A Pluralistic Universe by William James

Produced by Felicia Urbanski, David Starner, Nicolas Hayes and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team A PLURALISTIC UNIVERSE Hibbert Lectures at Manchester College on the Present Situation in Philosophy BY WILLIAM JAMES 1909 CONTENTS LECTURE I THE TYPES OF PHILOSOPHIC THINKING 1 Our age is growing philosophical again, 3. Change of tone since 1860, 4. Empiricism
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Produced by Felicia Urbanski, David Starner, Nicolas Hayes and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team


Hibbert Lectures at Manchester College on the Present Situation in Philosophy






Our age is growing philosophical again, 3. Change of tone since 1860, 4. Empiricism and Rationalism defined, 7. The process of Philosophizing: Philosophers choose some part of the world to interpret the whole by, 8. They seek to make it seem less strange, 11. Their temperamental differences, 12. Their systems must be reasoned out, 13. Their tendency to over-technicality, 15. Excess of this in Germany, 17. The type of vision is the important thing in a philosopher, 20. Primitive thought, 21. Spiritualism and Materialism: Spiritualism shows two types, 23. Theism and Pantheism, 24. Theism makes a duality of Man and God, and leaves Man an outsider, 25. Pantheism identifies Man with God, 29. The contemporary tendency is towards Pantheism, 30. Legitimacy of our demand to be essential in the Universe, 33. Pluralism versus Monism: The ‘each- form’ and the ‘all-form’ of representing the world, 34. Professor Jacks quoted, 35. Absolute Idealism characterized, 36. Peculiarities of the finite consciousness which the Absolute cannot share, 38. The finite still remains outside of absolute reality, 40.



Recapitulation, 43. Radical Pluralism is to be the thesis of these lectures, 44. Most philosophers contemn it, 45. Foreignness to us of Bradley’s Absolute, 46. Spinoza and ‘quatenus,’47. Difficulty of sympathizing with the Absolute, 48. Idealistic attempt to interpret it, 50. Professor Jones quoted, 52. Absolutist refutations of Pluralism, 54. Criticism of Lotze’s proof of Monism by the analysis of what interaction involves, 55. Vicious intellectualism defined, 60. Royce’s alternative: either the complete disunion or the absolute union of things, 61. Bradley’s dialectic difficulties with relations, 69. Inefficiency of the Absolute as a rationalizing remedy, 71. Tendency of Rationalists to fly to extremes, 74. The question of ‘external’ relations, 79. Transition to Hegel, 91.



Hegel’s influence. 85. The type of his vision is impressionistic, 87. The ‘dialectic’ element in reality, 88. Pluralism involves possible conflicts among things, 90. Hegel explains conflicts by the mutual contradictoriness of concepts, 91. Criticism of his attempt to transcend ordinary logic, 92. Examples of the ‘dialectic’ constitution of things, 95. The rationalistic ideal: propositions self-securing by means of double negation, 101. Sublimity of the conception, 104. Criticism of Hegel’s account: it involves vicious intellectualism, 105. Hegel is a seer rather than a reasoner, 107. ‘The Absolute’ and ‘God’ are two different notions, 110. Utility of the Absolute in conferring mental peace, 114. But this is counterbalanced by the peculiar paradoxes which it introduces into philosophy, 116. Leibnitz and Lotze on the ‘fall’ involved in the creation of the finite, 119. Joachim on the fall of truth into error, 121. The world of the absolutist cannot be perfect, 123. Pluralistic conclusions, 125.



Superhuman consciousness does not necessarily imply an absolute mind, 134. Thinness of contemporary absolutism, 135. The tone of Fechner’s empiricist pantheism contrasted with that of the rationalistic sort, 144. Fechner’s life, 145. His vision, the ‘daylight view,’ 150. His way of reasoning by analogy, 151. The whole universe animated, 152. His monistic formula is unessential, 153. The Earth-Soul, 156. Its differences from our souls, 160. The earth as an angel, 164. The Plant-Soul, 165. The logic used by Fechner, 168. His theory of immortality, 170. The ‘thickness’ of his imagination, 173. Inferiority of the ordinary transcendentalist pantheism, to his vision, 174.


The assumption that states of mind may compound themselves, 181. This assumption is held in common by naturalistic psychology, by transcendental idealism, and by Fechner, 184. Criticism of it by the present writer in a former book, 188. Physical combinations, so-called, cannot be invoked as analogous, 194. Nevertheless, combination must be postulated among the parts of the Universe, 197. The logical objections to admitting it, 198. Rationalistic treatment of the question brings us to an _impasse_, 208. A radical breach with intellectualism is required, 212. Transition to Bergson’s philosophy, 214. Abusive use of concepts, 219.



Professor Bergson’s personality, 225. Achilles and the tortoise, 228. Not a sophism, 229. We make motion unintelligible when we treat it by static concepts, 233. Conceptual treatment is nevertheless of immense practical use, 235. The traditional rationalism gives an essentially static universe, 237. Intolerableness of the intellectualist view, 240. No rationalist account is possible of action, change, or immediate life, 244. The function of concepts is practical rather than theoretical, 247. Bergson remands us to intuition or sensational experience for the understanding of how life makes itself go, 252. What Bergson means by this, 255. Manyness in oneness must be admitted, 256. What really exists is not things made, but things in the making, 263. Bergson’s originality, 264. Impotence of intellectualist logic to define a universe where change is continuous, 267. Livingly, things _are_ their own others, so that there is a sense in which Hegel’s logic is true, 270.



Green’s critique of Sensationalism, 278. Relations are as immediately felt as terms are, 280. The union of things is given in the immediate flux, not in any conceptual reason that overcomes the flux’s aboriginal incoherence, 282. The minima of experience as vehicles of continuity, 284. Fallacy of the objections to self-compounding, 286. The concrete units of experience are ‘their own others,’ 287. Reality is confluent from next to next, 290. Intellectualism must be sincerely renounced, 291. The Absolute is only an hypothesis, 292. Fechner’s God is not the Absolute, 298. The Absolute solves no intellectualist difficulty, 296. Does superhuman consciousness probably exist? 298.



Specifically religious experiences occur, 303. Their nature, 304. They corroborate the notion of a larger life of which we are a part, 308. This life must be finite if we are to escape the paradoxes of monism, 310. God as a finite being, 311. Empiricism is a better ally than rationalism, of religion, 313. Empirical proofs of larger mind may open the door to superstitions, 315. But this objection should not be deemed fatal, 316. Our beliefs form parts of reality, 317. In pluralistic empiricism our relation to God remains least foreign, 318. The word ‘rationality’ had better be replaced by the word ‘intimacy,’ 319. Monism and pluralism distinguished and defined, 321. Pluralism involves indeterminism, 324. All men use the ‘faith-ladder’ in reaching their decision, 328. Conclusion, 330.









As these lectures are meant to be public, and so few, I have assumed all very special problems to be excluded, and some topic of general interest required. Fortunately, our age seems to be growing philosophical again–still in the ashes live the wonted fires. Oxford, long the seed-bed, for the english world, of the idealism inspired by Kant and Hegel, has recently become the nursery of a very different way of thinking. Even non-philosophers have begun to take an interest in a controversy over what is known as pluralism or humanism. It looks a little as if the ancient english empirism, so long put out of fashion here by nobler sounding germanic formulas, might be repluming itself and getting ready for a stronger flight than ever. It looks as if foundations were being sounded and examined afresh.

Individuality outruns all classification, yet we insist on classifying every one we meet under some general head. As these heads usually suggest prejudicial associations to some hearer or other, the life of philosophy largely consists of resentments at the classing, and complaints of being misunderstood. But there are signs of clearing up, and, on the whole, less acrimony in discussion, for which both Oxford and Harvard are partly to be thanked. As I look back into the sixties, Mill, Bain, and Hamilton were the only official philosophers in Britain. Spencer, Martineau, and Hodgson were just beginning. In France, the pupils of Cousin were delving into history only, and Renouvier alone had an original system. In Germany, the hegelian impetus had spent itself, and, apart from historical scholarship, nothing but the materialistic controversy remained, with such men as Buechner and Ulrici as its champions. Lotze and Fechner were the sole original thinkers, and Fechner was not a professional philosopher at all.

The general impression made was of crude issues and oppositions, of small subtlety and of a widely spread ignorance. Amateurishness was rampant. Samuel Bailey’s ‘letters on the philosophy of the human mind,’ published in 1855, are one of the ablest expressions of english associationism, and a book of real power. Yet hear how he writes of Kant: ‘No one, after reading the extracts, etc., can be surprised to hear of a declaration by men of eminent abilities, that, after years of study, they had not succeeded in gathering one clear idea from the speculations of Kant. I should have been almost surprised if they had. In or about 1818, Lord Grenville, when visiting the Lakes of England, observed to Professor Wilson that, after five years’ study of Kant’s philosophy, he had not gathered from it one clear idea. Wilberforce, about the same time, made the same confession to another friend of my own. “I am endeavoring,” exclaims Sir James Mackintosh, in the irritation, evidently, of baffled efforts, “to understand this accursed german philosophy.”[1]

What Oxford thinker would dare to print such _naif_ and provincial-sounding citations of authority to-day?

The torch of learning passes from land to land as the spirit bloweth the flame. The deepening of philosophic consciousness came to us english folk from Germany, as it will probably pass back ere long. Ferrier, J.H. Stirling, and, most of all, T.H. Green are to be thanked. If asked to tell in broad strokes what the main doctrinal change has been, I should call it a change from the crudity of the older english thinking, its ultra-simplicity of mind, both when it was religious and when it was anti-religious, toward a rationalism derived in the first instance from Germany, but relieved from german technicality and shrillness, and content to suggest, and to remain vague, and to be, in, the english fashion, devout.

