Infomotions, Inc.Studies in Hegelian cosmology. / McTaggart, John McTaggart Ellis, 1866-1925

Author: McTaggart, John McTaggart Ellis, 1866-1925
Title: Studies in Hegelian cosmology.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press 1918
Tag(s): hegel, georg wilhelm friedrich, 1770-1831; cosmology; hegel; unity; criterion; volition; reality; sin; punishment; harmony; moral criterion; supreme; self
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AUTHOR OF Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Some Dogmas 
of Beligion, A Commentary on Hegel s Logic. 



First Edition, 1901 
Second Edition, 1918 



T / I *3 Q 7 
j A 3 / 


H\i!V/ir6C^TW p r T"i"*i " { * 


/^IHAPTERS V and VI of this book appeared, nearly in 
^-^ their present form, in the International Journal of Ethics. 
(July 1896, and July 1897.) The other chapters have not 
been previously published. 

In referring to Hegel s works I have used the Collected 
Edition, the publication of which began in 1832. For purposes 
of quotation I have generally availed myself of Wallace s 
translation of the Encyclopaedia, of Dyde s translation of the 
Philosophy of Law, and of Spiers and Sanderson s translation 
of the Philosophy of Religion. 

I am much indebted to Mr G. L. Dickinson, of King s 
College in Cambridge, and to my wife, for their kindness in 
reading this book before its publication, and assisting me with 
many valuable suggestions. 

The changes in the second edition are not numerous. When 
they are more than verbal, I have called attention to them in 

J. E. M T. 
September, 1917 





1. Definition of Cosmology . 1 

2. Hegel s attitude to Cosmology . . . . . 2 

3. The main principles . illustrated in these Studies , * . 3 



4. The problem of this Chapter 4 

^5. Hegel s own attitude towards Immortality .... 5 

6. Apparently best explained by his indifference ... 5 

v/7. The answer must depend on the Absolute Idea ... 7 
1/8. Two questions arise. Are we among the fundamental differen 
tiations of the Absolute? Is each of these differentiations 

eternal? .... . . . . . . 7 


9. As to the first of these questions, firstly, What is the nature 

of the fundamental differentiations of the Absolute? ... 8 

10. Let us start from Hegel s category of Life . . . . 9 

11. The unity in this category is in the individuals but not in 

each separately . . . . . .... 10 

12. Nor in the aggregate of them . .. ;.. 10 

13. Nor in their mutual determination . . . . . 11 

14. The unity must be for each of its differentiations. Thus we 

get the category of Cognition . . . . . . 13 

15. This gives us the relation we require . . . . . 14 



16. We cannot imagine any example of the category of Cognition, 

except the concrete state of cognition. Dangers of this . 15 

17. The validity of the transition to Cognition .... 15 

18. Summary of the argument up to this point . . . .17 

19. Comparison with Lotze 17 

20. Transition to the Absolute Idea 18 

21. Nature of the Absolute Idea 19 

22. But, though the fundamental differentiations of the Absolute 

are now proved to resemble selves, it is possible they may 

not be selves, or may not include our selves . . . .19 

23. We must now endeavour to prove that our selves have charac 

teristics which they could not have unless they were funda 
mental differentiations of the Absolute 20 

24. No line can be drawn to separate the Self and the Not- Self . 21 

25. The usual solution that the Self contains images of an external 

Not-Self is untenable 2L 

26. On the other hand, the Self has no content which is not also / 

Not-Self 22 

27. The nature of the Self is thus highly paradoxical . . 23 

28. It need not therefore be false, but, if not, its paradoxes must be 

shown to be transcended contradictions 23 

29. In a system like Hegel s it cannot be taken as false . . 25 

30. And no demonstration that its paradoxes are transcended con 

tradictions can be found, except on the hypothesis that the 

Self is a fundamental differentiation of the Absolute . . 25 


31. We now turn to the second question stated in Section 8. Are 

the fundamental differentiations of the Absolute eternal ? . 26 

32. Can the selves change ? They are reproductions of the Absolute 27 

33. Neither of the two elements of the Absolute can change . 27 

34. Even if the selves could change, they could not perish . 29 

35. For the Absolute does not stand to its manifestations in the 

same relation as finite things to their manifestations . 30 

36. Change is only possible when reality is viewed under categories 

having something of the nature of Essence in them . . 31 

37. To maintain that the Individuals could change while the Abso 

lute remains the same implies that we have not transcended 

the category of Matter and Form 33 

38. Our selves, no doubt, are not given as changeless, or as in 

perfect harmony with the universe 34 

39. But it is as difficult for Idealism to deny, as to affirm, the per 

fection and changelessness of the Self 34 

40. Selves can be viewed under the Absolute Idea 35 



41. Personal Identity lies in Identity of Substance . .36 

42. Further explanation of this ..... ....- . 37 

43. The theory that Personal Identity lies in Memory , . 38 

44. The theory that Personal Identity lies in continuity of character 40 

45. Mr Bradley s objection that the Self is not a sufficiently adequate 

representation of the Absolute to be Immortal . . . . 40 

46. This objection considered . . . . . . . .41 

47. His objection that onr desire for Immortality is no argument 

for Immortality . . . . . . . - ..-* . 42 

48. His objection that Immortality might not give us that for 

which we desire it .... . * . . .43 

49. Lotze s opinion that we have no evidence of Immortality . 44 

50. But with Lotze the unity of the Absolute is more fundamental 

than its plurality . . . . . ^ . . . 45 

51. And it is this, in which he differs from Hegel, that is decisive 

for his view on Immortality . . .... . 46 

52. Lotze s objection to the pre-existence of the Self. Pre-existence 

is indeed a probable conclusion from Immortality . .47 

53. But why should pre-existence be regarded as unsatisfactory? 48 

54. Lives not connected by memory would be rather fragmentary. 

But all life in time is fragmentary . . . .49 

55. And the nature of each life would be a free development from 

that of the life before . . . . . . . . 50 

56. Nor would the change be equivalent to the annihilation of one 

self and creation of another . . . . . . .50 

57. And, in particular, the personal relations of each life would 

spring out of those of the life before .... 52 

58. And may, in many cases, be held to be actually the same relations 53 

59. Indeed, nothing is really lost by the loss of memory . . 54 

60. Although it is inevitable that it should appear to us that some 

thing is lost .. . . . . . . . . 54 



61. Hegel s definition of God makes God s existence a truism. 

The important question is whether God is a person . . 56 

62. Hegel s God is more conveniently referred to as the Absolute . 58 

63. Hegel regards the Absolute as a spiritual unity. And spirit as 

personal. But it does not follow that he thought the Absolute 

to be a Person. Nor do I believe that he did think so . . 58 




64. It is not necessary that the individuals should be for the unity . 59 

65. Indeed it is impossible in the sense in which the unity is for 

the individuals 60 

66. This view cannot properly be condemned as atomistic . . 61 


67. It does not, however, necessarily follow from this that the 

Absolute is not a Self 63 

68. Lotze s arguments for the personality of the Absolute . . 64 

69. In his contention that the Ego is independent of the Non-Ego 

we may agree in a certain sense ...... 66 

70. But not in the sense in which it would allow of an Infinite 

Person . . 67 

71. And the possibility that the Absolute should be a Person 

becomes trivial 69 

72. And it would be a Personality entirely unlike ours . . 69 

73. Lotze s asserted immediate certainty that the greatest must exist 70 

74. If this be taken as strictly immediate it is only of interest for 

Lotze s biography . . . . . . . . .71 

75. If it be taken as a conclusion admitting of proof, it has no pro 

bability unless the truth of Idealism has been demonstrated . 72 

76. Even in that case, we cannot infer that what men have always 

desired is a fundamental demand of spirit .... 72 

77. Nor have all men desired the existence of a personal God . . 74 

78. And no attempt has been made to prove a priori that a personal 

God is a fundamental demand of spirit 74 

79. Lotze s theory that the differences between the Infinite and the 

Finite are such as to make the Infinite the only real Person . 75 

80. This theory considered. Unities of System and Unities of 

Centre ........... 76 

81. An Individual is not hindered from being self-determined by the 

existence of outside reality to which he is in relation . . 78 

82. The same continued 79 

83. Nor, if he were, would it follow that the Infinite was a Person . 80 

84. We have only dealt with those of Lotze s arguments which 

would be applicable to Hegel s Absolute . . . .81 


85. The individual unity in consciousness 81 

86. Such a unity is not found in the Absolute. And it is this 

unity which gives the direct sense of Self which forms the 
positive essence of Personality 82 

87. Thus even the valueless possibility of Personality mentioned 

in Section 71 can no longer be predicated of the Absolute . 83 



88. The impossibility of this becomes more obvious when we 

reflect that the differentiations of the Absolute are them 
selves Persons . . . . . . . . . 84 

89. The Absolute could be called a Person if we extended the 

meaning of the term to cover all spiritual unities. But 

this would be wasteful and confusing . , . -. . 85 

90. It is unmeaning to enquire whether the Absolute is higher 

or lower than a Person . . 86 

91. Would the denial of Personality to the Absolute affect our 

morality? There is no logical justification for its doing so . 87 

92. We have not sufficient evidence to determine whether it 

would do so in fact ... . . . . . 89 

93. But what evidence is available seems against the supposition 90 

94. We have even less light on the value of the effect that such a 

denial would have upon our emotions . . . , 91 

95. At any rate, the belief in a personal Absolute is nearly as far 

removed from the historical belief in God as is the belief in 

an impersonal Absolute * ... . . 92 

96. It is better not to call an impersonal Absolute by the name 

of God 93 



97. The nature of Supreme Reality. This is not, as such, the 

Supreme Good . . . ... . .... . 95 

98. In point of fact, however, the Supreme Reality, according 

to Hegel, is also the Supreme Good .... 96 

99. This Supreme Good is not purely hedonistic . .96 

100. The Moral Criterion need not be identical with the Supreme 

Good . . 96 

101. The necessity of a Moral Criterion . . . . 97 

102. We must judge our actions according to their relatively 

immediate consequences, as their ultimate consequences 

are unknown to us . . 98 


103. The idea of Perfection will not serve as a Moral Criterion 99 

104. The same continued . . . 100 


105. The same continued ;. 

106. Examples of the ambiguity of the idea of Perfection as a 

Moral Criterion . . . 

107. The attempt to use it as a Moral Criterion leads to sophistry 

108. Again, the idea of Perfection is useless when the question 

is quantitative. Examples of this ..... 

109. And an Ethical system is bound to provide the principles 

upon which such questions can be answered . 

110. Nor would the principle of "my station and its duties" be 

available as a Moral Criterion ...... 


111. On the other hand the calculation of Pleasures and Pains 

does seem to give us an applicable criterion, whether it 
is a correct one or not ....... 

112. We do know the difference between Pleasures and Pains . 

113. The objection that Pleasure is an abstraction 

114. The objection that Pleasures vanish in the act of enjoyment . 

115. The objection that Pleasures are intensive quantities, and 

so cannot be added together 110 

116. But we are continually adding them, in cases where no one 

would suppose that the results were completely unmeaning 111 

117. And such additions have some place in morality, on any 

system of Ethics 112 

118. And every system of Ethics, which requires a Criterion at 

all, has either Pleasure or Perfection, in some form, as 

that Criterion 112 

119. Now Perfection as a Criterion also requires the addition of 

intensive quantities 113 

120. Examples of this 114 

121. Thus Ethics of every sort seem to stand or fall with the 

possibility of the addition of intensive quantities . . 115 

122. And there seems, on consideration, no reason why they 

should not be added 116 

123. This is not affected by the impossibility of very precise 

measurements . . . . . . . . .117 


124." How far, then, is Pleasure a correct Criterion? The Good 

may be analyzed into Development and Harmony . . 118 

125. Of Harmony the hedonic Criterion is a trustworthy test, 

but this is not always the case with Development . . 119 

126. Although, in the long run, the greatest Development and 

the greatest Happiness are inseparable . . . .120 



127. Examples of this . .121 

128. When Harmony and Development lead in different direc 

tions, the conflict is not between Pleasure and Perfection, 

but between two elements of Perfection . . . . 122 

129. The solution of the difficulty adopted by Common Sense . 123 

130. But neither this nor any other is satisfactory . . . 123 

131. Summary of results. There are some cases in which we 

have no Criterion to trust ... . . . 123 

132. This does not introduce so much practical uncertainty as 

might be supposed ........ 124 

133. Some uncertainty, no doubt, it produces. But it does not 

deny that there is an objective Right, though we cannot 
know it 126 

134. And everyone must admit that we do not always know the 

Right. The difference is not great 126 

135. Nor is the attainment of the Good ultimately dependent 

on our action 127 

136. No doubt such a view brings out the fact that Virtue is 

not an ultimate conception. But this is an advantage . 127 



137. Definition of Punishment ... ... 129 

138. Theories justifying Punishment . . . . . .129 

139. The vindictive theory has fallen out of favour . . . 131 

140. What is Hegel s theory? It has been supposed to be the 

vindictive theory, but this is incorrect .... 132 

141. Hegel s theory is that Punishment, as such, may cause 

Repentance 133 

142. The objection that all Punishment is essentially degrading 134 

143. But can Punishment, as such, produce Repentance? . . 135 

144. It can do so, if inflicted by an authority which the culprit 

recognizes as embodying the moral law . . . .136 

145. But is such a recognition compatible with a violation of the 

law? Yes. (a) The recognition may not have sufficient 
strength to enable us to resist temptation . . . 137 

146. (b) Or we may fail to see that the law applies to a par 

ticular case 138 

147. (c) Or we may not know that the authority had forbidden 

the act in question 138 


148. But would Punishment be just in these last two cases? 

There is no reason that it should not be just 

149. (d) Or our recognition of the authority, previous to the 

Punishment, may have been too vague to determine our 
action . . * . 

150. Thus Punishment produces Repentance by emphasising the 

element of Disgrace 

151. Disgrace must be distinguished from Degradation 

152. It is not advisable to trust exclusively to the Disgrace in 

volved in the fault 

153. It is rarely that the Punishments of a modern State can 

produce Repentance. The main object of such Punish 
ment should be deterrent 

154. And most offences against such a State are, either (a) com 

mitted deliberately from a sense of duty 

155. Or (b) committed by persons in whom the sense of right 

is, in the matter in question, hopelessly dormant . 

156. And, in the remaining cases, the modern citizen does not 

conceive the State as the embodiment of the moral law . 

157. Hegel s mistake lay in supposing that Punishment could 

have the effect he treats of, when inflicted by the Criminal 
Law of a modern State. This came from his putting the 
State too high, and the Conscience of the Individual too 

158. He forgets that a State which could be the moral authority 

for its citizens could only have existed in antiquity 

159. And that, before the higher unity of the future can be 

attained, the State, as such, will have ceased to exist . 

160. But although Hegel s theory has no validity in Jurisprudence, 

it is of great importance for Education .... 



161. Statement of Hegel s doctrine of Sin 

162. The proof cannot be a priori, nor can it amount to demon 


163. Quotations from the Philosophy of Religion 

164. Innocence is good. And yet it implies the absence of 


165. The relation of Innocence to Virtue . . . 

166. They are the Thesis and Synthesis of a triad . 

167. Of which Sin is the Antithesis 



168. But this explanation of Sin presupposes the existence of Evil 159 

169. The subordinate triad of Sin. It may be presumed analo 

gous to the triad of Sin, Punishment, and Repentance in 

the Philosophy of Law . .... . . . 159 

170. But Retribution and Amendment will be here more appro 

priate terms . . 160 

171. Why Retribution must follow on Sin . . . . - 161 

172. And Amendment on Retribution . .< 4 . 162 

173. The analogy of Retribution to Punishment. . v . 164 

174. The transition to Virtue from Innocence and Sin . , . 165 

175. The transition to Virtue from Amendment . . 165 

176. The process from Innocence to Virtue may be repeated 

more than once in each man . . . . . .166 

177. Virtue can be increased otherwise than by Sin and Amend 

ment . . ... ... . . . , 167 

178. But Innocence necessarily leads, through Sin, Retribution, 

and Amendment, to Virtue .... . ,-..: 4 168 

179. Yet, in fact, some members of this process are often seen, 

in individual cases, without being followed by the later 

ones 168 

180. Hegel may have regarded the process as only a tendency 

in the individual, though an actual fact in the race . 169 

181. Or he may have regarded the process as completed for each 

individual in a subsequent life . . . . . .169 

182. Summary . 170 

183. Comparison with two other theories of Sin . . .171 

184. Moral evil and moral good are not so fundamentally opposed 

for Hegel as for many philosophers 171 

185. But this theory affords no logical justification for immoral 

action 172 

186. Nor is it likely, as a matter of fact, to lead to such action . 173 

187. The theory certainly does not lend itself to the deification 

of Virtue . * . 174 

188. An application to the principles of Education . . .174 



189. Statement of Hegel s position . . ... . 177 

190. The same continued ... . , . . .178 

191. Professor Mackenzie s position . . v . . . 179 

192. The intrinsic relations of parts to the whole, as proved by 

Professor Mackenzie, only implies mutual determination . 180 



193. And need involve no higher category than Absolute Mecha 

nism . . . i- . . .182 

194. Although the end of Society is human well-being, it does 

not follow that it lies within Society .... 183 

195. Illustrations of this 184 

196. A definition of Organic Unity proposed .... 185 

197. Is Society the end of man? The ideal Society of heaven 

is, but not our present Society on earth . . . .187 

198. Nor ought our present Society to be our end . . . 188 

199. For, in progressing through it, our relation to it is often 


200. Arguments in support of this statement .... 

201. The same continued 

202. Statement of results reached . . , . 

203. Earthly Society does not always improve or deteriorate in 

proportion as its unity increases or diminishes 

204. Philosophy can afford us no guidance in acting on Society 

205. Nor is it to be expected that it should do so . 



206. Introductory 

207. The definition of Christianity 

208. Division of the subject 

209. Statement of Hegel s views on the Trinity and Personality 

of God. The Primary and Secondary Triads . 

210. He identifies the distinctions of the Secondary Triad with 

those of the Trinity ........ 

211. But the Secondary Triad forms part of a dialectic process 

212. And therefore the Synthesis expresses its whole reality 

213. This would not lead to the ordinary doctrine of the Trinity 

214. The Personality of God. Hegel s statement of the Primary 


215. This is again a dialectic process 

216. And, therefore, if God is really Personal, it must be in the 

Kingdom of the Spirit 

217. God in the Kingdom of the Spirit is a Community . 

218. Arid so can scarcely be a Person especially as it is bound 

together by Love 



219. Hegel s use of the word Love .211 

220. Its relation to Friendship . . . . . .. . 212 

221. And to Particularity . / . - . . . . . . 212 

222. Hegel s views on the Personality of God have been obscured 

by his use of the word God " . V V 1 . 213 

223. And by mistakes as to the nature of the Pantheism which 

he rejects . . . . ... . . 213 

224. And by supposing that Spirit cannot be Personal unless 

God is a Person . . . ... . . 214 


225. Hegel s doctrine of Incarnation 215 

226. Its similarities to the Christian doctrine . . . .216 

227. But, for Hegel, God is incarnate in everything finite . 217 * 

228. And all the reality of everything finite is only its Incarnation 

of God 218 

229. As to the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation three ques 

tions arise, of which the first has been considered above 218 

230. Hegel s demonstration for the necessity of the Incarnation 

being typified in a particular man . , . . . 219 

231. Why the typification in several men would be unsatisfactory 220 

232. For Hegel this typification is a necessity to be regretted . 221 

233. Why Jesus should be taken as the type not because of 

his personal perfection ....... 222 

234. Nor of the excellence of his moral teaching . . . 222 

235. But because he bears witness to the metaphysical truth of 

the Unity of God and Man 223 

236. But the Unity is asserted merely immediately . . . 224 

237. And the Unity asserted is itself immediate, and therefore 

only one side of the truth . . . . . . 225 

238. Why the type must be found in a teacher whose assertion 

of the Unity was immediate 226 

239. And why it must be found in a teacher who asserted an 

immediate Unity . . . . . . . . 226 

240. In what sense the position of Jesus was determined by the 

choice of the Church 228 

241. Hegel s view of Jesus is, at all events, not the usual Chris 

tian view 229 


242. Hegel s statement of the doctrine of Original Sin . . 230 

243. The consequences of this doctrine, as held by Hegel . . 232 

244. This doctrine may be true, and may be Christian, but it 

is by no means specially Christian 233 


245. And he regards Sin as, at any rate, superior to Innocence . 

246. As is seen in his treatment of the Fall ... 

247. Hegel s statement of the doctrine of Grace. . 

248. This doctrine, again, is not specially Christian . . 

249. Hegel would seem to attribute the doctrine of Grace to 

Jesus, and that of Original Sin to his successors . 

250. As to morality its commands and prohibitions are much 

the same for Hegel as for Christianity .... 

251. But he differs from Christianity in the comparatively slight 

importance he gives, (a) to Sin 

252. (b) to Conscience 

253. (c) to Immortality 

254. (d) to Purity of Motive 

255. (e) And, indeed, to morality as a whole .... 

256. (/) Moreover, the ideas of humility and contrition for sin 

have for Hegel only a relative validity .... 


257. Summary of results 

258. Why did Hegel attempt to connect with Christianity a 

system so unlike the ordinary doctrines of Christians? . 

259. It cannot have been from cowardice, or from a regard for 

the interests of the non-philosophical public . 

260. Nor can it be attributed to a sympathy for the life and 

character of Jesus ........ 

261. The explanation is to be found in his definition of Religion 

as something which cannot give absolute truth 

262. His meaning will be that no Religion can ever give a closer 

approach to absolute truth than is given by Christianity 

263. And, if Hegel s philosophy is true, it must be admitted that 

no Religion has approximated to the truth as closely as 
Christianity ......... 

264. Historical confirmation of this view 



265. An Idealist philosophy has three stages 

266. The practical importance of the third stage 

267. The subject of the present chapter 

268. The nature of perfected Knowledge 



269. In which the question "Why is the Universe as a whole what 

it is ? " is the only one which remains, and is illegitimate . 257 

270. The nature of perfected Volition . . . . . . 258 

271. The significance of a life which enjoyed this perfection would 

be summed up in Love . . . . . . . 260 

272. And in nothing else . . . . . . . . 261 

273. The apparently unreasoning nature of Love . . . 262 


274. Love is not only the highest reality in the universe, but 

the sole reality ............ . . 262 

275. For (a) the duality between Knowledge and Volition cannot 

be maintained in the Absolute ...... 263 

276. The distinction between Knowledge and Volition is not in 

their relation to action 263 

277. Nor in the activity or passivity of the mind . . . 264 

278. But is that, in a case of imperfect harmony, we condemn, 

in Knowledge our ideas, in Volition the facts . . 265 

279. The same continued . . / . . . . . 266 

280. This distinction could find no place in perfection . . 267 

281. An objection considered 268 

282. The perfected state of Spirit could not be mere Feeling. 

There only remains Emotion 269 

283. The only form of Emotion which could fill this place would 

be Love . . 270 

284. And Love does transcend the opposition between Knowledge 

and Volition 270 

285. A second line of argument leads to the same conclusion: 

for (b) both Knowledge and Volition postulate an ideal 
which they can never reach, as long as they remain Know 
ledge and Volition 271 

286. The element of the Not-Self is essential to Knowledge and 

Volition. But it is incompatible with their perfection . 272 

287. In Knowledge this element shows itself in apparent oppo 

sition to the Self . 273 

288. And this is the reason that we cannot get rid of the illegiti 

mate question "Why is the Universe as a whole what it is ? " 273 

289. The possibility of knowing that Knowledge is inadequate . 274 

290. Again, Volition requires that all Experience shall be a Means 

to the End of the person who wills 274 

291. The element of the Not-Self prevents this .... 276 

292. And this gives an appearance of contingency to all satis 

faction of Volition 276 



293. In a perfected state of Spirit, we must be able to regard 

the Not-Self as we regard the Self . . . . . 277 

294. The Not-Self of each of us is some other Selves . . 278 

295. In Love we regard the person loved in the same way as 

we regard ourselves 278 

296. Reasons for believing this . . . ... . . 278 

297. The same continued 279 

298. And thus Love supplies the defects of Knowledge and 

Volition 280 

299. A third line of argument leads to the same conclusion: for 

(c) each Individual must have a unique nature of its own 282 

300. Explanation of this 282 

301. This nature cannot be found in Knowledge or Volition . 284 

302. But may be found in Love 285 

303. Thus three lines of argument lead to the same conclusion . 285 


304. The objection that Love is not at present self-subsistent . 286 

305. Love, if perfect, would be inconsistent with sense-presentation 287 

306. And with time 287 

307. The objection that Love does not always at present vary 

directly with development 289 

308. This Love cannot be Love of God 289 

309. And still less of mankind . 290 

310. Its nature 290 

311. Its extent 291 

312. The mystical character of our conclusion .... 292 



1. By Cosmology I mean the application, to subject-matter 
empirically known, of a priori conclusions derived from the 
investigation of the nature of pure thought. This empirical 
element clearly distinguishes Cosmology from the pure thought 
of Hegel s Logic. On the other hand, it is clearly to be distin 
guished from the empirical conclusions of science and every-day 
life. These also, it is true, involve an a priori element, since 
no knowledge is possible without the categories, but they do 
not depend on an explicit affirmation of a priori truths. It is 
possible for men to agree on a law of chemistry, or on the guilt 
of a prisoner, regardless of their metaphysical disagreements. 
And a man may come to correct conclusions on these subjects 
without any metaphysical knowledge at all. In Cosmology, 
however, the conclusions reached are deduced from propositions 
relating to pure thought. Without these propositions there 
can be no Cosmology, and a disagreement about pure thought 
must result in disagreements about Cosmology. 

Of this nature are the subjects treated of in this book. The 
conception of the human self is a conception with empirical 
elements, and there is therefore an empirical element in the 
question whether such selves are eternal, and whether the 
Absolute is a similar self. So too the conceptions of Morality, 
of Punishment, of Sin, of the State, of Love, have all empirical 
elements in them. Yet none of the questions we shall discuss 
can be dealt with by the finite sciences. They cannot be 
settled by direct observation, nor can they be determined by 
induction. In some cases the scope of the question is so 
vast, that an induction based on instances within the sphere 
of our observation would not give even the slightest rational 

MCT. 1 


presumption in favour of any solution. In other cases the 
question relates to a state of things so different from our present 
experience that no relevant instances can be found. The only 
possible treatment of such subjects is metaphysical. 

2. Hegel gives a very small part of his writings to cosmo- 
logical questions a curious fact when we consider their great 
theoretical interest, and still greater practical importance. When 
he passes out of the realm of pure thought, he generally confines 
himself to explaining, by the aid of the dialectic, the reasons 
for the existence of particular facts, which, on empirical grounds, 
are known to exist, or, in some cases, were wrongly supposed to 
exist. The Philosophy of Nature, the greater part of the Philo 
sophy of Spirit, and nearly the whole of the Philosophy of Law, 
of the Philosophy of History, and of the Aesthetic, are taken 
up by this. The same thing may be said of the Second Part of 
the Philosophy of Religion, the First and Third Parts of which 
contain almost the only detailed discussion of cosmological 
problems to be found in his works. 

This peculiarity of Hegel s is curious, but undeniable. I do 
not know of any possible explanation, unless in so far as one 
may be found in his want of personal interest in the part of 
philosophy which most people find more interesting than any 
other. When I speak in this book of Hegelian Cosmology, I do 
not propose to consider mainly the views actually expressed 
by Hegel, except in chapter vm, and, to some extent, in 
chapter v. Elsewhere it will be my object to consider what 
views on the subjects under discussion ought logically to be 
held by a thinker who accepts Hegel s Logic, and, in particular, 
Hegel s theory of the Absolute Idea. I presume, in short, to 
endeavour to supplement, rather than to expound. 

It is for this reason that I have devoted so much space 
to discussing the views of Lotze, of Mr Bradley, and of Dr 
Mackenzie. Since we have so little assistance on this subject 
from Hegel himself, it seemed desirable to consider the course 
taken by philosophers who held the same conception of the 
Absolute as was held by Hegel, or who supported their opinions 
by arguments which would be equally relevant to Hegel s con 
ception of the Absolute. 


3. The subject-matter of those problems which can only 
be treated by Cosmology is varied, and the following chapters 
are, in consequence, rather disconnected from each other. But 
they illustrate, I think, three main principles. The first of 
these is that the element of differentiation and multiplicity 
occupies a much stronger place in Hegel s system than is 
generally believed. It is on this principle that I have en 
deavoured to show that all finite selves are eternal, and that 
the Absolute is not a self. These two conclusions seem to me 
to be very closely connected. As a matter of history, no doubt, 
the doctrines of human immortality and of a personal God have 
been rather associated than opposed. But this is due, I think, 
to the fact that attempts have rarely been made to demonstrate 
both of them metaphysically in the same system. I believe 
that it would be difficult to find a proof of our own immortality 
which did not place God in the position of a community, rather 
than a person, and equally difficult to find a conception of a 
personal God which did not render our existence dependent on 
his will a will whose decisions our reason could not foresee. 

My second main principle is that Hegel greatly over 
estimated the extent to which it was possible to explain 
particular finite events by the aid of the Logic. For this 
view I have given some reasons in chapter vn of my Studies 
in the Hegelian Dialectic. Applications of it will be found in 
chapters iv and vn of the present work, and, in a lesser degree, 
in chapters v and vi. 

Thirdly, in chapter ix, I have endeavoured to demonstrate 
the extent to which the Logic involves a mystical view of 
reality an implication of which Hegel himself was not, I think, 
fully conscious, but which he realised much more fully than 
most of his commentators. 




4. Experience teaches us that there exist in the Universe 
finite personal spirits 1 . I judge myself, in the first place, to be 
such a finite personal spirit to be something to which all my 
experience is related, and so related, that, in the midst of the 
multiplicity of experience, it is a unity, and that, in the midst 
of the flux of experience, it remains identical with itself. And 
I proceed to judge that certain effects, resembling those which 
I perceive myself to produce, are produced by other spirits of 
a similar nature. It is certain that this last judgment is 
sometimes wrong in particular cases. I may judge during a 
dream that I am in relation with some person who does not, in 
fact, exist at all. And, for a few minutes, an ingenious auto 
maton may occasionally be mistaken for the body of a living 
person. But philosophy, with the exception of Solipsism, agrees 
with common sense that I am correct in the general judgment 
that there do exist other finite personal spirits as well as mine. 

These spirits are called selves. And the problem which we 
have now to consider is whether there is a point in time for 
each self after which it would be correct to say that the self 
had ceased to exist. If not, it must be considered as immortal, 
whether as existing throughout endless time, or as having a 
timeless and therefore endless existence. 

1 Throughout this chapter, I shall employ the word finite, when used without 
qualification, to denote anything which has any reality outside it, whether its 
determination is merely external, or due to its own nature. Hegel himself 
speaks of the self-determined as infinite. But this is inconvenient in practice, 
though it is based on an important truth. For it leaves without a name the 
difference between the whole and a part of reality, while it gives the name of 
infinity to a quality which has already an appropriate name self-determination. 


5. Hegel s own position on this question, as on so many 
other questions of cosmology, is not a little perplexing. He 
asserts the truth of immortality in several places x , and he never 
denies it. But his assertions are slight and passing statements, 
to which he gives no prominence. And in the case of a doctrine 
of such importance, a merely incidental assertion is almost 
equivalent to a denial. 

When we pass to the applications of the dialectic, the 
perplexity becomes still greater. For the doctrine of immortality 
is quietly ignored in them. Hegel treats at great length of the 
nature, of the duties, of the hopes, of human society, without 
paying the least attention to his own belief that, for each of the 
men who compose that society, life in it is but an infinitesimal 
fragment of his whole existence a fragment which can have no 
meaning except in its relation to the whole. Can we believe 
that he really held a doctrine which he neglected in this 
manner ? 2 

On the other hand we have his explicit statements that 
immortality is to be ascribed to the self. To suppose these 
statements to be insincere is impossible. There is nothing in 
Hegel s life or character which would justify us in believing 
that he would have misrepresented his views to avoid perse 
cution. Nor would the omission of such casual and trifling 
affirmations of the orthodox doctrine have rendered his work 
appreciably more likely to attract the displeasure of the govern 
ments under which he served. 

6. The real explanation, I think, must be found elsewhere. 
The fact is that Hegel does not appear to have been much 
interested in the question of immortality. This would account 
for the fact that, while he answers the question in the affirmative, 
he makes so little use of the answer. It is the_ fundamental 
doctrine of his whole system that reality is essentially spirit. 
And there seems no reason whatever to accuse him of sup 
posing that spirit could exist except as persons. But rather 

1 Cp. Philosophy of Religion, i. 79, ii. 268, 313, 495 (trans, i. 79, iii. 57, 105, 

2 Cp. the letter which, almost at the end of his own lif e, he wrote to Heinrich 
Beer on the death of Beer s son (1st Sept. 1831. Letter 271 in the Collected 


illogically he seems never to have considered the individual 
persons as of much importance. All that was necessary was 
that the spirit should be there in some personal form or another. 
It follows, of course, from this, that he never attached much 
importance to the question whether spirit was eternally 
manifested in the same persons, or in a succession of different 

No one, I imagine, can read Hegel s works, especially those 
which contain the applications of the dialectic, without being 
struck by this characteristic. At times it goes so far as almost 
to justify the criticism that reality is only considered valuable 
by Hegel because it forms a schema for the display of the pure 
Idea. I have tried to show elsewhere 1 that this view is not 
essential to Hegel s system, and, indeed, that it is absolutely 
inconsistent with it. But this only shows more clearly that 
Hegel s mind was naturally very strongly inclined towards such 
views, since even his own fundamental principles could not 
prevent him from continually recurring to them. 

Since Hegel fails to emphasise the individuality of the 
individual, his omission to emphasise the immortality of the 
individual is accounted for. But it remains a defect in his 
work. For this is a question which no philosophy can be 
justified in treating as insignificant. A philosopher may answer 
it affirmatively, or negatively, or may deny his power of answer 
ing it all. But, however he may deal with it, he is clearly 
wrong if he treats it as unimportant. For it does not only 
make all the difference for the future, but it makes a profound 
difference for the present. Am I eternal, or am I a mere 
temporary manifestation of something eternal which is not 
myself? The answer to this question may not greatly influence 
my duties in every-day life. Immortal or not, it is equally my 
duty to pay my bills, and not to cheat at cards, nor to betray 
my country. But we can scarcely exaggerate the difference 
which will be made in our estimate of our place in the universe, 
and, consequently, in our ideals, our aspirations, our hopes, the 
whole of the emotional colouring of our lives. And this is most 
of all the case on Hegelian principles, which declare that 
1 Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic. 


existence in time is inadequate, and relatively unreal. If we 
are immortal, we may be the supreme end of all reality. If 
time made us, and will break us, our highest function must be 
to be the means of some end other than ourselves. 

7. To determine the true relation of Hegel s philosophy 
to the doctrine of immortality, we must go into the matter 
at greater length than he has thought it worth while to do 
himself. We must take Hegel s account of the true nature 
of reality, and must ask whether this requires or excludes 
the eternal existence of selves such as our own. _Npw Hegel s 
account of the true nature of reality is that it is Absolute 
Spirit. And when we ask what is the nature of Absolute 
Spirit, we are told that its content is the Absolute Idea. The 
solution of our problem, then, will be found in the Absolute 

8. We are certain, at any rate, that the doctrine of the 
Absolute Idea teaches us that all reality is spirit. No one, 
I believe, has ever doubted that this is Hegel s meaning. And 
it is also beyond doubt, I think, that he conceived this spirit 
as necessarily differentiated. Each of these differentiations, 
as noTTeing the whole of spirit, will be finite. This brings 
us, perhaps, nearer to the demonstration of immortality, but is 
far from completing it. It is the eternal nature of spirit to be 
differentiated into finite spirits. But it does not necessarily 
follow that each of these differentiations is eternal. It might 
be held that spirit was continually taking fresh shapes, such as 
were the modes of Spinoza s Substance, and that each differ 
entiation was temporary, though the succession of differentiation 
was eternal. And, even if it were established that spirit 
possessed eternal differentiations, the philosophising human 
being would still have to determine whether he himself, and 
the other conscious beings with whom he came in contact, were 
among these eternal differentiations. 

If both these points were determined in the affirmative 
we should have a demonstration of immortality. But the 
conclusion will be different in two respects from the ordinary 
form in which a belief in immortality is held. The ordinary 
belief confines immortality to mankind so far as the inhabitants 


of this planet are concerned. The lower animals are not 
supposed, by most people, to survive the death of their present 
bodies. And even those who extend immortality to all animals 
commonly hold that much of reality is not spiritual at all, 
but material, and that consequently neither mortality nor 
immortality can be predicated of it with any meaning. But 
if we can deduce immortality from the nature of the Absolute 
Idea, it will apply to all spirit that is to say to all reality 
and we shall be led to the conclusion that the universe consists 
entirely of conscious and immortal spirits. 

The second peculiarity of the conclusion will be that the 
immortality to which it refers will not be an endless existence 
in time, but an eternal, i.e., timeless existence, of which whatever 
duration in time may belong to the spirit will be a subordinate 
manifestation only. But this, though it would separate our 
view from some of the cruder forms of the belief, is, of course, 
not exclusively Hegelian but continually recurs both in philo 
sophy and theology. 

We have to enquire, then, in the first place, whether our 
selves are among the fundamental differentiations of spirit, 
whose existence is indicated by the dialectic, and, if this is so, 
we must then enquire whether each of these differentiations 
exists eternally. 

9. The first of these questions cannot be settled entirely 
by pure thought, because one of the terms employed is a matter 
of empirical" experience. We can tell by pure thought what 
must be the nature of the fundamental differentiations of 
spirit. But then we have also to ask whether our own natures 
correspond to this description in such a way as to justify 
us in believing that we are some of those differentiations. Now 
our knowledge of what we ourselves are is not a matter of 
pure thought it cannot be deduced by the dialectic method 
from the single premise of Pure Being. We know what we 
ourselves are, because we observe ourselves to be so. And this 
is empirical. 

Accordingly our treatment of the first question will fall 
into two parts. We must first determine what is the nature 
of the differentiations of spirit. This is a problem for the 


dialectic, and must be worked out by pure thought. And then 
we must apply the results of pure thought, thus gained, by 
enquiring how far our selves can or must be included in the 
number of those differentiations. 

10. Hegel s own definition of the Absolute Idea is, "der 
Begriff der Idee, dem die Idee als solche der Gegenstand, dem 
das Objekt sie 1st 1 ." This by itself will not give us very much 
help in our present enquiry. But, as Hegel himself tells us, 
to know the full meaning of any category, we must not be 
content with its definition, but must observe how it grows 
out of those which precede it. We must therefore follow 
the course of the dialectic to see how the Absolute Idea is 
determined. It would be too lengthy to start with the category 
of Pure Being, and go through the whole chain of categories, 
and it will therefore be necessary to take some point at which 
to make a beginning. This point, I think, may conveniently 
be found in the category of Life. There seems to be very little 
doubt or ambiguity about Hegel s conception of this category 
as a whole, although the subdivisions which he introduces into 
it are among the most confused parts of the whole dialectic. 
And it is at this point that the differentiations of the unity 
begin to assume those special characteristics by which, if at all, 
they will be proved to be conscious beings. For both these 
reasons, it seems well to begin at the category of Life. 

According to that category reality is a unity differentiated 
into a plurality (or a plurality combined into a unity) in such 
a way that the whole meaning and significance of the unity 
lies in its being differentiated into that particular plurality, 
and that the whole meaning and significance of the parts of the 
plurality lies in their being combined into that particular 

We have now to consider the transition from the category 
of Life to that of Cognition. We may briefly anticipate the 
argument by saying that the unity required by the category 
of Life will prove fatal to the plurality, which is no less essential 
to the category, unless that plurality is of a peculiar nature; 

1 Encyclopaedia, Section 236. 


and that it is this peculiarity which takes us into the category 
of Cognition 1 . 

11. The unity which connects the individuals is not any 
thing outside them, for it has no reality distinct from them. 
The unity has, therefore, to be somehow in the individuals 2 
which it unites. Now in what sense can the unity be in the 
individuals ? 

It is clear, in the first place, that it is not in each of them 
taken separately. This would be obviously contradictory, since, 
if the unity was in each of them taken separately, it could not 
connect one of them with another, and, therefore, would not be 
a unity at all. 

12. The common-sense solution of the question would 
seem to be that the unity is not in each of them when taken 
separately, but that it is in all of them when taken together. 
But if we attempt to escape in this way, we fall into a fatal 
difficulty. That things can be taken together implies that 
they can be distinguished. For, if there were no means of 
distinguishing them, they would not be an aggregate at all, 
but a mere undifferentiated unity. Now a unity which is only 
in the aggregate cannot be the means of distinguishing the 
individuals, which make up that aggregate, from one another. 
For such a unity has only to do with the individuals in so far 
as they are one. It has no relation with the qualities which 
make them many. But, by the definition of the category, the 
Vhole nature of the individuals lies in their being parts of that 
unity. Consequently, if the unity does not distinguish them, 
they will not be distinguished at all, and therefore will not 
exist as an aggregate. 

In the case of less perfect unities there would be no 
difficulty in saying that they resided in the aggregate of the 
individuals, and not in the individuals taken separately. A 
regiment, for example, is not a reality apart from the soldiers, 

1 Sections 11 19 are taken, with some omissions, from a paper on Hegel s 
Treatment of the Categories of the Idea, published in Mind, 1900, p. 145. 

2 I use the word Individual here in the sense given it by Hegel (cp. especially 
the Subjective Notion). To use it in the popular sense in which it is equi 
valent to a person would be, of course, to beg the question under discussion. 


neither is it anything in each individual soldier, but it is a 
unity which is found in all of them when taken together. 
But here the differentiations are not entirely dependent on the 
unity. Each man would exist, and would be distinguishable 
from the others, if the regiment had never been formed. In 
the category of Life, however, no differentiations can exist 
independently of the unity. And therefore the unity must be 
found in them, not only in so far as they are not taken as 
differentiated, but also in respect of all their differentiation. 
The unity cannot, indeed, as we saw above, be in each indi 
vidual as a merely separated individual. But it must, in some 
less crude way, be found in each of the united individuals, and 
not merely in the sum of them. For those separate character 
istics which differentiate the individuals can have no existence 
at all, unless the unity is manifested in them. 

13. It might be suggested that we could overcome this diffi 
culty by the idea of mutual determination. If each individual 
is in relation with all the rest, then its character is determined 
by these relations, that is, by the unity of which the individuals 
are parts. Thus, it may be said, the unity will be manifested 
in the separate nature of each individual, since that nature will 
be what it is by reason of the unity of all the individuals. 

But this is only going back to the category of Mechanism, 
and the same difficulties which compel us to regard that 
category as inadequate will recur here. Are we to regard the 
individuals as possessing any element of individuality which 
is not identical with their unity in the system? To answer 
this question in the affirmative is impossible. Such an inner 
reality, different from the external relations of the individual, 
though affected by them, would take us back to the Doctrine 
of Essence. And therefore it would be quite incompatible 
with our present category, which demands, not only that the 
individuals shall not be independent of their unity, but that 
they shall have no meaning at all but their unity. And there 
fore there cannot be any distinct element of individuality 1 . 

1 It will be seen later that this does not mean that the individuality is 
subordinated to the unity, but that both moments are completely united in the 
c oncrete conception of reality, from which they are both abstractions. 


On the other hand, if we answer the question in the 
negative, our difficulties will be as great. The individuals 
are now asserted not to possess any elements of individuality, 
which are not identical with their unity in the system. But 
this, while it is no doubt the true view, is incompatible with 
the conception that the unity in question is simply the unity 
of the mutual determination of the individuals. As we saw 
when Absolute Mechanism transformed itself into Chemism, 
"the whole nature of each Object lies in the relation between 
it and the other Objects. But each of these relations does not 
belong exclusively, ex hypothesi, to the Object, but unites it 
with the others. The nature of wax consists, for example, 
partly in the fact that it is melted by fire. But this melting 
is just as much part of the nature of the fire. The fact is 
shared between the wax and the fire, and cannot be said to 
belong to one of them more than the other. It belongs to both 

of them jointly The only subject of which the relation 

can be predicated will be the system which these two Objects 
form. The qualities will belong to the system, and it will be 
the true" individual. "But again, two Objects cannot form 
a closed system, since all Objects in the universe are in mutual 
connexion. Our system of two Objects will have relations with 
others, and will be merged with them, in the same way that 
the original Objects were merged in it since the relations, 
which alone give individuality, are found to be common property, 
and so merge their terms instead of keeping them distinct. The 
system, in which all the Objects, and all their relations, are 
contained, becomes the reality the only true Object, of which 
all the relations contained in the system are adjectives. The 
individual Objects disappear 1 ." 

This explanation also, therefore, must be rejected. For it 
destroys the individual in favour of the unity, while our cate 
gory asserts that the individuality and the unity are equally 
essential. And such a victory would be fatal to the unity also, 
since it converts it into a mere undifferentiated blank, and 
therefore into a nonentity. 

The impossibility of taking the connection required by the 

1 Mind t 1899, p. 47. 


category of Life to be the mutual determination of individuals 
comes, it will be seen, from the intensity of the unity in that 
category. Any individuality not identical with the unity is 
incompatible with it. And in mutual determination the indi 
viduality is not identical with the unity. Each individual has 
qualities which are not part of its relations to others, and 
which are therefore not the unity between them. (From one 
point of view it may be said that this ceases to be true when 
mutual determination becomes perfect. But then it ceases to 
be mutual determination, and we return once more to the 
difficulties, quoted above, of Chemism.) 

14. We are forced back to the conclusion that it is 
necessary that in some way or another the whole of the unity 
shall be in each individual, and that in no other way can the 
individuals have the requisite reality. Yet, as we saw above, 
to suppose that the unity exists in the individuals as isolated, 
is to destroy the unity. The unity must be completely in each 
individual. Yet it must also be the bond which unites them. 
How is this to be? How is it possible^ that the whole can be 
in each of its parts, and yet be the whole of which they are 
parts ? 

The solution can only be found by the introduction of a 
new and higher idea. The conception which, according to 
Hegel, will overcome the difficulties of the category of Life, 
is that of a unity which is not only in the individuals, but also 
for the individuals. (I am here using "in" and "for" rather in 
their customary English meanings than as the equivalents of 
Hegel s technical terms "an" and "fur.") There is only one 
example of such a category known to us in experience, and that 
is a system of conscious individuals. 

Accordingly Hegel calls his next category, to which the 
transition from Life takes us, Cognition (Erkennen). This 
does not seem a very fortunate name. For the category is 
subdivided into Cognition Proper and Volition, and Cognition 
is scarcely a word of sufficient generality to cover Volition as a 
sub-species. If the category was to be named from its concrete 
example at all, perhaps Consciousness might have been more 


15. If we take all reality, for the sake of convenience, as 
limited to three individuals, A, B, and C, and suppose them to 
be conscious, then the whole will be reproduced in each of them. 
A, for example, will, as conscious, be aware of himself, of B, and 
of C, and of the unity which joins them in a system. And thus 
the unity is within each individual. 

At the same time the unity is not in the individuals as 
isolated. For the whole point of saying that the unity is for 
A, is that it exists both out of him and in him. To recur to 
our example, the essence of consciousness is that the contents of 
consciousness purport to be a representation of something else 
than itself. (In the case of error, indeed, the contents of con 
sciousness have no external counterpart. But then it is only in 
so far as consciousness is not erroneous that it is an example of 
this category.) 

Thus the unity is at once the whole of which the individuals 
are parts, and also completely present in each individual. Of 
course it is not in the individuals in the same manner as the 
individuals are in it. But this is not to be expected. The 
dialectic cannot prove that contraries are not incompatible, 
and, if it did, it would destroy all thought. Its work is to 
remove contradictions, and it succeeds in this when it meets 
the demand that the unity shall be in the individuals, and the 
individuals in the unity, by showing that both are true, though 
in different ways. 

The unity is now, as it is required by the category to be, the 
whole nature of each individual. In so far as we regard the 
individual as merely cognitive, and in so far as his cognition 
is perfect (and both these conditions would be realised when we 
were judging him under the category of Cognition), his whole 
nature would consist in the conscious reproduction of the system 
of which he is a part. This does not involve the adoption of the 
view that the mind is a tabula rasa, and that it only receives 
passively impressions from outside. However the cognition 
may be produced, and however active the part which the mind 
itself may take in its production, the fact remains that the 
cognition, when produced, and in so far as perfect, is nothing 
but a representation of reality outside the knowing self. 


16. We must, of course, remember with Cognition, as with 
Mechanism, Chemism, and Life, that the dialectic does not 
profess to deduce all the empirical characteristics of the concrete 
state whose name is given to the category, but merely to deduce 
that pure idea which is most characteristic of that particular 
state. But the case of Cognition has a special feature. We 
can recall and imagine instances of the categories of Mechanism 
and Life outside the spheres of Mechanics and Biology, and this 
helps us to realise the difference between the concrete state and 
the category which Hegel calls after it. But of the category of 
Cognition there is no example known to us, and, as far as I can 
see, no example imaginable by us, except the concrete state of 
cognition. We cannot, I think, conceive any way in which such 
a unity should be for each of the individuals who compose it, 
except by the individuals being conscious. This introduces a 
danger which does not exist in so great a degree with the other 
categories of Mechanism, Chemism, and Life namely, that we 
should suppose that we have demonstrated more of the charac 
teristics of cognition by pure thought than in fact we have 
demonstrated. And great care will be needed, therefore, when 
we come to apply the conclusions gained in this part of the 
dialectic to cosmological problems. 

17. The pure idea of Cognition, to which the process of 
the dialectic has now conducted us, is free from any empirical 
element either in its nature or its demonstration. It is true 
that it is suggested to us by the fact that there is part of our 
experience the existence of our own consciousness in which 
the category comes prominently forward. It is possible that 
we might never have thought of such a category at all, if we 
had not had such an example of it so clearly offered us. But 
this does not affect the validity of the transition as an act of 
pure thought. The manner in which the solution of a problem 
has been suggested is immaterial, if, when it has been suggested, 
it can be demonstrated. 

Is the transition from Life to Cognition validly demon 
strated? It will have been noticed, no doubt, that, though 
these two categories form the Thesis and Antithesis of a 
triad, the passage from one to the other resembles closely the 


transition to a Synthesis. Certain difficulties and contradictions 
arise in the category of Life, which forbid us to consider it as 
ultimately valid, and the claim of the category of Cognition 
to validity lies in the fact that it can transcend and remove 
these contradictions. But this gradual subordination of the 
triadic form to a more direct movement is a characteristic to 
be found throughout the Logic, and one which by no means 
impairs its validity 1 . 

The transition must therefore be judged as a transition to a 
Synthesis. Now the evidence for such a transition is always in 
some degree negative only. We have reached a category to 
which the dialectic inevitably leads us, and which we cannot 
therefore give up, but which presents a contradiction, and which 
we cannot therefore accept as it stands. The contradiction must 
be removed. Now the necessity of the proposed Synthesis lies 
in the fact that it can do this, and that no other idea can, so 
that our choice lies between accepting the Synthesis in question 
and asserting a contradiction. So far, therefore, the proof of the 
validity of the Synthesis is in a sense incomplete. For it is 
never possible to prove that no other idea could be proposed 
which could remove the contradiction. All that can be done is 
to consider any particular idea which may be put forward for 
that purpose. 

So, in this case, our justification in asserting the claim of 
Cognition to be a category of the Logic lies in the belief that 
no other solution can be found for the difficulties of the category 
of Life. But, until some other solution has been found, or at 
least suggested, it would be futile to doubt the validity of the 
transition because of such a bare possibility. It is abstractly 
possible that there is some simple logical fallacy in the fifth 
proposition of Euclid, which has escaped the notice of every 
person who has ever read it, but will be found out to-morrow. 
But possibilities of this sort are meaningless 2 . 

We must remember, too, that any idea which involves any 
of the previous categories of the Logic, except in a transcended 

1 I have endeavoured to prove this in Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, 
chap. iv. 

2 Cp. Mr Bradley s Logic, Book i. chap. vn. 


form, can be pronounced beforehand inadequate to solve the 
problems offered by the category of Life, by which all such 
categories have themselves been transcended. And this con 
fines the field, in which an alternative solution could appear, to 
very narrow limits. 

18. We may sum up the argument as follows, putting it 
into concrete terms, and ignoring, for the sake of simplicity of 
expression, the possibility of the category of Cognition having 
other examples than consciousness examples at present un 
known and unimagined by us. The Absolute must be differ 
entiated into persons, because no other differentiations have 
vitality to stand against a perfect unity, and because a unity 
which was undifferentiated would not exist. 

Any philosophical system which rejected this view would 
have to adopt one of three alternatives. It might regard reality 
as ultimately consisting partly of spirit and partly of matter. 
It might take a materialistic position, and regard matter as the 
only reality. Or, holding that spirit was the only reality 3 it 
might deny that spirit was necessarily and entirely differenti 
ated into persons. Of each of these positions it might, I believe, 
be shown that it could be forced into one of two untenable 
extremes. It might not be in earnest with the differentiation 
of the unity. In that case it could be driven into an Oriental 
pantheism, referring everything to an undifferentiated unity, 
which would neither account for experience nor have any 
meaning in itself. Or else and this is the most probable 
alternative at the present time it might preserve the differen 
tiation by asserting the existence, in each member of the 
plurality, of some element which was fundamentally isolated 
from the rest of experience, and only externally connected with 
it. In this case it would have fallen back on the categories of 
Essence, which the dialectic has already shown to be untenable. 

19. Lotze, also, holds the view that the differentiations of 
the Absolute cannot be conceived except as conscious beings. 
His reason, indeed, for this conclusion, is that only conscious 
beings could give the necessary combination of unity with 
change 1 . This argument would not appeal to Hegel. But he 

1 Metaphysic, Section 96. 
MCT. 2 


also points out 1 that we can attach no meaning to the existence 
of anything as apart from the existence of God, unless we 
conceive that thing to be a conscious being. Here, it seems to 
me, we have the idea that consciousness is the only differenti 
ation which is able to resist the force of the unity of the 
Absolute. Lotze, however, destroys the Hegelian character of 
his position (and, incidentally, contradicts the fundamental 
doctrines of his own Metaphysic) by treating the individuality of 
the conscious beings as something which tends to separate them 
from God, instead of as the expression of their unity with him. 

20. The subdivisions of the category of Cognition do not 
concern us here. The transition from Cognition to the Absolute 
Idea itself is simple. In Cognition we had a harmony a 
harmony of each part with the whole, since the nature of each 
part is to reproduce the nature of the whole. Now harmonies 
are of two different kinds. One side may be dependent on the 
other, so that the harmony is secured by the determined side 
always being in conformity with the determining side. Or, 
again, neither side may be dependent on the other, and the 
harmony may be due to the fact that it is the essential nature 
of each to be in harmony with the other, so that neither of 
them needs any determination from without to prevent its 

The harmony which we have found to be the nature of 
reality must be of the latter kind. The nature of the whole is 
not determined by the nature of the individuals, nor the nature 
of the individuals by the nature of the whole. For if either of 
these suppositions were true then the determining side whether 
the whole or the individuals would be logically prior to the 
other. If, however, the whole was logically prior to the indi 
viduals, we should be back in the category of Chemism. And if 
the individuals were logically prior to the whole, we should be 
back in the category of Mechanism. Both of these categories 
have been transcended as inadequate. In the category of Life 
we saw that the two sides implied one another on a footing of 
perfect equality. The plurality has no meaning except to 

1 Metaphysic, Section 98. Microcosmus, Book ix. chap. in. (iii. 533, 
trans, ii. 644). 


express the unity, and the unity has no meaning except to 
unify the plurality. The passage from Life into Cognition 
contained nothing which could destroy this equality of the 
two sides, which, therefore, we must still regard as true. And 
thus we must consider the harmony produced in Cognition 
to be one in which the two sides are harmonious, not by the 
action of one or the other, but by the inherent nature of both. 
Knowledge and will cease therefore to be adequate examples. 
For harmony is secured in knowledge when the content of the 
individual is in accordance with the content of the whole. And 
the harmony of will is produced when the content of the whole 
harmonises with that of the individual. But here the subordi 
nation of one side to the other must disappear. 

21. This brings us to the Absolute Idea. And the meaning 
of that idea may now be seen in greater fulness than in Hegel s 
own definition. Reality is a differentiated unity, in which the 
unity has no meaning but the differentiations, and the differenti 
ations have no meaning but the unity. The differentiations are 
individuals for each of whom the unity exists, and whose whole 
nature consists in the fact that the unity is for them, as the 
whole nature of the unity consists in the fact that it is for the 
individuals. And, finally, in this harmony between the unity 
and the individuals neither side is subordinated to the other, 
but the harmony is an immediate and ultimate fact. 

It will be noticed that there is nothing in the transition to 
the Absolute Idea which can affect our previous conclusion that 
reality must be a differentiated unity, and that the unity must 
be for each of the individuals who form the differentiations. 
The transition has only further determined our view of the 
nature of the relation between the individuals and the whole. 
It still remains true that it is that particular relation of which 
.the only example known to us is consciousness. 

This is as far as pure thought can take us. We have now 
to consider the application of this result to the question of the 
immortality of the selves which are known to each of us, in 
himself and others. 

22. Taken by itself, our conclusion as to the nature of 
Absolute Reality may be said to give some probability to the 



proposition that our selves are some of the fundamental differen 
tiations of the reality. For we have learned that those 
fundamental differentiations must be of a certain nature. We 
know nothing which possesses that nature except our selves, 
and we cannot even imagine anything else to possess it except 
other selves. 

That this gives a certain presumption in favour of the 
fundamental nature of our selves cannot, I think, be fairly 
denied. For the only way of avoiding such a conclusion 
would be either to suppose that selves like our own were 
fundamental, while our own were not, or else to take refuge in 
the possibility of the existence of other ways in which the whole 
might be for the part ways at present unimaginable by us. 
And neither of these seems a very probable hypothesis. 

But, after all, they are both possible. It is possible that 
the fundamental differentiations may be some unimaginable 
things other than selves, or that they may be selves other than 
our own. In that case our selves would be degraded to an 
inferior position. They would have some reality, but they 
would not be real as selves, or, in other words, to call them our 
selves would be an inadequate expression of that reality. The 
case would only differ in degree, from that, for example, of a 
billiard-ball. There is some reality, of course, corresponding to 
a billiard-ball. But when we look on it as material, and bring 
it under those categories, and those only, which are compatible 
with the notion of matter, we are looking at it in an inadequate 
way. It is not utterly and completely wrong, but it is only a 
relative truth. It is possible that this is the case with our 
selves. The view of the universe which accepts the reality of 
me and you may be one which has only relative truth, and 
practical utility in certain circumstances. The full truth about 
the reality which I call me and you may be that it is not me 
and you, just as the full truth about what we call a billiard-ball 
would be that it was not a piece of matter. 

23. We must look for a more positive argument. We have 
shown so far, if we have been successful, that our selves have 
certain characteristics which they would have if they were some 
of the fundamental differentiations of reality. What is now 


required is to show, if possible, that our selves have charac 
teristics which they could not have, unless they were some of 
the fundamental differentiations of reality. And something, I 
think, can be said in support of this view. 

24. One of the most marked characteristics of our selves is 
that they are finite, in the ordinary sense of the word. There 
are few things which appear so certain to the plain man as the 
fact that he is not the only reality in the universe. Yet when 
I enquire as to the division which exists between myself and 
any other reality, I find it quite impossible to draw the line. If 
I am to distinguish myself from any other reality, then, obviously, 
I must be conscious of this other reality. But how can I be 
conscious of it without it being in me? If the objects of con 
sciousness were outside me, they would make no difference to 
my internal state, and, therefore, I should not be conscious of 
them. And, also, if they were outside me, I should not exist. 
For the pure I, though doubtless an essential moment of the 
self, is only a moment, and cannot stand alone. If we withdraw 
from it all its content the objects of cognition and volition 
it would be a mere abstract nonentity. 

25. The common-sense solution of the difficulty is that the 
objects which exist outside me, and not in me, produce images 
which are in me and not outside me, and that it is these images 
which I know. But this theory breaks down. No one, of 
course, would assert that something I knew my friend, for 
instance existed in my mind in the same way that he existed 
for himself. But it is equally untenable to assert that he exists 
exclusively outside me, and that I only know an image of him 
which exists exclusively in me. For then I should only know 
the image not him at all and therefore should not know it 
to be an image, since nothing can be known to be a copy unless 
we are aware of the existence of its archetype. Now we are 
aware of the existence of images in our minds; we recognize 
them as such; we distinguish them from the reality that they 
represent; and we make judgments about the latter. I say 
that I have an image of my friend in my mind, and also 
that he really exists. The subject of this second assertion is 
clearly not an image in my mind. For the second assertion is 


additional to, and contrasted with, a statement about such an 
image. It can only be taken as a statement about my friend 
himself. Let us assume it to be true (as some such statements 
must be, except on the hypothesis of Solipsism). Then its 
truth shows that my friend exists, and not merely as my mental 
state, that is, that he exists outside me. And yet he is an 
object of my consciousness. And how can he be that, unless he 
is also inside me ? 

Thus the theory that we only know images refutes itself, for, 
if it were so, we should never know them to be images. It is 
possible the question does not concern us here that we only 
know reality other than ourselves through inferences based on 
images which are simply in our minds. But that we do know 
something more than images is proved by the fact that we know 
images to be such. And this something more must be outside us 
to make our knowledge true, and inside us to make our know 
ledge possible. 

26. Again, while the self can never say of any reality that 
it is only outside it, it is equally impossible for it to say of any 
reality that it is only inside it. By the very fact of saying 
"I know it," I make a distinction between the I who know, and 
the thing which is known. The only reality of which it could 
be asserted that it was not separated from the self by the self s 
consciousness of it is the pure I. And this is a mere abstraction. 
Without it the self would not exist. But taken by itself it is 

This discrimination of the self from the object of knowledge 
increases with the increase of knowledge. In proportion as I 
know a thing more completely, I may, from one point of view, 
be said to have it more completely in myself. But it is equally 
true to say that, as I more thoroughly understand its nature, 
it takes more and more the form of a completely and clearly 
denned object, and, in proportion as it does this, becomes more 
emphatically not myself. The same course may be traced with 
will and emotion. My will can only find satisfaction in anything 
in proportion as it appears a distinct, though harmonious, reality. 
If it should become something which I could not distinguish 
from myself, the sense of satisfaction would vanish into a mere 


emptiness. And, in the same way, while nothing draws us so 
close to others as intense emotion, nothing enables us to appre 
ciate more clearly the fact that those others exist in their own 
right, and not merely as phenomena subordinate to our own 

27. Thus the nature of the self is sufficiently paradoxical. 
What does it include? Everything of which it is conscious. 
What does it exclude? Equally everything of which it is 
conscious. What can it say is not inside it? Nothing. What 
can it say is not outside it? A single abstraction. And any 
attempt to remove the paradox destroys the self. For the two 
sides are inevitably connected. If we try to make it a distinct 
individual by separating it from all other things, it loses all 
content of which it can be conscious, and so loses the very 
individuality which we started by trying to preserve. If, on 
the other hand, we try to save its content by emphasising the 
inclusion at the expense of the exclusion, then the consciousness 
vanishes, and, since the self has no contents but the objects of 
which it is conscious, the content vanishes also. Locke tried 
the first alternative, and left the fact that we know anything 
inexplicable. Green, on the other hand, came very near to the 
second alternative, and approached proportionally nearly to the 
absurdity of asserting knowledge without a knowing subject. 

28. The idea of the self need not be false because it is 
paradoxical. Hegel has taught us that the contradictions 
which the abstract understanding finds in an idea may be due 
to the idea being too concrete, that is, too true, to be adequately 
measured by the abstract terms of merely formal thought. But 
a contradiction is very far from being a sign of truth. On the 
contrary, as Hegel fully recognized, an unreconciled contra 
diction is a sign of error. The abstract understanding would 
pronounce the category of Life and the idea of a four-sided 
triangle to be equally contradictory. Hegel would agree with 
the non-speculative understanding in taking this as a sign of 
error in the idea of the triangle. But of the category he would 
say that the contradiction only showed it to be too deep and 
true for the abstract understanding to comprehend. 

How is the distinction to be explained? The explanation 


is that no idea which is contradictory, according to the canons 
of the understanding, is to be accepted as true unless the idea 
can be deduced in such a way as to explain and justify the 
contradiction. It is in this -manner that we gain the right to 
believe in the successive Syntheses of the dialectic, each of 
which is contradictory to the abstract understanding, since 
each of them unites two contradictory extremes a union which 
the understanding declares to be contradictory. The dialectic 
starts from a beginning, the validity of which the understanding 
cannot deny. From this it is led into a contradiction, when it 
is seen that the truth of this first Thesis involves the truth 
of the contradictory Antithesis. From this it proceeds to a 
Synthesis, which unites and reconciles the two sides. This 
reconciliation is a paradox and a contradiction to the non- 
speculative understanding, because it unites contradictions. 
But the understanding has lost its right to be regarded in this 
matter. For the course of the triad has shown that if we trust 
to the understanding alone we shall be left with an unreconciled 
contradiction since we shall have to acknowledge the truth 
both of the Thesis and the Antithesis, and they contradict each 
other. The Synthesis is the only way out of the unreconciled 
contradiction to which the course of thought inevitably leads us, 
and if we adhered to the canons of the non-speculative under 
standing, which would reject the Synthesis, our result would 
not be less contradictory from the standpoint of those canons, 
while w r e should have lost the reconciliation of the contradiction 
which a higher standpoint gives us. The understanding has 
no right to reject the solution when it cannot escape the 

But with the four-sided triangle the case is very different. 
There is no course of reasoning which leads us up to the 
conclusion that four-sided triangles must exist, and therefore we 
take the contradictory nature of the idea as a proof, not of the 
inadequacy of the understanding to judge of the matter, but of 
the falseness of the idea. 

