is most necessary 
and helpful in a new science, and safest in one which, like Psychical 
Research, has not yet obtained professional endowment. Special 
interest of a discussion of the assumptions made in a scientific inquiry 
into the possibility of a future life, (i) The general scientific assumption 
of law, i.e. knowableness. (2) The axiom of proceeding from the 
known to the unknown. This life must give the clue to our interpreta 
tion of an other life, which could not be wholly other without 
paralysing thought. Misconceptions on this score explain (a) the prac 
tical weakness of the belief in a future life ; (t>) the prejudice against 
an anthropomorphic future life ; and (c) against the spiritist hypothesis. 
Assuming, therefore, that as a working theory personal survival is con 
ceivable, how can it be verified? The future life must be conceived (i) 
as natural ; (2) as psychically continuous with the present, in spite of the 
difficulty of obtaining proofs of identity ; (3) as only dissociated from our 
world by secondary processes traceable in our normal psychology. Result 
that a future life scientifically provable would necessarily seem humdrum 
and unsensational. 

II. The philosophic basis of the conception of a future life. Philosophies which 
reject it a priori are gratuitous. For an idealistic experientialism the 
conception has no difficulty. How we pass into another world. How, 
why, and to what extent, are dream worlds unreal ? Death as 
awakening to a more real world. Philosophers on death. Four 
paradoxes about death. Their explanation by idealism. The construc 
tion and dissolution of the common world of waking life. The ambiguity 
of death. Does it leave the chances equal ? Impossibility of disproving 
a future life wholly severed from the present. Possibility of empirical 
evidence that the severance is not complete. Philosophy clears away 
prejudices that obstruct investigation, but leaves discovery to science. 

THE philosopher, as the genius of Plato long ago perceived, 2 
is a very strange being. He is in the world, but not of 

1 An expanded form of a paper originally read before the Society for Psychical 
Research, and published in its Proceedings, Part 36, February 1900. 

2 Republic, 490. 


352 HUMANISM X ix 

it, residing mainly in a Cloud-cuckoodom of his own 
invention, which seems to have no relation to the actual 
facts of life, and makes no difference to anything or any 
body but the philosopher himself. Its sole function seems 
to be to make the philosopher himself feel happy and 
superior to everybody who does not understand his 
philosophy enough to enter into it, that is, to everybody 
else in the world. 

But even so the philosopher is not happy in his 
paradise of sages. He is terribly worried by all the 
other philosophers, each of whom is quite as cantanker 
ous and cranky as himself, and wants to carry him 
off into his own private Nephelococcygia. And as he 
will not, and indeed cannot, enter into it, they all get 
very angry. They get so angry that they cannot even 
laugh at each other. But when they get a little calmer 
(not that there is really such -a thing as calm among 
philosophers any more than among cirrus clouds only 
they live so far aloof and aloft that people cannot see 
how they behave) they fall to criticizing. And so when 
one of them has built himself a nice new Nephelococcygia 
high up in the clouds, the rest all try to pull to pieces 
the abode of his soul, and bombard him with buzzing 
chimeras bottled in vacuum tubes and riddle him with 
sesquipedalian technicalities. In this they are usually 
successful, for, though so perverse, they are immensely 
clever, and their critical acumen is as wonderful as their 
unconsciousness of their own absurdity. And so, one after 
the other, each loses his scalp, and is buried in the ruins 
of his system. 

Or rather he is not; for the burial customs of philosophers 
are as strange as the rest of their behaviour, and unlike 
those of any other tribe of men. Among the Scientists, 
for instance, there are also savage wars, and they practise 
vivisection. But the Scientists are not head-hunters. They 
forget the errors of their vanquished warriors and bury their 
remains, preserving only the memory of the work they 
did for Science. And thus do they keep clean the face 
of Science, and every morning wash away every blood- 


stain and every speck of error in the waters of Lethe, so 
that the many may believe that Science is infallible and 
its history is one unbroken progress ; which is both more 
Christian and more worldly-wise. 

But not so the philosophers. They still believe in the 
discipline of dirt, and keep the face of the fair goddess 
they profess to worship like unto the face of Glaucus the 
sea-god, 1 and the thicker grow the incrustations of historic 
error the better they are pleased. For they are simply 
devoted to the memory of ancient errors. They venerate 
them and collect them and dry them (in their histories of 
philosophy), and label them and exhibit them in glass 
cases with the scalps of their authors. They compile 
whole museums of such antiquities, and get themselves 
appointed the curators thereof. One of our universities is 
popularly believed to have appointed about two dozen 
such curators of the relics of the great fight between 
Aristocles, the son of Ariston, and Aristoteles, the son 
of Nicomachus. And the cause thereof was not Argive 
Helen, if you please, but the transcendence of the universal! 
Verily philosophic immortality is as terrible a thing and 
as hard to bear as that of Tithonus ! 

Such, I cannot help suspecting, are the real sentiments 
of intelligent men of the world concerning philosophers, 
though only a philosopher could be rude enough to set 
them down in black and white. But calumny, like murder, 
will out, and only so can it be met. And so those who, 
like Plato, have had the deepest faith in the value of 
philosophy have ever also been the readiest to admit and 
to confront the allegations of detractors. 

And yet, at bottom, this was never quite an easy thing 
to do. The weaknesses of philosophy are manifest ; its 
obscurity, its flimsiness, its intense individuality, 2 its re 
moteness and uselessness for the ordinary purposes of life, 
cannot but catch the public eye. Its virtues (if any) are 
hidden out of sight. It seems safer, therefore, on the 
whole, for the sage to flaunt his shame and to assume its 

1 Cp. Plato, Republic, 611 D 
2 For the explanation of which see Personal Idealism, pp. 50-51. 

2 A 



burden ; boldly to disavow all purpose to better or instruct 
the world, cynically to confess that whether or not his 
astounding feats of conceptual prestidigitation can entertain 
the gaping crowd, they do at least amuse himself, honestly 
to disclaim the search for some more subtle service spring 
ing from his exercises. It may have happened here and 
there that the prescience of some wild and philosophic 
guess outstripped the plodding march of science. It may 
have happened now and then that in some reflective soul 
the conduct of life has been improved by study of its 
theory. But over most men habit bears such sway that 
this would be a marvel, and such precarious incidents are 
not enough to prove the useful nature of philosophy. 

And yet if it were permitted to appeal to the philo 
sophic heresy which just now is stirring up in all the 
bottled chimeras a buzzing fit to burst their vacuum tubes, 
if we might argue as pragmatists, it would seem obvious 
that even philosophy must have some use. For if it had 
not, society would scarce continue the endowment of 
philosophy, whose professors might thereupon find them 
selves reduced to breaking stones instead of systems. It 
is quite true that there is always a flavour of impertinence 
about the intervention of a philosopher in a subject of 
scientific research. For he cannot, as such, be trusted to 
make original contributions to the facts, and when he 
makes an attempt to criticize the contributions of others, 
it is quite true that he is terribly prone to do so from the 
a priori basis of some far-fetched cosmic theory which 
nobody else in the world besides himself believes in or 
even understands, and so achieves a comic rather than 
a cosmic interest. If, again, he contents himself with 
ponderously pondering on the accepted facts of a science 
he becomes a bore, consuming time and getting in the 
way of more practical workers. 

It must be admitted, therefore, that the usefulness of a 
philosopher is very limited. It is undeniable only in 
cases where he is needed to clear out of the way other 
philosophers who have become obstreperous and ob 
structive ; but such occasions do not occur frequently, 


and no really vigorous movement pays much heed to 
what philosophers are saying. 

Nevertheless philosophy seems to me to have also 
a more important function, which may enable it to be 
scientifically suggestive and serviceable, at all events at a 
certain stage in the development of a science. 

The function in question is that of discussing the 
working methods of a science, of exhibiting their full 
scope and logical implications and connexions, and 
considering the merits of the alternative ways of treating 
the subject. Such a critical methodology of a science is 
necessarily dull, but, perhaps, on that account, all the 
better adapted for philosophic discourse. And in view 
of the intellectual myopia which scientific specialism 
engenders, there are, perhaps, few things more salutary, 
as an unpleasant medicine is salutary, than for a science 
to become conscious of the working assumptions, or 
methodological postulates, on which it proceeds. 