By the time T.H. Green began at Oxford, the generation seemed to feel as if it had fed on the chopped straw of psychology and of associationism long enough, and as if a little vastness, even though it went with vagueness, as of some moist wind from far away, reminding us of our pre-natal sublimity, would be welcome.

Green’s great point of attack was the disconnectedness of the reigning english sensationalism. _Relating_ was the great intellectual activity for him, and the key to this relating was believed by him to lodge itself at last in what most of you know as Kant’s unity of apperception, transformed into a living spirit of the world.

Hence a monism of a devout kind. In some way we must be fallen angels, one with intelligence as such; and a great disdain for empiricism of the sensationalist sort has always characterized this school of thought, which, on the whole, has reigned supreme at Oxford and in the Scottish universities until the present day.

But now there are signs of its giving way to a wave of revised empiricism. I confess that I should be glad to see this latest wave prevail; so–the sooner I am frank about it the better–I hope to have my voice counted in its favor as one of the results of this lecture-course.

What do the terms empiricism and rationalism mean? Reduced to their most pregnant difference, _empiricism means the habit of explaining wholes by parts, and rationalism means the habit of explaining parts by wholes_. Rationalism thus preserves affinities with monism, since wholeness goes with union, while empiricism inclines to pluralistic views. No philosophy can ever be anything but a summary sketch, a picture of the world in abridgment, a foreshortened bird’s-eye view of the perspective of events. And the first thing to notice is this, that the only material we have at our disposal for making a picture of the whole world is supplied by the various portions of that world of which we have already had experience. We can invent no new forms of conception, applicable to the whole exclusively, and not suggested originally by the parts. All philosophers, accordingly, have conceived of the whole world after the analogy of some particular feature of it which has particularly captivated their attention. Thus, the theists take their cue from manufacture, the pantheists from growth. For one man, the world is like a thought or a grammatical sentence in which a thought is expressed. For such a philosopher, the whole must logically be prior to the parts; for letters would never have been invented without syllables to spell, or syllables without words to utter.

Another man, struck by the disconnectedness and mutual accidentality of so many of the world’s details, takes the universe as a whole to have been such a disconnectedness originally, and supposes order to have been superinduced upon it in the second instance, possibly by attrition and the gradual wearing away by internal friction of portions that originally interfered.

Another will conceive the order as only a statistical appearance, and the universe will be for him like a vast grab-bag with black and white balls in it, of which we guess the quantities only probably, by the frequency with which we experience their egress.

For another, again, there is no really inherent order, but it is we who project order into the world by selecting objects and tracing relations so as to gratify our intellectual interests. We _carve out_ order by leaving the disorderly parts out; and the world is conceived thus after the analogy of a forest or a block of marble from which parks or statues may be produced by eliminating irrelevant trees or chips of stone.

Some thinkers follow suggestions from human life, and treat the universe as if it were essentially a place in which ideals are realized. Others are more struck by its lower features, and for them, brute necessities express its character better.

All follow one analogy or another; and all the analogies are with some one or other of the universe’s subdivisions. Every one is nevertheless prone to claim that his conclusions are the only logical ones, that they are necessities of universal reason, they being all the while, at bottom, accidents more or less of personal vision which had far better be avowed as such; for one man’s vision may be much more valuable than another’s, and our visions are usually not only our most interesting but our most respectable contributions to the world in which we play our part. What was reason given to men for, said some eighteenth century writer, except to enable them to find reasons for what they want to think and do?–and I think the history of philosophy largely bears him out, ‘The aim of knowledge,’ says Hegel,[2] ‘is to divest the objective world of its strangeness, and to make us more at home in it.’ Different men find their minds more at home in very different fragments of the world.

Let me make a few comments, here, on the curious antipathies which these partialities arouse. They are sovereignly unjust, for all the parties are human beings with the same essential interests, and no one of them is the wholly perverse demon which another often imagines him to be. Both are loyal to the world that bears them; neither wishes to spoil it; neither wishes to regard it as an insane incoherence; both want to keep it as a universe of some kind; and their differences are all secondary to this deep agreement. They may be only propensities to emphasize differently. Or one man may care for finality and security more than the other. Or their tastes in language may be different. One may like a universe that lends itself to lofty and exalted characterization. To another this may seem sentimental or rhetorical. One may wish for the right to use a clerical vocabulary, another a technical or professorial one. A certain old farmer of my acquaintance in America was called a rascal by one of his neighbors. He immediately smote the man, saying,’I won’t stand none of your diminutive epithets.’ Empiricist minds, putting the parts before the whole, appear to rationalists, who start from the whole, and consequently enjoy magniloquent privileges, to use epithets offensively diminutive. But all such differences are minor matters which ought to be subordinated in view of the fact that, whether we be empiricists or rationalists, we are, ourselves, parts of the universe and share the same one deep concern in its destinies. We crave alike to feel more truly at home with it, and to contribute our mite to its amelioration. It would be pitiful if small aesthetic discords were to keep honest men asunder.

I shall myself have use for the diminutive epithets of empiricism. But if you look behind the words at the spirit, I am sure you will not find it matricidal. I am as good a son as any rationalist among you to our common mother. What troubles me more than this misapprehension is the genuine abstruseness of many of the matters I shall be obliged to talk about, and the difficulty of making them intelligible at one hearing. But there two pieces, ‘zwei stuecke,’ as Kant would have said, in every philosophy–the final outlook, belief, or attitude to which it brings us, and the reasonings by which that attitude is reached and mediated. A philosophy, as James Ferrier used to tell us, must indeed be true, but that is the least of its requirements. One may be true without being a philosopher, true by guesswork or by revelation. What distinguishes a philosopher’s truth is that it is _reasoned_. Argument, not supposition, must have put it in his possession. Common men find themselves inheriting their beliefs, they know not how. They jump into them with both feet, and stand there. Philosophers must do more; they must first get reason’s license for them; and to the professional philosophic mind the operation of procuring the license is usually a thing of much more pith and moment than any particular beliefs to which the license may give the rights of access. Suppose, for example, that a philosopher believes in what is called free-will. That a common man alongside of him should also share that belief, possessing it by a sort of inborn intuition, does not endear the man to the philosopher at all–he may even be ashamed to be associated with such a man. What interests the philosopher is the particular premises on which the free-will he believes in is established, the sense in which it is taken, the objections it eludes, the difficulties it takes account of, in short the whole form and temper and manner and technical apparatus that goes with the belief in question. A philosopher across the way who should use the same technical apparatus, making the same distinctions, etc., but drawing opposite conclusions and denying free-will entirely, would fascinate the first philosopher far more than would the _naif_ co-believer. Their common technical interests would unite them more than their opposite conclusions separate them. Each would feel an essential consanguinity in the other, would think of him, write _at_ him, care for his good opinion. The simple-minded believer in free-will would be disregarded by either. Neither as ally nor as opponent would his vote be counted.

In a measure this is doubtless as it should be, but like all professionalism it can go to abusive extremes. The end is after all more than the way, in most things human, and forms and methods may easily frustrate their own purpose. The abuse of technicality is seen in the infrequency with which, in philosophical literature, metaphysical questions are discussed directly and on their own merits. Almost always they are handled as if through a heavy woolen curtain, the veil of previous philosophers’ opinions. Alternatives are wrapped in proper names, as if it were indecent for a truth to go naked. The late Professor John Grote of Cambridge has some good remarks about this. ‘Thought,’ he says,’is not a professional matter, not something for so-called philosophers only or for professed thinkers. The best philosopher is the man who can think most _simply_. … I wish that people would consider that thought–and philosophy is no more than good and methodical thought–is a matter _intimate_ to them, a portion of their real selves … that they would _value_ what they think, and be interested in it…. In my own opinion,’ he goes on, ‘there is something depressing in this weight of learning, with nothing that can come into one’s mind but one is told, Oh, that is the opinion of such and such a person long ago. … I can conceive of nothing more noxious for students than to get into the habit of saying to themselves about their ordinary philosophic thought, Oh, somebody must have thought it all before.'[3] Yet this is the habit most encouraged at our seats of learning. You must tie your opinion to Aristotle’s or Spinoza’s; you must define it by its distance from Kant’s; you must refute your rival’s view by identifying it with Protagoras’s. Thus does all spontaneity of thought, all freshness of conception, get destroyed. Everything you touch is shopworn. The over-technicality and consequent dreariness of the younger disciples at our american universities is appalling. It comes from too much following of german models and manners. Let me fervently express the hope that in this country you will hark back to the more humane english tradition. American students have to regain direct relations with our subject by painful individual effort in later life. Some of us have done so. Some of the younger ones, I fear, never will, so strong are the professional shop-habits already.