The idea of the self is paradoxical contradictory for the 
understanding. Then we have two alternatives. We may 
treat it like the idea of the four-sided triangle, and consider it 


as completely erroneous, and to be got rid of as soon as possible. 
Or else we shall have to justify it by showing that the neces 
sary course of thought leads us to it, that it is the only escape 
from an unreconciled contradiction, and that it must therefore 
be considered as too deep a truth to be judged by the under 
standing. Whether it is to be taken as a relative or as the 
absolute truth would depend on whether it did or did not 
develop contradictions which, in their turn, needed transcending 
by a fresh idea. ^ 

29. To dismiss the idea of self as completely erroneous 
as a pure and simple mistake would be the course which 
Hume would take. Such a course would necessarily conduct 
us to a scepticism like his. It would be too great a digres 
sion to recapitulate here the arguments to prove that such a 
scepticism is untenable, and that the idea of the self cannot 
be summarily rejected in this way. Nor is it necessary to do 
so. For we are now endeavouring to determine what must 
be thought of the self on Hegelian principles, and it is certain 
that, on those principles, or on those of any idealistic system, 
it would be impossible to treat the idea of the self as a mere 
delusion, even if it is not considered as an adequate expression 
of reality. 

30. The only remaining course is to justify the idea of 
the self by showing that the characteristics by which it offends 
the laws of the abstract understanding are the result of the 
inevitable nature of thought, and are therefore marks, not of 
the error of the idea, but of the inadequacy of the laws. If 
we take the selves to be the fundamental differentiations of 
reality, which the dialectic, as we saw, requires, we have 
obtained the necessary explanation. For each of those dif 
ferentiations was shown to contain in itself the content of 
the whole, though, of course, not in the same way that the 
whole itself contains it. Thus if we ask what is contained 
in each individual differentiation, the answer is Everything. 
But if we ask what is contained in each differentiation in 
such a way as not to be also outside it, the answer is Nothing. 
Now this is exactly the form that the paradox of the self 
would take, if we suppose a self whose knowledge and volition 


were perfect, so that it knew and acquiesced in the whole of 
reality. (I shall consider later on the objection that the know 
ledge and volition of the actual selves which we know are by 
no means so perfect.) 

And thus the paradox of the self would be justified. But 
how is it to be justified on any other view? If we are to. take 
the idea of the self, not as a mere error, yet as less than 
absolute truth, we must find some justification of it which 
will show that the necessary course of thought leads up to 
it, and also over it that it is relatively true as transcending 
contradictions which would otherwise be unreconciled, but 
relatively false as itself developing fresh contradictions which 
must again be transcended. Can such a deduction be found? 
We cannot say with certainty that it never will be, but at 
any rate it does not seem to have been suggested yet. Most 
attempts to deal with the self endeavour to get rid of the 
paradox by denying one side or the other either denying 
that the self includes anything which is external to it, or 
denying that it excludes what it includes. Mr Bradley, who 
fully recognizes the paradox, and does not admit the absolute 
validity of the idea, gives no explanation which will enable 
us to see why the idea is to be accepted as having even 
relative truth. 

To sum up the self answers to the description of the 
fundamental differentiations of the Absolute. Nothing else 
which we know or can imagine does so. The idea of the 
self has certain characteristics which can be explained if the 
self is taken as one of the fundamental differentiations, but 
of which no explanation has been offered on any other theory, 
except that of rejecting the idea of the self altogether, and 
sinking into complete scepticism. The self is so paradoxical 
that we can find no explanation for it, except its absolute 

31. We now pass on to the second branch of the subject. 
If we are to accept the selves that we know as some of the 
fundamental differentiations of the Absolute, does this involve 
that the selves are eternal ? The Absolute, no doubt, is eternal, 
and must be eternally differentiated. But is it possible that 


it should be differentiated by means of an unending succession 
of individuals, each of whom has only a limited existence in 
time? There are, I think, two objections to the possibility 
of this. In the first place it does not seem possible that the 
differentiations in question should change at all, and, secondly, 
if they did change, it would still be impossible that any of them 
should cease completely, and be succeeded by others. 

32. Can we then conceive the selves which we have now 
identified with the fundamental differentiations as changing 
at all? The content of each, we learn from the dialectic, is 
simply a reproduction of the content of the whole 1 . It will, 
therefore, be impossible for any individual self to suffer any 
change, unless the Absolute itself likewise changes. 

Can the Absolute change as a whole? The Absolute, as 
I have pointed out elsewhere 2 , must be considered as having 
two moments in it. One of these is pure thought, the nature 
of which is determined in the dialectic process, and described 
in the Absolute Idea. The other is the unnameable but equally 
real element, which is the immediate which thought mediates, 
the existence of which makes the difference between the still 
partially abstract Absolute Idea and the completely concrete 
Absolute Spirit. 

33. Now, of these two elements, the element of pure 
thought cannot possibly change. If the dialectic has proved 
anything, it has proved that nothing can be an adequate 
description of reality but the Absolute Idea. But if the 
element of pure thought in reality should change, then some 
thing more, or less, or at any rate different from the Absolute 
Idea would be, at one time, an adequate description of reality. 
This would destroy the whole of Hegel s Logic. The dialectic 
process from category to category is not one which takes place, 
or is reflected, in time. For the point of each transition to 
a Synthesis, the only thing which makes the transition valid 

1 The word reproduction seems the best we can employ, but it is rather 
misleading, as it may be taken to imply that the whole is active in this 
harmony, and the individual passive. This, as we saw from the transition 
to the Absolute Idea, is not the case. 

2 Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Sections 14, 15. 


at all, is the demonstration that, as against the Thesis and 
Antithesis, the Synthesis is the only reality, and that these 
terms, in so far as they differ from the Synthesis, are unreal 
and erroneous. Thus to suppose that the dialectic process 
advanced in time would be to suppose that at one time 
indeed till the end of the process was reached the unreal 
existed, and gradually produced the real, which would be 
obviously absurd 1 . 

The element of pure thought in absolute reality, then, 
cannot change. But would it not be possible that absolute 
reality should change in respect of the other element? All 
that the dialectic tells us about this is that it must be such 
as to be mediated by the element of pure thought, and to 
embody it. May not several different states of this element 
answer to this description, and in this case would not a change 
in absolute reality be possible, in so far as the element of 
immediacy passed from one of these stages to the other? 

We must however remember how completely and closely the 
two elements are connected. They are not two separate things, 
out of which absolute reality is built, but two aspects which can 
be distinguished in absolute reality. And while, on the one 
side, pure thought has no existence except in so far as it is 
embodied in the element of immediacy, on the other side the 
element of immediacy has no existence, except in so far as it 
embodies pure thought. It is not like the material with 
which an artist works, which, while it embodies an artistic idea, 
has yet an independent existence, with various qualities irrele 
vant to the idea embodied. A block of marble has a certain 
commercial value, a certain legal ownership, a certain tempera 
ture, a certain history. But all these qualities might vary, 
without making it less fit to express the sculptor s purpose. 
The element of immediacy, on the other hand, only exists in so 
far as it embodies the element of pure thought. 

Now if this element were to change say from XY to XZ 
while the element of pure thought, of course, remained the same, 
it would mean that the difference between XY and XZ was 
immaterial to the embodiment of pure thought, since the 

1 Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Section 147. 


unchanged pure thought would be equally embodied in both of 
them. And this would be contrary to what we had previously 
determined that the element of immediacy had reality only 
in so far as it embodied the pure thought. Of course, in 
ordinary life we often see a thing change its qualities, and yet, 
by means of those very changing qualities themselves, continue 
to embody some purpose or meaning. But in all these cases, 
we have to conclude that the difference between those changing 
qualities is irrelevant to what is manifested. And here we have 
a union between the two sides which is so close that we are 
forbidden to think anything in the one irrelevant to its relation 
to the other. The conclusion would seem to be that the element 
of immediacy can change no more than the element of pure 
thought, and that therefore absolute reality as a whole must be 
regarded as unchanging 1 . 

34. But even if it were possible for the selves to change, 
would it be possible for any of them to perish? It is not 
sufficient that the unity should be, in a general way, differenti 
ated into some selves. The nature of the unity consists simply 
in its differentiation into the parts which compose it, and, as it 
has a definite nature, that nature must determine the precise 
nature of the individuals. Or, to put it the other way round, 
the nature of the individuals is simply to embody the unity. 
And, therefore, if the nature of the unity did not determine the 
precise nature of the individuals, the nature of the individuals 
would not be determined at all, and the individuals would not 

Each individual, then, has its definite nature, by means of 
which it manifests the unity. If one perished, then another 
must take its place. Now can we conceive, even if we allow 
the possibility of change, that one self could in this way take 
the place of another? For, although they might resemble one 
another in certain ways, still, by the hypothesis, they are 
different individuals. They differ then in respect of their 
individuality. And here there is a complete break between 
the two. For, if there was not, there would not be the death 

1 Note to Second Edition. I have here omitted a second argument for the 
same conclusion which I now think to be invalid. 


of one individual, and the creation of another. Such a breach 
in the continuity of the manifestation must imply a similar 
breach in the continuity of what is manifested. Now this 
reduces the supposition to an absurdity. For, supposing the 
Absolute to be able to change at all, it must at any rate change 
continuously. If there was a breach in the continuity of the 
Absolute, it would have to be an absolutely complete one for 
there is nothing behind the Absolute to bridge over the separa 
tion. Keality would be divided into two unconnected parts 
which is impossible, since they would not then both be reality. 
And this necessary continuity in the Absolute, involving a 
similar continuity in the manifestation, will, therefore, forbid 
us to suppose that any of the selves who form that manifesta 
tion can ever perish. 

35. It may be objected to this that a breach of continuity 
in the manifestation need not mean a breach of continuity in 
what is manifested. One king dies, and another succeeds him. 
Here then is a break between the one person and the other, 
but the same sovereignty passes from one to the other without 
a break. But in such a case as this the transfusion of mani 
fested and manifestation is not complete. A man is a king 
only in respect of certain aspects of his nature. And these he 
may have in common with his successor, although they are 
different people. But the selves have no existence except in so 
far as they manifest the unity of the Absolute. All their 
characteristics do this, and therefore there can be no breach 
in the continuity of any of the characteristics without a breach 
in the continuity of what is manifested. On the other hand, to 
suppose that one self could succeed another without a breach 
in the continuity of characteristics, would be to reduce the self 
to a mere Ding an sich, which would be entirely incompatible 
with what we have already determined about it. 

Of course this line of argument would not hold with such a 
view of the Absolute as Lotze s. For there the Absolute is to 
be taken as something more and deeper than the unity of its 
differentiations, so that, while there is nothing in them which 
is not in it, there is something in it which is not in them. In 
that case a breach in the unity of the differentiations would not 


necessarily imply a breach in the unity of the Absolute, because 
the unity might be preserved by that part of the Absolute which 
lay behind the differentiations. But then this is not Hegel s 
view. He reaches in the category of Life a result from which 
he never departs in the subsequent categories that the unity 
and plurality are in an absolutely reciprocal relation, so that, 
while the plurality is nothing but the differentiation of the 
unity, the unity is nothing but the union of the plurality. 

In many cases in ordinary life we find that, although a 
sudden and simultaneous change of all the parts of the whole 
would destroy its continuity, yet, if they change successively, 
they may all have their continuity broken without the con 
tinuity of the whole suffering. But these are cases in which 
every part is not necessary to manifest the whole, but it is 
possible for the manifestation to vary within certain limits. 
A regiment, for example, cannot exist without soldiers. But 
each soldier does not fulfil a definite and unique function without 
which the regiment would cease to be a regiment. Thus the 
breach of continuity between any one soldier and his successor 
does not mean a breach in the continuity of the regiment, 
because the other soldiers, who are not discharged at the same 
moment, are sufficient to keep up the continuity. But with the 
differentiations of the Absolute it is different. For it is the 
nature of the Absolute to be manifested in precisely those differ 
entiations in which it is manifested, and so a breach in the 
continuity anywhere could not be compensated for by unbroken 
continuity elsewhere. The Absolute requires each self, not to 
make up a sum, or to maintain an average, but in respect of 
the self s special and unique nature. 

36. Up to a certain point indeed, it is a mark of relatively 
high reality when anything can change, and yet remain the 
same. In the lowest categories of all those of Quality there 
is no such thing as change possible. For, so long as we confine 
ourselves to them, a thing must either remain exactly the 
same, or cease to exist. The moment the slightest variation 
is introduced, the previously existing thing is destroyed, and a 
quite fresh thing substituted in its place. For reality is not 
yet separated into moments in such a way that one varies 


while the other remains the same, and till then we can have no 
change, but only the substitution of one reality for another. 
The first possibility of true change comes in with the categories 
of Quantity. And that possibility develops as we reach the 
categories of Essence, while it is greatest, perhaps, in the 
category of Matter and Form. 

But, although the dialectic starts below the possibility of 
change, it reaches, towards the end, a point above that possi 
bility. Change only became possible when the first anticipations 
of Essence intruded themselves into Being. It ceases to be 
possible as the last traces of Essence die out of the Notion. 
For change, as has been said, we require to look at the reality 
as consisting of moments, of which one may change without 
affecting the other. Now this independence of the two sides 
is the mark of Essence. When we reach the final subdivision 
of Teleology, we have at last left this fully behind. This we 
saw at the beginning of this chapter, while defining the category 
of Life, which has the same content as the last form of Teleology. 
The unity has no meaning except its expression in the plurality, 
the plurality has no meaning except its combination in the 
unity. The independence of the two sides has gone, and with 
it the possibility of change. 

If we consider what are the cases in which we can say that 
a thing changes and yet remains the same, we shall find that 
we regard them all from the point of view of Essence. Either 
the manifestation, or what is manifested, or both of them, must 
be taken as having something in it which is not concerned with 
the relation between the two sides, and which can consequently 
change while the other side is constant, or be constant while 
the other side changes. In the instance which we considered 
above, when the sovereignty passes unchanged through different 
kings, the kings were conceived as having characteristics other 
than their royalty, so that the men were different, while 
manifesting themselves in the same sovereignty. In technically 
Hegelian language, this is a case of Essence as Appearance, 
since we disregard the change in what is manifested, and only 
regard the manifestation, which does not change. On the other 
hand, when we say that a man is the same man as he was 


yesterday, though he may be thinking quite different thoughts, 
and doing quite different things, we are at the stand-point of 
Essence as Ground. For here our answer depends on the un 
changed state of what is manifested, and the change in the 
manifestation is disregarded. Both alike are cases of Essence, 
and both therefore are inapplicable to our present subject- 

37. The view that selves are manifestations of the Absolute, 
in such a way that they change and perish while the Absolute 
remains unchanged, is one which has always had an attraction 
for mystics. It is especially prominent among Oriental thinkers. 
The most frequent metaphors by which this thought is expressed 
are those of a drop of water returning to the ocean, and of 
a ray of light returning to the sun. They show that the 
relation which was conceived to exist between the Absolute 
and the self was substantially that of Matter and Form. The 
Absolute was formless or relatively formless itself, but a part 
of it assumed form and limitation and became a self. At death, 
or in the mystic vision of true wisdom, the form disappeared, 
and the matter dropped back into the undifferentiated mass of 
the Absolute. Such a view involves the indifference of the 
Absolute to the form it assumes. For all the changes in the 
forms do not affect the changelessness of the Absolute. 

It is unnecessary to repeat here Hegel s demonstration of 
the inadequacy of Matter and Form, since it is quite clear that 
such a category could never apply to the selves which we are 
now considering. These selves we have determined as the 
fundamental differentiations of the Absolute, and we know that 
the Absolute is not indifferent to the nature of these differen 
tiations on the contrary, that its whole nature consists in 
manifesting itself in just these differentiations. 

Such a view moreover is incompatible with what we know 
of the self by observation. For it would compel us to regard 
each self as the form of a certain amount of matter 1 , which 
would continue to exist when the form was destroyed, and the 
self, as a self, had ceased to exist. This conception, as applied 
to the self, seems to be meaningless. The self, no doubt, can 
1 Matter is, of course, used here as the contrary of Form, not of Spirit. 

MCT. 3 


be differentiated into parts. But they are parts of such a 
nature that they would cease to exist when the self ceased to 
exist. To regard the self as built up of parts, which could 
exist after it, and be recombined like the bricks from a house 
which has been pulled down, is to render it impossible to explain 

38. It may be objected to the preceding arguments that in 
order to identify the selves which we know with the funda 
mental differentiations of the Absolute, we have given to them a 
perfection which those selves notoriously do not possess, and so 
reduced our arguments to an absurdity. We have proved that 
they must be changeless, while in point of fact they do continu 
ally change. We have identified their consciousness with the 
manner in which the whole exists for each of the fundamental 
differentiations. But, if this is so, it would seem to follow that 
every self must be in complete and conscious harmony with the 
whole of the universe. This is not in accordance with facts. 
Our knowledge is limited, it is often erroneous, and when we 
do know facts, our desires are often not in harmony with the 
facts which we know. 

39. The difficulty is no doubt serious enough. But it is 
not, I think, any objection to our interpretation of Hegel, 
because it is a difficulty which applies equally to all idealistic 
theories, however interpreted. It is nothing less than the old 
difficulty of the origin of evil. And for this, as I have tried to 
show elsewhere 1 , idealism has no definite solution. All that 
can be done is to show that the difficulties are as serious if we 
deny reality to be perfect, as they are if we affirm it, and to 
point out a direction in which it is not altogether unreasonable 
to hope for the advent of some solution at present unimaginable 
by us. This is certainly not much, but it does not seem that 
we are entitled at present to any more. 

The Absolute, according to Hegel, is timeless and perfect. 
In this conclusion most idealistic systems would agree. We 
find around us and in us, however, a world which changes in 
time, and which is far from perfect. Yet the Absolute is the 
only reality of this world. How, then, are we to account for 
1 Cp. Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, chap. v. 


the change and the imperfection? It is in this form that the 
problem of evil presents itself to idealism. 

If we take the selves to be the fundamental differentiations 
of the Absolute, and therefore timeless and perfect, the question 
will of course be raised why, in that case, the selves appear as 
changeable and imperfect. And to this question no answer has 
been given. But we shall not avoid the difficulty by giving up 
our theory. For the selves, whether fundamental or not, still 
exist, and have to be accounted for. The only reality is the 
Absolute, which is timeless and perfect. The question will now 
take this form Why does a timeless and perfect Absolute 
appear as changeable and imperfect selves? And it is as im 
possible to return any answer to this question as to the other. 
The gap between the perfect and imperfect has to come in 
somewhere. The difficulty is the same whether we place the 
true nature of the selves on the side of perfection, and find the 
gulf between that and their appearances, or whether we take 
the selves as imperfect, and then find the gulf between them 
and the Absolute. 

Since this difficulty, then, applies to any idealist theory, it 
can be no special reason against ours. And we can therefore 
rest, as before, on the considerations that the selves, if they 
perfectly realised the nature which they possess, would corre 
spond to the differentiations of the Absolute, which nothing else 
that we know or can imagine does, and also, that the selves, in 
spite of their imperfections, show characteristics which are 
inexplicable if they are not among those differentiations. And 
thus our proper conclusion would seem to be that all selves are 
timeless and perfect, as the Absolute is, but that they, like the 
Absolute of which they are the differentiations, appear under 
the forms of time and imperfection. 

40. Another difficulty which may be raised is that the 
activities most prominent in ourselves are knowledge and will. 
Now neither of these, it may be said, are examples of the 
Absolute Idea at all, but rather of the previous category which 
Hegel names Cognition. For in the Absolute Idea the harmony 
is not produced by the subordination of one side to the other. 
It is the essential nature of each side to be in such a harmony, 



and the idea of subordination becomes meaningless. This is 
not the case with knowledge and will. In knowledge we 
condemn our thought as false if it does not correspond to 
the reality outside it, and the harmony is thus produced 
by the subordination of the individual to the whole. In 
will, on the other hand, we condemn the reality as unsatis 
factory if it does not correspond to our desires, and the 
harmony is thus produced by the subordination of the whole 
to the individual. 

To this it may be answered, in the first place, that, besides 
knowledge and will, emotion is also an activity of the self, and 
that it may be plausibly maintained that in a harmony produced 
by emotion neither side is subordinated to the other, but the 
harmony is the essential nature of each. But, besides this, 
the dialectic demonstrates, by the transition from Cognition 
to the Absolute Idea, that, if the whole does exist for any 
individual, it must be by means of that reciprocal and equal 
harmony which is expressed by the Absolute Idea 1 . We may 
therefore reasonably infer, since our souls show on observation 
a harmony under the category of Cognition, that they are really 
in harmony in the deeper manner characteristic of the Absolute 

41. The results we have reached may throw some light on 
the difficult question of personal identity. The self is not, as 
sceptics maintain, a mere delusion. Nor is it a mere collection 
of adjectives, referring to no substance except the Absolute. 
It is, on the contrary, itself a substance, existing in its own 
right. This does not mean, of course, that any self could 
exist independently, and in isolation from all others. Each 
self can only exist in virtue of its connection with all the 
others, and with the Absolute which is their unity. But this 
is a relation, not of subordination, but of reciprocal dependence. 
If each self is dependent on the others, they in turn are 
dependent on it. If the self has no meaning, except as mani 
festing the Absolute, the Absolute has no meaning except as 
manifested in that self. The self is not an isolated substance 
but it may be properly called a substance. 

1 Cp. Section 20. 


In the identity of the substance lies, it seems to me, the 
personal identity. This is a rather unfashionable mode of 
expression, and it will be necessary to remember that we are 
speaking of the substance as it really is, and not of any 
abstraction of substantiality, and, moreover, that we are 
speaking of the personal identity itself, and not of the signs 
by which we may infer its existence. 

42. It would be absurd to place personal identity in the 
imaginary identity of substance regardless of any continuity of 
attributes. The substance taken apart from its attributes could 
never be the basis of personal identity. For all substances, if 
abstraction were made of their attributes, are absolutely indis 
tinguishable, and the distinction between persons would be 
non-existent. And, indeed, we may go further, for a substance 
without attributes is inconceivable, and if personal identity 
rested in this it would vanish. But when we talk of an identity 
of substance we do not mean any such imaginary Ding an sich. 
Substance is nothing apart from its attributes, as the attributes 
are nothing apart from the substance, and when we place 
personal identity in the identity of the substance, we speak of 
a substance manifesting itself in its attributes. 

Why, then, emphasise the substance? The reason for this 
is as follows all attributes must be referred to some substance. 
But, according to some idealistic systems, a self is merely a 
bundle of attributes, whose substance is the Absolute. The self 
has no substance of its own, but is merely a phenomenon of the 
Absolute. On this view the identity of the self could not be an 
identity of substance, as all selves are attributes of the same 
substance. We have taken a view which puts the self higher, 
and makes each self, not an attribute of one sole self-subsistent 
substance, but itself a self-subsistent substance, though not 
an isolated one. (True self-subsistence is incompatible with 
isolation. We can only get self-determination by means of 
determination by others.) This view is brought out by calling 
the personal identity an identity of substance. 

Since substance and attributes are only two aspects of the 
same reality, the identical substance will have identical attri 
butes. It might seem at first sight as if identity of attributes 


was not a condition of personal identity. For the whole question 
of that identity can only arise when there is change of some 
sort, and, if a thing changes, how can its attributes be identical ? 
In all the changes, however, which the character of a thing or 
a person may undergo, there is an aspect which is permanent 
and unchanging, and it is on that aspect that our attention is 
fixed when we speak of identity of attributes through change. 
For example, a man who was honourable in his youth meets 
with certain temptations, and becomes a scoundrel in old age. 
From one point of view this is a considerable change in his 
attributes. But from another they are unchanged. For, while he 
was still an honourable man, it was part of his character that, 
under certain circumstances, he would become a scoundrel. 
And, after that has occurred, -it is still part of his character 
still a predicate which may be applied to him and may help to 
describe him that, before those circumstances occurred, he was 
an honourable man. It is this identity of attributes which is 
involved, I think, in personal identity. 

There is a very real difference, certainly, between a potential 
and an actual characteristic, and the permanent element which 
persists all through change does not explain that change away, 
or render it less perplexing. But the permanent element does 
exist, and it is in respect of that element that, in spite of the 
change, we ascribe personal identity to the changed person. 
The question presents itself unfortunately without an answer 
how a permanent and changeless character comes to develop 
itself in time and change. But this is only part of the larger 
problem equally insoluble how change of any sort is possible, 
when the ultimate reality is a timeless Absolute. 

43. This view seems to avoid several difficulties which 
stand in the way of the theory that personal identity consists in 
memory. Personal identity, no doubt, is the identity of a 
conscious being, but it does not at all follow from this that it 
must be an identity of which the possessor is conscious. Such 
a theory, to begin with, makes personal identity something which 
continually fluctuates. I may have completely forgotten some 
past episode in my life, and then be vividly reminded of it by 
discovering an old letter. If identity lies simply in memory, we 


must hold that I had ceased to be identical with the person 
who had taken part in those events, and that, after I had found 
the letter, I became identical with him again. 

We do not only forget what is insignificant. We often 
forget events which make a profound difference to the whole 
of our future lives, because we were too young or too dull to 
appreciate their significance. And no man could possibly 
remember all the acts or forbearances, each by itself trifling, 
which helped to form his character. And yet it was surely he 
who did them. If the man who instinctively acts unselfishly in 
an emergency were not the same man whose forgotten choices 
of unselfishness have determined that instinctive action, would 
personal identity have any meaning at all? 

And if the past cannot form part of our personal identity 
unless it is remembered, what about a past that is remembered, 
but has never taken place? George the Fourth said, and 
apparently in good faith, that he remembered that he had 
fought at Waterloo. Similar delusions can be produced by 
hypnotism. The belief in the patient s mind is exactly the 
same as if it were a case of truthful memory. If, then, it is this 
belief on which personal identity hangs, it would seem that 
personal identity must be admitted here. And yet would any 
one be prepared to say that, if A could be made by hypnotism 
to "remember" B s past, he would thereupon become identical 
with 5? 

Nor does personal identity seem to have much meaning 
if it loses its connection with the special and unique interest 
which we feel in our own future as distinguished from that of 
anyone else. Our interest in the well-being of others may be 
as real as our interest in our own, it may even be stronger, but 
it is never the same. Now suppose a man could be assured 
that in a short time he would lose for ever all memory of the 
past. Would he consider this to be annihilation, and take no 
more interest in the person of similar character who would 
occupy his old body than he would in any stranger ? Or would 
a man approaching the gate of hell lose all selfish regret for his 
position if he was assured that memory, as well as hope, must 
be left behind on his entrance? It is not, I think, found that 


believers in transmigration are indifferent to their fate after 
their next death. And yet they believe, in the majority of 
cases, that the nex t death will, for the time at least, break the 
chain of memory as completely as the last did. 

44. Another theory which has been held on this subject is 
that personal identity consists simply in continuity of character. 
We must hold a and ft to be successive states of the same 
person, if the effect of the circumstances in which a occurred 
would be to change a into ft by the time we observe ft. This 
theory is prominent in Buddhist metaphysics. Its practical 
results are the same as those of the theory I have advocated 
above that is, it would affirm and deny personal identity 
wherever the other theory affirmed or denied it. For identity 
of substance, we saw, was only the other side of identity of 
attributes, and identity of attributes must reveal itself in time 
as an ordered succession of changes, of which each determines 
the next. So that, admitting that personal identity lay in 
identity of substance, our way of determining whether two 
states belonged to the same person would be to endeavour to 
trace a causal relation between them. The difference between 
the two theories is one of explanation, not of application. The 
theory as held by Buddhists is involved in all the difficulties of 
extreme sensationalism. For it denies the existence of all sub 
stance, and makes the self into a bundle of attributes, which are 
attributes of nothing. 

45. In attempting, as I have attempted, to demonstrate 
the immortality of the self as a consequence of an idealist 
system, it is impossible to forget that the latest idealist system 
considers immortality to be improbable. Mr Bradley s authority 
on this point is very great. He does not call himself a Hegelian. 
But few professed Hegelians, if any, understand the secret of 
Hegel s philosophy so well. And few professed Hegelians, I will 
venture to say, are so thoroughly Hegelian in spirit. His 
definition of the Absolute, too, has much resemblance to Hegel s. 
It is therefore of the greatest importance to us that he should 
have come to a negative decision about immortality 1 . 

1 Appearance and Reality, chap. xxvi. p.. 501. My references are to the 
edition of 1897. 


His main reason for doing so is his belief that the idea of 
the self cannot be considered as an adequate representation of 
reality. He discusses, from this point of view, several meanings 
which may be given to the word self 1 . With regard to all of 
these meanings but one, few people, I think, would disagree 
with his conclusion that they are too confused and contradictory 
to be accepted as adequate to reality. But when we come to 
the self as the subject of knowledge, the reasons given for re 
jecting it do not seem so satisfactory. 

He objects that we cannot find in the self any content which 
is always subject and never object. Or, if we can, at most it is 
the pure I, which, taken by itself, is completely trivial, indeed 
unmeaning, and cannot be accepted as a key to the nature of all 
reality. Whatever is object, however, is not-self, and thus the 
self dwindles away on examination. If we take what is pure 
self only, we have an unmeaning abstraction. If we take in any 
content, we find that it is at any rate potentially not-self 2 . 

46. All this is doubtless quite true. The only element in 
self which is self and nothing else is an abstraction, which, taken 
by itself, is a nonentity. And the self had only reality by 
including in itself that which is just as much not-self. But it is 
not clear why this should be considered as affecting the adequacy 
of the idea of self. 

If any person, indeed, were to assert that the self was an 
adequate representation of reality, and at the same time to 
identify the self with the pure I, taken in abstraction from 
anything else, his position would be absolutely untenable. 
But the knowing self is not at all identical with the pure I, 
which, if taken in abstraction, neither knows anything nor is 
anything. The knowing self is a concrete whole of which 
the pure I is one abstract element. It is doubtless an in 
dispensable element. It is doubtless meaningless when taken 
in abstraction. But between these two facts there is no con 
tradiction. Whenever one element of a concrete whole is 
taken in abstraction the same thing recurs. Taken by itself 
it is meaningless, for it is only an element, and can only 

1 op. cit. chaps, ix and x. 

2 op. cit. chap. ix. pp. 88 96. 


exist in combination with the other element. But it is also 
essential, for, if it is withdrawn, it leaves nothing but another 
abstract element, and this by itself would also be meaningless. 

The other element, besides the pure I, which is found in 
the knowing self is the not-self. Why should this not be so? 
It is doubtless paradoxical in the highest degree, as has been 
pointed out above. The self can only exist in so far as its 
content is both in and outside it. By the very act of knowledge 
it at once accepts the content as part of itself, and repels it 
as an independent reality. And thus no limits can be put 
to the self. For if we exclude whatever is not self, the self 
shrinks to a point, and vanishes altogether. On the other 
hand, if we include all that is self, it includes all of which 
we are conscious, and, in the ideal self, would include the 
whole of reality. 

But is there any reason why this should induce Mr Bradley 
to reject the idea of self as inadequate? His own idea of 
the Absolute is highly paradoxical, and yet he rightly declines 
to see in this any objection to its truth 1 . And if the idea 
of the Absolute is paradoxical, it is surely to be expected 
that, if we are able to arrive at an adequate idea of the 
differentiations of the Absolute, that idea will also be para 
doxical. If the abstract understanding cannot accept the truth 
about the unity, is it probable that it will be able to accept 
the truth about the plurality which adequately expresses 
that unity? It would seem that it is rather the absence of 
paradox than its presence that should be looked upon with 
suspicion here. 

The adequacy of the idea, of course, is not in the least 
proved by its paradoxical nature. It could only be proved 
by a detailed deduction from the nature of the Absolute, of 
the kind which I have attempted above. What I contend 
here is, that the idea is not proved to be false because it is 

47. Treating more directly of immortality, Mr Bradley 
points out that our desire for immortality affords no reasonable 

1 Cp. e.g. op. cit. chap. xv. pp. 175 183. 


ground for believing in it 1 . This cannot be denied. An 
idealistic theory of the universe may perhaps justify us in 
believing that the fundamental nature of spirit will eventually 
gain its full realisation, and that all desires which really express 
that fundamental nature will be gratified. But then what 
human desires do really express the fundamental nature of 
spirit? That could only be settled by an investigation into 
the nature of reality so thorough that it would probably settle 
the question of immortality in a less circuitous fashion by 
directly deducing its necessity or impossibility. Our field of 
observation is too small to make induction of the least value. 
A large proportion of the western world, no doubt, desire 
immortality. But even if the whole human race had done 
so from the beginning of history (and this is notoriously not 
the case), this would have no more force than the desire 
entertained by a certain proportion of them that the wicked 
should spend their eternal life in everlasting torment. 

48. Mr Bradley seems to doubt if immortality would give 
the relief for the sake of which it is demanded 2 . He says, 
with profound truth, that the partings made by life are harder 
to bear than those made by death. But are not the partings 
of life one of those troubles for which the help of immortality 
is most passionately demanded? In proportion as love has 
prospered on earth, its cessation at death seems less intolerable. 
For in such fruition, however short, there is an element of 
eternity, which, so far as it goes, makes its cessation in time 
irrelevant 3 . It is when the mischances either of life or death 

1 op. cit. chap. xxvi. p. 507. 

2 op. cit. chap. xxvi. p. 509. 

3 It is not, I think, justifiable to cany this line of thought so far as to 
assert that a state of consciousness can ever rise so high that its duration 
or extinction in time should be completely irrelevant. It is true that if such 
a state reached absolute perfection, it would not matter if it were extinguished 
immediately afterwards. But why is this ? Only because a perfect state is an 
eternal one, and the eternal does not require duration in time for its perfections 
to be displayed in. But then the eternal is the timeless, and therefore its end 
in time is not only unimportant, but impossible. On the other hand, if a state 
does end in time, it is not completely eternal, or completely perfect, and then its 
end in time is not absolutely irrelevant. 

Tf we deny that a perfect state is eternal, we have no reason to suppose that 


have interfered between the birth and the fulness of emotion 
that our longing for another chance is strongest and deepest. 
These however are questions which philosophy can presume 
neither to neglect nor to discuss at length 1 . 

And would immortality help us? On this point, also, 
Mr Bradley seems doubtful. Much depends, no doubt, on 
whether we are to hold that time, taking reality as a whole, 
brings progress with it. The point is too large to be discussed 
in passing. Of course, on Hegel s system, we cannot regard 
progress as ultimately real. But then neither can we, on that 
system, regard time or imperfection as ultimately real. And 
the more probable conclusion seems to be that progress is as 
real as the imperfection for the removal of which it is needed 2 . 

Even, however, if this were not so, and we had reason to 
suppose the world not to be progressing in time, but to be on 
a dead level, that dead level, I think, would be higher if selves 
were immortal than if they were not. For the deepest longings 
of our nature are also the most persistent. It is easy enough, 
as experience shows, for unfavourable circumstances to thwart 
them for the space of a single life. But it would be far more 
improbable that the circumstances should never become favour 
able to them throughout a duration indefinitely prolonged. 
And, in matters of this kind, gain, once achieved, is not alto 
gether cancelled by a subsequent loss. 

49. Lotze adds another to the list of the idealists who 
consider that we have no evidence for immortality. We have 
only "this general idealistic conviction ; that every created thing 
will continue, if and so long as its continuance belongs to the 
meaning of the world; that everything will pass away which 
had its authorised place only in a transitory phase of the world s 
course. That this principle admits of no further application in 
human hands hardly needs to be mentioned. We certainly do 

a perfect state is indifferent to its duration. But if the perfect is the eternal, 
it seems quite clear that no state, which is imperfect enough to cease in time, 
can be perfect enough to entirely disregard its cessation. 

1 A more adequate consideration of this subject than is possible in prose will 
be found in "The Lost Leader," and "Evelyn Hope." 

2 Cp. Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Section 175. 


not know the merits which may give to one existence a claim to 
eternity, nor the defects which deny it to others 1 ." 

50. Lotze s philosophy, as has been generally admitted, 
bears a resemblance on many points to Hegel s. His opinion, 
however, need not inspire any doubts in us as to the Hegelian 
character of a belief in immortality, for he differs from Hegel 
on the very point which is of cardinal importance for this belief, 
namely the relation of the differentiations of the unity to the 
unity itself. 

In his Metaphysic he demonstrates that the universe must 
be fundamentally one. But what he does not demonstrate is 
that it is also fundamentally many. In demonstrating its 
fundamental unity he started from the point of view of 
common sense and physical science which regards the universe 
as a manifold only externally connected. And he seems to have 
assumed that so much of this view was true as made the 
universe a manifold, and to have thought it only necessary 
to correct it by showing that it was equally really a unity. 
But in metaphysics it is not safe to trust to the uncritical 
beliefs of common life. They must in a sense be our starting- 
point, but only to be criticised, not to be accepted in their own 
right. And as Lotze had just been proving that half of the 
common-sense view, the merely external connection of the 
manifold, was erroneous, it is curious that he should not have 
seen that the other half, if it was to be retained, would 
require demonstration. Thus the result of his treatment in the 
Metaphysic is that the unity is in a position of greater impor 
tance and security than the differ entiation. For it has been 
demonstrated that the universe must be fundamentally one, 
but not that it must be fundamentally many. 

When we pass to Lotze s treatment of the Philosophy of 
Religion we find this unity changed in its character. In the 
Metaphysic it had no name but M. It was scarcely suggested 
that it was spiritual. Its main function was to permit inter 
action between its various manifestations. But now it has 
been transformed into a personal God. There is no reason to 
doubt that Lotze s mature judgment held this transition to be 
1 Metaphysic, Section 245. 


valid. His fullest treatment, indeed, of the unity as a personal 
God, is in the Microcosmus, which is earlier than the Metaphysic. 
But the Lectures on the Philosophy of Keligion take the same 
line as the Microcosmus. And we must therefore take the M of 
the Metaphysic as only a provisional stage in the process of 
determining all reality as a personal God. 

This change in the nature of M rendered it very desirable 
that Lotze should be able to consider the unity as deeper than 
its plurality of manifestations, and as not exhausted by them. 
It might be possible to consider a unity as personal, even if it 
was completely manifested in a system of persons 1 . (It must 
be remembered that Lotze held that we could not conceive the 
finite manifestations of the Absolute except as conscious.) But 
it is clear that it would be much easier to conceive it as personal, 
if it were taken as being more than could be expressed in such 
manifestations, and as being logically prior to them, instead of 
being simply their complement. Moreover, for ethical and 
religious reasons Lotze was anxious to make his God something 
higher than the world of plurality, and, therefore, something 
more than the unity of that plurality. 

This he was enabled to do, because, as we have seen, he had, 
in his determination of M in the Metaphysic, left, perhaps 
unconsciously, the unity in a much stronger position than the 
plurality, having proved the necessity of the one, and not of 
the other. And, now, when M had developed into a personal 
God, the same characteristic was preserved. His God is not 
quite the God of ordinary theology. For he is not merely the 
highest reality, but the only reality, and (in spite of various 
occasional expressions to the contrary) Lotze appears still to 
take the finite world as God s manifestation rather than his 
creature. But there is no logical equality between the unity 
which is Lotze s God and the plurality which is his world. The 
plurality is dependent on the unity, but not the unity on the 
plurality. The only existence of the world is in God, but God s 
only existence is not in the world. 

51. We have not to enquire if this theory is tenable. It 
is sufficient that it is Lotze s theory, and that it would make 
1 This will be discussed in the next chapter, Section 88. 


any demonstration of immortality quite impossible. Our only 
guarantee of the immortality of a self would be a demonstration 
that the existence of that self was essential to the Absolute. 
And this could only be the case if it were a necessity for the 
Absolute to manifest itself in that particular self. Now the 
personal God who is Lotze s Absolute has no such necessity as 
part of his nature. He exists otherwise than as he is manifested. 
And from this Lotze is justified in drawing the conclusion that 
he could exist with different manifestations from those which 
he at present has. For the present manifestations could cease 
without God being changed. And it is only his nature of whose 
permanence we are assured. 

But all this is based on one of the points where Lotze 
differs from Hegel, the elevation of the unity of the Absolute 
above its differentiation as more fundamental. And conse 
quently Lotze s rejection of immortality cannot give us the least 
reason to suppose that a similar rejection would be consequent 
on, or compatible with, Hegel s philosophy. For with Hegel 
the unity and the plurality are strictly correlative. The plu 
rality has no meaning except to be combined into the unity. 
But the unity has no meaning except to be differentiated into 
the plurality. And not into some plurality or the other, but 
into that particular plurality. And so we must reject the 
foundation of Lotze s argument the possibility of changing the 
plurality without affecting the unity. 

52. Lotze has another objection to immortality. He is 
considering the argument for immortality which might be 
derived from the view of the soul as a "stable atom" in a world 
whose unity is only external. Of this reasoning he says, "we 
might be glad to accept its guarantee for immortality... but the 
other conclusion which is forced on us at the same time, the 
infinite pre-existence of the soul before the life we know, 
remains, like the immortality of the souls of all animals, strange 
and improbable 1 ." The conception of the self as a stable atom 
is not, of course, the one which we have put forward. But our 
view also seems to involve the pre-existence of the self in time. 
The universe was certainly manifesting itself in time before I 
Metaphysic, Section 245. 


was born. And to suppose that parts of reality could be in 
time, while other parts were not, scarcely seems compatible with 
the unity of all reality. The more probable hypothesis is that 
the whole of reality, in itself timeless, is manifested throughout 
the whole of time. The infinite pre-existence of the self would 
not necessarily follow from this. For, at any rate, there is no 
greater contradiction in supposing time to have begun, than in 
supposing that an infinite series has elapsed. But its pre- 
existence throughout time would be a fair inference. Nor is 
there anything about the present existence of each of us which 
would suggest the view that it was, in each case, the first of 
a series destined to be indefinitely prolonged. 

53. Our lives indeed are so fragmentary that, in trying to 
explain them, we are almost tied down to two alternatives 
either they mean nothing, or they are episodes in a long chain. 
That they should mean nothing or at least nothing except as 
a means to something else is not compatible with the view of 
the self which we have been led to adopt. And any attempt 
to give them meaning would seem to require that they should 
not be the only manifestations in time of the selves which 
experience them, but should form part of a longer process, 
stretching before as well as after. 

Neither this nor any other hypothesis can explain for us 
the ultimate mystery why any evil or unhappiness exists. But 
this hypothesis might at any rate enable us to see some 
possibility of an explanation why they seem to us, who can only 
see one life of each self at once, to be so unequally distributed. 
The evidence which we could gain by such empirical observation, 
indeed, could never by itself be strong enough to give any reason 
for belief in our pre-existence. But what little weight it has, 
will be on that side. 

Lotze calls this belief strange and unsatisfactory. If he 
means by its strangeness that it is unusual, he has made no 
very serious objection. And it is only unusual if we limit 
ourselves to the western world. For its strangeness, if 
strangeness means extravagance, and for its unsatisfactori- 
ness, he does not give any arguments. And till some are 
given, the mere assertion is not of much importance. There 


seems to be an implication that the idea of pre-existence is 
one that we should not accept willingly. But this would 
prove nothing against its truth. A system of idealism, indeed, 
may lay claim to so much optimism as to believe that the 
universe is bound to honour all the demands made on it 
by the true nature of the human spirit. But the present 
and past desire of most, or even of all people, who now exist on 
this earth, or are known to us through history, would not 
necessarily be an inevitable and permanent demand of the 
human spirit. 

54. But why should the belief in pre-existence be held 
to be unsatisfactory? Mainly, I think, for this reason. We do 
not now remember anything of any previous life, and if, never 
theless, we have lived previously, there seems no reason to 
expect that we shall be able to remember our present lives 
during subsequent lives. And an existence thus cut up into 
comparatively isolated lives, none of which can remember any* 
thing but itself, may be thought to have no value from a 
practical standpoint. We might as well be mortal, it may be 
maintained, as immortal without a memory beyond the present 

It is quite true that a life which remembers so small a part 
of itself must be rather fragmentary. But then this is an objec 
tion to all life in time, whether it could all be remembered or 
not, for all life in time declares itself, by that very fact, to be 
imperfect. If time is itself a transitory form, and one with 
which eternity will some day 1 dispense, then the reality which 
now forms a time-series will be timelessly present in a way 
which would render memory quite superfluous. But if time is 
to continue in a never-ending duration, then an infinite series 
of lives forgetful of the past would not be more meaningless, 
and would certainly be less dreary, than a single unending life 
cursed with a continually growing memory of its own false 
infinity. If we can get rid of time, we can dispense with 

1 The expression is no doubt flagrantly contradictory. But the contradiction 
may perhaps be only a necessary consequence of considering time as a whole 
from inside time, and thus be no evidence against the possibility of time s 
eventual disappearance. 


memory. If we cannot get rid of time, memory would become 

55. If each life had no effect on its successors, then, indeed, 
there would be little point in calling them all lives of the same 
person. But no one has suggested that this would be the case. 
If the same self passes through different lives, it is certain that 
whatever modifications in its nature took place in one life would 
be reproduced in the next. For this is involved in that con 
tinuity of attributes, which, as we have seen above, is the form 
which personal identity takes sub specie temporis. Death and 
rebirth, no doubt, are in themselves facts of sufficient importance 
to modify a character considerably, but they could only work 
on what was already present, and the nature with which each 
individual starts in any life would be moulded by his actions 
and experiences in the past. 

The different lives of each self, too, must be regarded not 
only as bound together in a chain of efficient causality, but as 
developing towards an end according to final causality. For all 
change in time, for the individual as well as for the universe, 
must be taken as ultimately determined by the end of developing 
as a series the full content of the timeless reality, with no other 
incompleteness or imperfection than that which is inseparable 
from the form of a series in time. The steps of such a process 
would surely form more than a merely nominal unity. 

56. To such a view as this the objection has been made 
that the rebirth of a self without a memory of its previous life 
would be exactly equivalent to the annihilation of that self, and 
the creation of a new self of similar character. Now, it is argued, 
I should not regard myself as immortal, if I knew that I was to 
be annihilated at death, even if I knew that an exactly similar 
individual would then be created. And therefore, it is urged, 
rebirth without memory cannot be considered as real immortality 
of the self. 

But the objection supposes an impossibility. There could 
not be another self of exactly similar character to me. For the 
self is not a Ding an sich, which can change independently of 
its qualities. The self is a substance with attributes, and the 
substance has no nature except to express itself in its attributes. 


If, therefore, the attributes were exactly the same, so would the 
substance be, and I should not be annihilated at all. In order 
that there should be a new self, the annihilation and the creation 
must cause a breach in the continuity of the attributes. Then 
the new self would not be exactly similar to me, and the parallel 
to rebirth fails, since with rebirth there is no interruption 
whatever in the continuity of the attributes. Thus the con 
tinuity of the attributes is always sufficient to preserve personal 
identity, not because it would be sufficient if the substance 
changed, but because it proves that the substance remains 

But can we, it may be asked, suppose that a series of lives, 
under different circumstances and with different surroundings, 
could ever form a continuous development ? There is no reason 
that I know of for supposing that successive lives should show 
sudden and discontinuous variations, even in their outer circum 
stances. But, if they did, they might yet be part of a con 
tinuous development. For such outer circumstances are only 
of significance as means and expressions for the growth of the 
persons who live in them, and a continuously developing end 
may avail itself of discontinuous variations of the means. 
What could be more irrationally discontinuous than the move 
ments of the members of an orchestra would seem to a deaf 
man? And yet the music which they produce may be a living 
unity revealing itself in a continuous scheme. 

If indeed we suppose that the circumstances of our successive 
lives are determined by chance, or by laws of merely efficient 
causation, the probability that they could be made subservient 
to a continuous development would be infinitesimal. But, if the 
dialectic has taught us anything, it has taught us that chance 
does not exist, and that efficient causation is a category of 
merely relative truth, which must be transcended when we seek 
to know reality adequately. The circumstances of our respective 
lives can only be determined by the true nature of the Absolute, 
and can therefore afford no hindrance to the development of 
the true nature of the Absolute. Nor, since the whole is 
perfectly in every part, can they afford any hindrance to the 
development of the true nature of each self. For any hindrance 



to the development of any self would be a hindrance to the 
development of the Absolute. 

Thus we may lay down a general principle as to the con 
tinuity of external circumstances from life to life. In so far 
as it is necessary to the continuous development of the self, 
it will be present. In so far as it is not present, we may be 
sure that it is not required for the continuous development of 
the self. 

57. The true nature of reality has been shown to be the 
manifestation of the Absolute in individuals, or the unity of 
individuals in the Absolute in other words, the relation of 
self to self. But, if the relations between selves are the only 
timeless reality, and the establishment of these relations the 
only progress in time how, it may be asked, can progress be 
made in a series of separate lives? If what is experienced 
before each death is forgotten after it, how can any personal 
relation survive? Shall we not be for ever limited to the 
amount which can be developed in a single life, and be doomed 
continually to form fresh relations to be continually swept away 
by death? 

We are certain of this, at any rate that the personal 
relations of one life must have much to do in determining .the 
personal relations of the next. The relations which men form 
with one another depend ultimately on two things on their 
characters, and on the circumstances into which they are born. 
Now a man s character at rebirth would be clearly influenced 
by the personal relations he had previously formed. With 
regard to the causes that would determine rebirth we could 
only know that they would proceed from the nature of the 
Absolute in so far as it was manifested in that individual at 
that time. The personal relations he had formed immediately 
previously would certainly be a part of the way in which the 
Absolute was manifesting itself just then in that individual. 
On our theory, indeed, they would be by far the most important 
and significant part, since in them alone would the true meaning 
of reality become more or less explicit. It is clear then that 
they would have much to do in determining the circumstances 
of rebirth. 


58. "And yet," it may be replied, "though they might be 
determined by them, they would be different from them. The 
new relations would not be the old ones, and thus it would still 
be true that the continuity was broken at each death." Of 
course, without memory the relations could not be known to be 
the same. But they might, nevertheless, be the same. At all 
events, the more intimate of our relations have a depth of 
significance which is often absurdly disproportionate to those 
causes of which we are conscious. These relations, ultimate 
facts as they doubtless are sub specie aeternitatis, must, as 
arising in time, have antecedents. Is it rash to suggest that 
the most probable antecedent to love is love, and that, if our 
choices appear unreasoned, it is only because the memories 
which would justify them have condensed into an instinct which 
despises justification? Analogous cases may be found in the 
power to diagnose a disease, or to pronounce on the authen 
ticity of a picture. These powers are often gained by long 
practice, and yet their possessors are often unable to give any 
reasons for perfectly correct decisions, because in this case 
without the break of death the memory of past experience 
has ceased to be memory, and has become an instinct. 

Whether this be so or not, we may at any rate expect 
that a relation, once established, would not only determine 
the course of future lives, but would be reproduced in them. 
For we have seen that the only eternal reality is related 
persons. And if a personal relation exists in time, it would 
seem difficult to account for it except by supposing that that 
very relation between those very persons was ultimate and 
eternal though of course in far greater perfection than is 
possible in its temporal manifestation 1 . And if its significance 
is ultimate and eternal, its appearance in time must be per 
sistent, or at least recurrent. For how could the individual 
develop in time, if an ultimate element of his nature was 
destined not to recur in time? The length of the intervals 
which may elapse between two recurrences does not, of course, 

1 This might require some qualification about every form of personal relation 
except that form which we found reason to consider absolutely adequate. Cp. 
chap. ix. 


admit of prediction. But we know that nothing can be lost. 
And we know that personal relations cannot be transcended, 
because there is nothing higher. They must therefore be 
preserved as themselves, and preservation, sub specie temporis, 
means persistence and recurrence. 

59. Thus everything is not lost with the loss of memory. 
We may go further. Can anything be eventually lost? If 
the only reality is an eternal system of personal relations, 
then any event can only be an inadequate way of expressing 
part of that system. And so, in such a system of personal 
relations, all the meaning and all the value of every event 
would exist synthesised, transcended, but not lost. 

Something closely analogous to this does unquestionably 
exist within the limits of a single life, and can be perceived 
by direct observation. When a personal relation has existed 
for many years, many of the events which formed its temporal 
content, and had importance and significance at the time, are 
completely forgotten. But we do not regard them as lost, for 
we recognize that each of them has done its part in moulding 
the relationship which exists at present. And so they are 
preserved preserved indeed far more perfectly than they could 
be in memory. For, in memory, each of them would be a mere 
potentiality, except in the moment when it was actually thought 
of, while, as factors of disposition, they are all permanently real. 

60. I am not denying it would certainly be useless to 
deny that, to a man who is living a particular life in time, 
the prospect that he will cease to remember that life even 
by transcending memory will always appear a loss and a 
breach of continuity. Arguments may convince him that this 
is a delusion, but they will not remove the feeling. Nor is 
it to be expected that this should be otherwise. A Synthesis 
can only be seen to preserve the true value of its terms in so 
far as we have attained to the standpoint of the Synthesis. 
And so a process towards perfection can never be perfectly 
painless. For the surrender of imperfection could only be 
quite painless to the perfect individual, and till the process 
is completed he is not perfect. 



I do not now hold the views as to the relation of the self 
and the objects of which it is conscious, which are explained in 
Sections 24 30. But I have not altered the text because, 
though I no longer hold them to be correct, I still hold them 
to be Hegelian, and therefore relevant to the purpose of the 
book. I may add that I still hold, though for somewhat 
different reasons, which I hope some day to publish, that 
human selves are among the fundamental differentiations of 
the universe, and that they are therefore, sub specie temporis, 



61. The question whether there is a God has attracted 
much attention, for the ordinary definition of God makes the 
question both important and doubtful. But, according to 
Hegel s use of the word God, it ceases to be either doubtful or 
important. For he defines God as the Absolute Reality, what 
ever that reality may turn out to be. To question the existence 
of such a God as this is impossible. For to deny it would mean 
the denial that there was any reality at all. This would be 
contradictory, for what, in that case, would happen to the denial 
itself ? But the same reasons which make the existence of such 
a God quite certain make it also quite trivial. For it tells us 
nothing except that there is some reality somewhere. We 
must know of what nature that reality is, if our conviction of 
its existence is to have any interest, either for theory or 

Thus Hegel s treatment of God s existence and nature will 
proceed differently from that which is generally employed. The 
common plan is to use the word to connote certain definite 
attributes, and then to enquire if a being answering to this 
description really exists. But Hegel defines God to mean what 
ever really exists, and then the important question is to deter 
mine the nature of this reality. Instead of "Is there a God?" 
we must ask " What is God s nature ? " 

In ordinary usage, and in the usage also of many philo 
sophers, the word God connotes, among other attributes, 
personality. And on the personality of God depend most of 


the other attributes commonly ascribed to him. An impersonal 
being could be omnipotent, indeed, and could "work for 
righteousness." It could also be rational, in the sense that its 
nature was such as to present an harmonious and coherent whole 
to the reason of the observer. But an impersonal being could 
not be wise or good. It could not love men. Nor could the 
emotions of acquiescence and admiration with which men might 
regard it be sufficiently like the emotions of one man towards 
another to merit the name of love. Certainly they would be 
very different emotions from those with which the believers in 
a personal God regard him. 

For the ordinary conception of God, then, the attribute of 
personality seems of paramount importance. And so, when we 
are considering Hegel s system, the question, "Does God exist? " 
may be fairly turned into the question "Is God a person?" 
Unquestionably Hegel regards God as infinite, as a unity, as 
spirit, as making for reason and righteousness. If we add 
personality to these qualities we have the ordinary conception 
of God. On the other hand, if we deny the personality, we get 
the conception of a being to whom, in ordinary language, the 
name of God would not be applied. 

But what exactly is meant by personality? I may know, 
though it is difficult to define, what I mean when I say that 
I am a person. But it is clear that the nature of an infinite 
and perfect being must be very different from mine. And 
within what limits must this difference be confined, if that 
infinite and perfect being is to be called a person? 

The characteristic which determines personality seems, on 
the whole, to be generally placed in the "I" the synthetic 
unity of apperception. When a being distinguishes itself from 
its content when, in other words, it finds in that content an 
element which is never absent, though never present in isolation, 
which is always the same, and whose presence determines the 
content to be the content of that particular being, then we call 
that being personal. I know that I can say "I am." I know 
that a College cannot say "I am." If we conceive that it is 
consistent with God s nature to say "I am," we shall hold that 
God is a person, but not otherwise. 


62. Is Hegel s God a person? The word God is so closely 
connected in ordinary usage with personality, that the question 
put in this way, has an unjustifiable suggestion in its terms of 
an affirmative answer. And as Hegel has another name for 
ultimate reality the Absolute it will be less confusing if we 
use it in future, remembering that the Absolute and God are 
for Hegel identical, and that if, for Hegel, a personal God exists 
at all, he must be the Absolute. It is, I think, best to use 
neuter pronouns in referring, during this discussion, to the 
Absolute, or to Hegel s God. The use of masculine pronouns 
would prejudge the question of the personality of the Absolute 
in the affirmative, while the more general neuter pronouns do 
not prejudge it so much in the negative. Moreover the view 
which I shall endeavour to defend is that the Absolute, as 
demonstrated by Hegel, must not be considered as personal, 
and is more appropriately called "it" than "he." 

63. Hegel regards the Absolute as a unity. He regards it, 
not as an external and mechanical unity, not even as an organic 
unity, but as the deepest unity possible one in which the 
parts have no meaning but their unity, while that unity, again, 
has no meaning but its differentiations. And this unity is 
unquestionably, according to Hegel, spirit. We may go further. 
There is no reason to think that Hegel held it possible for 
spirit to exist, except in the form of persons, while there is 
every reason to think that he regarded persons as the highest 
form of spirit 1 . 

It does not follow from this, however, that the Absolute is 
a person. It might be said of a College, with as much truth 
as it has been said of the Absolute, that it is a unity, that it is 
a unity of spirit, and that none of that spirit exists except as 
personal. Yet the College is not a person. It is a unity of 
persons, but it is not a person itself. And, in the same way, it 
is possible that the Absolute may be a unity of persons, without 
being a person. Of course the Absolute is a far more perfect 
unity than the College. The bearing of this on the question of 
its personality will be discussed later on 2 . 

1 Cp. chap. n. 2 Sections 79 83. 


I believe that Hegel did not himself regard the Absolute as *\ 
personal. It seems clear from the Philosophy of Religion that \ 
the truth of God s nature, according to Hegel, is to be found in 
the Kingdom of the Holy Ghost (which must be distinguished 
from the idea of the Holy Ghost in the Kingdom of the Father). 
And the Kingdom of the Holy Ghost appears to be not a person 
but a community. But Hegel s own opinion on this subject 
will be discussed more conveniently in a later chapter 1 . In this -* 
chapter I wish to consider, not Hegel s own opinions on the 
personality of the Absolute, but the conclusions on the subject 
which ought logically to be deduced from his conception of the 
Absolute as determined in the Logic. 

64. What light does the dialectic itself throw on our 
problem? We saw in the last chapter that we must conceive 
the Absolute as differentiated into individuals, and that we 
must conceive the unity as being in each of these individuals. 
We saw, further, that we could only conceive this as happening 
if the unity was for each of its individuals. And we saw that 
the only way in which we could imagine a unity to be for each 
of its individuals was for each of those individuals to be 
conscious of the unity 2 . 

The unity is for each of the individuals. Are we also 
entitled to say that each of the individuals is for the unity? 
Such a relation, indeed, would not justify us in concluding that 
the Absolute was a person, any more than the relation already 
established justified us, by itself, in concluding that the 
individuals in the Absolute were persons. We do not know, 
and cannot imagine, any way in which A can be for B, except 
by B s consciousness of A. But other ways may exist, and so, 
in proving that A must be for B, we do not actually prove that 
B must be conscious. Such a result, however, would render 
the consciousness of B probable, and might be the basis of a 
more definite proof. 

When we consider how strictly reciprocal is the dependence 

1 Sections 216218. 

2 Sections 64 67 are taken, with some alterations and transpositions, from 
the paper on Hegel s Treatment of the Categories of the Idea, already quoted. 
(Mind, 1900, p. 145.) 


which exists between the unity and the individuals, it might 
seem probable that the individuals are for the unity. I believe, 
however, that this view is mistaken, and that, while the unity 
is for the individuals, the individuals are not for the unity. In 
more concrete language, the Logic does not suggest to us to 
consider the Absolute as a whole to be conscious, and therefore 
a person. I shall endeavour to show further on that the Logic 
cannot by itself forbid us to think of the Absolute as a 

In the first place, there is no necessity of thought which 
compels us to regard the individuals as existing for the unity. 
We were driven to regard the unity as existing for the in 
dividuals, because we found it necessary that the unity should 
exist in each individual. Now in the ordinary sense of inclusion 
it was clearly impossible for the unity to be in each of the 
individuals which are parts -of it, and the only alternative was 
that it should be in each of them in the sense of being for each 
of them. 

It is as necessary, no doubt, to regard the individuals as being 
in the unity, as to regard the unity as being in each of the 
individuals. But then there is no difficulty in regarding the 
individuals as being in the unity in the ordinary sense of 
inclusion. So far from this being difficult, it is part of the 
definition of a unity of individuals that it includes them. And 
therefore we have no right to say that the individuals are for 
the unity. They are in it that is proved. But the further 
step that they can only be in it by being for it is wanting. 

65. And I think we may go further than this, and say that 
it is impossible that the individuals should be for the unity, in 
the sense in which we held it to be necessary that the unity 
should be for the individuals. For the whole significance of 
one being for the other was that there was some difference 
between them. If there was no difference, the one would be 
the other, and the whole conception, as we have got it here, of 
one being for the other would collapse. All the meaning we 
gave to the expression that A was for B was that the content of 
the one was also the content of the other. If A and B are 
different, this means something. But if A and B are identical 


then it would only mean that a thing s content was its content 
which is not a new conception, but a useless tautology. 

Let us apply this. The unity and the individuals are 
identical the unity has no nature except to be the individuals, 
and the individuals have no nature except to be the unity. 
This Hegel demonstrates in the category of Teleology. But 
the unity is something different from each of the individuals, 
and, therefore, if the content of the unity is found in each of 
the individuals, there is a meaning in saying that it is for each 
of the individuals. On the other hand, the unity is not 
different from all the individuals together. (It is, of course, 
not equivalent to a mere sum or aggregate of the individuals, 
because it is their real unity. But then they exist as a real 
unity, and not as a mere sum or aggregate, so that the unity 
is identical with the individuals as they really are.) If there 
fore the content of the unity is identical with that of the 
individuals, this merely means that the content is identical 
with itself not that it is identical with the contents of any 
thing else. And so the conception of the individuals being for 
the unity becomes unmeaning. 

66. The correctness of such a view may be challenged on 
the ground of its atomism. If each of the many individuals 
has this quality which is denied to the single unity, we have, 
it may be said, reduced the unity to a comparative unreality. 
All the reality is transferred to the separate individuals, who 
are each centres for which all reality exists, and the unity falls 
back into the position of a mere aggregate, or, at the most, of 
a mechanically determined whole. 

If this were the case, we should certainly have gone wrong. 
Hegel has shown in the categories of Teleology and Life that 
the unity must be as real as the individuals. And, so far from 
dropping this in the final categories of the Logic, we saw in the 
last chapter that the reason why we pressed on to the category 
of Cognition was that in no other way could the full reality of 
the unity be made compatible with the full reality of the 

If, therefore, the denial that the individuals existed for the 
unity, subordinated the unity to the individuals, and involved 


an atomistic view, the position would have to be changed 
somehow. But I believe that it does nothing of the sort, and 
that, on the contrary, it is the objection to it which implies 
an atomistic theory, and is therefore invalid. 

A system of individuals of which each is conscious of the 
other (to go back to a concrete example of the notion before 
us) is of course differentiated. Each of the conscious beings 
is an individual, and stands out, by that, separate from the 
others. But they are just as much united as they are separated. 
For A can only be conscious of B in so far as they are united, 
and it is only, in such a system, by being conscious of B that 
A is an individual, or, indeed, exists at all. Common sense, 
however, clings by preference to the categories of Essence, and 
is consequently atomistic. To common sense, therefore, such 
a system is more thoroughly differentiated than it is united. 
But the dialectic has proved this to be a mistake. It has 
shown that in such a system the unity is as real as the 
differentiation, and it is only to an objector who ignores this 
that a system bound together by the mutual knowledge of 
its parts can be accused of atomism. 

To think that the unity of the system would be greater if 
the individuals were for that unity is a mistake. It is true 
that each individual is also, in one sense of the word, a unity, 
and that the unity of the system is for each individual. But 
the sense in which an individual, which gets all differentiation 
from without, is a unity, is entirely different from the unity 
of the system. This has nothing outside to which it can be 
related, and it gets all its differentiations from within from 
the individuals composing it. Such a difference in the nature 
of the two unities prevents us from arguing that they ought 
to unify their differentiations in the same way. 

Indeed, if the system unified its internal differentiations 
in the same way that the individual unifies its external 
differentiations by having them for itself it seems difficult 
to deny that it would be an individual too. And if it was an 
individual, it would stand side by side with tne other in 
dividuals, and could not be their unity which is just what 
we set out by declaring that it was. And this supports our 


previous conclusion that the two relations, though equally 
real, are not similar, and that, while the unity is for each 
individual, they are not for the unity. 

67. Since, then, the individuals .cannot be for the unity, 
the dialectic gives us no reason to suppose that the unity either 
is a conscious being, or possesses any qualities analogous to 
consciousness. In that case it gives us no reason to suppose 
that the Absolute, as a whole, is personal. But the dialectic 
does not give us by this any reason to deny personality to 
the Absolute. To suppose that it did would be to confound 
unjustifiably the category of pure thought, which Hegel calls 
Cognition, with the concrete fact after which it is named. To 
avoid such confusion altogether is very difficult. Hegel himself 
did not always succeed in doing so for example in the category 
of Chemism, and in the details of the Subjective Notion and 
of Life. And this constitutes the chief objection to his practice 
of naming categories after the concrete subject-matter which 
best illustrates them. Such a plan is no doubt very convenient 
for an author whose penetration had discovered many more 
stages of thought than could be described by existing termi 
nology. And it was also stimulating to the learner, assisting 
him to call up a vivid picture of the category, and suggesting 
its practical application and importance. But these advantages 
are more than counterbalanced by the dangers of such a nomen 

One of these concerns the dialectic itself. Any concrete 
state contains many abstract ideas as its moments, and if 
we call one of the abstract ideas by the name of the concrete 
state, we shall run considerable risk of mixing it up with the 
others, and of supposing that we have deduced by pure thought 
more than we really have deduced. 