In the case of Psychical Research, in particular, the 
discussion of such methodological assumptions seems to 
be more novel, easier and more useful than in disciplines 
which have already reached a more assured position among 
the sciences. It is likely to be more novel, because of the 
novelty of the whole subject. It is likely to be easier to 
dissect out and contemplate in abstraction the methodo 
logical assumptions of an inchoate and infant science, 
because its organism is not so strongly knit and the flesh 
of fact does not so closely shroud the bone of method 
by which it is supported ; it is still in a low stage of 
organization in which the whole may be taken to pieces 
and put together without much injury to the vitality of 
its parts. An advanced science, on the other hand, is far 
more difficult to handle : it imposes on the philosophic 
critic by its very mass of coherent and consistent in 
terpretation ; it appeals to him by its noble record of 
service to the human race ; it crushes him by the sheer 
weight of immemorial authority. In it facts and theories 
have long been welded together into so indissoluble a 
union that the former can no longer be questioned, while 

356 HUMANISM xix 

the latter have for the most part risen to the dignity of 
indispensable necessary truths implied in the very 
nature of the human mind and underlying the whole 
structure of human knowledge. 1 We gain little help 
therefore from the assumptions of sciences like mathematics 
and mechanics in considering what assumptions should be 
made in a new subject like Psychical Research ; we learn 
little about the making of a science from sciences which 
can neither be unmade nor remade, and in whose case it 
requires a considerable effort of philosophic thought to 
realize the methodological character of their fundamental 
postulates. More might perhaps be learnt from the 
assumptions of parvenu sciences which have but recently 
obtained full recognition, but for the fact that a critical 
dissection of their methods is decidedly dangerous. For 
the arbor scientiae seems in their case to have developed 
a symbiotic arrangement greatly resembling that whereby 
certain trees protect themselves ; just as any attack on 
the latter is ferociously resented by a host of ants which 
the tree provides with food and shelter, so any interference 
with such a science is sure to draw down upon the mildest 
critic the onslaught of an infuriated professor who lives 
upon the science. In Psychical Research, on the other 
hand, no such danger is to be apprehended ; we have not 
yet developed any professionals whose mission it is, as 
William James has wittily remarked, 2 to kill out the 
layman s general interest in the subject, and hence the 
philosopher may proceed at his leisure to observe how the 
science is made and to try instructive experiments with 
its working methods, without fear of offending vested 

Again, a philosophic discussion of possible methods is 
likely to be more useful in Psychical Research because 
such methods are still plastic cartilage, as it were, which 
has not yet grown into rigid bone, and may be moulded 
into a variety of forms. Hence by reflecting betimes 
upon the advantages of alternative methods, the phil 
osopher may flatter himself that he can be of real service 

1 See Axioms as Postulates. 2 Human Immortality, init. 


in guiding the course of investigation, or at least in 
helping it to avoid certain pitfalls. Not, of course, that 
even here he would be wise to presume to lay down the 
law a priori as to the actual working and merits of the 
various methods ; he should content himself with ex 
pounding the logical characteristics which sound methods 
in Psychical Research must possess, and explaining why 
exactly they must possess them. 

I do not propose, however, on this occasion to discuss 
the methodological value of the assumptions made in 
Psychical Research generally, but only in so far as they 
affect the question of a future life. The reasons for this 
are obvious. The possibility of a future life provides much 
of the motive force in such inquiries. Most of the active 
members of the Society are probably interested in this 
question, and whether they desire or fear a future life, 
they agree in wanting to know what chance or danger 
there is of it. It is true that the S.P.R. is unique in 
aiming to solve this problem in a scientific way, but 
though we are scientific, we may yet be honest in 
avowing the existence of a practical motive. If attacked 
on this score, let us meet our critics with the doctrine 
that in this respect at least we are not unique, inasmuch 
as in the end all true science is inspired by practical 
motives, and that it is the fear, no less than the hope, 
of a future life that renders its possibility so urgent a 
subject for scientific consideration. Moreover, just now 
the evidence in connexion with Mrs. Piper s trances 
seems to have brought this possibility well above the 
horizon of the S.P.R., while at the same time much 
confusion and prejudice still seem to prevail about it 
which philosophic criticism may help to dissipate. For 
a comprehensive statement of the new evidence and new 
interpretations of old evidence which render it the 
bounden duty of the philosopher to readjust himself and 
his formulas to the growth of knowledge, I can now 
(1903) point to Frederic Myers valuable work on Human 
Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death. 

I may begin by passing over with a merely formal 

358 HUMANISM xix 

mention the assumptions which are required for every 
scientific investigation. As a matter of course we must 
assume that the phenomena under investigation are 
knowable and rational in the sense of being amenable 
to determinable laws. The need for this assumption is so 
plain that a priori attacks on Psychical Research on the 
score of undermining the fundamental principle of all 
scientific research can hardly be put down to anything but 
voluntary or involuntary ignorance of the grossest kind. 

Next we must enunciate a methodological axiom 
with which at first sight few will be disposed to quarrel, 
viz. that we must proceed to the unknown from what 
is known to us. The remark is Aristotle s, 1 and I may 
be suspected of quoting it merely because Oxonians can 
but rarely resist a temptation of quoting Aristotle. But 
in reality it is not such a truism as it appears, at least in 
the meaning I propose to put upon it. It means in this 
connexion that, both psychologically and logically, we 
must interpret any supposed future life by the knowledge 
we have acquired of our present life. It is a methodo 
logical necessity, in other words, that we must project this 
world into the next, if ever we purpose scientifically to 
know it. Our assumption may be wrong in the sense 
that it may be wrecked on barrier reefs of impenetrable 
fact possibly it will be but, right or wrong, we can 
work with no other at the outset. As we go on we shall 
no doubt detect the initial crudities of our assumptions, 
and correct them as our knowledge grows. But what 
ever differences we may discover between the two worlds 
must rest upon the postulate of a fundamental identity, 
in default of which our reason would be merely paralysed. 
From a complete otherness of the other world nothing 
would follow ; a future life in which everything was 
utterly different would mean nothing to us, and in 
proportion as the difference grows the practical efficacy 
and theoretical knowableness of the conception diminish. 

Now this, I venture to think, is a philosophic result of 
no small practical importance. 

1 Eth. Nic. \. 3. 5. 


(1) It goes a long way towards explaining the 
anomaly of the feebleness of most people s religious 
beliefs about the future life. For the heavens and hells 
of the various religions, in spite of their pretensions to 
evoke forces which should utterly dwarf the threescore 
years and ten of our mortal life, are found in practice to 
constitute motives so weak that they are continually 
routed and set aside by the trivial temptations of the 
moment. The reason is that they have ordinarily been 
conceived as differing too radically from the known 
conditions of life to excite the same serious belief, to 
require the same matter-of-fact forethought as, e.g., next 
year s crops or to-morrow s money market. And so the 
belief in a future life, even where it has not been 
degraded into a merely verbal assent to a traditional 
formula, has commonly lacked that intimacy of associa 
tion with the ordinary concerns of life which is needed to 
render it psychologically efficacious as a stimulus to 

(2) Again, it turns out that the spiritists were by no 
means wrong in principle when they proceeded to 
construe the future life, of which they believed themselves 
to possess cogent evidence, very much on the lines of 
our earthly life. Their constructions may in detail be 
as crude and absurd as their adversaries allege I am 
neither familiar enough with the literature to discuss this 
point nor convinced that they are but it is a mistaken 
prejudice to reject such accounts a priori as too trivial or 
undignified to be ascribed to the inhabitants of another 
world. Owing, no doubt, to the unduly tragic view we 
have come to take of death, the prejudice that the decease 
of Brown, Jones, and Robinson must instantly transmute 
them into beings of superhuman powers and tastes, and 
transport them into regions where they are initiated into 
the uttermost ecstasies and agonies of the scheme of 
things, has become inveterate. Indeed, I have often been 
amused to see how strongly this notion influences people 
who are really entire disbelievers in the possibility of any- 
future life ; while scorning everything supernatural, 

360 HUMANISM xix 

they reject the spiritist s version thereof as not super 
natural enough^ because they are quite sure that if there 
were a future life at all, it would have to be as full of 
angels and demons as what they would call the tradi 
tional mythologies. In a more respectable form the 
same feeling shows itself in the large number of persons 
who refuse to accept the evidence, e.g. in the Piper case, 
because they think they would not like the sort of life to 
which it seems to point. This may seem a somewhat 
nai ve ignoratio elencki, but the psychical researcher can 
hardly afford to smile at it, for he is continually having it 
impressed upon him how very serious are the obstacles 
which prejudices of this sort form to the discovery and 
recognition of the facts, and how manifestly the will to 
believe is the ratio cognoscendi of truth. Hence a sys 
tematic challenge of the whole assumption that another 
world must be as different as is conceivable (or rather 
inconceivable) from this, is needed to clear the atmosphere. 

And inasmuch as the groundlessness of a false 
assumption is never revealed more clearly than by a 
request for the reasons on which it rests, I should like, 
for my own part, to add to the general challenge a 
particular request, asking philosophers to show cause 
why a hypothetical other world must necessarily be 
conceived as out of time and out of space. The con 
viction that this must be so underlies, I am sure, much 
of the high philosophic scorn of empirical spiritism and 
popular theology, but I do not think it would be easy to 
support it by a valid and cogent philosophic argument. 
For so long as temporality and spatiality form indispens 
able characteristics of the only real world we experience, 
the presumption surely is that they will pervade also any 
other, until at least a definite method has been suggested 
whereby they may be transcended. 1 

(3) Thirdly, it must be recognized that the methodo 
logical principle of interpreting the unknown by the 
known tells strongly in favour of the simpler, and prim a 

1 So far as time is concerned the conception of frtpyfia aKivrjeias would seem 
to involve this. Cp. p. 212. 


facie easier, theory of the agency of personal spirits as 
against the more complex and unfamiliar notions of an 
impersonal clairvoyance, or subliminal consciousness, or 
non-human modes of cognition by gods, devils, or cosmic 
principles of a more or less unknowable kind. I am 
very far from thinking that we should in such matters 
hastily commit ourselves to the interpretation which 
prima facie seems the most plausible, or, indeed, to any 
definitive theory whatsoever, and I should be sorry to see 
the ingenious attempts to provide a non-spiritistic ex 
planation of the phenomena in question prematurely 
abandoned if only on account of their excellence as 
mental gymnastics but I cannot admit that such 
attempts are one whit less anthropomorphic in principle 
than the spiritist hypothesis (they only stray further 
from their human model), while I cannot help admitting 
that methodologically they are more cumbrous and so 
considerably inferior. The spirit hypothesis has the 
same kind of initial advantage over its rivals as the 
solid atom has in physics over the vortex ring or 
the ether stress. And while our knowledge remains in 
its rudiments this advantage is considerable, though, as 
the parallel shows, it may easily become problematical. 