In a subject like philosophy it is really fatal to lose connexion with the open air of human nature, and to think in terms of shop-tradition only. In Germany the forms are so professionalized that anybody who has gained a teaching chair and written a book, however distorted and eccentric, has the legal right to figure forever in the history of the subject like a fly in amber. All later comers have the duty of quoting him and measuring their opinions with his opinion. Such are the rules of the professorial game–they think and write from each other and for each other and at each other exclusively. With this exclusion of the open air all true perspective gets lost, extremes and oddities count as much as sanities, and command the same attention; and if by chance any one writes popularly and about results only, with his mind directly focussed on the subject, it is reckoned _oberflaechliches zeug_ and _ganz unwissenschaftlich_. Professor Paulsen has recently written some feeling lines about this over-professionalism, from the reign of which in Germany his own writings, which sin by being ‘literary,’ have suffered loss of credit. Philosophy, he says, has long assumed in Germany the character of being an esoteric and occult science. There is a genuine fear of popularity. Simplicity of statement is deemed synonymous with hollowness and shallowness. He recalls an old professor saying to him once: ‘Yes, we philosophers, whenever we wish, can go so far that in a couple of sentences we can put ourselves where nobody can follow us.’ The professor said this with conscious pride, but he ought to have been ashamed of it. Great as technique is, results are greater. To teach philosophy so that the pupils’ interest in technique exceeds that in results is surely a vicious aberration. It is bad form, not good form, in a discipline of such universal human interest. Moreover, technique for technique, doesn’t David Hume’s technique set, after all, the kind of pattern most difficult to follow? Isn’t it the most admirable? The english mind, thank heaven, and the french mind, are still kept, by their aversion to crude technique and barbarism, closer to truth’s natural probabilities. Their literatures show fewer obvious falsities and monstrosities than that of Germany. Think of the german literature of aesthetics, with the preposterousness of such an unaesthetic personage as Immanuel Kant enthroned in its centre! Think of german books on _religions-philosophie_, with the heart’s battles translated into conceptual jargon and made dialectic. The most persistent setter of questions, feeler of objections, insister on satisfactions, is the religious life. Yet all its troubles can be treated with absurdly little technicality. The wonder is that, with their way of working philosophy, individual Germans should preserve any spontaneity of mind at all. That they still manifest freshness and originality in so eminent a degree, proves the indestructible richness of the german cerebral endowment.

Let me repeat once more that a man’s vision is the great fact about him. Who cares for Carlyle’s reasons, or Schopenhauer’s, or Spencer’s? A philosophy is the expression of a man’s intimate character, and all definitions of the universe are but the deliberately adopted reactions of human characters upon it. In the recent book from which I quoted the words of Professor Paulsen, a book of successive chapters by various living german philosophers,[4] we pass from one idiosyncratic personal atmosphere into another almost as if we were turning over a photograph album.

If we take the whole history of philosophy, the systems reduce themselves to a few main types which, under all the technical verbiage in which the ingenious intellect of man envelops them, are just so many visions, modes of feeling the whole push, and seeing the whole drift of life, forced on one by one’s total character and experience, and on the whole _preferred_–there is no other truthful word–as one’s best working attitude. Cynical characters take one general attitude, sympathetic characters another. But no general attitude is possible towards the world as a whole, until the intellect has developed considerable generalizing power and learned to take pleasure in synthetic formulas. The thought of very primitive men has hardly any tincture of philosophy. Nature can have little unity for savages. It is a Walpurgis-nacht procession, a checkered play of light and shadow, a medley of impish and elfish friendly and inimical powers. ‘Close to nature’ though they live, they are anything but Wordsworthians. If a bit of cosmic emotion ever thrills them, it is likely to be at midnight, when the camp smoke rises straight to the wicked full moon in the zenith, and the forest is all whispering with witchery and danger. The eeriness of the world, the mischief and the manyness, the littleness of the forces, the magical surprises, the unaccountability of every agent, these surely are the characters most impressive at that stage of culture, these communicate the thrills of curiosity and the earliest intellectual stirrings. Tempests and conflagrations, pestilences and earthquakes, reveal supramundane powers, and instigate religious terror rather than philosophy. Nature, more demonic than divine, is above all things _multifarious_. So many creatures that feed or threaten, that help or crush, so many beings to hate or love, to understand or start at–which is on top and which subordinate? Who can tell? They are co-ordinate, rather, and to adapt ourselves to them singly, to ‘square’ the dangerous powers and keep the others friendly, regardless of consistency or unity, is the chief problem. The symbol of nature at this stage, as Paulsen well says, is the sphinx, under whose nourishing breasts the tearing claws are visible.

But in due course of time the intellect awoke, with its passion for generalizing, simplifying, and subordinating, and then began those divergences of conception which all later experience seems rather to have deepened than to have effaced, because objective nature has contributed to both sides impartially, and has let the thinkers emphasize different parts of her, and pile up opposite imaginary supplements.

Perhaps the most interesting opposition is that which results from the clash between what I lately called the sympathetic and the cynical temper. Materialistic and spiritualistic philosophies are the rival types that result: the former defining the world so as to leave man’s soul upon it as a soil of outside passenger or alien, while the latter insists that the intimate and human must surround and underlie the brutal. This latter is the spiritual way of thinking.

Now there are two very distinct types or stages in spiritualistic philosophy, and my next purpose in this lecture is to make their contrast evident. Both types attain the sought-for intimacy of view, but the one attains it somewhat less successfully than the other.

The generic term spiritualism, which I began by using merely as the opposite of materialism, thus subdivides into two species, the more intimate one of which is monistic and the less intimate dualistic. The dualistic species is the _theism_ that reached its elaboration in the scholastic philosophy, while the monistic species is the _pantheism_ spoken of sometimes simply as idealism, and sometimes as ‘post-kantian’ or ‘absolute’ idealism. Dualistic theism is professed as firmly as ever at all catholic seats of learning, whereas it has of late years tended to disappear at our british and american universities, and to be replaced by a monistic pantheism more or less open or disguised. I have an impression that ever since T.H. Green’s time absolute idealism has been decidedly in the ascendent at Oxford. It is in the ascendent at my own university of Harvard.

Absolute idealism attains, I said, to the more intimate point of view; but the statement needs some explanation. So far as theism represents the world as God’s world, and God as what Matthew Arnold called a magnified non-natural man, it would seem as if the inner quality of the world remained human, and as if our relations with it might be intimate enough–for what is best in ourselves appears then also outside of ourselves, and we and the universe are of the same spiritual species. So far, so good, then; and one might consequently ask, What more of intimacy do you require? To which the answer is that to be like a thing is not as intimate a relation as to be substantially fused into it, to form one continuous soul and body with it; and that pantheistic idealism, making us entitatively one with God, attains this higher reach of intimacy.

The theistic conception, picturing God and his creation as entities distinct from each other, still leaves the human subject outside of the deepest reality in the universe. God is from eternity complete, it says, and sufficient unto himself; he throws off the world by a free act and as an extraneous substance, and he throws off man as a third substance, extraneous to both the world and himself. Between them, God says ‘one,’ the world says ‘two,’ and man says ‘three,’–that is the orthodox theistic view. And orthodox theism has been so jealous of God’s glory that it has taken pains to exaggerate everything in the notion of him that could make for isolation and separateness. Page upon page in scholastic books go to prove that God is in no sense implicated by his creative act, or involved in his creation. That his relation to the creatures he has made should make any difference to him, carry any consequence, or qualify his being, is repudiated as a pantheistic slur upon his self-sufficingness. I said a moment ago that theism treats us and God as of the same species, but from the orthodox point of view that was a slip of language. God and his creatures are _toto genere_ distinct in the scholastic theology, they have absolutely _nothing_ in common; nay, it degrades God to attribute to him any generic nature whatever; he can be classed with nothing. There is a sense, then, in which philosophic theism makes us outsiders and keeps us foreigners in relation to God, in which, at any rate, his connexion with us appears as unilateral and not reciprocal. His action can affect us, but he can never be affected by our reaction. Our relation, in short, is not a strictly social relation. Of course in common men’s religion the relation is believed to be social, but that is only one of the many differences between religion and theology.

This essential dualism of the theistic view has all sorts of collateral consequences. Man being an outsider and a mere subject to God, not his intimate partner, a character of externality invades the field. God is not heart of our heart and reason of our reason, but our magistrate, rather; and mechanically to obey his commands, however strange they may be, remains our only moral duty. Conceptions of criminal law have in fact played a great part in defining our relations with him. Our relations with speculative truth show the same externality. One of our duties is to know truth, and rationalist thinkers have always assumed it to be our sovereign duty. But in scholastic theism we find truth already instituted and established without our help, complete apart from our knowing; and the most we can do is to acknowledge it passively and adhere to it, altho such adhesion as ours can make no jot of difference to what is adhered to. The situation here again is radically dualistic. It is not as if the world came to know itself, or God came to know himself, partly through us, as pantheistic idealists have maintained, but truth exists _per se_ and absolutely, by God’s grace and decree, no matter who of us knows it or is ignorant, and it would continue to exist unaltered, even though we finite knowers were all annihilated.

It has to be confessed that this dualism and lack of intimacy has always operated as a drag and handicap on Christian thought. Orthodox theology has had to wage a steady fight within the schools against the various forms of pantheistic heresy which the mystical experiences of religious persons, on the one hand, and the formal or aesthetic superiorities of monism to dualism, on the other, kept producing. God as intimate soul and reason of the universe has always seemed to some people a more worthy conception than God as external creator. So conceived, he appeared to unify the world more perfectly, he made it less finite and mechanical, and in comparison with such a God an external creator seemed more like the product of a childish fancy. I have been told by Hindoos that the great obstacle to the spread of Christianity in their country is the puerility of our dogma of creation. It has not sweep and infinity enough to meet the requirements of even the illiterate natives of India.