And there is another danger, arising from a question which 
is logically prior to the last difficulty. Is the abstract idea, 
which is named after the concrete state, really an essential 
element of that state at all? This is a question which cannot 
be settled by the dialectic process, which only deals with such 
abstract ideas as can be reached by pure thought, and cannot 
discuss the question whether a particular pure thought can be 


found by analysis in a particular empirical fact. By giving 
such a name to the category, the dialectic assumes that the 
answer to the question is in the affirmative, but does not prove 
it. Should the assumption be mistaken, the only injury done 
to the dialectic itself will be that the category has acquired an 
inappropriate name, which may be misleading. But if, in the 
application of the dialectic, we assume that such a category is 
always true of the part of experience after which it is named, 
we may go hopelessly wrong. 

In the case before us, it is clear, as I have endeavoured to 
show above, that, according to HegeVs category of Cognition, 
nothing can cognize unless it has something outside itself to 
be cognized, and that consequently it is impossible that the 
unity, which has nothing outside itself, should cognize any 
thing. But it by no means follows from this that we can 
deny cognition or consciousness to that unity. For such a 
step would imply that Hegel s category of Cognition was the 
essential characteristic of what is ordinarily called thought, 
and, whether this is true or false, it is certainly not proved. 
All the thought, indeed, of which we are immediately conscious 
is of this sort, for we know no thought directly but our own, 
and we are finite beings. But supposing that Lotze was right 
in asserting that an all-embracing reality could be conscious of 
itself, then we should have to admit that it was not an essential 
characteristic of thought to be for the thinker in the way in 
which the unity is for the individual and in which the 
individual is not for the unity in Hegel s category. Of course 
this would not involve any inaccuracy in the dialectic. The 
dialectic asserts that the individuals are not for the unity in a 
specified sense. There is nothing incompatible with this in the 
assertion that the unity is nevertheless conscious. 

68. Lotze s views on this point are of peculiar interest to 
us. He did not, indeed, accept Hegel s view of the Absolute 
without important modifications. But he agreed with him in 
identifying God with the Absolute in making God not only 
the supreme but the sole reality. And this God he asserted to 
be personal, and defended his conclusion by arguments some 
of which, if valid, would equally apply to the Absolute as 


conceived by Hegel. Under these circumstances it may be 
profitable to consider these arguments in some detail. They 
will be found in the Microcosmus, Book ix. chap. rv. The 
Outlines of the Philosophy of Keligion prove that the sub 
sequent development of his philosophy did not change his 
views on this subject. 

In the first place, Lotze holds it to be "an immediate 
certainty that what is greatest, most beautiful, most worthy, 
is not a mere thought, but must be a reality, because it would 
be intolerable to believe of our ideal that it is an idea produced 
by the action of thought, but having no existence, no power, 
and no validity in the world of reality 1 ." This argument we 
shall consider later 2 . His other two arguments he sums up as 
follows "Self -hood, the essence of all personality, does not 
depend upon any opposition that either has happened or is 
happening of the Ego to a Non-Ego, but it consists in an 
immediate self-existence which constitutes the basis of the 
possibility of that contrast whenever it appears. Self-con 
sciousness is the elucidation of this self-existence which is 
brought about by means of knowledge, and even this is by 
no means necessarily bound up with the distinction of the Ego 
from a Non-Ego which is substantially opposed to it. 

"In the nature of the finite mind as such is to be found 
the reason why the development of its personal consciousness 
can take place only through the influences of the cosmic whole 
which the finite being itself is not, that is, through stimulation 
coming from the Non-Ego, not because it needs the contrast 
with something alien in order to have self-existence, but 
because in this respect, as in every other, it does not contain 
in itself the conditions of its existence. We do not find this 
limitation in the being of the Infinite; hence for it alone is 
there possible a self-existence, which needs neither to be 
initiated nor to be continuously developed by something not 
itself, but which maintains itself within itself with spontaneous 
action that is eternal and had no beginning. 

"Perfect Personality is in God only; to all finite minds 

1 op. cit. Bk ix. chap, rv (iii. 560, trans, ii. 670). 

2 Sections 73 78. 



there is allotted but a pale copy thereof; the finiteness of the 
finite is not a producing condition of this Personality, but a 
limit and a hindrance of its development 1 ." 

69. Taking the first of these contentions we must remark 
that the term Non-Ego is rather ambiguous, when the relation 
of an Ego to a Non-Ego is "spoken of. It may mean something 
that is not an Ego at all, or it may only mean something that 
is not the Ego which forms the other term of the relation. In 
this sense two Egos might each be the other s Non-Ego. It is 
in this wider sense that we must take it if we are to consider 
any relation which on Hegelian principles can be regarded as 
essential to the Ego. For Hegel certainly thinks that nothing 
is real but spirit, and we saw reason in the last chapter to 
believe that all spirit must be taken as selves. It follows that 
no Ego could come into relation with anything but another 
Ego, which would, as far as that relation went, be the Non-Ego 
of the first. 

We may, no doubt, unreservedly accept Lotze s statement 
that "no being in the nature of which self -existence was not 
given as primary and underived could be endowed with self 
hood by any mechanism of favouring circumstances however 
wonderful 2 ." This completely harmonises with the conclusion 
reached in the last chapter, that it was impracticable to regard 
a self as anything but a fundamental differentiation of the 
Absolute. But the question still remains whether it is not an 
essential part of the eternal, primary and underived nature of 
each self that it should be related to some reality outside it. 

Lotze further remarks that the "Ego and Non-Ego cannot 
be two notions of which each owes its whole content only to its 
contrast with the other ; if this were so they would both remain 
without content.... Hence every being which is destined to take 
the part of the Ego when the contrast has arisen must have 
the ground of its determination in that nature which it had 
previous to the contrast 3 " and, therefore, independent of the 

1 op. cit. Bk ix. chap, iv (iii. 580, trans, ii. 

2 op. cit. Bk ix. chap, iv (iii. 572, trans, ii. 680). 
1 op. cit. Bk ix. chap iv (iii. 570. trans, ii. 678). 


Now it is quite true that if we tried to explain the Ego 
exclusively from the reality outside to which it is in relation, we 
should have fallen into a vicious circle, since that reality could 
only be explained with reference to the Ego. But it by no 
means follows from the impossibility of explaining the isolated 
Ego by the isolated Non-Ego, that the Ego can be explained 
without its Non-Ego, or is conceivable without it. There is a 
third alternative that the isolated Ego cannot be explained 
at all, being an unreal abstraction which shows its unreality by 
its inexplicability, and that Ego and Non-Ego can only be 
explained when they are taken together as mutually explaining 
each other. The idea of the Ego is certainly more than the 
mere fact that it is related to the Non-Ego, but this does not 
prevent the relation to the Non-Ego being essential to the 
nature of the Ego. If, to take a parallel case, we tried to 
explain the idea of a parent merely in terms of the idea of a 
child, we should have fallen into a vicious circle, since we 
should find that the idea of a child could not be explained 
except in relation to the idea of a parent. But it would not 
be correct to argue from this that a parent could exist, or be 
conceived, without a child. They are certainly not " two 
notions of which one owes its whole content to its contrast 
with the other," but that does not prevent each of them from 
being meaningless without the other. 

70. The Ego, therefore, would not necessarily become 
inexplicable, even if it could not be conceived except in 
relation to the Non-Ego. Can it be conceived otherwise? 
Lotze answers this question in the affirmative, so far as the 
Infinite Being is concerned. It, he says, "does not need as 
we sometimes, with a strange perversion of the right point of 
view, think that its life shall be called forth by external 
stimuli, but from the beginning its concept is without the 
deficiency which seems to make such stimuli necessary for the 
finite being, and its active efficacy thinkable V Undoubtedly the 
Infinite Being can exist without stimulation from the outside. 
For as there is no outside, the only other alternative would be 

1 op. cit Bk ix. chap, iv (iii. 575, trans, ii. 683). 



that the Absolute that is, all reality should be non-existent. 
But does it exist as a person ? 

Lotze says that "every feeling of pleasure or dislike, every 
kind of self-enjoyment (Selbstgenuss) does in our view contain 
the primary basis of personality, that immediate self-existence 
which all later developments of self-consciousness may indeed 
make plainer to thought by contrasts and comparisons, thus 
also intensifying its value, but which is not in the first place 
produced by them 1 ." And we may so far agree with this, as to 
admit that personality consists in saying "I," not in saying 
"Smith," "table," or any other names which may be applied to 
the Non-Ego. But the question remains whether it is possible 
for the Absolute to say "I," since it can name no Smith, and 
no table, distinct from itself. The consciousness of the Non- 
Ego is not personality. But is it not an essential condition of 
personality ? 

Each of us is a finite person. And each of us finds that, 
for him, the consciousness of the Non-Ego is an essential 
condition of his personality. Each of us infers that he is 
surrounded by various other finite persons. And of each of 
them we have reason to infer that a consciousness of some 
Non-Ego is essential to his personality. Such a consciousness 
the Absolute cannot possess. For there is nothing outside it, 
from which it can distinguish itself. 

It is true that the Absolute is by no means a blank unity. 
It is differentiated, and the differentiations are as essential as 
the unity. If it were merely its own aspect of unity, then it 
would have something to distinguish itself from namely 
its differentiations. But then the Absolute is not merely the 
aspect of unity. If it were, it would not be all reality in its 
true and ultimate form. It would only be one aspect of that 
reality- an abstraction, and, therefore, taken by itself, false. 
This is not what Hegel and Lotze mean by the Absolute. The 
Absolute is the full reality the differentiated unity, or the 
unified differentiations. And there is nothing which is in any 
way outside this, or which can in any way be distinguished from 

1 op. cit. Bk ix. chap, rv (iii. 571, trans, ii. 679). 


It is true, again, that the Absolute is something very 
different from any one of its differentiations, or from the sum, 
or from the mechanical aggregate, of all its differentiations. 
But this will not provide the Absolute with anything different 
from itself. For the differentiations do not exist as isolated, 
and do not exist as a sum, or as a mechanical aggregate. They 
only exist as they are unified in the Absolute. And, therefore, 
as they really exist, they have no existence distinguishable from 
the Absolute. 

71. The Absolute, then, has not a characteristic which is 
admitted to be essential to all finite personality, which is all the 
personality of which we have any experience. Is this character 
istic essential to personality, or only to finite personality? We 
know of no personality without a Non-Ego. Nor can we 
imagine what such a personality would be like. For we 
certainly can never say "I" without raising the idea of the 
Non-Ego, and so we can never form any idea of the way in 
which the Absolute would say "I." We cannot, indeed, say 
with complete certainty that it could not be done. It is ab 
stractly possible that in some way utterly inexplicable to us 
the Absolute may be personal. But this is all 1 . 

But although all such arguments from bare possibility are 
merely trivial when taken by themselves, yet they may have a 
very different aspect when conjoined with some positive argu 
ment. If any line of reasoning leads us to the conclusion that 
the Absolute must somehow be personal, then the possibility 
that^it can be personal, even if it has to be in some quite un 
imaginable way, becomes of real value. 

72. Before considering, however, what positive arguments 
there may be for the personality of the Absolute, we must note 
that they will all have the disadvantage that the personality 
which they support is of a kind which is beyond both our ex 
perience and our imagination. In this respect a criticism which 
Lotze makes recoils on himself. He complains that those who 
deny the personality of the Absolute separate spirit from person- 

1 Note to Second Edition. I have modified this paragraph by the omission 
of some sentences which now appear to me to overrate the strength of these 


ality in an unjustifiable manner, since they are never separated 
in our experience 1 . To this we may reply that one theory, at 
least, which denies personality to the Absolute, does not do this. 
For it admits that all spirit is differentiated into persons, but 
denies that the unity of persons need itself be personal. And 
experience gives us examples of this in every body corporate. 
On the other hand Lotze himself, when he speaks of a personal 
Absolute, commits the very fault which he deprecates. For 
personality without a Non-Ego is just as alien to our experience 
as spirit without personality. A conclusion is not, of course, 
proved to be false, because neither our knowledge nor our 
imagination enables us to see how it can be true. But what 
ever amount of doubt is thrown on a conclusion by such an 
inability on our part, belongs, in this controversy, not to the 
denial of the personality of the Absolute, but to its affirmation. 

73. To supplement his arguments for the possibility of the 
personality of the Absolute, Lotze gives, as we have seen, two 
positive arguments to prove that the personality is real. The 
first is that we are immediately certain that the most perfect 
must be real. The second is that the points in which the 
Absolute differs from a finite being are points which make it 
more truly personal than any finite being can be. 

It is only as suggesting the immediate certainty of the 
reality of the most perfect that Lotze allows any validity to the 
Ontological Argument. As a formal demonstration it cannot 
survive Kant s criticism. The Cosmological Argument does not 
profess to prove a personal God, and the Physico-Theological 
Argument, if it proved anything, could only prove, at the most, 
an external creator of the part of reality which we know. It could 
never prove that all reality formed a whole which was a person. 

"It is an immediate certainty," says Lotze, "that what is 
greatest, most beautiful, most worthy, is not a mere thought, 
but must be a reality, because it would be intolerable to believe 
of our ideal that it is an idea produced by the action of thought 
but having no existence, no power, and no validity in the world 
of reality. We do not from the perfection of that which is 
perfect immediately deduce its reality as a logical consequence ; 

1 Outlines of the Philosophy of Religion, Section 24. 


but without the circumlocution of a deduction we directly feel 
the impossibility of its non-existence, and all semblance of 
syllogistic proof only serves to make more clear the directness of 
this certainty. If what is greatest did not exist, then what is 
greatest would not be, and it is impossible that that which is the 
greatest of all conceivable things should not be. Many other 
attempts may be made to exhibit the internal necessity of this 
conviction as logically demonstrable ; but all of them must fail." 
Nor can we, he continues, "prove from any general logical 
truth our right to ascribe to that which has such worth its 
claim to reality; on the contrary, the certainty of this claim 
belongs to those inner experiences to which, as to the given 
object of its labour, the mediating, inferring, and limiting 
activity of cognition refers 1 ." 

74. If we take this strictly, we can merely note the fact that 
Lotze had this immediate certainty as a biographical incident 
of more or less interest. Nothing that he has said can be of 
any force in determining the opinion of others. If A has this 
immediate certainty, he believes that the greatest must be 
real, but he believes it, not because Lotze has this certainty, 
or because he himself ought to have it, but because he has it. 
This immediate certainty can neither be confirmed nor shaken 
by any external considerations. For if it were affected by 
reasons, it would be a logical conclusion, which is just what 
it is not. But if, on the other hand, B has not got this im 
mediate certainty and it is beyond doubt that many people 
have not got it then that concludes the controversy so far 
as he is concerned. We must not argue that he is wrong not 
to have it, because it is a reasonable belief, or because most 
people have it, or because the people who have it are cleverer 
or better than those who do not. Whether these statements 
are true or not, they are completely irrelevant. For, if they 
were relevant, then the conclusion would not rest on the fact 
that it is believed, but on the fact that it ought to be believed 
that is, that there are reasons why we should believe it. Now 
the whole contention was that it was not believed for reasons. 

1 Microcosmus, Bk ix. chap, iv (iii. 561, trans, ii. 670) 


When a man asserts that he has an immediate certainty 
of a truth, he doubtless deprives other people of the right 
to argue with him. But he also though this he sometimes 
forgets deprives himself of the right to argue with other 
people. Even the statement of his immediate certainty can only 
be justified if it is put forward as a reason for declining 
controversy, or as a contribution to psychological statistics, or 
to his own biography. To volunteer it as a contribution to the 
study of the subject to which the certainty refers is in at 
least one sense of the word impertinent. Nothing can be 
more important to me, in respect of any branch of knowledge, 
than my own immediate certainties about it. Nothing can be 
less important than the immediate certainties of other people. 

75. But if the assertion that the most perfect must be 
real took up a less lofty position, and presented itself as a 
proposition which reason directed us to believe, what could 
then be said of it? If it is put forward as the basis on which 
to found a system of metaphysics, it must clearly, I think, be 
condemned as worthless. The most that could be said against 
the denial of it would be that, if that denial was true, the 
world would be a wicked and miserable place. And what right 
have we to take this as a reductio ad absurdum? How do we 
know that the world is not a wicked and miserable place? 
It is all very well for our aspirations after virtue and happiness 
to say that they must live. But what if the universe replies 
that it does not see the necessity? It can scarcely be denied 
that it has the power to act on its convictions. 

76. The question takes a very different form, however, 
if we regard an idealist system of metaphysics as being already 
demonstrated. For if the universe is proved to be rational, 
and we can further prove that it could not be rational unless 
a certain proposition be true, it will, of course, be perfectly 
logical to conclude that the proposition must be true. Now 
Hegel unquestionably holds the Absolute to be an harmonious 
whole. And we saw reason to believe, in the last chapter, 
that the fundamental differentiations of the Absolute were all 
persons, and that the whole nature of the Absolute is adequately 
expressed in the conscious relations between persons. If, 


therefore, it can be proved that the consciousness of the per 
sonality of the Absolute is essential to harmonious conscious 
relations between the persons who compose it, we should have 
a good ground for believing in the personality of the Absolute 1 . 
Now sin and misery are incompatible with the harmony of 
conscious beings. If they are to be harmonious they must be 
virtuous and happy or else in some higher state which tran 
scends and includes virtue and happiness. And so if the 
consciousness of the personality of the Absolute was shown 
to be essential to the virtue and happiness of finite persons, 
we could, on the basis of Hegel s philosophy, legitimately 
conclude that the Absolute was a person. 

But how can the consciousness of the personality of the 
Absolute be shown to be essential to the virtue and happiness 
of finite persons? It would not suffice if it were shown to be 
essential for the virtue and happiness of every human being 
who is now living, or who has lived since the beginning of 
history. For what must be shown is that, without the belief 
in a personal Absolute, finite persons could not be perfectly 
virtuous and happy. And the fact that no person has been so 
yet, if it were a fact, would prove nothing of the sort. We are 
very far as yet from perfection. And so we continually make 
demands on reality which are so far from being conditions 
of perfect and harmonious existence, that, if realised, they 
would utterly destroy all harmony. In our ignorance we 
suppose our happiness to lie in what could only lead to our 
misery, we seek as a help what would prove a hindrance. 
That this is so in many cases is one of the common-places 
of moralists. Now, even if the belief in the personality of the 
Absolute was invariably requisite, as far as our experience 
reached, to happiness or virtue, how can we tell that this is 
not one of those cases ? How can we tell that wiser men would 
not find greater happiness elsewhere, that better men would 
not rise without its aid to loftier virtue? We may not be 
able to say positively that they would, but that is not sufficient. 

1 If the consciousness of the personality were necessary, the personality 
would be necessary, for a mistaken belief in the personality would be an 
intellectual error, incompatible with harmony. 


If we are to be able to deduce, in this way, the personality of 
the Absolute, we must be able to say positively that they 
would not. 

77. It is superfluous to point out, moreover, that mankind 
has by no means been unanimous in demanding a personal God. 
Neither Brahmanism nor Buddhism makes the Supreme Being 
personal, but each of them holds that it is possible for men to 
reach a state of perfect blessedness. And, in the western world, 
many wise men have been both virtuous and happy, who denied 
the personality of God. It is sufficient to mention Spinoza and 
Hume. I am far from suggesting that we have any reason, on 
such inductions as these facts would open to us, to conclude 
that the denial of God s personality tends to greater virtue or 
happiness than its assertion. But I think that they are 
conclusive against any attempt to prove that the assertion 
always leads to greater virtue or happiness than the denial. 

78. The only way in which we could hope to prove that the 
consciousness of the personality of the Absolute was essential 
either to perfect virtue or to perfect happiness would be by an 
argument a priori. For we are still too far removed from 
perfect virtue and happiness for any inductions from our present 
condition to have the least value. If, however, we could by an 
a priori argument so determine the nature of a perfect finite 
being as to include, as a necessary element in its perfection, the 
consciousness of a personal Absolute, we should then know that 
the personality of the Absolute was an essential characteristic 
of a perfect universe, and therefore, on the basis of Hegel s 
idealism, might be accepted as true. 

But, so far as I know, no attempt has been made to do this. 
And it is not easy to see on what ground such a demonstration 
could be based. Of course, if the Absolute were personal, no 
finite being could be perfect without perceiving it, since other 
wise the limitation of his knowledge, or its erroneous character, 
would destroy the harmony of his nature. But, if the Absolute 
were not personal, I can conceive nothing in the recognition of 
that fact which need mar the harmony of the person who 
recognizes it. He will know the other finite persons in the 
universe. He will feel that his relations with them are 


consistent with his own deepest and most fundamental 
nature. Why should he be dissatisfied because the unity 
in which those relations bind him and them is not itself a 
person ? 

79. We now pass to Lotze s second positive argument. He 
asserts that "of the full personality which is possible only for 
the Infinite a feeble reflection is given also to the finite ; for the 
characteristics peculiar to the finite are not producing con 
ditions of self-existence, but obstacles to its unconditioned 
development, although we are accustomed, unjustifiably, to 
deduce from these characteristics its capacity of personal 
existence. The finite being always works with powers with 
which it did not endow itself, and according to laws which 
it did not establish that is, it works by means of a mental 
organization which is realised not only in it, but also in 
innumerable similar beings. Hence in reflecting on self it may 
easily seem to it as though there were in itself some obscure 
and unknown substance something which is in the Ego though 
it is not the Ego itself, and to which, as to its subject, the 
whole personal development is attached. And hence there arise 
the questions never to be quite silenced What are we our 
selves? What is our soul? What is our self that obscure 
being, incomprehensible to ourselves, that stirs in our feelings 
and our passions, and never rises into complete self-con 
sciousness? The fact that these questions can arise shows how 
far personality is from being developed in us to the extent 
which its notion admits and requires. It can be perfect only in 
the Infinite Being which, in surveying all its conditions or 
actions, never finds any content of that which it suffers, or any 
law of its working, the meaning and origin of which are not 
transparently plain to it, and capable of being explained by 
reference to its own nature. Further the position of the finite 
mind, which attaches it as a constituent of the whole to some 
definite place in the cosmic order, requires that its inner life 
should be awakened by successive stimuli from without, and 
that its course should proceed according to the laws of a 
psychical mechanism, in obedience to which individual ideas, 
feelings, and efforts press upon and supplant one another. 


Hence the whole self can never be brought together at any one 
moment, our self-consciousness never presents to us a complete 
and perfect picture of our Ego not even of its nature at any 
moment, and much less of the unity of its development in time. 
...In point of fact we have little ground for speaking of the 
personality of finite beings ; it is an ideal, which, like all that is 
ideal, belongs unconditionally only to the Infinite, but like all 
that is good appertains to us only conditionally and hence 
imperfectly 1 ." 

80. It may be freely admitted that a perfect personality is 
a self-determined whole, not hampered and thwarted from the 
outside, and that the Absolute is such a whole. It must also be 
granted that every finite self is in relation to, and determined 
by, its surroundings. But it does not follow from these ad 
missions, either that the finite person is not a perfect realisation 
of personality, or that the Absolute is a person at all. For 
determination from outside is compatible with complete self- 
determination, and thus the finite person may be a self- 
determined whole. And, on the other hand, not every 
self-determined whole is a person, and the Absolute may 
therefore be self-determined without being personal. 

Every self-determined whole is a unity. And every unity 
must, as Hegel teaches us, have a multiplicity connected with 
it. But there are two ways in which this may happen. The 
multiplicity may be simply inside the unity which it differen 
tiates. Or it may be outside that unity. It can never be 
merely outside it, for in that case it would not affect it at all. 
But, in this case, it is in the unity, only because, and in so far 
as, it is also outside it. We may say of these different relations 
to multiplicity that in the first case the unity is a system of 
differentiations, in the second it is a centre of differentiations. 
One unity is as real as the other, but they differ, arid the. 
difference is important. 

The Absolute has the first sort of unity. Its multiplicity 
is necessarily due to differentiations inside it, since nothing 
exists outside it. On the other hand the finite self has the 

1 op. cit. Bk ix. chap, iv (iii. 577579, trans, ii. 685 687). 


second sort of unity. Its multiplicity is in one sense inside it, 
since nothing can differentiate consciousness which is not in 
consciousness. But, on the other hand, the multiplicity is 
equally outside the self. All knowledge, all volition, all emotions 
involve a reference to some other reality as well as to the self 
which knows, wills, and feels. Suppose the self to exist alone, 
all other reality being destroyed, and all the content of the self 
goes, and the self with it. 

It is difficult to illustrate this distinction by other examples, 
because it is found in perfection nowhere else. There is nothing 
but the Absolute which has no external relations. There is, 
I think, nothing but a finite person which has no completely 
internal relations. But we may perhaps make the point clearer 
by comparing the nature of a state with that of a citizen 
(taking him merely as a citizen, not in any of his other aspects). 
The state and the citizen are equally unities. They are equally 
dependent on multiplicity. But the state has a multiplicity 
within itself, and can be conceived without reference to any 
thing external. As, in fact, it has reality outside it, it has 
relations to external objects. But if it were the only thing in 
the universe, it -would not fail for want of multiplicity, since 
it has differentiations outside itself. The position of a citizen 
is quite different. His existence as a citizen depends on the 
existence of other human beings. For, although a man might 
be able to exist in a world which, beside himself, contained 
only the lower animals and inorganic matter, it is clear that 
he could not be a citizen. Withdraw the relations to his 
fellow-citizens, and the citizen ceases to exist as such. 

(It may be remarked that when these two sorts of unities 
are considered by an atomistic system of metaphysics, the failure 
to recognize their reality leads to a different fallacy in each 
case. In the case of a unity of system, atomism concludes 
that, since it has no particular existence separate from its parts, 
it is a mere aggregate of those parts, and has no qualities except 
the resultant of the qualities which such parts would have when 
isolated. In a case of a unity of centre, atomism denies that 
it has any reality at all, since it has no reality in isolation from 
other things. Thus in such a system as Hume s, the universe 


becomes a mere aggregate, but the soul is rejected altogether. 
The comparative favour extended to the unity of system is to 
be ascribed to the belief that units can be added together 
without altering them. If atomism realised that any sort of 
combination must affect internally the combined units, it would 
be forced to reject the universe as utterly as it rejects the self.) 

81. There is no doubt to which of these two species of 
unities the finite person belongs. His existence obviously 
depends on his external relations. Indeed, as was said above, 
there is no other example, except the finite self, which com 
pletely realises this type. But it does not follow that the 
finite person is, therefore, imperfect as a person. A perfect 
person must, certainly, be self-determined. But then there 
is nothing to prevent the finite person from being self-deter 

Hegel has shown in the Logic, when treating of Quality, 
that determination by another involves determination by self. 
But the self-determination which is considered in such an early 
stage of the dialectic, is, of course, a comparatively abstract 
and unreal notion. If a person is to be considered as self- 
determined, a fuller and deeper self-determination must be 
meant. It is characteristic of a person that he has an ideal, to 
which his actual existence may or may not conform. There 
would be no meaning in saying that a stone ought to have a 
different sha*pe from that which it actually has unless we were 
considering some external relation which the stone bore to 
conscious beings. It has no ideal of existence, which would 
enable us to say that, in itself, it was less perfect than it ought 
to be. But there is a very intelligible meaning when it is said 
of a drunkard or a fool either by himself or by others that 
he is not what he should be, and this without reference to his 
effect upon any other person. 

When an individual proposes an end to himself, as every 
person does, we cannot call such an individual self-determined 
unless that ideal is realised in his actual condition. And, if it 
is so realised, we call him completely self-determined with 
some reservation in the case of an ideal which we conceive 
to be imperfect, and therefore transitory. Now there is no 


reason whatever why a finite person should be incapable of 
realising his ideal nature. He can only do so, no doubt, by his 
relations to others. But why should he be unable to do it 
perfectly in this way? The finite persons that we know 
have no aspect of their nature which does not come under 
knowledge, volition, or emotion. If all these were realised in 
their perfection whether that perfection lay in themselves, or 
in some higher unity to which they all led we could conceive 
nothing more wanting to the perfect development of the person. 
Now so far from knowledge, volition, and emotion being 
hampered, or restrained from perfection, by the relation to 
outside reality of the person who experiences them, we find 
that they actually consist in his relations to outside reality. 

82. We may notice, too, that as our personality becomes 
more self-determined, its relations with outside reality become 
more vivid, intimate, and complex. A man of clear thought, 
firm will, and intense feelings, living under favourable circum 
stances in a community of civilized men, is surely a more 
perfect person, and more completely self-determined, than an 
idiot, or a baby. But such a man certainly realises more 
vividly than an idiot or a baby the distinction between himself 
and the surrounding reality, and is more fully conscious of the 
way in which his relations to that reality permeate and deter 
mine his whole nature. 

There can be only one meaning in calling a thing imperfect 
without qualification that it does not realise the ideal inherent 
in its nature. Now what necessary imperfection in the realisa 
tion of my nature is brought about by the mere fact that I am 
not the universe? What postulate or aspiration is involved in 
personality which is incompatible with external relations on 
the part of the person? Lotze mentions none, nor can I 
conceive what they would be. 

Of course, if the relations of the person with the rest of 
reality are such as to cramp and thwart the development of his 
ideal nature, then the personality will be rendered more or less 
imperfect. But then the imperfection which is never quite 
absent, no doubt, in the world we live in is not the result of 
the finitude. It is not because we are in relation to other 


reality that we are imperfect, but because we are in the wrong 

Relation to something external does not in itself destroy 
the harmony of the related object. No doubt it does so in any 
being which does not accept and acquiesce in the relation. For 
then there would be conflict and not harmony. Nothing 
could be less harmonious than the state of a finite being who 
was trying to realise an ideal of isolation. But if the ideal 
which he posited was one of life as a part of a vitally connected 
whole and such an ideal does not seem repugnant to our 
nature what want of harmony would be introduced by the 
fact that he was a member of such a whole? 

83. There is thus no reason to hold that a finite person is 
necessarily an imperfect person. And, even if this were so, it 
would give us no reason to believe that the Absolute was 
a person. It is true that the Absolute is not finite, and is 
not related to anything outside itself. And therefore it has 
a quality which, if it were a person, would make it the only 
perfect person, on this theory of what constitutes the perfection 
of personality. But, even if it were essential to a perfect person 
to have nothing outside him, it would not follow that to be the 
whole of reality was sufficient to constitute a perfect person, or 
even to constitute a person at all. Personality, Lotze has told 
us, consists in self -enjoyment, in "direct sense of self 1 ," and, 
even if we admit his contention that only the Infinite could 
have this perfectly, it does not follow that the Infinite has it at 
all. (I am using Infinite here in the more ordinary sense of the 
word. By Hegel s usage a "finite" person who was not the 
whole reality but was completely harmonious with himself 
would be as infinite as the Absolute.) 

84. Thus Lotze s argument has two defects. He has not 
shown that the finitude of finite persons makes them imperfect, 
and he has not shown that the perfect self-determination of the 
Absolute is the self-determination of a person. In leaving the 
consideration of Lotze s treatment of the subject, it is to be 
noticed that our objections to it do not challenge Lotze s right 
to consider the Absolute as personal. For he regarded the 

1 op. cit. Bk ix. chap, iv (iii. 571, trans, ii. 679). 


Absolute as not exhausted by its manifestations, and those 
manifestations as to a certain extent, from an ethical point 
of view, outside the Absolute. And this obviously introduces 
fresh considerations. We have only dealt with those of his 
arguments for the personality of the Absolute which are also 
applicable to the Absolute as Hegel has conceived it. 

85. These criticisms of Lotze may suggest to us a more 
direct and independent argument. The finite person is de 
pendent, for the element of differentiation and multiplicity, on 
its relations with outside reality. And, while that element is, 
in one sense, inside the person, in another sense it is outside him. 
For the person distinguishes himself from every element of his 
content. There is no part of that content which he cannot 
make into an object, and so put over against himself as the 

There must, therefore, be some element in the person other 
than the differentiation or multiplicity some element which is 
not only inside the person in the sense in which the multiplicity 
is inside, but which is also inside in the sense in which the 
multiplicity is outside. For unless something remains inside, 
in this sense, it would be impossible to say that anything was 
outside. This element can have no differentiation or multi 
plicity in it. For all multiplicity belongs to the content which 
can be distinguished from the self, and which can therefore be 
said, in this sense, to fall outside the person. It follows that 
the element in question must be absolutely simple and in 
divisible a pure unit. 

Here again we must be on our guard against a class of 
objections to such conclusions as this, which, while professing 
to be objections to atomism, are really based upon it. To deny 
that an element in a whole can have a nature, which it would 
be impossible for the whole itself to have, is an atomistic fallacy. 
For it tacitly assumes that a complex whole is built up out of 
its elements, and that those elements could exist, or at any rate 
be imagined, outside of the whole. In that case they would 
themselves be wholes, and could have no characteristics incom 
patible with this. But we shall avoid this error, if we remember 
that a self-subsistent whole can be analysed into elements which 

MCT. 6 


are not self-subsistent, and which cannot ever be imagined in 

In the present case we must admit that such a simple and 
indivisible unity, if taken for a separate being, would not only 
be utterly insignificant, but could not exist at all. The only 
category under which we could bring it would be Pure Being, 
and it does not require much speculative subtlety to see, in this 
case, that Pure Being is equivalent to Nothing. But then we 
do not assert that such an indivisible element does exist by 
itself. On the contrary, it only exists in connection with the 
element of multiplicity, and cannot exist, or be conceived, 
without it. 

It is also evident that no such person could exist, or be 
conceived as existing, apart from all other reality. For the 
element of the not-self in each person is obviously dependent 
on the existence of outside reality. And the only other element 
in the person the indivisible unity to which the element of 
the not-self stands in relation cannot exist except as combined 
with the element of the not-self. It follows, certainly, that an 
isolated self is impossible. But this was not denied, nor is it 
incompatible with any of the conclusions which we have pre 
viously reached. We found reason, indeed, in the last chapter, 
to consider finite selves as fundamentally real. But they were 
not real as isolated, or as externally connected. They were only 
real as connected in a unity which was as close and vital as its 
differ entiations. Indeed, it was the very closeness of the unity 
which made us conclude that its fundamental differentiations 
could only be selves. 

86. We are thus entitled to adhere to our conclusion that, 
in every finite person, a simple and indivisible unity exists as 
an element. This element is, of course, no more essential to 
the personality than the other element of multiplicity. But, 
although not more essential, it may perhaps be called a more 
positive element of personality, for reasons somewhat analogous 
to those for which the Thesis of a triad is a more positive 
element in the Synthesis than the Antithesis is. The element 
of the unity in the person belongs exclusively to him, while the 
element of the multiplicity, though it belongs to him, belongs 


also to the outside reality, with which he is in connection. And, 
while the element of multiplicity is an element in his nature, 
it is only part of his nature by the fact that he distinguishes 
himself from it, separates himself from it, and excludes it 
from himself in one sense, while he includes it in another. 
The element of the unity, on the other hand, is in no sense 
distinguishable from the person. 

The unity of the Absolute is as real as its differentiations, 
and as real as the unity of a perfect finite self while it is 
much more real than the unity of a finite self as it manifests 
itself imperfectly in this imperfect world. But the Absolute is 
a unity of system, and not a unity of centre, and the element of 
unity in it cannot be a simple and indivisible point, like that 
of the finite self. For if the unity is of this sort, then, by virtue 
of its simplicity and indivisibility, it excludes its differentiations 
from itself in one sense, while including them in another. But 
the Absolute cannot exclude its differentiations from itself in 
any sense. A finite person can exclude his differentiations, for 
they have somewhere to exist in, in so far as they are excluded 
from his self namely, the rest of reality, to which in fact they 
belong as much as they do to him. But there is nothing outside 
the Absolute. And it would therefore be impossible for it to 
exclude its differentiations from itself in any sense. For in as 
far as they are not in it, they are absolutely non-existent. 

Now it seems to me that it is just the presence of this 
element of indivisible unity which forms for us that "direct 
sense of self" in which Lotze rightly places the positive essence 
of personality. The unity, indeed, cannot exist without the 
multiplicity. But then it is true of the sense of self, also, that 
it is never found alone. We are never conscious of self without 
being conscious of something else as well. If, for us, the sense 
of self is not in this element of indivisible unity, I cannot tell 
where it is. 

87. The Absolute, as we have seen, cannot have this 
element of indivisible unity. And, therefore, it cannot have 
the personality that we have. " But," it will perhaps be 
answered, "it can have some other sort of personality. No one 
ever supposed the Absolute to be exactly the same sort of 



person as we are, and how can we tell that it cannot be a 
person in some different way?" 

This, however, is unjustifiable. The position is no longer 
the same as when we were discussing Lotze s arguments for the 
possibility of a sense of self without a Non-Ego. There we 
admitted that the consciousness of the Non-Ego was not the 
direct sense of self, and that we could distinguish in thought 
the one from the other. We knew of no case in which the sense 
of self was found without the consciousness of the Non-Ego; 
there was nothing" in experience which suggested that they 
could exist apart; nor could we even imagine in what way 
a direct sense of self could exist without the consciousness of 
the Non-Ego, how it would supply the place of that conscious 
ness, or what difference the change would make to itself. Still, 
the sense of self is not the consciousness of the Non-Ego. And 
thus there is an abstract probability, though one which is 
almost valueless, that the sense of self may exist where there 
is no Non-Ego, and consequently no consciousness of it. 

But here the case is different. The sense of self is the 
indivisible unity in consciousness. The Absolute has not the 
indivisible unity, and therefore it has no sense of self. There 
fore it is not a person. There is no room left for any further 
possibilities. If the argument has any validity whatever, all 
such possibilities are excluded. The argument is no longer 
that the qualities of the Absolute are inconsistent with an 
accompaniment without which we cannot imagine personality. 
It is that the qualities of the Absolute are inconsistent with 
the essence of personality itself. 

88. Our conclusion then is that personality cannot be an 
attribute of a unity which has no indivisible centre of reference, 
and which is from all points of view (as the personalities we know 
are from one point of view) all in every part. The impossibility 
of this may become more obvious if we consider that the dif 
ferentiations, of which the Absolute is the unity, are them 
selves persons. If the Absolute had a consciousness of self, 
that consciousness could not fall outside the finite persons. 
For then those persons would not fully manifest the Absolute, 
and the relation would be one of those expressed by the 


categories of Essence which certainly cannot be an adequate 
expression of the nature of the Hegelian Absolute. And the 
self-consciousness of the Absolute, again, cannot be in each 
differentiation separately, for then it would be identical with 
the self-consciousness of each finite person, and the Absolute, 
as a unity, would have no self-consciousness at all. But the 
only remaining alternative is that the self-consciousness of the 
Absolute is in the unity of its differentiations. Can we attach 
any meaning to the statement that one self-conscious being 
should consist of a multiplicity of self-conscious beings, in 
such a way that it had no reality apart from them? Or 
that one self-conscious being should be part of another in 
such a way that it had no reality apart from it? And yet 
these statements must be accepted if the Absolute is to be 
self-conscious. If it is more than its differentiations, we fall 
into the contradictions of Essence. If it is not more than 
its differentiations it cannot distinguish itself from them with 
out distinguishing them from itself, and so annihilating them. 

89. Of course we might, if we thought it worth while, 
apply the term personality to all spiritual unities (or to all 
spiritual unities where the unity was as vital as the differentia 
tions) and not merely to those which have a direct sense of 
self resembling that which we each know in ourselves. And 
so we should gain the right whatever that may be worth to 
speak of the Absolute as personal. But this rather empty 
gain would be balanced by several serious inconveniences. 
There are two different views about the Supreme Being one 
that it is a spiritual unity, and one that it has a sense of self 
like our own. The first of these is not always accompanied by 
the second, and it is convenient to have a separate name for 
each. At present we can call the first Idealism, and the second 
Theism. But if we call Idealism by the name of Theism, we 
shall have no name left to distinguish those Theists who do, 
and those Theists who do not, take the spiritual unity in 
question to have a sense of self with some conceivable re 
semblance to our own. And the distinction, which is thus 
ignored, is of great importance for metaphysics, and still more 
for religion. 


Moreover, if the Absolute is to be called a person because 
it is a spiritual unity, then every College, every goose-club, 
every gang of thieves, must also be called a person. For they 
are all spiritual unities. They all consist exclusively of human 
beings, and they all unite their members in some sort of unity. 
Their unities are indeed much less perfect than the unity of 
the Absolute. But if an imperfect unity is not to be called an 
imperfect person, then the name of person must be denied to 
ourselves as manifested here and now. For assuredly none 
of us at present have reached that perfect and harmonious self- 
determination which is essential to a perfect person. Now we 
call ourselves persons, but no one, I believe, has ever proposed 
to call a football team a person. But if we now called the 
Absolute a person, we should have no defence for refusing the 
name to the football team. For it shares its imperfection 
with human beings, and its want of a direct sense of self with 
the Absolute. It can only, therefore, be confusing to call the 
Absolute a person because it is a spiritual unity. 

It might be suggested that the word person should be 
applied to the Absolute and to ourselves, to the exclusion of 
other spiritual unities, on the ground that they alone are 
completely adequate expressions of reality. The Absolute, of 
course, is so, and finite persons are its fundamental differen 
tiations. And thus they deserve even when manifested 
imperfectly a title which is properly refused to unities which, 
in perfection, are not perfected but transcended. But this 
change in the meaning of personality would also be confusing. 
For it would compel us to say of such philosophies as Lotze s 
and Mr Bradley s, which do not accept the finite self as an 
adequate expression of reality, that they denied human person 
ality, which would be a considerable departure from the 
ordinary meaning of words. 

Thus considerable inconvenience would be caused by ex 
tending the meaning of personality to include an Absolute 
without a direct sense of self. Nor does it appear what ad 
vantage would be gained by keeping a name when the old 
meaning has been surrendered. 

90. It has often been suggested that the Absolute, if not 


a person, may be something higher than a person. And this 
view has often been gladly adopted by those to whom the only 
other alternative seemed to be that it should be something 
lower. But from what has been said about the nature of the 
Absolute, it will follow that the whole question is unmeaning. 
The unity of the Absolute is not more or less perfect than that 
unity of each of its differentiations which we call personality. 
Each has an entirely different ideal of perfection the Absolute 
to be the unity of its differentiations, the perfect differentiation 
to be the unity of all the surrounding differentiations. Neither 
of these ideals is higher than the other. Each is indispensable 
to the other. The differentiations cannot exist except in the 
Absolute, nor could the Absolute exist unless each of its 
differentiations was a person. 

To ask which of the two is the higher is as unmeaning as 
to ask whether the state or the citizen 1 is higher. The state 
and the citizen have each their own excellences. And these 
cannot be compared, since they have different ideals of ex 
cellence. The perfection of the citizen is not to be like a state, 
nor the perfection of a state to be like a citizen. And neither 
of them has any worth except in its difference from the other, 
for, except for that difference, neither could exist. A state 
cannot exist without citizens, nor citizens without a state. 

The general unwillingness to regard the Absolute as im 
personal is, I think, largely due to a failure to recognize this 
complementary character of the two unities. It is supposed 
that, if the Absolute is not personal, it must be higher or 
lower than persons. To suppose it to be lower might perhaps 
be maintained to be impossible, and would certainly be cheerless. 
But if we make the Absolute to be higher than personality, 
it must surpass and transcend it, and it is thus natural to say 
that the Absolute is personal and more. 

91. I have now explained, as far as I am able, the grounds 
on which I think that personality ought not to be ascribed to 

1 That is, as citizen. It is quite possible to maintain that the man, who is 
the citizen, is an eternal and adequate expression of reality, while the state 
is a transitory and imperfect expression of it. But then the man, in so far as 
he is such an eternal and adequate expression, and therefore superior to the 
state, is not only a citizen. 


the Absolute, if we accept Hegel s account of the Absolute as 
correct. It remains for us to consider what effect, on our 
conduct and our feelings, would be produced by the general 
adoption of such a belief a belief which is, of course, equivalent 
to a rejection of the notion of a personal God. I have en 
deavoured to show above 1 that the nature of these effects is 
irrelevant to the truth of the belief. But it is nevertheless 
a matter of interest. 

Let us begin with the effects of such a belief on conduct. 
Would it, in the first place, render virtue less binding, less 
imperative, than before? Surely not. Different philosophers 
have given very differing accounts of the nature of moral 
obligation, but I doubt if any of them have so bound it up 
with the notion of God s personality that the disproof of that 
personality would efface the distinction between virtue and 
vice. Some moralists, indeed, have asserted that any satis 
factory morality rests entirely on the belief that God will 
ensure that the righteous shall be happier than the wicked. 
And it has also been asserted that it would be absurd to act 
virtuously unless we believed that virtue would win in the long 
run. But these two theories, while they certainly require that 
the Absolute should work for righteousness, do not require a 
personal Absolute. If, on the other hand, we hold it not 
impossible to pursue the good, irrespective of our personal 
happiness, and without the certainty of eventual victory, the 
obligation, whatever it may be, to virtuous action will remain 
unaffected by whatever theory we may hold as to the nature 
of the Absolute. 

Nor would our views on the personality of the Absolute 
affect our power of determining particular actions to be virtuous 
or vicious. Some systems assert that good and evil depend 
on the arbitrary will of God. But this is only a theory of the 
genesis of distinctions which are admitted to exist. Indeed, 
it is only from the existence of the distinctions that the will 
of God in the matter is inferred. If a personal God were 
rejected, these systems would require a fresh theory of the 
causes which make benevolence right and cowardice wrong. 

1 Sections 75 78. 


But the rejection could have no tendency to make us suppose 
that benevolence was wrong and cowardice right. 

92. So much is very generally admitted. It is seldom 
asserted at the present day that, without a belief in a personal 
God, we should have no obligation to be virtuous, or no 
means of ascertaining what virtue is. But it is sometimes 
maintained that, without a belief in a personal God, our 
motives for doing right would be so diminished in strength 
that we should become perceptibly less moral. 

The point is important, but I do not see how it is to be 
settled. For, since we are not now discovering what we ought 
to do under the circumstances, but what we should do, it 
cannot be decided by abstract reasoning. It is a matter for 
empirical observation and induction. And there seems to be 
no experience which is relevant. 

On the one hand, we can draw no inference from the fact 
that many people who do believe in a personal God use that 
belief as an incentive in well-doing. It does not follow that, if 
it was withdrawn, they would do less well. Many convalescents 
continue to use sticks which they would find, if they tried, they 
could dispense with. And the abandonment of a belief is never 
entirely a negative process. It must produce positive changes 
in the beliefs which remain, and may itself be caused by a new 
positive belief. In the present case we only found reason to 
reject the idea of a personal God because it was incompatible 
with a very positive notion of the Absolute. And the new 
positive beliefs whose arrival is the correlative of the disappear 
ance of the old one may have the same effects on action as their 
predecessors had. 

On the other hand it is unfair to infer from the cases of 
men of illustrious virtue who have rejected the doctrine of a 
personal God, that the general rejection of that doctrine would 
not injure morality. For all men are swayed by public opinion 
and by tradition ; and it is impossible to demonstrate the falsity 
of the suggestion that the virtues of Atheists may depend in 
part on the Theis m of their neighbours and parents. 

There are countries, indeed, in which religions have 
flourished for many years which involve, at any rate for their 


educated adherents, the denial of a personal supreme God. And 
the fact that educated Brahmanists and Buddhists are about as 
virtuous as other men sufficiently disproves all danger of a 
complete moral collapse as a consequence of the disbelief in 
God s personality. But then it is impossible to prove that 
the standard of virtue in India and China would not be rather 
higher if more of their inhabitants had adopted Theistic 
religions, or that the standard of virtue in England would not 
slightly fall with the abandonment of such religions. 

93. The question seems insoluble except by an experiment 
conducted on a large scale for several centuries, and such an 
experiment mankind seems in no hurry to make. We may, 
however, observe that there is an argument commonly used on 
such subjects, which, whether true or not, is irrelevant here. 
It endeavours to show that, without the belief that all things 
work together for good, and, in particular, without the belief 
in immortality, men, or at any rate most men, would not have 
sufficient energy and enthusiasm to attain a high standard of 
virtue, though the obligation to be virtuous would not be 
diminished. Even if this were so, it would not prove that the 
adoption of the theory supported in this chapter would have 
any bad effect on morality. For our theory is compatible 
with is even directly connected with the belief in immortality 
which is expounded in the last chapter, and the Absolute, 
although not personal, is nevertheless spiritual, and cannot, 
therefore, be out of harmony with the most fundamental desires 
of our own spirits. 

Again, if nothing but the influence of tradition and sur 
roundings keeps morality from deteriorating when the belief 
in a personal God is rejected, it might surely be expected that 
some trace of moral deterioration might be found at those times 
and places when this belief is most often questioned. And 
I doubt if an impartial study of history would discover anything 
of the sort. 

Whether the belief in a personal God is now more or less 
universal than it has been in the centuries which have passed 
since the Renaissance cannot, of course, be determined with 
any exactness. But such slight evidence as we have seems to 


point to the conclusion that those who deny it were never so 
numerous as at present. And those who do hold it, hold it, 
it can scarcely be doubted, with far less confidence. There was 
a time when this belief was held capable of demonstration with 
evidence equal to the evidence of mathematics a time when 
the safest basis for our moral duties was held to be a demon 
stration that they could be deduced from the existence of God. 
But at the present time we find that the belief in a personal 
God is, with many men who are counted as believing it, not 
much more than a hope, entertained with more or less confidence, 
that a doctrine, the truth of which appears to them so eminently 
desirable, may in fact be true. Even when arguments from 
probability are accepted, the old ideas of mathematical certainty 
are seldom to be found. And when attempts are made, at the 
present time, to show that the personality of God is logically 
connected with morality, it is the personality of God, and not 
morality, which is thought to be supported by the conjunction. 

All this might be expected to produce some change for the 
worse in our morality, if our morality really was dependent on 
the belief in a personal God. But is such a deterioration to 
be detected? Our moral ideals change, no doubt, but in their 
changes they seem to become more, not less, comprehensive. 
And there is nothing to suggest that we realise those ideals 
to a smaller extent than our ancestors realised their own. 

94. The effect which the abandonment of the belief in 
the personality of God would have on the satisfaction of our 
emotions is perhaps even more interesting than its effect on 
morality. But it is even more difficult to determine. Some 
people find all love for finite persons inadequate, and are 
unsatisfied if they cannot also regard the infinite and eternal 
with that love which can only be felt for a person. Others, 
again, would say that our love for finite persons was only 
inadequate in so far as it fell below its own ideal, and that, if 
perfect, it would afford such an utterly complete realisation of 
our whole nature, that nothing else would be desirable or 
possible. It would be superfluous to add the love of God to 
a love which, not in metaphor, but as a statement of meta 
physical truth, must be called God, and the whole of God. 


Which of these is the higher ? Is it the first class, because 
they demand more objects of love than the second? Or is it 
the second, because they find more in one sort of love than 
the first? I do not see how this is to be answered. Or 
rather, I do not see how the answer which each of us will 
give can be of interest except to himself and his friends. 
For there are no arguments by which one side might convince 
the other. 

95. But even if the belief that there was no personal 
God were disadvantageous to our morality and our feelings, 
would the belief that the Absolute was personal be any better ? 
I think it very improbable. For if there is any reason to regard 
the belief in a personal God as essential in these respects, it 
can only be the belief in a personal God as it has hitherto 
prevailed among mankind. And this belief certainly does not 
refer to a personal Absolute, but to a being who is not the only 
reality, though he is the supreme reality. It regards us as the 
creatures of whom God is the creator, as the subjects of whom 
he is the king, as the children of whom he is the father, but 
emphatically not as the parts of which he is the whole, or as 
the differentiations within his unity. Royalty and fatherhood 
are, indeed, only metaphors, and admittedly not perfectly 
adequate. But then the fact that neither of the related beings 
is part of the other does not seem to be a point in which the 
metaphor is considered as inadequate. On the contrary, it 
seems rather one of the points in the metaphor on which 
popular religion insists. However much the dependence of 
the human being may be emphasised, there never seems any 
tendency to include him in the deity. (Such tendencies indeed 
appear from time to time among mystical thinkers, but they 
are no more evidence of the general needs of mankind than the 
other systems which do without a personal God at all.) And 
this is confirmed by the fact that the common metaphors all 
agree on this point. Such relations as that of a cell to an 
organism, or of a citizen to the state, have never been found to 
be appropriate expressions of the ordinary religious emotions. 
It seems to follow that, if the conception of a personal God had 
shown itself indispensable to our practical life, we should find 


no satisfaction in such an Absolute as Hegel s, even if we had 
contrived to regard it as personal. 

96. One question remains. Is it appropriate to call the 
Absolute by the name of God, if we deny it personality ? There 
is eminent authority in philosophy especially that of Spinoza 
and of Hegel himself for giving this name to the true reality, 
whatever that may be. But this seems wasteful. We have 
three distinct conceptions, (a) the true reality whatever it may 
be, (b) a spiritual unity, (c) a spiritual unity which is a person. 
We have only two names to serve for all three the Absolute 
and God and, if we use them as synonymous, we wilfully throw 
away a chance of combining clearness and brevity. 

Then there is no doubt that God is not used in that sense 
in popular phraseology. In popular phraseology God is only used 
of a spiritual unity which is a person. In such a matter as this, 
I submit, philosophy ought to conform its terminology to that 
of popular usage. It is impossible to keep philosophical terms 
exclusively for the use of philosophical students. Whenever 
the subject is one of general interest and the existence of a 
God is certainly one of these the opinions of great philosophers 
will be reported at second hand to the world at large. And if 
the world at large hears Spinoza described as a " God-intoxicated 
man," or as more truly an Acosmist than an Atheist, or if it 
finds that Hegel s Logic is one long attempt to determine the 
nature of God, it will be very apt to conceive that Spinoza and 
Hegel believed in God as a person. Now it is universally 
admitted that Spinoza did nothing of the kind, and I shall try 
to prove, in chapter vm, that Hegel did not do so either. At 
any rate it is clear that his use of the word God proves, when 
we consider his definition of it, nothing at all as to his belief in 
a personal God. 

If the philosophical and the popular usage ought to be 
made identical, it is clear that it is philosophy that ought to 
give way. The terminology of a special branch of study may 
be changed by the common action of a moderate number of 
writers on philosophy. But to change the popular meaning of 
the word God, and its equivalents in the other European 
languages, in the mouths of the millions of people who use 


them, would be impossible, even if it were desirable. Besides, 
the popular terminology has no word by which it can replace 
God, while philosophy has already a synonym for God in the 
wider sense namely the Absolute. And, finally, philosophers 
are by no means unanimous in agreeing with the usage of 
Spinoza and Hegel. Kant himself uses God in the narrower 

I think, therefore, that it will be best to depart from 
Hegel s own usage, and to express our result by saying that 
the Absolute is not God, and, in consequence, that there is no 
God. This corollary implies that the word God signifies not 
only a personal, but also a supreme being, and that no finite 
differentiation of the Absolute, whatever his power and wisdom, 
would be entitled to the name. It may be objected that this 
would cause the theory of the dialectic to be classed, under the 
name of Atheism, with very different systems such as deny 
the unity of all reality to be spiritual, or deny it to be more 
vital than a mere aggregate. But all negative names must be 
more or less miscellaneous in their denotation. It is much 
more important to preserve a definite meaning for Theism than 
for Atheism, and this can only be done if Theism is uniformly 
used to include a belief in the personality of God. 



97. What may we conclude, on Hegelian principles, about 
the Supreme Good? The Logic has given us the Absolute 
Idea, which stands to knowledge in the same relation as the 
idea of the Supreme Good, if there is one, stands to action. In 
examining the Absolute Idea, we find it involves the existence 
of a unity of individuals, each of whom, perfectly individual 
through his perfect unity with all the rest, places before himself 
an end and finds the whole of the universe in complete harmony 
with that end. 

If we have been justified in taking the Absolute Idea as 
only expressible in a unity of individuals, the rest of this de 
scription clearly follows. The individuals must be in harmony, 
and how can a conscious individual be in harmony with another, 
except by proposing an end to which that other is a means, 
though not, of course, a mere means 1 ? 

This is the supreme reality the only reality sub specie 
aeternitatis, the goal of the process of the universe sub specie 
temporis. It will be very desirable if we can identify the 
supreme reality with the supreme good. 

It is not the supreme good simply because it is the supreme 
reality. This is scarcely more than a truism. But it always 
wants repetition, and never more than at present. It is often 
asserted that ideals are real because they are good, and from 
this it follows by formal logic that, if they were not real, they 

1 Note to Second Edition. I have omitted a further argument for the 
same conclusion which was based on a view, which I now think erroneous, of 
some categories of the Logic. 


would not be good. Against this we must protest for the sake 
both of truth and of goodness. The idea of the good comes 
from that paradoxical power which is possessed by every 
conscious member of the universe the power to judge and 
condemn part or all of that very system of reality of which 
he himself is a part. If the whole constitution of the whole 
universe led, by the clearest development of its essential 
nature, to our universal damnation or our resolution into 
aggregates of material atoms, the complete and inevitable 
reality of these results would not give even the first step towards 
proving them good. 

98. But although the supremely real, as such, is not the 
supremely good, we may admit, I think, that if the supreme 
reality be such as Hegel has described it to be, then it will 
coincide with the supreme good. For, in the reality so defined, 
every conscious being and there are no other beings will 
express all his individuality in one end, which will truly and 
adequately express it. The fulfilment of such an end as this 
would give satisfaction, not partial and temporary, but complete 
and eternal. And since each individual finds the whole uni 
verse in harmony with his end, it will necessarily follow that 
the end is fulfilled. Here is a supreme good ready to our 

99. Hegel has thus helped us to the conception of the 
supreme good, firstly by suggesting it, and secondly by proving 
that it contains no contradictory elements. Such a supreme 
good, we notice, is not purely hedonistic. It contains pleasure, 
no doubt, for the fulfilment of the ends of conscious beings must 
always involve that. But the pleasure is only one element of 
the perfect state. The supreme good is not pleasure as such, 
but this particular pleasant state. 

100. It does not follow, however, that, because we have 
determined the supreme good, we have therefore determined 
the criterion of morality. They can be identical, no doubt, but 
they need not be so. The object of a criterion is merely 
practical to guide our actions towards good. For this purpose 
we require something which shall be a sure sign of the good. 
But a thing may have many marks besides its essence, and one 


of these may often be the more convenient test. A stock is not 
made safe by a stock-broker s belief in it. But an ordinary 
investor will find the opinion of a good stock-broker a much 
surer test of the safety of a stock than could be furnished by 
his own efforts to estimate the forces which will be the real 
causes of safety or danger. 

We must remember, also, that for a satisfactory criterion of 
morality we do not require a sure test of all good, but only 
a sure test of such good as can possibly be secured by our 
voluntary efforts to secure it. If we find a criterion which 
will tell us this, it will be unnecessary to reject it because it 
is not also a satisfactory test of some other element of good, 
which we may enjoy when we get it, but cannot get by our 
own action. 

101. But is a moral criterion wanted at all? It might be 
maintained that it was not. It would only be wanted, it might 
be said, if we decided our actions by general rules, which we do 
not. Our moral action depends on particular judgments that 
A is better than B, which we recognize with comparative 
immediacy, in the same way that we recognize that one plate 
is hotter than another, or one picture more beautiful than 
another. It is on these particular intuitive judgments of value, 
and not on general rules, that our moral action is based. 

This seems to me to be a dangerous exaggeration of an 
important truth. It is quite true that, if we did not begin with 
such judgments, we should have neither morality nor ethics. 
But it is equally true that we should have neither morality nor 
ethics if we stopped, where we must begin, with these judg 
ments, and treated them as decisive and closing discussion. 
For our moral judgments are hopelessly contradictory of one 
another. Of two intelligent and conscientious men, A often 
judges to be right what B judges to be wrong. Or A, at forty, 
judges that to be wrong, which at twenty he judged to be right. 
Now these judgments are contradictory. For every moral 
judgment claims to be objective, and demands assent from all 
men. If A asserts that he likes sugar in his tea, and B asserts 
that, for his part, he does not, both statements may be true. 
But if A asserts that to be right which B asserts to be wrong 

MCT. 7 


one of them must be in error, since they are making contrary 
statements about the same thing. 

It is therefore impossible to treat all particular judgments 
of value as valid. We must do with them as we do with the 
particular judgments of existence that is to say, treat them as 
the materials in which truth may be discovered, but not as 
themselves all true. We must reject some, and accept others. 
Now I do not see how this is to be done except by discovering 
some common quality which the valid judgments, and they 
alone, possess. And, if we test the particular judgments by 
means of this quality we have t a moral criterion. Even if we 
confine ourselves to saying that the judgments of the best, or 
of the wisest, men are to be followed, there will be a criterion. 
For we cannot recognize the best, or the wisest in ethical 
matters, without a general idea of the good. To make the 
recognition itself depend on one of the particular intuitive 
judgments to be tested would be a vicious circle. 

102. A criterion is therefore necessary. Before considering 
its nature, we must consider an ambiguity as to the matter 
which it is to judge. The ethical significance of the content of 
any moment of time is double. It may be considered in itself. 
In that case its moral significance will depend on the closeness 
with which it resembles the content which would realise the 
supreme good. Or it may be considered as a means towards 
a future end. In that case its moral significance will depend 
on the degree in which it tends to advance or to retard the 
eventual complete realisation of the supreme good. 

It would be desirable, no doubt, if these two standards 
always coincided if every action which was immediately good 
hastened the coming of the supreme good, and every action 
which was immediately bad retarded it. But we have no 
reason to believe that this is so in any particular case, and we 
have many reasons to believe that it is not so always. We 
know that good often comes out of evil, and evil out of good. 
This is a matter of e very-day observation. And Hegel has 
shown us that good never comes, except out of conquered evil, 
and that evil must arise before it can be conquered 1 . To bring 

1 Cp. chap. vi. 


our conduct to-day as close as possible to the supreme good 
may be to help or to hinder the coming of the supreme good 
in all its perfection. 

This does not, however, introduce any conflict into our 
moral life. For of the two possible standards by which 
omniscience might judge a proposed action only one is prac 
ticable for us. We can see, to some extent, what conduct 
embodies the supreme good least imperfectly. But we have no 
material whatever for deciding what conduct will tend to bring 
about the complete realisation of the supreme good. That lies 
so far in the future, and involves so much of which we are 
completely ignorant, that we are quite unable to predict the 
road which will lead to it. What we do know, if we follow 
Hegel, is this that the road we do take will lead to it, because 
the supreme good is also the supreme reality, and is therefore 
the inevitable goal of all temporal process. 

It follows that the criterion of moral action which we require 
is not one which will determine what actions will most conduce 
to the eventual establishment of absolute perfection. It is one 
which will tell us what actions will bring about, immediately, or 
in the comparatively near future which we can predict with 
reasonable certainty, the state which conforms as closely as 
possible to that perfection. 

The points I wish to prove in this chapter are (1) that the 
idea of perfection cannot give us any criterion of moral action ; 
(2) that the hedonic computation of pleasures and pains does 
give us a definite criterion, right or wrong; (3) that the use of 
this latter criterion is not incompatible with the recognition 
of perfection as the supreme good, and would give us, if not 
unerring guidance, still guidance less erroneous than would be 
afforded by any other applicable criterion. 

103. Let us consider the first point. When two courses 
are presented to a man who wishes to act rightly, and he is in 
doubt which of them he shall adopt, will he be assisted by 
reflecting on the nature of the supreme reality, which we have 
decided to be also the supreme good ? It is clear, to begin with, 
that if either of the courses would result in the immediate 
realisation of the supreme good, it would be the course to take. 



But it is equally clear that this cannot ever take place, in the 
present state of ourselves and our experience. The reality 
contemplated by Hegel in his Absolute Idea is absolutely 
spiritual, absolutely timeless, absolutely perfect. Now none of 
us ever get a chance of performing an action the result of which 
would satisfy these three conditions. The result of any actions 
possible to us now would be a state in which spirit was still 
encompassed with matter, in which change still took place, and 
in which perfection, if rather nearer than before, was still 
obviously not attained. 

It is useless then to test our actions by enquiring if they 
will realise the supreme good. None of them will do that, 
and we are reduced to considering which of them will enable 
us to reach rather nearer to supreme good than we were 

104. This question has not, I think, been faced quite fairly 
by the school who assert the idea of perfection to be an adequate 
criterion. They generally take a case in which some form of 
the desire for good as good some form of specifically moral 
feeling is opposed to something desired regardless of, or in 
opposition to, morality. They have then comparatively little 
difficulty in asserting, with some probability, that the idea of 
perfection would be a sufficient guide to direct us to the first 
rather than to the second. For perfection clearly includes a 
positing of the supreme good by each person as his end ; and 
this positing would only differ from desire in excluding all 
thought of the possibility of non-fulfilment. Surely, then, the 
good will must raise any state, of which it is a moment, above 
all other states which do not participate in it. 

But even if this criterion is true, it is almost always useless. 
It is of some use if there is a question of another will besides 
that of the agent. For then there would be some meaning in 
saying that A a duty to B was to endeavour to make B do that 
which B himself thought morally right. Here the will to be 
made good is not the agent s own will, and so there is no 

But we have other duties besides our duty to influence the 
wills of our neighbours. And the attempt to use the criterion 


more generally, by applying it to the agent s will, breaks down. 
If A demands which of two courses the ideal of perfection pre 
scribes for him here and now, all the reply that can be made is 
that it will be best for him to take the course which he takes 
believing it to be the best. Now he certainly will take the 
course which he believes to be morally the best. For, if not, he 
would not have sought guidance in an ethical criterion. Such 
a criterion can never give a reason why the morally good should 
be desired. All it can do is to tell us what things are morally 

If A has not decided to act morally, the criterion will be 
ineffective, for, if he has not decided to act rightly, why should 
he refrain from an action because it is wrong ? If, on the other 
hand, he has decided to act morally, and appeals to the criterion 
to tell him what course he should take, it is clear that each 
course claims to be the morally right one, and he is undecided. 
In that case to tell him that he will be right, if he pursues the 
course which he judges to be right, is to tell him nothing, for 
what he wants is to be helped in judging which of them is 

105. The practical use of ethics and it is this we are 
considering can only occur, then, when a man has resolved to 
act in conformity with duty, and is not certain what course duty 
prescribes. Two courses of action may each be in itself morally 
desirable, and may be incompatible, so that we are in doubt 
which to pursue. 