Admitting, therefore, that as a working theory the 
hypothesis of the persistence after death of what we call 
the human personality possesses considerable advantages 
over rival theories, let us inquire further by what methods, 
resting on what postulates, that theory may be verified. 

(i) We may rule out once more the notion that such a 
future life is essentially supernatural in character. This 
notion has been a favourite with believers, but it is easily 
turned into a terrible weapon in the hands of their ad 
versaries. For the supernatural is, as such, conceived to 
be insusceptible of investigation, and belief in it must be 
mere faith, exposed to every doubt and jeer, if, indeed, it 
can be even that, seeing that a real faith must be 
nourished by at least partial and prospective verification in 
fact. Hence the answer to this notion is simply this : that 
if the future life be really supernatural in the sense of 

362 HUMANISM xix 

having no connexion of any sort with nature, there could 
not possibly be any evidence of it, and it would have to 
be for us non-existent ; while if there be evidence of it, 
this would ipso facto include it in the widest conception 
of nature, and render the nature of the connexion between 
this world and the next a legitimate subject for scientific 
research. If, therefore, the connexion be rare and 
precarious, the reason cannot possibly be that from time 
to time some audacious spirit has impiously achieved the 
impossible by breaking through the natural order ; it 
must lie in the peculiarities of the natural order itself. 
Or, to sum up in a single phrase a discussion which 
would long have become needless but for the persistence 
of attempts to dispose of an inconvenient investigation 
into facts by logical quibbles about words, if super- 
nature is to be retained, it must not be in the sense 
of something alien and hostile to nature, but strictly 
as meaning a higher department or aspect of nature 

(2) We must suppose a certain continuity of psycho 
logical constitution in the human spirit throughout every 
phase of its existence. Without this we should not know 
ourselves again after death. This does not imply that 
death may not be a great event, involving a great gain 
(or loss) in the intensity and extent of consciousness and 
memory ; it asserts only that if we are to have know 
ledge of a future life at all, we must assume that the 
general characteristics of mental life will persist. With 
out this, too, there could be no proof of spirit-identity 
to others : without spirit-identity there could be no 
proof of a future life. Unfortunately, however, this 
assumption of ours would lead us to expect that the 
proof of spirit-identity would be difficult. For it is 
psychologically far more probable that the moral 
character and the feelings would traverse the shock and 
change of death unshaken, than that little bits of 
knowledge about terrestrial affairs would persist in equal 
measure. Yet it is these latter that afford the best tests 
of spirit-identity, and it is suggestive that whereas at 


first Mrs. Piper s G.P. communications abounded in 
such tests, they have gradually grown rare. 

(3) As we must try to explain all the facts by prin 
ciples already known to be valid, we must account for the 
remarkable dissociation between this world and the next 
by the principle of psychological continuity. That such 
dissociation must exist will hardly be denied by any one 
who has realized how very rare an experience a ghost 
is, even with the most expert of ghost seers and in its 
most favoured haunts. But it would seem that if the 
departed still retained their personality and psychical 
continuity, ghosts ought to be more plentiful than 
blackberries, and unhedged by that divinity which makes 
people so reluctant to make a clean breast of their ghost 
stories. Prima facie, therefore, it requires explanation 
that in spite of psychic continuity so much dissociation 
should prevail. 

Nevertheless it may, I think, be shown that the 
assumption of psychical continuity would be quite com 
patible with the prevalence of an almost complete 
dissociation between this world and the next. For any 
great event tends to dissociate us from our past, and this 
would apply a fortiori to an event like death, which ex 
hypothesi launches us into a new world. A new world, 
moreover, would engross us not only by its novelty, but 
also by the practical need of accommodating ourselves 
to new conditions of existence. Hence the psychological 
conditions for great concern about the world we had left 
behind us would hardly be present. This argument, 
moreover, could be considerably strengthened by psycho 
logical observations with regard to the interest which is 
taken in the affairs of our world by the aged. For it 
would be unlikely that an interest which had already 
grown faint should effectively maintain itself amid the 
distractions of a new life. 

And even if the desire to communicate were felt, it 
could hardly be assumed that the knowledge and power 
to do so would at once be at the disposal of the new 
comer, who, for aught we know, might find that, as 



upon his entry upon this scene, a period of helplessness 
and dependence analogous to infancy had to be passed 

It would seem probable, therefore, that to render 
communication effective, quite as systematic and sustained 
an effort would be needed on the other side as is being 
made by the S.P.R. on this, while the self-regarding 
motives for making it would be indefinitely less potent. 
For while each of us ought to have l the strongest personal 
interest in determining what his prospects may be after 
death, no such case could be made out for a retrospective 
interest of the departed in our world. And in their 
world the prevalent social sentiment, might esteem it 
better to leave us in our present doubt and discourage 
attempts to pry into the possibilities of communication 
with another world. That would only be to suppose that 
their social sentiment is the same as ours. Only it would 
in their case be more reasonable. For why should they 
incommode themselves to impart to us a knowledge which 
each one of us is bound to gather for himself within a 
few years more? And this suggestion will appear the 
more probable when we remember that, according to the 
principle of psychic continuity, the same people will be 
making the same sentiment in both cases. Nevertheless, 
it is conceivable that some day a fortunate coincidence 
of the efforts of an infinitesimal minority on both sides 
should succeed in establishing spirit-identity and forcing 
upon the reluctant masses of men the scientific fact of a 
future life which they did not in the least desire to have 
so established. Even then, however, we should still be 
very far from any definite and detailed knowledge of the 
nature of the future life in itself, the difficulties of trans 
mitting which would increase enormously in proportion 
as the dissociation between the two spheres of existence 
became greater. 

Thus the general upshot of our discussion so far would 
be that a future life which was accessible to scientific 

1 I emphasize the ought, for, as a matter of empirical fact, the present 
number of those who are scientifically interested in the question to the extent of 
a guinea per annum appears to be about 1400 ! 


methods of proof would necessarily appear to be of a 
somewhat homely and humdrum character, displeasing to 
spiritual sensationalists. Broadly speaking, our conceptions 
of it would rest on the assumption of social and psychic 
continuity, and they would tend to suppose that the 
reward and punishment of the soul consisted mainly in 
its continuing to be itself, with the intrinsic consequences 
of its true nature revealed more and more clearly to itself 
and others. Hence there would be but little scope 
for epic flights of a lurid imagination, and those who 
hanker after the ecstasies of the blessed and the torments 
of the damned would have to go, as before, to the 
preachers and the poets. We may, however, trust these 
latter to work up a more copious material into pictures 
quite as edifying and thrilling as those of Homer, Dante, 
and Milton. 


I have assumed hitherto, without a hint of doubt, the 
general possibility of the conception of a future life. 
But, after all, this also is an assumption, of a very vital 
character, and one which has been strongly impugned on 
a priori grounds. I shall devote, therefore, my concluding 
remarks to disposing of such philosophic attempts at an 
a priori suppression of the question and to stating some 
of the philosophic considerations which lead me to think 
the conception of a future life a valid and non-contra 
dictory one, whether or not we are able or anxious to 
find empirical evidence of its actual existence. On the 
first point I may be brief: I should not deny that it is 
possible to devise metaphysical systems which will render 
the persistence of the individual consciousness improbable 
and even impossible, and which consequently close the 
question to all who conscientiously adopt them. Person 
ally, I believe those systems to be demonstrably wrong, 
but it is enough for our purpose that they should be 
gratuitous, and that we may, at least equally well, adopt 
metaphysical views which leave the question open, or 

366 HUMANISM xix 

even lead us to regard a future life as a priori probable 
enough, and needing only verification a posteriori. 

Hence, speaking for myself and in so personal a 
matter it is best to speak for oneself if one wants to speak 
to the point I cannot at all appreciate the enormous 
antecedent difficulty which so many philosophers profess 
to feel about the conception of a future life. Even its 
most difficult implications, like, e.g. the transition from 
one world to another, seem to become quite easy, if we 
start from the proper philosophic basis. Let us, for 
instance, assume as I think we must do in any case 
the philosophic position of an idealistic experientialism. 
I use this .clumsy phrase to designate the view that the 
world is primarily my experience, plus (secondarily) the 
supplementings of that experience which its nature renders 
it necessary to assume, such as, e.g., other persons and a 
real material world. In that case the world, in which 
we suppose ourselves to be, is, and always remains, relative 
to the experience which we seek to interpret by it, and 
if that experience were to change, so necessarily would 
our real world. Its reality was guaranteed to it, so 
long as it did its work and explained our experience ; it 
is abrogated so soon as it ceases to do so. 1 Hence we 
may conceive ourselves as passing through any number 
of worlds, separated from each other by (partial) dis 
continuities in our experience, each of which would be 
perfectly real while it lasted, and yet would have to be 
declared unreal from a higher and clearer point of view. 

Nor would this conception remain an empty form, 
which we could not find anything in our experience to 
illustrate. I venture to affirm that we are all of us per 
fectly familiar with what it feels like to pass from one 
world into another. When we fall asleep and dream, we 
pass into a new world, with space, time, persons, and 
laws (uniformities) like our own. But though these 
fundamental features persist in principle, they are not the 
same space, etc., 2 and have no very obvious connexion 
with the corresponding characteristics of our waking life. 