Assuredly most members of this audience are ready to side with Hinduism in this matter. Those of us who are sexagenarians have witnessed in our own persons one of those gradual mutations of intellectual climate, due to innumerable influences, that make the thought of a past generation seem as foreign to its successor as if it were the expression of a different race of men. The theological machinery that spoke so livingly to our ancestors, with its finite age of the world, its creation out of nothing, its juridical morality and eschatology, its relish for rewards and punishments, its treatment of God as an external contriver, an ‘intelligent and moral governor,’ sounds as odd to most of us as if it were some outlandish savage religion. The vaster vistas which scientific evolutionism has opened, and the rising tide of social democratic ideals, have changed the type of our imagination, and the older monarchical theism is obsolete or obsolescent. The place of the divine in the world must be more organic and intimate. An external creator and his institutions may still be verbally confessed at Church in formulas that linger by their mere inertia, but the life is out of them, we avoid dwelling on them, the sincere heart of us is elsewhere. I shall leave cynical materialism entirely out of our discussion as not calling for treatment before this present audience, and I shall ignore old-fashioned dualistic theism for the same reason. Our contemporary mind having once for all grasped the possibility of a more intimate _Weltanschauung_, the only opinions quite worthy of arresting our attention will fall within the general scope of what may roughly be called the pantheistic field of vision, the vision of God as the indwelling divine rather than the external creator, and of human life as part and parcel of that deep reality.

As we have found that spiritualism in general breaks into a more intimate and a less intimate species, so the more intimate species itself breaks into two subspecies, of which the one is more monistic, the other more pluralistic in form. I say in form, for our vocabulary gets unmanageable if we don’t distinguish between form and substance here. The inner life of things must be substantially akin anyhow to the tenderer parts of man’s nature in any spiritualistic philosophy. The word ‘intimacy’ probably covers the essential difference. Materialism holds the foreign in things to be more primary and lasting, it sends us to a lonely corner with our intimacy. The brutal aspects overlap and outwear; refinement has the feebler and more ephemeral hold on reality.

From a pragmatic point of view the difference between living against a background of foreignness and one of intimacy means the difference between a general habit of wariness and one of trust. One might call it a social difference, for after all, the common _socius_ of us all is the great universe whose children we are. If materialistic, we must be suspicious of this socius, cautious, tense, on guard. If spiritualistic, we may give way, embrace, and keep no ultimate fear.

The contrast is rough enough, and can be cut across by all sorts of other divisions, drawn from other points of view than that of foreignness and intimacy. We have so many different businesses with nature that no one of them yields us an all-embracing clasp. The philosophic attempt to define nature so that no one’s business is left out, so that no one lies outside the door saying ‘Where do _I_ come in?’ is sure in advance to fail. The most a philosophy can hope for is not to lock out any interest forever. No matter what doors it closes, it must leave other doors open for the interests which it neglects. I have begun by shutting ourselves up to intimacy and foreignness because that makes so generally interesting a contrast, and because it will conveniently introduce a farther contrast to which I wish this hour to lead.

The majority of men are sympathetic. Comparatively few are cynics because they like cynicism, and most of our existing materialists are such because they think the evidence of facts impels them, or because they find the idealists they are in contact with too private and tender-minded; so, rather than join their company, they fly to the opposite extreme. I therefore propose to you to disregard materialists altogether for the present, and to consider the sympathetic party alone.

It is normal, I say, to be sympathetic in the sense in which I use the term. Not to demand intimate relations with the universe, and not to wish them satisfactory, should be accounted signs of something wrong. Accordingly when minds of this type reach the philosophic level, and seek some unification of their vision, they find themselves compelled to correct that aboriginal appearance of things by which savages are not troubled. That sphinx-like presence, with its breasts and claws, that first bald multifariousness, is too discrepant an object for philosophic contemplation. The intimacy and the foreignness cannot be written down as simply coexisting. An order must be made; and in that order the higher side of things must dominate. The philosophy of the absolute agrees with the pluralistic philosophy which I am going to contrast with it in these lectures, in that both identify human substance with the divine substance. But whereas absolutism thinks that the said substance becomes fully divine only in the form of totality, and is not its real self in any form but the _all_-form, the pluralistic view which I prefer to adopt is willing to believe that there may ultimately never be an all-form at all, that the substance of reality may never get totally collected, that some of it may remain outside of the largest combination of it ever made, and that a distributive form of reality, the _each_-form, is logically as acceptable and empirically as probable as the all-form commonly acquiesced in as so obviously the self-evident thing. The contrast between these two forms of a reality which we will agree to suppose substantially spiritual is practically the topic of this course of lectures. You see now what I mean by pantheism’s two subspecies. If we give to the monistic subspecies the name of philosophy of the absolute, we may give that of radical empiricism to its pluralistic rival, and it may be well to distinguish them occasionally later by these names.

As a convenient way of entering into the study of their differences, I may refer to a recent article by Professor Jacks of Manchester College. Professor Jacks, in some brilliant pages in the ‘Hibbert Journal’ for last October, studies the relation between the universe and the philosopher who describes and defines it for us. You may assume two cases, he says. Either what the philosopher tells us is extraneous to the universe he is accounting for, an indifferent parasitic outgrowth, so to speak; or the fact of his philosophizing is itself one of the things taken account of in the philosophy, and self-included in the description. In the former case the philosopher means by the universe everything _except_ what his own presence brings; in the latter case his philosophy is itself an intimate part of the universe, and may be a part momentous enough to give a different turn to what the other parts signify. It may be a supreme reaction of the universe upon itself by which it rises to self-comprehension. It may handle itself differently in consequence of this event.

Now both empiricism and absolutism bring the philosopher inside and make man intimate, but the one being pluralistic and the other monistic, they do so in differing ways that need much explanation. Let me then contrast the one with the other way of representing the status of the human thinker.

For monism the world is no collection, but one great all-inclusive fact outside of which is nothing–nothing is its only alternative. When the monism is idealistic, this all-enveloping fact is represented as an absolute mind that makes the partial facts by thinking them, just as we make objects in a dream by dreaming them, or personages in a story by imagining them. To _be_, on this scheme, is, on the part of a finite thing, to be an object for the absolute; and on the part of the absolute it is to be the thinker of that assemblage of objects. If we use the word ‘content’ here, we see that the absolute and the world have an identical content. The absolute is nothing but the knowledge of those objects; the objects are nothing but what the absolute knows. The world and the all-thinker thus compenetrate and soak each other up without residuum. They are but two names for the same identical material, considered now from the subjective, and now from the objective point of view–gedanke and gedachtes, as we would say if we were Germans. We philosophers naturally form part of the material, on the monistic scheme. The absolute makes us by thinking us, and if we ourselves are enlightened enough to be believers in the absolute, one may then say that our philosophizing is one of the ways in which the absolute is conscious of itself. This is the full pantheistic scheme, the _identitaetsphilosophie_, the immanence of God in his creation, a conception sublime from its tremendous unity. And yet that unity is incomplete, as closer examination will show.

The absolute and the world are one fact, I said, when materially considered. Our philosophy, for example, is not numerically distinct from the absolute’s own knowledge of itself, not a duplicate and copy of it, it is part of that very knowledge, is numerically identical with as much of it as our thought covers. The absolute just _is_ our philosophy, along with everything else that is known, in an act of knowing which (to use the words of my gifted absolutist colleague Royce) forms in its wholeness one luminously transparent conscious moment.

But one as we are in this material sense with the absolute substance, that being only the whole of us, and we only the parts of it, yet in a formal sense something like a pluralism breaks out. When we speak of the absolute we _take_ the one universal known material collectively or integrally; when we speak of its objects, of our finite selves, etc., we _take_ that same identical material distributively and separately. But what is the use of a thing’s _being_ only once if it can be _taken_ twice over, and if being taken in different ways makes different things true of it? As the absolute takes me, for example, I appear _with_ everything else in its field of perfect knowledge. As I take myself, I appear _without_ most other things in my field of relative ignorance. And practical differences result from its knowledge and my ignorance. Ignorance breeds mistake, curiosity, misfortune, pain, for me; I suffer those consequences. The absolute knows of those things, of course, for it knows me and my suffering, but it doesn’t itself suffer. It can’t be ignorant, for simultaneous with its knowledge of each question goes its knowledge of each answer. It can’t be patient, for it has to wait for nothing, having everything at once in its possession. It can’t be surprised; it can’t be guilty. No attribute connected with succession can be applied to it, for it is all at once and wholly what it is, ‘with the unity of a single instant,’ and succession is not of it but in it, for we are continually told that it is ‘timeless.’

Things true of the world in its finite aspects, then, are not true of it in its infinite capacity. _Qua_ finite and plural its accounts of itself to itself are different from what its account to itself _qua_ infinite and one must be.

With this radical discrepancy between the absolute and the relative points of view, it seems to me that almost as great a bar to intimacy between the divine and the human breaks out in pantheism as that which we found in monarchical theism, and hoped that pantheism might not show. We humans are incurably rooted in the temporal point of view. The eternal’s ways are utterly unlike our ways. ‘Let us imitate the All,’ said the original prospectus of that admirable Chicago quarterly called the ‘Monist.’ As if we could, either in thought or conduct! We are invincibly parts, let us talk as we will, and must always apprehend the absolute as if it were a foreign being. If what I mean by this is not wholly clear to you at this point, it ought to grow clearer as my lectures proceed.