Two courses of conduct, let us suppose, are presented to us. 
By taking a we shall further the end a, by taking b the end /3. 
Both a and /3 are good, but a and 6 are incompatible. Can the 
principle of perfection tell us whether a or /3 is, under the 
circumstances, to be preferred? It seems to me that it is im 
possible in most cases, if not in all. It is clear that neither a nor 
/3 can be expected to be realised unchanged in the supreme 
good. For any end which can be attained by an action in our 
present state would still be an element in an imperfect and 
incomplete world, would still be tainted with imperfection, and 
could not therefore, as such, form part of absolute perfection. 
On the other hand every end which a man could represent to 


himself as a moral ideal has some real good in it. It would 
therefore form an element, however transcended and altered, of 
the supreme good. Thus we should only be able to say, of both 
a and /?, that they were imperfect goods. Which is the least 
imperfect? That could only be settled by comparing each of 
them with the supreme good a comparison which it is scarcely 
ever possible to carry out so as to assign a preference to either 

106. Let us take an example. Most people think that 
the institution of marriage, as it at present exists in civilized 
countries, is on the whole a good thing. But others think it 
a mistake. They hold that all unions between man and woman 
should be terminable at any moment by the simple desire of 
the parties, who should then each of them be free to form a 
fresh union. And this they put forward as a moral advance. 
Can the contemplation of the supreme good help us to decide 
this question? It is clear, at any rate, that we cannot solve 
the difficulty by simply copying the pattern which the supreme 
good lays down for us. For there the difficulty could not arise 
at all. In a world of pure spirit there could be no sexual 
desire, and in a world which was timeless there could be no 
propagation of children two elements which have considerable 
importance when we are dealing with marriage. And in such 
a state all relations would be permanent together, so that the 
question could never be raised whether outside relations ought 
to change in harmony with internal changes. 

Whichever course we take, therefore, we shall not be able 
to model ourselves completely on the supreme good. Which 
course will lead us to the result least removed from the 
supreme good? We find ourselves in a hopeless antinomy 
hopeless, not from the actual want of a solution, but because 
the solution requires a knowledge of detail far beyond our 

The conservative side may assert, and with perfect truth, 
that in perfection all relations are absolutely constant. But 
if they infer from this that a minimum of change in the 
relationships between particular men and particular women 
is most consonant to the supreme good, the innovators may 


reply, with equal truth, that in perfection all relations will 
be the free expression of the inner nature of the individual, 
and draw from this with equal right the contrary conclusion 
that every relation between a man and a woman should cease 
with the cessation of the feelings which led them into it. If 
it is answered to this as it certainly may be that true 
freedom, as we find it in perfection, is not capricious but 
manifests itself in objective uniformities, it may with equal 
force be retorted that true constancy does not lie in clinging 
to external arrangements which have become unfit expressions 
of the internal nature of the persons concerned, but in the 
continuous readjustment of the external to the developing nature 
of the internal. If there is a rejoinder that true development 
does not consist in yielding to caprice, there may be a rebutter 
that true order does not lie in blindly accepting experience, 
but in moulding it. And so on, and so on, until the stock 
of edifying truths runs out, if it ever does. We can never 
get forward. One side can always prove that there is some 
good in a, and some imperfection in /3. The other side can 
prove the converse propositions. But to know which is best, 
we should have to discover whether we should be nearer to 
perfection if at the present moment we emphasised freedom, 
even at the price of caprice, or emphasised order, even at the 
price of constraint. And how are we to discover this ? 

And yet the particular problem we have been discussing 
is one on which most people in the world, and most of the 
independent thinkers of the world, have come to the same 
conclusion. But that, I fancy, is because they take a more 
practical criterion. If we estimate the gain or loss of happiness 
which would follow from the abolition of marriage, we may 
perhaps find excellent reasons for declining to make the change. 
But we shall not have been helped in our decision by the idea 
of the supreme good. 

Innumerable similar . cases could be found. Public schools 
knock a great deal of pretence out of boys, and knock a certain 
amount of Philistinism into them. In heaven we shall be 
neither shams or Philistines. But are we nearer to heaven, 
if at this moment we buy genuineness with Philistinism, or 


buy culture with Schwdrmerei ? The man who answers that 
question would need to be deep in the secrets of the universe. 

107. But although the supreme good is useless as a help 
in a real investigation of an ethical question, it is a dangerously 
efficient ally in a barren and unfair polemic. For a is always 
partly good, ft never quite good. Ignore the corresponding 
propositions, that ft is also good, and a also imperfect, and 
we have an admirable argument for anything. For this 
purpose the words "true" and "higher" are useful. Thus 
the opponent of marriage, if confronted with the goodness of 
order, may reply that the true, or the higher, order is freedom. 
But then the supporter of marriage may enter on the same 
sophistry, by representing that the true, or the higher, freedom 
is order. Both propositions are quite true. In the supreme 
good, order and freedom are so transcended, that they are 
compatible indeed, identical. It is true that the perfect 
forms of each are identical, and that the perfect form of 
either would always include and surpass the other s imperfect 
form. The sophistry lies in making this the ground for pre 
ferring the imperfect form of the one to the imperfect form 
of the other. When we consider how short and simple such 
a device is, as compared with a laborious empirical calculation 
of consequences, and that it can be applied on any side of 
any dispute, we may expect that it will in the future furnish 
as convenient a shelter for prejudices and indolence as innate 
moral ideas, or the healthy instincts of the human mind. 

108. Another class of difficulties occurs in which the ends 
are not in themselves incompatible, but in which the in 
adequacy of the means renders it necessary to sacrifice one at 
any rate partially. We have continually to divide our energy, 
our time, and our money, between several objects, each of which 
has admittedly a claim to some, and which could absorb between 
them, with good results, more than the total amount we have 
to divide. Ethical problems arise here to which the answers 
must be quantitative, and I fail to see what hope there is of 
settling them by means of the idea of the supreme good. 

A man with some leisure may admit and will generally be 
wise if he does that he should devote some of it to work of 


public utility, and some to direct self -improvement. But how 
much to each ? He could very probably use all his leisure for 
either purpose with good results. At any rate, he will in the 
great majority of cases often find an hour which he could use 
for either. Which shall he sacrifice? Shall he attend a com 
mittee meeting, or spend the evening studying metaphysics? 
These difficulties come to all of us. The contemplation of the 
supreme good will tell us, it may be granted, that both meta 
physics and social work have an element of good in them. But 
our contemplation cannot tell us which to prefer to the other, for 
the supreme good chooses neither, but, transcending both, enjoys 
both in their full perfection simultaneously, which is just what, 
in the present imperfect state of things, we cannot do. And it 
is no good telling us to neglect neither, or to make a division of 
our time. For a division cannot be made in the abstract. We 
must make it at a particular point, and assign the marginal 
hour of which we have been speaking either to philanthropy or 
to metaphysics. 

The distribution of wealth presents us continually with 
similar questions. A man with a thousand a year would 
probably feel that he ought to give something to relieve distress, 
and also to give his children a better education than the average 
child gets at present. But this abstract conviction will not 
divide his income for him. Shall he send his sons to a second- 
rate school, and pension his old nurse, or shall he send them to 
a first-rate school, and let her go to the workhouse ? Problems 
like these are the real ethical difficulties of life, and they are 
not to be solved by generalities nor even by contemplating the 
idea of the supreme good, in which there are neither school-bills 
nor workhouses, and whose perfections are in consequence irrele 
vant to the situation. 

109. It may be said that it is not within the province of 
ethics to deal with individual cases such as this. And in one 
sense this is true. A system of ethics is not bound to lay down 
beforehand the precise action a man ought to take in every con 
ceivable contingency. This would, to begin with, be impossible, 
owing to the number of possible contingencies. And, even if 
possible, it would be undesirable. In applying rules to a given 


set of circumstances we require not so much philosophical 
insight as common sense and special knowledge of those circum 
stances. The philosopher is not likely, perhaps, to have more 
common sense than the man whose action is being considered. 
And the latter is much more likely to understand his own 
circumstances for himself than the philosopher is to understand 
them for him. The particular problems of conduct, therefore, 
are best solved at the place and time when they actually occur. 
But it is, none the less, the duty of ethics to provide the 
general principles upon which any doubtful point of conduct 
ought to be settled. It would plainly be absurd to assert that 
any one distribution of our time and wealth among good objects 
would be as good as any other distribution. It would be still 
more absurd to assert that a man who desired to act rightly 
would not care whether he made the best possible distribution. 
Surely the only alternative is to look to ethics for the principle 
on which we must make the distribution. And it is just this 
in which the idea of the supreme good fails to help us. 

110. It has been suggested that a suitable formula for 
ethics may be found in "my station and its duties." Each of 
us finds himself in a particular place in the world. The par 
ticular characteristics of the situation suggest certain duties. 
Do these, and in this way the supreme good will be most 

As an analysis of morality this theory has many recommen 
dations, and it was not, if I understand rightly, originally put 
forward as a moral criterion. But, for the sake of completeness, 
it will be well to point out that it is not available as a criterion. 
In the first place, it fails to tell us how we are to judge those 
persons who have endeavoured to advance the good by going 
beyond, or contrary to, the duties of the station in which they 
then were, and so transforming their society and their own 
station in it. The number of these may be comparatively small. 
But the effect of their action is so important for everyone that 
it is essential for a moral criterion to be able to determine 
when such innovations should be accepted and when rejected. 

These cases can be brought within the scope of the formula, 
if it is only taken as an analysis of morality. For there is no 


contradiction in saying that my duty in a certain station e.g. 
that of a slave-holder, or of a slave may be to destroy that 
station. But such cases are clearly fatal to any attempt to use 
the formula as a criterion. Some fresh criterion would be 
wanted to tell me whether my duty in my station did or did 
not involve an attempt to fundamentally alter its nature. 

Again, even in the ordinary routine of life, such a principle 
would give but little real guidance. It lays down, indeed, the 
wide boundaries within which I must act, but it does not say 
precisely how I shall act within these boundaries, and so leaves 
a vast mass of true ethical questions unsettled. My station may 
include among its duties that I should seek a seat in parlia 
ment. If I get one, my station will demand that I should vote 
for some bills and against others. But which ? Shall I vote for 
or against a Sunday Closing bill, for example ? Such questions 
can in the long run only be answered by reference to an ethical 
ideal. And the ideal of my station and its duties will not help 
us. For while the ideal M.P. will certainly vote for the bills he 
thinks ought to pass, and against those he thinks ought not to 
pass, there is nothing in the conception of a perfect member of 
parliament which can tell us in which of these classes he will 
place a Sunday Closing bill. 

Or my station may be that of a schoolmaster. This defines 
my duties within certain limits. But it cannot tell me whether 
in a particular case it is worth while to make a boy obedient at 
the cost of making him sulky. 

Thus the principle, if taken as a criterion, is not only 
inadequate, but it proclaims its own inadequacy. For the duty 
of an M.P. or a schoolmaster is not only to vote on bills, or to 
act on boys, regardless of the manner, but to vote rightly on 
bills, or to act rightly on boys. And, since the right way in 
each particular case can never be got out of the mere idea of the 
station, the formula itself shows that some other criterion is 
needed for the adequate guidance of our action. 

111. I now proceed to the next branch of my subject 
namely that the calculation of pleasures and pains does give a 
definite criterion of action. (Calculation is, I think, a better 
word than calculus, which, as a technical term of mathematics, 


seems to imply a precision unattainable, on any theory, in 
ethics.) I am not now maintaining that it is a correct criterion 
that it will enable us to distinguish right from wrong, but 
merely that it is sufficiently definite to be applied to actions in 
an intelligible way. The question of its correctness from an 
ethical point of view must be postponed for the present. 

112. The elements at any rate of such a calculation are 
clear. We do know what a pleasure is, and what a pain is, and 
we can distinguish a greater pleasure or pain from a lesser one. 
I do not mean, of course, that the distinction is always easy to 
make in practice. There are some states of consciousness of 
which we can hardly tell whether they give us pleasure or 
pain. And there are many cases in which we should find it 
impossible to decide which of two pleasures, or of two pains, 
was the greater. 

This, however, while it no doubt introduces some un 
certainty into our calculations, does not entirely vitiate them. 
For when we can see no difference, as to amount of pleasure or 
pain between two mental states, we may safely conclude that 
the difference existing is smaller than any perceptible one. 
And, in the same way, if we are unable to tell whether a 
particular state is more pleasurable than painful, we may safely 
conclude that the excess of one feeling over the other must be 
small. Thus the margin of vagueness which is left is itself 
limited. This is quite different from the far more dangerous 
vagueness which we found in considering perfection. When we 
were unable to tell whether the maintenance or the abolition 
of marriage would bring us nearer to the supreme good, this 
uncertainty by no means gave us the right to infer that it 
made little difference which happened. The choice might 
make a very great difference. The uncertainty came from 
our ignorance, and not from the close equality of the two 
alternatives. But if we are doubtful whether a plate of turtle 
soup or a bunch of asparagus would give us more pleasure, or 
whether the pleasure of a long walk outweighs the pain of it, 
we may at least be certain that we shall not lose very much 
pleasure, whichever alternative we finally select. 

113. It has been objected to hedonistic systems that 


pleasure is a mere abstraction, that no one could experience 
pleasure as such, but only this or that species of pleasure, and 
that therefore pleasure is an impossible criterion. It is true 
that we experience only particular pleasant states which are 
partially heterogeneous with one another. But this is no reason 
why we should be unable to classify them by the amount of a 
particular abstract element which is in all of them. No ship 
contains abstract wealth as a cargo. Some have tea, some have 
butter, some have machinery. But we are quite justified in 
arranging those ships, should we find it convenient, in an order 
determined by the extent to which their concrete cargoes 
possess the abstract attribute of being exchangeable for a 
number of sovereigns. 

114. Another objection which is often made to hedonism 
lies in the fact that pleasures vanish in the act of enjoyment, 
and that to keep up any good that might be based on pleasure, 
there must be a continuous series of fresh pleasures. This 
is directed against the possibility of a sum of pleasures being 
the supreme good. As we are here only looking for a criterion, 
we might pass it by. But it may be well to remark in passing 
that it seems unfounded. For so long as we exist in time, the 
supreme good, whatever it is perfection, self-realisation, the 
good will^will have to manifest itself in a series of states 
of consciousness. It will never be fulfilled at any one moment. 
If it be said that all these states have the common element 
of perfection or the good will running through them, the 
hedonist might reply that in his ideal condition all the states 
of consciousness will have the common element of pleasure 
running through them. Pleasure, it may be objected, is a mere 
abstraction. Certainly it is, and the element of a pure identity 
which runs through a differentiated whole must always be to 
some extent an abstraction, because it abstracts from the 
differentiation. In the same way, perfection or good will, if 
conceived as timeless elements of a consciousness existing 
in time, are just as much abstract, since abstraction is thus 
made of the circumstances under which alone they can be 
conceived as real and concrete. 

So long, therefore, as our consciousness is in time, it can be 


no reason of special reproach to pleasure that it can only be 
realised in a continuous succession. And if our consciousness 
should ever free itself of the form of succession, there is no 
reason why pleasure should not be realised, like all the other 
elements of consciousness, in an eternal form. Indeed pleasure 
seems better adapted for the transition than the other elements 
of consciousness. A timeless feeling is no doubt an obscure 
conception. But we can, I think, form a better idea of what is 
meant by it than we can of the meaning of timeless cognition 
or of timeless volition. 

115. We now come, however, to a more serious difficulty. 
Hedonic calculations require, not only that we should compare 
the magnitudes of pleasures, but that we should add and 
subtract them. The actions which we propose to ourselves 
will not each result in a single pleasure or pain. Each will 
have a variety of results, and, as a rule, some of them will 
be pleasures, and some pains. To compare two projected 
actions, therefore, it will be necessary in each case to take 
the sum of the pleasures, subtract from it the sum of the 
pains, and then enquire which of the two remainders is the 
larger positive, or the smaller negative, quantity. 

Now pleasures and pains are intensive, not extensive, 
quantities. And it is sometimes argued that this renders it 
impossible for them to be added or subtracted. The difference 
between two pleasures or two temperatures is not itself, it is 
said, pleasant or hot. The possibility of adding or subtracting 
intensive quantities depends, it is maintained, on the fact that 
the difference between two of them is a third quantity of the 
same kind that the difference between two lengths is itself 
a length, and the difference between two durations is itself a 
duration. And, since this characteristic is wanting in intensive 
quantities, it is concluded that it is impossible to deal with 
them arithmetically. 

The question is one of great importance, and the answer 
affects more than the hedonic criterion of moral action. It 
will, I believe, be found on further consideration that, reasonably 
or unreasonably, we are continually making calculations of 
pleasures and pains, that they have an indispensable place 


in every system of morality, and that any system which 
substitutes perfection for pleasure as a criterion of moral 
action also involves the addition and subtraction of other 
intensive quantities. If such a process is unjustifiable, it is not 
hedonism only, but all ethics, which will become unmeaning. 

116. Introspection, I think, will convince us that we are 
continually adding and subtracting pleasures and pains, or 
imagining that we do so, and acting on what we suppose to 
be the result of our calculations. Whether we do it as a 
moral criterion or not, we are continually doing it in cases 
in which we do not bring morality into the matter. Suppose 
a man to be presented with two bills of fare for two equally 
expensive and equally wholesome dinners, and to be invited 
to choose which he shall take. Few of us, I fancy, would 
either find ourselves unable to decide the question, or admit 
that our answer was purely capricious and unmeaning. Yet 
how can such an answer be given except by adding pleasures? 
Even the most artistic composition can scarcely give such unity 
to a dinner as to admit of the pleasures we derive from it 
being regarded as anything but a succession of pleasures from 
each dish not to say each mouthful. And, if we still prefer 
one dinner to the other, does not this involve the addition of 
pleasures ? 

Such cases make up a great part of our lives. For even 
when distinctively moral considerations come in, they very 
often leave us a choice of equivalent means, which can be 
settled only by our own pleasure. My duty may demand 
that I shall be at my office at a certain hour, but it is only 
my pleasure which can give me a motive for walking there 
on one side of the street rather than on the other. My duty 
may demand that I shall read a certain book, but there may 
be no motive but pleasure to settle whether I shall use a light 
copy with bad print, or a heavy copy with good print. And 
almost all such decisions, if made with any meaning at all, 
require that pleasures and pains should be added and sub 
tracted. It is only in this way that we can decide, whenever 
several pleasures and pains of each course have to be taken 
into consideration, and whenever a pleasure has to be balanced 


against a pain. Moreover,, even if a single pleasure or pain 
from one has to be balanced against a single pleasure or 
pain from another, we still require addition if each of these 
feelings is to be looked on as an aggregate of several smaller 
ones. And they must be looked at in that way, at any rate, 
in the very common case in which the greater keenness of one 
feeling is balanced against the greater length of the other. 

117. This calculation of pleasures is not only requisite 
for life, but it fills an indispensable, though subordinate, place 
in even non-hedonist morality. If, with two courses a and 6 
before me, I can find no perceptible difference either to the 
welfare of others, or to my own perfection, while at the same 
time a is pleasanter than &, is it morally indifferent which 
course I shall take? Surely it cannot be held to be indifferent, 
unless we deny that pleasure is better than pain an outrage 
on common sense of which the great majority of non-hedonist 
moralists cannot be accused. If pleasure is better than pain, 
then, caeteris paribus, it is our duty to choose it a duty which 
may not require very constant preaching, but the neglect of 
which is none the less morally evil. 

But, even if we leave this out, it can scarcely be denied 
that there are cases when it is our duty to give pleasure, 
simply as pleasure, to others. Even Kant admits this. And 
if we have to do this we must either confess our actions to 
be utterly absurd, or else base them on a calculation of 
pleasures. Whenever either course produces a succession of 
pleasures or pains, whenever pleasures and pains have to be 
balanced against one another, whenever the intensity of one 
feeling has to be balanced against the length of another, or 
the intensity of one man s feeling against a plurality of weaker 
feelings in many men in all these cases we must either add 
pleasures and pains, or work absolutely in the dark. 

118. I have, I think, said enough to show that the rejection 
of all calculations about pleasure is not a simple question, and 
that it would necessarily lead to a good deal of doubt almost 
amounting to positive denial of the possibility of our acting 
rationally at all. But we may carry this line of argument 
further. The only reason which we have found for doubting 


the legitimacy of such calculations is that they involved the 
addition of intensive quantities. Now if it should be the 
case that the opposed theory of ethics, which would have us 
take perfection as a criterion, also requires the addition of 
intensive quantities, we should have got, at the least, an 
effective argument ad hominem against our chief opponents. 

We should, however, have got more than this. For every 
ethical theory accepts either perfection or pleasure as a criterion, 
except the theory which holds that the good is shown us by 
immediate intuitive judgments, which, as we have seen above 1 , 
rejects all criteria whatever. Even that other form of In- 
tuitionism, which maintains that we are immediately conscious 
of the validity of certain general moral laws, requires one or 
both of these criteria. For some of the moral laws are always 
represented as laws of imperfect obligation. We are to be as 
good as possible, or to do as much good as possible. And such 
laws always involve either perfection or pleasure as a standard. 

The only criteria offered are perfection and pleasure. 
Pleasure as a criterion admittedly involves the addition of 
intensive quantities. If perfection as a criterion does the same, 
we shall be reduced to a dilemma. Either we must find room 
within ethics for the addition of intensive quantities, or we 
must surrender all hope of directing our conduct by an ethical 

119. Is it then the case that the criterion of perfection 
does require the addition of intensive quantities? I do not see 
how this can be avoided. Absolute perfection the supreme 
good is not quantitative. But we shall not reach absolute 
perfection by any action which we shall have a chance of taking 
to-day or to-morrow. And of the degrees of perfection it is 
impossible to speak except quantitatively. If we can say 
and we must be able to say something of the sort, if perfection 
is to be our criterion that a man who stays away from the 
poll acts more perfectly than a man who votes against his 
conscience for a bribe, and that a man who votes according 
to his conscience acts more perfectly than one who stays away 
then we are either talking about quantities or about nothing. 

1 Section 101. 



And these quantities are clearly intensive. The difference 
between one perfection and another cannot be a third perfection. 

The incomplete stages of perfection, which, on this theory, 
must be the immediate ends between which we have to choose, 
are quantities then, and intensive quantities. Does the regu 
lation of our conduct require that they should be added and 
subtracted ? Again I do not see how this can be denied. 

120. A boy is to be sent to one of two schools. At A he 
will get better manners, and a purer Latin style, than he would 
at B. But at B he will acquire habits of greater industry, 
and greater bodily vigour, than he would at A. How is the 
question to be decided, with perfection as the criterion? I 
have already tried to show in the preceding part of this chapter 
that it cannot be decided at all on such principles, since we 
have absolutely no data to enable us to guess whether a 
particular English boy, in 1917, will be nearer to the supreme 
good with industry and bad manners, or with good manners and 
indolence. But supposing this obstacle got over, the success of 
the method would then depend entirely on our being able 
to add intensive quantities. For here you have two elements 
of perfection manners and Latin style on the one hand, 
and two more elements industry and bodily vigour on the 
other. And unless the perfections attained at A have a sum 
which can be compared with the sum of the perfections 
attained at B, your action will be absolutely unreasonable, on 
whichever school you may decide. 

Nor would it be fair to attempt .to evade this by saying that 
perfections of character cannot be taken as units which can be 
aggregated or opposed, but should be considered as forming 
a unity. No doubt this is true of absolute perfection. All 
moments which form part of the supreme good are not only 
compatible, but essentially and indissolubly connected in the 
supreme good. In the supreme good whatever elements cor 
respond to those imperfect goods which we call manners, and 
Latin style, and industry, and bodily vigour, will imply and 
determine one another. But not even a public school can land 
us straight in heaven. And in this imperfect world these four 
qualities must be considered as four separable goods, for every 


one of the sixteen combinations which their presence and 
absence could produce is notoriously possible. We must con 
sider the problem before us as one in which two separate goods 
are gained at the expense of two others. And how we are to 
come to any opinion on this point, unless we add the goodness 
of the goods together, I fail to conceive. 

Or again, with a limited sum to spend on education, shall 
we educate a few people thoroughly, or many less thoroughly ? 
Let us assume and it seems at least as reasonable as any other 
view that a slightly educated person is nearer to perfection 
than one completely uneducated, and that a thoroughly 
educated person is still nearer to perfection. How are we to 
decide between the greater improvement in each one of a few 
people, and the smaller improvement in each one of many people, 
except by estimating the sum of the perfections gained by each 
course ? Or the difficulty may arise about oneself. Two foreign 
tours may each offer several quite heterogeneous goods. If I 
go to Italy, I may study pictures and improve my knowledge 
of Koman antiquities. If I go to Germany, I may hear Wagner 
and investigate German socialism. If we are to use perfection 
as a criterion here, must we not begin by summing the good 
which would result from each course? 

121. And thus it would seem that ethical criteria in 
general must share the fate of the hedonic criterion. For the 
only serious charge that has been brought against the latter is 
that it involves the addition and subtraction of intensive 
quantities. And we have now seen that the only other criterion 
which has been suggested is equally impotent to act, in most 
cases, except by the addition and subtraction of intensive 

This would destroy all ethical systems except those which 
made our particular moral judgments immediate and ultimate. 
And this position, as I have endeavoured to show above 1 , is as 
destructive to ethics in another way, since it destroys all possi 
bility of saying that any moral judgment is wrong. 

And not only ethics, but all regulation of conduct with 
regard to consequences, seems equally involved. For what 

1 Section 101. 



consequence of action, which we can regard as valuable, has 
not intensive quantity? And how can we act rationally with 
regard to consequences, unless the different intensive quantities 
in different sets of consequences can be compared ? 

122. Let us now consider whether the arguments which 
lead to such a negative result are really valid. I do not think 
that they are. If we have two pleasures of different intensities, 
it is true, no doubt, that the excess of A over B is not a 
pleasure. For we cannot imagine that part of the intensity of 
A existing by itself. Its meaning depends on its being in 
combination with the rest of A s intensity. It would be 
meaningless to ask what the heat of an average June day 
would be like after the heat of an average December day had 
been subtracted from it. The remainder would cease to be 
what it had been, as soon as it was separated from the other 

But although the excess of A 9 a intensity over B is not a 
pleasure, I submit that it is, nevertheless, pleasure. Whatever 
has quantity must be homogeneous in respect of some quality, 
and is only quantitative in respect of that homogeneous quality. 
If therefore pleasure has an intensive quantity, then each part 
of that quantity must be pleasure, including that part by which 
it is greater than another. 

If then the excess of intensity of A over B is pleasure, and 
a quantity, it must be capable of being brought into numerical 
relations with other quantities of pleasure. And thus, while it 
is true that we cannot imagine that excess as a separate 
pleasure, we can imagine a separate pleasure which shall be 
equal to that excess. If this is called (7, then we shall be 
able to say that the pleasure in A is equal to the pleasure 
in B and C. And this is all that is wanted for the hedonic 

I must confess that I find no difficulty in making such 
judgments, and that they seem to me to have a perfectly 
definite meaning. I feel no hesitation in affirming that the 
pleasure 1 get from a plate of turtle-soup is more than twice the 
pleasure I get from a plate of pea-soup, or that the pleasure 
I get from reading a new novel, together with the pain of a hot 


walk to get it, leaves a balance of pleasure greater than the 
pleasure from reading an old novel off my shelves. Of course 
I may make mistakes over these judgments. But mistakes can 
be made about extensive quantities also. I may judge A to be 
six feet high, when he is really an inch less. But this does not 
prevent his height from having a real and definite relation to 
the length of a yard-measure. 

123. The certainty of any particular judgment as to an 
intensive quantity, and the minuteness to which such judgments 
can be carried, is far less, certainly, than is the case with judg 
ments as to space, or as to anything which can be measured by 
means of spatial standards. It would be impossible to say with 
any confidence that one pleasure was 3-77 times as great as 
another, or even exactly twice as great. This has sometimes 
been taken as a proof of the impossibility of the hedonic cri 
terion. But it is unfair to argue from the impossibility of 
absolute certainty or exactitude in any class of judgments that 
the judgments are without any meaning, and that there is no 
objective truth to which the judgments approximate. This 
would render all judgments of quantity invalid. When we 
pronounce a yard-measure to be equal to the standard yard at 
Westminster, that is only an approximation, dependent on the 
accuracy of our instruments, which may be great but is never 
perfect. The approximation in the measurement of pleasure is 
no doubt much rougher, but there is only a difference of degree, 
and if the uncertainty does not completely invalidate the judg 
ment in one case, it cannot do so in the other. 

It may be objected that the uncertainty of this criterion, 
while not destroying its theoretical validity, deprives it of all 
practical use. Even if this were the case, it would be no worse 
off than any other criterion. For, as was pointed out above, 
the value of an action cannot be judged by the standard of 
perfection without the addition and subtraction of intensive 
quantities. The only difference is one which is to the advantage 
of hedonism, for no one ever mistakes intense pain for intense 
pleasure, while ideals of perfection have been so different and 
incompatible that, whoever is right, many people must have 
mistaken great defects for great excellences. 


But there seems no reason for supposing that our estimates 
of pleasures and pains are so inaccurate as to be useless. We 
all make these estimates many times daily even those of us who 
do not accept them as moral criteria. Can it be asserted that 
they have no worth whatever, and that everyone would on the 
whole be just as happy if he always took the course which 
seemed to him in anticipation to be less pleasant? Supposing 
that, on the next Bank Holiday, every person who should think 
that he would enjoy Epping Forest more than Hampstead 
Heath, should nevertheless go to Hampstead, is there any doubt 
that there would be a net loss of pleasure? Much uncertainty 
and error there certainly is in our estimates. But the only fair 
consequence to draw from this is that the conduct of human life 
is often a doubtful and difficult matter. And this conclusion is 
neither novel nor absurd. 

124. We now pass on to the third division of the subject. 
Even if pleasure gives us a criterion which is applicable, does it 
give us one which is correct ? 

The supreme good, as denned at the beginning of this 
chapter, may be analysed into two moments. On the one hand 
each individual has a nature, whose satisfaction he postulates. 
On the other hand, the relation of each individual with others 
is such that it satisfies the natures of all of them. This analysis 
of the supreme reality, which is also the supreme good, is not 
the only one which is possible. Indeed it may be said that it is 
not a perfectly adequate analysis, since it gives a primacy to the 
nature of the individual over the nature of the whole which 
misrepresents the perfectly equal and reciprocal relation in 
dicated in the Absolute Idea. But it is, I think, the most 
adequate analysis of absolute reality which is possible for Ethics. 
Ethics is based on the idea of Volition an idea which the 
Logic shows us is transcended by the Absolute Idea and 
cannot rise above the view of reality under the category of 
Volition, the peculiarity of which is exactly this over-emphasis 
on the nature of the individual as compared with the nature of 
the whole 1 . 

The imperfection by which we fall short of the supreme 
1 Cp. Sections 276279. 


good is two-fold. On the one hand the ideals of which we 
postulate the fulfilment are not absolutely the same ideals 
which would be found in a state of perfection. On the other 
hand the ideals which we have are not completely satisfied. 
The two sides are closely connected. Nothing but perfect 
ideals could ever be perfectly satisfied, nor could an unsatisfied 1 
ideal be quite perfect. For all things react on one another, 
and the perfection of any part of the universe is only possible 
on condition that the rest is perfect too. At the same time, 
the two sides are sufficiently distinct for progress in the one 
to co- exist, for a time at least, with retrogression in the other. 
A man may become less in harmony with his surroundings as 
his ideal rises, and may become more in harmony with them 
by lowering his ideal. 

125. Other things being equal, a man is happier in pro 
portion as he is more in harmony with his environment. In 
so far, therefore, as our efforts are devoted to the increase of 
happiness, they will tend to produce a greater amount of 
harmony between individuals and their environment, and so 
will be directed to the increase of one moment of the supreme 

So far, then, the hedonic criterion would be a trustworthy 
guide. But there is the other element in the supreme good 
to be considered. Our ideals must be developed more fully 
as well as more completely satisfied. And to this element 
the criterion of happiness has no necessary or uniform relation. 

Very often, indeed, a man is led by desire for his own 
happiness to actions which develop his ideals towards perfection. 
A man with a certain taste for music, for example, may be 
desirous of the intense happiness which music gives to those 
whose taste is more developed, and may consequently give such 
time and attention to it, as will make his taste purer and more 
subtle than before. Or, again, without any desire for a higher 
musical ideal, he may give his attention to music simply to 
satisfy the desire which he already has for it, and may, through 
the knowledge and experience thus gained, find that his 
appreciation of music has become more discriminating and 
more intense. 


Very often, again, a man develops his own ideals by his 
desire for the happiness of others. If he educates himself in 
order that he may support his parents, or serve his country, he 
will probably find that one effect of his education has been to 
develop his ideals of knowledge and beauty. Again, benevolence 
is a disposition which increases by being indulged, and one 
result of acting for the happiness of others is often to desire 
that happiness more keenly than before. 

There are also the cases when the agent s action is directed 
to improving the ideals of another person on the ground that 
this will conduce to the happiness either of the person improved, 
or of a third person. Much of the moral education of children 
falls under this head. In some cases, no doubt, a quality is 
inculcated because it is thought desirable per se, but very 
frequently the reason is to be found in a consideration of the 
future happiness of the child, or of the people with whom it 
will associate in after life. 

126. But there are cases in which the hedonic criterion 
would by no means lead us to the development of what we 
should regard* as a higher ideal. It is true that, if we accept 
Hegel s principles, and if we see reason to include among them 
the immortality of the individual, we should be bound to hold 
that every heightening of the ideal would eventually mean 
increased happiness. For happiness depends for its amount, 
not merely on the completeness with which the environment 
answers to our ideals,, but also on the vividness and completeness 
of those ideals. The more numerous and the more earnest are 
our wishes, the happier we shall be in their satisfaction, if they 
are satisfied. The more completely we are self-conscious 
individuals, the greater will be the happiness and the misery 
of which we are capable. Since the end of the time-process 
will be absolute harmony, we may safely assert that anything 
which makes our ideals more perfect will in the long run be 
the cause of greater happiness, since it will increase the 
intensity of our demands, and so of their eventual satis 

But although the complete development of our ideals might 
be known a priori to involve the greatest happiness, it does 


not follow that the hedonic criterion would lead us in the 
direction of the complete development of our ideals. For this 
coincidence of development and happiness is only known to be 
certain in the indefinitely remote future, a future far too remote 
to be known by any empirical calculations. We may be certain 
that complete development will mean complete happiness. 
But it by no means follows that, if we aim at the greatest 
happiness which we can perceive to be attainable by our 
present action, we shall be aiming in the direction of complete 

127. And there are many cases in which we should judge 
that the development of our ideals would indicate a course 
which would rather diminish than increase happiness. A man 
is generally admitted to be nearer to perfection in proportion 
as his love of truth, or his concern for the happiness of others, 
increases. And yet the love of truth may force us to change 
very comforting beliefs for very depressing ones. And in so 
imperfect a state as the present increased sympathy for the 
happiness or misery of others often produces more misery than 
happiness for the sympathiser. 

Of course the hedonic criterion does not take account of 
the pleasure of the agent only, but of all people who are 
affected by the action. This makes a considerable difference, 
for it not infrequently happens that a development which 
makes a person more miserable makes him also more useful. 
But there are cases where the opposite happens. To lose a 
false, but inspiriting, belief may diminish a man s utility as 
well as his happiness. And, if my chances of helping others 
are few, an increase of benevolence on my part may deprive 
me of much more happiness than it enables me to bestow upon 

There are circumstances in which an exclusive regard for 
happiness would lead us not only to shrink from development, 
but actually to endeavour to fall back in the scale. It would 
be generally admitted that a man who was chronically under 
the influence of drugs had fallen, so far as his ideals went, 
below the level of a man who kept his intellect and will 
unclouded. And there are men whose physical and mental 


sufferings are so great that they would be happier or at 
least less unhappy if they were kept continually drugged 
with opiates. This might increase not only their own happiness, 
but happiness in general, for a man who is in great and constant 
pain is not likely to cause much pleasure to anyone, while his 
condition will certainly cause pain to his friends. 

There are thus cases in which the hedonic criterion would 
direct us to a goal which, as far as we can see, is, in respect 
of the other moment of the supreme good, something lower, 
and not higher than the starting-point. Under such cir 
cumstances ought we to follow the hedonic criterion, or to 
reject it? 

128. The question is not put fairly if it is represented as 
a choice between happiness and perfection. For the happiness 
is also an element of perfection. The supreme good consists 
in a complete development of our ideals, and a complete 
satisfaction of them when developed. We are more perfect 
in proportion as either of these takes place, and less perfect 
in proportion as it is wanting. Happiness is not by itself the 
supreme good, but any happiness, so far as it goes, is good, and 
any absence of happiness bad. 

This comes out more clearly if we take examples in which 
the happiness at stake is not that of the agent. For so much 
sin comes from attaching excessive weight to the happiness of 
the sinner, and morality has to check self-interest so much 
oftener than to encourage it, that we are apt to fall into the 
delusion that happiness should not be measured against develop 
ment. But if we ask whether I ought always to choose to 
slightly elevate another person s ideals, at the cost of great 
suffering to him, or if I ought always to choose to slightly 
elevate my own ideals, at the cost of great suffering to some 
one else, it becomes clear that happiness and development are 
ethically commensurable, and that we have no right to treat 
a loss of either as ethically indifferent. 

Thus the conflict is between two elements of the good. 
Now we saw above that it was impossible to compare such 
elements with any hope of discovering which was the more 
desirable. And in this case the difficulty is greater than in 


any other, because we are comparing the two primary elements, 
which exhibit the greatest heterogeneity to be found in the 
content of the good. How miserable would civilized men have 
to be, before it would be better for them to change their state 
for that of happy savages? How much more misery would 
make it worth their while to accept the passivity of oysters ? 

129. Common sense generally deals with this class of 
questions by judging that a great change for the good in one 
element will counterbalance a moderate change for the bad in 
the other. It would approve of a man who sought refuge from 
extreme physical pain in drugs which left his mind slightly less 
clear, but not of one who paid this price to avoid a slight dis 
comfort. It would count a keen insight into fallacies as good, 
although life was thereby made somewhat more dreary, but not 
if the result was to destroy entirely the happiness of the 
thinker, and to injure the happiness of his friends. 

130. But such a position as this is theoretically indefensible. 
It implies that we have some means of knowing, within very 
broad limits, how much happiness will be more worth having 
than a given degree of development. And it is impossible to 
settle this. On the other hand the position is so vague that 
it has very little practical value. For, in most of the cases 
which present themselves, the gains and losses are not so 
extreme in proportion to one another as to allow Common 
sense to give an opinion at all. 

The matter can often be settled, no doubt, by adhering 
strictly to the hedonic criterion on the ground that we are 
much more certain of the happiness or the misery than we are 
of the advance towards, or the retreat from, the goal of a per 
fectly developed ideal. But this is not always true. It some 
times happens that the retrogression in development, which 
accompanies the increased happiness, seems beyond all doubt. 

131. To sum up we have seen that a moral criterion is 
necessary, if any sincere ethical judgment is to be pronounced 
either right or wrong that is, if morality is to have any 
objectivity at all. We have seen that the possible criteria 
appear to be confined to pleasure and perfection. We have 
seen that perfection breaks down, if we attempt to use it in 


this way. Pleasure, on the other hand, does seem to be 
a possible criterion difficult, indeed, to apply, but offering no 
greater difficulties than those which appear to be inherent in 
ethics. But when we enquire if it is a correct criterion of the 
good, we find that it only measures one of the two elements 
into which the good may be analysed. 

There are four possible cases. In the first, the action to 
which the hedonic criterion would guide us, involves in our 
judgment a greater development of ideals. In this case it is 
clear that we should take this course, since both elements of 
the good are increased. 

In the second case, our action, whichever way we act, will 
as far as we can see make no difference to the development of 
ideals. Here too we can safely abide by the hedonic criterion, 
since that measures the only element of the good which our 
decision can be seen to affect. 

In the third case, our action may make a considerable 
difference to the development of our ideals, but we are unable 
to tell whether the difference will be for good or for evil. 
Once more we shall do- well to follow the hedonic criterion. 
For then, at any rate, we shall gain in respect of one element 
of the good. We may indeed lose much more in respect of 
development. But then we may gain in respect of that element 
also. Since the effect on development is unknown, the only 
rational course, if we must act, is to be guided by the effect on 
happiness, which is known. 

But in the fourth case the course to which the hedonic 
criterion would guide us has in our judgment an unfavourable 
effect on the development of ideals, as compared with the 
alternative course. In this case there seems no reasonable 
solution. For we cannot estimate the quantity of loss to de 
velopment, and, if we could, we are ignorant of the common 
standard by which this could be compared with the gain in 

132. In considering how much uncertainty this brings into 
ethics, we must remember once more that the question is not 
limited to the pleasure and the development of the agent but 
includes the consideration of the pleasure and development of 


all people affected by the action. This diminishes the number 
of cases of the fourth class, for the happiness a man gives is 
generally more closely proportioned to the development of his 
ideals than is the happiness he enjoys. 

And, again, we must remember that the object of a moral 
criterion is strictly practical. Its object is to guide our action. 
It follows from this that it is comparatively unimportant if it 
fails to indicate which of two events would be the better, in 
those cases in which our action cannot bring about or hinder 
either alternative. It is no doubt convenient to know what 
would be gain and what loss, but the real need to know arrives 
only when our knowledge can help us to bring about the gain 
or avoid the loss. 

Now the development of our ideals is, in many cases, 
entirely out of our power, to help or hinder. It is possible 
that a man might get more pleasure if he could retain his 
childish taste for sweetmeats, and avoid the growth of a taste 
for claret. At any rate he could satisfy himself at less expense. 
But no efforts, on his own part or that of his teachers, will 
prevent the relative places of sweetmeats and claret in the 
scale of pleasures being different for the average man from what 
they were to the average boy. 

It is possible, again, that the general religious attitude of 
the twelfth century gave a greater balance of pleasure than 
was given by the general religious attitude of the nineteenth 
century. But if the majority had known this beforehand, and 
had acted on the most rigidly Utilitarian principles, could their 
united efforts have averted the Renaissance, the Reformation, 
or the Illumination ? 

Our desires have a dialectic of their own, and no finite ideal 
can satisfy us indefinitely. Some we transcend as soon as we 
have attained them. For others a period of enjoyment is neces 
sary before they pall. In other cases, again, the mere desire 
for an unattained ideal seems to be sufficient to demonstrate, 
after a time, its inadequacy. Our volition has, no doubt, a 
certain influence on this process. But there are many cases 
in which it would proceed in spite of all our efforts to restrain 
it. And even if in these cases, the process should diminish 


happiness, we should do but little harm if we directed our 
action by the hedonic criterion. For, while such action would 
be mistaken, it would be also ineffective. 

133. But after all these deductions it remains true that 
there are cases of the fourth class in which our decisions will 
have a decisive effect on the result, and that ethics offers us 
no principle upon which to make the decisions. There is 
thus no possibility of moral action in deciding them. 

This is a less revolutionary conclusion than it appears at 
first sight. It does not deny that one of the two alternatives 
is always objectively better than the other 1 . One of the two 
finite and incompatible goods the particular gain of pleasure, 
or the particular gain in development of ideals would raise us 
nearer to the supreme good than the other. This is the one 
to be accepted. But, since they have no common standard but 
the supreme good, we could only compare them if we know the 
exact relation of each of them to the supreme good, and this we 
do not know. 

134. The impossibility of decision arises, then, not from the 
facts of the case, but from our ignorance about them. Now 
every system of ethics, with the exception of those which 
believe in an immediate and unerring intuition for every 
particular choice, must hold that there are some cases where it 
is impossible to see what the best course is. If we take the 
hedonic criterion, there are cases in which the alternative 
actions seem to present such equal balances of pleasure that 
it is impossible to see which is the greater. If we take 
perfection, two incompatible goods may seem so equally good 
that no reason can be found for choice. Indeed an ethical 
system which denied that the best and wisest men were 
sometimes compelled to act utterly in the dark would be in 
glaring contradiction to the facts of life. 

There is only one difference between the difficulties I have 
described above as arising on my theory and these others which 

1 There is of course the abstract possibility of the good produced by each 
alternative being exactly equal. But the chance of this is too small to be worth 
considering. And, if it did occur, it is obvious that we could not go wrong, 
whatever we did, which would not be an unsatisfactory conclusion. 


exist on any theory. The latter are merely quantitative. They 
arise from the complexity, or the equality, of data whose nature 
is not incompatible with a reasoned choice, and which admit of 
such choice when the instance is simpler or less evenly balanced. 
In the cases of the fourth class, which I described in Section 
131, on the other hand, the problem is one to which the only 
methods of decision possible to us, in our present imperfect 
state, do not apply at all. 

My theory does thus involve rather more ethical scepticism 
than the others. But this is of no importance in practice. 
For in practice the important point is not to know the reason 
why some moral problems are insoluble. Practice is only con 
cerned to enquire how many, and how serious, are the insoluble 

135. And, fortunately, the attainment of the good does not 
ultimately depend upon action. If it did, it might be rather 
alarming to think that there were certain cases in which we did 
not know how to act. But, after all, if it did depend on action, 
things would be so bad on any theory of ethics that minor differ 
ences would be unimportant. If the nature of reality was hostile 
or indifferent to the good, nothing but the most meagre and 
transitory gains could ever be made by creatures so weak and 
insignificant as we should be in such a universe. But, if as 
Hegel teaches us, that which we recognize as the supreme good 
is also the supreme reality, then it must inevitably realise itself 
in the temporal process, and no mistakes of ours can hinder 
the advance and the eventual attainment. 

136. There is therefore nothing in this occasional failure 
of the only available criterion which should make us think 
more meanly of reality, or more hopelessly of the good. And 
we should count it a gain, and not a loss, if it emphasises the 
inadequacy both of the practice of morality, and of the science 
of ethics. For this is one of the most profound and important 
consequences of all metaphysical idealism. Virtue, and the 
science which deals with it, imply the possibility of sin, they 
imply action, and they imply time. And they share, therefore, 
the inadequacy of matter and of the physical sciences. The 
conception of virtue is, indeed, more adequate than such 


conceptions as matter and notion. But, like them, it reveals 
its own imperfection, and, like them, it must be transcended 
and absorbed before we can reach either the absolutely real or 
the absolutely good. 


I should now attribute more validity and importance to 
immediate judgments as to the relative value of heterogeneous 
goods. (Cp. Sections 129-134.) 



137. We may define punishment as the infliction of pain 
on a person because he has done wrong. That it must be 
painful, and that it must be inflicted on a person who has 
done, or is thought to have done, wrong, will be generally 
admitted. But we must also remember that it is essential 
that it should be inflicted because of the wrong-doing. In the 
children s books of an earlier generation, the boy who went 
out without his mother s leave was struck by lightning. This 
cannot, unless theology is introduced, be considered as a 
punishment. For the lightning would have struck with equal 
readiness any boy on the same spot, although provided with 
the most ample parental authority. And more modern and 
pretentious works, while less amusing, are not more accurate. 
They speak of the rewards and punishments which Nature 
herself distributes among us. But Nature the Nature of 
science and common sense though she often destroys, never 
punishes. For the moral value of an action makes no difference 
to her. She takes no account of intention or purpose. She 
destroys, with a magnificent indifference, alike the man who 
has injured his body by self-indulgence, and the man who has 
injured his body in his work for others. Her bacteria are shed 
abroad equally on the man who let the drains go wrong, on 
the man who is trying to put them right, and on the child 
who was not consulted in the matter. Some people assert 
Nature to be above morality, but, whether above or below, she 
is certainly indifferent to it. And so, to get a proper use of 
the idea of punishment we must go beyond her. 

138. Punishment, then, is pain, and to inflict pain on any 
person obviously needs a justification. There are four ways 

MCT. 9 


in which punishment is usually justified not by any means 
incompatible. One punishment might be defended under all 
of them. The first is the theory of vindictive punishment. 
It asserts that, if a man has done wrong it is right and just 
that he should suffer for it, even if the pain does no good, 
either to himself or to others. The punishment is looked on 
as a satisfaction of abstract justice, and he is said to deserve 
it. The second way in which a punishment may be defended 
is that it is deterrent. It is desirable to suppress wrong-doing. 
And so we try to attach to a fault a punishment so certain, 
and so severe, that the remembrance of it will prevent the 
offender from offending again, while the fear of a similar 
punishment will deter others from a similar crime. 

We must mark here an important distinction. In these 
two cases the object which justified our action could only be 
obtained by punishment. In the first, abstract justice was 
supposed to require that the man should be made unhappy. 
In the second case, it is clear that you can only deter that 
is, frighten men from crime by making its consequences 
painful. But now we come to two other uses of punishment 
which do not depend on its being painful, but on other* 
qualities which the particular punishment happens to possess. 
The first of these is that it may deprive the criminal under 
punishment of the chance of committing fresh crimes. A man 
cannot steal while he is in prison, nor commit murder in this 
life after he has been hanged. But this effect does not come 
because the man has been punished. If he welcomed imprison 
ment or death gladly, they would cease to be punishments, but 
they would be equally preventive of crime. 

The second of these further advantages of punishment is 
the reformation of the criminal. This does not mean that the 
punishment frightens him from offending again. That is the 
deterrent effect, of which we spoke before. But a punishment 
may sometimes really cure a man of his vicious tendencies. 
The solitude which it gives him for reflection, or the religious 
influences which may be brought to bear on him in prison, 
or the instruction which he may receive there, may give him 
a horror of vice or a love of virtue which he had not before. 


But if his punishment does this, it is not as a punishment. 
If his character is, by such means, changed for the better, 
that change is not made because he was unhappy. Thus, for 
reformation, as well as for prevention, punishment may be 
a useful means, but only incidentally; while it is only by 
means of punishment that we can avenge a crime, or deter 
men from repeating it. 

139. Of late years we have almost given up the theory 
of vindictive punishment, both in law and education, though 
it is still retained in theology by those who accept the doctrine 
that punishment may be eternal. The ordinary view of the 
use of punishment in law is, I take it,that its main object is 
deterrent to prevent crime by making the possible criminal 
afraid of the punishment which would follow. Its preventive 
use of checking crime by restraining or removing persons who 
have already proved themselves criminals is also considered 
important, but in a lesser degree. Finally, if the state can 
reform the criminal while punishing him, it considers itself 
bound to try; but the primary object of criminal justice is 
held to be the protection of the innocent rather than the 
improvement of the guilty, and therefore the discouragement 
of crime is taken as of more importance than the reform of 
the criminal. 

Capital punishment, indeed, is still sometimes defended on 
the ground of vindictive justice, but more often as being 
deterrent of crime on the part of others, and a safeguard 
against its repetition by the particular criminal executed. 
And in other cases vindictive punishment has dropped out 
of law, and, perhaps, still more out of education. 

There is no tendency to the contrary in Sir James Stephen s 
ingenious defence of the vindictive pleasure that men feel in 
punishing atrocious criminals. He defends that pleasure on 
the ground that it renders their punishment more certain. 
But he does not recommend that a man should be punished 
merely because he has done wrong. He only says that, in 
cases where punishment is desirable for the good of society, 
it is advisable to cultivate any feelings which will lead people 
to exert themselves to bring that punishment about. 



140. We have now seen what the ordinary view of punish 
ment is. My object is to consider what relation to this view 
is held by Hegel s theory of punishment, as expressed in his 
Philosophy of Law. It has often been said that he supports 
vindictive punishment. And, at first sight, it looks as if he 
did. For he expressly says that it is superficial to regard 
punishment as protective to society, or as deterring or im 
proving the criminal. Now in so far as it is not protective 
or deterring, we must give up the theories which we have 
called the preventive and the deterrent. In so far as it is 
not improving, we must give up the reformatory theory. 
Hegel does not deny .that punishment may deter, prevent, 
or improve, and he does not deny that this will be an 
additional advantage. But he says that none of these are 
the chief object of punishment, and none of these express 
its real nature. It would seem, therefore, that he must intend 
to advocate vindictive punishment. And this is confirmed by 
the fact that he expressly says the object of punishment is not 
to do "this or that" good. 

Nevertheless, I believe that Hegel had not the slightest 
intention of advocating what we have called vindictive punish 
ment. For he says, beyond the possibility of doubt, that in 
punishment the criminal is to be treated as a moral being 
that is, one who is potentially moral, however immoral he may 
be in fact, and one in whom this potential morality must be 
called into actual existence. He complains that by the de 
terrent theory we treat a man like a dog to whom his master 
shows a whip, and not as a free being. He says that the 
criminal has a right to be punished, which indicates that the 
punishment is in a sense for his sake. And, still more 
emphatically, "in punishment the offender is honoured as a 
rational being, since the punishment is looked on as his 
right 1 ." 

Now this is incompatible with the view that Hegel is here 

approving of vindictive punishment. For he says that a man 

is only to be punished because he is a moral being, and that 

it would be an injury to him not to punish him. The 

1 Philosophy of Law, Sections 99 and 100. 


vindictive theory knows nothing of all this. It inflicts pain 
on a man, not for his ultimate good, but because, as it says, 
he has deserved to suffer pain. And, on Hegel s theory, 
punishment depends on the recognition of the criminal s 
rational and moral nature, so that, in his phrase, it is an 
honour as well as a disgrace. Nothing of the sort exists 
for vindictive punishment. It does not care whether the 
sinner can or will be good in the future. It punishes him 
because he has done wrong in the past. If we look at the 
doctrine of hell which is a pure case of vindictive punish 
ment we see that it is possible to conceive punishment of 
this sort when the element of a potential moral character has 
entirely disappeared, for I suppose that the supporters of this 
doctrine would deny the possibility of repentance in hell, since 
they deny the possibility of pardon. 

141. What, then, is Hegel s theory? It is, I think, briefly 
this. In sin, man rejects and defies the moral law. Punish 
ment is pain inflicted on him because he has done this, and 
in order that he may, by the fact of his punishment, be forced 
into recognizing as valid the law which he rejected in sinning, 
and so repent of his sin really repent, and not merely be 
frightened out of doing it again. 

Thus the object of punishment is that the criminal should 
repent of his crime and by so doing realise the moral character, 
which has been temporarily obscured by his wrong action, but 
which is, as Hegel asserts, really his truest and deepest nature. 
At first sight this looks very much like the reformatory theory 
of punishment which Hegel has rejected. But there is a great 
deal of difference between them. The reformatory theory says 
that we ought to reform our criminals while we are punishing 
them. Hegel says that punishment, as such, tends to reform 
them. The reformatory theory wishes to pain criminals as 
little as possible, and to improve them as much as possible. 
Hegel s theory says that it is the pain which will improve 
them, and therefore, although it looks on pain in itself as an 
evil, is by no means anxious to spare it. 

When Hegel says, then, as we saw above, that the object 
of punishment is not to effect "this or that" good, we must not, 


I think, take him to mean that we do not look for a good result 
from punishment. We must rather interpret him to mean 
that it is not in consequence of some accidental good result 
that punishment is to be defended, but that, for the criminal, 
punishment is inherently good. The use of "this or that" to 
express an accidental or contingent good seems in accordance 
with Hegel s usual terminology. And we must also remember 
that Hegel, who hated many things, hated nothing more bitterly 
than sentimental humanitarianism, and that he was in con 
sequence more inclined to emphasise his divergence from a 
reformatory theory of punishment than his agreement with it. 

We have thus reached a theory quite different from any of 
the four which we started this chapter by considering. It is 
not impossible that the world has been acting on the Hegelian 
view for many ages, but as an explicit theory it has found little 
support. We all recognize that a man can be frightened into 
or out of a course of action by punishment. We all recognize 
that a man can sometimes be reformed by influences applied 
while he is being punished. But can he ever be reformed 
simply by punishment ? Repentance and reform involve either 
that he should see that something was wrong which before he 
thought was right, or else that the intensity of his moral feelings 
should be so strengthened that he is enabled to resist a tempta 
tion, to which before he yielded. And why should punishment 
help him to do either of these things ? 

142. There are certain people who look on all punishment 
as essentially degrading. They do not, in their saner moods, 
deny that there may be cases in which it is necessary. 
But they think that, if any one requires punishment, he 
proves himself to be uninfluenced by moral motives, and 
only to be governed by fear. (It is curious, by the way, that 
this school generally accepts the idea that government by 
rewards is legitimate. It does not appear why it is less 
degrading to be bribed into virtue than to be frightened away 
from vice.) They look on all punishment as implying deep 
degradation in some one, if it is justified, the offender must be 
little better than a brute ; if it is not justified, the brutality is 
in the person who inflicts it. 


This reasoning appears to travel in a circle. Punishment, 
they say, is degrading, therefore it can work no moral improve 
ment. But this begs the question. For if punishment could 
work a moral improvement, it would not degrade but elevate. 
The humanitarian argument alternately proves that punishment 
can only intimidate because it is brutalizing, and that it is 
brutalizing because it can only intimidate. The real reason, 
apparently, of the foregone conviction which tries to justify 
itself by this argument is an unreasoning horror of the infliction 
of pain. That pain is an evil cannot be denied. But, even if it 
were the ultimate evil, we could not assert that it was always 
wrong to inflict it. For that would be equivalent to a 
declaration that a dentist was as criminal as a wife-beater. 
No one can deny that the infliction of pain may in the long 
run increase happiness as in the extraction of an aching tooth. 
If pain, in spite of its being evil per se, can thus be desirable 
as a means, the general objection to pain as a moral agent would 
seem to disappear also. 

143. Of course, there is nothing in simple pain, as such, 
which can lead to repentance. If I get into a particular train, 
and break my leg in a collision, that cannot make me repent 
my action in going by the train, though it will very possibly 
make me regret it. For the pain in this case was not a 
punishment. It came, indeed, because I had got into the 
train, but not because I had done wrong in getting into the 

Hegel s theory is that punishment, that is, pain inflicted 
because the sufferer had previously done wrong, may lead to 
repentance for the crime which caused the punishment. We 
have now to consider whether this is true. The thesis is not 
that it always produces repentance which, of course, is not the 
case but that there is something in its nature which tends 
to produce repentance. And this, as we have seen, is not a, 
common theory of punishment. "Men do not become penitent 
and learn to abhor themselves by having their backs cut open 
with the lash; rather, they learn to abhor the lash 1 ." That 
the principle expressed here is one which often operates cannot 
1 George Eliot, Felix Holt, chap. XLI. 


be denied. Can we so far limit its application that Hegel s 
theory shall also be valid? 

We have so far defined punishment as pain inflicted because 
the sufferer has done wrong. But this definition is too narrow, 
for it does not include cases of mistaken punishment. To bring 
these in we must say that it is pain inflicted because the person 
who inflicts it thinks that the person who suffers it has done 
wrong. Repentance, again, is the realisation by the criminal, 
with sufficient vividness to govern future action, that he has 
done wrong. Now is there anything in the nature of punish 
ment to cause the conviction in the mind of the judge to be 
reproduced in the mind of the culprit ? If so, punishment will 
tend to produce repentance. 

144. I submit that this is the case under certain conditions. 
When the culprit recognizes the punishing authority as one 
which embodies the moral law, and which has a right to enforce 
it, then punishment may lead to repentance, but not otherwise. 

Let us examine this more closely. A person who suffers 
punishment may conceive the authority which inflicts it to be 
distinctly immoral in its tendencies. In this case, of course, 
he will not be moved to repent of his action. The punishment 
will appear to him unjust, to incur it will be considered as a duty, 
and he will consider himself not as a criminal, but as a martyr. 
On the other hand, if the punishment causes him to change his 
line of action, it will be due, not to repentance, but to cowardice. 

Or, again, he may not regard it as distinctly immoral as 
punishing him for what it is his duty to do. But he may regard 
it as non-moral as punishing him for what he had a right, 
though not a duty, to do. In this case, too, punishment will 
not lead to repentance. He will not regard himself as a 
martyr, but he will be justified in regarding himself as a very 
badly- treated person. If the punishment does cause him to 
abstain from such action in future, it will not be the result of 
repentance, but of prudence. He will not have come to think 
it wrong, but he may think that it is not worth the pain it will 
bring on him. 

If, however, he regards the authority which punishes him 
as one which expresses, and which has a right to express, the 


moral law, his attitude will be very different. He will no longer 
regard his punishment either as a martyrdom or as an injury. 
On the contrary he will feel that it is the proper consequence 
of his fault. And to feel this, and to be able to accept it as 
such, is surely repentance. 

145. But it may be objected that this leads us to a 
dilemma. The punishment cannot have this moral effect on 
us, unless it comes from an authority which we recognize as 
expressing the moral law, and, therefore, as valid for us. But 
if we recognize this, how did we ever come to commit the sin, 
which consists in a defiance of the moral law? Does not the 
existence of the sin itself prove that we are not in that 
submissive position to the moral law, and to the power which 
is enforcing it, which alone can make the punishment a 
purification ? 

I do not think that this is the case. It is, in the first place, 
quite possible for a recognition of the moral law to exist which 
is not sufficiently strong to prevent our violating it at the 
suggestion of our passions or our impulses, but which is yet 
strong enough, when the punishment follows, to make us 
recognize the justice of the sentence. After all, most cases of 
wrong-doing, which can be treated as criminal, are cases of this 
description, in which a man defies a moral law which he knows 
to be binding, because the temptations to violate it are at that 
moment too strong for his desire to do what he knows to be 
right. In these cases the moral law is, indeed, recognized for 
the offender knows he is doing wrong but not recognized with 
sufficient strength ; for, if it was, he would abstain from doing 
wrong. And, therefore, the moral consciousness is strong 
enough to accept the punishment as justly incurred, though 
it was not strong enough to prevent the offender from incurring 
it. In this case, the significance of the punishment is that it 
tends to produce that vividness in the recognition of the moral 
law, which the occurrence of the offence shows to have been 
previously wanting. The pain and coercion involved in punish 
ment present the law with much greater impressiveness than 
can, for the mass of people, be gained from a mere admission 
that the law is binding. On the other hand, the fact that the 


pain coincides with that intellectual recognition, on the part of 
the offender, that the law is binding, prevents the punishment 
from having a merely intimidating effect, and makes it a possible 
stage in a moral advance. 

146. Besides these cases of conscious violation of a moral 
law, there are others where men sincerely believe in a certain 
principle, and yet systematically fail to see that it applies in 
certain cases, not because they really think that those cases are 
exceptions, but because indolence or prejudice has prevented 
them from ever applying their general principle to those 
particular instances. Thus there have been nations which 
conscientiously believed murder to be sinful, and yet fought 
duels with a good conscience. If pressed, they would have 
admitted a duel to be an attempt to murder. But no one ever 
did press them, and they never pressed themselves. As soon 
as a set of reformers arose, who did press the question, duels 
were found to be indefensible, and disappeared. So for many 
years the United States solemnly affirmed the right of all men 
to liberty, while slavery was legally recognized. Yet they 
would not have denied that slaves were men. 

When such cases occur with a single individual, punishment 
might here, also, tend to repentance. For it was only possible 
to accept the general law, and reject the particular application, 
by ignoring the unanswerable question, Why do not you in this 
case practise what you preach ? Now you can ignore a question, 
but you cannot ignore a punishment, if it is severe enough. 
You cannot put it on one side : you must either assert that it 
is unjust, or admit that it is just. And in the class of cases we 
have now been considering, we have seen that when the question 
is once asked, it must condemn the previous line of action. 
Here, therefore, punishment may lead to repentance. 

147. A third case is that in which the authority is 
recognized, but in which it is not known beforehand that it 
disapproved of the act for which the punishment is awarded. 
Here, therefore, there is no difficulty in seeing that recognition 
of the authority is compatible with transgression of the law, 
because the law is not known till after it has been transgressed. 
It may, perhaps, be doubted whether it is strictly correct to say 


in this case that punishment may lead to repentance, since 
there is no wilful fault to repent, as the law was, by the 
hypothesis, not known at the time it was broken. The question 
is, however, merely verbal. There is no doubt that in such 
cases the punishment, coming from an authority accepted^ as 
moral, may lead a man to see that he has done wrong, though 
not intentionally, may lead him to regret it, and to avoid it in 
future. Thus, at any rate, a moral advance comes from the 
punishment, and it is of no great importance whether we grant 
or deny it the name of repentance. 

148. It may be objected, however, that punishment in the 
last two cases would be totally unjust. We ought to punish, 
it may be said, only those acts which were known by their 
perpetrators, at the time they did them, to be wrong. And 
therefore we have no right to punish a man for any offence, 
which he did not know to be an offence, whether because he 
did not know of the existence of the law, or because he did not 
apply it to the particular case. 

I do not think, however, that we can fairly limit the proper 
application of punishment to cases of conscious wrong-doing, 
plausible as such a restriction may appear at first sight. We 
must remember, in the first place, that ignorance of a moral 
law may be a sign of a worse moral state than that which would 
be implied in its conscious violation. If a man really believed 
that he was morally justified in treating the lower animals 
without any consideration, he would not be consciously doing 
wrong by torturing them. But we should, I think, regard him 
as in a lower moral state than a man who was conscious of his 
duty to animals, though he sometimes disregarded it in moments 
of passion. Yet the latter in these moments would be con 
sciously doing wrong. A man who could see nothing wrong 
in cowardice would surely be more degraded than one who 
recognized the duty of courage, though he sometimes failed 
to carry it out. Thus, I submit, even if punishment were 
limited to cases of desert, there would be no reason to limit 
it to cases of conscious wrong-doing, since the absence of the 
consciousness of wrong-doing may itself be a mark of moral 


But we may, I think, go further. There seems no reason 
why we should enquire about any punishment whether the 
criminal deserved it. For such a question really brings us 
back, if we press it far enough, to the old theory of vindictive 
punishment, which few of those who ask the question would be 
prepared to advocate. On any other theory a man is to be 
punished, not to avenge the past evil, but to secure some future 
good. Of course, a punishment is only to be inflicted for a 
wrong action, for the effect of all punishment is to discourage 
the repetition of the action punished, and that would not be 
desirable unless the action were wrong. But to enquire how 
far the criminal is to be blamed for his action seems irrelevant. 
If he has done wrong, and if the punishment will cure him, he 
has, as Hegel expresses it, a right to his punishment. If a 
dentist is asked to take out an aching tooth, he does not refuse 
to do so, on the ground that the patient did not deliberately 
cause the toothache, and that therefore it would be unjust to 
subject him to the pain of the extraction. And to refuse a man 
the chance of a moral advance, when the punishment appears 
to afford one, seems equally unreasonable. 