1 Cp. p 193. 2 Cp. 32. 


It is true that the reality of each dream-world is very 
precarious : it is dissolved by every clumsy interruption 
from a more real world, in the ex post facto judgment 
of which the dream-world is fleeting, chaotic, and un 
manageable. 1 But the philosophic critic cannot thus 
presume the theoretical correctness of our ordinary judg 
ment. To him all modes of experience are, in the first 
instance, real. 2 He can find no standing ground outside 
experience whence to judge it. 

All our distinctions, then, between the real and 
unreal are intrinsic : it is the dream-world s character 
itself that leads us to condemn it. 3 And if in our 
dreams we found ourselves transported into worlds 
more coherent, more intelligible, more beautiful and 
more delightful than that of daily life, should we not 
gladly attribute to them a superior reality, and, like 
Mohammed, hold that in our sleep our souls had been 
snatched up to heaven and privileged to commune with 
the gods ? 4 The fact, indeed, that such experiences have 
played a signal part in the lives of nearly all the world s 
greatest heroes, and thereby left an indelible mark upon 
its history, should make us chary of dogmatic denials of 
the value of such dream-worlds. But as a rule we do 
deny without a scruple, and, reasoning as pragmatists, do 
ruthlessly reject them for yielding nothing that sense can 
use and sanity can tolerate. Hence the consensus of 
common sense declares dream experiences to be unreal 
though, it may be noted, it has taken men a long time to 
arrive at this conclusion and to disabuse themselves of 
the notion that after all there must be a literally veridical 
and inspired meaning in all their experiences. What 
has not been realized with equal clearness probably 
because the observation seemed to have no direct practical 
bearing is that the existence of unreal worlds of dream- 
experience casts an indelible slur on the claim of our 
present waking life to absolute reality. 5 What has 
happened once may happen again, and when we wake to 

1 Cp. p. 113 note. 2 Cp. p. 192. 3 Cp. p. 195. 

4 Cp. pp. 22, 32. 5 Cp. p. 198. 

368 HUMANISM xix 

another world our terrestrial life may appear as grotesque 
a parody, as misleading a distortion, of true reality as the 
most preposterous of dreams. 

Nay more ; even in this life we cannot call it an illicit 
and unthinkable ambition to discover modes of rising from 
our waking world to one of a higher order, whose superior 
reality would demand acknowledgment from all so soon 
as either its experience had become communicable to an 
appreciable fraction of society, or it had proved to be of 
use for the purposes of waking life. 1 Philosophy could 
not indeed provide the Columbus of such idealist discovery. 
But it might sanction his assumption of such risks. Just 
as an enlightened physics might have contended, long before 
Magellan, that the earth was circumnavigable if it could 
find the daring soul to sail right round it, so philosophy 
may declare that if the whole world be experience, new 
worlds may be found by psychical transformation as 
probably and validly as by physical transportation. And 
it must decline to treat the fact that the other worlds 
we know are apparently less real than that of waking life 2 
as being a conclusive proof that more real worlds are 
nowhere to be found. 

Thus the passage from world to world is familiar 
enough to our experience. But, as experienced by us in 
sleep, it is not irrevocable. We return, that is, to the 
same waking world. And that makes a difference 
between sleep and its twin brother death. For from 
death we are bidden to believe that there is no return. 
Still we must not exaggerate the difference ; for to our 
dream-worlds also we do not (usually) return. 

Hence this return, which is regarded as an awakening 
of the soul from the point of view of the subject of the 
experience, is at the same time the dissolution of his dream 
world and life. The severance of his relations with the 
world of his former experience, therefore, has a double 

1 Cp. p. 41. 

2 A remark subject always to certain reservations on the score of the subjective 
worlds of the mystics and founders of religions. Common sense hardly realizes 
how its principles here cut away the foundations of all the religions which, never 
theless, it imagines itself to value and believe. Cp. p. 114 note. 


aspect. On the one hand, his dream passes away as he 
passes into a region of higher reality ; on the other, he passes 
away out of the dream-world that imposed itself upon 
him into his waking life. 1 For we have seen that even 
dreams are not entirely unreal. Even at their lowest, the 
features they present refer to the truth, and foreshadow 
the reality, of a superior world : they are to some extent 
veridical. Hence we must contemplate the situation also 
from the point of view of the beings who interacted with 
the dreamer in the dream life and world. For them, his 
awakening means his withdrawal from their world. When 
Alice awakes, she of course declares Looking- Glass Land 
to have been a dream, and its inhabitants to have been the 
creatures of her fancy. But while she was with them they 
were vividly real. And Alice, after all, herself was not quite 
satisfied with this vulgar explanation. It will be remem 
bered that she suspected the black kitten of having trans 
formed herself into the Red Queen of Looking-Glass Land. 
And this would raise an interesting question : if we should 
chance to survive death, should we merely declare earth- 
life to have been unreal, or should we not rather trace in 
its happenings some subtle presage of a fuller truth ? 

It seems quite worth while, therefore, to look at the 
situation from the point of view of Looking-Glass Land, to 
whose denizens it would appear quite different. Tweedle- 
dee, no very cogent reasoner, perhaps, but a thorough 
going idealistic monist in his argument, asseverated that 
the dream was not Alice s at all, but the Red King s, and 
that if and when he left off dreaming her, the phenomenon 
called Alice would simply disappear. His notion as to 
the manner of her disappearance was that she would " go 
out bang! just like a candle," but herein he may have 
been mistaken. Still he has at least suggested to us that 
when one of us withdraws from a world, the world may 
misinterpret his action as his death. 

Now death is a topic on which philosophers have been 
astonishingly commonplace. The reason of this cannot 
have been that it was not a splendid topic for reflection, 

1 Cp. p. 39. 

2 B 

370 HUMANISM xix 

nor yet that their doctrines were not capable of throwing 
light upon its nature. Perhaps they have lived in as great 
terror of it as more ordinary mortals, and so lacked the 
courage to think about it at all. At all events I can 
readily believe, from a study of their doctrines, that 
Spinoza was quite right in maintaining that there is no 
subject concerning which the sage thinks less than about 
death. 1 Which, nevertheless, is a great pity. For the 
sage is surely wrong. There is no subject concerning 
which he, if he is an idealist and has tJie courage of his 
opinions, OUGHT to think more, and OUGHT to have more 
interesting things to say. 

In partial proof of which let me attempt to arouse him 
to reflection by propounding some old ^paradoxes about 
death which will, I think, be germane to our subject. 

(1) No man ever yet perished without annihilating also 
the world in which he lived. 

(2) No man ever yet saw another die ; but if he had, he 
would have witnessed his own annihilation. 

(3) The world is the greatest of all conventions ; but all 
are unconventional enough to leave it. 

(4) To die is to cut off our connexion with our friends ; 
but do they cut us, or we them, or both, or neither ? 

Now these paradoxes contain nothing but necessary 
inferences from the idealistic view of the world, if it is 
applied practically to the phenomenon of death, and no 
philosopher who really and seriously accepts that view 
should have the slightest difficulty with them. But for 
the sake of the others I feel that it may be better to add 
a short commentary. " No man ever yet perished without 
annihilating also the world in which he lived," i.e. the world 
of his experience, or as we may perhaps say with still more 
accuracy, the objective world, in so far as it was assumed 
to explain his experience. Moreover, " no man ever yet 
saw another die, but if he had he would have witnessed 
his own annihilation " : inasmuch as he could never see 
the other s self and so a fortiori could not observe its de- 

1 Eth. iv. Prop. 67. 
2 Cp. S. P.R. Journal for March 1898, vol. viii. p. 204. 


struction ; what he saw was the death of a body which 
was merely a phenomenon in his own world of experience. 
But \t,per impossible, he could have witnessed the destruc 
tion of the subject of a world of experience, his own destruc 
tion, as a phenomenon in such a world, would have been 
included in the catastrophe. Thus both these paradoxes 
are designed to bring out the essential and incurable 
philosophic ambiguity of death. * Death is not the 
same thing for him who experiences and for him who 
witnesses it. It forms the limiting case which involves 
the breakdown of the great social convention, whereby we 
postulate (for practical purposes) a common world which 
is experienced by us all. (No. 3.) Even during life that 
convention is maintained only at the cost of excluding 
from reality all such experiences as are personal, or 
divergent, or incapable of forming a basis for common 
action. At death it breaks down altogether, and the long- 
suppressed divergence between the world of my experi 
ence and the objective world, which is nobody s experi 
ence but is supposed to account for everybody s, dominates 
the situation. 2 

When a man dies his relation to the common world 

1 Cp. also Riddles of the Sphinx, ch. xi. 8. 

2 This is the simplest description of the actual situation and begs the fewest 
questions. The monistic metaphysicians who arrogate to themselves exclusive 
rights to an idealism which they cannot use, and which dies away in their hands 
either into naturalism or into platitude, prefer to distort it by postulating as its 
explanation a divine consciousness which somehow embraces or contains all the 
subject-consciousnesses of our fellows, and thereby (sic) guarantees the absolute 
commonness of the common world which is really the object of the divine 
consciousness. But the expedient proves utterly futile. For (i) the conception 
of one consciousness (divine or diabolical) including another has never yet been 
shown to be capable of anything like intelligible statement (cp. Dr. Rashdall in 
Personal Idealism, pp. 382-4). The only clue in experience to anything of the 
sort is to be found in the highly suggestive, but quite inadequately studied, facts of 
multiplex personality, and it seems extremely doubtful whether even these would 
lead to the desired conclusion. The metaphysicians in question, moreover, are 
about the last people in the world to concern themselves with empirical phenomena 
of this sort. (2) The divine world-image, so far from explaining the plurality of 
our individual world-images, only adds one to their number. It remains involved 
in the old Platonic difficulty of the transcendent universal. Or, if it is taken as 
really immanent, it becomes merely a hypocritical description of the harmony of 
the individual images, and lapses into atheism. And (3) in many cases the 
harmony is very imperfect, and there is not, strictly, a common world at all. 
That is, the communion is neither pre-existent nor absolute. It is an achievement, 
reached by infinite labours and unending struggles, to a limited degree, for a 
limited period. We do not, as a matter of fact, experience our common objects 