Let me recall to you the programme which I indicated to you at our last meeting. After agreeing not to consider materialism in any shape, but to place ourselves straightway upon a more spiritualistic platform, I pointed out three kinds of spiritual philosophy between which we are asked to choose. The first way was that of the older dualistic theism, with ourselves represented as a secondary order of substances created by God. We found that this allowed of a degree of intimacy with the creative principle inferior to that implied in the pantheistic belief that we are substantially one with it, and that the divine is therefore the most intimate of all our possessions, heart of our heart, in fact. But we saw that this pantheistic belief could be held in two forms, a monistic form which I called philosophy of the absolute, and a pluralistic form which I called radical empiricism, the former conceiving that the divine exists authentically only when the world is experienced all at once in its absolute totality, whereas radical empiricism allows that the absolute sum-total of things may never be actually experienced or realized in that shape at all, and that a disseminated, distributed, or incompletely unified appearance is the only form that reality may yet have achieved.

I may contrast the monistic and pluralistic forms in question as the ‘all-form’ and the ‘each-form.’ At the end of the last hour I animadverted on the fact that the all-form is so radically different from the each-form, which is our human form of experiencing the world, that the philosophy of the absolute, so far as insight and understanding go, leaves us almost as much outside of the divine being as dualistic theism does. I believe that radical empiricism, on the contrary, holding to the each-form, and making of God only one of the caches, affords the higher degree of intimacy. The general thesis of these lectures I said would be a defence of the pluralistic against the monistic view. Think of the universe as existing solely in the each-form, and you will have on the whole a more reasonable and satisfactory idea of it than if you insist on the all-form being necessary. The rest of my lectures will do little more than make this thesis more concrete, and I hope more persuasive.

It is curious how little countenance radical pluralism has ever had from philosophers. Whether materialistically or spiritualistically minded, philosophers have always aimed at cleaning up the litter with which the world apparently is filled. They have substituted economical and orderly conceptions for the first sensible tangle; and whether these were morally elevated or only intellectually neat they were at any rate always aesthetically pure and definite, and aimed at ascribing to the world something clean and intellectual in the way of inner structure. As compared with all these rationalizing pictures, the pluralistic empiricism which I profess offers but a sorry appearance. It is a turbid, muddled, gothic sort of an affair, without a sweeping outline and with little pictorial nobility. Those of you who are accustomed to the classical constructions of reality may be excused if your first reaction upon it be absolute contempt–a shrug of the shoulders as if such ideas were unworthy of explicit refutation. But one must have lived some time with a system to appreciate its merits. Perhaps a little more familiarity may mitigate your first surprise at such a programme as I offer.

First, one word more than what I said last time about the relative foreignness of the divine principle in the philosophy of the absolute. Those of you who have read the last two chapters of Mr. Bradley’s wonderful book, ‘Appearance and reality,’ will remember what an elaborately foreign aspect _his_ absolute is finally made to assume. It is neither intelligence nor will, neither a self nor a collection of selves, neither truthful, good, nor beautiful, as we understand these terms. It is, in short, a metaphysical monster, all that we are permitted to say of it being that whatever it is, it is at any rate _worth_ more (worth more to itself, that is) than if any eulogistic adjectives of ours applied to it. It is us, and all other appearances, but none of us _as such_, for in it we are all ‘transmuted,’ and its own as-suchness is of another denomination altogether.

Spinoza was the first great absolutist, and the impossibility of being intimate with _his_ God is universally recognized. _Quatenus infinitus est_ he is other than what he is _quatenus humanam mentem constituit_. Spinoza’s philosophy has been rightly said to be worked by the word _quatenus_. Conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs play indeed the vital part in all philosophies; and in contemporary idealism the words ‘as’ and ‘qua’ bear the burden of reconciling metaphysical unity with phenomenal diversity. Qua absolute the world is one and perfect, qua relative it is many and faulty, yet it is identically the self-same world–instead of talking of it as many facts, we call it one fact in many aspects.

_As_ absolute, then, or _sub specie eternitatis_, or _quatenus infinitus est_, the world repels our sympathy because it has no history. _As such_, the absolute neither acts nor suffers, nor loves nor hates; it has no needs, desires, or aspirations, no failures or successes, friends or enemies, victories or defeats. All such things pertain to the world qua relative, in which our finite experiences lie, and whose vicissitudes alone have power to arouse our interest. What boots it to tell me that the absolute way is the true way, and to exhort me, as Emerson says, to lift mine eye up to its style, and manners of the sky, if the feat is impossible by definition? I am finite once for all, and all the categories of my sympathy are knit up with the finite world _as such_, and with things that have a history. ‘Aus dieser erde quellen meine freuden, und ihre sonne scheinet meinen leiden.’ I have neither eyes nor ears nor heart nor mind for anything of an opposite description, and the stagnant felicity of the absolute’s own perfection moves me as little as I move it. If we were _readers_ only of the cosmic novel, things would be different: we should then share the author’s point of view and recognize villains to be as essential as heroes in the plot. But we are not the readers but the very personages of the world-drama. In your own eyes each of you here is its hero, and the villains are your respective friends or enemies. The tale which the absolute reader finds so perfect, we spoil for one another through our several vital identifications with the destinies of the particular personages involved.

The doctrine on which the absolutists lay most stress is the absolute’s ‘timeless’ character. For pluralists, on the other hand, time remains as real as anything, and nothing in the universe is great or static or eternal enough not to have some history. But the world that each of us feels most intimately at home with is that of beings with histories that play into our history, whom we can help in their vicissitudes even as they help us in ours. This satisfaction the absolute denies us; we can neither help nor hinder it, for it stands outside of history. It surely is a merit in a philosophy to make the very life we lead seem real and earnest. Pluralism, in exorcising the absolute, exorcises the great de-realizer of the only life we are at home in, and thus redeems the nature of reality from essential foreignness. Every end, reason, motive, object of desire or aversion, ground of sorrow or joy that we feel is in the world of finite multifariousness, for only in that world does anything really happen, only there do events come to pass.

In one sense this is a far-fetched and rather childish objection, for so much of the history of the finite is as formidably foreign to us as the static absolute can possibly be–in fact that entity derives its own foreignness largely from the bad character of the finite which it simultaneously is–that this sentimental reason for preferring the pluralistic view seems small.[1] I shall return to the subject in my final lecture, and meanwhile, with your permission, I will say no more about this objection. The more so as the necessary foreignness of the absolute is cancelled emotionally by its attribute of _totality_, which is universally considered to carry the further attribute of _perfection_ in its train. ‘Philosophy,’ says a recent american philosopher, ‘is humanity’s hold on totality,’ and there is no doubt that most of us find that the bare notion of an absolute all-one is inspiring. ‘I yielded myself to the perfect whole,’ writes Emerson; and where can you find a more mind-dilating object? A certain loyalty is called forth by the idea; even if not proved actual, it must be believed in somehow. Only an enemy of philosophy can speak lightly of it. Rationalism starts from the idea of such a whole and builds downward. Movement and change are absorbed into its immutability as forms of mere appearance. When you accept this beatific vision of what _is_, in contrast with what _goes on_, you feel as if you had fulfilled an intellectual duty. ‘Reality is not in its truest nature a process,’ Mr. McTaggart tells us, ‘but a stable and timeless state.'[2] ‘The true knowledge of God begins,’ Hegel writes, ‘when we know that things as they immediately are have no truth.'[3] ‘The consummation of the infinite aim,’ he says elsewhere, ‘consists merely in removing the illusion which makes it seem yet unaccomplished. Good and absolute goodness is eternally accomplishing itself in the world: and the result is that it needs not wait upon _us_, but is already … accomplished. It is an illusion under which we live. … In the course of its process the Idea makes itself that illusion, by setting an antithesis to confront it, and its action consists in getting rid of the illusion which it has created.'[4]

But abstract emotional appeals of any kind sound amateurish in the business that concerns us. Impressionistic philosophizing, like impressionistic watchmaking or land-surveying, is intolerable to experts. Serious discussion of the alternative before us forces me, therefore, to become more technical. The great _claim_ of the philosophy of the absolute is that the absolute is no hypothesis, but a presupposition implicated in all thinking, and needing only a little effort of analysis to be seen as a logical necessity. I will therefore take it in this more rigorous character and see whether its claim is in effect so coercive.

It has seemed coercive to an enormous number of contemporaneous thinkers. Professor Henry Jones thus describes the range and influence of it upon the social and political life of the present time:[5] ‘For many years adherents of this way of thought have deeply interested the british public by their writings. Almost more important than their writings is the fact that they have occupied philosophical chairs in almost every university in the kingdom. Even the professional critics of idealism are for the most part idealists–after a fashion. And when they are not, they are as a rule more occupied with the refutation of idealism than with the construction of a better theory. It follows from their position of academic authority, were it from nothing else, that idealism exercises an influence not easily measured upon the youth of the nation–upon those, that is, who from the educational opportunities they enjoy may naturally be expected to become the leaders of the nation’s thought and practice…. Difficult as it is to measure the forces … it is hardly to be denied that the power exercised by Bentham and the utilitarian school has, for better or for worse, passed into the hands of the idealists…. “The Rhine has flowed into the Thames” is the warning note rung out by Mr. Hobhouse. Carlyle introduced it, bringing it as far as Chelsea. Then Jowett and Thomas Hill Green, and William Wallace and Lewis Nettleship, and Arnold Toynbee and David Eitchie–to mention only those teachers whose voices now are silent–guided the waters into those upper reaches known locally as the Isis. John and Edward Caird brought them up the Clyde, Hutchison Stirling up the Firth of Forth. They have passed up the Mersey and up the Severn and Dee and Don. They pollute the bay of St. Andrews and swell the waters of the Cam, and have somehow crept overland into Birmingham. The stream of german idealism has been diffused over the academical world of Great Britain. The disaster is universal.’