Indeed, any attempt to measure punishment by desert gets 
us into hopeless difficulties. If we suppose that every man is 
equally responsible for every action which is not done under 
physical compulsion, we ignore the effect of inherited character, 
of difference of education, of difference of temptation, and, in 
fact, of most of the important circumstances. Punishments 
measured out on such a system may, perhaps, be defended on 
the ground of utility, but certainly not on the ground of desert. 
Again, if we did attempt, in fixing desert, to allow for different 
circumstances, desert would vanish altogether. On a deter- 
minist theory every act is the inevitable result of conditions 
existing before the birth of the agent. If we admit free will, 
any responsibility for the past becomes unintelligible. 

The only alternative seems to be the admission that we 
punish, not to avenge evil, but to restore or produce good, 
whether for society or the criminal. And on this principle we 
very often explicitly act. For example, we do not punish high 
treason because we blame the traitors, who are often moved by 


sincere, though perhaps mistaken, patriotism. We punish it 
because we believe that they would in fact, though with the 
best intentions, do harm to the state. Nor do parents, I 
suppose, punish young children for disobedience, on the ground 
that it is their own fault that they were not born with the 
habit of obedience developed. They do it, I should imagine, 
because punishment is the most effective way of teaching 
them obedience, and because it is desirable that they should 
learn it. 

149. We must now return to the cases in which punish 
ment can possibly produce repentance, from which we have 
been diverted by the question of the justice of the punishment 
inflicted in the second and third cases. There is a fourth and 
last case. In this the authority which inflicts the punishment 
was, before its infliction, recognized faintly and vaguely as 
embodying the moral law, and therefore as being a valid 
authority. But the recognition was so faint and vague that 
it was not sufficient to prevent disobedience to the authority s 
commands. This, it will be seen, is rather analogous to the 
second case. There the law was held so vaguely that the 
logical applications of it were never made. Here the authority 
is recognized, but not actively enough to influence conduct. 
It is scarcely so much that the criminal recognizes it, as that 
he is not prepared to deny it. 

Here the effect of punishment may again be repentance. 
For punishment renders it impossible any longer to ignore the 
authority, and it is, by the hypothesis, only by ignoring it that 
it can be disobeyed. The punishment clearly proves that the 
authority is in possession of the power. If it is pressed far 
enough, there are only two alternatives definitely to rebel 
and declare the punishment to be unjust, or definitely to 
submit and acknowledge it to be righteous. The first is 
impossible here, for the criminal is not prepared definitely to 
reject the authority. There remains therefore only the second. 

Perhaps the best example of this state of things may be 
found in the attitude of the lower boys of a public school 
towards the authority of the masters. Their conviction that 
this is a lawful and valid authority does not influence them 


to so great an extent as to produce spontaneous and invariable 
obedience. But it is, I think, sufficient to prevent them from 
considering the enforcement of obedience by punishment as 
unjust, except in the cases where their own code of morality 
comes explicitly in conflict with the official code cases which 
are not very frequent. In fact, almost all English school 
systems would break down completely, if they trusted to their 
punishments being severe enough to produce obedience by fear. 
Their continued existence seems important evidence that 
punishment can produce other effects than intimidation, 
unless, indeed, any ingenious person should suggest that they 
could get on without punishment altogether. 

150. We have now seen that when punishment is able 
to fulfil the office which Hegel declares to be its highest 
function that of producing repentance it does so by em 
phasising some moral tie which the offender was all along 
prepared to admit, although it was too faint or incomplete 
to prevent the fault. Thus it essentially works on him as, 
at any rate potentially, a moral agent, and thus, as Hegel 
expresses it, does him honour. It is no contradiction of this, 
though it may appear so at first sight, to say that a punish 
ment has such an effect only by the element of disgrace which 
all deserved punishment contains. The deterrent effect is 
different. A punishment deters from the repetition of the 
offence, not because it is a punishment, but because it is 
painful. An unpleasant consequence which followed the act, 
not as the result of moral condemnation, but as a merely 
natural effect, would have the same deterrent result. A man 
is equally frightened by pain, whether he recognizes it as just 
or not. And so a punishment may deter from crime quite as 
effectually when it is not recognized as just, and consequently 
produces no feeling of disgrace. But a punishment cannot lead 
to repentance unless it is recognized as the fitting consequence 
of a moral fault, and it is this recognition which makes a 
punishment appear disgraceful. 

151. It is sometimes maintained that it is undesirable 
to attempt to emphasise the element of disgrace in punishment, 
especially in the education of children. We are recommended 


to trust principally to rewards, and if we should unhappily be 
forced to inflict pain, we must represent it rather as an in 
convenience which it would be well to avoid for the future, 
than as a punishment for an offence which deserved it. And 
for this reason all punishments, which proclaim themselves to 
be such, are to be avoided. 

It seems to me that to trust to the influence of the 
pleasures of rewards, and of the pain of punishments, implies 
that the person to be influenced is governed by pleasure 
and pain. On the other hand, to trust to the fact that his 
punishment will appear a disgrace to him implies that he is, 
to some degree, influenced by a desire to do right; for other 
wise he would feel no disgrace in a punishment for doing 
wrong. And this second view of human nature is, at any 
rate, the more cheerful of the two. 

It is necessary to distinguish between degradation and 
disgrace. A man is degraded by anything which lowers his 
moral nature. A punishment which does this would of 
course be so far undesirable. But he is disgraced by being 
made conscious of a moral defect. And to become con 
scious of a defect is not to incur a new one. It is rather 
the most hopeful chance of escaping from the old one. It 
can scarcely be seriously maintained that, if a fault has been 
committed, the offender is further degraded by becoming 
ashamed of it. 

This confusion seems to be at the root of the controversy 
as to whether the corporal punishment of children is degrading. 
There is no doubt that it expresses, more unmistakeably and 
emphatically than any substitute that has been proposed for 
it, the fact that it is a punishment. It follows that, unless the 
offender is entirely regardless of the opinions of the authority 
above him, it is more calculated than other punishments 
to cause a feeling of disgrace. But, supposing it to be inflicted 
on the right occasions, this is surely an advantage in a punish 
ment. That it produces any degradation is entirely a separate 
assertion, which demands a separate proof a demand which it 
would be difficult to gratify. 

152. But although a punishment must, to fulfil its highest 


end, be disgraceful, it does not follow that we can safely trust 
to the disgrace involved in the offence itself as a punishment 
a course which is sometimes recommended. The aim of punish 
ment is rather to produce repentance, and, as a means to it, 
disgrace. If we contented ourselves with using as a punish 
ment whatever feeling of disgrace arose independently in the 
culprit s mind, the result would be that we should only affect 
those who were already conscious of their fault, and so required 
punishment least, while those who were impenitent, and so 
required it most, would escape altogether. We require, there 
fore, a punishment which will produce disgrace where it is not, 
not merely utilize it where it is. Otherwise we should not 
only distribute our punishments precisely in the wrong fashion, 
but we should also offer a premium on callousness and im 
penitence. As a matter of prudence it is as well to make sure 
that the offender, if he refuses to allow his punishment to be 
profitable to him, shall at any rate find it painful. 

And in this connection we must also remember that the 
feeling of disgrace which ensues on punishment need be 
nothing more introspective or morbid than a simple recognition 
that the punishment was deserved. On the other hand, an 
attempt to influence any one especially children by causing 
them to reflect on the disgrace involved in the fault itself, must 
lead to an habitual self-contemplation, the results of which are 
not unlikely to be both unwholesome to the penitents, and 
offensive to their friends. 

153. I have thus endeavoured to show that there are 
certain conditions under which punishment can perform the 
work which Hegel assigns to it. The question then arises, 
When are these conditions realised? We find the question 
of punishment prominent in jurisprudence and in education. 
It is found also in theology, in so far as the course of the 
world is believed to be so ordered as to punish sin. Now it 
seems to me that Hegel s view of punishment cannot properly 
be applied in jurisprudence, and that his chief mistake regard 
ing it lay in supposing that it could. 

In the first place, the paramount object of punishment from 
the point of view of the state ought, I conceive, to be the 


prevention of crime, and not the reformation of the criminal. 
The interests of the innocent are to be preferred to those of 
the guilty for there are more of them. And the deterrent 
effect of punishment is far more certain than its purifying 
effect. (I use the word purifying to describe the effect of 
which Hegel treats. It is, I fear, rather stilted, but the word 
reformatory, which would be more suitable, has by common 
consent been appropriated to a different theory.) We cannot, 
indeed, eradicate crime, but experience has shown that by 
severe and judicious punishment we can diminish it to an 
enormous extent. On the other hand, punishment can only 
purify by appealing to the moral nature of the culprit. This 
may be always latent, but is sometimes far too latent for us to 
succeed in arousing it. Moreover the deterrent effect of a 
punishment acts not only on the criminal who suffers it, but 
on all who realise that they will suffer it if they commit a 
similar offence. The purifying influence can act only on those 
who suffer the punishment. From these reasons it would appear 
that if the state allows its attention to be distracted in the 
humble task of frightening criminals from crime, by the higher 
ambition of converting them to virtue, it is likely to fail in 
both, and so in its fundamental object of diminishing crime. 

154. And in addition there seems grave reason to doubt 
whether, in a modern state, the crimes dealt with and the 
attitude of the criminal to the community are such that 
punishment can be expected to lead to repentance. The crimes 
with which a state has to deal may be divided into two classes. 
The first and smaller class is that in which the state, for its 
own welfare, endeavours to suppress by punishment conduct 
which is actuated by conscientious convictions of duty as is 
often the case with high treason. Now in these cases the 
criminal has deliberately adopted a different view of his duty 
to that entertained by the state. He is not likely, therefore, 
to be induced to repent of his act by a punishment which can 
teach him nothing, except that he and the state disagree in 
their views of his duty which he knew before. His punish 
ment may be resented by him as unjust persecution, or may be 
accepted as the inevitable result of difference of opinion, but 

MCT. 10 


can never be admitted by him as justly deserved by his action, 
and cannot therefore change the way in which he regards that 

155. In the second, and much larger, class of criminal 
offences, the same result happens, though from very different 
reasons. The average criminal convicted of theft or violence 
is, no doubt, like all of us, in his essential nature, a distinctly 
moral being. And, even in action, the vast majority of such 
criminals are far from being totally depraved. But by the 
time a man has become subject to the criminal law for any 
offence, he has generally become so far callous, with regard to 
that particular crime, that his punishment will not bring about 
his repentance. The average burglar may clearly learn from 
his sentence that the state objects to burglary. He might even, 
if pressed, admit that the state was, from an objective point of 
view, more likely to be right than he was. But, although he 
may have a sincere objection to murder, he is probably in a 
condition where the state s disapproval of his offences with 
regard to property will rouse no moral remorse in him. In 
such a case repentance is not possible. Punishment can, under 
the circumstances I have mentioned above, convince us that we 
have done wrong. But it cannot inspire us with the desire to 
do right. The existence of this is assumed when we punish 
with a view to the purification of the offender, and it is for 
this reason that the punishment, as Hegel says, honours him. 
Where the desire to do right is, at any rate as regards one field 
of action, hopelessly dormant, punishment must fall back on 
its lower office of intimidation. And this would happen with a 
large proportion of those offences which are dealt with by the 
criminal law. 

156. Many offences, no doubt especially those committed 
in a moment of passion, or by persons till then innocent are 
not of this sort, but do co- exist with a general desire to do right, 
which has been overpowered by a particular temptation. Yet 
I doubt if, at the present day, repentance in such cases would 
often result from punishment by the state. If the criminal s 
independent moral will was sufficiently strong, he would, when 
the particular temptation was removed, repent without the aid 


of punishment. If it was not sufficiently strong, I doubt if the 
punishment would much aid it. The function in this respect 
of punishment was, as we have seen, to enforce on the offender 
the disapproval with which his action was considered by an 
authority, whom he regarded as expressing the moral law. 
But why should the modern citizen regard the state as 
expressing the moral law ? He does not regard it as something 
above and superior to himself, as the ancient citizen regarded 
his city, as the child regards his parent, or the religious man 
his God. The development of individual conscience and 
responsibility has been too great for such an attitude. The 
state is now for him an aggregate of men like himself. He 
regards obedience to it, within certain limits, as a duty. But 
this is because matters which concern the whole community 
are matters on which the whole community is entitled to speak. 
It does not rest on any belief that the state can become the 
interpreter of the moral law for the individual, so that his 
moral duty lies in conforming his views to its precepts. Not 
only does he not feel bound, but he does not feel entitled, 
to surrender in this way his moral independence. He must 
determine for himself what he is himself to hold as right and 
wrong. The result of this is that, if he sees for himself that 
his action was wrong, he will repent without waiting for the 
state to tell him so, and, if he does not see it for himself, the 
opinion of the state will not convince him. I do not assert that 
there are no cases in which a man finds himself in the same 
childlike relation to the state as was possible in classical times, 
but they are too few to be of material importance. And except 
in such cases we cannot expect the punishments of jurisprudence 
to have a purifying effect. 

157. Hegel s mistake, in applying his conception of 
punishment to criminal law, resulted from his high opinion of 
the state as against the individual citizen. The most significant 
feature of all his writings on the metaphysics of society is the 
low place that he gives to the conscience and opinions of the 
individual. He was irritated not without cause at the 
follies of the writers who see nothing in morality but con 
scientious convictions, or "the good will." But he did not 



lay enough emphasis on the fact that, though the approval 
of conscience does not carry us very far, by itself, towards a 
satisfactory system of morality, yet without the approval of 
the individual conscience no system of morality can now be 
satisfactory. It has become impossible for any adult man to 
yield up his conscience into the hands of any other man or body 
of men. A child, in so far as it is young enough to be treated 
entirely as a child, can and ought to find its morality in the 
commands of others. And those who believe in a divine 
revelation will naturally endeavour to place themselves in an 
attitude of entire submission to what appears to them to be 
the divine will, whether manifested through books, or through 
some specially favoured organization of men. But a man is 
not a child, and the state is not God. A man may indeed 
accept the direction of a teacher whom he has chosen even 
accept it implicitly. But then this is by virtue of his own act 
of choice. We cannot now accept any purely outward authority 
as having, of its own right, the power of deciding for us on 
moral questions. 

158. Hegel points out, indeed, in the Phenomenology, that 
the highest realisation of the state that in which it is the 
universal which completely sums up the individuals which 
compose it may be considered as being in the past or the 
future, but not in the present. But when he comes to deal 
with the state in detail he seems to forget this. Sometimes he 
appears to think of the classical state as not yet passed away. 
The ancient state did, indeed, endeavour to stand in the same 
relation to its citizens as the father to the child, or even as God 
to man, as is indicated by the very close connection which 
existed in the ancient world between religion and patriotism. 
But to attempt to bring this idea into the modern world is to 
ignore the enormous development of the idea of individuality, 
which accompanied, whether as cause or effect, the rise of 
Christianity, and was marked by the increasing prominence 
of the ideas of immortality and conscience. The individual 
began then to claim the right of relating himself directly to 
the highest realities of the universe and, among others, to 
duty. He insisted on judging for himself. The state could be 


no longer the unquestioned judge of right and wrong; it could 
now itself be judged and condemned by the individual on moral 
grounds. It had still a claim to obedience, but not to un 
questioning veneration. Nor is there anything inconsistent 
with this in the authority perhaps as strong as that of the 
classical state which the church exercised during the middle 
ages. For the church was regarded as a supernaturally 
commissioned authority. It could never have held its position 
if it had been looked on as an assembly of mere men. And in 
the course of years it became evident that even the church s 
claim to unquestioning veneration could not stand before the 
demand of the individual to have everything justified before 
the tribunal of his own spirit. 

159. From another point of view, Hegel may be said to 
have supposed that the ideal state had already come, when it 
was still far in the future. Indeed we may go further, and say 
that, by the time the state had become ideal, it would have 
long ceased to be a state. No doubt Hegel looked forward, 
and by his philosophical system was justified in looking forward, 
to an ultimate ideal unity which should realise all, and far 
more than all, that the classical state had ever aimed at. He 
contemplated a universal so thoroughly realised in every 
individual that the most complete unity of the whole should 
be compatible with the most complete self-development of the 
parts. But before this last and highest development of reality 
could be reached, we should have to leave behind us altogether 
the world of matter and time, which would be incompatible 
with such a complete perfection of spirit. Still more would 
it be impossible in a stage of development in which external 
government and criminal justice still existed. And to encourage 
the actual state, as we see it in the world to-day, to assume 
functions justified only in the far past, or in the remote future, 
is disastrous both in theory and in practice. No part of Hegel s 
teaching has been productive of more confusion than his 
persistent attempt to identify the kingdom of Prussia with the 
kingdom of Heaven. 

160. The result then, to which we have come, is as follows. 
Hegel s view of the operation of punishment is one which is 


correct under certain circumstances. And when punishment 
has this function, it is fulfilling its highest end, since only 
in this manner does it succeed in really eradicating the fault 
which caused it. But this function is one which it scarcely 
ever succeeds in performing at present, when administered in 
the course of criminal law, and which it is nob more likely to 
succeed in performing in the future. 

This does not, however, render it unimportant. For, 
although it is disappearing in jurisprudence, it is persistent 
and important in education. There is not the same need in 
education as in law that punishment shall be deterrent at all 
costs. The ordinary offences of children are not very dangerous 
to the structure of society, and we can therefore turn our atten 
tion, without much risk, rather to curing them than suppressing 
them. And, as a general rule, the decisions of the elder world 
are tacitly accepted by the younger as righteous. In cases 
where the authority who inflicts the punishment, or the law 
upon which it is inflicted, are explicitly rejected as unjust by 
the offender, we cannot hope that punishment will be more 
than deterrent. But such cases are infrequent, and there is 
good reason to suppose that they will remain so. For it is a 
fact which, though often forgotten, cannot well be denied, that 
children are born young a fact which has some significance. 



161. Hegel s doctrine of Sin is complicated, and cannot 
be found in any single place in his writings. It may, I believe, 
be accurately summed up as follows. Innocence, Sin, and 
Virtue are respectively the Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis 
of a triad. Sin, again, may be analysed into three subordinate 
terms, which also form a triad Sin proper, Ketribution, and 
Amendment. There is, therefore, if this theory is correct, 
something in the nature of Innocence which spontaneously 
produces Sin, in Sin, which produces Ketribution, in Retribu 
tion which produces Amendment, and in Amendment which 
produces Virtue. 

Sin, then, is the Thesis in a triad which forms the 
Antithesis of a larger triad. It is thus both positive and 
negative positive within a limited sphere, but negative in 
asmuch as that whole sphere is negative. And this does 
justice to the double nature of sin. All sin is in one sense 
positive, for it is an affirmation of the sinner s nature. When 
I sin, I place my own will in a position of supremacy. This 
shall be so, because I will it to be so, regardless of the right. 
But this right, which my sin violates, is itself a far deeper 
and truer reality than my sinful will. Indeed it is the true 
reality of that will itself. The fact that I sin implies that 
I am amenable to the moral law. And that means that it 
is my nature to be virtuous. If I did not violate the deepest 
law of my own nature by sinning, it would not be sin. And 
thus my sin while from one point of view an affirmation of my 
own nature, is from a more comprehensive standpoint a denial 
of it. No theory of sin can account for all the facts unless it 
allows for both these aspects. 

152 SIN 

162. Before we consider the theory in detail, let us enquire 
of what species of proof it is susceptible. An a priori proof 
is impossible. For the subject-matter to be dealt with is not 
exclusively a priori. It contains empirical elements. And 
therefore the proof must itself be empirical. 

We must not, then, demand for these triads a demonstration 
of the same nature as the demonstrations of the triads of the 
Logic. For there the terms were a priori, and so were the 
demonstrations. Moreover the dialectic method, as Hegel uses 
it in the Logic, could not bring out the results required here. 
For the result of each of those demonstrations is to prove the 
lower steps of the process to be inadequate representations of 
the truth, and so to deprive them of any absolute validity 
whatever, and reduce them to moments of the higher term 
which transcends them. 

Now Hegel s object is not to prove that Innocence and Sin 
are inadequate expressions for a reality for which Virtue is an 
adequate expression. He is here speaking of a process in time, 
and his assertion is that Innocence produces Sin, and Sin 
produces Virtue. Each of them is a separate phenomenon in 
time, and, from that point of view, one is as real as the other. 
All temporal processes, no doubt, are based for Hegel on a 
non-temporal reality, but here he is confining himself to the 
temporal process. And therefore the Synthesis, though it 
proceeds from the lower terms, and has a greater significance 
than they have, is not the sole reality of those terms, as is 
the case in the transitions of the Logic, which, according to 
Hegel, go deeper into the truth of things. 

All that Hegel has demonstrated a priori is the general 
nature of reality. His explanations of any empirical fact, such 
as Sin, must depend on the degree in which they succeed in 
accounting for the phenomena. We know that Innocence, Sin, 
and Virtue exist. In some way or another they must spring 
from the general nature of reality, as deduced in the Logic. 
In so far as Hegel s theory of Sin agrees both with the 
empirical facts, and with the conclusions of the Logic, we 
shall have reason to think it true. 

It is clear that all the evidence which can support such 

SIN 153 

an argument falls very far short of demonstration. But there 
is no reason to suppose that Hegel did not see this. As I have 
pointed out elsewhere 1 there is no trace of any belief on 
Hegel s part that the application which he made of his Logic 
shared the demonstrative certainty which he unquestionably 
attributed to the Logic itself. He may have been too sanguine 
as to the degree of certainty which could be attributed to 
his theories of ethics, of history, and of religion, but we find 
no assertion that their certainty is of the same nature as that 
which is possessed by the process of categories leading on to 
the Absolute Idea. 

Before proceeding further, we must notice two points which 
will be discussed more fully later on. In the first place the 
triad of Innocence, Sin and Virtue is put forward by Hegel 
as the sufficient explanation of Sin, but not as the sufficient 
explanation of Virtue. Sin never occurs except as the Anti 
thesis of such a triad, but Virtue, as we shall see, can occur 
in other circumstances, and not only as the Synthesis of 
Innocence and Sin. In the second place, Hegel does not 
commit himself to the statement that, wherever Innocence 
is found, the other terms must follow, but only says that 
there is something in the nature of each term which tends 
to bring on its successor. What is the precise meaning of such 
a tendency is a question which must be deferred. 

163. The statement of the principal triad of Innocence, 
Sin and Virtue is to be found in the Philosophy of Religion. 
The third part of this deals with the Absolute Religion, and 
is divided into three sections, the second of which deals with 
the "Kingdom of the Son." This is again subdivided, the 
third division being entitled "Bestimmung des Menschen." 
It is in the first half of this 2 division that Hegel considers 
the question now before us. 

The exposition is too condensed to admit of further 
abbreviation, but the following passages strike the key-note : 
"The primary condition of Man, which is superficially repre 
sented as a state of innocence, is the state of nature, the 

1 Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Section 207. 

2 op. cit. ii. 257282 (trans, iii. 45 72). 

154 SIN 

animal state. Man must (soil) be culpable; in so far as he 
is good, he must not be good as any natural thing is good, 
but his guilt, his will, must come into play, it must be possible 
to impute moral acts to him. Guilt really means the possibility 
of imputation. 

"The good man is good along with and by means of his 
will, and to that extent because of his guilt (Schuld). In 
nocence (Unschuld) implies the absence of will, the absence 
of evil, and consequently the absence of goodness. Natural 
things and the animals are all good, but this is a kind of 
goodness which cannot be attributed to Man ; in so far as he 
is good, it must be by the action and consent of his will 1 ." 

"The animal, the stone, the plant is not evil; evil is first 
present within the sphere of knowledge ; it is the consciousness 
of independent Being, or Being-for-self relatively to an Other, 
but also relatively to an Object which is inherently universal 
in the sense that it is the Notion, or rational will. It is only 
by means of this separation that I exist independently, for 
myself, and it is in this that evil lies. To be evil means, 
in an abstract sense, to isolate myself; the isolation which 
separates me from the Universal represents the element of 
rationality, the laws, the essential characteristics of Spirit. 
But it is along with this separation that Being-for-self originates, 
and it is only when it appears that we have the Spiritual as 
something universal, as Law, what ought to be 2 ." 

"The deepest need of Spirit consists in the fact that the 
opposition in the subject itself has attained its universal, i.e. 
its most abstract extreme. This is the division, the sorrow, 
referred to. That these two sides are not mutually exclusive, 
but constitute this contradiction in one, is what directly proves 
the subject to be an infinite force of unity; it can bear this 
contradiction. This is the formal, abstract, but also infinite 
energy of the unity which it possesses. 

"That which satisfies this need is the consciousness of 
reconcilement, the consciousness of the abolition, of the nullity 
of the opposition, the consciousness that this opposition is 

1 op. cit. ii. 260 (trans, iii. 48). 

2 op. cit. ii. 264 (trans, iii. 53). 

SIN 155 

not the truth, but that, on the contrary, the truth consists 
in reaching unity by the negation of this opposition, i.e., the 
peace, the reconciliation which this need demands. Recon 
ciliation is the demand of the subject s sense of need, and 
is inherent in it as being what is infinitely one, what is 

"This abolition of the opposition has two sides. The 
subject must come to be conscious that this opposition 
is not something implicit or essential, but that the truth, 
the inner reality (das Innere), implies the abolition and 
absorption of this opposition. Accordingly, just because it 
is implicitly, and from the point of truth, done away with 
in something higher, the subject as such in its Being-for-self 
can reach and arrive at the abolition of this opposition, that 
is to say, can attain to peace or reconciliation 1 ." 

164. Innocence, says Hegel, "implies the absence of will." 
This must be taken as a limit only. If Innocence is used as 
an attribute of conscious beings, it cannot involve the complete 
absence of will. To suppose that knowledge could exist 
entirely separated from will would be a mistake of a kind 
completely alien to Hegel s system. But Innocence, as it is 
used by Hegel, is clearly a matter of degree, and so we can 
say that, in proportion as a conscious being is innocent, he 
is devoid of will. 

Now whatever is devoid of will is in harmony with the 
universe. It is only purposes which can be real, and yet out 
of harmony with all other reality. All facts (including, of 
course, the existence of purposes, regarded as mental events) 
must be compatible with one another. If two asserted facts 
would be incompatible, we are certain that one at least of 
them is unreal. Every fact therefore is compatible with every 
other, and so with the universe, which is the unity of which 
all these facts are differentiations. And there is no meaning 
in saying that two compatible facts are inharmonious, unless 
one of them is, or includes, a purpose which the other prevents 
it from realising. 

Whatever is innocent, then, is in harmony with the universe. 
1 op. cit. ii. 277 (trans, iii. 67). 

156 SIN 

But this involves, for Hegel, that it is good. For the uni 
verse as a whole is most emphatically good for Hegel. He 
has told us that the real is rational, and the rational is real. 
Thus he says that "natural things and the animals are all 

Yet he also says that innocence "implies the absence of 
goodness." In this he refers no longer to natural things, 
but to man. It is evident that a goodness which has nothing 
to do with the will is not moral goodness. And a man is not 
properly called good unless he is morally good. A stone or 
a cabbage have no possibility of will, and it would be un 
reasonable to deny their harmony with the universe the name 
of goodness, on the ground that they do not possess a good 
will. But a man has a will, and so the possibility of moral 
goodness. He is therefore to be judged by a more exacting 
standard, and Hegel will not call him good if he only pos 
sesses that harmony which forms the goodness of beings 
without will. 

165. When a man is virtuous, he wills to follow certain 
principles. These principles, according to Hegel s idealism, 
are the same as those in conformity to which the universe 
works. And, this being so, the virtuous man, like the innocent 
being, is in harmony with the universe but this time in a 
deeper harmony. He is in harmony with it, not merely as 
a part which cannot be out of harmony, but as an individual 
who can propose to himself an end, and who has proposed 
to himself an end which is good, and therefore, since the 
universe is good, in harmony with the universe. The will 
is, of course, part of the universe, but it need not be in 
harmony with it. For that is the nature of will it is a fact, 
and causally determined by the world of reality, and yet it 
may be so determined as to postulate what the world of 
reality forbids, and to condemn what the world of reality 
insists on. Where there is will, there can be discord. But 
between a virtuous will and a righteous universe there is 

Innocence and Virtue agree, then, in the fact that the 
nature of each of them is good. But Innocence is merely 

SIN 157 

blindly determined to good from the outside. .Virtue, on the 
other hand, freely determines itself to goodness. (It is scarcely 
necessary to repeat that Hegel s use of the words Freedom and 
Self-determination has nothing to do with what is generally 
called Free-will, but refers simply to the unthwarted develop 
ment of the internal nature of the agent.) The element which 
Virtue has, and which Innocence lacks, is the individual and 
his self-determination. 

166. There can be no doubt, for a philosophy like Hegel s, 
which finds all reality to be Spirit, that Virtue is higher than 
Innocence. And, in that case, there will be sub specie temporis 
a process from one to the other. In what manner may we 
expect that this will happen? 

We may reasonably hope that we shall be able to trace 
in it a dialectic triad. We cannot, for reasons which I have 
pointed out elsewhere 1 , be certain that we shall be able to 
do so. But it is at any rate worth trying. All process is, 
if Hegel s philosophy is right, of a dialectic nature, and, in 
spite of the complexity of all concrete phenomena, we may be 
able to perceive it in this particular case. 

The nature of Virtue suggests very strongly that it may 
turn out to be a Synthesis of Innocence with some other term, 
since it combines in its unity an element which Innocence 
possesses, and one in which Innocence is deficient. In that 
case the other term will emphasise the element in which 
Innocence is deficient, while it will unduly ignore the element 
which is specially characteristic of Innocence. 

Even apart from the dialectic, this would not be an 
improbable method of progress. Whether Hegel s Logic be 
correct or not, we have only to look round us to see many 
cases where progress can only be made by successively over 
estimating each of two complementary and partial truths. 
Not until the falsity of the first of these, taken in isolation, 
has driven us on to the second, and that also has proved 
unsatisfactory by itself, are we in a position to combine both 
in a really adequate manner. 

1 Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, chap. vn. 

158 SIN 

167. Now if there is such a dialectic process to be traced 
in this case, the complementary extreme will be the self- 
determination of the individual regardless of the relation which 
that determination bears to the good. And thus we get Sin 
as the remaining term of the triad. For although this random 
self-determination may sometimes cause me to will something, 
which it is, more or less, desirable that I should will, the 
position would still be morally wrong. It is, indeed, the 
essence of all moral wrong, because it denies all difference 
between the wrong and the right. Not only do I do what 
I will which is a tautology when we are dealing with volun 
tary action but this ends the matter. There is no other 
criterion of action except that I will it. And since all my 
voluntary actions satisfy this test, all distinctions of good and 
evil are swept away. 

This position is involved in all Sin. It is true that a man 
often acts sinfully with a perfectly clear intellectual conviction 
that there is a moral law, and that he is breaking it. But 
in committing the sin, he rejects the moral law practically, 
if not theoretically, and the question is one of practice. He 
decides that for him, at any rate at that minute, the will to do 
the action shall be its sufficient justification. 

By saying that this is of the essence of Sin, we do not 
imply that nothing can be virtuous, unless it is done from the 
motive of being virtuous. It is quite possible to hold that 
actions from other motives are also virtuous. The position of 
Sin lies in the assertion or rather in the practical adoption 
of the maxim that my motives need no other justification than 
the fact that they are my motives. 

It should be noted in passing that such self-determination 
as this can never issue in conduct exactly like that which 
would be the result of virtue. A sinful motive may result, 
no doubt, in action which resembles very closely the action 
which would be taken in similar circumstances by an agent 
who was acting virtuously. A dishonest judge may condemn 
for a bribe a man who really deserves condemnation. A 
subscription to a charity, which was given to catch a title, 
may be used for the effective relief of real misery. But 

SIN 159 

content and form are never without some influence on one 
another. And an action inspired by a sinful motive will never 
exactly resemble an action inspired by a virtuous motive, 
though they may, of course, share some particular charac 
teristic, which from some particular point of view may be the 
only important one. 

Sin, then, is the complementary moment to Innocence. 
And it is clear that Innocence precedes Sin, and does not 
follow it. Innocence is therefore the Thesis, and Sin the 

168. This stage is the most novel, and the most para 
doxical, of the whole theory. The arguments for it, as was 
remarked above, rely on the fact that it is consistent with the 
general nature of reality, as demonstrated by Hegel in the 
Logic, and that it is able to explain, on the basis of that 
general nature, the existence of Sin. But we are now in a 
position to notice that it is only able to explain the existence 
of Sin on the assumption of the existence of Evil. 

Evil is, of course, a much wider conception than Sin, 
which implies a conscious acceptance of Evil. Whatever is 
imperfect is evil. Innocence is therefore evil as much as Sin 
is. Indeed, it is in one sense more evil, for it is further from 
Virtue. Now Hegel s explanation of Sin is that it is the 
inevitable transition from Innocence to Virtue. But this leaves 
unexplained the necessity of any progress towards Virtue at 
all. Why is the first step in the time-process anything so 
imperfect, and therefore so evil, as Innocence? If Virtue is 
the perfect state, why, in a rational universe, were we not all 
virtuous all along? Why do we find ourselves in such a 
position that we have to climb up to Virtue by means of Sin ? 
This is part of the general question of the origin of Evil. 
Hegel s treatment of this subject does not fall within the 
scope of this chapter 1 . 

169. It is clear from the sections of the Philosophy of 
Religion to which I have referred that Hegel regards the 
movement from Innocence to Sin as followed and completed 
by a movement from Sin to Virtue. But the details of this 

1 Cp. Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, chap. v. 

160 SIN 

are not given by him here. When, however,, he deals, in the 
Philosophy of Law, with the action of the state as regards 
crime, he does, as we have seen, give a triad, which in this 
special case leads from Sin to Virtue. We have, first, Sin. 
Then, as the Antithesis, comes Punishment. The result, in 
which both the assertion of self in Sin, and the suppression 
of self in Punishment, are contained, is Repentance 1 . 

The relation of Punishment and Repentance to Sin is not 
regarded by Hegel as invented by society for its own advantage, 
but as due to the inherent nature of Sin. It is not, I think, 
an unreasonable inference to conclude that an analogous process 
is to be found in the case of those other transitions from Sin 
to Virtue which are not due to the punishments deliberately 
inflicted by other human beings, acting as conscious guardians 
of right. Hegel, so far as I know, does not state this view 
anywhere. But his emphasis, in the Philosophy of Law, on 
the inevitability of the relation is so strong that I think we 
are justified in holding that he believed some such relation 
to exist in every case of Sin. 

170. In every case of Sin, then, there would follow suffer 
ing consequent on it, and tending to repress the self-assertion 
in which the sin consisted. And when this had been effected, 
the agent would be in a condition in which he was freed from 
his sin. It would, however, be inconvenient to use in all cases 
the terms Punishment and Repentance. The common use of 
Punishment confines it to cases of suffering inflicted by a 
conscious being with the explicit motive of counteracting the 
sin in some way. And we do not usually speak of the effect 
of Punishment on a man except in cases where the suffering 
is realised by him to have been inflicted because of a belief 
that he had sinned. The effect of a penalty which was not 
recognized to be meant as a penalty would scarcely be called 
the effect of Punishment. 

Now if we are speaking of suffering which always follows 
sin, we shall have to exclude these two elements. It may be 
true that it always does follow. But it certainly is not always 
inflicted by other men as a punishment for the sin, nor is it 

1 Cp. chap. v. 

SIN 161 

always recognized by the sinner as the consequence of his 
action. The word Punishment is therefore rather inappro 
priate, and, for this wider meaning, it might be more suitable 
to use Ketribution. 

In the same way, Eepentance is not used except in cases 
where the sin is remembered, and explicitly regretted. In this 
sense Eepentance cannot be an invariable step between Sin 
and Virtue, for there are many cases where our recovery from 
a past fault simply consists in the gradual development of a 
more healthy character, and where we cannot repent of the sin, 
because it is not remembered perhaps, indeed, was never 
recognized as a sin at all. Here too, therefore, we shall require 
a fresh term. Now the word Amendment is not, I think, 
limited, like Repentance, to a process of whose ethical meaning 
the agent is conscious, and thus it will be suitable for our 
present purpose. 

The sub-triad of Sin, then, will be made up of the following 
members, Sin proper, Retribution, and Amendment. And in 
this way, as I remarked at the beginning of the chapter, Hegel 
does justice both to the positive and the negative aspects of 
Sin. It is negative as against Innocence and Virtue. For 
it consists in opposition to that order of the universe which 
Innocence blindly obeys and Virtue freely accepts. But from 
another point of view Sin, as the assertion of the ultimate 
value of the particular individual in his particularity, is 
just the unbridled positive, which requires checking and 
moderating. Both these characteristics are accounted for 
by taking Sin as the Thesis in a triad which is itself an 

171. But why, it may be asked, does Retribution follow, 
or at all events tend to follow, every act of Sin, independently 
of the conscious efforts of mankind to inflict Punishment? 
The answer is that the universe agrees with the ideals of 
morality. In so far, therefore, as any man seeks his good in 
ends which are incompatible with those ideals, he is placing 
his will in opposition to the principles which regulate the 
world as a whole, and which are the deeper truth of his own 
nature. And thus he must be baffled either by external 

MCT. 11 

162 SIN 

things, or, if that should not happen, by the internal discord 
which his action will produce in himself. 

It is in this second form that the inevitability of Retri 
bution, and its intrinsic connection with sin, are most clearly 
shown. The whole position of Sin is contradictory, in a way 
which Hegel s system brings out, perhaps, with greater clear 
ness than any other. For Sin depends on the emphasis laid 
on the self. The attitude of the sinner is that what he wants 
is of supreme importance. And he is so far right, that every 
self is of supreme importance, and that its claim to be treated 
as an end is entirely justifiable. But, while the sinner is right 
in treating himself as of supreme importance, he is wrong in 
his conception of his nature. The true self of any man is 
not something which exists in particularity and isolation, and 
which finds its satisfaction in the gratification of desires arising 
from its particular and isolated nature. On the contrary it 
only exists in its individuality by reason of its necessary and 
vital unity with all other selves, and it can only find satis 
faction in so far as it places its good in the realisation, by 
means of its individual nature, of that unity. The only true 
peace for the self is to be found in its free self-determination 
to carry out the purpose of the universe, since that purpose is 
its own deepest nature ; and the purpose of the universe the 
universe which has been demonstrated to be rational is in 
accordance with the principles of Virtue. 

Thus Sin is a contradiction, since it at once asserts the 
supreme value of the self, and seeks satisfaction in that which 
just because the self has supreme value can never satisfy. 
To commit sin is very like drinking sea-water to quench 
thirst. And, like the drinking of sea-water, it requires no 
external retribution, but brings about its own. 

172. From Retribution follows Amendment. If what has 
been said above is correct, it follows that in the long run sin 
must always disgust the person who commits it. You have 
only got to go on sinning long enough to have it borne in on 
you with ever increasing force that it is not in this w^ay that 
true self-satisfaction is to be found. With a pessimistic theory 
of the universe, indeed, it might be possible to condemn certain 

SIN 163 

conduct as sinful, and yet to maintain that it yielded all the 
satisfaction which could be got in such a very imperfect world. 
Or again, another theory might hold that there was in this 
respect some fundamental and original difference between one 
man and another, so that some of them would find their true 
satisfaction in sin, and would never be deterred from it simply 
by experience of it. But neither of these views is possible 
for Hegel. The true nature of every self, he maintains, is 
such that it can only find satisfaction in its own free co 
operation with the purpose of the universe. And so experience 
will bring home to it inevitably that it cannot find satisfaction 
in sin. 

But is this conviction properly to be called Amendment? 
We took this term to designate a state analogous to Re 
pentance and indicating a moral improvement. Can what 
we have reached be called a moral improvement, or is it simply 
the correction of a miscalculation? Is it anything more than 
a discovery that sin does not pay, and can that be called a 
moral advance? 

There would, certainly, be no moral significance in a 
discovery that sin would fail to produce satisfaction because 
of some external circumstance which has been arbitrarily 
attached to it. But then this is not what happens. It is 
the sin itself which, in the process of Retribution, loses the 
charm which it had hitherto possessed. It had been committed 
because the agent imagined that he could find satisfaction in 
it. It is abandoned because he learns that he cannot just 
because it is sin. 

Now this is a moral change. The difference between a 
vicious man and a virtuous man is precisely that the former 
finds his satisfaction in sin, and the latter in virtue. It is 
impossible to eliminate so much reference to self as is implied 
in this. A man need not act for his own pleasure, nor for his 
own good, but he must always act for his own satisfaction. And 
thus no more fundamental expression could be found for a 
moral change than the realisation that sin did not and could not 
satisfy the sinner. To stop sinning because some of the con 
sequences of sin are unsatisfactory is simply prudence. But to 


164 SIN 

stop sinning because sin itself has become unsatisfactory is to 
become virtuous. 

To realise that sin cannot give satisfaction is, in itself, 
only a negative result. Taken by itself, it might teach us 
not to sin, but could scarcely teach us to do anything else. 
But then it is not taken by itself. It is only an incident in 
the development of a self which is implicitly moral all through, 
though it requires to be made explicitly so. In passing to Sin 
from Innocence a man is so far right that he realises the 
supreme importance of himself. He has only mistaken what 
his self really is. And when that mistake is corrected, there 
remains the perception that the self has to be satisfied, coupled 
with the new perception that nothing will satisfy us that is 
not virtuous. 

173. All this, it may be objected, is not very like the 
Repentance brought about by Punishment, of which Hegel 
speaks in the Philosophy of Law. For there the Punishment 
is not an inevitable and inherent consequence of the crime, 
but is something which is affixed to it by the decision of the 
law-givers. Their decision indeed is not arbitrary, but does 
not arise spontaneously out of the crime. And, besides, the 
Punishment is not the failure of the crime to produce the 
satisfaction sought for, but a distinct and independent evil 
annexed to it. 

But we must remember that the effect of punishment, in 
the triad described in the last chapter, does not arise from 
the fact that it is something unpleasant which balances the 
satisfaction to be expected from the crime. For if this were 
the effective element, it is clear that the result could only be 
deterrent, and not that which I have called purifying. Now 
it is the purifying effect of which Hegel is speaking. And the 
work of Punishment in producing this result is simply to force 
on the attention of the criminal the fact that his crime 
is condemned by some moral authority which he is not 
prepared explicitly to reject. The work of Punishment is 
thus to crush the false independence of the subject, so as to 
give a chance to the true independence to manifest itself. 
And this is just what is done by the inherent collapse of Sin, 

SIN 165 

which I have called Ketribution. Their functions are thus 
analogous. It is only in so far as this analogy arises that 
Hegel is interested in Punishment at all in so far, that is, 
as Punishment reveals to the criminal that the crime is not 
the outcome of his deepest nature. When the effect is pre 
ventive, or merely deterrent, or merely vindictive, Hegel finds 
no philosophical meaning in it. 

174. From Amendment we now pass to Virtue. In the 
larger triad Virtue is the Synthesis of Innocence and Sin. 
That it is in its right place here will be seen from what 
has been already said. Innocence has the positive quality of 
being in harmony with the good. But it has the defect of 
not being a free self-determination of the individual. And 
thus it is not really in harmony with the good, because it is 
not in harmony with it in the way which is appropriate to 
a conscious being. A conscious being, who imitates the good 
ness of a stone, is not good, but bad. On the other hand Sin 
has the positive quality of being a self-determination. But 
then it is not in harmony with the good. And the good is 
the essential nature of every conscious being. And so Sin 
turns out not to be really an assertion, but a negation of the 
true individuality of the sinner. 

Thus each of the two terms is found, by means of its 
defects, to involve a contradiction. Because Innocence is only 
good, it is not good but bad. Because Sin only asserts 
Individuality, it does not assert, but rather negates ifc. But 
Virtue transcends these imperfections, and therefore resolves 
these contradictions. It is really good, because it is really 
self-determination. It is really self-determination, because it 
is really good. 

175. If we take into account the sub-triad of Sin, the 
immediate transition to Virtue will be from Amendment, which 
is the Synthesis of the sub-triad. The relation which exists 
between the Synthesis of one triad and the commencement 
of the next is expressed by Hegel in the formula that, in 
passing from the one to the other, the notion " collapses into 

It would be difficult perhaps to find a clearer example of 

166 SIN 

such a collapse into immediacy than the transition from 
Amendment to Virtue. The phrase means, I think, that 
whereas in the Synthesis the result gained is looked at as 
the result of a process, as having overcome the contradictions 
which had been developed in the lower terms, in the new 
Thesis it is looked on as the starting-point of a new process, 
as something which leaves the old contradictions and its 
victories over them behind it, which asserts itself as the 
absolute truth, and which consequently lays itself open 
except in the case of the Absolute Idea to the demonstration 
that it is still imperfect, and will therefore develop fresh 
contradictions. It may be said that the idea looks, before the 
collapse, to the past, and, after it, to the future. 

Such a time-reference must of course be merely meta 
phorical when we are dealing with the transitions of the Logic 
itself. But when we come to the applications of the dialectic 
to events in the time-process, we may expect to find it more 
than a metaphor. And this is just what we do find in this 
particular case. Amendment as we see clearly in that special 
variety which is called Repentance can only be defined with 
reference to the past. My nature is amended in so far as I 
have got rid of a sin which I previously committed. In so far 
as this amendment has taken place I am virtuous. But it is 
possible to define Virtue without reference to past Sin. It is 
the positive good content, taken not as a rejection of Sin, but 
as a simple fact. 

176. We have thus gone through the entire dialectic 
process which leads from Innocence to Virtue. It is not, 
however, a process which occurs only once in each man. For 
Innocence and Virtue are not single and indivisible qualities. 
They have many aspects. And therefore a man may have 
passed out of the stage of Innocence in respect of one of his 
qualities, and not in respect of another, and the dialectic 
movement may therefore have to be repeated again, in respect 
of this latter. It is a matter of every-day observation that a 
man may be in a state of childlike submission to one element 
of morality, of explicit revolt against a second, and of free and 
reasoned acquiescence in a third. 

SIN 167 

And not only have Innocence and Virtue many aspects, but 
they are also capable of different degrees. For we saw above 
that a man could only be more or less innocent, since complete 
Innocence would require complete absence of will, and would 
therefore be impossible for any conscious being. It is therefore 
possible that the processes should only be partial. The revolt 
in Sin, and consequently the reconciliation in Virtue, may leave 
a certain residuum of the blind submission of mere Innocence, 
which will require to be removed by a repetition of the 

177. We have now to consider two qualifications to the 
universality of the formula we have established. They were 
mentioned earlier in the chapter. The first of these lies in 
the fact that Virtue can be increased otherwise than through 
Sin and Amendment. It often happens that a man becomes 
conscious of some imperfection or defect in his morality, and 
forthwith amends it, so passing to a higher stage of Virtue. 
Indeed, this is often done unconsciously. With no deliberate 
resolve, with no knowledge of the process, a man rises, through 
the practice of virtue, to some higher level than that to which 
he had previously attained. Thus revolt and reconciliation are 
not the only road of moral advance. 

This, however, does not at all conflict with Hegel s theory. 
Indeed it might have been anticipated. For he points out in 
his Logic that the form of the dialectic changes gradually as we 
move from the beginning to the end of the process 1 . The 
Antithesis becomes less and less the contrary of the Thesis, and 
more and more a union of the Thesis with its complementary 
element, so that its relation to the Thesis comes to resemble 
more and more closely the relation of a Synthesis. The 
advance from some particular imperfection no longer takes 
place by first emphasising the complementary imperfection, 
and then rising to a higher idea which transcends both. This 
is replaced by a direct advance from the original imperfection 
to the transcending idea. The process may be said to come 
nearer and nearer to a straight line, though it never actually 
becomes one. 

1 Cp. Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, chap. iv. 

168 SIN 

We may therefore anticipate, on a priori grounds, what we 
have seen actually happens. At first, when Innocence is nearly 
complete, the advance can only be upon the model of the 
transitions in the Doctrine of Being. From Innocence we 
must advance to Sin its direct contrary. Only after passing 
through Sin can we arrive at Virtue. But as the general moral 
advance or possibly the advance in some particular field of 
morality progresses, the situation changes, and the transitions 
resemble those which are to be found in the Doctrine of the 
Notion. The man has attained to fuller self -consciousness. 
He can recognize the imperfection of the degree of Virtue to 
which he has attained by simple reflection. He does not 
require to have its imperfection driven home by the inability 
of that standpoint to keep from passing over into its opposite. 
He can see that it is imperfect even while he occupies it, and 
is therefore able to pass directly from it to a higher one which 
transcends it. It is, therefore, only when the position of the 
Thesis is relatively close to absolute Innocence that the process 
which we have sketched takes place. In proportion as the 
Thesis, in a later stage, sums up many advances of the past, 
and so is more virtuous than innocent, further transitions can 
be made without Sin and Amendment. 

178. The inherent necessity of the process, then, is not for 
Virtue, since Virtue can be increased (though not indeed in the 
earlier stages) without it. Hegel does regard the process as 
inherently necessary, but only for the other members. Where 
there is Innocence there must necessarily follow Sin, and where 
there is Sin there must necessarily follow Retribution, Amend 
ment, and Virtue. 

179. But is even this in accordance with the facts? And 
this question brings us to the second qualification which we 
have to make. It is quite clear, if we only take individual 
cases, as we see them in this world between birth and death, 
that, though the process often does take place, it often does not. 
We have only to look round us to see instances of Innocence 
which does not pass into Sin, of Sin which does not meet with 
Retribution, of Retribution which does not lead to Amendment. 
It is impossible to suppose that Hegel had forgotten this. 

SIN 169 

Whatever the philosophical importance which he attributed 
to the facts of everyday life, his knowledge of them was 
profound, and his practical interest in them was acute. What 
then are we to suppose that he believed about these apparent 
exceptions to his theory? 

It seems clear that he did not believe in a mere tendency 
which would work itself out if not checked, but which might be 
checked so that it could not work itself out. His language 
indicates that he was dealing with a process which we were 
entitled to say not only might take place but would take place. 
Two alternatives remain. 

180. He may have considered that there was not only a 
tendency, but an actual and inevitable process, in the race or 
the universe, while in the case of particular individuals there 
was merely a tendency, which might possibly be counteracted. 
The passages quoted above, and the rest of that part of the 
Philosophy of Keligion from which they are taken, bear out this 
view, since Hegel s attention seems devoted to the progress of 
the race as a whole, and not of the individuals. Indeed, he 
shows everywhere a strong inclination to treat ethical problems 
as matters for mankind, and not for this or that man. He is 
not far from the belief a belief it might be difficult to defend 
that, when mankind has conquered a moral difficulty in one 
generation, all succeeding generations will enjoy the fruits of 
the victory as fully as each man does those of his own past 
struggles. Here, as elsewhere, the indifference to the individual 
shown in the applications of the Logic stands in striking 
contrast to the emphasis laid on individuality in the Logic 

181. But there is another way in which this difficulty 
might be avoided. Hegel believed in immortality. And he 
might therefore have explained the apparent incomplete moral 
processes by asserting that it was our field of vision which was 
incomplete. All the transitions in the process require time. 
And it is only because death has intervened too soon that, in 
some cases, Innocence does not lead to Sin, Sin to Retribution, 
Retribution to Amendment, or Amendment to Virtue. But 
death only stops our observation of the process. It does not 

170 SIN 

stop the process itself. The Innocence which we see in one life 
may pass into Sin in the next, and the Retribution which seems 
fruitless here may produce Amendment hereafter. 

It would not be necessary, for the validity of this ex 
planation, that the events of one life should be remembered 
in the next. For Retribution, in the sense in which it has 
been used here, does not depend for its efficiency on remem 
brance of the Sin, nor does Amendment depend on the 
remembrance of Retribution. All that is required is that 
actions done on one side of death shall affect the character 
on the other. And this must be so. If it were not, there 
would be no identity of the two existences, and, therefore, 
no immortality. 

It is difficult to say which of these two alternatives Hegel 
would have adopted. It is especially difficult to know what 
he would have thought of the second, for, as has been remarked 
in chapter n, he always declines to take the slightest account 
of the immortality in which he professes to believe. On the 
whole, it appears to me more probable that he would have 
adopted the first alternative, and admitted that there was only 
a tendency in the individual, while there was an inevitable 
process in the race. At the same time, I cannot help thinking 
that the other alternative might provide a better solution in 
the hands of any Hegelian who did not share his master s 
objection to taking immortality seriously. 

182. We have now seen what Hegel s theory of Sin is, 
and we have seen on what basis a belief in that theory must 
rest. We have before us the fact of Sin the fact that a being 
who forms part of the universe can put himself in opposition 
to the principles which underlie the true nature of that 
universe, and of himself in particular. And we have also 
before us the fact that such a being is yet, from the point 
of view of the very morality to which he opposes himself, a 
higher object in the scale of values than the stone or tree 
which is a perfectly submissive instrument to the general 
purpose. And besides these facts we have the conclusions as 
to the general nature of reality which are demonstrated by the 
Logic. Our present theory rests (a) on the consideration that 

SIN 171 

it is not only compatible with the conclusions of the Logic, 
but is one which those conclusions would by themselves render 
probable though not certain. Its further support is more or 
less negative, since it consists in (6) its claim to explain the 
facts better than any other explanation that has been put 
forward which is compatible with the conclusions of the 

183. The peculiarity of this theory is the relatively high 
place which it gives to Sin. There are two other theories, 
with which it may be confounded, but it goes further than 
either of them. The first is the doctrine, which is so prominent 
in the philosophy of Leibniz, that evil is the condition of good, 
since it is impossible that good should exist unless evil existed 
also. The second is the doctrine that sin may be made an 
instrument of a greater good than would have existed without 
it that men may rise, not only in spite of their repented sins, 
but by means of them. 

Hegel s position differs from the first of these in making 
Sin not only a necessary concomitant of Virtue, but a necessary 
element in it. All Virtue is based on transcended Sin, for 
although, as we have seen, Virtue can advance in other ways 
than through Sin, this is only in the higher and later stages. 
The beginning of it must always be by such a process as that 
which has been described in this chapter. In thus making 
transcended Sin an element in Virtue, Hegel s position re 
sembles the second theory mentioned above. But it differs 
from it in making the process universal and necessary. It is 
not merely that Sin may lead to increase of Virtue, and that 
Virtue may be based on Sin. Hegel s view is that Sin must 
lead to increase of Virtue, and that there is no Virtue which 
is not based on Sin. 

184. The result of this is that moral evil and moral good 
are not absolutely opposed for Hegel, as they are for many 
philosophers. There can be no absolute opposition however 
important the relative opposition may be for practical purposes 
between two terms, one of which is the Synthesis of the 
other. And again, which is perhaps the most paradoxical part 
of the system, a man draws nearer to Virtue when he commits 

172 SIN 

a sin. For Sin, as the second in time of the two stages, has 
the advantage over Innocence. In passing to Sin from In 
nocence the sinner has taken a step on the only road which 
can lead him to Virtue, and morality has therefore gained. 

Ordinary morality has accepted the position that even a 
sinful man is higher than a stone, which cannot commit sin. 
But many people would regard the view that a sinful man was 
higher than an innocent man as a dangerous falsehood. 

Even if Hegel s position were detrimental to ordinary 
morality, it would not be thereby refuted. It is true that 
his system leads us to the conclusion that all reality is rational 
and righteous, and that it would be inconsistent if any part 
of the system led us to a contrary conclusion. But to say 
that it is righteous is one thing, and to say that it agrees 
with our previous conceptions of morality is another. If it 
did not do so, the fault might lie in those conceptions, and 
not in reality. I do not, however, believe that in the accept 
ance of Hegel s doctrine of Sin any change in the ordinary 
canons of morality would be logically involved, or that 
any logical ground would arise for disobedience to those 

185. It may be said, perhaps, that the consideration that 
a sin marks a moral advance on the state of innocence would 
be a ground for disregarding the sinful nature of an act to 
the commission of which we were tempted. But an argument 
of this nature would, I think, be sophistical. It is not true 
that under all circumstances a sin would mark a moral 
advance. It would not do so in any case in which the 
result the state of Virtue had been already reached, or in 
which we could reach it without sinning. It is only when 
we are in such a stage of relatively rudimentary Innocence 
that we cannot advance except by negation, that the sin is 
indispensable to the gaining of Virtue, and so is a moral 

Now how can I know that I am, at a particular time, and 
with regard to a particular virtue, in such a state? It seems 
to me that I could know it only by experience. I cannot be 
certain that I am unable to resist temptation except by finding 

SIN 173 

that, in fact, I do not resist it. Thus it follows that, until my 
sin has been committed, I can never know it to be a necessary 
step to virtue, and therefore to be a moral advance. And thus 
the knowledge that it would be a moral advance can never be a 
factor in determining me to commit it. 

And, again, in proportion as my knowledge of my own 
character showed me a probability more or less approximating 
to .a certainty that advance in the case in question was only 
possible through sin, what would this amount to ? To a belief, 
more or less certain, that I could not resist the temptation. 
For, if I could resist it, it would prove that I was no longer on 
the level of mere Innocence, but had risen to Virtue. I should 
therefore only have ground to believe that it would be good to 
commit the sin, in proportion as I was convinced it was in 
evitable that I should commit it. And thus our theory could 
have no effect in deciding my action, since it could only make 
me regard a sin as an advance in a case in which I considered 
my action as already certain. 

On this theory, indeed, I can always say to myself, when 
tempted, " If I yield to this temptation, my sin will be a moral 
advance." But it will be equally true to say, "If I do not 
yield to it, then my resistance will be a moral advance." And 
thus there is no ground here for choosing either course. To 
suppose that there was a ground for either would be to fall into 
the same fallacy as that which asserts that Determinism must 
destroy all resistance to temptation, because a Determinist 
believes that, if he did commit the sin, it would be eternally 
necessary that he should commit it. 

186. Thus Hegel s theory offers no logical ground for 
choosing sin rather than virtue. And it must also be re 
membered that it is not sin alone which forms the moral 
advance, but sin which is followed by retribution and amend 
ment. This makes a considerable difference in the psychological 
effect of the belief. Should a schoolboy be convinced that, if 
he played truant, playing truant would be morally healthy for 
him, it would be illogical, but perhaps not unnatural, that he 
should take this as an argument for doing so. But if he were 
told that his moral advantage would consist in the fact that 

174 SIN 

the offence would bring on a punishment sufficiently effective 
to cure him of any tendency to repeat the fault, it is not 
probable that the theory would make the temptation any 
greater than it had been before the metaphysical question 
was raised. 

187. It is true that this theory does not lend itself to the 
deification of Virtue it would scarcely be Hegel s if it did. It 
does not permit us to regard the difference between Virtue and 
Sin as the fundamental difference of the universe, for there are 
conditions much worse than Sin. Nor is it an ultimate differ 
ence, for the whole meaning of Sin is that it is a stage which 
leads on to Virtue, and a moment which is transcended in it. 
Hegel goes even further than this. For even Virtue is only a 
moment in a still higher perfection 1 . And again, whatever 
does happen to a moral being, whether it be Sin or Virtue, is, 
when it happens, a moral advance. 

Such results are not adapted for moral declamations, but it 
may be doubted if they have any more serious defect. If a 
man feels Virtue to be a greater good for him than Sin, he will 
choose Virtue and reject Sin, even though he should think that 
Sin is not wholly bad, nor the worst possible state. All that is 
required of a theory of Sin, therefore, in order that it may be 
harmless to morality, is that it should not deny the difference 
between Virtue and Sin, or assert that Sin is the greater good 
of the two. Hegel s theory does not do either. To go further, 
and to condemn Sin as absolutely and positively bad, is useless 
to morality, and fatal to religion 2 . 

188. We may notice that this theory provides a justifica 
tion for a belief which has flourished for a long period, especially 
in the English race, without any metaphysical support. It has 
very commonly been held that it is desirable that children 
should do certain things, for which, when they have done them, 
it is desirable that they should be punished. On most ethical 
theories this appears to be hopelessly unreasonable. Either, 
it is said, an act deserves punishment, and then it ought not 

1 To consider this point would be beyond the limits of the present chapter. 
Cp. chap. ix. ; also Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Sections 202 206. 

2 Cp. Appearance and Reality, chap. xxv. p. 440. 

SIN 175 

to be done, or else it ought to be done, and then it cannot 
deserve punishment. Some systems of education accept the 
first alternative, and some the second, but they agree in 
rejecting the hypothesis that both the acts and their punish 
ment could be desirable. In spite of this, however, the old 
view continues to be held, and to be acted on, perhaps, by some 
who do not explicitly hold it. 

If we follow Hegel, we may come to the conclusion that the 
unreflective opinion of the race has, either by chance or by a 
judicious common sense, grasped the truth with more success 
than its critics. For it is evident that children, in relation to 
the morality of adults, are very often exactly in the position 
which Hegel calls Innocence. And it may therefore be antici 
pated that, in the majority of cases, they will rise to that 
morality most simply and completely by the process of alternate 
defiance and suppression. 

Such words as Sin, Retribution, and Amendment seem, no 
doubt, unduly serious and pompous in this connection. But it 
must be remembered that we are watching the process from 
the standpoint of the Synthesis in a way which is seldom, if 
ever, possible when we are observing the struggles of our fellow 
adults. (It is to this exceptional point of observation, I suppose, 
that we must ascribe the fact that many people who would 
shrink from recognizing a moral advance in a night s drunken 
ness are quite able to see a moral advance in a forbidden 
pillow-fight.) To one who fully comprehends the facts, Sin 
would always appear too futile to be taken seriously. It is 
necessary, no doubt, to take our own sins and those of our 
neighbours very seriously, but that is because we do not fully 
comprehend. For those who do, if there are such, the most 
atrocious of our crimes may reveal themselves to have the same 
triviality which even we can perceive in a schoolboy s sur 
reptitious cigarette. In heaven "they whistle the devil to 
make them sport who know that sin is vain 1 ." 

It would seem, then, that in this matter a system of 
education cannot be judged by the same tests as a system of 

1 Kipling, Barrack-room Ballads, Dedication. 

176 SIN 

government. The punishments of the state can scarcely hope 
to be anything more than deterrent and preventive, and, since 
this is so, that state is in the most healthy condition in which 
the fewest punishments are deserved. But if punishment has, 
in education, the higher function of a stage in a necessary moral 
process, it would follow that a system of education is none the 
worse because it does not prevent children from deserving 
punishment provided, of course, that it affords a reasonable 
probability that they will get what they deserve. 



189. Hegel s tendency to exalt the state, and society 
generally, at the expense of the individual citizen, is one of 
the most striking characteristics of his system. It is one, 
moreover, in which Hegelians, as a rule, have faithfully 
followed their master. 

The exaltation in question is not identical with a desire 
to increase very largely the functions exercised by the state. 
It involves indeed, almost necessarily, the extension of those 
functions beyond the limits allowed them by the stricter 
Individualists. But it would be quite consistent with an 
amount of individual liberty which would prevent the result 
from being classified as Socialism or Communism. And, on the 
other hand, it is quite possible to propose a system of the 
most rigid Socialism or Communism, and yet to disagree 
entirely with Hegel s view of the dignity of the state. This 
was, to a large extent, the position -of the older Socialists, 
such as Robert Owen. 

We may best define Hegel s position by contrasting it with 
its opposite. That opposite is the theory that the state and 
society are merely external mechanisms for promoting the 
individual welfare of the individual citizens. This theory does 
not, of course, involve that each citizen cares only about his 
own welfare. But, if he cares about the welfare of others, he 
regards them as an aggregate, each of whom has a welfare 
of his own, not as a whole, whose welfare is one and the same. 
Again, this theory does not assert that the state was formed 
by the agreement of individuals who were before isolated, nor 

MCT. 12 


that the machinery, which the state and society give, could 
possibly be dispensed with by the individual. But, in whatever 
way the union was first formed, and however indispensable it 
may be, we can only justify its existence on the ground that 
it is a common means to the separate ends of the citizens. To 
this view Hegel opposes the assertion that society is more 
than a merely external means. 

I maintain that there is nothing in Hegel s metaphysics 
which logically involves this view of society. On the contrary, 
it seems to me that such a system of metaphysics involves the 
view that the present condition of society, and any possible 
form of the state, can only be looked on as means to the 
welfare of the individuals who compose them. That welfare, 
indeed, can never be found in isolation, but may be found 
in very different combinations. 

190. Hegel s own view on the subject is generally expressed 
by saying that the nature of society is organic. This phrase, 
so far as I know, is not used by Hegel himself. And it does 
not seem to be very accurate. An organic unity is, in the 
ordinary meaning of the term, such a unity as binds together 
the different parts of a living body. And, whatever may be 
the unity which exists in society, it would seem clear that 
it cannot, on Hegelian principles, be the same as that of the 
parts of a body. Self-conscious persons, such as make up 
society, are far more individual than a hand or a foot. Now, 
according to Hegel, the greater is the individuality of parts, 
the closer is the unity which can be established between them, 
and the deeper must we go to establish it. It follows that 
self-conscious persons will need a deeper and more fundamental 
principle of union than suffices for the parts of a body, and, 
if they are joined by a principle adequate for the purpose, 
will form a unity far closer than that of the parts of a body. 
And to call such a principle organic seems unreasonable. It 
is true that it comprehends and surpasses the principle of 
organic unity. But, if this were a reason for calling it organic, 
it would be an equally good reason for calling an organic unity 
mechanical, and for calling a mechanical unity a mathematical 


The use of the word organic, therefore, seems to me 
incorrect, and, not improbably, misleading. But since it is 
used by most of the writers of the present day who follow 
Hegel in this question, I shall adopt their phraseology while 
I am considering their views. 

Hegel takes the State (Der Staat) as a higher form of 
society than the Civic Community (Die burgerliche Gesell- 
schaft). He expresses the distinction between them as 
follows: "Were the state to be considered as exchangeable 
with the civic community, and were its decisive features 
to be regarded as the security and protection of property and 
personal freedom, the interests of the individual as such would 
be the ultimate purpose of the social union. It would then 
be at one s option to be a member of the state. But the state 
has a totally different relation to the individual. It is the 
objective spirit, and he has his truth, real existence, and 
ethical status only in being a member of it. Union, as such, 
is itself the true content and end, since the individual is 
intended to pass a universal life. His particular satisfactions, 
activities, and way of life have in this authenticated substantive 
principle their origin and result 1 ." 