372 HUMANISM xix 

apparently ceases, and so " to die is to cut off our 
connexion with our friends ; but do they cut us, or we 
them, or both, or neither ? " But for what reason we cannot 
say. It may be that the deceased has ceased to be ; it 
may also be that he has ceased to interact with us until 
we also have followed his example. Similarly, when we 
witness a death, all that we can safely and scientifically 
say is that a peculiar feature in our experience which 
impelled us to assume a self-conscious spirit, analogous to 
our own, in order to account for the behaviour of the 
complex of phenomena we called the body of our fellow- 
man, has undergone a change such that the behaviour of 
his body no longer warrants the inference of the 
presence of his spirit. Again, the reason may be either 
that the spirit is destroyed, or that it has ceased to animate 
the body. Thus it would seem as though all that could 
be affirmed for certain about death was that it was a 
disruption of the common world in which spirits acted 
together ; what else or what more it was would remain 
in doubt the spirit may have perished or it may just 
have passed away. 

alike. Hence the infinite diversity of individual judgments and valuations. But 
if this were all, there would be no possibility of what Professor Ward has well 
called intersubjective intercourse. So we have managed to some extent to act 
concordantly with regard to the objects of our most pressing practical concerns. 
You and I, e.g. , are said to perceive a common red, when we classify colours 
alike. But whether your experience in perceiving red is the same as mine, it 
is meaningless to ask (p. 31). For the common red means merely such practical 
agreement. And when we go on to ask what is beautiful, and good, and right, 
and pleasant, we soon discover how narrow are the limits of such practical agree 
ment, and are forced to realize that to a large extent we still literally live in different 
worlds. And, as noted above, death seems to terminate the common world in 
time as completely as individuality limits its extent. (4) The Absolute or universal 
consciousness on scrutiny turns out to be neither divine nor conscious. Or rather 
the connotation both of God and of consciousness has to be radically changed 
to accommodate it. An all-containing consciousness cannot be a moral being. It 
is the Devil just as much as God, and indeed the Absolute must be defined in 
Hegelian terms as the synthesis of God and the Devil. And however much it 
may contain consciousness it is hard to see how it can be itself conscious. 
Indeed in the end it seems describable in negatives alone, and by contrast with 
the contents of our experience ; it has all things, but is not any of the things it 
has. For the whole cannot be anything that we predicate of its parts. 

In short it seems impossible really to think out the conception of a single 
subject of all experience except upon solipsistic lines. If one consents to solipsism 
it is easy enough, but not a bit more satisfactory. For solipsism is just the view 
we are driven out of by the considerations which induce us to construct a common 


Thus, so far as philosophy can determine, it would 
seem as if the chances of destruction and survival were 
exactly equal, and that we were doomed to doubt for ever. 
Nevertheless, considerations may be adduced which must 
add decisively to the weight of the latter alternative. 
For it should be noted that the two alternatives are not 
equally well situated with respect to empirical evidence. 
No conceivable empirical evidence can suffice to establish 
the destruction of the soul at death, because none can 
even be relevant to the real issue as it presents itself from 
our philosophic point of view. For it can only concern 
appearances in the common world of the survivors, it can 
only prove that the rupture of connexion with it at death 
is utter and entire. But that is not enough. Even if a 
ghost returned to announce to us the complete extinction 
of the soul at death, we could not credit so Hibernian an 
assertion. A scientific proof therefore, of the annihilation 
of the soul is rigorously impossible. On the other hand, 
there is no such intrinsic impossibility about a scientific 
proof of the persistence of consciousness through death; 
there is, in fact, no particular difficulty about conceiving 
empirical evidence sufficient to establish this doctrine 
with as high a degree of certainty as we have for any 
of our beliefs as to matters of fact. The whole diffi 
culty consists in getting the evidence. If we had 
succeeded, the theoretic readjustment of our opinions 
would be easy ; all we should need to do would be to 
modify our original assumption that death meant an 
absolute rupture of relations, an utter dissolution of the 
common world. We should have to say instead, that 
death altered the mode of communication of spirit with 
spirit, rendering it different and difficult, without in 
terrupting it altogether. But, properly interpreted and 
manipulated, the common world would persist through 
death. What exactly would be the nature of the 
common world, thus extended to include a life after death, 
philosophy could not, of course, forecast ; that would 
remain a question for positive research to determine. 

Here then we reach the limits of philosophic specula- 

374 HUMANISM xix 

tion. When the philosopher has shown that no a priori 
impossibilities block the pathway of discovery, and no 
authentic fact can be too anomalous for explanation, 
when he has cleared men s eyes of the prejudices which 
obstruct a clear prevision of the goal and has aroused a 
sufficient will to know, a sufficient conviction that it is well 
to look before we plunge, and to try to see whither we 
go before we go, he must modestly stand aside, and 
leave the empirical explorer into the puzzling mazes of 
psychical science to cut down the barbed-wire entangle 
ments of hostile human prejudice, and step by step to 
fight his way through the thickets of complex and 
perplexing fact. And so the glory of discovery will not 
be his, but will reward the scientist who has borne the 
labour and danger of the day of battle. And yet the 
discoverer will owe perhaps the faith which sustained his 
courage and endurance in no small measure to the 
apparently unmoved spectator who watched the struggle 
from afar, and this faith may justify the thinker also 
when he is called upon to render an account of the use to 
which he has put his powers. 


Absolute, an: abstraction, xxii ; no 
starting-point, xxiii ; the death of 
morals, 2 ; its transcendence of 
distinctions, 3 ; triviality of its con 
templation, 4 ; its monotony, 14, and 
irredeemable perfection, 14 ; as un 
knowable and a useless theory, 41, 
and hence to be called false, 59 ; as 
explaining objectivity, 60, 371-2 ; 
Lotze s theory of, 62-84 ; suppresses 
difficulties ex officio, 108 ; an inter 
pretation of reality, 119-20 ; a mis 
conception, 126 ; unites God and the 
devil, 167, 263, 372 ; Bradley s, 187- 
191 ; as asylum ignorantiae, 188 ; 
transmutes appearances, 189, 199 ; 
unknowable, 191 ; inaccessible, 192 ; 
solipsistic, 252 ; neither divine nor 
conscious, 372 

Absolute Idea, 96, 102-3 

Absolutism, xxviii 

Abstraction, the kingdom of, xxii ; from 
time and individuality, 98-9 ; its value, 
100-102 ; its Ideological subordina 
tion, 104; as instrument, 120; mathe 
matical, why judged real, 120 ; as 
method of simplification, 145-8 ; 
produces timelessness, 212 

Accidents not distinct from essence, 

Activity, purposive, condition of know 
ledge, 12, 234, 238 ; speculative, 25-6 ; 
of intelligence, 130; of Mephisto, 180, 
and substance, 204-27 ; transcend 
ing change, 205 ; of divine life, 212 ; 
motion as, 214 ; is substance, 225 ; 
Hume s criticism of, 235-48 

Actuality, 67, 208, 224, 226 

Adaptation, argument from, to an 
adapter, 131 ; its imperfection, 131 ; 
shown by Darwin to be conceivable 
without adapter, 132 ; origin of, 142; 
growth of, 142 ; novelty of, 143 ; 
not due to natural selection, 154 ; 
instantaneous in perfect life, 215-16 

Alexander, S., 261 

Alice, 369 

Analysis, of cause, 238 ; of complex 

and simple, 56 
Anaximander, 156 
Animism, 239 
Annihilation of soul incapable of proof, 


Anthropomorphism, xxi, 13, 240, 361 
Antinomies, 108-9 
Appearance and Reality, 3, 101, 226 ; 

antithesis of, 183-203 
Apriorism, 231-3 
Aristotle, 19-40, 67, 203, 205-27 

passim, 253, 257, 285, 353, 358 
Arnold, Matthew, 2 
Ascham, J?. , 34 
Associationism, 240 
Astrology, 298, 300 
Attention, why volatile, 217 
Authority, 273 ; argument from, 335, 

and old age, 326 
Automata, 133-4 
Axioms as Postulates, ix, xi ; notes\^, 

44, 50, 92, 94, 95, 129, 183, 227, 


Balfour, Arthur, xii, 6 

Barbarism, and Humanism, xxvi 

Bateson, W., 135 

Beatific Vision, 203, 212 

Beauty, ideal of, 344-5 

Becoming, 107, 118, 207, 208, 210, 

Being, and nothing, xxii ; Aristotle s 

ideal of, 205, 226 ; unchanging, 207, 

216-17 I as perfect harmony, 225 
Belief, and action, 251 
Berkeley, 126, 223 
Bias, 298, 301, 307, 312 
Blatchford, K., 28j-ji2 fassi m 
Bradley, F. H., 3, 38, 96, 101, 108, 