Evidently if weight of authority were all, the truth of absolutism would be thus decided. But let us first pass in review the general style of argumentation of that philosophy.

As I read it, its favorite way of meeting pluralism and empiricism is by a _reductio ad absurdum_ framed somewhat as follows: You contend, it says to the pluralist, that things, though in some respects connected, are in other respects independent, so that they are not members of one all-inclusive individual fact. Well, your position is absurd on either point. For admit in fact the slightest modicum of independence, and you find (if you will only think accurately) that you have to admit more and more of it, until at last nothing but an absolute chaos, or the proved impossibility of any connexion whatever between the parts of the universe, remains upon your hands. Admit, on the other hand, the most incipient minimum of relation between any two things, and again you can’t stop until you see that the absolute unity of all things is implied.

If we take the latter _reductio ad absurdum_ first, we find a good example of it in Lotze’s well-known proof of monism from the fact of interaction between finite things. Suppose, Lotze says in effect, and for simplicity’s sake I have to paraphrase him, for his own words are too long to quote–many distinct beings _a, b, c_, etc., to exist independently of each other: _can a in that case ever act on b_?

What is it to act? Is it not to exert an influence? Does the influence detach itself from _a_ and find _b_? If so, it is a third fact, and the problem is not how _a_ acts, but how its ‘influence’ acts on _b_. By another influence perhaps? And how in the end does the chain of influences find _b_ rather than _c_ unless _b_ is somehow prefigured in them already? And when they have found _b_, how do they make _b_ respond, if _b_ has nothing in common with them? Why don’t they go right through _b_? The change in _b_ is a _response_, due to _b_’s capacity for taking account of _a_’s influence, and that again seems to prove that _b_’s nature is somehow fitted to _a_’s nature in advance. _A_ and _b_, in short, are not really as distinct as we at first supposed them, not separated by a void. Were this so they would be mutually impenetrable, or at least mutually irrelevant. They would form two universes each living by itself, making no difference to each other, taking no account of each other, much as the universe of your day dreams takes no account of mine. They must therefore belong together beforehand, be co-implicated already, their natures must have an inborn mutual reference each to each.

Lotze’s own solution runs as follows: The multiple independent things supposed cannot be real in that shape, but all of them, if reciprocal action is to be possible between them, must be regarded as parts of a single real being, M. The pluralism with which our view began has to give place to a monism; and the ‘transeunt’ interaction, being unintelligible as such, is to be understood as an immanent operation.[6]

The words ‘immanent operation’ seem here to mean that the single real being M, of which _a_ and _b_ are members, is the only thing that changes, and that when it changes, it changes inwardly and all over at once. When part _a_ in it changes, consequently, part _b_ must also change, but without the whole M changing this would not occur.

A pretty argument, but a purely verbal one, as I apprehend it. _Call_ your _a_ and _b_ distinct, they can’t interact; _call_ them one, they can. For taken abstractly and without qualification the words ‘distinct’ and ‘independent’ suggest only disconnection. If this be the only property of your _a_ and _b_ (and it is the only property your words imply), then of course, since you can’t deduce their mutual influence from _it_, you can find no ground of its occurring between them. Your bare word ‘separate,’ contradicting your bare word ‘joined,’ seems to exclude connexion.

Lotze’s remedy for the impossibility thus verbally found is to change the first word. If, instead of calling _a_ and _b_ independent, we now call them ‘interdependent,’ ‘united,’ or ‘one,’ he says, _these_ words do not contradict any sort of mutual influence that may be proposed. If _a_ and _b_ are ‘one,’ and the one changes, _a_ and _b_ of course must co-ordinately change. What under the old name they couldn’t do, they now have license to do under the new name.

But I ask you whether giving the name of ‘one’ to the former ‘many’ makes us really understand the modus operandi of interaction any better. We have now given verbal permission to the many to change all together, if they can; we have removed a verbal impossibility and substituted a verbal possibility, but the new name, with the possibility it suggests, tells us nothing of the actual process by which real things that are one can and do change at all. In point of fact abstract oneness as such _doesn’t_ change, neither has it parts–any more than abstract independence as such interacts. But then neither abstract oneness nor abstract independence _exists_; only concrete real things exist, which add to these properties the other properties which they possess, to make up what we call their total nature. To construe any one of their abstract names as _making their total nature impossible_ is a misuse of the function of naming. The real way of rescue from the abstract consequences of one name is not to fly to an opposite name, equally abstract, but rather to correct the first name by qualifying adjectives that restore some concreteness to the case. Don’t take your ‘independence’ _simpliciter_, as Lotze does, take it _secundum quid_. Only when we know what the process of interaction literally and concretely _consists_ in can we tell whether beings independent _in definite respects_, distinct, for example, in origin, separate in place, different in kind, etc., can or cannot interact.

_The treating of a name as excluding from the fact named what the name’s definition fails positively to include, is what I call ‘vicious intellectualism_.’ Later I shall have more to say about this intellectualism, but that Lotze’s argument is tainted by it I hardly think we can deny. As well might you contend (to use an instance from Sigwart) that a person whom you have once called an ‘equestrian’ is thereby forever made unable to walk on his own feet.

I almost feel as if I should apologize for criticising such subtle arguments in rapid lectures of this kind. The criticisms have to be as abstract as the arguments, and in exposing their unreality, take on such an unreal sound themselves that a hearer not nursed in the intellectualist atmosphere knows not which of them to accuse. But _le vin est verse, il faut le boire_, and I must cite a couple more instances before I stop.

If we are empiricists and go from parts to wholes, we believe that beings may first exist and feed so to speak on their own existence, and then secondarily become known to one another. But philosophers of the absolute tell us that such independence of being from being known would, if once admitted, disintegrate the universe beyond all hope of mending. The argument is one of Professor Royce’s proofs that the only alternative we have is to choose the complete disunion of all things or their complete union in the absolute One.

Take, for instance, the proverb ‘a cat may look at a king’ and adopt the realistic view that the king’s being is independent of the cat’s witnessing. This assumption, which amounts to saying that it need make no essential difference to the royal object whether the feline subject cognizes him or not, that the cat may look away from him or may even be annihilated, and the king remain unchanged,–this assumption, I say, is considered by my ingenious colleague to lead to the absurd practical consequence that the two beings _can_ never later acquire any possible linkages or connexions, but must remain eternally as if in different worlds. For suppose any connexion whatever to ensue, this connexion would simply be a third being additional to the cat and the king, which would itself have to be linked to both by additional links before it could connect them, and so on _ad infinitum_, the argument, you see, being the same as Lotze’s about how _a_’s influence does its influencing when it influences _b_.

In Royce’s own words, if the king can be without the cat knowing him, then king and cat ‘can have no common features, no ties, no true relations; they are separated, each from the other, by absolutely impassable chasms. They can never come to get either ties or community of nature; they are not in the same space, nor in the same time, nor in the same natural or spiritual order.'[7] They form in short two unrelated universes,–which is the _reductio ad absurdum_ required.

To escape this preposterous state of things we must accordingly revoke the original hypothesis. The king and the cat are not indifferent to each other in the way supposed. But if not in that way, then in no way, for connexion in that way carries connexion in other ways; so that, pursuing the reverse line of reasoning, we end with the absolute itself as the smallest fact that can exist. Cat and king are co-involved, they are a single fact in two names, they can never have been absent from each other, and they are both equally co-implicated with all the other facts of which the universe consists.

Professor Royce’s proof that whoso admits the cat’s witnessing the king at all must thereupon admit the integral absolute, may be briefly put as follows:–

First, to know the king, the cat must intend _that_ king, must somehow pass over and lay hold of him individually and specifically. The cat’s idea, in short, must transcend the cat’s own separate mind and somehow include the king, for were the king utterly outside and independent of the cat, the cat’s pure other, the beast’s mind could touch the king in no wise. This makes the cat much less distinct from the king than we had at first naively supposed. There must be some prior continuity between them, which continuity Royce interprets idealistically as meaning a higher mind that owns them both as objects, and owning them can also own any relation, such as the supposed witnessing, that may obtain between them. Taken purely pluralistically, neither of them can own any part of a _between_, because, so taken, each is supposed shut up to itself: the fact of a _between_ thus commits us to a higher knower.

But the higher knower that knows the two beings we start with proves to be the same knower that knows everything else. For assume any third being, the queen, say, and as the cat knew the king, so let the king know his queen, and let this second knowledge, by the same reasoning, require a higher knower as its presupposition. That knower of the king’s knowing must, it is now contended, be the same higher knower that was required for the cat’s knowing; for if you suppose otherwise, you have no longer the _same king_. This may not seem immediately obvious, but if you follow the intellectualistic logic employed in all these reasonings, I don’t see how you can escape the admission. If it be true that the independent or indifferent cannot be related, for the abstract words ‘independent’ or ‘indifferent’ as such imply no relation, then it is just as true that the king known by the cat cannot be the king that knows the queen, for taken merely ‘as such,’ the abstract term ‘what the cat knows’ and the abstract term ‘what knows the queen’ are logically distinct. The king thus logically breaks into two kings, with nothing to connect them, until a higher knower is introduced to recognize them as the self-same king concerned in any previous acts of knowledge which he may have brought about. This he can do because he possesses all the terms as his own objects and can treat them as he will. Add any fourth or fifth term, and you get a like result, and so on, until at last an all-owning knower, otherwise called the absolute, is reached. The co-implicated ‘through-and-through’ world of monism thus stands proved by irrefutable logic, and all pluralism appears as absurd.