Hegel does not, however, make any distinct attempt to 
prove the superiority of the State to the Civic Community. 
He points out that the unity is more close and vital in the 
State, and there he leaves the matter, the line of thought 
being, apparently, that since it has been proved in the Logic 
that true reality is a perfect unity, the closer unity is always 
the higher form. For a more detailed treatment of the 
subject we must look to his followers. In particular, Dr 
Mackenzie, in his "Introduction to Social Philosophy," main 
tains the organic nature of society with such force and clearness 
that our best method of dealing with the subject will be to 
examine his exposition of it. 

191. Dr Mackenzie defines an organism by saying that 
in it "the relations of the parts are intrinsic; changes take 
place by an internal adaptation ; and its end forms an essential 

1 Philosophy of Law, Section 258, lecture note. 



element in its own nature 1 ." Here are three characteristics. 
The second does not require special consideration. Its truth, 
and the sense in which it is to be taken, seem to depend on 
the truth, and on the precise meaning, of the previous state 
ment that the relations of the parts are intrinsic. The other 
two points of the definition seem to me to be ambiguous. If 
they are taken to imply that society is an end to the individuals 
who compose it, they would form an adequate definition of 
organism ; but in that sense I do not think that Dr Mackenzie 
has proved them to be true of society. On the other hand, in 
the sense in whicb he has proved them to be true of society, 
they appear to me to be quite compatible with a theory which 
should regard society as a merely mechanical unity, and as 
simply a means to the separate ends of its constituent indi 

192. Let us take first the intrinsic relations of the parts 
to the whole. If this were to mean, as it might possibly be 
taken to mean, that to be in these relations was the end of 
the individual who was in them, and that this was his end, 
not from any further quality of the relations, but simply 
because they w r ere the relations which united him to society, 
then, indeed, we should have an organic unity. 

But this is not what Dr Mackenzie proves. He appears 
to be satisfied when he has pointed out that the individual s 
nature is determined in every direction by the society in which 
he lives, and {hat there is no part of his nature to which this 
determination does not extend 2 . This is unquestionably true. 
No man, indeed, is only the product of society, for it would 
be impossible to account for the differentiated result, if it did 
not contain an originally differentiated element. The co 
existence of individuals in a whole may modify their differences, 
but cannot construct them out of nothing. But this, I 
imagine, would not be denied by Dr Mackenzie, and it is 
impossible to dispute his assertion that no individual, and no 
part of any individual s nature, would be what it now is, 

1 An Introduction to Social Philosophy, chap. m. p. 164. My references are 
to the edition of 1895. 

2 op. cit. chap. in. pp. 166 171. 


except for the influence of the society to which that individual 

But what does this come to, when it is admitted? Surely 
to nothing else than the assertion of complete reciprocal deter 
mination, which is involved in organic connection, but is by 
no means equivalent to it. As soon as we realise that causal 
determination is complete and reciprocal, and that the dis 
tinction between essence and appearance is illegitimate, we 
are able to assert about any two things in the universe the 
relation which Dr Mackenzie has pointed out between the 
individual and society. No Englishman would be quite what 
he is now, if the Reform Bill had not been carried, or 
if Dr Pusey had joined the Roman Communion. Granted. 
And no Englishman would be quite what he is now, if there 
were one more herring in the Atlantic. The influence in the 
first case is more important than in the second; but that is 
not a difference of kind, and will not entitle us to say that 
society joins individuals in any way which is qualitatively 
different from the way in which everything in the universe is 
joined to everything else. 

What possible theory of the state does this truth exclude ? 
It would exclude, certainly, any theory which denied that the 
individual was affected at all by living in society. But does 
anyone hold could anyone hold such a view? It has been 
asserted that society is the end of the individual. It has been 
asserted that it is a means to that end. It has even been 
asserted, by anchorites, that it was simply a hindrance to 
that end. But has anyone ever said that man was exactly 
the same in society as he would be out of it? It has been 
maintained, no doubt, that the associated man is only super 
ficially different from the isolated man, and that the two are 
fundamentally the same. But it has never been denied that 
they are different. The assertion which would be denied by 
Dr Mackenzie s demonstration of "intrinsic relations" is not 
that society makes no fundamental difference in the individual, 
but that it makes no difference in him at all. And when we 
have disposed of this absurdity, all sane theories of the state 
are still left to choose from. 


193. The intrinsic relations of individuals would also, no 
doubt, be incompatible with the theory which Dr Mackenzie 
calls mechanical. "A mechanical or dualistic view, again/ 
he says, "would regard the individual as partly dependent 
and partly independent; as to some extent possessing a life 
of his own, and yet to some extent dependent on his social 
surroundings 1 ." It is impossible, certainly, to divide any 
individual into isolated compartments, and if any part of a 
man s life is affected by the society of which he is a member, 
no part of his life can be wholly unaffected by it. But although 
the view here rejected may fitly be called mechanical, it is 
not the only view which deserves that name. It answers 
to the category to which Hegel has given the name of Formal 
Mechanism, but there still remains the higher category which 
he calls Absolute Mechanism. In Absolute Mechanism, if 
I interpret the Logic rightly, we discard the supposition 
that the internal nature of anything can be independent 
of the relations into which it enters with other things. We 
see that the two sides are inseparably connected. On the 
one hand, the internal nature of anything is meaningless 
except in connection with its relations to other things, since 
it is only in those relations that the inner nature can mani 
fest itself. On the other hand, relations to other things 
are meaningless except in relation to the internal nature of 
the thing. A merely passive subject of relations is impos 
sible, as the category of Reciprocity has already taught us. 
If A is mn, because it is related to EC, this is not a merely 
external relation. For it must be ascribed to the nature 
of A that BC produces upon it the result mn rather then 
the result op. 

Now the admission of intrinsic relations that there is 
nothing whatever in A which is independent of its relations 
to B, C, &c. need not involve more than the category of 
Absolute Mechanism. And, in admitting this category, we 
have by no means reached the idea of organic unity. No 
unity, it is clear, can be organic which is a mere means to the 
separate ends of its constituent individuals. And there is 

1 op. cit. chap. in. p. 150. 


nothing in the category of Absolute Mechanism to hinder this 
from being the case. Each individual, it is true, is, under this 
category, determined throughout by the unity in which he 
stands with the other individuals of the same system. But 
ends, means, and hindrances to ends, all exercise causal deter 
mination over objects. A man is causally determined alike 
by the moral ideal which he holds, by the medicine which he 
takes, and by the hatreds which he feels. But this need not 
prevent us from saying that the first of these is an end, good 
in itself, the second a means, which has value only in so far 
as it enables us to carry out the end, and the third a hindrance 
to carrying out the end, and, therefore, positively bad. 

Accordingly we find that those theories of society which 
carry individualism furthest are quite consistent with the 
category of Absolute Mechanism, and with the admission of 
intrinsic relations between the members of society. The 
hermits of the early Church regarded society as detrimental 
to man s highest interests, and consequently as an evil to be 
avoided as far as possible, and to be steadily resisted when 
unavoidable. A hedonist regards society as only justifiable 
in so far as it produces, for each of the individuals who com 
pose it, a greater amount of private happiness than he would 
otherwise have enjoyed. Both these positions are quite 
compatible with the intrinsic relations which we have been 
considering. For each of them would have admitted that 
some society was indispensable, and each of them would have 
admitted that the whole man was modified by the society of 
which he formed a part. 

194. I have endeavoured to prove that the intrinsic re 
lation of the parts of society gives us no help towards estab 
lishing its organic nature, since the proposition would be 
equally true of any real system, whether organic or not. We 
must now consider the third clause of Dr Mackenzie s definition 
of an organism : " its end forms an essential element in its own 

Here again there seems to me to be a dangerous ambiguity. 
If this proposition meant, as it might mean, that the existence 
of the society as society was its own end, and also the end 


of the individuals who compose it, then, indeed, the unity in 
which it would bind those individuals would be so close that 
it might fairly be called organic, or even more than organic. 
But when we come to enquire into the precise meaning which 
Dr Mackenzie attaches to the phrase, we shall find that, in one 
part at least of his work, he gives it a much narrower meaning, 
which, however true, gives us no reason to regard it as an 

"That the growth of social conditions has reference to an 
inner end," he says, "is a point on which we need not here 
enlarge. That the movements of social development are pur 
poseless, no one supposes; and that the purpose which it 
subserves lies within itself is equally apparent. What the 
end is, it may be difficult to determine; but it is easy to 
perceive that it is some form of human well-being 1 ." 

Dr Mackenzie seems here to assume that "some form of 
human well-being" must lie within society itself. But this, 
though it may be true, is by no means necessary. All human 
beings are at present within society, but it is possible that 
they may cease to be so in the future, and that the human 
well-being which it is the object of society to promote may be 
one in which society is broken up, and the individuals isolated. 
(I am not, of course, arguing that this is the case. I am only 
maintaining that the fact that the present and actual human 
being is in society, does not of itself prove that the future and 
ideal human being will also be in society 2 .) 

195. The end of a school, for example, is the well-being of 
the boys, and the boys form the school. Nevertheless, the 
school is not an end in itself. For boys leave school when they 
grow up, and the end of the school is their welfare throughout 

1 op. cit. chap. in. p. 176. 

2 Dr Mackenzie appears, in one paragraph at least, to recognize this. For 
in the concluding passage of chap. HI. (p. 203) he admits, if I understand 
him rightly, that before we can properly call society an organism we must 
enquire whether the ideal human well-being, which is the end of society, is 
itself social. But since, in the passage quoted above from p. 176, he appears 
to assert explicitly that human well-being is, as such, social, I thought it well 
to deal with both positions separately. The view stated on p. 203, and developed 
in chap, iv, will be considered later. 


life, when they will certainly have left school, and may easily 
be completely isolated from all their old school-fellows. 

Now what is undoubtedly true of this fraction of society 
may be, according to some theories, true of society as a whole. 
Let us take the case of a man who believed that society existed 
for the promotion of true holiness, as the highest end of man, 
while at the same time he denned holiness as a relation which 
existed between God and a particular individual, and which 
was independent of even incompatible with any relations 
between the individuals themselves. Now any one who be 
lieved this and something very like it has been believed 
would quite admit that the end of society was nothing else 
than human well-being, since he would conceive that the 
greatest human well-being lay in holiness. But the end of 
society would not be in itself; on the contrary, it would be 
something which could only be realised when society itself had 
ceased to exist. 

Again, consider the case of a hedonist who should hold that 
the one end of society was to make the sum of pleasures felt 
by its individual members, taken as isolated beings, as large 
as possible. Such a man would hold that the end of society 
was a form of human well-being, while he would not regard 
society as an organic unity, but merely as a means for the 
respective ends of the various individuals who compose it. 

196. My contention has been, so far, that it is useless and 
misleading to call any unity organic unless we are prepared 
to maintain that it (and not merely something at present 
contained in it) is an end to itself, and to its own parts. 
Otherwise we shall include among organic unities systems 
which exist as bare means for the carrying out of ends which 
are indifferent, or even hostile to the unity. To call such 
systems organic would be improper, in the first place, because 
that word has always been employed to denote a relatively 
close unity, while such a use would extend it to all unities 
whatever. Every aggregate of individuals which were not 
absolutely isolated from each other, and in which the con 
nection was not reduced to the level of mere delusion, would 
be classed as organic. 


And, in the second place, not only would such a definition 
depart completely from the ordinary usage, but it would render 
the term useless. When we said that a unity was organic, 
we should only say that it was a unity. It would be useless, 
for example, to say that society was organic. For we should 
only thereby deny the assertion that the individual, or any 
part of him, is uninfluenced by being in society. If any person 
does hold this remarkable view, I am unable to say ; but it is 
certainly not of sufficient weight to render it worth while to 
appropriate such a convenient word as organic to express 
disbelief in it. Meanwhile, the distinction of such cardinal 
importance in political theory between those who admit and 
those who deny that society is an end in itself would remain 
without a suitable name. 

I should suggest that the most suitable definition of an 
organic unity for our present purpose might be something like 
this: "a unity which is the end of its parts." This clearly 
distinguishes it from a unity which is merely mechanical. 
It also distinguishes it from a chemical unity, to use Hegel s 
phrase, in which the parts are regarded as mere means which 
may be discarded or merged, if that would conduce to the 
realisation of the end. For here the end is the unity of the 
parts, and the parts therefore are an element in the end, as 
well as the means to it. 

This definition has the merit of coinciding with tolerable 
exactness with the ordinary use of the word organic, which 
is an important advantage when it can be gained without 
sacrifice of accuracy. Organic is commonly used of animal 
and vegetable life. Now the definition I have proposed would 
include animals and vegetables, and would not include anything 
which did not bear a tolerably close resemblance to biological 

Such a definition would mark a division in our present 
subject-matter which would be worth making. There are two 
theories at the present day as to the nature of society, and 
especially of the state, each of which has considerable practical 
influence, and for each of which much can be said that must 
be carefully considered by any student. They differ by the 


admission or rejection of the idea of society as an end in itself, 
and it would be convenient to refer to them as the organic 
and inorganic views of society. 

Hegel s example would be on our side. For in the Logic 
he makes scarcely any distinction between the idea of an 
immanent end and the idea of life. And I imagine that this 
definition would not be disapproved by Dr Mackenzie 1 . 

197. Is society the end of man? This is the question 
which we have now to answer. Let us enquire,, in the first- 
place, what general information we possess regarding our 
supreme end. 

If we turn to Hegel, we find that for him the supreme 
end is another name for Absolute Reality, which, sub specie 
aeternitatis, is eternally present, but, sub specie temporis, pre 
sents itself as an ideal and a goal. Now Hegel s conception 
of Absolute Reality is one which, as we have seen, might very 
fitly be called a society 2 . It is a differentiated unity, of which 
the parts are perfectly individual, and which, for that very 
reason, is a perfect unity. To call such a unity organic would 
only be incorrect because it was inadequate. And thus Absolute 
Reality would be the most perfect of all societies. Just because 
the individual was such a complete individual, he would have 
all his perfection, and all his reality, in nothing else but in 
his relations to other individuals. Or, to quote Dr Mackenzie, 
"no attainment of the ideal of our rational nature is con 
ceivable except by our being able to see the world as a 
system of intelligent beings who are mutually worlds for 
each other 3 ." 

The end of man, then, is a society. But we are now con 
sidering "social philosophy" and not theology, and what we 
want to know is not our relation to the kingdom of heaven, 
but our relation to society as it is now around us, and as it 
may be expected to be in an earthly future. Now it is quite 
clear that, whatever this ideal society, which Hegel makes 

1 Cp. above, Section 194, note, and the Introduction to Social Philosophy, 
chap. m. p. 203. 

2 Cp. below, Sections 216218. 

3 op. cit. chap. iv. p. 260. 


our end, may be, it is not the society which we have round 
us to-day. Absolute Reality, according to Hegel, is eternal, 
and cannot be fully realised in any state of the world which 
is still subject to succession in time. Absolute Reality must 
see and be seen under the highest category only, and is not 
realised while any reality is unconscious of itself, or appears 
to others under the form of matter. Absolute Reality, finally, 
is incompatible with pain or imperfection. 

This is clearly not the society in which we live, and we 
are not entitled to argue that the society of the present is 
an organic unity, because the ideal society is such a unity. 
But although they are not identical, the society of the present 
and the ideal certainly stand in some relation to one another. 
Can we, by a closer investigation of this relation, find any 
reason to consider the society of the present organic? 

198. It might seem as if we had made an important step 
in this direction when we reflected that in a system like society, 
whose parts are self-conscious individuals, one of the strongest 
forces towards making the system organic is the conviction that 
it ought to be so. For it will be an organism if the individuals 
make it their end. Now it must be admitted that our con 
viction of what ought to be our end will not always decide 
what our end actually is. A man s end may be above or below 
his theoretical opinion about it. He may acknowledge the 
higher, and yet pursue the lower. Or he may explicitly 
acknowledge only the lower, and yet pursue the higher, moved 
by some vague impulse, which he can neither justify nor resist. 
Still, on the whole, the belief that anything would be a worthy 
end has a great influence in making it a real one. 

Can we, then, establish the organic nature of present society 
as an ideal, if not as a fact? Can we say that the society of 
this world ought to be organic, and that we shall do well in 
proportion as we make it so by regarding the various relations, 
natural and civic, which constitute it, as the end of our 
individual lives? The ultimate end, indeed, it cannot be. 
Nothing but the heavenly society can be that, and, since 
anything earthy must be different from absolute reality, our 
present society, even if improved as far as possible, could never 


be anything higher than the means to the ultimate end. But, 
in reference to all the activities and interests of our individual 
lives, it might be said that present society might be rightly 
considered as the end, since it is only by working in it and 
through it that we can progress towards the ultimate ideal 
which alone can fully satisfy us. 

This, if I understand him rightly, is something like the 
position which Dr Mackenzie adopts. Having said, in the 
passage quoted above, that "no attainment of the ideal of 
our rational nature is conceivable, except by our being able to 
see the world as a system of intelligent beings who are mutually 
worlds for each other," he continues, " now, how far it is possible 
to think of the whole world in this way is a question for the 
Philosophy of Religion to discuss. It is enough for us here to 
observe that, in so far as we come into relations to other human 
beings in the world, we are attaining to a partial realisation of 
the ideal which our rational nature sets before us. And there 
is no other way by which we come to such a realisation. In so 
far as the world is merely material, it remains foreign and 
unintelligible to us. It is only in the lives of other human 
beings that we find a world in which we can be at home. 
Now in this fact we obviously find a much deeper significance 
for the organic nature of society than any that we have yet 
reached. For we see that the society of other human beings 
is not merely a means of bringing our own rational nature to 
clearness, but is the only object in relation to which such 
clearness can be attained 1 ." 

199. I must confess, however, that I am unable to see that 
this argument is valid. It is true that the ultimate ideal is 
a state of society which is organic. It is true, too, that only 
through our present society can that ideal be reached. For we 
must begin from where we are, and at present we are in society. 
It may be granted, too, that it is almost incredible that a period 
of absolute social chaos should intervene between us and the 
goal, and that the progress to that goal may safely be con 
sidered as made continuously through society. 

Yet it does not follow, I submit, that it would be well to 

1 op. cit. chap. iv. p. 260. 


regard our present society as an end. For although our progress 
to the ideal is through it, that progress is often negatively 
related to it. Our advance often to some extent, always 
consists in breaking up and rising above relations which, up to 
that point, had been part of the constitution of society. And 
so these relations cannot be regarded as an end. The fact that 
their value is purely derivative should be ever before us at 
least, in so far as we reflect at all. We must express ourselves 
by them as long as we find them the best expression of the 
absolute end, or the best road to it, but only under the 
reservation that we are to throw them aside as worthless, 
when we find a more adequate expression or a more direct 

The abstract form of society, indeed, remains. In whatever 
way we work out our destiny, we work it out in one another s 
company. But if the particular relations which constitute our 
present society at any moment are to be looked on as means, to 
be discarded when better ones can be found, this is sufficient 
to destroy the claims of our present society to be considered 
organic. For the abstract fact that individuals are somehow 
connected, can never be sufficient to unite them in an organic 
unity. Individuals can never find their end, which must be 
something concrete, not abstract, in the bare fact of their 
connection with one another. It is only some particular 
connection that they can accept as their end, and it is only 
in respect of some particular connection that they are organic. 
And if, as I suggested above, any particular relations which 
we find in the society of the present day must be looked on as 
mere means, it will be impossible to regard that society itself 
as organic. 

200. The correctness of this statement remains to be 
considered. My object has been so far to assert, not that 
our present society cannot be regarded as an organism, but 
that there is nothing in the Hegelian metaphysics which can 
fairly be taken as proving, or even as suggesting, the organic 
nature of that society. It will be for the other side to prove, 
if they can, that the perfect society of Absolute Reality will be 
found to be constituted on the same plan as our present society, 


joining and sundering in heaven those who are joined and 
sundered on earth. 

No attempt has been made, so far as I know, to prove this, 
nor is it easy to see how it could be proved. Indeed, there is a 
strong presumption, to say the least, that the opposite is true. 
For when we come to consider what determines the actual 
relations in which men find themselves in society the relations 
of family, of school, of profession, of state, of church we find 
that overwhelming influence is exercised by considerations 
which we cannot suppose will have overwhelming influence 
in that ideal society in which all our aspirations would be 
satisfied. Birth of the same parents, birth on the same side 
of a river, a woman s beauty, a man s desire such are the 
causes which often determine, in our present society, what 
individuals shall be most closely related together. All these 
things are no doubt real, in some degree, and therefore are to 
some degree represented in the ideal ; but to suppose that they 
are as important there as they are here, would be to forget that 
in that ideal we are to find "a world in which we can be at 
home." No doubt the society of the present is the natural and 
inevitable introduction to the society of the future, but it is so 
only in the same way as everything else is. Of everything 
which has ever happened in the world, of anarchy as well as of 
society, of sin as well as of virtue, of hatred as well as of love, the 
fact that it has happened proves that it was a necessary incident 
in the movement towards the ideal. But this can give it no 
more than a derivative value. I find myself associated with 
Smith in a Parish Council. This no doubt is a stage in our 
progress towards the ideal society of heaven. But there is no 
a priori reason to regard it as more vitally connected with that 
goal of all our ambitions than anything else, good or bad, social 
or isolated, which happens to either of us. Whatever heaven 
may be like, it cannot closely resemble a Parish Council, since 
the functions of the latter involve both matter and time. And 
it is by no means improbable that the result of my joint 
labours with Smith on earth may be the attainment of a state 
in which I shall be linked most closely in heaven, not to Smith, 
but to Jones, who comes from another parish. 


201. The vast majority of the relations which make up 
our present society are of this kind relations which have their 
origin and meaning only with reference to the conditions of our 
present imperfect existence, and which would be meaningless 
in the ideal. It is possible that we might find, on further 
consideration of the nature of Absolute Reality, and of our own 
lives, some element in the latter which seemed to belong 
directly to the former something which did not merely lead 
to heaven, but was heaven 1 . Supposing that this were so, and 
that we found in our present lives some element of absolute 
value, then it would be more hopeless than ever to regard our 
present society as an end. For, if such elements do exist, they 
certainly are not able to exercise an uncontested influence over 
the world. And it is perhaps for this reason that the deepest 
emotions are apt, if they have any effect on society, to have a 
negative and disintegrating effect, at least as far as our present 
observation will carry us. They may bring peace on earth in 
the very long run, but they begin with the sword. 

Nothing, surely, could so effectively degrade present society 
from the position of an end to that of a means, only valuable as 
leading on to something else, than such a state of things, if 
it should prove to be true. If we have, here and now, partial 
experience of something whose complete realisation would give 
us utter and absolute satisfaction, how can we avoid a relation 
of partial hostility to a state of society which refuses us that 
supreme good? For it will scarcely be denied that utter and 
absolute satisfaction is not an invariable accompaniment of 
social life as we find it at present. 

202. To sum up the argument so far. I have endeavoured 
to prove, in the first place, that we gain nothing by calling 
society an organism unless we are prepared to assert that 
it is the end of the individuals composing it. And, in the 
second place, I have endeavoured to prove that there is nothing 
in Hegel s metaphysical conclusions which entitles us to believe 
that our present society is, or ought to be, an end for its 
individual citizens. But we can go further, and say that the 

1 Cp. chap. ix. 


true lesson to be derived from the philosophy of Hegel is that 
earthly society can never be an adequate end for man. For 
Hegel has defined for us an absolute and ultimate ideal, 
and this not as a vain aspiration, but as an end to which 
all reality is moving. This ideal we can understand dimly 
and imperfectly, no doubt, but still understand. And to any 
one who has entertained such an ideal, society, as it is, or 
as it can be made under conditions of time and imperfection, 
can only be external and mechanical. Each of us is more 
than the society which unites us, because there is in each of 
us the longing for a perfection which that society can never 
realise. The parts of a living body can find their end in that 
body, though it is imperfect and transitory. But a man can 
dream of perfection, and, having once done so, he will find no 
end short of perfection. Here he has no abiding city. 

I do not think that this view leads either to asceticism 
or to the cloister. Not to asceticism ; for there is nothing in 
it inconsistent with the great truth, so often neglected, that 
a limited good is still good, though limited. The beatific 
vision is good; and so is a bottle of champagne. The only 
reason why we should not take the satisfaction produced by 
champagne as our end is that it is not one with which our 
nature could be eternally content. But the fact that we 
cannot stop till we get to heaven will not make our champagne 
on the road less desirable, unless, of course, we should see 
reason to regard it as a hindrance to the journey. 

Nor have we found any reason to suppose that our proper 
course would be to isolate ourselves from the imperfect society 
of this world. For if that society is only a means, at least it 
is an indispensable means. If it is not a god to be worshipped, 
it is none the less a tool which must be used. 

203. But has philosophy any guidance to give us as to 
the manner in which we shall use such a tool? It might be 
supposed that it had. "Let us grant," it might be said, "that 
the fact that the Absolute is an organic society does not prove 
that our present society is or ought to be organic. Yet our 
present society will become perfect in so far as it approaches 
the Absolute. And therefore we have gained an a priori 

MOT. 13 


criterion of social progress. Whatever makes society more 
organic is an advance. Whatever makes society less organic 
is retrograde." 

This argument seems to me fallacious. We must remember 
that, while the Absolute is a perfect unity, it is a perfect unity 
of perfect individuals. Not only is the bond of union closer 
than anything which we can now even imagine, but the 
persons whom it unites are each self-conscious, self-centred 1 , 
unique, to a degree equally unimaginable. If, on the one side, 
we are defective at present because we are not joined closely 
enough together, we are defective, on the other side, because 
we are not sufficiently differentiated apart. 

These two defects, and the remedies for them, are not, of 
course, incompatible. Indeed, Hegel teaches us that they are 
necessarily connected. None but perfect individuals could 
unite in a perfect unity. Only in a perfect unity could perfect 
individuals exist. But Hegel also points out that our advance 
towards an ideal is never direct. Every ideal can be analysed 
into two complementary moments. And in advancing towards 
it we emphasise, first, one of these, and then, driven on in the 
dialectic process by the consequent incompleteness and con 
tradiction, we place a corresponding emphasis on the other, 
and finally gain a higher level by uniting the two. 

This is the Hegelian law of progress. To apply it to the 
present case, it tells us that, in advancing towards an ideal 
where we shall be both more differentiated and more united 
than we are now, we shall emphasise first either the differen 
tiation or the union, and then supplement it by the other; 
that we shall reach thus a higher state of equilibrium, from 
which a fresh start must be made, and so on, through con 
tinually repeated oscillations, towards the goal. 

It would follow, then, that it would be impossible for us 
to say that a change in the constitution of society was only 
good if it drew men more closely together. For an advance 
in either direction will appear, till the corresponding advance 

1 Self-centred does not, with Hegel, mean isolated. Indeed, the two quali 
ties are incompatible. 


is made in the other, to amount to a positive decrease in the 
latter, which has become relatively less important. If, in any 
state of society, the unity increases while the differentiation 
is as yet unchanged, it will appear to have crushed individu 
ality. If, on the other hand, differentiation increases while 
the unity is unchanged, society will appear to have lost unity. 
And yet in each case there will be a real advance in the only 
way in which advance is possible, because the emphasis laid 
on one side furnishes the possibility indeed the necessity for 
the eventual advance of the other side, which, for the time, 
it throws into the background. 

204. Philosophy, then, can afford us no guidance as to the 
next step to be taken at any time. It can tell us that we are 
far below the ideal, both in unity and differentiation. It can 
tell us that we cannot advance far in one without advancing 
also in the other. But it also tells us that the steps are to 
be taken separately, and it can give us no information as to 
which, here and now, we have to take next. That must depend 
on the particular circumstances which surround us at the 
moment our needs, dangers, resources. It can only be de 
cided empirically, and it will just as often be a step which 
throws the unity into the background as it will be one which 
brings it forward into increased prominence. 

There is no want of historical examples which illustrate 
this alternate movement of society. The institution of private 
property, the first establishment of Christianity, and the break 
ing up of the feudal system each involved an increased 
emphasis on the individual. And each tended to make society, 
as it was, not more but less of an organism, by giving the 
individual claims and ideals which could not be satisfied in 
society as it was, and some of which such as parts of the 
Christian ideal cannot be satisfied on earth at all. Yet they 
were all steps in a real advance; for they gave an increased 
individuality to the parts of society on which have been based 
unities far closer than could have been attained without them. 
And we can see now that, if the Hegelian conception of the 
Absolute had been known when any of these changes was 
happening, it would have been a mistake to have condemned 



the change on the ground that it diminished instead of in 
creasing the unity of society. 

So, too, with the present. We are confronted to-day with 
schemes both for increasing and diminishing the stringency 
of social ties. On the one hand we are invited to nationalize 
the production of wealth. On the other hand, it is suggested 
that the relations of husband and wife, and of parent and 
child, should be reduced to the minimum which is physio 
logically necessary. I have no intention of suggesting that 
the second tendency is right, or here at least that the first 
is wrong. But I maintain that the question is one upon 
which philosophy throws no light, and which must be decided 
empirically. The ideal is so enormously distant that the most 
perfect knowledge of the end we are aiming at helps us very 
little in the choice of the road by which we may get there. 
Fortunately, it is an ideal which is not only the absolutely 
good, but the absolutely real, and we can take no road that 
does not lead to it. 

205. The result seems to be that philosophy can give us 
very little, if any, guidance in action. Nor can I see why it 
should be expected to do so. Why should a Hegelian citizen 
be surprised that his belief as to the organic nature of the 
Absolute does not help him in deciding how to vote? Would 
a Hegelian engineer be reasonable in expecting that his belief 
that all matter is spirit should help him in planning a bridge? 
And if it should be asked of what use, then, is philosophy ? and 
if that should be held a relevant question to ask about the 
search for truth, I should reply that the use of philosophy 
lies not in being deeper than science, but in being truer than 
theology not in its bearing on action, but in its bearing on 
religion. It does not give us guidance. It gives us hope. 



206. My object, in the present chapter, is more purely 
historical than in the rest of this work. I shall endeavour 
principally to determine the relation in which Hegel actually 
stood to the Christian religion, and not the relation which 
logically follows from the main principles of his philosophy. I 
believe it will be found, however, that, on this question at 
least, his conclusions are quite consistent with his fundamental 

In the course of this enquiry I shall quote with some 
frequency from Hegel s Philosophy of Religion. But I would 
ask the reader to look on these quotations rather as illustrations 
of my interpretation than as attempts to prove that it is correct. 
For such a purpose isolated quotations must always be inade 
quate. In the first place, Hegel s views on this subject are not 
so much expressed in distinct propositions, as in the tendency 
and spirit of page after page. If I were to quote all that is 
relevant in this way, I should have to transcribe at least half of 
Part III of the Philosophy of Religion. And, in the second 
place, isolated passages which support one view may perhaps 
be balanced by others supporting the opposite view still more 
clearly. Whether I am right in supposing that this is not the 
case with the theory I shall advocate can only be determined 
by each enquirer through his own study of the text. In short, 
if this chapter is of any utility to the student of Hegel, it must 
be by suggesting to him a point of view which is to be judged 
by his own knowledge of Hegel s works, and especially of the 
Philosophy of Religion. 


207. Hegel repeatedly speaks of Christianity as the highest 
of all religions, as the Absolute Religion, and as true. This is 
a fact of the first importance to our study of the question before 
us. But it is not, as is sometimes supposed, a sufficient answer 
to it. We must ask two preliminary questions. First did 
even the highest religion express, according to Hegel, absolute 
truth? Second was Hegel using the word Christianity in a 
sense which bears any similarity to the ordinary signification of 
the word? Most of this chapter will be employed in investi 
gating the second of these questions, and the perplexities in 
which our answer may involve us will perhaps be solved by 
considering the first. 

Christianity is a word of ambiguous meaning. By such as 
count themselves Christians it is, of course, applied especially 
to that system of religion which each of them, since he holds it 
to be true, holds to be truly Christian. But it is also applied, 
both by Christians and others, in a wider sense. It is used as 
a general name for various systems, more or less differing from 
one another, but having a general resemblance. No reasonable 
person would refuse the name of Christian either to Calvinists 
or to Arminians, either to the Church of Rome or to the Church 
of England. 

The precise limits of theological belief, however, within 
which the word is applicable, are very uncertain. No one, 
indeed, would deny that Berkeley ought to be called a Christian, 
and that Spinoza ought not. But what amount of variation 
from the more common forms of Christianity is compatible with 
a proper application of the term ? This is a question on which 
not many Christians seem to be certain, and on which still 
fewer seem to be agreed. Any attempt on the part of outsiders 
to determine the question would be not only arduous, but 
impertinent. I shall therefore confine myself to an endeavour 
to show what views Hegel entertained on certain theological 
subjects of cardinal importance, without venturing an opinion 
as to the propriety of calling such a religious system by the 
name of Christian. 

208. The points on which Hegel s system appears to have, 
primd facie, the most striking resemblance to Christianity are 


f three : the doctrines of the Trinity, of the Incarnation, and of 
Original Sin. In connection with each of these we have to 
discuss a second. With his belief as to the Trinity of God 
is closely connected his belief as to God s personality. His 
treatment of the Incarnation as a general truth will compel 
us to enquire also into his view of Jesus as a historical 
person. And his doctrine of Original Sin will suggest the 
question of the similarity of his ethical system to that generally 
associated with Christianity. We have thus six points to 
v determine. 

209. With regard to the Trinity and Personality of God, 
the most significant point in Hegel s philosophy of religion is 
his analysis of reality into a triad of which the first member is 
again analysed into another triad. Of these categories of the 
primary triad he says, "According to the firsb of these, God 
exists in a pure form for the finite spirit only as thought.... 
This is the Kingdom of the Father. The second characteristic 
is the Kingdom of the Son, in which God exists, in a general 
way, for figurative thought in the element of mental pictures.... 
Since, however, the Divine comes into view, and exists for 
Spirit in history of this kind, this history has no longer the 
character of outward history; it becomes divine history, the 
history of the manifestation of God Himself. This constitutes 
the transition to the Kingdom of the Spirit, in which we have 
the consciousness that Man is implicitly reconciled to God, and 
that this reconciliation exists for Man 1 ." 

The importance of this primary triad is mainly for the 
doctrine of the Personality of God, and we must therefore 
postpone it till we have dealt with the doctrine of the divine 
Trinity. This is connected by Hegel with the secondary triad 
into which he analyses the Kingdom of the Father. " Within 
this sphere or element," he says, "(1) Determination is neces 
sary, inasmuch as thought in general is different from thought 
which comprehends or grasps the process of Spirit. The 
eternal Idea in its essential existence, in-and-for-self, is present 
in thought, the Idea in its absolute truth.... 

"For sensuous or reflective consciousness God cannot exist 

1 Philosophy of Religion, ii. 221223 (trans, iii. 46). 


as God, i.e., in His eternal and absolute essentiality. His 
manifestation of Himself is something different from this, and 
is made to sensuous consciousness.... Spirit exists for the spirit 
for which it does exist, only in so far as it reveals and differ 
entiates itself, and this is the eternal Idea, thinking Spirit, 
Spirit in the element of its freedom. In this region God is the 
self-revealer, just because He is Spirit; but He is not yet 
present as outward manifestation. That God exists for Spirit 
is thus an essential principle. 

"Spirit is what thinks. Within this pure thought the 
relation is of an immediate kind, and there exists no difference 
between the two elements to differentiate them. Nothing 
comes between them. Thought is pure unity with itself, from 
which all that is obscure and dark has disappeared. This kind 
of thought may also be called pure intuition, as being the 
simple form of the activity of thought, so that there is nothing 
between the subject and the object, as these two do not yet 
really exist. This kind of thought has no limitation, it is 
universal activity, and its content is only the Universal itself ; 
it is pure pulsation within itself. 

" (2) It, however, passes further into the stage of absolute 
Diremption. How does this differentiation come about? 
Thought is, actu, unlimited. The element of difference in its 
most immediate form consists in this, that the two sides which 
we have seen to be the two sorts of modes in which the 
principle appears, sjiow their difference in their differing 
starting-points. The one side, subjective thought, is the 
movement of thought in so far as it starts from immediate 
individual Being, and, while within this, raises itself to what is 
Universal and Infinite.... In so far as it has arrived at the stage 
of the Universal, thought is unlimited; its end is infinitely 
pure thought, so that all the mist of finitude has disappeared, 
and it here thinks God ; every trace of separation has vanished, 
and thus religion, thinking upon God, begins. The second side 
is that which has for its starting-point the Universal, the result 
of that first movement, thought, the Notion. The Universal 
is, however, in its turn again an inner movement, and its 
nature is to differentiate itself within itself, and thus to 


preserve within itself the element of difference, but yet to do 
this in such a way as not to disturb the universality which is 
also there. Here universality is something which has this 
element of difference within itself, and is in harmony with 
itself. This represents the abstract content of thought, and 
this abstract thought is the result which has followed from what 
has taken place. 

"The two sides are thus mutually opposed or contrasted. 
Subjective Thought, the thought of the finite spirit, is a Process 
too, inner mediation ; but this process goes on outside of it, or 
behind it. It is in only so far as subjective thought has raised 
itself to something higher that religion begins, and thus what 
we have in religion is pure motionless abstract thought. The 
concrete, on the other hand, is found in its Object, for this is 
the kind of thought which starts from the Universal, which 
differentiates itself, and consequently is in harmony with itself. 
It is this concrete element which is the object for thought, 
taking thought in a general sense. This kind of thought is 
thus abstract thought, and consequently the finite, for the 
abstract is finite; the concrete is the truth, the infinite 

"(3) God is Spirit; in His abstract character He is 
characterised as universal Spirit which particularises itself. 
This represents the absolute truth, and that religion is the 
true one which possesses this content 1 ." 

210. It is this triple nature in God which Hegel identifies 
with the triple nature expounded in the doctrine of the Trinity. 
Thus he says, " This eternal Idea, accordingly, finds expression 
in the Christian religion under the name of the Holy Trinity, 
and this is God Himself, the eternal Triune God 2 ." And, in 
the next paragraph, " This truth, this Idea, has been called the 
dogma of the Trinity. God is Spirit, the activity of pure 
thought, the activity which is not outside of itself, which is 
within the sphere of its own being 2 ." 

And certainly the two doctrines have something in common. 
Both of them make God s nature to be triune, and both of them 

1 op. cit. ii. 224226 (trans, iii. 710). 

2 op. cit. ii. 227 (trans, iii. 11). 


make each member of the triad to be vitally and inherently 
connected with the other two. And thus Hegel is certainly 
right when he points out that his philosophy resembles 
Christian orthodoxy in rejecting the Deistic conception of God 
as an undifferentiated unity. And, again, he is justified when 
he ranks his system together with Christianity as possessing 
a deeper notion of the triplicity of God than the Hindoo 
religion. For in the latter (at any rate as interpreted by Hegel) 
the relation of the three moments of the Godhead towards one 
another is comparatively external 1 . 

211. But it must be noticed that the three moments of 
the divine nature form, for Hegel, a triad in a dialectic process. 
The division into the three moments is not the external judg 
ment of an external observer as to something intrinsically 
undivided. It is, on the contrary, the deepest nature of God. 
Nor are the three moments merely juxtaposed or externally 
combined in God. Each has only meaning in relation to the 
others, and the existence of one of the three presupposes the 
existence of the other two. From the existence of one, that is, 
we can deduce a priori the existence of the others. Now the 
only way in which our thought can reach, a priori, a conclusion 
which is not contained in the premises from which it starts, is, 
according to Hegel, the dialectic method. 

The following passages may serve to illustrate the fact that 
Hegel regarded the three moments of the Godhead as the terms 
of a dialectic triad. Immediately after giving the account of 
the three moments quoted above, he continues, "Spirit is the 
process referred to; it is movement, life; its nature is to 
differentiate itself, to give itself a definite character, to deter 
mine itself ; and the first form of the differentiation consists in 
this, that Spirit appears as the universal Idea itself 2 ." Here 
the process from moment to moment of the divine nature is 
identified with the movement of Spirit as a whole, and this 
movement can, for Hegel, be nothing else but a dialectic 

1 Cp. Hegel s account of the Hindoo religion in Part II of the Philosophy of 
Religion; also ii. 242 (trans, iii. 28); and the Greater Logic, i. 397. 

2 op. cit. ii. 226 (trans, iii. 10). 


Again he says that God "is the eternal Process... that this 
should be consciously known as the entire and absolute truth, 
the truth in-and-for itself, is, however, just the work of 
philosophy, and is the entire content of philosophy. In it 
it is seen how all that constitutes Nature and Spirit presses 
forward in a dialectic form to this central point as to its 
absolute truth. Here we are not concerned to prove that the 
dogma, this silent mystery, is the eternal Truth. That is done, 
as has been said, in the whole of philosophy 1 ." The "eternal 
Process" in question had been explained just before to be that 
of Father, Son, and Spirit. Now if this is "the entire content 
of philosophy," and to it all Nature and Spirit "presses forward 
in a dialectic form," the process must be dialectic. 

Still speaking of the Trinity, he says, "It is characteristic 
of the logical sphere in which this shows itself that it is the 
nature of every definite conception or notion to annul itself, to 
be its own contradiction, and consequently to appear as different 
from itself, and to posit itself as such 2 ." This is a description 
which exactly corresponds with the description of the dialectic 
process to be found in the Logic. 

Once more, when speaking of the objections brought by the 
understanding against the triplicity of the divine nature, he 
says "If... we regard the matter from the point of view of logic, 
we see that the One has inner dialectic movement, and is not 
truly independent 3 ." (The italics are Hegel s.) 

The Trinity, therefore, is for Hegel a dialectic process. It 
is not one of the chain of triads which form the Logic. A 
dialectic process can begin wherever pure thought asserts an 
inadequate idea in this case, the idea of God the Father of 
reality. And this particular inadequate idea is not one of those 
through which we pass from Being to the Absolute Idea. But 
all dialectic processes, if complete, must have the same end. 
For there is only one Absolute Idea, and none but the Absolute 
Idea is free from contradiction. And accordingly we can see 
that the third moment of the Trinity the Synthesis is 

1 op. cit. ii. 229 (trans, iii. 13). 

2 op. cit. ii. 232 (trans, iii. 16). 

3 op. cit. ii. 238 (trans, iii. 23). 


identical with the Absolute Idea, which is the final Synthesis 
of the Logic. (The Philosophy of Religion as a whole does 
not stop where the Logic does. It proceeds to more concrete 
forms. But it does this in the Kingdoms of the Son and of the 
Spirit. The Kingdom of the Father, which contains the abstract 
ideas of all three moments of the Trinity, is, like the subject 
matter of the Logic, pure thought only.) 

212. In every dialectic triad it is certain that the Synthesis 
contains all the truth which there is in the triad at all. The 
Thesis and Antithesis are not devoid of all truth. But then 
the Thesis and Antithesis are transcended and reconciled in the 
Synthesis. In so far as they are true, they are contained in 
the Synthesis. In so far as they assert themselves to be any 
thing more than moments in the Synthesis, in so far as they 
claim to be independent terms, only externally connected with 
the Synthesis in so far they are false. There can be no 
doubt, I think, that this was Hegel s view, and that, on any 
other view, the dialectic process is invalid 1 . 

213. According to Hegel s exposition, the Father and the 
Son are the Thesis and Antithesis of a triad of which the Holy 
Ghost is the Synthesis. It will follow from this that the Holy 
Ghost is the sole reality of the Trinity. In so far as the Father 
and the Son are real, they are moments in the nature of the 
Holy Ghost. In so far as they are taken as correlative with 
the Holy Ghost, and as on the same level with the latter, they 
are taken wrongly and are not real. In other words, the Father 
and the Son are simply abstractions which the thinker makes 
from the concrete reality of the Holy Ghost. 

This may be the correct doctrine of the Trinity, but it is 
not the usual one. It must be noticed that it does not merely 
place the Holy Ghost above the other two members of the 
Trinity, but merges these latter in the Holy Ghost, which is 
therefore not only the supreme reality, but the sole reality of 
God. And, again, the doctrine is more than the assertion that 
the relation of the members of the Trinity is not merely external. 
Doubtless it is not merely external, but internal and essential. 

1 Cp. Studies in the, Hegelian Dialectic, Sections 6, 94. 


But the point is as to the particular sort of relation. The 
Father and the Son are related to the Holy Ghost as something 
which is they, and more than they. But the Holy Ghost is 
related to the Father and the Son if it is to be called a 
relation in a very diffeient manner. Each of them, so far 
as it is real at all, is the Holy Ghost. But each of them is 
less than the Holy Ghost. And so are both of them taken 

The fact is that, although the movement of the dialectic 
is properly described as triple, its results are not. The result 
of a triad is a single truth in which two complementary moments 
can be distinguished. To call this triple is incorrect, as it places 
the whole and its parts on the same level. It would be absurd 
to say that the nature of Parliament was quadruple, on the 
ground that it consisted of Sovereign, Lords, Commons, and 
Parliament. And although the Synthesis of a triad is more 
independent of its moments than Parliament is of its three 
parts, yet those moments are less independent of the Synthesis 
than the parts are of Parliament, so that the impropriety of 
counting whole and parts in one aggregate is as great in one 
case as in the other. In all this there is nothing, I think, 
which makes Hegel at all inconsistent with himself. But it 
takes us a good way from the ordinary doctrine of the Trinity. 

214. We now pass to our second question the Personality 
of God. We must begin by considering the nature of the 
primary triad of the Philosophy of Religion, which we tem 
porarily postponed. Of this Hegel says, "We have, speaking 
generally, to consider the Idea as the divine self-revelation, and 
this revelation is to be taken in the sense indicated by the three 
categories just mentioned. 

"According to the first of these, God exists in a pure form 
for the finite spirit only as thought. This is the theoretical 
consciousness in which the thinking subject exists in a condition 
of absolute composure, and is not yet posited in this relation, 
not yet posited in the form of a process, but exists in the 
absolutely unmoved calm of the thinking spirit. Here, for 
Spirit, God is thought of, and Spirit thus rests in the simple 
conclusion that He brings Himself into harmony with Himself 


by means of His difference which, however, here exists only 
in the form of pure ideality, and has not yet reached the force 
of externality and is in immediate unity with Himself. This 
is the first of these relations, and it exists solely for the thinking 
subject which is occupied with the pure content only. This is 
the Kingdom of the Father. 

"The second characteristic is the Kingdom of the Son, in 
which God exists, in a general way, for figurative thought in the 
element of mental pictures or ideas. This is the moment of 
separation or particularisation in general. Looked at from this 
second standpoint, what in the first place represented God s 
Other or object, without, however, being defined as such, now 
receives the character or determination of an Other. Considered 
from the first standpoint, God as the Son is not distinguished 
from the Father, but what is stated of Him is expressed merely 
in terms of feeling. In connection with the second element, 
however, the Son is characterised as an Other or object, and 
thus we pass out of the pure ideality of Thought into the region 
of figurative thought. If, according to the first characterisation, 
God begets only one Son, here he produces Nature. Here the 
Other is Nature, and the element of difference thus receives its 
justification. What is thus differentiated is Nature, the world 
in general, and Spirit which is related to it, the natural Spirit. 
Here the element which we have already designated Subject 
comes in, and itself constitutes the content. Man is here 
involved in the content. Since Man is here related to Nature, 
and is himself natural, he has this character only within the 
sphere of religion, and consequently we have here to consider 
Nature and Man from the point of view of religion. The Son 
comes into the world, and this is the beginning of faith. When 
we speak of the coming of the Son into the world we are already 
using the language of faith. God cannot really exist for the 
finite spirit as such, for in the very fact that God exists for it 
is directly involved that the finite spirit does not maintain its 
finitude as something having Being, but that it stands in a 
certain relation to Spirit and is reconciled to God. In its 
character as the finite spirit it is represented as in a state of 
revolt and separation with regard to God. It is thus in 


contradiction with what is its own object and content, and 
in this contradiction lies the necessity for its abolition and 
elevation to a higher form. The necessity for this supplies 
the starting-point, and the next step in advance is that God 
exists for Spirit, that the divine content presents itself in a 
pictorial form to Spirit. Here, however, Spirit exists at the 
same time in an empirical and finite form, and thus what God 
is appears to Spirit in an empirical way. Since, however, the 
Divine comes into view, and exists for Spirit in history of this 
kind, this history has no longer the character of outward 
history; it becomes divine history, the history of the Mani 
festation of God Himself. This constitutes the transition to 
the Kingdom of the Spirit, in which we have the consciousness 
that Man is implicitly reconciled to God, and that this re 
conciliation exists for Man 1 ." 

215. These three stages, like the three subdivisions of the 
Kingdom of the Father, which we have considered above, are 
for Hegel a dialectic process. For he clearly holds that the 
movement from the first to the second, and from the second 
to the third, is intrinsically necessary, and can be deduced 
a priori. And, as was remarked above, the dialectic method 
is for Hegel the only way in which our thought can reach 
a priori to a conclusion which is not contained in the premises 
from which it starts. 

The following passages will illustrate the view which Hegel 
takes of the connection between the three " Kingdoms." " The 
Notion as well as Being, the world, the finite, are equally 
one-sided determinations, each of which changes round into 
the other, and appears at one time as a moment without 
independence, and at another as producing the other deter 
mination which it carries within itself 2 ." 

Again, when he is speaking of the transition from the 
Kingdom of the Son to the Kingdom of the Spirit, he says, 
"These are the moments with which we are here concerned, 
and which express the truth that Man has come to a 

1 Philosophy of Religion, ii. 221 223 (trans, iii. 4 6). 

2 op. cit. ii. 210 (trans, ii. 349). 


consciousness of that eternal history, that eternal movement 
which God Himself is. 

"This is the description of the second Idea as Idea in 
outward manifestation,, and of how the eternal Idea has come 
to exist for the immediate certainty of Man, i.e., of how it 
has appeared in history. The fact that it is a certainty for 
man necessarily implies that it is material or sensuous certainty, 
but one which at the same time passes over into spiritual 
consciousness, and for the same reason is converted into im 
mediate sensuousness, but in such a way that we recognize 
in it the movement, the history of God, the life which God 
Himself is 1 ." 

The fact is that the triad we are considering is identical 
with the triad of Logic, Nature, and Spirit which forms .the 
whole content of the Encyclopaedia, and this triad is un 
questionably dialectic 2 . 

216. Now if this triad is a dialectic process which exhibits 
the nature of God, it will follow that if God is really personal, 
he must be personal in the Kingdom of the Spirit. For that 
is the Synthesis, and in that alone, therefore, do we get an 
adequate representation of God s nature. If he were personal 
as manifested in the first and second Kingdoms, but not in 
the third, it would mean that he was personal when viewed 
inadequately, but not when viewed adequately i.e., that he 
was not really personal. 

In support of the statement that God is only adequately 
known when he is known in the Kingdom of the Spirit, we 
may quote the following passages, " In the Ego, as in that which 
is annulling itself as finite, God returns to Himself, and only as 
this return is He God. Without the world God is not God 3 ." 

And again, "God regarded as Spirit, when He remains 
above, when He is not present in His Church as a living 
Spirit, is Himself characterised in a merely one-sided way as 
object 4 ." 

1 op. cit. ii. 308 (trans, iii. 100). , 

2 Cp. Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Sections 98 100, 131132. 

3 Philosophy of Religion, i. 194 (trans, i. 200). 

4 op. cit. ii. 197 (trans, ii. 334). 


Again, " It is not in immediate Appearance or manifestation, 
but only when Spirit has taken up its abode in the Church, 
when it is immediate, believing Spirit, and raises "itself to the 
stage of thought, that the Idea reaches perfection 1 ." 

And, again, "Spirit is infinite return into self, infinite 
subjectivity, not Godhead conceived by means of figurative 
ideas, but the real present Godhead, and thus it is not the 
substantial potentiality of the Father, not the True in the 
objective or antithetical form of the Son, but the subjective 
Present and Real, which, just because it is subjective, is 
present, as estrangement into that objective, sensuous repre 
sentation of love and of its infinite sorrow, and as return, in 
that mediation. This is the Spirit of God, or God as present, 
real Spirit, God dwelling in His Church 2 ." 

217. It is in the Kingdom of the Spirit, then, that we 
must look for an adequate representation of God s nature. 
Now is God represented here as personal? 

The Kingdom of the Spirit, according to Hegel, is the 
Church. Thus he says, "The third stage is represented by 
the inner place, the Spiritual Community, existing at first in 
the world, but at the same time raising itself up to heaven, 
and which as a Church already has" God "in itself here on 
earth, full of grace, active and present in the world." And 
in the next paragraph, "The third element is the present, 
yet it is only the limited present, not the eternal present, 
but rather the present which distinguishes itself from the 
past and future, and represents the element of feeling, of the 
immediate subjectivity of the present spiritual Being. The 
present, must, however, also represent the third element; the 
Church raises itself to Heaven too, and thus the Present is 
one which raises itself as well and is essentially reconciled, 
and is brought by means of the negation of its immediacy 
to a perfected form as universality, a perfection or completion 
which, however, does not yet exist, and which is thereupon 
to be conceived of as future. It is a Now of the present whose 
perfect stage is before it, but this perfect stage is distinguished 

1 op. cit. ii. 242 (trans, iii. 28). 

2 op. cit. ii. 315 (trans, iii. 107). 



from the particular Now which is still immediacy, and it is 
thought of as future 1 ." 

The Kingdom of the Spirit, then, consists in the Spiritual 
Community, or Church (Die Gemeinde). Of course, the Church 
as we have it now and here is far too imperfect to be con 
sidered as an adequate representation of God. But then this 
Church is only, Hegel tells us, an imperfect form of that 
perfected Community, which from one point of view is eternally 
present, while from another point of view it must be conceived 
as being in the future. It is this perfect community which 
is the true Kingdom of the Spirit. But in becoming perfect 
it does not, for Hegel, cease to be a community. 

218. God, then, if represented adequately is a community. 
Can a community be a person? Surely the answer to this 
is certain. A community is composed of persons. A perfect 
community may be as complete a unity as any person. But 
a community cannot be a person, and the fact that it is a 
perfect community, and a perfect unity, does not make it at 
all more possible for it to be a person 2 . 

There is no reason to doubt that Hegel saw this. For he 
never speaks of the Community in such a way as to suggest 
that it is a person. And his choice of words is significant. 
For his vocabulary was rich with terms for a unity, which 
would suggest, or at least not exclude the suggestion of, a 
personal unity. He chose, however, a word Gemeinde whose 
ordinary meaning quite excludes any idea of personal unity. 
It is surely a fair inference that he wished to exclude that 

Again, in speaking of the unity by which the individuals 
who compose the Community are united, he always calls it 
Love. Now, if the Community, besides being a unity of 
persons, was itself a person, its members, though they might 
be connected by love, would also be connected by something 
very different a personal unity. And the fact that no bond 
but love is mentioned is therefore in favour of the theory that 
he did not conceive the Community as a person. 

1 op. cit. ii. 221 (trans, iii. 3 4). 

2 Cp. above, Sections 79 83. 


219. It is to be noticed in connection with this, that 
Hegel, unlike many philosophers and theologians, uses the 
word love, in his philosophical writings, in the same sense 
in which he and other men use it elsewhere. It may be 
useful to quote what he says on this subject. In the first 
place, since love is what unites men into the Community which 
is God, as God really is, we shall get a more definite notion 
of the Community by seeing precisely what is meant by love. 
In the second place, we may be able to get some fresh light 
on the charge against Hegel of substituting cold and im 
personal abstractions for the vivid and personal realities of 
popular religion. 

"Love thy neighbour as thyself. This command," says 
Hegel, "thought of in the abstract and more extended sense 
as embracing the love of men in general, is a command to 
love all men. Taken in this sense, however, it is turned into 
an abstraction. The people whom one can love, and for whom 
our love is real, are a few particular individuals; the heart 
which seeks to embrace the whole of humanity within itself 
indulges in a vain attempt to spread out its love till it becomes 
a mere idea, the opposite of real love 1 ." 

What, then, is this love which the individuals of the 
Community feel for one another? This love, he tells us 
later, "is neither human love, philanthropy, the love of the 
sexes, nor friendship. Surprise has often been expressed that 
such a noble relationship as friendship is does not find a place 
amongst the duties enjoined by Christ. Friendship is a re 
lationship which is tinged with particularity, and men are 
friends not so much directly as objectively, through some 
substantial bond of union in a third thing, in fundamental 
principles, studies, knowledge ; the bond, in short, is constituted 
by something objective; it is not attachment as such, like that 
of the man to the woman as a definite particular personality. 
The love of the Spiritual Community, on the other hand, is 
directly mediated by the worthlessness of all particularity. 
The love of the man for the woman, or friendship, can certainly 

1 op. cit. ii. 292 (trans, iii. 83). The italics are Hegel s. 



exist, but they are essentially characterised as subordinate; 
they are characterised not indeed as something evil, but as 
something imperfect; not as something indifferent, but as 
representing a state in which we are not to remain perma 
nently, since they are themselves to be sacrificed, and must 
not in any way injuriously affect that absolute tendency and 
unity which belongs to Spirit 1 ." 

220. It may seem at first sight rather difficult to tell 
what this love can be, since it must be for particular indi 
viduals, and yet is neither to be friendship nor sexual love. 
But we must notice that Hegel gives a curiously narrow 
definition of friendship, excluding from it all affection which 
is fixed on the friend himself, and not on his qualities and 
relations that affection which neither finds nor seeks any 
justification beyond its own existence. This, which many 
people would call friendship, is, I think, the love which Hegel 
regards as the bond which holds God together. It is, of course, 
compatible at present with friendship, in the Hegelian sense, 
as it is compatible at present with sexual attraction, but it 
has, as Hegel remarks in the last quoted passage, a significance 
sub specie aeternitatis which does not extend to them. 

221. It will be remembered that in the first of these two 
passages it is said that a man can only love "a few particular 
individuals" (einige Besondere), while in the second he states 
love to be "mediated by the worthlessness of all particularity " 
(die Werthlosigkeit alter Besonderheit) . The inconsistency is, 
I think, only apparent. In the first passage he was differenti 
ating true love from the spurious universality of a love for 
humanity, and here he seems to use "Besonderheit" simply 
as generally opposed to "alle Menschen." His object is to 
point out that the love of each man must be for this and that 
other man, and that the number of these for each of us is 
limited. It is impossible that he should have meant that our 
love is real only when we love men in their particularity, in 
the special sense in which he uses Particularity in the Logic. 
For Particularity in that sense is always used by Hegel to 

1 op. cit. ii. 314 (trans, iii. 106). 


denote inadequacy and error. It would be equivalent to saying 
that the only real love was love of men as they really are not. 
In the second passage, however, he appears to use Par 
ticularity in this more definite sense, according to which it 
is distinguished, not only from Universality, but also from 
Individuality. In this sense, to regard a person as particular 
is to regard him as contingently and externally determined, 
not as a self-determining unity with an immanent universality. 
In this sense of the word, all real love would have to be 
mediated by the worthlessness of Particularity. But the result 
attained would be the conception of every person as a true 
Individual a conception which unites and transcends Uni 
versality and Particularity. And this agrees with the previous 
assertion that true love can only be for another person as that 

222. To return from this digression. We have thus come 
to the conclusion that Hegel holds that view as to the per 
sonality of God which I endeavoured (chapter in) to show 
was the logical consequence of his views on the general nature 
of reality. God is not personal. For God is identical with 
Absolute Reality, and Absolute Reality can only be adequately 
conceived as a society of persons, which itself is a perfect unity, 
but not a person. 

Several circumstances have combined to prevent this inter 
pretation of Hegel s meaning from being generally accepted. The 
first of these is his use of the word God to designate Absolute 
Reality. In ordinary language, we mean by God a person. 
We most emphatically do not mean a society. And there is 
a vague idea, which has not been without influence on the 
interpretation of Hegel, that a man who talked so much about 
God must have believed God to be a person. But this error 
is gratuitous. For Hegel tells us plainly and repeatedly that 
by God he means simply Absolute Reality, whatever that may 
be. And it is our own fault if we take his language as 
implying a particular theory about the nature of Absolute 

223. There is a similar, but less obvious mistake, which 
often leads enquirers into a similar error. If God is simply 


Absolute Reality, then, it is said, everything which exists must 
be God. But such pantheism is a belief against which Hegel 
continually and most emphatically protests. 

We must, however, make a distinction. The pantheism 
against which Hegel protests is that which deifies the mass 
of our everyday experience, taken as a mere aggregate of 
separate units, and taken in the inadequate and contradictory 
forms in which it presents itself in everyday experience. This 
is certainly not Hegel s conception of God. God, according 
to him, is a perfect unity, and is Spirit. God is certainly not 
the aggregate of "facts" of uncritical experience. But it does 
not follow that God is not identical with the whole of Absolute 
Reality. For Absolute Reality is by no means, for Hegel, the 
aggregate of these facts. Such facts are merely a mistaken 
and inadequate view of Absolute Reality,- not devoid, of course, 
of all truth, but requiring enormous transformation and re 
construction before they can be fully true. And therefore the 
undoubted truth that God is not identical with them, when 
they are taken in this way, is no argument against the identity 
of God with Absolute Reality. 

224. Again, it is supposed that if Hegel holds God to be 
Spirit which he unquestionably does he must also consider 
God to be a person, or else hold that Spirit at any rate in 
its highest form is not personal. But this is not an exhaustive 
dilemma. For, as I have endeavoured to show, Hegel regards 
God as a unity of persons, though not as a person. All Spirit 
is personal, but it is many persons, not one person, although 
it is as really one Spirit as it is many persons. 

In illustration of this we may quote the following passages : 
"We have now reached the realised notion or conception of 
religion, the perfect religion, in which it is the notion itself 
that is its own object. We defined religion as being in the 
stricter sense the self-consciousness of God. Self-consciousness 
in its character as consciousness has an object, and it is 
conscious of itself in this object; this object is also conscious 
ness, but it is consciousness as object, and is consequently 
finite consciousness, a consciousness which is distinct from 
God, from the Absolute. The element of determinateness is 


present in this form of consciousness, and consequently finitude 
is present in it; God is self-consciousness, He knows Himself 
in a consciousness which is distinct from Him, which is 
potentially the consciousness of God, but is also this actually, 
since it knows its identity with God, an identity which is, 
however, mediated by the negation of finitude. It is this 
notion or conception which constitutes the content of religion. 
We define God when we say, that He distinguishes Himself 
from Himself, and is an object for Himself, but that in this 
distinction He is purely identical with Himself, is in fact 
Spirit. This notion or conception is now realised, consciousness 
knows this content and knows that it is itself absolutely inter 
woven with this content ; in the Notion which is the process 
of God, it is itself a moment. Finite consciousness knows God 
only to the extent to which God knows Himself in it; thus 
God is Spirit, the Spirit of His Church in fact, i.e., of those 
who worship Him. This is the perfect religion, the Notion 
becomes objective to itself 1 ." I should like to point out in 
passing that this passage forms the best comment on the 
definition of the Absolute Idea in the Smaller Logic. (En 
cyclopaedia, Section 236.) 

Again, "Man knows God only in so far as God Himself 
knows Himself in Man. This knowledge is God s self-con 
sciousness, but it is at the same time a knowledge of God 
on the part of Man, and this knowledge of God by Man is 
a knowledge of Man by God. The Spirit of Man, whereby 
he knows God, is simply the Spirit of God Himself 2 ." 

225. The third question which we have to consider is 
Hegel s treatment of the Incarnation. It is the nature of the 
Absolute Spirit to manifest itself in a multiplicity of in 
dividuals, each of whom is a self-conscious person. This is 
an eternal and adequate characteristic of Spirit. But, besides 
this, Spirit, Hegel tells us, manifests itself in the form of 
finitude. It must be remembered that finitude, for Hegel, 
does not merely mean that the finite thing has something 
else outside it, and is not unlimited. It means that its limits 

1 op. cit. ii. 191 (trans, ii. 327). 

2 op. cit. ii. 496 (trans, iii. 303). 


are imposed on it from without, and are not a consequence 
of its own nature that it is determined by another, and not 
determined by self. This is an inadequate and untrue de 
scription of reality, and accordingly the manifestation of God 
in this form of finitude is not to be found in the Kingdom 
of the Spirit the sphere in which God s true nature is known. 
It finds a place in the Kingdom of the Son ^ 

" We thus," Hegel says, "enter the sphere of determination, 
enter space and the world of finite Spirit. This may be more 
definitely expressed as a positing or bringing into view of the 
determinations or specific qualities, as a difference which is 
momentarily maintained ; it is an act of going out on the part 
of God into finitude, an act of manifestation of God in finitude, 
for finitude, taken in its proper meaning, implies simply the 
separation of that which is implicitly identical, but which main 
tains itself in the act of separation. Regarded from the other 
side, that of subjective Spirit, this is posited as pure thought, 
though it is implicitly a result, and this has to be posited 
as it is potentially in its character as the movement of thought, 
or to put it otherwise, pure thought has to go into itself, and 
it is in this way that it first posits itself as finite 2 ." 

226. This view certainly has striking resemblances to the 
Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. For it rejects, in the 
first place, the view that matter, while created by God and 
subordinate to God, is completely alien to God s nature, so that 
God can never be incarnate in it. Then it also rejects the 
two contrary heresies which arise out of lingering traces of 
the last mentioned view. For, while Hegel admits that God 
when known as incarnate is not known in his perfection, 
he maintains on the other hand that it is the true and perfect 
God who is incarnated, and thus rejects all suggestion that the 
Son is inferior to the Father. On the other hand he asserts 

1 The incarnation of God in the Kingdom of the Son must be carefully 
distinguished from God s manifestation in Individuals. This latter is the 
absolute truth of God s nature, and persists in the Kingdom of the Spirit. 
These Individuals are perfect Individuals, and are not, in Hegel s terminology, 

2 op. cit. ii. 251 (trans, iii. 38). 


that God is really incarnate in matter in so far as matter 
can be said to be real at all and so excludes the Docetic 
theory that the body of the incarnate God was only a phantasm 
imitating matter. 