183-201 passim, 244, 272 n. 
Buddha, 158, 168 
Burnet, /., 212 

Calculus of probabilities, 126, 150 




Calinon, 86, 89 

Carroll, Lewis, 53, 216 

Causation, 64; as analysis, 238; Hume s 
criticism of, 232-3, 235-6 ; immanent 
not more intelligible than transient, 
68-9 ; volitional theory of, 235-48 

Cave-dwellers, 21, 23, 41, 43 

Chance, as originating world, 72 ; as 
excluding intelligence, 150 

Change, and identity, 69 ; problem of, 
73, 101 ; endangers adaptation, 143 ; 
as fact, 1 88 ; as defect, 211 

Choice, as real, 303 ; not motiveless, 

Coexistence and interaction, 65 

Cognition as moral act, 15 ; not intellec 
tion, 233-4 ; not passive, 236 

Coherence a psychological fact, 52-3 ; 
feelings of, 52 ; not always logical, 
53 ; due to interest, 53 ; use as test 
of reality, 119 

Colour-blindness, 116 

Commensurability, Lotze s argument 
from, 70 

Common sense, xxi, xxiii, xxv, 6, 190, 
232, 235, 257, 272, 305-6 

Common world, result of effort, 31, 371 

Comte, 201 

Conduct, controls theory, 4 ; thought a 
mode of, 4 ; survival value of, 133 ; 
rewards and punishments as results 
of, 340 

Consciousness, as accident, 130 ; eco 
nomy of, 241-2 ; perfection of, 216- 
218 ; one, as subject of world, 371-2 

Contradiction, principle of, 185-6, 188 

Cope, E. D., 135 

-Correspondence, of subject and object, 

Criteria of reality, 114-8, 121; absolute, 
185, 189 

Crypto-solipsism, 254, 262 

Damnation, of Faust impossible, 177 ; 

eternal, not an ethical postulate, 349 
Dante, 365 

Darwin, C., 128-56 passim 
Darwinism, 71 ; its implicit atheism, 72, 

and design, 128-56 
Death, foreknowledge of, 314 ; not 

thought about, 315-21 ; as withdrawal 

from common world of waking life, 

369-74 ; idealist paradoxes about, 

370; ambiguity of, 371 
Degeneration, 139, 140 
Delbaeuf, 86, 90 

Demonstration, hypothetical, 349 
Descartes, 253, 257 
Design, 128-56 ; argument from, its 

theological value, 130 ; its weak 

nesses, 131 ; attacked by Darwin, 
132 ; ultimately strengthened by evolu 
tionism, 154-6 

Desire to know, 234, 330-4 

Determinism, as postulate, 15, 301, and 
Monism, 49, and responsibility, 283- 

Dewey, J. , ix, xiii 

Dialectic, Hegel s, 95, 97, 103 

Dogma, 278-82 

Dogmatism, 229 

Dreams and superior reality, 22, 32, 
282 ; as individual truths, 60 ; their 
alleged incoherence and unreality, 
114 . , 119 ; private worlds of, 196 ; 
of metaphysics, 226, and the transi 
tion to other worlds, 366, 369 ; in 
relation to solipsism, 285-6, 312 ; in 
ferior reality of dream worlds, 367-8 

Economic man, 146-8 

Eleaticism, 206-7 

Elimination of unfitter, 132 

Eliot, George, 339 

Empiricism, 229, 231-2; radical, 237, q.v. 

End, affair of finite individuals, 105 ; or 
good, 160 

Energeia, Aristotelian conception of 
substance, 204-27 ; as life and per 
fection of activity, 221, and energy, 

Energy, 246, dissipation of, 214, and 
energeia, 223 

Epistemological question, prior to onto- 
logical, 9 ; but conditioned by ethical, 
10, and ontological, 114 

Equilibration, as death, 1 219-20; as 
life, 220-21 

Equilibrium, 188, 214-21 

Error, 251, 257, 259, 261, 275, 292, 

Ethical theory dependent on practice, 


Ethics and Pragmatism, xvii, and psy 
chological facts of conduct, 313 

Eugenics, 288 

Evil, 78-80 

Evolution, its essence, 108 ; factors of 
organic, 134, 136 ; not explained by 
Darwinism, 138-43 ; facts of, do 
not exclude intelligence, 149-50; 
mechanical views of, 155 

Evolutionism, 108, 129, 144 ; its an 
tiquity, 155 

Experience, ambiguous, 231 /. 

Experientialism, idealistic, 366 

Fact, as value, 10, 55 ; its recognition 
provisional, 12, and truth, 46 ; 
valued as true, 57 ; cannot decide 



between teleological and antiteleo- 
logical interpretation, 153; judgments 
of, 161 ; are values, 163 

Faith and reason, xvii, 7 ; its venture, 
16, 79-80 ; Dr. McTaggart s, in the 
unknown synthesis, 96 ; extralogical, 
97 ; ultimate appeal to, 99 ; needed 
for ultimate assumptions, 153, 312 ; 
need for, due to past negligence, 322 ; 
ages of faith not really religious, 
327; in supernatural, 361-2 

Falsehood, and uselessness, 37, 40 ; 
practically untenable, 38 

Feeling, 233 

Fichte, 254 

Fiction, 10, n n., 146, 147, 308 

Formal Logic, ix, x ; notes, 2, 125, 
185, 238, 268 

Freedom, 15, 77, 176, 182, 283-312 ; 
and habit, 303 ; and indetermination, 
306 ; inconvenience of, 302-3 

Future life, why a matter of faith, 
324 ; scientific investigation of, 
351-74 ; too much to think of, 342 ; 
interest in, 357 ; cannot be wholly 
different, 358 ; unduly tragic view of, 
359 ; a priori objections to, 365 ; 
possibility of empirical proof, 373 

Gallon, Sir F., 288 

Geometry, Euclidean and non-Euclidean, 
85-94; its certainty, 91 ; real validity, 
91 ; necessity and universality, and 
a-priority, 92 

Ghost, of Banquo, 116 ; rarity of, 363 

God, not the Unity of Things, 76 ; not 
the Absolute, 77 ; nor author of evil, 
80-8 1 ; vagueness of the current con 
ception, 8 1 ; a priori proofs of, 
worthless because too wide, 82 ; 
must be given an a posteriori re 
ference, 83-4 ; thought of, does not 
constitute human reality, 121 ; as 
author of adaptation, 131 ; united 
with the devil in the Absolute, 167, 
372 ; Aristotle s, 203, 211, 253 ; per 
fection of, 226 ; not the one subject, 


Goethe, 166, 180 

Good, conditions true and real, 9 ; 
supreme power of, 12 ; idea of, 41, 
207 ; of organism determines racial 
conduct, 133 ; the, 208 ; must be 
attainable, 217 

Goodness, ultimately harmonious with 
truth, 24, 28, and truth, 62 ; as 
ideal, 162 ; its apparent waste, 338 ; 
a matter of character, 339, and 
happiness, 340 

Gorgias, 186 

Green, T. H., 112, 212, 235 n., 236)1. 
Gymnosophistic, 35 

Hallucination, individual, 115; col 
lective, 116 ; how distinguished from 
reality, 119 

Hamilton, Sir W., 237 

Happiness, as ideal, 159 ; its validity, 
162, 344, 345 

Harmony, and individuality, xxvi, in 
cludes system, 50 ; the real as, 119 ; 
includes non-contradiction, 187 ; a 
postulate, 189 ; result of growing 
knowledge, 200 ; perfect, 203 ; 
ethical, postulates a future life, 337, 
344 ; of experience potential, 346 ; 
must be universal, 349 

Hartmann, E. von, 158 

Heaven, conception of, 177, 212-3, 
33 6 -7. 3 6 S : its inefficacy, 325, 359 

Hedonism, and pessimism, 158-9 

Hegel, xxvii, 54, 97, 186, 218 

Hegelism, 99 

Helmholtz, 131 

Herakleitos, 39, 42, 207, 284 

Herbart, 85, 186, 187 

Historical method, 107 

Hobbes, 216 

Hodgson, ft., 328 

Homer, 365 

Howison, G. H., xiii 

Humanism, xx-xxix ; its naming, ix, 
xx ; relation to anthropomorphism, 
xxi ; to Protagoras s dictum, x, xxi ; to 
common sense, xxi, xxv ; as a 
method, xxii-xxvi ; relation to radical 
empiricism and pluralism, xxiv ; to 
Humism, 225-48 ; to personal ideal 
ism and pragmatism, xxv ; to scepti 
cism, 230 ; to solipsism, 251, 263-7 ; 
antithesis to barbarism, xxvi, and 
scholasticism, xxvii, and naturalism 
and absolutism, xxviii, 13, 197 

Hume, 197, 205, 209, 223, 228-48 
passim, 253 

Hyperaesthesia, 115-6 

Idea," 256-7 

Idealism and reality, 110-26; ab 
solute, 252 ; epistemological and 
metaphysical, 112 ; a paradox be 
cause not acted on, 197-8 ; false, 
198, 262 ; subjective, 252 

Idealistic, art of passing into superior 
worlds, 1 8 ; experientialism, 366 

Ideals, denial of, leads to pessimism, 
159 ; freedom to realize, 182 ; of 
knowledge, 203.; not to be abandoned, 
342 ; their claims, 343-4 ; of activity 
and rest, 218 