The reasoning is pleasing from its ingenuity, and it is almost a pity that so straight a bridge from abstract logic to concrete fact should not bear our weight. To have the alternative forced upon us of admitting either finite things each cut off from all relation with its environment, or else of accepting the integral absolute with no environment and all relations packed within itself, would be too delicious a simplification. But the purely verbal character of the operation is undisguised. Because the _names_ of finite things and their relations are disjoined, it doesn’t follow that the realities named need a _deus ex machina_ from on high to conjoin them. The same things disjoined in one respect _appear_ as conjoined in another. Naming the disjunction doesn’t debar us from also naming the conjunction in a later modifying statement, for the two are absolutely co-ordinate elements in the finite tissue of experience. When at Athens it was found self-contradictory that a boy could be both tall and short (tall namely in respect of a child, short in respect of a man), the absolute had not yet been thought of, but it might just as well have been invoked by Socrates as by Lotze or Royce, as a relief from his peculiar intellectualistic difficulty.

Everywhere we find rationalists using the same kind of reasoning. The primal whole which is their vision must be there not only as a fact but as a logical necessity. It must be the minimum that can exist–either that absolute whole is there, or there is absolutely nothing. The logical proof alleged of the irrationality of supposing otherwise, is that you can deny the whole only in words that implicitly assert it. If you say ‘parts,’ of _what_ are they parts? If you call them a ‘many,’ that very word unifies them. If you suppose them unrelated in any particular respect, that ‘respect’ connects them; and so on. In short you fall into hopeless contradiction. You must stay either at one extreme or the other.[8] ‘Partly this and partly that,’ partly rational, for instance, and partly irrational, is no admissible description of the world. If rationality be in it at all, it must be in it throughout; if irrationality be in it anywhere, that also must pervade it throughout. It must be wholly rational or wholly irrational, pure universe or pure multiverse or nulliverse; and reduced to this violent alternative, no one’s choice ought long to remain doubtful. The individual absolute, with its parts co-implicated through and through, so that there is nothing in any part by which any other part can remain inwardly unaffected, is the only rational supposition. Connexions of an external sort, by which the many became merely continuous instead of being consubstantial, would be an irrational supposition.

Mr. Bradley is the pattern champion of this philosophy _in extremis_, as one might call it, for he shows an intolerance to pluralism so extreme that I fancy few of his readers have been able fully to share it. His reasoning exemplifies everywhere what I call the vice of intellectualism, for abstract terms are used by him as positively excluding all that their definition fails to include. Some Greek sophists could deny that we may say that man is good, for man, they said, means only man, and good means only good, and the word _is_ can’t be construed to identify such disparate meanings. Mr. Bradley revels in the same type of argument. No adjective can rationally qualify a substantive, he thinks, for if distinct from the substantive, it can’t be united with it; and if not distinct, there is only one thing there, and nothing left to unite. Our whole pluralistic procedure in using subjects and predicates as we do is fundamentally irrational, an example of the desperation of our finite intellectual estate, infected and undermined as that is by the separatist discursive forms which are our only categories, but which absolute reality must somehow absorb into its unity and overcome.

Readers of ‘Appearance and reality’ will remember how Mr. Bradley suffers from a difficulty identical with that to which Lotze and Royce fall a prey–how shall an influence influence? how shall a relation relate? Any conjunctive relation between two phenomenal experiences _a_ and _b_ must, in the intellectualist philosophy of these authors, be itself a third entity; and as such, instead of bridging the one original chasm, it can only create two smaller chasms, each to be freshly bridged. Instead of hooking _a_ to _b_, it needs itself to be hooked by a fresh relation _r’_ to _a_ and by another _r”_ to _b_. These new relations are but two more entities which themselves require to be hitched in turn by four still newer relations–so behold the vertiginous _regressus ad infinitum_ in full career.

Since a _regressus ad infinitum_ is deemed absurd, the notion that relations come ‘between’ their terms must be given up. No mere external go-between can logically connect. What occurs must be more intimate. The hooking must be a penetration, a possession. The relation must _involve_ the terms, each term must involve _it_, and merging thus their being in it, they must somehow merge their being in each other, tho, as they seem still phenomenally so separate, we can never conceive exactly how it is that they are inwardly one. The absolute, however, must be supposed able to perform the unifying feat in his own inscrutable fashion.

In old times, whenever a philosopher was assailed for some particularly tough absurdity in his system, he was wont to parry the attack by the argument from the divine omnipotence. ‘Do you mean to limit God’s power?’ he would reply: ‘do you mean to say that God could not, if he would, do this or that?’ This retort was supposed to close the mouths of all objectors of properly decorous mind. The functions of the bradleian absolute are in this particular identical with those of the theistic God. Suppositions treated as too absurd to pass muster in the finite world which we inhabit, the absolute must be able to make good ‘somehow’ in his ineffable way. First we hear Mr. Bradley convicting things of absurdity; next, calling on the absolute to vouch for them _quand meme_. Invoked for no other duty, that duty it must and shall perform.

The strangest discontinuity of our world of appearance with the supposed world of absolute reality is asserted both by Bradley and by Royce; and both writers, the latter with great ingenuity, seek to soften the violence of the jolt. But it remains violent all the same, and is felt to be so by most readers. Whoever feels the violence strongly sees as on a diagram in just what the peculiarity of all this philosophy of the absolute consists. First, there is a healthy faith that the world must be rational and self-consistent. ‘All science, all real knowledge, all experience presuppose,’ as Mr. Ritchie writes, ‘a coherent universe.’ Next, we find a loyal clinging to the rationalist belief that sense-data and their associations are incoherent, and that only in substituting a conceptual order for their order can truth be found. Third, the substituted conceptions are treated intellectualistically, that is as mutually exclusive and discontinuous, so that the first innocent continuity of the flow of sense-experience is shattered for us without any higher conceptual continuity taking its place. Finally, since this broken state of things is intolerable, the absolute _deus ex machina_ is called on to mend it in his own way, since we cannot mend it in ours.

Any other picture than this of post-kantian absolutism I am unable to frame. I see the intellectualistic criticism destroying the immediately given coherence of the phenomenal world, but unable to make its own conceptual substitutes cohere, and I see the resort to the absolute for a coherence of a higher type. The situation has dramatic liveliness, but it is inwardly incoherent throughout, and the question inevitably comes up whether a mistake may not somewhere have crept in in the process that has brought it about. May not the remedy lie rather in revising the intellectualist criticism than in first adopting it and then trying to undo its consequences by an arbitrary act of faith in an unintelligible agent. May not the flux of sensible experience itself contain a rationality that has been overlooked, so that the real remedy would consist in harking back to it more intelligently, and not in advancing in the opposite direction away from it and even away beyond the intellectualist criticism that disintegrates it, to the pseudo-rationality of the supposed absolute point of view. I myself believe that this is the real way to keep rationality in the world, and that the traditional rationalism has always been facing in the wrong direction. I hope in the end to make you share, or at any rate respect, this belief, but there is much to talk of before we get to that point.

I employed the word ‘violent’ just now in describing the dramatic situation in which it pleases the philosophy of the absolute to make its camp. I don’t see how any one can help being struck in absolutist writings by that curious tendency to fly to violent extremes of which I have already said a word. The universe must be rational; well and good; but _how_ rational? in what sense of that eulogistic but ambiguous word?–this would seem to be the next point to bring up. There are surely degrees in rationality that might be discriminated and described. Things can be consistent or coherent in very diverse ways. But no more in its conception of rationality than in its conception of relations can the monistic mind suffer the notion of more or less. Rationality is one and indivisible: if not rational thus indivisibly, the universe must be completely irrational, and no shadings or mixtures or compromises can obtain. Mr. McTaggart writes, in discussing the notion of a mixture: ‘The two principles, of rationality and irrationality, to which the universe is then referred, will have to be absolutely separate and independent. For if there were any common unity to which they should be referred, it would be that unity and not its two manifestations which would be the ultimate explanation … and the theory, having thus become monistic,'[9] would resolve itself into the same alternative once more: is the single principle rational through and through or not?

‘Can a plurality of reals be possible?’ asks Mr. Bradley, and answers, ‘No, impossible.’ For it would mean a number of beings not dependent on each other, and this independence their plurality would contradict. For to be ‘many’ is to be related, the word having no meaning unless the units are somehow taken together, and it is impossible to take them in a sort of unreal void, so they must belong to a larger reality, and so carry the essence of the units beyond their proper selves, into a whole which possesses unity and is a larger system.[10] Either absolute independence or absolute mutual dependence–this, then, is the only alternative allowed by these thinkers. Of course ‘independence,’ if absolute, would be preposterous, so the only conclusion allowable is that, in Ritchie’s words, ‘every single event is ultimately related to every other, and determined by the whole to which it belongs.’ The whole complete block-universe through-and-through, therefore, or no universe at all!

Professor Taylor is so _naif_ in this habit of thinking only in extremes that he charges the pluralists with cutting the ground from under their own feet in not consistently following it themselves. What pluralists say is that a universe really connected loosely, after the pattern of our daily experience, is possible, and that for certain reasons it is the hypothesis to be preferred. What Professor Taylor thinks they naturally must or should say is that any other sort of universe is logically impossible, and that a totality of things interrelated like the world of the monists is not an hypothesis that can be seriously thought out at all.[11]

Meanwhile no sensible pluralist ever flies or wants to fly to this dogmatic extreme.