Here, as always, Hegel reconciled opposites by uniting 
them in a higher reality which included and transcended both. 
He saw the inadequacy of trying to bridge over a difference 
which, so far as it existed at all, was qualitative, by quantitative 
concessions. To hold that the incarnate God was not fully 
God, or not really incarnate, was to destroy all the significance 
of the incarnation, while removing none of its difficulties. It 
is as hopeless as the similar attempt to bridge over the 
gulf between God and Nature by the length of a chain of 

As against such views Hegel asserts the incarnation of 
very God in very Man. " In the Church Christ has been 
called the God-Man. This is the extraordinary combination 
which directly contradicts the Understanding ; but the unity 
of the divine and human natures has here been brought into 
human consciousness and has become a certainty for it, im 
plying that the otherness, or, as it is also expressed, the 
finitude, the weakness, the frailty of human nature is not 
incompatible with this unity, just as in the eternal Idea 
otherness in no way detracts from the unity which God is 
It involves the truth that the divine and human natures are 
not implicitly different 1 ." 

227. But there are other characteristics of Hegel s doctrine 
of the Incarnation which are not unimportant. God is in 
carnate not in one man only, nor in men only, but in every 
thing finite. (Men are not intrinsically finite, in Hegel s sense 
of that word. But men are finite in so far as they appear in 
the Kingdom of the Son which is the sphere of finitude, and in 
which God only exists as incarnate.) The world of finitude 
is nothing but God in one moment of the dialectic process of 
his nature, and to say that a thing is finite, and to say that 
it is the incarnation of God, are identical. For there is no 

1 op. cit. ii. 286 (trans, iii. 76). 


reality but God, and if the reality has the imperfect form of 
finitude, this can only mean that it is God in the imperfect 
form of incarnation. 

228. It is true that Hegel is very far from holding that 
God is equally incarnate in all finite objects. In proportion 
as the finitude is overcome, the incarnation is to be considered 
more perfect. God is more perfectly incarnate in a dog than 
in a stone, more perfectly again in a wicked and foolish man, 
still more perfectly in a wise and good man. But if God is 
less incarnate in some finite things than in others, this is only 
because those things are less real. All the reality in each 
thing is only in the incarnation of God. For Hegel s view 
is not that matter was first created as something else than 
the incarnation of God, and that afterwards God became 
incarnate in it. There is no such priority, whether logical 
or temporal. For the matter is nothing else than the in 
carnation of God. 

Defects, error, sin, are for Hegel only imperfectly real. 
But nothing which is evil is pure and unmixed abstract evil, 
and therefore all evil things have some reality. And in so far 
as they are real they are incarnations of God. It is only of 
pure abstract evil that you could say that it was not a form of 
God. And pure abstract evil is non-existent. (All sin, for 
example, is for Hegel relatively good 1 .) 

Here, again, we may say that whatever truth Hegel s view 
of the Incarnation may have, it presents not unimportant 
differences from the ordinary idea. The Incarnation is identical 
with the Creation. To say that God is incarnate in the finite 
is misleading. We should rather say that the finite is the 
incarnation of God. 

229. Now for the Christian religion the incarnation of God 
in one particular human body is of unique significance. This 
leads us to our fourth question. What does Hegel think as to the 
divinity of Jesus ? It is clear that, on Hegel s theory, he must 
have been God incarnate, since he was a man. It is equally clear 
that he was not the sole incarnation of God. Yet Hegel does 

1 Cp. chap. vi. 


not reject the special prominence of Jesus in historical Christ 
ianity as a simple error. We must examine his treatment of it. 

He points out that there are two separate questions to be 
considered. "The question as to the truth of the Christian 
religion directly divides itself into two questions : 1 . Is it 
true in general that God does not exist apart from the Son, 
and that He has sent Him into the world? And 2. Was this 
man, Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter s son, the Son of God, 
the Christ? 

"These two questions are commonly mixed up together, 
with the result that if this particular person was not God s 
Son sent by Him, and if this cannot be proved to be true of 
Him, then there is no meaning at all in His mission. If this 
were not true of Him, we would either have to look for another, 
if indeed, one is to come, if there is a promise to that effect, 
i.e., if it is absolutely and essentially necessary, necessary from 
the point of view of the Notion, of the Idea; or, since the 
correctness of the Idea is made to depend on the demonstration 
of the divine mission referred to, we should have to conclude 
that there can really be no longer any thought of such a mission, 
and that we cannot further think about it. 

"But it is essential that we ask first of all, Is such a 
manifestation true in-and-f or-itself x ? " 

We have already seen what is Hegel s answer to the first 
question that which relates to the general truth of the doctrine 
of Incarnation. But the second question divides into two. 
(a) In what way, and for what reasons, is it necessary to take 
the incarnation of God in one particular man as possessing a 
special significance ? (b) Why should the particular man taken 
be Jesus? 

230. To the first of these new questions Hegel s answer is 
that the selection of the incarnation in one particular man has 
reference, not to anything in the nature of the incarnation of I 
God, but to the inability of mankind in general to grasp the 
idea of that incarnation in its truth. "If Man is to get a 
consciousness of the unity of divine and human nature, and 

1 Philosophy of Religion, ii. 318 (trans, iii. 110). 


of this characteristic of Man as belonging to Man in general; 
or if this knowledge is to force its way wholly into the con 
sciousness of his finitude as the beam of eternal light which 
reveals itself to him in the finite, then it must reach him in his 
character as Man in general, i.e., apart from any particular 
conditions of culture or training; it must come to him as 
representing Man in his immediate state, and it must be uni 
versal for immediate consciousness. 

"The consciousness of the absolute Idea, which we have in 
thought, must therefore not be put forward as belonging to the 
standpoint of philosophical speculation, of speculative thought, 
but must, on the contrary, appear in the form of certainty for 
man in general. This does not mean that they think this 
consciousness, or perceive and recognize the necessity of this 
Idea; but what we are concerned to show is rather that the 
Idea becomes for them certain, i.e., this Idea, namely the unity 
of divine and human nature, attains the stage of certainty, that, 
so far as they are concerned, it receives the form of immediate 
sense-perception, of outward existence in short, that this Idea 
appears as seen and experienced in the world. This unity must 
accordingly show itself to consciousness in a purely temporal, 
absolutely ordinary manifestation of reality, in one particular 
man, in a definite individual who is at the same time known 
to be the Divine Idea, not merely a Being of a higher kind 
in general, but rather the highest, the Absolute Idea, the Son 
of God 1 ." 

231. "Man in general" cannot rise to the philosophical 
idea that all finitude is an incarnation of God. He requires 
it in the form of "immediate sense-perception." This sense- 
perception must take the form of one single man, and not of 
several men. For if more than one were taken, they would have 
some common quality which was not common to all other men, 
and it would be thought that it was in virtue of that quality 
that they were incarnations of God. But if only one individual 
is taken, then the very particularity and immediacy of that 
individual, if taken in his own right, forces on us the conviction 

1 op. cit. ii. 282 (trans, iii. 72). 


that he is not taken in his own right, but only as an example of 
a truth which is absolutely universal. 

This seems to be what Hegel means when he says, "This 
individual,... who represents for others the manifestation of the 
Idea, is a particular Only One, not some ones, for the Divine in 
some would become an abstraction. The idea of some is a 
miserable superfluity of reflection, a superfluity because opposed 
to the conception or notion of individual subjectivity. In the 
Notion once is always, and the subject must turn exclusively to 
one subjectivity. In the eternal Idea there is only one Son, 
and thus there is only One in whom the absolute Idea appears, 
and this One excludes the others. It is this perfect development 
of reality thus embodied in immediate individuality or separate- 
ness which is the finest feature of the Christian religion, and 
the absolute transfiguration of the finite gets in it a form in 
which it can be outwardly perceived 1 ." 

232. We have thus seen the reason why the universal 
incarnation of God should be presented in the form of a 
particular man. It is not a reason which would induce Hegel 
to treat this particular presentation as anything of great worth 
or significance. It is due to no characteristic of the incarnation, 
but only to the failure of the unphilosophic majority to fully 
comprehend that incarnation. And Hegel had very little 
respect for the philosophic difficulties of the unphilosophic man. 
Anyone who is familiar with his language knows that he is 
using his severest terms of condemnation when he says that 
this particular form of the doctrine comes from the necessity 
of abandoning " the standpoint of speculative thought " in 
favour of "the form of outward existence." The philosopher 
may recognise the necessity that his doctrine should be trans 
formed in this way, but he will regard the change as a degrada 
tion. Nothing is further from Hegel than the idea that the 
highest form of a doctrine is that in which it appeals to the 
average man. If he admits that some glimpse of the kingdom of 
heaven may be vouchsafed to babes, he balances the admission 
by a most emphatic assertion of the distorted and inadequate 
character of the revelation. 

1 op. cit. ii. 284 (trans, iii. 75). 


233. We see then why a particular man is to be taken as 
the type of the incarnation. But why Jesus more than any 
other particular man? To this question also Hegel supplies 
an answer. 

According to Hegel, as we have seen, different men are 
incarnations of God differing in their perfection. One man 
is more of an incarnation of God than another. Is this the 
explanation ? Was Jesus the most perfect man and therefore 
the most perfect incarnation of God who has lived on earth, 
or at any rate who has been known to history ? And is he the 
fitting representative of the incarnation, for those who need a 
representation, because he is, in truth and intrinsically, the 
most perfect example of it? 

This is not Hegel s view. It would be improbable, to begin 
with, that he should have thought that Jesus was the most 
perfect man of whom history tells us. His conception of human 
nature was not one which would lead him to accept as his ideal 
man one who was neither a metaphysician nor a citizen. 

But whatever may have been Hegel s opinion on this point, 
it is quite certain that it was not in the perfection of the 
character of Jesus that he found the reason which made it 
appropriate to take Jesus as the type of the incarnation. For 
it is not the life, but the teaching on which he lays stress. Not 
in the perfection of his character, but in the importance of the 
teaching expressed in his words, or implied in his life, consists 
the unique importance of Jesus to the history of religious 
thought. Hegel treats of the Passion at some length. But 
he says nothing of courage, of gentleness, of dignity qualities 
which he would have been the last to ignore if they had been 
relevant. He is entirely occupied with the metaphysical 
significance of the "death of God 1 ." 

234. But it was not in the truth and purity of his moral 
precepts that, according to Hegel, the importance of Jesus 
teaching was to be found. His precepts, like his life, would 
have appeared one-sided to Hegel and one-sided in the 
direction with which Hegel had least sympathy. On this point 

1 op. cit. ii. 295 307 (trans, iii. 86 99). 


we are not left to conjecture. It has been explained that the 
unity of God and man "must appear for others in the form of 
an individual man marked off from or excluding the rest of men, 
not all individual men, but One from whom they are shut ofT, 
though he no longer appears as representing the potentiality 
or true essence which is above, but as individuality in the 
region of certainty." 

He then continues, "It is with this certainty and sensuous 
view that we are concerned, and not merely with a divine teacher, 
nor indeed simply with morality, nor even in any way simply 
with a teacher of this Idea either. It is not with ordinary 
thought or with conviction that we have got to do, but with 
this immediate presence and certainty of the Divine; for the 
immediate certainty of what is present represents the infinite 
form and mode which the Is takes for the natural conscious 
ness. This Is destroys all trace of mediation; it is the final 
point, the last touch of light which is laid on. This Is is 
wanting in mediation of any kind such as is given through 
feeling, pictorial ideas, reasons ; and it is only in philosophical 
knowledge, by means of the Notion only in the element of 
universality, that it returns again 1 ." 

235. The special significance of Jesus, then, is that he 
bears witness to a metaphysical truth the unity of God and 

But he bears witness to this not as a metaphysical truth 
not as a proposition mediated and connected with others in a 
reasoned system but as a "certainty and sensuous view," as 
the "immediate presence and certainty of the Divine." Nor is 
he, as Hegel remarks, in the strictest sense a teacher of this 
Idea. It is rather that this immediate certainty of the unity of 
God and Man runs through all his teaching, than that it is often 
explicitly enunciated. 

The speeches of Jesus, which are presented by Hegel for 
our admiration, are those which imply this immediate certainty 
of unity with God. For example, "Into this Kingdom" of God 
"Man has to transport himself, and he does this by directly 

1 op. cit. ii. 283 (trans, iii. 73). 


devoting himself to the truth it embodies. This is expressed 
with the most absolute and startling frankness, as, for instance, 
at the beginning of the so-called Sermon on the Mount : 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Words 
like these are amongst the grandest that have ever been uttered. 
They represent a final central point in which all superstition 
and all want of freedom on Man s part are done away with 1 ." 

Again, he says, "The fact that this possession of this life 
of the spirit in truth is attained without intermediate helps, 
is expressed in the prophetic manner, namely that it is God 
who thus speaks. Here it is with absolute, divine truth, truth 
in-and-for-itself, that we are concerned; this utterance and 
willing of the truth in-and-for-itself, and the carrying out of 
what is thus expressed, is described as an act of God, it is the 
consciousness of the real unity of the divine will, of its harmony 
with the truth. It is as conscious of this elevation of His spirit, 
and in the assurance of His identity with God, that Christ says 
Woman, thy sins are forgiven thee. Here there speaks in 
Him that overwhelming majesty which can undo everything, 
and actually declares that this has been done. 

" So far as the form of this utterance is concerned, what has 
mainly to be emphasised is that He who thus speaks is at the 
same time essentially Man, it is the Son of Man who thus 
speaks, in whom this utterance of the truth, this carrying into 
practice of what is absolute and essential, this activity on God s 
part, is essentially seen to exist as in one who is a man and not 
something superhuman, not something which appears in the 
form of an outward revelation in short, the main stress is to 
be laid on the fact that this divine presence is essentially 
identical with what is human 2 ." 

And again, "The Kingdom of God, and the idea of purity 
of heart, contain an infinitely greater depth of truth than the 
inwardness of Socrates 3 ." 

236. The appropriateness of the selection of Jesus as the 
typical incarnation of God is thus due to the way in which his 

1 op. cit. ii. 290 (trans, iii. 81). 

2 op. cit. ii. 293 (trans, iii. 84). 

3 op. cit. ii. 295 (trans, iii. 86). 


teaching implied and rested on the unity of the human and 
the divine. This, Hegel says, is a great truth. But is it the 
only fundamental truth of religion? According to Hegel it is 
not, and according to his exposition, the principle as exemplified 
by Jesus had two cardinal errors. Each of these may be defined 
as an excess of immediacy. It was a merely immediate assertion 
of a merely immediate unity. 

That the assertion is merely immediate, is evident from 
what has been already said. There is no metaphysical system ; 
there is no dialectic process leading from undeniable premises 
to a conclusion so paradoxical to the ordinary consciousness. 
It is simply an assertion, which needed no proof to those who 
felt instinctively convinced of its truth, but which had no proof 
to offer to those who asked for one. 

Such a method of statement is, for Hegel, altogether 
defective. No philosophical error is more deadly, he teaches, 
than to trust to our instinctive belief in any truth except, 
of course, one whose denial is self-contradictory. On this, 
indeed, he lays a rather exaggerated emphasis, impelled by 
his opposition to the advocates of "immediate intuition" who 
were his contemporaries in German philosophy. Again and 
again, through all his writings, recur the assertions that an 
instinctive conviction is just as likely to be false as true ; that 
between the false and true only reason can discriminate ; that 
the "humility" which trusts the heart instead of the head is 
always absurd and often hypocritical; and that the form and 
content of truth are so united that no truth can be held in a 
non-rational form without being more or less distorted into 

237. Moreover, the unity thus asserted was a purely 
immediate unity. "There is no mention of any mediation in 
connection with this elevating of the spirit whereby it may 
become an accomplished fact in Man; but, on the contrary, 
the mere statement of what is required implies this immediate 
Being, this immediate self- transference into Truth, into the 
Kingdom of God 1 ." 

Now such an immediate unity is, for Hegel, only one side 

1 Philosophy of Religion, ii. 291 (trans, iii. 81). 
MCT. 15 


of the truth. It is true that man is eternally one with God, or 
he could never become one with God. But it is equally true 
that man is not one with God, unless he becomes so by a process 
of mediation, and that a man who rests in his immediacy would, 
so far as he did rest in it, not be divine, but simply non-existent. 
(We shall see how vital this side of the truth was for Hegel 
when we come to consider his treatment of Original Sin.) The 
reconciliation of these two aspects of the truth lies in the 
recognition that the unity of man and God is a unity which 
is immediate by including and transcending mediation. And 
this leaves the mere immediacy which ignores mediation as 
only one side of the truth. 

238. Why then the question recurs is Jesus taken as the 
typical incarnation of God ? True, he bore witness to the unity 

, of man and God, but in such a way that both the form and 
/the content of his testimony were inadequate, and, therefore, 
partially false. 

As to the inadequacy of the form, the answer has been given 
already. If the form of his testimony had been more adequate, 
Jesus would have been a less fitting type of the incarnation. 
For a type, as we have seen, is only required for "men in 
general," who cannot attain to the "standpoint of speculative 
thought." For speculative thought no type is required, since 
it is able to see the incarnation in its universal truth 1 . But 
without rising to the standpoint of speculative thought it is 
impossible to see the unity of God and man as a necessary and 
demonstrated certainty. "Men in general," therefore, can only 
accept it as a matter of simple faith, or, at most, as demonstrated 
by external proofs, such as tradition or miracles, which do not 
destroy the intrinsic immediacy of the result. In proportion 
as men rise above the immediate reception of the doctrine, they 
rise above the necessity of a typical representative of it. And 
therefore no teacher for whom the doctrine is not immediate 
can be taken as a fitting type. 

239. And we can see also that only a teacher whose 
immediate assertion was an assertion of a merely immediate 
unity could be taken as a type. For, as Hegel points out, a 

1 Cp. above, Section 230. 


unity which is immediately asserted can only be an immediate 
unity. "The fact that this possession of the life of the spirit 
in truth is attained without intermediate helps, is expressed in 
the prophetic manner, namely, that it is God who thus speaks 1 ." 
Form and content, in other words, are not mutually indifferent. 
A merely immediate assertion cannot express the true state of 
the case that man s unity with God is both mediate and 
immediate. If this truth is put as an immediate assertion it 
appears a mere contradiction. It can only be grasped by 
speculative thought. 

And thus a teacher speaking to men in general cannot 
embody in his teaching the whole truth as to the relation 
between man and God. He must teach the one side or the 
other the immediate unity of man and God, or their im 
mediate diversity. It is not difficult to see why it should 
be a teacher of the first half-truth, rather than of the second, 
who should be selected as the typical incarnation of God. 

In the first place, it was the doctrine of man s unity with 
God which was demanded by the needs of the time. "Jesus 
appeared at a time when the Jewish nation, owing to the 
dangers to which its worship had been exposed, and was still 
exposed, was more obstinately absorbed in its observance than 
ever, and was at the same time compelled to despair of seeing 
its hopes actually realised, since it had come in contact with 
a universal humanity, the existence of which it could no longer 
deny, and which nevertheless was completely devoid of any 
spiritual element He appeared, in short, when the common 
people were in perplexity and helpless 2 ." 

Elsewhere he tells us that the rest of the world was also, 
at this time, in a state of alienation from self, and of spiritual 
misery 3 . It was useless to preach to such a world that it was 
separated from God. Of that fact it was conscious, and hence 
came its misery. What was wanted was to give it hope by 
insisting on the other side of the truth that it was just as 
vitally united with God. 

1 Philosophy of Religion, ii. 293 (trans, iii. 84). 

2 op. cit. ii. 291 (trans, iii. 82). 

3 Cp. Phenomenology, iv. B. 158 



There is another reason, which is sufficiently obvious. A 
man who taught the immediate separation of man from God 
would be teaching a doctrine as true as the immediate unity 
of man with God, but he would be teaching a doctrine which 
could never suggest that he should be taken as a typical 
incarnation of God. On the other hand, we can see how 
easy it is to consider the teacher of the unity of man and 
God as a typical example of that unity, or even as the only 

240. We are now able to reconcile two statements of 
Hegel s which might at first sight appear contradictory. On 
the one hand, he speaks of the position of Jesus as typifying 
the incarnation of God, as if that position had been determined 
by the choice of the Church. (By the Church here he does 
not mean the Spiritual Community of the future, or of the 
eternal present, which is found in the Kingdom of the Spirit, 
but the Church of the past, in the ages in which Christian 
dogma was formulated, which is still part of the Kingdom of 
the Son. In the Kingdom of the Spirit the unity of God and 
man would be seen in its full truth, and no longer in the 
inadequate form of sensuous certainty.) 

On the other hand he speaks of the typification of the 
incarnation in Jesus as necessary. "It was to Christ only 
that the Idea, when it was ripe and the time was fulfilled, 
could attach itself, and in Him only could it see itself 
realised 1 ." 

There is nothing really contradictory in this. It is, as we 
.have seen, the case that Jesus is only the special incarnation 
of God for the Church for men in general who cannot rise 
to speculative thought. And, as we have also seen, the quality 
which renders it particularly fitting that Jesus should be taken 
as typical, is not any objective perfection in his incarnation 
of God, but is just the special manner in which his teaching 
meets the special needs, which are also the defects, of the 
Church militant on earth. Thus there is no reason for specu 
lative thought to treat the incarnation of God in Jesus as 
anything of peculiar significance, except the fact that the 

1 Philosophy of Religion, ii. 320 (trans, iii. 113). 


Church regards it as of peculiar significance. And thus it 
may be said that it is nothing but the choice of the 
Church which has attributed a specially divine character to 

But we must not regard that choice as capricious or 
accidental. No other man would have been so appropriate 
to choose indeed, the choice could scarcely have been at all 
effective if it had fallen on anyone else. That a man should 
be accepted by men in general as God incarnate, it was 
necessary that his teaching should be penetrated by the idea 
of the unity of God and man, and that his teaching should 
have become prominent in the world in that age when the 
world felt, more intensely than it has ever felt at any other 
time, that it was alienated from its true reality, and when it 
required, more urgently than it has ever required at any other 
time, the assurance of its unity with the divine. No other 
man in history would answer to this description, and thus 
Hegel was justified in saying that in Jesus only could the 
Idea see itself realised. 

241. Whether Hegel is altogether right in his analysis 
of the principles implicit in the teaching of Jesus we need 
not now enquire. Our object at present is not to determine 
the truth about Christianity but about Hegel s views on 
Christianity. And, to sum up his views as to the relation 
of Jesus to the incarnation of God, he holds (1) that Jesus 
was not the sole incarnation of God, nor an incarnation in a 
different sense to that in which everything is such an incarna 
tion, (2) that his significance is that in him the Church sym 
bolises, and appropriately symbolises, that universal incarnation 
which the Church has not sufficient speculative insight to 
grasp without a symbol, (3) that his appropriateness for this 
purpose does not lie in his being a more perfect incarnation 
of God, but in his being specially adapted to represent the 
divine incarnation to people who were unable to grasp its full 
meaning. In proportion as the incarnation is adequately 
understood, all exceptional character disappears from the 
incarnation in Jesus. Here again we must say that this 
doctrine may be true, and it may possibly deserve the name 


of Christian. But it does not much resemble the more ordinary 
forms of Christianity. 

242. The fifth point which we had to consider was Hegel s 
doctrine of Original Sin, and of Grace. He asserts that there 
is a profound truth in the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. 
This truth is to be found in the following proposition: "Man 
is by nature evil; his potential (an sich) Being, his natural 
Being is evil." But how does he interpret this? 

"In man," he says, we "meet with characteristics which are 
mutually opposed : Man is by nature good, he is not divided 
against himself, but, on the contrary, his essence, his Notion, 
consists in this, that he is by nature good, that he represents 
what is harmony with itself, inner peace; and Man is by 
nature evil. ... 

"To say that man is by nature good amounts substantially 
to saying that he is potentially Spirit, rationality, that he has 
been created in the image of God; God is the Good, and Man 
as Spirit is the reflection of God, he is the Good potentially. 
It is just on this very proposition and on it alone that the 
possibility of the reconciliation rests; the difficulty, the am 
biguity is, however, in the potentiality. 

" Man is potentially good but when that is said everything 
is not said; it is just in this potentiality that the element of 
one-sidedness lies. Man is good potentially, i.e., he is good 
only in an inward way, good so far as his notion or conception 
is concerned, and for this very reason not good so far as his 
actual nature is concerned. 

"Man, inasmuch as he is Spirit, must actually be, be for 
himself, what he truly is; physical Nature remains in the 
condition of potentiality, it is potentially the Notion, but the 
Notion does not in it attain to independent Being, to Being- 
for-self. It is just in the very fact that Man is only potentially 
good that the defect of his nature lies. . . . 

"What is good by nature is good in an immediate way, and 
it is just the very nature of Spirit not to be something natural 
and immediate ; rather, it is involved in the very idea of Man 
as Spirit that he should pass out of this natural state into a 
state in which there is a separation between his notion or 


conception and his immediate existence. In the case of 
physical nature this separation of an individual thing from its 
law, from its substantial essence, does not occur, just because 
it is not free. 

"What is meant by Man is, a being who sets himself in 
opposition to his immediate nature, to his state of being in 
himself, and reaches a state of separation. 

"The other assertion made regarding Man springs directly 
from the statement that Man must not remain what he is 
immediately; he must pass beyond the state of immediacy; 
that is the notion or conception of Spirit. It is this passing 
beyond his natural state, his potential Being, which first of all 
forms the basis of the division or disunion, and in connection 
with which the disunion directly arises. 

" This disunion is a passing out of this natural condition or 
immediacy ; but we must not take this to mean that it is the 
act of passing out of this condition which first constitutes evil, 
for, on the contrary, this passing out of immediacy is already 
involved in the state of nature. Potentiality and the natural 
state constitute the Immediate ; but because it is Spirit it is in 
its immediacy the passing out of its immediacy, the revolt or 
falling away from its immediacy, from its potential Being. 

"This involves the second proposition: Man is by nature 
evil; his potential Being, his natural Being is evil. It is just 
in this his condition as one of natural Being that his defect is 
found; because he is Spirit he is separated from this natural 
Being, and is disunion. One-sidedness is directly involved in 
this natural condition. When Man is only as he is according 
to Nature, he is evil. 

" The natural Man is Man as potentially good, good according 
to his conception or notion ; but in the concrete sense that man 
is natural who follows his passions and impulses, and remains 
within the circle of his desires, and whose natural immediacy is 
his law. 

"He is natural, but in this his natural state he is at the 
same time a being possessed of will, and since the content of his 
will is merely impulse and inclination, he is evil. So far as form 
is concerned, the fact that he is evil implies that he is no longer 


an animal, but the content, the ends towards which his acts of 
will are directed, are still natural. This is the standpoint we 
are concerned with here, the higher standpoint according to 
which Man is by nature evil, and is evil just because he is 
something natural. 

"The primary condition of Man, which is superficially 
represented as a state of innocence, is the state of nature, the 
animal state. Man must (soil) be culpable; in so far as he is 
good, he must not be good as any natural thing is good, but his 
guilt, his will, must come into play, it must be possible to 
impute moral acts to him. Guilt really means the possibility 
of imputation. 

f " The good man is good along with and by means of his will, 

and to that extent because of his guilt. Innocence implies the 

absence of will, the absence of evil, and consequently the absence 

\ of goodness. Natural things and the animals are all good, but 

\ this is a kind of goodness which cannot be attributed to Man ; 

\ in so far as he is good, it must be by the action and consent of 

1 his will 1 ." 

243. Hegel s doctrine of Original Sin, then, is that man in 
his temporal existence on earth has in his nature a contingent 
and particular element, as well as a rational and universal 
element, and that, while his nature is good in respect of the 
second, it is bad in respect of the first. 

From this follow three corollaries. The first is that it is 
unsafe to trust to the fact that all or some men have an 
instinctive conviction that a proposition is true or a maxim 
binding. Such a conviction shows that the proposition or the 
maxim is agreeable to some part of human nature, but it 
proves nothing as to its truth or obligation. For it may be the 
contingent and particular side of human nature in which the 
conviction arises, and a conviction which springs from this can 
only be right by accident. Indeed, since form and content 
are not completely separable, it cannot be more than ap 
proximately right. 

Again, since the rational and universal part of our nature is, 
to a large extent, merely latent until developed by thought, 

1 op. ciL ii. 258260 (trans, iii. 4548). 


education, and experience, it follows that the old and educated 
are more likely, caeteris paribus, to be in the right than the 
young and ignorant. It is, therefore, illegitimate to appeal to 
the unsophisticated natural instincts of the plain man. What 
ever presents itself simply as a natural instinct of a plain man 
presents itself in a form of contingency and particularity. It 
can only be right by chance, and it can never be quite right. 
From reason erroneous and sophisticated there is no appeal but 
to reason s own power of correcting its own errors. 

And, again, each generation does not start fresh in the work 
of evolving its rational and universal nature. The world shows 
a steady, though not an unbroken, advance in this respect. It 
is therefore illegitimate to appeal to the opinions of the past, 
as if it were a golden age when the true and the good were 
more easily recognized. We are doubtless wrong on many 
points, but we are more likely to be right than simpler and 
less reflective ages. 

244. Now all this may be true. It may be quite compatible 
with Christianity. It is possible that no other view on this 
subject is compatible with Christianity. But it is by no means 
a view which is exclusively Christian, or which originated with 
Christianity, or which involves Christianity, and the fact that 
Hegel accepts it does nothing towards rendering his position a 
Christian one. Human nature often leads us astray. Many 
men have had instinctive convictions of the truth of what was 
really false, and of the goodness of what was really bad. In 
spite of the many errors of the wise and prudent, it is safer to 
adopt their opinions than those of babes. The world had not 
to wait for Christianity to discover these truths. It would not 
cease to believe them if Christianity was destroyed. Indeed, 
when they have been denied at all, it has generally been in the 
supposed defence of Christianity. Hegel may be right when 
he points out that such a defence is suicidal. But he can 
scarcely be brought nearer to Christianity by holding a belief 
which hardly anyone denies except one school of Christians. 

The extreme emphasis which Hegel -lays on this doctrine is 
polemic in its nature. Among his contemporaries there was a 
party of Intuitionists, who based their philosophy on various 


propositions which were asserted to be fundamental convictions 
of mankind. And he tells us that there was also a Pietist 
school who held that we could not know God, but must be 
content to adore him in ignorance. Both these views in 
different ways involved a trust in our own natures, without 
criticism or discrimination, simply because they are our own 
natures. And it was his opposition to these views which urged 
Hegel into an iteration of his doctrine of Original Sin, which 
at first sight seems somewhat inexplicable. 

245. There is another feature of Hegel s treatment of 
Original Sin which we must mention. He regards conscious 
and deliberate sin as evil. But he regards it as less evil than 
that mere Innocence (Unschuldigkeit) which has its root, not 

i in the choice of virtue, but in ignorance of vice. As compared 
* with the deliberate choice of the good, the deliberate choice 
of the bad is contingent and particular and therefore evil. 
But to make a deliberate choice even of the bad implies some 
activity of the reason and the will. And so it has a universality 
in its form, which Innocence has not. It is true that Innocence 
has a universality in its content, which Sin has not. So far 
they might seem to be on a level. But Sin is so far superior 
that it has advanced one step nearer to the goal of Virtue. 
The man who has sinned may not have mounted higher in 
doing so. But he has at any rate started on the only road 
which can eventually lead him upwards. 

And the advance from Innocence to Virtue can only be 
through Sin. Sin is a necessary means to Virtue. " Man must 
(soil) be culpable ; in so far as he is good, he must not be good 
as any natural thing is good, but his guilt, his will, must come 
into play, it must be possible to impute moral acts to him 1 ." 

246. This relative superiority of Sin is evident in the 
passage which I quoted above 2 . It is also evident in the whole 
of Hegel s treatment of the story of the Fall. Of this I will 
quote one extract. " It is knowledge which first brings out the 
contrast or antithesis in which evil is found. The animal, the 
stone, the plant is not evil ; evil is first present within the sphere 

1 op. cit. ii. 260 (trans, iii. 48); cp. above, chap. vi. 

2 op. cit. ii. 258 260 (trans, iii. 45 48). 


of knowledge ; it is the consciousness of independent Being, or 
Being-for-self relatively to an Other, but also relatively to an 
Object which is inherently universal in the sense that it is the 
Notion or rational will. It is only by means of this separation 
that I exist independently, for myself, and it is in this that evil 
lies. To be evil means in an abstract sense to isolate myself ; 
the isolation which separates me from the Universal represents 
the element of rationality, the laws, the essential characteristics 
of Spirit. But it is along with this separation that Being-for- 
self originates, and it is only when it appears that we have the 
Spiritual as something universal, as Law, what ought to be 1 ." 

Later in the book he says, " What is devoid of Spirit appears 
at first to have no sin in it, but to be innocent, but this is just 
the innocence which is by its very nature judged and con 
demned 2 ." 

After all this it is only to be expected that Hegel, while he 
considers that the story of the Fall embodies a great truth, 
considers also that the Fall was in reality a rise. In this 
respect the Devil only told the truth. " The serpent says that 
Adam will become like God, and God confirms the truth of this, 
and adds His testimony that it is this knowledge which con 
stitutes likeness to God. This is the profound idea lodged in 
the narrative 3 ." And again, "The serpent further says that 
Man by the act of eating would become equal to God, and by 
speaking thus he made an appeal to Man s pride. God says to 
Himself, Adam is become as one of us. The serpent had thus 
not lied, for God confirms what it said 4 ." 

If this is to be counted as Christianity, then it must be 
compatible with Christianity to hold that the lowest state in 
which man ever existed was in Paradise before the entrance 
of the serpent, and that Adam and Eve, in yielding to the 
temptations of the Devil, were in reality taking the first step 
towards realising the truest and highest nature of Spirit. 

1 op. cit. ii. 264 (trans, iii. 52). 

2 op. cit. ii. 316 (trans, iii. 108). 

3 op. cit. ii. 75 (trans, ii. 202). 

4 op. cit. ii. 265 (trans, iii. 54). Cp. also Philosophy of History, p. 334 (trans, 
also p. 334). 


247. Hegel s doctrine of Grace is the correlative of his 
doctrine of Original Sin. In the latter we were reminded 
that man s temporal nature is infected with contingency and 
particularity. In the doctrine of Grace the emphasis is laid on 
the rationality and universality of man s eternal nature. 

"The very fact that the opposition" inherent in the nature 
of Spirit " is implicitly done away with constitutes the condition, 
the presupposition, the possibility of the subject s ability to do 
away with it actually. In this respect it may be said that the 
subject does not attain reconciliation on its own account, that 
is, as a particular subject, and in virtue of its own activity, and 
what it itself does ; reconciliation is not brought about, nor can 
it be brought about, by the subject in its character as subject. 

"This is the nature of the need when the question is, By 
what means can it be satisfied ? Reconciliation can be brought 
about only when the annulling of the division has been arrived 
at; when what seems to shun reconciliation, this opposition, 
namely, is non-existent; when the divine truth is seen to be 
for this, the resolved or cancelled contradiction, in which the 
two opposites lay aside their mutually abstract relation. 

"Here again, accordingly, the question above referred to 
once more arises. Can the subject not bring about this re 
conciliation by itself by means of its own action, by bringing 
its inner life to correspond with the divine Idea through its 
own piety and devoutness, and by giving expression to this in 
actions? And, further, can the individual subject not do this, 
or, at least, may not all men do it who rightly will to adopt the 
divine law as theirs, so that heaven might exist on earth, and 
the Spirit in its graciousness actually live here and have a real 
existence? The question is as to whether the subject can or 
cannot effect this in virtue of its own powers as subject. The 
ordinary idea is that it can do this. What we have to notice 
here, and what must be carefully kept in mind, is that we are 
dealing with the subject thought of as standing at one of the 
two extremes, as existing for itself. To subjectivity belongs, as 
a characteristic feature, the power of positing, and this means 
that some particular thing exists owing to me. This positing 
or making actual, this doing of actions, &c., takes place through 


me, it matters not what the content is; the act of producing 
is consequently a one-sided characteristic, and the product is 
merely something posited, or dependent for its existence on 
something else; it remains as such merely in a condition of 
abstract freedom. The question referred to consequently comes 
to be a question as to whether it can by its act of positing 
produce this. This positing must essentially be a pre-positing, 
a presupposition, so that what is posited is also something 
implicit. The unity of subjectivity and objectivity, this divine 
unity, must be a presupposition so far as my act of positing is 
concerned, and it is only then that it has a content, a sub 
stantial element in it, and the content is Spirit, otherwise it is 
subjective and formal; it is only then that it gets a true, 
substantial content. When this presupposition thus gets a 
definite character it loses its one-sidedness, and when a definite 
signification is given to a presupposition of this kind the one- 
sidedness is in this way removed and lost. Kant and Fichte 
tell us that man can sow, can do good only on the presup 
position that there is a moral order in the world ; he does not 
know whether what he does will prosper and succeed ; he can 
only act on the presupposition that the Good by its very nature 
involves growth and success, that it is not merely something 
posited, but, on the contrary, is in its own nature objective. 
Presupposition involves essential determination. 

"The harmony of this contradiction must accordingly be 
represented as something which is a presupposition for the 
subject. The Notion, in getting to know the divine unity, 
knows that God essentially exists in-and-for-Himself, and con 
sequently what the subject thinks, and its activity, have no 
meaning in themselves, but are and exist only in virtue of that 
presupposition 1 ." 

248. Hegel s doctrine of Grace, then, conies to this, that 

man, as considered in his subjectivity, that is, in his mere 

particularity cannot effect the improvement which he needs. 

That improvement can only be effected through the unity of 

\subjectivity and objectivity, "this divine unity." And, as this 

1 op. cit. ii. 277 (iii. 67). 


unity is itself the goal to which the improvement aspires, this 
means that the goal can only be reached, sub specie temporis, 
because, sub specie aeternitatis , the runners have been always 
there. But this divine unity of the subjective and objective 
is just the manifestation of God in man, which is the whole 
nature of man. And, therefore, this eternal reality, on whose 
existence depends our temporal progress, is nothing outside us, 
or imparted to us. It is our own deepest nature our only real 
nature. It is our destiny to become perfect, sub specie temporis, 
because it is our nature to be eternally perfect, sub specie 
aeternitatis. We become perfect in our own right. It is true 
that our perfection depends on God. But God, viewed ade 
quately, is the community of which we are parts. And God is 
a community of such a kind that the whole is found perfectly 
in every part 1 . 

Whether this doctrine is compatible with Christianity or 
not, is a question, as I have already explained, which is not 
for our present consideration. But it can, at any rate, give 
us no grounds for calling Hegel a Christian, for it is by no 
means exclusively or especially Christian. All mystical Ideal 
ism is permeated by the idea that only the good is truly real, 
and that evil is doomed to be defeated because it does not 
really exist. In Hegel s own words -"the consummation of 
the infinite End... consists merely in removing the illusion 
which makes it seem yet unaccomplished 2 ." 

249. Hegel s doctrine of Grace, it will be noticed, is 
identical with the assertion of the immediate unity of the 
human and divine, which he tells us is the fundamental 
thought in the teaching of Jesus. But the doctrine of Grace 
is only the complement of the doctrine of Original Sin. It 
would seem, then, that Hegel s view was that the Christian 
Church remedied the one-sided character of its founder s teach 
ing, by putting Original Sin by the side of Grace, and thus 
emphasising both the unity and the separation of the human 
and the divine. But the Church would not be able to see 
the true reconciliation and unity of these doctrines, since it 

1 Cp. above, Section 14. 

2 Encyclopaedia, Section 212, lecture note. 


could never rise to the full height of speculative thought. 
It could only hold them side by side, or unite them by some 
merely external bond. 

250. We now pass to the sixth and last point on which 
we have to compare the system of Hegel with Christianity 
his views on morality. There is no doubt that Hegel s 
judgments as to what conduct was virtuous, and what conduct 
was vicious, would on the whole agree with the judgments 
which would be made under the influence of Christianity. 
But this proves nothing. Fortunately for mankind, the moral 
judgments of all men, whatever their religious or philosophical 
opinions, show great similarity, though not of course perfect 
coincidence. Different systems of religion may lead to different 
opinions on the exact limits of virtue and duty in such matters 
as veracity or chastity. And they may, on the authority of 
revelation, introduce additional positive duties, such as to 
observe the seventh day, or to abstain from beef. But the 
great mass of morality remains unaffected in its content by 
dogmatic changes. 

Different religions, however, may lay the emphasis in 
morality differently. They may differ in the relative import 
ance which they attach to various moral qualities. And it 
is here that Hegel separates himself from Christianity. It 
is just that side of morality on which Christianity lays the 
most stress which is least important for Hegel. This appears 
in several ways. 

251. (a) Christianity habitually attaches enormous im 
portance to the idea of sin. The difference between vice and 
virtue is absolute, and it is of fundamental importance. It 
is unnecessary to quote examples of this, or to enlarge on the 
way in which the sense of sin, the punishment of sin, the 
atonement for sin, have been among the most prominent 
elements in the religious consciousness of the Christian world. 

This idea is entirely alien to Hegel. I do not wish to insist 
so much on his belief that all sin, like all other evil, is, from the 
deepest point of view, unreal, and that sub specie aeternitatis 
all reality is perfect. It might be urged that this view was 
logically implied in any system which accepted the ultimate 


triumph of the good, and that Hegel had only developed a 
doctrine which was involved in Christianity, even if it was 
imperfectly understood by many Christians. 

But the real difference lies in Hegel s treatment of sin 
as something relatively good, which we noticed above. Sin 
is for Hegel not the worst state to be in. Virtue is better 
than sin, but sin is better than innocence. And since, as we 
saw in dealing with Original Sin, the only path from innocence 
to virtue is through sin, it follows that to commit sin is, in 
some cases at least, a moral advance. I have tried to show 
in a previous chapter that such a belief does not obliterate 
the distinction between vice and virtue, or destroy any in 
centive to choose virtue rather than vice. But such a belief 
is clearly quite incompatible with an assertion that the dis 
tinction between vice and virtue is primal, and of supreme 
importance from the standpoint of the universe at large. 

252. (b) Again, Christianity was the first religion to lay 
paramount stress in morals on the individual conscience of 
the moral agent. The responsibility of each man s actions 
was no longer taken it was not even allowed to be shared 
by the state or the family. And thus the central question for 
ethics became more subjective. The important point was not 
whether an action tended to realise the good, but whether it 
was inspired by a sincere desire to realise the good. 

An unbalanced insistence on the duties and rights of the 
individual conscience may produce very calamitous results. 
This Hegel tells us with extraordinary force and vigour 1 . 
But he goes so far in his effort to avoid this error, that his 
system becomes defective in the reverse direction. For, after 
all, it must be admitted that, although a man may fall into 
the most abject degradation with the full approval of his 
conscience, yet he cannot be really moral without that approval. 
The subjective conviction is by no means the whole of morality, 
but it is an essential part. 

Nor is morality altogether a social matter. It is very 
largely social. To live in a healthy society gives important 

1 Cp. Phenomenology, v. B. b. 275 284. 


assistance, both by guidance and by inspiration, to the indi 
vidual. Nor would a completely healthy moral life be possible 
in a diseased society. And yet it is possible to be better than 
the society you live in. It is even possible to be in fundamental 
opposition to it to strive with all your might Eastwards 
when society is pushing towards the West and yet to be in 
the right. 

Such considerations as these Hegel ignores in his recoil 
from the morality of conscience. The great ethical question 
for him is not How shall I be virtuous ? but What is a perfect 
society? It is an inadequate question, if taken by itself, but 
it is inadequate by reason of a reaction from the complementary 
inadequacy. And it is in the direction of this complementary 
inadequacy of excessive subjectivity that the morality of 
Christianity has always diverged in so far as it diverged 
at all. 

253. (c) The exclusively social nature of Hegel s morality 
comes out in another way in its limitation to the society 
of our present life. It may be doubted if this is to be 
attributed to a disbelief in individual immortality, or if as 
I believe to be the case he believed in our immortality but 
felt no great interest in it. But whatever may be the cause, 
the fact cannot be doubted. It would be difficult, I believe, 
to find a word in Hegel which suggests that our duties, our 
ideals, or our motives are in the least affected by the probability 
or possibility of our surviving the death of our bodies. And 
this is the more striking since a life in time could, according 
to Hegel, only express reality very inadequately, and could 
never be fully explained except by reference to something 
beyond it. 

Here, again, the characteristic tendency of Christian morality 
is to over-emphasise the side which Hegel ignores. Whenever the 
Christian Church has failed to keep the balance true between 
life before and after death it has always been in the direction 
of unduly ignoring the former. Not content with treating our 
present existence as imperfect, it has pronounced it intrinsi 
cally worthless, and only important in so far as our actions 
here may be the occasions of divine reward and punishment 

MCT. 16 


hereafter. I am not asserting, of course, that the Christian 
Church has always held such a view as this, but only that, 
when it did depart from the truth, it was into this extreme 
that it fell exactly opposite to the extreme adopted by Hegel. 

254. (d) Another form of the specially social character 
of Hegelian ethics is the preference which he gives, when 
he does consider individual characters, to social utility over 
purity of motive. A man s moral worth for Hegel depends 
much more on what he does than on what he is. Or to put 
it less crudely he is to be admired if what he does is useful, 
even if he does it for motives which are not admirable. For 
Hegel the man who takes a city is better than the man who 
governs his temper, but takes no cities. And this consideration 
of result rather than motive is of course quite alien to the 
morality of conscience which is specially prominent in Chris 

255. (e) Connected with this is the relative importance 
of morality as a whole. The Christian Church has always had 
a strong tendency to place virtue above all other elements 
of human perfection, not only as quantitatively more important, 
but as altogether on a different level. If a man is virtuous, 
all other perfections are unnecessary to gain him the divine 
approbation. If he is not virtuous, they are all useless. There 
is nothing of this to be found in Hegel. He does not show 
the slightest inclination to regard right moral choice as more 
important than right intellectual judgment. And moreover 
he was firmly convinced of the unity of human nature, and 
of the impossibility of cutting it up into unconnected depart 
ments. Within certain limits, no doubt, one man might be 
stronger morally, another intellectually. But it is impossible 
for failure in one direction not to injure development in 
another. Hegel would not only have admitted that every 
knave is more or less a fool which is a fairly popular state 
ment with the world in general. He would have insisted 
on supplementing it by a proposition by no means so likely 
to win general favour that every fool is more or less a 

Christianity, again, is often found to hold that, in the 


most important department of knowledge, truth can be at 
tained without great intellectual gifts or exertions, by the 
exercise of a faith the possession of which is looked on as a 
moral virtue. Sometimes the further assertion is made that 
the exercise of the intellect is not only unnecessary for this 
purpose, but useless, and sometimes it is pronounced to be 
actually harmful. The more you reason about God, it has 
been said, the less you know. 

This theory, even in its mildest form, is absolutely alien 
indeed, abhorrent to Hegel. The Kingdom of God may be 
still hidden in part from the wise and prudent. But of one 
thing Hegel is absolutely certain. It is not revealed to babes. 
You cannot feel rightly towards God, except in so far as you 
know him rightly. You cannot know him rightly, except in 
so far as you are able and willing to use your reason. If you 
arrived at the right conclusions in any other way, they would 
be of little value to you, since you would hold them blindly 
and mechanically. But in truth you cannot arrive at the 
right conclusions in their fulness in any other way. For all 
irrational methods leave marks of their irrationality in the 

256. (/) There is no trace in Hegel of any feeling of 
absolute humility and contrition of man before God. Indeed, 
it would be scarcely possible that there should be. Sin, for 
Hegel, is so much less real than man, that it is impossible for 
man ever to regard himself as altogether sinful. Sin is a 
mere appearance. Like all appearance, it is based on reality. 
But the reality it is based on is not sin. Like all reality, it is 
perfectly good. The sinfulness is part of the appearance. 

Man s position is very different. God is a community, and 
every man is part of it. In a perfect unity, such as God is, the 
parts are not subordinate to the whole. The whole is in every 
part, and every part is essential to the whole 1 . Every man is 
thus a perfect manifestation of God. He would not be such a 
manifestation of God, indeed, if he were taken in isolation, but, 
being taken in the community, he embodies God perfectly. 

Such a being is perfect in his own right, and sin is 
1 Cp. above, Section 34. 



superficial with regard to him, as it is with regard to the 
Absolute. Sub specie aeternitatis he is sinless. Sub specie tem- 
poris he is destined to become sinless, not from any external 
gift of divine grace, but because he is man and God. 

It is true that Hegel speaks of man as sinful, while he does 
not ascribe sin to God. But this is merely a question of 
terminology. He uses man to describe the individuals who 
constitute reality, whether they are viewed in their real and 
eternal perfection, or their apparent and temporal imperfection. 
But he only speaks of reality as God when he speaks of its 
eternal and perfect nature. So man is called sinful and not 
God. But in fact both, man and God, part and whole, are in 
the same position. Neither, in truth, is sinful. Both are the 
reality on which the appearance of sin is based. And sin really 
only belongs to us in the same way that it belongs to God. 

Again, as we have seen, sin is for Hegel not the absolutely 
bad. It is at any rate an advance on innocence. A man who 
knows himself to be a sinner is ipso facto aware that there are 
heights to which he has not reached. But Hegel tells him that 
it is equally certain that there are depths which he has left 
behind. No one who has sinned can be altogether bad. 

I have tried to show in chapter vi that these conclusions 
do not destroy our incentives to virtue, nor diminish that 
relative shame and contrition the only species which has 
influence on action which we feel when we realise that our 
actions have fallen short of our own ideals, or of the practice 
of others. But they certainly seem incompatible with any 
absolute shame or contrition with any humiliation of our 
selves as evil before an all-good God. It is impossible for me 
to regard myself as absolutely worthless on account of my sins, 
if I hold that those sins are the necessary and inevitable path 
which leads from something lower than sin up to virtue. Nor 
can I prostrate myself before a God of whom I hold myself to 
be a necessary part and an adequate manifestation, and who is 
only free from sin in the sense in which I myself am free from 
it. " Hegel," said Heine, "told the young men of Germany that 
they were God. This they found very pleasant." 

257. Let us sum up the results to which we have attained. 


They are as follows, (a) According to Hegel s doctrine of 
the Trinity, the Holy Ghost is identical with the entire 
Godhead. The Father and the Son are either aspects in, or 
illegitimate abstractions from, the Holy Ghost, (b) God is not 
a person, but a community of persons, who are united, not 
by a common self-consciousness, but by love, (c) All finite 
things are incarnations of God, and have no existence except as 
incarnations of God. (d) The special significance of Jesus with 
regard to the incarnation is merely that he bore witness to that 
truth in a form which, while only partially correct, was con 
venient for popular apprehension, (e) Hegel s doctrines of 
Original Sin and of Grace are doctrines which do not belong 
especially to Christianity, even if they are compatible with it. 
(/) Hegel s morality has as little resemblance to that of the 
Christian Church as the morality of one honest man could well 
have to that of other honest men of the same civilization and 
the same epoch. 

258. Such a system as this may or may not properly be 
called Christianity. But it is at any rate certain that it is very 
different from the mere ordinary forms of Christianity, and that 
a large number of Christians would refuse it the name. This 
was still more universally true in Hegel s time. The question 
remains why Hegel chose to call such a system Christian. 

259. It is impossible to believe that it was a deliberate 
deception, prompted by a desire for his own interest. There is 
nothing whatever in Hegel s life which could give us any 
reason to accuse him of such conduct. And, moreover, if it 
were for such a purpose that the Philosophy of Religion was 
arranged, it was arranged very inadequately. It might possibly 
make people think that its author was a Christian. But it 
could not possibly conceal from them that, if so, he was a very 
unorthodox Christian. And unorthodoxy attracts persecution 
nearly as much as complete disbelief. If Hegel had been lying, 
he would surely have lied more thoroughly. 

It might be suggested that the deception was inspired by a 
sense of duty. The Philosophy of Religion is not in itself a 
work for general reading. But its contents might become 
known to the general public at second-hand. And Hegel, it 


might be supposed, did not wish to upset the belief in Christianity 
of such people as were unable to rise to the heights of specula 
tive thought. 

But this seems rather inconsistent with Hegel s character. 
He has been accused of many things, but no one has accused 
him of under- estimating the importance of philosophy, or of 
paying excessive deference to the non-philosophical plain man. 
It is incredible that he should have consented to distort an 
academic exposition of some of his chief conclusions for the 
plain man s benefit. Nor, again, is there anything in his 
writings which could lead us to suppose that he thought that 
the plain man ought to have lies told him on religious matters. 
The eulogies which he passes on the work of the Keformation 
point to a directly contrary conclusion. 

It is, no doubt, not impossible that Hegel may have been 
determined by the thought of the non-philosophical majority 
to use the terminology of Christianity, provided that he really 
thought it to some degree appropriate. But it is impossible to 
suppose that he used, either from benevolence or from selfish 
ness, language which he held to be quite inappropriate. And 
we are left with the question why did he hold it appropriate 
to call his system Christian ? 

260. It has been suggested 1 that every man should be 
called a Christian who fulfils two conditions. The first is, that 
he believes the universe as a whole to be something rational 
and righteous something which deserves our approval and 
admiration. The second is, that he finds himself in so much 
sympathy with the life and character of Jesus, that he desires 
to consecrate his religious feelings and convictions by associating 
them with the name of Jesus. 

Of all the attempts to define the outer limits within which 
the word Christian may be applied, this is perhaps the most 
successful. Few other interpretations, certainly, stretch those 
limits so widely. And yet even this interpretation fails to 
include Hegel. For there are no traces in his writings of any 
such personal sympathy with the historical Jesus. We find no 
praise of his life and character which indeed did not present 
1 By Dr Rashdall, International Journal of Ethics, 1896-7, p. 137. 


the civic virtues by which Hegel s admiration was most easily 
excited. And of his moral teaching we find at least as much 
criticism as praise 1 . It is perhaps scarcely going too far to say 
that it is difficult to conceive how any reasonable and candid 
man could write about the Christian religion with less personal 
sympathy for its founder than is shown by Hegel. 

261. We must return to the first of the two questions 
stated in Section 207. For the explanation of Hegel s use of 
the word Christianity lie, I believe, in this that, according to 
him, not even the highest religion was capable of adequately 
expressing the truth. It could only symbolise it in a way 
which was more or less inadequate. This is partly concealed 
by the fact that in the last division of his Philosophy of 
Religion he treats of absolute truth in its fulness, no longer 
concealed by symbols. But the subordinate position of religion 
is beyond all doubt. 

In the Philosophy of Spirit, the last triad is Art, Religion, 
and Philosophy. Philosophy, then, is the synthesis of an 
opposition of which Religion is one of the terms. There must, 
therefore, be some inadequacy in Religion which is removed by 
Philosophy. Philosophy, says Hegel, "is the unity of Art and 
Religion. Whereas the vision-method of Art, external in point 
of form, is but subjective production, and shivers the sub 
stantial content into many separate shapes, and whereas 
Religion, with its separation into parts, opens it out in mental 
picture, and mediates what is thus opened out; Philosophy 
not merely keeps them together to make a total, but even 
unifies them into the simple spiritual vision, and then in that 
raises them to self-conscious thought. Such consciousness is 
thus the intelligible unity (cognized by thought) of art and 
religion, in which the diverse elements in the content are 
cognized as necessary, and this necessary as free 2 ." 

And, in the Philosophy of Religion, "Religion itself is this 

1 For example, of the moral commands of Jesus he says, "for those stages 
in which we are occupied with absolute truth they contain nothing striking, or 
else they are already contained in other religions, and in the Jewish religion." 
Philosophy of Religion, ii. 291 (trans, iii. 82). 

2 Encyclopaedia, Section 572. 


action, this activity of the thinking reason, and of the man who 
thinks rationally, who as individual posits himself as the 
Universal, and annulling himself as individual, finds his true 
self to be the Universal. Philosophy is in like manner thinking 
reason, only that this action in which religion consists appears 
in philosophy in the form of thought, while religion as, so to 
speak, reason thinking naively, stops short in the sphere of 
general ideas (Vorstellung) 1 ." 

262. There can therefore be no* question whether Chris 
tianity is the absolute truth. For there is no question that 
Christianity must be counted as religion, according to the 
definition of religion given in the passage quoted above from 
the Philosophy of Spirit. And therefore it cannot be com 
pletely adequate to express the truth. 

But, on the other hand, all religions express the truth with 
more or less adequacy, and the degree of this adequacy varies. 
It increases, Hegel tells us, as we* pass along the chain of 
religions given in the Philosophy of Religion, from the lowest 
Magic up to the religion of Ancient Rome. One religion only 
(according to Hegel s exposition, which practically ignores the 
inconvenient fact of Islam) succeeds to the Roman. This is 
the Christian. Of all the religions of the world, therefore, this 
is to be held the least inadequate to express the truth. 

When Hegel calls Christianity the absolute religion, there 
fore, this cannot mean that it expresses the absolute truth. 
For, being a religion, it cannot do this. He means that it is as 
absolute as religion can be, that it expresses the truth with 
only that inaccuracy which is the inevitable consequence of 
the symbolic and "pictorial" character of all religion. 

Does he mean, however, to limit this assertion to the past, 
and only to say that no religion has come so near to absolute 
truth as Christianity does? Or would he go further, and say 
that it would be impossible that any religion, while it remained 
religion, should ever express the truth more adequately than 
Christianity? I am inclined to think that he would have been 
prepared to make the wider assertion. Nothing less would 

1 Philosophy of Religion, i. 188 (trans, i. 194). 


justify the strength of his language in calling Christianity 
the absolute religion. Moreover in all the applications of his 
philosophy to empirical facts, he shows a strong tendency to 
suppose that the highest manifestation of Spirit already known 
to us is also the highest which it is possible should happen 
although the degree in which he yields to this tendency has 
been exaggerated 1 . 

This more sweeping assertion we must pronounce to be 
unjustified. We cannot be certain of the future except by an 
argument a priori, and arguments a priori can only deal with 
the a priori element in knowledge. No conclusion about the 
nature of the empirical element in knowledge can be reached 
a priori. Now the degree of adequacy with which a religion 
can express absolute truth depends on the precise character of 
its symbolism. And the precise character of the symbolism of 
any religion is an empirical fact, which cannot be deduced 
a priori. 

It is therefore impossible to be certain that no religion will 
arise in the future which will express the truth more adequately 
than Christianity. It may be said, indeed, that such a religion 
would be improbable. It might be maintained that Christianity 
gets so near to absolute truth, that if people got any nearer 
they would have reached the truth itself, and require no symbols 
at all. But of this it is impossible to be certain. New religions 
cannot be predicted, but it does not follow that they are im 

263. The truth of Hegel s statement however, if it is 
confined to the past, cannot be denied. No religion in history 
resembles the Hegelian philosophy so closely as Christianity. 
The two great questions for religion if indeed they can be 
called two are the nature of the Absolute and its relation to 
the finite. The orthodox Christian doctrines of the Trinity and 
the Incarnation are not, as we have seen, compatible with 
Hegel s teaching. But they are far closer to that teaching than 
the doctrines of any other religion known to history. 

In this way, and this way, I believe, alone, the difficult 

1 Cp. Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, chap. vr. 


question of Hegel s relation to Christianity admits of a solution. 
The difficulty is increased by a change in Hegel s method of 
exposition when he reaches the Absolute Religion. In dealing 
with the lower religions, he had described those religions in the 
form in which they were actually held by those who believed 
them or, at any rate, in what he believed to be that form - 
and had then pointed out in what degree they fell short of 
absolute truth. But, when he came to Christianity, he did not 
expound the Christian doctrines themselves, but that absolute 
truth which, according to him, they imperfectly symbolised. 
This not unnaturally produced the impression that the doctrines 
of Christianity not only symbolised the absolute truth, but 
actually were the absolute truth. But closer examination 
dispels this, for it shows, as I have endeavoured to show in 
this chapter, that Hegel s doctrines are incompatible with any 
form of Christianity which has ever gained acceptance among 

264. Thus the result is that Hegel does not regard his 
system as Christian, but holds Christianity to be the nearest 
approach which can be made to his system under the imperfect 
form of religion. And that he is right in both parts of this 
the positive and the negative may be confirmed from ex 

Christian apologists have not infrequently met the attacks 
of their opponents with Hegelian arguments. And so long as 
there are external enemies to meet, the results are all that they 
can desire. Against Scepticism, against Materialism, against 
Spinozistic Pantheism, against Deism or Arianism nothing is 
easier than to prove by the aid of Hegel that wherever such 
creeds differ from orthodox Christianity, they are in the wrong. 
But this is not the end. The ally who has been called in proves 
to be an enemy in disguise the least evident but the most 
dangerous. The doctrines which have been protected from 
external refutation are found to be transforming themselves 
till they are on the point of melting away, and orthodoxy finds 
it necessary to separate itself from so insidious an ally. 

This double relation of Hegelianism to Christian orthodoxy 
can be explained by the theory which I have propounded. If 


orthodox Christianity, while incompatible with Hegelianism, is 
nevertheless closer to it than any other religion, it is natural 
that Hegelianism should support Christianity against all attacks 
but its own, and should then reveal itself as an antagonist an 
antagonist all the more deadly because it works not by denial 
but by completion. 



265. The progress of an idealistic philosophy may, from 
some points of view, be divided into three stages. The problem 
of the first is to prove that reality is not exclusively matter. 
The problem of the second is to prove that reality is exclusively 
spirit. The problem of the third is to determine what is the 
fundamental nature of spirit. 

The result of the second stage, though comprehensive, is 
still abstract, and is therefore defective even from a theoretical 
point- of view. It does not enable us to see the ultimate nature 
of the universe, and to perceive that it is rational and righteous. 
We only know in an abstract way that it must be rational and 
righteous, because it fulfils the formal condition of rationality 
and righteousness harmony between the nature of the uni 
versal and the nature of the individual. Such a skeleton is 
clearly not complete knowledge. And it is therefore, to some 
extent, incorrect and inadequate knowledge ; for it is knowledge 
of an abstraction only, while the truth, as always, is concrete. 
The content of the universe has not been produced by, or in 
accordance with, a self-subsistent law. It is the individual 
content of the universe which is concrete and self-subsistent, 
and the law is an abstraction of one side of it, with which 
we cannot be contented. From a theoretical point of view, 
then, the assertion of the supremacy of spirit is comparatively 
empty, unless we can determine the fundamental nature of 


266. The practical importance of this determination is 
not less. As a guide to life, the knowledge of the absolutely 
desirable end is, no doubt, not without drawbacks. A certain 
degree of knowledge, of virtue, and of happiness, is appropriate 
and possible for every stage of the process of spirit. By the 
aid of reflection we may perceive the existence of a stage much 
higher than that in which we are. But the knowledge that 
we shall reach it some day is not equivalent to the power 
of reaching it at once. We are entitled to as much perfection 
as we are fit for, and it is useless to demand more. An 
attempt to live up to the Supreme Good, without regard to 
present circumstances, will be not only useless, but, in all 
probability, actually injurious. The true course of our de 
velopment at present is mostly by thesis and antithesis, and 
efforts to become perfect as the crow flies will only lead us 
into some blind alley from which we shall have to retrace 
our steps. 

Nevertheless, the knowledge of the goal to which we are 
going may occasionally, if used with discretion, be a help in 
directing our course. It will be something if we can find out 
which parts of our experience are of value per se, and can 
be pursued for their own sake, and which parts are merely 
subsidiary. For however long it may take us to reach the 
Absolute, it is sometimes curiously near us in isolated episodes 
of life, and our attitude towards certain phases of consciousness, 
if not our positive actions, may be materially affected by the 
consideration of the greater or less adequacy with which those 
phases embody reality. 

And a more complete determination of the nature of spirit 
would not be unimportant with regard to its effect on our 
happiness. The position from which we start has indeed 
already attained to what may be called the religious stand 
point. It assures us of an ultimate solution which shall only 
differ from our present highest ideals and aspirations by far 
surpassing them. From a negative point of view, this is 
complete, and it is far from unsatisfactory as a positive theory. 
But it is probable that, if so much knowledge is consoling and 
inspiriting, more knowledge would be better. It is good to 


know that reality is better than our expectations. It might 
be still better to be able at once to expect the full good 
that is coming. If the truth is so good, our hopes may well 
become more desirable in proportion as they become more 

In other ways, too, more complete knowledge might conduce 
to our greater happiness. For there are parts of our lives 
which, even as we live them, seem incomplete and merely 
transitory, having no value unless they lead on to something 
better. And there are parts of our lives which seem so 
fundamental, so absolutely desirable in themselves, that we 
could not anticipate without pain their absorption into some 
higher perfection, as yet unknown to us, and that we demand 
that they shall undergo no further change, except an increase 
in purity and intensity. Now we might be able to show of the 
first of these groups of experiences that they are, in fact, mere 
passing phases, with meaning only in so far as they lead up 
to and are absorbed in something higher. And we might 
even be able to show of the second that they are actually 
fundamental, lacking so far in breadth and depth, but in their 
explicit nature already revealing the implicit reality. If we 
can do this, and can justify the vague longings for change on 
the one hand, and for permanence on the other, which have 
so much effect on our lives, the gain to happiness which will 
result will not be inconsiderable. 

267. We have already found reason to hold that spirit 
is ultimately made up of various finite individuals, each of 
which finds his character and individuality in his relations 
to the rest, and in his perception that they are of the same 
nature as himself. In this way the Idea in each individual 
has as its object the Idea in other individuals 1 . We must 
now enquire in what manner those individuals will be able 
to express, at once and completely, their own individuality and 
the unity of the Absolute. 

Human consciousness presents three aspects knowledge, 
volition, and feeling, i.e., pleasure and pain. Knowledge and 

1 Cp. Sections 14, 15. 


volition are correlative methods of endeavouring to obtain that 
unity between individuals which is the perfection of spirit, 
while feeling is not so much a struggle towards the goal as 
the result of the process, so far as it has gone. Through 
knowledge and volition we gain harmony, and, according as 
we have gained it more or less completely, our feeling is 
pleasurable or painful. The absence of any independent move 
ment of feeling renders it unnecessary, for the present, to 
consider it separately. 