Immediacy of experience, 101 

Immediate experience, xxii, real, 192 ; 
not sufficient, 193 ; of cause, 239- 
240 ; superior reality of, 195 ; return 
to, 202 

Immortality, desire for, 313-34 , ethical 
significance of the idea, Jjj-jo ; hope 
f- 3 J 7 343 an( 3 fear of death, 314 ; 
not taken as fact, 325 ; scientific in 
vestigation of disliked, 326 

Imperfection, 102, 109; of life, 345 

Indetermination of Real, xxiv, i2,3O7/. ; 
implied in Pragmatism, 15 

Individual, is real, 122, 123 ; not 
compounded of universals, 123, 126 

Individuality, of philosophy, xxvi, 265, 
353 ; of experience, 31 ; abstracted 
from, 98 ; real, 102 ; extralogical,i23; 
degrees of, 124 ; in process, 124 ; in 
exhaustible, 126 ; limits extent of 
common world, 372 

Infallibility, 268-82 

Infinity, as metaphysical ideal, 214 

Intellection, not knowing, 234 

Intellectual insight, dependent on 
action, 34 

Intellectualism, xvii, 6, 230, 248 ; of 
Hume, 233-4 ; of Mephisto, 173, 
181 ; kinds of, 233-4 

Intelligence, divine, human or animal 
in evolution, 129 ; as otiose, 130 ; 
animal, as source of adaptation, 131 ; 
divine, in conflict with benevolence 
and superfluous, 132 ; not necessary 
for natural selection, 133 ; question 
of its efficacy, 134-5 ; non-suited, 

I5Q-5 1 

Intolerance, 274, 276, 282 
Interaction, develops both subject and 

object, 113 ; necessary to coexistence 

implied in existence of world and 

primary fact, 65-6 
Interest, xvi, 51, 53 ; in future life, 328, 

330 ; in future life greater than in 

past, 364 
Intuition, 285 
Irrationalism, 5 

fames, W., vii, xii, xiii, xx, xxi, xxiv, 
5,7, 15, 27, 52, 117, 119, 152, 246 ., 
312, 356 

Kant, xxvi, 7, 9, 29, 85, 92, 94, 205 n., 
233, 238, 243 n., 247, 257, 258 

Karma, 349 

Kidd, B., 6 

Knowledge, its unity, 23 ; its useful 
ness, 23 ; useless, relatively so or 
indirectly useful or apparently so, 
40 ; about, vs. acquaintance with, 

189, why power, 200 ; as opposed to 
opinion, 259-60 ; as ideal, 344 ; as 
postulate, 348 
Knox, H. V., 189 

Lamarckian factors in evolution, 136 

Law, 300-302 

Lechalas, 86 

Leroy, ., 278 

Lie, 47 

Life, as equilibrium, 214-6 

Locke, 253 

Logic, reform of, ix, x, xiv, xvii ; ab 
stract, xvi ; relation to psychology, 
x, xvii ; should not abstract from in 
terest, 52 ; nor exclude psychology, 
x, 53 ; of Darwinism, 144 

Loisy, 306 

Lotze, 7, 10, 62-84 passim^ 224, 254 

MacTaggart, J. ., xiii, 95-109 passim 

Magic, 298-9 

Mainlander, 219 

Man, as the measure, xxi ; maker of 
science, xxiv ; starting-point, xxi-xxii 

Measure, man as the, xxi, xxiv 

Mechanism, its value, 242 

Metageometry, 86, 89, 93 

Metaphysics, an immoralist, 4 ; its 
foundations in ethics, 10 ; quasi- 
ethical, 13 ; abstract, 99, 105, 107 ; 
subordinate to concrete fact, 102 ; 
ultimately ethical, 105, 107, and 
epistemology, 112 ; critical denial 
of, 161 

Methodological assumption, of Darwin, 
146 ; of Law, 104, 297-312 ; in psy 
chical research, 355-65 

Methodology, 355 

Mill, J. S,, 223 n. , 225, 238 

Milton, 365 

Mimicry, 48, 152 

Mind! 116 n., 156 n. 

Modernism, 268-84 

Mohammed, 367 

Monads, 124 

Monism, Lotze s proof of, 63 ; not im 
plied in mere existence of a world, 
66 ; the One not substantial, 67 ; its 
besetting sin, 75 ; religiously worth 
less, 77 ; Eleatic, 206 ; idealistic, 

3 6 9. 371 

Moore, A. W., 7, 56 
Moore, G. ., 256 
Moral Order, 181, 254-63 
Motion, 246; as imperfect energeia, 210,. 

and time, 212 ; equilibration of, 


Multiple Personality, 266 
Myers, F. W. H., 321, 325, 357 



Natural Selection, 8 ; sifts mechani 
cally, 133-46, 149, 153-4; as 
universal condition of life, 135-44 ; 
does not exclude special creation, 
141 ; not a moral guide, 143 

Naturalism, xxv, xxviii, 235, 243-5 

Nature, not indifferent, 13, and super- 
nature, 362 ; its uniformity why 
assumed, 300-302, 348 

Necessary matter, 37 

Necessity, and need, 36, 37 ; feeling of, 
52; of controlling phenomena, 119, 

Nephelococcygia, 352 

Nirvana, 219, 341 

Nordau, M., 139 

Normative sciences, rest on fact of 
valuation, 55 

Novelty, 228, 280, 301 

Objectivity of perceptions useful and 

Ideological, 31 ; of truth, 55, 57, 

60, 258 ; of world, 371 
Omnipotence, of natural selection, 134, 

136 ; its limitation, 181 ; cannot 

overcome Mephisto, 182 
Omniscience, 118, 121, 126 
Ontological question, conditioned by 

epistemological, 9 
Opinion, 259-60 
Optimism, 161, 164, 312 
Ostwald, W., xvii, 223 
Other-\vorldliness, 315, 341 

Parmenides, 218 
Pearson, N. , 320 
Peirce, C. S., 27 
Perfection, must be universal, 181 ; its 

metaphysical character, 226-7 ; moral, 

requires future life, 338 
Persecution, 269, 281-2 
Personal Idealism, xxv 
Personal Idealism, xi, xii, xxi, 52 ., 


Pessimism, why not judged true, 50 ; 
of divorcing truth from goodness, 62, 
and scepticism, 74, 163-4, 347 ; its 
difficulty, 79-80, 157-65 ; its defini 
tion and philosophic importance, 
172-3 ; Mephisto s, 168-70 ; Faust s, 
170-72, and distaste for life, 180 ; as 
denial of the validity of ideal postu 
lates, 312, 347 

Philosophers, eccentricity of, 350-3; 
use of, 353-5, 374 

Piper, Mrs., 334, 357, 360, 363 

Pius X. , 280, 282 

Plato, ix, xxi, 12, 19-43 passim, 85, 97, 
203. 207-10, 217, 230, 233, 235, 248, 
250, 259, 285, 320, 351, 353 

Plato or Protagoras f ix 

Pluralism, relation to Humanism, xxiv, 
xxv ; to solipsism, 251 ; in logic, 49 ; 
admits unity of universe, how, 66 

Plutarch, 267 

Poincare, H. , 86, 90, 260 n. 

Postulates, in logic, xv-xvi, 15, 33, 50 ; 
as a priori, 231 ; Darwin s, 132 ; of 
law, 300-302, 310 ; of universal salva 
tion, 181 ; harmony, a, 188-9; of 
higher realities, 195 ; of religion, 197; 
once dreams, 226 ; immortality an 
ethical, 334-50 ; emotional and ration 
al, 342 ; origin of, 264-5 < solidarity 
of ultimate, 350 ; methodological, 
355 ; of continuity of other world 
with this, 358 ; of survival of person 
ality, 361-4 

Potentiality, 67, 208, 224-6 

Power, Hume s criticism of, 235 f. 

Practical value, a determinant of truth, 
4 ; reason has, 7 ; a test of superior 
reality, 23 ; of criteria of reality, 117 

Pragmatism, logic of, ix, xi, 294, central 
thought of, xiii; effect on logic, ix, xiii- 
xvii ; in science, xvii ; in ethics, xviii, 
and religion, xviii-xix, and Human 
ism, xxv ; as logical method, xxv ; to 
be reached how, 5-8 ; definitions of, 
8 ; a travesty of, n ; a tonic, 13, 
and perfection, 15, and indetermina- 
tion, 15, and moral responsibility, 15; 
and the Pope, 269/1 ; as a theory of 
the relation of knowledge and action, 
2 7~43 > as a principle of selection, 
58 ; anticipated, 105 ; and methodo 
logical assumptions, 147; and logical 
valuation, 163 ; asserts value of 
philosophy, 354 ; denies value of 
dreams, 367 

Prince, M., 266 

Pringle-Pattison, A. S., 77, 112 

Progression, problem of, 140, 142, 144, 

153. 154 

Protagoras, ix, x, xxi, 31 
Psychic continuity, 362-3 ; dissociation, 

3 6 3 

Psychical Research, 355-8, 360; Society 
for, 41, 313, 317-8, 322, 328, 334, 351, 
356-7, 364 ; prejudice against, 201 

Psychology, relation to logic, x, xvii, 50 ; 
to philosophy, 231 ; Ideological, its 
influence on logic, 8 ; of Hume, 
247 ; of truth, 51-61 ; physiological, 
314 ; of spiritism, 323 

Punishment, 289-90 

Pure Reason, xvi, xvii, 235, 279 ; a 
figment, 6 ; impossible, 7 ; logica 
fiction, 10 