I shall first enquire what general aspect would be presented 
by spirit, if we suppose knowledge and volition to have become 
as perfect as possible. It will then be necessary to ask whether 
knowledge and volition are permanent and ultimate forms of 
the activity of spirit. I shall endeavour to show that they 
are not, that they both postulate, to redeem them from paradox 
and impossibility, an ideal which they can never reach, and 
that their real truth and meaning is found only in a state 
of consciousness in which they themselves, together with feel 
ing, are swallowed up and transcended in a more concrete 
unity. This unity I believe to be essentially the same as that 
mental state which, in the answer to our first question, we 
shall find to be the practically interesting aspect of knowledge 
and volition in their highest perfection as such. This state 
will thus have been shown to be, not only the supremely 
valuable element of reality, but also the only true reality, 
of which all other spiritual activities are but distortions and 
abstractions, and in which they are all transcended. It will 
not only be the highest truth but the sole truth. We shall 
have found the complete determination of spirit, and therefore 
of reality. 

268. Let us turn to the first of these questions and 
consider what would be our attitude towards the universe, 
when both knowledge and volition had reached perfection. 
To answer this we must first determine in rather more detail 
what would be the nature of perfect knowledge and volition. 

In the first place we must eliminate knowledge as the 
occupation of the student. The activity and the pleasure 
which lie in the search after knowledge can, as such, form 


no part of the Absolute. For all such activity implies that 
some knowledge has not yet been gained, and that the ideal, 
therefore, has not yet been reached. The ideal must be one, 
not of learning, but of knowing. 

And the knowledge itself must be greatly changed. At 
present much of our knowledge directly relates to matter; 
all of it is conditioned and mediated by matter. But if the 
only absolute reality is spirit, then, when knowledge is perfect, 
we must see nothing but spirit everywhere. We must have 
seen through matter till it has disappeared. How far this 
could be done merely by greater knowledge on our part, and 
how far it would be necessary for the objects themselves, which 
we at present conceive as matter, to develop explicitly qualities 
now merely implicit, is another question, but it is clear that 
it would have to be done, one way or another, before knowledge 
could be said to be perfect. 

Nor is this all. Not only all matter, but all contingency, 
must be eliminated. At present we conceive of various spirits 
and even of spirit in general as having qualities for which 
we can no more find a rational explanation than we can for 
the primary qualities of matter, or for its original distribution 
in space. But this must disappear in perfected knowledge. 
For knowledge demands an explanation of everything, and 
if, at the last, we have to base our explanation on something- 
left unexplained, we leave our system incomplete and defective. 

Explanation essentially consists of arguments from premises ; 
and it would seem therefore that such perfection could never 
be attained, since each argument which explained anything 
must rest upon an unexplained foundation, and so on, ad 
infinitum. And it is true that we can never reach a point 
where the question "Why?" can no longer be asked. But 
we can reach a point where it becomes unmeaning, and at this 
point knowledge reaches the highest perfection of which, as 
knowledge, it is susceptible. 

The ideal which we should then have reached would be 
one in which we realised the entire universe as an assembly 
of spirits, and recognized that the qualities and characteristics, 
which gave to each of these spirits its individuality, did not 


lie in an^ contingent or non-rational peculiarity in the indi 
vidual himself, but were simply determined by his relations 
to all other individuals. These relations between individuals, 
again, we should not conceive as contingent or accidental, so 
that the persons connected formed a mere miscellaneous crowd. 
We should rather conceive them as united by a pattern or 
design, resembling that of a picture or organism, so that every 
part of it was determined by every other part, in such a 
manner that from any one all the others could, with sufficient 
insight, be deduced, and that no change could be made in any 
without affecting all. This complete interdependence is only 
approximately realised in the unity which is found in aesthetic 
or organic wholes, but in the Absolute the realisation would 
be perfect. As the whole nature of every spirit would consist 
exclusively in the expression of the relations of the Absolute, 
while those relations would form a whole, in which each part, 
and the whole itself, would be determined by each part, it 
follows that any fact in the universe could be deduced from 
any other fact, or from the nature of the universe as a 

269. If knowledge reached this point, the only question 
which could remain unanswered would be the question, " Why 
is the universe as a whole what it is, and not something else 1 ? " 
And this question could not be answered. We must not, 
however, conclude from this the existence of any want of 
rationality in the universe. The truth is that the. question 
ought never to have been asked, for it is the application of 
a category, which has only meaning within the universe, to 
the universe as a whole. Of any part we are entitled and 
bound to ask "why," for, by the very fact that it is a part, 
it cannot be self-subsistent, and must depend on other things. 
But when we come to an all-embracing totality, then, with 
the possibility of finding a cause, there disappears also the 
necessity of finding one. Self -subsistence is not in itself a 
contradictory or impossible idea. It is contradictory if applied 
to anything in the universe, for whatever is in the universe 
must be in connection with other things. But this can of 
course be no reason for suspecting a fallacy when we find 

MCT. 17 


ourselves obliged to apply the idea to something which has 
nothing outside it with which it could stand in connection. 

To put the matter in another light, we must consider that 
the necessity of finding causes and reasons for phenomena 
depends on the necessity of showing why they have assumed 
the particular form which actually exists. The enquiry is thus 
due to the possibility of things happening otherwise than as 
they did, which possibility, to gain certain knowledge, must 
be excluded by assigning definite causes for one event rather 
than the others. Now every possibility must rest on some 
actuality. And the possibility that the whole universe could 
be different would have no such actuality to rest on, since 
the possibility extends to all reality. There would be nothing 
in common between the two asserted alternatives, and thus 
the possibility of variation would be unmeaning. And there 
fore there can be no reason to assign a determining cause. 

The necessity which exists for all knowledge to rest on the 
immediate does not, then, indicate any imperfection which 
might prove a bar to the development of spirit. For we have 
seen that the impulse which causes us even here to demand 
fresh mediation is unjustified, and, indeed, meaningless. But 
we shall have to consider, in the second part of this chapter, 
whether the possibility of making even the unjustified demand 
does not indicate that for complete harmony we must go on 
to something which embraces and transcends knowledge. 

270. Let us now pass on to the ideal of volition. We 
must in the first place exclude, as incompatible with such 
an ideal, all volition which leads to action. For action implies 
that you have not something which you want, or that you 
will be deprived of it if you do not fight for it, and both these 
ideas are fatal to the fundamental and complete harmony 
between desire and environment which is necessary to the 
perfect development of spirit. 

Nor can virtue have a place in our ideal, even in the form 
of aspiration. Together with every other imperfection, it must 
be left outside the door of heaven. For virtue implies a choice, 
and choice implies either uncertainty or conflict. In the realised 
ideal neither of these could exist. We should desire our truest 


and deepest well-being with absolute necessity, since there 
would be nothing to deceive and tempt us away. And we should 
find the whole universe conspiring with us to realise our desire. 
The good would be ipso facto the real, and virtue would have 
been transcended. 

The ideal of volition is rather the experience of perfect 
harmony between ourselves and our environment which ex 
cludes alike action and choice. This involves, in the first 
place, that we should have come to a clear idea as to what 
the fundamental demands and aspirations of our nature are. 
Till we have done this we cannot expect harmony. All other 
desires will be in themselves inharmonious, for, driven on by 
the inevitable dialectic, they will show themselves imperfect, 
transitory, or defective, when experienced for a sufficiently 
long time, or in a sufficiently intense degree. And, besides 
this, the very fact that the universe is fundamentally of the 
nature of spirit, and therefore must be in harmony with us 
when we have fully realised our own natures, proves that it 
cannot be permanently in harmony with us as long as our 
natures remain imperfect. For such a harmony with the 
imperfect would be an imperfection, out of which it would 
be forced by its own dialectic. 

And this harmony must extend through the entire universe. 
If everything (or rather everybody) in the universe is not in 
harmony with us our ends cannot be completely realised. For 
the whole universe is connected together, and every part of 
it must have an effect, however infinitesimal, upon every other 
part. Our demands must be reconciled with, and realised by, 
every other individual. 

And, again, we cannot completely attain our own ends 
unless everyone else has attained his own also. For, as was 
mentioned in the last paragraph, we cannot attain our own 
ends except by becoming in perfect harmony with the entire 
universe. And this we can only do in so far as both we and 
it have become completely rational. It follows that for the 
attainment of our ends it would be necessary for the entire 
universe to have explicitly developed the rationality which 
is its fundamental nature. And by this self-development every 



other individual, as well as ourselves, would have attained to 
the perfection of volition. Moreover, looking at the matter 
more empirically, we may observe that some degree of sym 
pathy seems inherent to our nature, so that our pleasure in 
someone else s pain, though often intense, is never quite 
unmixed. And on this ground also our complete satisfaction 
must involve that of all other people. 

271. We have now determined the nature of perfected 
knowledge and volition, as far as the formal conditions of 
perfection will allow us to go. What is the concrete and 
material content of such a life as this? I believe it means 
one thing, and one thing only love. I do not mean bene 
volence, even in its most empassioned form. I do not mean 
the love of Truth, or Virtue, or Beauty, or anything else whose 
name can be found in a dictionary. I do not mean sexual 
desire. And I do mean passionate, all-absorbing, all-consuming 

For let us consider. We should find ourselves in a world 
composed of nothing but individuals like ourselves. With 
these individuals we should have been brought into the closest 
of all relations, we should see them, each of them, to be rational 
and righteous. And we should know that in and through these 
individuals our own highest aims and ends were realised. 
What else does it come to ? To know another person thoroughly, 
to know that he conforms to my highest standards, to feel that 
through him the end of my own life is realised is this any 
thing but love ? 

Such a result would come all the same, I think, if we only 
looked at the matter from the point of view of satisfied know 
ledge, leaving volition out of account. If all reality is such as 
would appear entirely reasonable to us if we knew it completely, 
if it is all of the nature of spirit, so that we, who are also of 
that nature, should always find harmony in it, then to com 
pletely know a person, and to be completely known by him, 
must surely end in this way. No doubt knowledge does 
not always have that result in every-day life. But that is 
incomplete knowledge, under lower categories and subject 
to unremoved contingencies, which, from its incompleteness, 


must leave the mind unsatisfied. Perfect knowledge would 
be different. How much greater would the difference be if, 
besides the satisfaction attendant on mere knowledge, we had 
realised that it was through the people round us that the 
longings and desires of our whole nature were being fulfilled. 

This would, as it seems to me, be the only meaning and 
significance of perfected spirit. Even if knowledge and volition 
still remained, their importance would consist exclusively in 
their producing this result. For it is only in respect of the 
element of feeling in it that any state can be deemed to have 
intrinsic value. This is of course not the same thing as saying 
that we only act for our own greatest happiness, or even that 
our own greatest happiness is our only rational end. I do 
not deny the possibility of disinterested care for the welfare 
of others. I only assert that the welfare of any person depends 
upon the feeling which is an element of his consciousness. 
Nor do I assert that a quantitative maximum of pleasure is 
the Supreme Good. It is possible that there may be qualita 
tive differences of pleasure which might make a comparatively 
unpleasant state more truly desirable than one in which the 
pleasure was far greater. But this does not interfere with the 
fact that it is only with regard to its element of feeling that 
any state can be held to be intrinsically desirable. 

272. Perfected knowledge and volition, taken in connection 
with the consequent feeling, not only produce personal love, 
but, as it seems to me, produce nothing else. There are, it 
is true, many other ways in which knowledge and volition 
produce pleasure. There are the pleasures of learning, and 
of the contemplation of scientific truth ; there are the pleasures 
of action, of virtue, and of gratified desire. But these all 
depend on the imperfect stages of development in which 
knowledge and volition are occupied with comparatively ab 
stract generalities. Now all general laws are abstractions 
from, and therefore distortions of, the concrete reality, which 
is the abstract realised in the particular. When we fail to 
detect the abstract in the particular, then, no doubt, the 
abstract has a value of its own is as high or higher than 
the mere particular. But when we see the real individual, 


in whom the abstract and the particular are joined, we lose 
all interest in the abstract as such. Why should we put up 
with an inadequate falsehood when we can get the adequate 
truth? And feeling towards an individual who is perfectly 
known has only one form. 

273. But what right have we to talk of love coming as 
a necessary consequence of anything? Is it not the most 
unreasoning of all things, choosing for itself, often in direct 
opposition to what would seem the most natural course? 
I should explain the contradiction as follows. Nothing but 
perfection could really deserve love. Hence, when it comes 
in this imperfect world, it only comes in cases in which one 
is able to disregard the other as he is now that is, as he 
really is not and to care for him as he really is that is, as 
he will be. Of course this is only the philosopher s explanation 
of the matter. To the unphilosophic object to be explained 
it simply takes the form of a conviction that the other person, 
with all his faults, is somehow in himself infinitely good at 
any rate, infinitely good for his friend. The circumstances 
which determine in what cases this strange dash into reality 
can be made are not known to us. And so love is unreasonable. 
But only because reason is not yet worthy of it. Reason 
cannot reveal though in philosophy it may predict the truth 
which alone can justify love. When reason is perfected, love 
will consent to be reasonable. 

274. Fantastic as all this may seem, the second part of my 
subject, on which I must now enter, will, I fear, seem much 
worse. I have endeavoured to prove that all perfect life would 
lead up to and culminate in love. I want now to go further, 
and to assert that, as life became perfect, all other elements 
would actually die away that knowledge and volition would 
disappear, swallowed up in a higher reality, and that love would 
reveal itself, not only as the highest thing, but as the only 
thing, in the universe. 

If we look close enough we shall find, I think, that both 
knowledge and volition postulate a perfection to which they can 
never attain; that consequently if we take them as ultimate 
realities we shall be plunged into contradictions, and that the 


only way to account for them at all is to view them as moments 
or aspects of a higher reality which realises the perfections they 
postulate. This perfection lies in the production of a complete 
harmony between the subject and the object, by the combina 
tion of perfect unity between them with perfect discrimination 
of the one from the other. And this, as I shall endeavour to 
prove, is impossible without transcending the limits of these 
two correlative activities. 

275. In the first place, is it possible that the duality 
which makes them two activities, rather than one, can be 
maintained in the Absolute? For, if it cannot be maintained, 
then knowledge and volition would both be merged in a single 
form of spirit. The object of both is the same to produce the 
harmony described in Hegel s definition of the Absolute Idea. 
What is it that separates them from one another, and is the 
separation one which can be considered as ultimate ? 

276. The most obvious suggestion is that volition leads 
directly to action, while knowledge does so only indirectly, by 
affecting volition. If however we look more closely we shall 
find that this is not a sufficient distinction. We may perhaps 
leave out of account the fact that a desire, however strong, does 
not provoke us to action if it is for something which we know 
is perfectly impossible, or for something which no action can 
effect. No action is produced by a desire that two and two 
may make five, or by a desire that the wind may blow from the 
west. But even in cases where the process of development is 
taking place, and the harmony between desire and reality is 
being gradually brought about, it is by no means always the 
case that it is brought about by action. There are two other 
alternatives. It may be brought about by a discovery in the 
field of knowledge, which reveals a harmony which had pre 
viously escaped observation. Discovery is itself, certainly, an 
action. But it is not the act of discovery which here produces 
the harmony, but the truth which it reveals, and the truth is 
not an action. We have not gained the harmony because we 
have changed the environment, but because we have under 
stood it. And the act of discovery is the result of our desire to 
understand, not of our desire for the result discovered. 


The other possible means of reconciliation is by the desire 
changing itself into conformity with the environment, either 
through an intellectual conviction that the previous desire was 
mistaken, or by that process of dialectic development inherent 
in finite desires. 

Let us suppose, for example, that a desire that vindictive 
justice should exhibit itself in the constitution of the universe 
finds itself in conflict with the fact, known by empirical observa 
tion, that the wicked often prosper. Some degree of harmony 
between desires and facts may be obtained in this case by means 
of action as affecting the political and social environment. But 
this alone could never realise the demand. We have, however, 
two other possible methods of reconciliation. Philosophy or 
theology may assure us that there is a future life, and that in it 
our desires will be fulfilled. Or our notions of the desirable may 
develop in such a way as no longer to require that the universe 
should exhibit vindictive justice. In either case we should have 
attained to harmony without action following as a consequence 
of our volition. 

277. Or, secondly, it may be suggested that the distinction 
lies in the activity or passivity of the mind. In knowledge, it 
might be said, our object is to create a picture in our minds, 
answering to the reality which exists outside them, and based 
on data received from external sources. Since the test of the 
mental picture is its conformity to the external reality, the 
mind must be passive. On the other hand, in volition the 
mind supplies an ideal by means of which we measure external 
reality. If the reality does not correspond to our desires, we 
condemn it as unsatisfactory, and, if the thwarted desires belong 
to our moral nature, we condemn it as wrong. Here, it might 
be urged, the mind is in a position of activity. 

There is unquestionably some truth in this view. The 
greater weight is certainly laid, in knowledge on the external 
object, in volition on the consciousness of the agent. But we 
must seek a more accurate expression of it. For the mind is 
not passive in knowledge, nor purely active in volition. In 
considering the last argument we saw that the harmony may 
be produced, wholly or in part, by the alteration of the desires 


till they coincide with the facts. In so far as this is the case, 
the mind is in a more or less passive position, and is altered by 
external facts, whether the result comes from arguments drawn 
from the existence of those facts, or by reaction from the contact 
with them in actual life. 

We may go further, and say, not only that this may happen 
in some cases, but that it must happen in all cases to some 
extent. For otherwise in the action of mind on the environment 
we should have left no place for any reaction, and by doing so 
should deny the reality of that member of the relation which 
we condemn to passivity. But if the as yet unharmonized 
environment was unreal, as compared with the as yet unem- 
bodied ideal, the process would cease to exist. If the environment 
has no existence our demands cannot be said to be realised 
in it. If it has real existence, it must react on our demands. 

Nor, again, can it be said that the mind is purely passive 
in knowledge. The data which it receives from outside are 
subsumed under categories which belong to the nature of 
the mind itself, and the completed knowledge is very different 
from the data with which it began. Indeed if we attempt to 
consider the data before any reaction of the mind has altered 
them we find that they cannot enter into consciousness that is, 
they do not exist. 

278. Let us make one more effort to find a ground of 
distinction. I believe that we may succeed with the following 
statement. In knowledge we accept the facts as valid and 
condemn our ideas if they do not agree with the facts; in 
volition we accept our ideas as valid, and condemn the facts if 
they do not agree with our ideas. 

Suppose a case of imperfect harmony. The first thing, of 
course, is to recognize that there is something wrong somewhere. 
But, when we have realised this, what can we do? Since the 
two sides, the facts and our ideas, are not in harmony, we cannot 
accept both as valid. To accept neither as valid would be im 
possible because self-contradictory scepticism and quietism. 
We must accept one and reject the other. Now in knowledge 
we accept the facts as valid, and condemn our ideas, in so far as 
they differ from the facts, as mistaken. In volition, on the other 


hand, we accept our ideas as valid, and condemn the facts, in so 
far as they differ from our ideas, as wrong. If, for example, it 
should appear to us that a rational and righteous universe would 
involve our personal immortality, while there were reasons to 
believe that we were not personally immortal, then we should 
have to take up a double position. On the one hand we should 
be bound to admit that our longing for immortality would not 
be gratified, however intense it might be. On the other hand 
we should be bound to assert that the universe was wrong in 
not granting our desires, however certain it was that they would 
not be granted. Of course this assumes that every effort has been 
made to produce the harmony. We are not entitled to condemn 
the universe as evil on account of an unfulfilled desire, until we 
have carefully enquired if it is a mere caprice, or really so funda 
mental a part of our nature that its realisation is essential to 
permanent harmony. And we are not bound to condemn our 
ideas as untrue because the facts seem against them at first sight. 

279. I am far from wishing to assert that any want of 
harmony really exists. Such a view would be quite contrary 
to Hegel s philosophy. But we must all acknowledge that in a 
great number of particular cases we are quite unable to see hoiv 
the harmony exists, although on philosophical grounds we may 
be certain that it must exist somehow. And, besides, even in 
some cases where we may intellectually perceive the harmony, 
our nature may not be so under the control of our reason, as to 
enable us to feel the harmony, if it happens to conflict with our 
passions. In all these cases it will be necessary to deal with an 
apparent want of harmony, and in all these cases we must give 
the facts the supremacy in the sphere of knowledge and the 
ideas the supremacy in the sphere of volition. 

One of our most imperative duties is intellectual humility 
to admit the truth to be true, however unpleasant or unrighteous 
it may appear to us. But, correlative to this duty, there is 
another no less imperative that of ethical self-assertion. If 
no amount of "ought" can produce the slightest "is," it is no 
less true that no amount of "is" can produce the slightest 
"ought." It is of the very essence of human will, and of that 
effort to find the fundamentally desirable which we call morality, 


that it claims the right to judge the whole universe. This is 
the categorical imperative of Kant. We find it again in Mill s 
preference of hell to worship of an unjust deity. Nor is it only 
in the interests of virtue as such that the will is categorical. 
Pleasure is no more to be treated lightly than virtue. If all 
the powers of the universe united to give me one second s un 
necessary toothache, I should not only be entitled, but bound, 
to condemn them. We have no more right to be servile than 
to be arrogant. And while our desires must serve in the king 
dom of the true, they rule in the kingdom of the good. 

We must note in passing that we are quite entitled to argue 
that a thing is because it ought to be, or ought to be because it 
is, if we have once satisfied ourselves that the harmony does 
exist, and that the universe is essentially rational and righteous. 
To those who believe, for example, in a benevolent God, it is 
perfectly competent to argue that we must be immortal because 
the absence of immortality would make life a ghastly farce, or 
that toothache must be good because God sends it. It is only 
when, or in as far as, the harmony has not yet been established, 
that such an argument gives to God the things which are 
Caesar s, and to Caesar the things which are God s, to the 
embarrassment of both sides. 

280. If we have now succeeded in finding the distinction 
between knowledge and volition, we must conclude that it is 
one which can have no place in the absolute perfection. For 
we have seen that the distinction turns upon the side of the 
opposition which shall give way, when there is opposition, and 
not harmony, between the subject and the object. In an 
Absolute there can be no opposition, for there can be no want 
of harmony, as the Absolute is, by its definition, the harmony 
made perfect. And not only can there be no want of harmony, 
but there can be no possibility that the harmony should ever 
become wanting. Everything must have a cause, and if it were 
possible that the harmony which exists at a given time should 
subsequently be broken, a cause must co-exist with the harmony 
capable of destroying it. When the harmony is universal, the 
cause would have to exist within it. Now when we speak of 
things which are only harmonious with regard to certain 


relations, or in a certain degree, we can speak of a harmony 
which carries within it the seeds of its own dissolution. Such 
is the life of an organism, which necessarily leads to death, or 
the system of a sun and planets, which collapses as it loses its 
energy. But when we come to consider a harmony which 
pervades objects in all their relations, and which is absolutely 
perfect, anything which could produce a disturbance in it would 
be itself a disturbance, and is excluded by the hypothesis. This 
will be seen more clearly if we remember that the harmony 
is one of conscious spirit. The consciousness must be all- 
embracing, and therefore the cause of the possible future 
disturbance must be recognized for what it is. And the possi 
bility of such a disturbance must produce at once some degree 
of doubt, fear, or anxiety, which would, by itself and at once, 
be fatal to harmony. 

It follows that, since not even the possibility of disturbance 
can enter into the Absolute, the distinction between knowledge 
and volition, depending as it does entirely on the course pursued 
when such a disturbance exists, becomes, not only irrelevant, 
but absolutely unmeaning. And in that case the life of Spirit, 
when the Absolute has been attained, will consist in the harmony 
which is the essence of both knowledge and volition, but will 
have lost all those characteristics which differentiate them from 
one another, and give them their specific character. 

281. Before passing on to further arguments, we must 
consider an objection which may be raised to what has been 
already said. This is that no trace of the asserted union of 
knowledge and volition is to be found in our experience. We 
often find, in some particular matter, a harmony which is, at 
any rate, so far complete that no want of it is visible, in 
which the self and the environment show no perceptible 
discordance. And yet knowledge and volition, though in 
agreement, do not show the least sign of losing their distinct 
ness. On the one hand we assert that a given content is real, 
and dn the other that it is desirable. But the difference of 
meaning between the predicates "true" and "good" is as great 
as ever. 

But no harmony to which we can attain in the middle of 


a life otherwise inharmonious can ever be perfect, even over a 
limited extent. For the universal reciprocity which must exist 
between all things in the same universe would prevent anything 
from becoming perfect, until everything had done so. And 
a harmony between two imperfections could never be complete, 
since the imperfect remains subject to the dialectic, and is 
therefore transitory. Even supposing, however, that such a 
limited harmony could be perfect, it could never exclude the 
possibility of disturbance. The possibility was excluded in the 
case of a universal harmony, because the ground of disturbance 
could not exist within the harmony, and there was nowhere 
else for it to exist. But here such a ground might always be 
found outside. And while there is any meaning in even the 
possibility of a discrepancy between our ideas and the facts, 
there is no reason to expect the separation of knowledge and 
volition to cease. 

282. Knowledge and volition, then, cannot remain separate 
in the Absolute, and therefore cannot remain themselves. Into 
what shall they be transformed? The only remaining element 
of consciousness is feeling, that is, pleasure and pain. This, 
however, will not serve our purpose. It has nothing to do with 
objects at all, but is a pure self-reference of the subject. And 
this fact, while making feeling in some ways the most intimate 
and personal part of our lives, prevents it from ever being self- 
subsistent, or filling consciousness by itself. For our self- 
consciousness only develops by bringing itself into relation with 
its not-self. The definition of the Absolute Idea shows that 
the appreciation of an object is necessary to spirit. Feeling 
therefore is only an element in states of consciousness, not a 
state by itself. We are conscious of relations to an object, and 
in this consciousness we see an element of pleasure or pain. 
But pleasure or pain by themselves can never make the content 
of our mind. 

The one alternative left is emotion. For our present 
purpose, we may perhaps define emotion as a state of con 
sciousness tinged with feeling, or rather, since feeling is never 
quite absent, a state of consciousness, in so far as it is tinged 
with feeling. Here we have all three elements of consciousness. 


We are aware of the existence of an object; since we are 
brought into relation with it, we recognize it as harmonising 
more or less with our desires ; and we are conscious of pleasure 
or pain, consequent on the greater or less extent to which 
knowledge and volition have succeeded in establishing a 
harmony. This state of mind may be a mere aggregate of 
three independent activities. In that case it w T ill be useless for 
us. But it may turn out to be the concrete unity from which 
the three activities gained their apparent independence by 
illegitimate abstraction. If so, it may not impossibly be the 
synthesis for which we are searching. 

283. It is clear that no emotion can be the ultimate form 
of spirit, unless it regards all objects as individual spirits. For 
the dialectic shows us that, till we regard them thus, we do not 
regard them rightly. And the dialectic shows us also, that we 
do not regard them rightly till we know them to be in complete 
harmony with ourselves, and with one another. To regard all 
that we find round us as persons, to feel that their existence is 
completely rational, and that through it our own nature is 
realised, to experience unalloyed pleasure in our relations to 
them this is a description to which only one emotion answers. 
We saw in the first part of this chapter that the only value 
and interest of knowledge and volition, when pushed as far as 
they would go, lay in love. Here we go a step further. If 
anything in our present lives can resolve the contradictions 
inherent in knowledge and volition, and exhibit the truth which 
lies concealed in them, it must be love. 

284. If this is to take place, love must transcend the 
opposition between knowledge and volition as to the side of 
the relation which is to be considered valid in case of dis 
crepancy. Neither side in the Absolute must attain any 
pre-eminence over the other, since such pre-eminence has only 
meaning with regard to the possibility of imperfection. 

Neither side has the pre-eminence in love. It is not 
essential to it that the subject shall be brought into harmony 
with the object, as in knowledge, nor that the object shall 
be brought into harmony with the subject, as in volition. 
It is sufficient that the two terms should be in harmony. 


The subject refuses here to be forced into the abstract position 
of either slave or master. To conceive the relation as de 
pendent on the conformity of the subject to the object would 
ignore the fact that the subject has an ideal which possesses 
its rights even if nothing corresponds to it in reality. To 
conceive the relation, on the other hand, as dependent on the 
conformity of the object to the subject, would be to forget 
that the emotion directs itself towards persons and not towards 
their relations with us. When, as in volition, the harmony 
results from the conformity of the object to the subject, any 
interest in the object as independent can only exist in so far as 
it realises the end of the subject, and is so subordinate. But 
here our interest in the object is not dependent on our interest 
in the subject. It is identical with it. We may as well be said 
to value ourselves because of our relation to the object, as the 
object because of its relation to ourselves. 

This complete equilibrium between subject and object is 
the reason why love cannot be conceived as a duty on either 
side. It is not our duty to love others. (I am using love here 
in the sense in which it is used in every-day life, which was 
also Hegel s use of it 1 .) It is not the duty of others to be 
loveable by us. In knowledge and volition, where one side 
was to blame for any want of harmony, there was a meaning 
in saying that the harmony ought to be brought about. But 
here, where the sides have equal rights, where neither is bound 
to give way, no such judgment can be passed. We can only 
say that the absence of the harmony proves the universe to 
be still imperfect. 

And, as this harmony subordinates neither side to the 
other, it is so far qualified to express the Absolute completely. 
It needs for its definition no reference to actual or possible 
defects. It is self-balanced, and can be self-subsistent. 

285. I now proceed to a second line of argument which 
leads to the same conclusion. Both knowledge and volition, I 
maintain, postulate an ideal which they can never reach, while 
they remain knowledge and volition. If this can be shown, it 

1 Cp. Sections 219, 220. 


will follow that neither knowledge nor volition, as such, is 
compatible with the perfection of reality, but that, in that 
perfection, they will be transcended by some other state, which 
will realise the ideal of harmony which they can only demand. 

286. It will be remembered that in chapter n we came 
to the conclusion that our selves were fundamental differ 
entiations of the Absolute because no other theory seemed 
compatible with the fact that a conscious self was a part which 
contained the whole of which it was part. In other words, the 
self contains much that is not-self. Indeed, with the exception 
of the abstraction of the pure I, all the content of the self is 

If we look at knowledge and volition, we see clearly that 
the element of the not-self is essential to them. To know 
implies that there is something known, distinct from the 
knowledge of it. To acquiesce implies that there is something 
in which we acquiesce, which is distinct from our acquiescence 
in it. Without the not-self, knowledge and volition would be 
impossible. But, with the not-self, can knowledge and volition 
ever be perfect ? 

I do not think that they can ever be perfect, because they 
are incapable of harmonising the abstract element of not-self 
which, as we have seen, must always be found in their content. 
All the rest of the content of experience, no doubt, is capable 
of being harmonised by knowledge and volition. But what, as 
it seems to me, is impossible to harmonise is the characteristic 
of experience which makes it not-self which makes it some 
thing existing immediately, and in its own right, not merely as 
part of the content of the knowing self. 

This is, of course, only an abstraction. The pure not-self, 
like the pure self, cannot exist independently. It is a mere 
nonentity if it is separated from the other elements of ex 
perience those which make the content of the not-self. But 
though, like the pure self, it is an abstraction, it is, like the 
pure self, an indispensable abstraction. Without it our ex 
perience would not be not-self as well as self. And, if the 
experience was not as truly not-self as self, it could not, we 
have seen, be our experience at all. 


287. What results follow from this element of the not-self ? 
Let us first consider what happens in the case of knowledge, 
postponing volition. The whole content of knowledge is 
permeated by an essential element which has only one 
characteristic opposition to the self. It necessarily follows 
that a certain opposition seems to exist between the knowing 
self on the one hand, and the whole content of knowledge on 
the other. 

But this opposition involves knowledge in a contradiction. 
For it is impossible to take them as really opposed. The 
knowing self is a mere abstraction without the content of 
knowledge, and the content of knowledge would not be know 
ledge at all without the knowing self. And yet, as was said 
above, it is impossible to get rid of the view that they are 
opposed. For the element of the abstract not-self, which is 
found in all the content of knowledge, is the direct contrary 
of the pure self. 

288. It is to be expected that this contradiction will cause 
the mind, in the pursuit of knowledge, to encounter a difficulty 
which at the same time it sees to be unmeaning and cannot 
avoid. And this is what does happen. We have seen above 1 that 
when knowledge should have reached the greatest perfection of 
which it is capable, there would still remain one question 
unanswered, Why is the whole universe what it is, and not 
something else? We saw also that this question was illegiti 
mate, as the possibility on which it rested was unmeaning. 
For a possibility that the whole universe should be different 
from what it is would have no common ground with actuality, 
and is not a possibility at all. And yet this unmeaning doubt 
haunts all knowledge, and cannot be extirpated. 

We are now able to see why this should be the case. The 
existence of the element of the not-self prevents a complete 
harmony between the self and the content of knowledge. The 
knowing self appears to stand on one side and the known 
universe on the other. And when the knowing self thus 
appears to be in a position of independence, there arises the 
delusion that in that self would be found an independent fixed 

1 Section 269. 

MCT. 18 


point which would be the same, even if the whole known 
universe were different. And then the possibility of a different 
known universe appears to be a real one. And, since no reason 
can, of course, be given why the universe is what it is, there 
appears to be a contingent and irrational element in reality. 

We have seen that this is not a real possibility. And now 
we have another proof of its unreality. For the delusion that it 
is real is caused by the persistence of thought in considering its 
natural condition the existence of the not-self as its natural 
enemy. The existence of such a miscalled possibility, therefore, 
is no argument against the rationality of the universe. But it 
does tell against the adequacy of knowledge as an expression of 
the universe. By finding a flaw in perfection, where no flaw 
exists, knowledge pronounces its own condemnation. If the 
possibility is unmeaning, knowledge is imperfect in being 
compelled to regard it as a possibility. 

289. It seems at first sight absurd to talk of knowledge as 
inadequate. If it were so, how could we know it to be so? 
What right have we to condemn it as imperfect, when no one 
but the culprit can be the judge? This is, no doubt, so far 
true, that if knowledge did not show us its own ideal, we could 
never know that it did not realise it. But there is a great 
difference between indicating an ideal and realising it. It is 
possible and I have endeavoured to show that it is the fact 
that knowledge can do the one and not the other. When we 
ask about the abstract conditions of reality, knowledge is able 
to demonstrate that harmony must exist, and that the element 
of the not-self is compatible with it, and essential to it. But 
when it is asked to show in detail how the harmony exists, 
which it has shown must exist, it is unable to do so. There 
is here no contradiction in our estimate of reason, but there 
is a contradiction in reason, which prevents us from regarding it 
as ultimate, and which forces us to look for some higher stage, 
where the contradiction may disappear. 

290. An analogous defect occurs, from the same cause, in 
volition. The special characteristic of volition is, as we have 
seen, that it demands that the world shall conform to the ideals 
laid down by the individual. Volition, that is to say, demands 


that the content of experience shall be the means to the indi 
vidual s end. Unless this is so, volition cannot be perfect. 

The assertion that perfect satisfaction requires us to consider 
everything else as a means to our own end may be doubted. Is 
there not such a thing as unselfish action ? And in that highest 
content of satisfaction which we call moral good, is it not laid 
down by high authority that the fundamental law is to treat 
other individuals as ends and not as means ? 

It is undoubtedly true that our satisfaction need not be 
selfish. But it must be self-regarding. Many of our desires 
are not for our own pleasure, such as the desire to win a game, 
or to eat when we are hungry. But these are still desires for 
our own good 1 . If the result did not appear to us to be one 
which would be desirable for us, we should not desire it. Put 
in this way, indeed, the fact that volition and its satisfaction are 
self-centred appears almost a truism. It is possible, again, that 
a sense of duty or a feeling of benevolence may determine us 
to unselfish action to action painful to ourselves, which, apart 
from those feelings, we could not regard as our good. But such 
action implies that we do regard virtue, or the happiness of 
others, as our highest good. Even if we take Mill s extreme 
case of going to hell, we must conceive that the following 
of virtue as long as possible, although the eventual result 
was eternal misery and degradation, presented itself to him 
as his highest good. Self-sacrifice, strictly speaking, is im 
possible. We can sacrifice the lower parts of our nature. 
But if we were not actuated by some part of our nature, the 
action would cease to be ours. It would fall into the same 
class as the actions of lunacy, of hypnotism, of unconscious 
habit. The will is ours, and the motive which determines will 
must be a motive which has power for us. In other words our 
volition is always directed towards our own good, and has always 
ourselves for its end. 

And this is not interfered with by the possibility and the 
obligation, which unquestionably exist, of regarding other indi 
viduals as ends. We may do this with the most absolute 
sincerity. But if we are asked why we do it, we do not find 
1 Note to Second Edition. I now think that this is not correct. 



it an ultimate necessity. We insert another term. We may 
perhaps ascribe our conduct to a sense of sympathy with others. 
In this case the reference to self is obvious. Or, taking a more 
objective position, we may say that we do it because it is right. 
Now the obligation of virtue is admitted by all schools to be 
internal. This is maintained alike by those who imagine it to 
be an empirical growth, and by those who suppose it eternal 
and fundamental to spirit. That virtue must be followed for 
its own sake is only another way of saying that we conceive 
virtue to be our highest good. Kant made the treatment of 
individuals as ends the primary law of morals. But the existence 
of morals depended on the Categorical Imperative. And the 
obligation of this on the moral agent his recognition of it as 
binding was equivalent to an assertion that he adopted it. 
The adoption must not be conceived as optional, or morality 
would become capricious; but it must be conceived as self- 
realisation, or it would be unmeaning to speak of the agent, 
or his motive, as virtuous. 

291. Now the element of the not-self prevents volition 
from completely realising its ideal. For the whole significance 
of that element is that the experience into which it enters 
is not dependent on the self. (Not dependent must not be 
taken here as equivalent to independent. The true relation 
of the self and the not-self is one of reciprocal connection. 
And so it would be misleading, according to the common use 
of words, to say either that they were independent, or that 
either was dependent on the other.) It is not a mere means 
to the end of the self, it has its own existence, its own end. 

292. The end of the self is not therefore, as such, supreme 
in the universe. Even if the universe is such as perfectly 
realises the self s end, it does not do so because its purpose 
is to realise the self s end, but because its own end and the 
self s are the same. And this throws an appearance of con 
tingency and sufferance over the satisfaction of the self which 
prevents it from being quite perfect. 

As with the corresponding defect in knowledge, there is 
only an appearance of contingency. For the self and not-self 
are not isolated and independent. They are parts of the same 


universe, and the nature of each of them is to embody the 
unity of which they are both parts. Thus the relation of each 
to the other is not external and accidental, but of the very 
essence of both. And thus, again, the fact that the not-self 
realises the ends of the self is not contingent, but necessary 
to the very essence of the not-self. 

The condemnation therefore does not fall on the nature 
of reality, but on volition, which is unable to realise the com 
plete harmony, because it persists in regarding as a defect 
what is no defect. It is unable to realise the complete unity 
of the self with the not-self, and, since the not-self is not a 
mere means to the self, it can never get rid of the view that 
it is only accidentally a means, and so an imperfect means. 
Like knowledge, volition regards its essential condition the 
existence of a not-self as an imperfection. And therefore 
it can never realise its ideal. 

293. To sum up. If this analysis has been correct, it 
will prove that neither knowledge nor volition can completely 
express the harmony of spirit, since their existence implies 
that spirit is in relation with a not-self, while their perfection 
would imply that they were not. At the same time the 
dialectic assures us that complete harmony must exist, since 
it is implied in the existence of anything at all. We must 
therefore look elsewhere to find the complete expression of the 
harmony, which is the ultimate form of spirit. 

The trouble has arisen from the fact that the self is unable, 
in knowledge and volition, to regard the element of the not-self 
except as something external and alien. I do not mean that 
everything which is not-self appears entirely external and 
alien. If that were the case there could be no harmony at 
all and consequently no knowledge or volition since all the 
content of experience, except the abstract pure self, comes 
under the not-self. But I mean that the characteristic which 
experience possesses of being not-self its " not-selfness," if the 
barbarism is permissible, will always remain as an external 
and alien element. 

If we are to discover the state of spirit in which the 
harmony could be perfect, we must find one in which the 


element of not-self does not give an aspect of externality 
and alienation to the content of experience. In other words 
we shall have to find a state in which we regard the not-self 
in the same way as we regard the self. 

294. Although we find it convenient to define the not-self 
by its negative relation to the self, it is not entirely negative, 
for then it would not be real. It must have some positive 
nature. It is, of course, a differentiation of the Absolute. 
Now we saw reason, in chapter n, to believe that the only 
fundamental differentiations of the Absolute were finite selves. 
That, therefore, of which any self is conscious as its not-self, 
is, from its own point of view, another self. And that which 
appears to the observing self as the element of not-selfness 
in its object, will, from the object s own point of view, be 
the element of selfness. 

We can now restate our problem. Can we find any state 
of spirit in which A regards B in the same way as A regards 
himself ? 

295. Now I submit that, when A loves B, he is concerned 
with B as a person, and not merely with the results of B on A t 
and that therefore he does look on B as B would look on 
himself. The interest that I feel in my own life is not due 
to its having such and such qualities. I am interested in it 
because it is myself, whatever qualities it may have. I am 
not, of course, interested in myself apart from all qualities, 
which would be an unreal abstraction. But it is the self 
which gives the interest to the qualities, and not the reverse. 
With the object of knowledge or volition on the other hand 
our interest is in the qualities which it may possess, and we 
are only concerned in the object s existence for itself because 
without it the qualities could not exist. But in the harmony 
which we are now considering, we do not, when it has been 
once reached, feel that the person is dear to us on account 
of his qualities, but rather that our attitude towards his 
qualities is determined by the fact that they belong to him. 

296. In support of this we may notice, in the first place, 
that love is not necessarily proportioned to the dignity or 
adequacy of the determining motive. This is otherwise in 


knowledge and volition. In volition, for example, the depth 
of our satisfaction ought to be proportioned to the completeness 
with which the environment harmonises with our ideals, and 
to the adequacy with which our present ideals express our 
fundamental nature. If it is greater than these would justify 
it is unwarranted and illegitimate. But a trivial cause may 
determine the direction of very deep emotion. To be born 
in the same family, or to be brought up in the same house, 
may determine it. It may be determined by physical beauty, 
or by purely sensual desire. Or we may be, as we often are, 
unable to assign any determining cause at all. And yet the 
emotion produced may be indefinitely intense and elevated. 
This would seem to suggest that the emotion is directed to 
the person, not to his qualities, and that the determining 
qualities are not the ground of the harmony, but merely the 
road by which we proceed to that ground. If this is so, it 
is natural that they should bear no more necessary proportion 
to the harmony than the intrinsic value of the key of a safe 
does to the value of the gold inside the safe. 

Another characteristic of love is the manner in which 
reference to the object tends to become equivalent to reference 
to self. We have seen above that all volition implies a self- 
reference, that, however disinterested the motive, it can only 
form part of our life in so far as the self finds its good in 
it. Now here we come across a state of spirit in which the 
value of truth and virtue for us seems to depend on the existence 
of another person, in the same way as it unquestionably 
depends for us on our own existence. And this not because 
the other person is specially interested in truth and virtue, but 
because all our interest in the universe is conceived as deriving 
force from his existence. 

297. And a third point which denotes that the interest 
is emphatically personal is found in our attitude when we 
discover that the relation has been based on some special 
congruity which has ceased to exist, or which was wrongly 
believed in, and never really existed at all. In knowledge 
and volition such a discovery would put an end to the relation 
altogether. To go on believing that a thing was rational or 


satisfactory, because it was so once, or because we once believed 
that it was so, would be immediately recognized as an ab 
surdity. If the cause of the harmony ceases, the harmony 
ceases too. But here the case is different. If once the relation 
has existed, any disharmony among the qualities need not, and, 
we feel, ought not, to injure the harmony between the persons. 
If a person proves irrational or imperfect, this may make us 
miserable about him. It may make us blame him, or, more 
probably, make us blame God, or whatever substitute for God 
our religion may allow us. But it will not make us less 
interested in him, it will not make us less confident that 
our relation to him is the meaning of our existence, less 
compelled to view the universe sub specie amati. As well 
might any imperfection or sin in our nature render us less 
interested in our own condition, or convince us that it was 
unimportant to ourselves. 

It often happens, of course, that such a strain is too hard 
for affection, and destroys it. But the distinction is that, 
while such a result would be the only proper and natural 
one in knowledge and volition, it is felt here as a condemnation. 
Knowledge and volition ought to yield. But love, we feel, if 
it had been strong enough, might have resisted, and ought 
to have resisted. 

298. It would seem, then, that we have here reached a 
standpoint from which we are able to regard the object as 
it regards itself. We are able to regard the history and content 
of the object as a manifestation of its individuality, instead of 
being obliged to regard the individuality as a dead residuum in 
which the content inheres. We are able to see the object from 
within outwards, instead of from without inwards. And so 
its claims to independence and substantiality become no more 
alien or inharmonious to us than our own. 

This recognition of the independence of the object is 
absolute. In knowledge and volition that independence was 
recognized to some extent. In volition, in particular, and 
more especially in those higher stages in which volition be 
comes moral, we saw that our own satisfaction depends on 
realising the independence and the rights of others, and 


treating them, not as means, but as ends. But the reasons 
why this was necessary were always relative to our own self- 
realisation. Even with virtue, the ultimate ground of each 
man s choice of it must always be that he prefers it to vice. 
And hence this recognition as end was itself a subordination 
as means, and the absolute assertion of itself as end, which 
the object itself made, continued to be something alien and 

The position here is different. The subject is no longer 
in the same position of one-sided supremacy. In knowledge 
and volition it exists as a centre of which the world of objects 
is the circumference. This relation continues, for without it 
our self-consciousness and our existence would disappear. But 
conjoined with it we have now the recognition of the fact that 
we ourselves form part of the circumference of other systems 
of which other individuals are the centre. We know of course 
that this must be so. But it is only in love that it actually 
takes place. We are not only part of someone else s world 
in his eyes, but in our own. And we feel that this dependence 
on another is as directly and truly self-realisation as is the 
dependence of others on us. All through life self-surrender 
is the condition of self-attainment. Here, for the first time, 
they become identical. The result seems, no doubt, paradoxical. 
But any change which made it simpler would render it, I 
think, less correspondent to facts. And if, as I have en 
deavoured to show, knowledge and volition carry in them 
defects which prevent our regarding them as ultimate, we 
need not be alarmed for our formula of the Absolute, because 
it appears paradoxical to them. It would be in greater danger 
if they could fully acquiesce in it. 

With such a formula our difficulties cease. Here we have 
perfect unity between subject and object, since it is in the 
whole object, and not merely in some elements of it, that we 
find satisfaction. And, for the same reason, the object attains 
its rights in the way of complete differentiation, since we are 
able, now that we are in unity with the whole of it, to recognize 
it as a true individual. Again, even unmeaning doubts of the 
completeness and security of the harmony between subject and 


object must now vanish, since not even an abstraction is left 
over as alien, on which scepticism could fix as a possible centre 
of discord. 

299. There is a third line of argument which can lead us 
to the same conclusion. We have seen that the nature of each 
individual consists in certain relations to other individuals. 
This view must not be confounded with that suggested by Green, 
that "for the only kind of consciousness for which there is 
reality, the conceived conditions are the reality 1 ." For there is 
all the difference possible between attempting to reduce one 
side of an opposition to the other, and asserting, as we have 
done, that the two sides are completely fused in a unity which 
is more than either of them. 

Experience can be analysed into two abstract, and therefore 
imperfect, moments the immediate centres of differ en tiation 
and the relations which unite and mediate them. The extreme 
atomistic view takes the immediate centres as real, and the 
mediating relations as unreal. The view quoted by Green, as 
extreme on the other side, takes the relations as real and the 
centres as unreal. The view of the dialectic, on the contrary, 
accepts both elements as real, but asserts that neither has any 
separate reality, because each is only a moment of the true 
reality. Reality consists of immediate centres which are 
mediated by relations. The imperfection of language compels 
us to state this proposition in a form which suggests that the 
immediacy and the mediation are different realities which only 
influence one another externally. But this is not the case. 
They are only two sides of the same reality. And thus we are 
entitled to say that the whole nature of the centres is to be 
found in their relations. But we are none the less entitled to 
say that the whole nature of the relations is to be found in the 

300. Now it is clear that each individual must have a 
separate and unique nature of its own. If it had not, it could 
never be differentiated from all the other individuals, as we 
know that it is differentiated. At the same time the nature of 
the individuals lies wholly in their connections with one another ; 

1 Works, ii. 191. 


it is expressed nowhere else, and there it is expressed fully. It 
follows that the separate and unique nature of each individual 
must be found only, and be found fully, in its connections with 
other individuals in the fact, that is, that all the other indi 
viduals are for it. 

This must not be taken to mean that the connection is the 
logical prius of the individual nature that the latter is in any 
sense the consequent or the result of the former. Nor does it 
mean that the individual natures could be explained or deduced 
from the fact of connection. Such views would be quite contrary 
to Hegel s principles. His position is essentially that reality is 
a differentiated unity, and that either the differentiation or the 
unit) 7 by itself is a mere abstraction. And it would be contrary 
to all the lessons of the dialectic if we supposed that one 
moment of a concrete whole could be either caused or explained 
by the other moment. It is the concrete reality which must be 
alike the ground and the explanation of its moments. 

What we have to maintain here is not that the characters 
of the individuals are dependent on their connections, but, on 
the contrary, that the characters and the connections are com 
pletely united. The character of the individual is expressed 
completely in its connections with others, and exists nowhere 
else. On the other hand the connections are to be found in 
the nature of the individuals they connect, and nowhere else, 
and not merely in the common nature which the individuals 
share, but in that special and unique nature which distinguishes 
one individual from another. 

This completes our definition of the Absolute Idea. Not 
only has the nature of each individual to be found in the fact 
that all the rest are for it, but the nature which is to be found 
in this recognition must be something unique and distinguishing 
for each individual. The whole difference of each individual from 
the others has to be contained in its harmony with the others. 
We need not be alarmed at the apparently paradoxical 
appearance of this definition. For all through the doctrine 
of the Notion, and especially in the Idea, our categories have 
been paradoxical to the ordinary understanding. Even if we 
could find nothing in experience which explicitly embodied this 


category, we should not have any right, on that ground, to 
doubt its validity. If the arguments which have conducted us 
to it are valid, we shall be compelled to believe that this, and 
this only, is the true nature of absolute reality. The only effect 
of the want of an example would be our inability to form a 
mental picture of what absolute reality would be like. 

301. I believe, however, that we can find an example 
of this category in experience. It seems to me that perfect 
love would give such an example, and that we should thus find 
additional support for the conclusion already reached. 

It is clear, in the first place, that our example must be some 
form of consciousness. For the nature of the individual is still 
to have all reality for it, and of this idea, as we have seen, we 
can imagine no embodiment but consciousness. 

Knowledge, however, will not be what is required. We 
want a state such that the individuals recognition of their 
harmony with one another shall itself constitute the separate 
nature of each individual. In knowledge the individual recog 
nizes his harmony with others, but this is not sufficient to 
constitute his separate nature. It is true that knowledge 
not only permits, but requires, the differentiation of the indi 
viduals. Nothing but an individual can have knowledge, and 
if the individuals were merged in an undifferentiated whole, 
the knowledge would vanish. Moreover, in proportion as the 
knowledge of a knowing being becomes wider and deeper, 
and links him more closely to the rest of reality, so does his 
individuality become greater. But although the individuality 
and the knowledge are so closely linked, they are not identical. 
The individuality cannot lie in the knowledge. Men may, no 
doubt, be distinguished from one another by what they know, 
and how they know it. But such distinction depends on the 
limitations and imperfections of knowledge. A knows X, and 
B knows Y. Or else A believes X 1 to be the truth, while B 
believes the same of X 2 . But for an example of a category of 
the Idea we should have, as we have seen above, to take perfect 
cognition. Now if A and B both knew X as it really is, this 
would give no separate nature to A and B. And if we took, as 
we must take, X to stand for all reality, and so came to the 


conclusion that the nature of A and B lay in knowing the same 
subject-matter, knowing it perfectly, and, therefore, knowing 
it in exactly the same way, we should have failed to find 
that separate nature for A and B which we have seen to be 

Nor can our example be found in volition. Perfect volition 
would mean perfect acquiescence in everything. Now men can 
be easily differentiated by the fact that they acquiesce in 
different things. So they can be differentiated by the fact that 
they acquiesce in different sides of the same thing in other 
words, approve of the same thing for different reasons. Thus 
one man may approve of an auto da fe on the ground that 
it gives pain to the heretics who are burned, and another 
may approve of it on the ground that it gives pleasure to the 
orthodox who look on. But there can only be one way of acqui 
escing in the whole nature of any one thing, and only one way, 
therefore, of acquiescing in the whole nature of everything, 
and the ground of differentiation is consequently wanting. 

302. The only form of consciousness which remains is 
emotion. To this the same objections do not seem to apply. 
Perfect knowledge of X must be the same in A and B. Perfect 
acquiescence in X must be the same in A and B. But I do 
not see any reason why perfect love of X should be the same in 
A and B, or why it should not be the differentiation required 
to make A and B perfect individuals. The object in love is 
neither archetype, as in knowledge, nor ectype, as in volition, 
and hence there is no contradiction in saying that love of the 
same person is different in different people, and yet perfect in 

303. We have thus been led by three lines of argument 
to the same conclusion. The Absolute can only be perfectly 
manifested in a state of consciousness which complies with 
three conditions. It must have an absolute balance between 
the individual for whom all reality exists, and the reality 
which is for it neither being subordinated to the other, and 
the harmony being ultimate. It must be able to establish 
such a unity between the self and the not-self, that the latter 
loses all appearance of contingency and alienation. And, finally, 


in it the separate and unique nature of each individual must 
be found in its connections with other individuals. We have 
found that knowledge and volition comply with none of these 
conditions. There remains only one other alternative at present 
known to us love. I have tried to show that in this case all 
three conditions are fulfilled. 

304. One or two points require further explanation. It is 
no doubt true that love, as we now know it, never exists as the 
whole content of consciousness. Its value, and indeed its 
possibility, depends on its springing from, being surrounded by, 
and resulting in, acts of knowledge and volition which remain 
such, and do not pass into a higher stage. This however is 
only a characteristic of an imperfect state of development. At 
present there is much of reality whose spiritual nature we are 
unable to detect. And when we do recognize a self-conscious 
individual we can only come into relation with him in so far as 
that other reality, still conceived as matter, which we call our 
bodies, can be made instrumental to our purposes. And finally, 
even when we have recognized reality as spirit, the imperfection 
of our present knowledge leaves a large number of its qualities 
apparently contingent and irrational. Thus every case in which 
we have established a personal relation must be surrounded by 
large numbers of others in which we have not done so. And 
as all reality is inter-connected, the establishment and main 
tenance of this relation must be connected with, and dependent 
on, the imperfect relations into which we come with the 
surrounding reality. And, again, the same inter-connection 
brings it about that the harmony with any one object can 
never be perfect, till the harmony with all other objects is so. 
Thus our relations with any one object could never be com 
pletely absorbed in love leaving no knowledge and volition 
untranscended until the same result was universally attained. 

But there is no reason why it should not be attained 
completely, if attained universally. It is entitled to stand by 
itself, for it is, as we have seen, self-contained. It does not 
require a reference to some correlative and opposed activity to 
make its own nature intelligible, and it does not require any 
recognition of the possibility of discord. It is the simple and 


absolute expression of harmony, and, when once the harmony 
of the whole universe has become explicit, it is capable of 
expressing the meaning of the whole universe. 

305. Before this ideal could be attained, it is clear that 
sense-presentation, as a method of obtaining our knowledge of 
the object, would have to cease. For sense-presentation can 
only give us consciousness of reality under the form of matter, 
and in doing this, it clearly falls short of the perfect harmony, 
since it presents reality in an imperfect and inadequate form. 

There seems no reason why the fact of sense-presentation 
should be regarded as essential to consciousness. Our senses 
may be indispensable to knowledge while much of the reality, 
of which we desire to be informed, still takes the shape of 
matter, and the rest is only known to us in so far as it acts 
through material bodies. But it seems quite possible that the 
necessity, to which spirits are at present subject, of communi 
cating with one another through matter, only exists because 
the matter happens to be in the way. In that case, when the 
whole universe is viewed as spirit, so that nothing relatively 
alien could come between one individual and another, the 
connection between spirits might very possibly be direct. 

306. Another characteristic of a perfect manifestation of 
the Absolute is that it must be timeless. In this, again, I can 
see no difficulty. If, in love, we are able to come into contact 
with the object as it really is, we shall find no disconnected 
manifold. The object is, of course, not a mere blank unity. It 
is a unity which manifests itself in multiplicity. But the 
multiplicity only exists in so far as it is contained in the 
unity. And, since the object has thus a real unity of its own, 
it might be possible to apprehend the whole of it at once, and 
not to require that successive apprehension, which the synthesis 
of a manifold, originally given as unconnected, would always 

It is true, of course, that we cannot conceive the Absolute 
as connection with a single other person, but rather, directly or 
indirectly, with all others. But we must remember, again, that 
all reality must be conceived as in perfect unity, and, therefore, 
individuals must be conceived as forming, not a mere aggregate 


or mechanical system, but a whole which only differs from an 
organism in being a closer and more vital unity than any 
organism can be. The various individuals, then, must be con 
ceived as forming a differentiated and multiplex whole, but by 
no means as an unconnected manifold. It might therefore 
be practicable to dispense with successive acts of apprehension 
in contemplating the complete whole of the universe, as much 
as in contemplating the relative whole of a single individual. 
And in that case there would be no reason why the highest form 
of spirit should not be free from succession, and from time. 

I should be inclined to say, personally, that, even at present, 
the idea of timeless emotion is one degree less unintelligible 
than that of timeless knowledge and volition that the most 
intense emotion has some power of making time seem, if not 
unreal, at any rate excessively unimportant, which does not 
belong to any other form of mental activity. But this is a 
matter of introspection which every person must decide for 

How such great and fundamental changes are to be made 
how knowledge and volition are to pass into love, and a life in 
time into timelessness may well perplex us. Even if we see 
the necessity of the transition, the manner in which it is to be 
effected would remain mysterious. But all such transitions, we 
may reflect, must necessarily appear mysterious till they have 
taken place. The transition is from two relatively abstract ideas 
to a more comprehensive idea which synthesises them. Till the 
synthesis has taken place the abstractions have not yet lost the 
false appearance of substantiality and independence which they 
acquired by their abstraction from the whole. Till the synthesis 
has taken place, therefore, the process by which the two sides 
lose their independence must appear something, which, though 
inevitable, is also inexplicable. It is not till the change has 
been made that we are able to realise fully that all the meaning 
of the lower lay in the higher, and that what has been lost was 
nothing but delusion. So, in this case, we must remember that 
we are not constructing love out of knowledge and volition, but 
merely clearing away the mistakes which presented love to us 
in the form of knowledge and volition. 


307. It may be said that the extent and intensity in which 
love enters into a man s life is not a fair test of his perfection. 
We consider some people who have comparatively little of it as 
far higher than others who have much. And again and this 
is perhaps a more crucial instance we find cases in which we 
regard as a distinct advance a change in a man s life which 
diminishes his devotion to individuals in comparison with his 
ardour for abstract truth or abstract virtue. 

The existence of such cases cannot be denied, but need not, 
I think, be considered incompatible with what has been said. 
Any harmony which we can attain at present must be very 
imperfect, and postulates its own completion, at once because 
of its partial success and of its partial failure. Now the principle 
of the dialectic is that spirit cannot advance in a straight line, 
but is compelled to tack from side to side, emphasising first one 
aspect of the truth, and then its complementary and contrary 
aspect, and then finding the harmony between them. In so far, 
then, as the harmony is at any time imperfect, because it has 
not fully grasped the opposites to be reconciled, it can only 
advance by first grasping them, and then reconciling them. 
The difference must be first recognized, and then conquered, 
and between the first stage and the second the harmony will be 
impaired. The opposition may be between the abstract gene 
rality of religion and the abstract particularity of passion, it 
may be between the abstract submission of the search for truth 
and the abstract assertion of the search for good, it may be 
between abstract intensity deficient in breadth and abstract 
extension deficient in depth. When any of these divisions 
happen the harmony will be broken, and yet the change will 
be an advance, since we shall have entered on the only path by 
which the harmony can be perfected. In that harmony alone 
we live. But here, as everywhere in this imperfect world, 
the old paradox holds good. Only he who loses his life shall 
find it. 

308. The love of which we speak here cannot be what is 
generally called love of God. For love is of persons, and God, 
as we have seen, is a unity of persons, but not a personal unity. 
Nor can we say that it is God that we love in man. It is no 

MCT. 19 


more the merely divine than the merely human. The incar 
nation is not here a divine condescension, as in some religious 
systems. The abstractly universal is as much below the concrete 
individual as is the abstractly particular, and it is the concrete 
individual which alone can give us what we seek for. 

Again, though differentiation has no right as against the 
concrete whole, it is independent as against the element of 
unity. And, therefore, if we could come into relation with the 
element of unity as such, it would not connect us with the 
differentiated parts of the universe, and could not therefore be 
a relation adequately expressing all reality. 

We can, if we choose, say that our love is in God, meaning 
thereby that it cannot, at its highest, be conceived as merely 
subjective and capricious, but that it expresses the order of the 
universe, and is conscious that it does so. It is more than 
religion, but it must include religion. But this is not love of 
God. The relation is between persons, and God is conceived 
only as the unity in which they exist. 

309. If we cannot, properly speaking, love God, it is still 
more impossible to love mankind. For mankind is an abstraction 
too, and a far more superficial abstraction. If God was only an 
abstraction of the element of unity, at least he was an abstrac 
tion of the highest and most perfect unity, able to fuse into a 
whole the highest and most perfect differentiation. But man 
kind represents a far less vital unity. It is a common quality of 
individuals, but not, conceived merely as mankind, a living 
unity between them. The whole nature of the individual lies 
in his being a manifestation of God. But the unity of mankind 
is not a principle of which all the differences of individual men 
are manifestations. The human race, viewed as such, is only 
an aggregate, not even an organism. We might as well try to 
love an indefinitely extended Post Office Directory. And the 
same will hold true of all subordinate aggregates nations, 
churches, and families. 

310. I have been using the word love, in this chapter, in 
the meaning which is given to it in ordinary life as meaning 
the emotion which joins two particular persons together, and 
which never, in our experience, unites one person with more 


than a few others. This, as we have seen, was also Hegel s use 
of the word 1 . At the same time we must guard against con 
founding it with the special forms which it assumes at present. 
At present it makes instruments of sexual desire, of the con 
nection of marriage, or of the connection of blood. But these 
cannot be the ultimate forms under which love is manifested, 
since they depend on determining causes outside love itself. 
Love for which any cause can be assigned carries the marks of 
its own incompleteness upon it. For, when it is complete, all 
relations, all reality, will have been transformed into it. Thus 
there will be nothing left outside to determine it. Love is 
itself the relation which binds individuals together. Each 
relation it establishes is part of the ultimate nature of the 
unity of the whole. It does not require or admit of justification 
or determination by anything else. It is itself its own justifica 
tion and determination. The nearest approach to it we can 
know now is the love for which no cause can be given, and 
which is not determined by any outer relation, of which we can 
only say that two people belong to each other the love of the 
Vita Nuova and of In Memoriam. 

311. No doubt an emotion which should be sufficient, both 
in extent and intensity, to grasp the entire universe, must be 
different in degree from anything of which we can now have 
experience. Yet this need not force us to allow any essential 
difference between the two, if the distinction is one of degree, 
and not of generic change. The attempt to imagine any com 
munion so far-reaching extending, as we must hold it to do, 
to all reality in the universe is, no doubt, depressing, almost 
painful 2 . But this arises, I think, from the inability, under 
which we lie at present, to picture the ideal except under the 
disguise of a "false infinite" of endless succession. However 
much we may know that the kingdom of heaven is spiritual 
and timeless, we cannot help imagining it as in time, and can 

1 Cp. Sections 219, 220. 

2 I see no necessity for considering the relations between each individual 
and all the others to be direct. It would seem quite as possible that the 
relation of each individual to the majority of the others should be indirect, and 
through the mediation of some other individuals. 


scarcely help imagining it as in space In this case the 
magnitude of the field to be included naturally appears as 
something alien and inimical to our power of including it. We 
are forced, too, since our imagination is limited by the stage of 
development in which we at present are, to give undue import 
ance to the question of number, as applied to the individuals 
in the Absolute. If we look at it from this standpoint the 
most casual contemplation is bewildering and crushing. But 
number is a very inadequate category. Even in everyday life 
we may see how number falls into the shade as our knowledge 
of the subject-matter increases. Of two points on an unlimited 
field we can say nothing but that they are two in number. 
But if we were considering the relation of Hegel s philosophy 
to Kant s, or of Dante to Beatrice, the advance which we should 
make by counting them would be imperceptible. When every 
thing is seen under the highest category, the Absolute Idea, 
this process would be complete. All lower categories would 
have been transcended, and all separate significance of number 
would have vanished. And with it would vanish the dead 
weight of the vastness of the universe. 

We must remember too, once more, that the Absolute is 
not an aggregate but a system. The multiplicity of the indi 
viduals is not, therefore, a hindrance in the way of establishing 
a harmony with any one of them, as might be the case if each 
was an independent rival of all the rest. It is rather to be 
considered as an assistance, since our relations with each will, 
through their mutual connections, be strengthened by our rela 
tions to all the rest. 

312. The conclusions of this chapter are, no doubt, fairly 
to be called mystical. And a mysticism which ignored the 
claims of the understanding would, no doubt, be doomed. None 
ever went about to break logic, but in the end logic broke him. 
But there is a mysticism which starts from the standpoint of 
the understanding, and only departs from it in so far as that 
standpoint shows itself not to be ultimate, but to postulate 
something beyond itself. To transcend the lower is not to 
ignore it. And it is only in this sense that I have ventured to 
indicate the possibility of finding, above all knowledge and 


volition, one all-embracing unity, which is only not true, only 
not good, because all truth and all goodness are but distorted 
shadows of its absolute perfection "das Unbegreifliche, weil 
es der Begriff selbst ist." 


I do not now think that the arguments to prove that know 
ledge and volition cannot be absolutely real (Sections 285-293) 
are valid. But I have not omitted them because I still think 
that it would be a logical consequence of Hegel s position in 
the logic that knowledge and volition could not be absolutely 
real, and I think that these arguments are consistent with Hegel s 
views. My present view is that every state of consciousness in 
absolute reality is a state alike of knowledge, of volition and 
of love. 


J. B. PEACE, M.A., 



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