Pythagoras, 85 



Radical Empiricism, how related to 
Humanism, xxiv-xxv, 237 ; to Hum- 
ism, 238 

Rashdall, H., 254, 371 

Rationalism, 232-3, 247, 274 

Rationality, of real, 117; as test of 
reality, 118 

Real, depends on good, 9 ; its 
alleged rigidity, n ; its nature deter- 
minable not determinate, 12 ; in 
determinate before trial, 12 ; relative 
to purpose, 12 ; not to be abstracted 
from good, 12 ; relation to Becoming, 
107 ; primarily everything, 113 ; in 
dividual, 122, 125 

Realism, n, 197, 253; new, 254-61 

Reality, must be knowable, 9 ; as it is 
in itself unknowable, 10 ; varying 
accounts of, relative to purpose, n ; 
objective, 32 ; not separable from 
thought, 46 ; variously constructed 
by human efforts, 49 ; its time-aspect 
abstracted from, 98 ; more than 
rationality, 106 ; may change in time, 
109, and idealism, 110-26; truth 
valid of, 162, and appearance, 183- 
203 ; higher, continuous with lower, 
192 ; to start with immediate experi 
ence, 192 ; higher, secondary, 193, 
195; of primary experience, 113, 195 ; 
altered by thought, 195, 199 ; what 
perfects experience, 225 ; meaning of, 
for idealistic experientialism, 366 ; 
absolute, of waking world doubted, 


Reason, antithesis to faith, xviii ; how 
related to faith, 7 ; to habit, 309 ; a 
weapon in the struggle for exist 
ence, 7 

Referendum, 115 

Reid, T., 237 

Reincarnation, 241 

Religion, xviii-xix, 196, 278, 321, 324, 
327, 368 

Renouvier, C. , 86 

Rest, ideal of, 218-9 

Riddles of the Sphinx, notes xxi, 2, 
54, 67, 159, 163, 212, 214, 217, 219, 
225, 339, 345- 37i 

Risk, of novelty, 279, of Pragmatism, 
14, of selection, 238 

Ritchie, D. G., 1 10-27 passim 

Scepticism, of Bradley, 189, 191, of 
Hume, 229-30, 232 ; and Pessimism, 
74, 163, 164, 347; moral and intellec 
tual, 348 

Scholasticism, and Humanism, xxvii 

Schopenhauer, 158, 168 

Schurman, J. G., 135 

Science, method of, compared with that 
of religion, xix ; of magic, 299 ; de 
pends on abstraction, 100, 102 ; its 
use of abstraction, 103 ; subordinate 
to practical ends, 105 ; of ends, the 
highest, 105 ; mocked by the unique, 
153 ; not interested in historic errors, 
353 ; infant, parvenu, and advanced, 

Selection, 255, 306 ; its danger, 14 ; by 
attention, 53 ; of subjective valua 
tions, 58 

Self- evidence, 36 ; aesthetic, 50 ; of 
world s existence, 67 

Sensationalism, 233, 248 

Sidgwick, A., xiv, 185 

Sidgwick, H. , 306 n. 

Sigwart, C. , xiv 

Social control, of truth, 58, 98, 333-4; 
of interest in immortality, 328-30 ; 
of desire to know, 201, 332 

Socrates, 285 

Solidarity, demands universal salvation, 
181 ; of ideals, 346 ; of ultimate 
postulates, 350 

Solipsism, 112, 249-67, 312, 373 

Space, 33, 85-94 ; four -dimensional, 
spherical, pseudo- spherical, 87 ; its 
homogeneity, 89 ; perceptual and 
conceptual, 89-90 ; its ambiguity, 
93; real, 120; in an other world, 
32, 360 ; persistence of, in dream 
worlds, 366 

Spencer, H., 155, 191, 215, 219-21 

Spinoza, 97, 370 

Spirit identity, 362-4 

Spiritism, 323-4, 359-61 

Spiritual beings detached from the Ab 
solute by Lotze, 75 

Stewart, J, A., 212 

Struggle for existence, Darwin s postu 
late, 132 ; for bare life, 142 

Studies in Humanism, ix ; notes 8, 12, 
240, 252, 260, 265 

Sturt, //., 233 

Subject, dependent on object, 260-1 

Subjectivism, 230, 256 

Substance, Lotze s theory of, 67 ; rests 
on individual real, 123 ; Aristotelian 
theory of, 204-27 ; soul - substance 
useless, 223 ; as individual law, 224 

Substratum, view of substance, 205, 
222 - 3 ; permanent possibility of 
activity, 225 

Supernatural, 361-2 

Survival-value of conduct, 133 ; of in 
telligence, 134 

System, as definition of truth, 47,51, 
277 ; refusal to call true what does 
not fit into, 162 


Taylor, A. ., 4 

Teleology, 71, 129, 133, 137, 143, 148, 
149, 152-5 

Theages, 27 

Theodicy, 167, 181, 182 

Thompson, Mrs., 334 

Thomson, J. , 158 

Thomson, Sir J. J., 281 

Thought, pure, does not account for 
actual thinking, xvi ; as acts, 15, 
52 ; purposive, 8, 52, 53, selec 
tive, 255 ; not to be separated from 
reality, 46; no pure, xiv, 51, 52; 
movement of, due to psychological 
interest, 51 ; transcended by reality, 
114, 120, 121, 122-3 I an d its other, 
125, and sensation, 203 

Time, and succession, 94 ; process, reality 
and value of, 95-109 ; its alleged un 
reality, 189; its passage into eternity, 
212 ; in other worlds, 360 ; persists 
in dream worlds, 366 

True, what works in practice, 7, 36 ; 
depends on good, 9 ; true for our 
needs, 30-1 ; is useful, 37 ; as what 
fits into a system, 46 ; not use 
less, 58 

Truth, 44-61 ; eternal, xvi ; not infal 
lible, xxi ; absolute, 271-8; does 
not exist apart from human agency, 
10, 275, 282 ; for the sake of, 24 ; 
its claims, 26, and goodness, 28 ; 
and history, 278 ; of sense-percep 
tion relative to us, 33 ; eternal, of 
mathematics, 33 ; apart from use 
remains potential, 36 ; definition 
of, as agreement of thought with 
reality, 46,; as systematic coher 
ence, 46 ; consistency a mark of, 47 ; 
variously to be constructed by human 
effort, 49 ; psychological terms in its 
definition, 51 ; immediate apprehen 
sion of, 52 ; a form of value, 54, 162 ; 
a means of prediction, 297-8 ; as 
individual valuation, 55, 58 ; as 
valuation of fact, 57, 162 ; formal 
and material, 57, 98; plural, 273, 276; 
relative to purpose, 296 ; a social 
product, 58, and goodness, 62 ; of 
abstraction, 98, 100 ; a claim, 98 ; 
eternity due to abstraction, 99 ; 
methodological, 104 ; as ideal, 162 ; 
cannot be noxious, 201 

Tweedledee, 369 

Ultimate question for philosophy, 10 
Ultimate reality, worlds of, 32 ; 
realizes ideals, 120; non- contra 
dictory, 185 ; harmonious, 187, 199 ; 
continuouswith immediate experience, 

192, 195 ; conception of, how reached, 
194 ; must be satisfactory, 200 ; 
must establish harmony, 202 ; must 
become immediate experience, 203 

Ultra-Darwinians, 134, 137 

Unity of the universe, not to be hypos- 
tasized, 67 ; not proved by Lotze, 72 ; 
neither personal nor moral, 79 

Universal laws, shorthand for habitual 
interactions, 125 

Usefulness of knowledge, 23, 28, 42 ; 
determines social recognition, 59 

Useless persons allowed to pursue use 
less knowledge, 60 ; useless is false, 
37-8, 40 

Validity, if unrealizable not valid, xvii ; 
timeless, 98 ; as practical working, 98 

Valuation, pervades experience, 8, 10 ; 
truth, 8, 6 1 ; knowledge a form of, 
10 ; of indetermination, 15 ; of truth, 
50; as true and false, 55; diffi 
culty of sustaining it in society, 58 ; 
systematized in ideals, 159 ; nature 
of ethical, not accurately known, 313 ; 
ethical, affirms ideal of goodness, 344; 
doubt of significance of human, 347 

Value, source of validity, xvii ; essential 
to truth of a system, 50; truth 
as, 55 ; no fact without, 55 ; of prac 
tically important, 117; of life denied, 
160 ; judgments of, and of fact, 160 ; 
truth as, 162 ; are facts, 163 ; failure 
of scheme of, 164; inferior value of 
dream worlds, 367 

Variability, Darwin s postulate, 132, 139 

Variation, 132, 134, 145 ; accidental, 
132, 135, 146 ; causes of, 137 ; dis 
continuity of, 136 ; indefinite, 135, 
146, 148, 151, 153 ; origin of, 135, 
142 ; purposive direction of, 137 ; 
facts of, 148-9 

Verification in science and religion, xix 

Virtue, as knowledge, 285 

Vischer, F. T., 177 n. 

Voluntarism, 8, 231, 233 

Wallace, A. R., 144 

Ward, J., xii, 372 

Will to believe, xii, xx, 5, 153 ; to 
know, ii, 16, 312, 321 

Wisdom, speculative and practical, 24-6, 
28 ; opposition between them, 29-30 

Worlds, of higher reality, 18, 32, 193-8, 
368 ; of relative reality, 366 ; of in 
ferior reality, 367-8 

Wundt, xiv 

Zeno, 22, 186, 206 
Zollner, 118 

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