If chance is spoken of as an ingredient of the universe, absolutists interpret it to mean that double sevens are as likely to be thrown out of a dice box as double sixes are. If free-will is spoken of, that must mean that an english general is as likely to eat his prisoners to-day as a Maori chief was a hundred years ago. It is as likely–I am using Mr. McTaggart’s examples–that a majority of Londoners will burn themselves alive to-morrow as that they will partake of food, as likely that I shall be hanged for brushing my hair as for committing a murder,[12] and so forth, through various suppositions that no indeterminist ever sees real reason to make.

This habit of thinking only in the most violent extremes reminds me of what Mr. Wells says of the current objections to socialism, in his wonderful little book, ‘New worlds for old.’ The commonest vice of the human mind is its disposition to see everything as yes or no, as black or white, its incapacity for discrimination of intermediate shades. So the critics agree to some hard and fast impossible definition of socialism, and extract absurdities from it as a conjurer gets rabbits from a hat. Socialism abolishes property, abolishes the family, and the rest. The method, Mr. Wells continues, is always the same: It is to assume that whatever the socialist postulates as desirable is wanted without limit of qualification,–for socialist read pluralist and the parallel holds good,–it is to imagine that whatever proposal is made by him is to be carried out by uncontrolled monomaniacs, and so to make a picture of the socialist dream which can be presented to the simple-minded person in doubt–‘This is socialism’–or pluralism, as the case may be. ‘Surely!–SURELY! you don’t want _this!_’

How often have I been replied to, when expressing doubts of the logical necessity of the absolute, of flying to the opposite extreme: ‘But surely, SURELY there must be _some_ connexion among things!’ As if I must necessarily be an uncontrolled monomanic insanely denying any connexion whatever. The whole question revolves in very truth about the word ‘some.’ Radical empiricism and pluralism stand out for the legitimacy of the notion of _some_: each part of the world is in some ways connected, in some other ways not connected with its other parts, and the ways can be discriminated, for many of them are obvious, and their differences are obvious to view. Absolutism, on its side, seems to hold that ‘some’ is a category ruinously infected with self-contradictoriness, and that the only categories inwardly consistent and therefore pertinent to reality are ‘all’ and ‘none.’

The question runs into the still more general one with which Mr. Bradley and later writers of the monistic school have made us abundantly familiar–the question, namely, whether all the relations with other things, possible to a being, are pre-included in its intrinsic nature and enter into its essence, or whether, in respect to some of these relations, it can _be_ without reference to them, and, if it ever does enter into them, do so adventitiously and as it were by an after-thought. This is the great question as to whether ‘external’ relations can exist. They seem to, undoubtedly. My manuscript, for example, is ‘on’ the desk. The relation of being ‘on’ doesn’t seem to implicate or involve in any way the inner meaning of the manuscript or the inner structure of the desk–these objects engage in it only by their outsides, it seems only a temporary accident in their respective histories. Moreover, the ‘on’ fails to appear to our senses as one of those unintelligible ‘betweens’ that have to be separately hooked on the terms they pretend to connect. All this innocent sense-appearance, however, we are told, cannot pass muster in the eyes of reason. It is a tissue of self-contradiction which only the complete absorption of the desk and the manuscript into the higher unity of a more absolute reality can overcome.

The reasoning by which this conclusion is supported is too subtle and complicated to be properly dealt with in a public lecture, and you will thank me for not inviting you to consider it at all.[13] I feel the more free to pass it by now as I think that the cursory account of the absolutistic attitude which I have already given is sufficient for our present purpose, and that my own verdict on the philosophy of the absolute as ‘not proven’–please observe that I go no farther now–need not be backed by argument at every special point. Flanking operations are less costly and in some ways more effective than frontal attacks. Possibly you will yourselves think after hearing my remaining lectures that the alternative of an universe absolutely rational or absolutely irrational is forced and strained, and that a _via media_ exists which some of you may agree with me is to be preferred. _Some_ rationality certainly does characterize our universe; and, weighing one kind with another, we may deem that the incomplete kinds that appear are on the whole as acceptable as the through-and-through sort of rationality on which the monistic systematizers insist.

All the said systematizers who have written since Hegel have owed their inspiration largely to him. Even when they have found no use for his particular triadic dialectic, they have drawn confidence and courage from his authoritative and conquering tone. I have said nothing about Hegel in this lecture, so I must repair the omission in the next.



Directly or indirectly, that strange and powerful genius Hegel has done more to strengthen idealistic pantheism in thoughtful circles than all other influences put together. I must talk a little about him before drawing my final conclusions about the cogency of the arguments for the absolute. In no philosophy is the fact that a philosopher’s vision and the technique he uses in proof of it are two different things more palpably evident than in Hegel. The vision in his case was that of a world in which reason holds all things in solution and accounts for all the irrationality that superficially appears by taking it up as a ‘moment’ into itself. This vision was so intense in Hegel, and the tone of authority with which he spoke from out of the midst of it was so weighty, that the impression he made has never been effaced. Once dilated to the scale of the master’s eye, the disciples’ sight could not contract to any lesser prospect. The technique which Hegel used to prove his vision was the so-called dialectic method, but here his fortune has been quite contrary. Hardly a recent disciple has felt his particular applications of the method to be satisfactory. Many have let them drop entirely, treating them rather as a sort of provisional stop-gap, symbolic of what might some day prove possible of execution, but having no literal cogency or value now. Yet these very same disciples hold to the vision itself as a revelation that can never pass away. The case is curious and worthy of our study.

It is still more curious in that these same disciples, altho they are usually willing to abandon any particular instance of the dialectic method to its critics, are unshakably sure that in some shape the dialectic method is the key to truth. What, then, is the dialectic method? It is itself a part of the hegelian vision or intuition, and a part that finds the strongest echo in empiricism and common sense. Great injustice is done to Hegel by treating him as primarily a reasoner. He is in reality a naively observant man, only beset with a perverse preference for the use of technical and logical jargon. He plants himself in the empirical flux of things and gets the impression of what happens. His mind is in very truth _impressionistic_; and his thought, when once you put yourself at the animating centre of it, is the easiest thing in the world to catch the pulse of and to follow.

Any author is easy if you can catch the centre of his vision. From the centre in Hegel come those towering sentences of his that are comparable only to Luther’s, as where, speaking of the ontological proof of God’s existence from the concept of him as the _ens perfectissimum_ to which no attribute can be lacking, he says: ‘It would be strange if the Notion, the very heart of the mind, or, in a word, the concrete totality we call God, were not rich enough to embrace so poor a category as Being, the very poorest and most abstract of all–for nothing can be more insignificant than Being.’ But if Hegel’s central thought is easy to catch, his abominable habits of speech make his application of it to details exceedingly difficult to follow. His passion for the slipshod in the way of sentences, his unprincipled playing fast and loose with terms; his dreadful vocabulary, calling what completes a thing its ‘negation,’ for example; his systematic refusal to let you know whether he is talking logic or physics or psychology, his whole deliberately adopted policy of ambiguity and vagueness, in short: all these things make his present-day readers wish to tear their hair–or his–out in desperation. Like Byron’s corsair, he has left a name ‘to other times, linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes.’

The virtue was the vision, which was really in two parts. The first part was that reason is all-inclusive, the second was that things are ‘dialectic.’ Let me say a word about this second part of Hegel’s vision.

The impression that any _naif_ person gets who plants himself innocently in the flux of things is that things are off their balance. Whatever equilibriums our finite experiences attain to are but provisional. Martinique volcanoes shatter our wordsworthian equilibrium with nature. Accidents, either moral, mental, or physical, break up the slowly built-up equilibriums men reach in family life and in their civic and professional relations. Intellectual enigmas frustrate our scientific systems, and the ultimate cruelty of the universe upsets our religious attitudes and outlooks. Of no special system of good attained does the universe recognize the value as sacred. Down it tumbles, over it goes, to feed the ravenous appetite for destruction, of the larger system of history in which it stood for a moment as a landing-place and stepping-stone. This dogging of everything by its negative, its fate, its undoing, this perpetual moving on to something future which shall supersede the present, this is the hegelian intuition of the essential provisionality, and consequent unreality, of everything empirical and finite. Take any concrete finite thing and try to hold it fast. You cannot, for so held, it proves not to be concrete at all, but an arbitrary extract or abstract which you have made from the remainder of empirical reality. The rest of things invades and overflows both it and you together, and defeats your rash attempt. Any partial view whatever of the world tears the part out of its relations, leaves out some truth concerning it, is untrue of it, falsifies it. The full truth about anything involves more than that thing. In the end nothing less than the whole of everything can be the truth of anything at all.

Taken so far, and taken in the rough, Hegel is not only harmless, but accurate. There is a dialectic movement in things, if such it please you to call it, one that the whole constitution of concrete life establishes; but it is one that can be described and accounted for in terms of the pluralistic vision of things far more naturally than in the monistic terms to which Hegel finally reduced it. Pluralistic empiricism knows that everything is in an environment, a surrounding world of other things, and that if you leave it to work there it will inevitably meet with friction and opposition from its neighbors. Its rivals and enemies will destroy it unless it can buy them off by compromising some part of its original pretensions.

But Hegel saw this undeniable characteristic of the world we live in in a non-empirical light. Let the _mental idea_ of the thing work in your thought all alone, he fancied, and just the same consequences will follow. It will be negated by the opposite ideas that dog it, and can survive only by entering, along with them, into some kind of treaty. This treaty will be an instance of the so-called ‘higher synthesis’ of everything with its negative; and Hegel’s originality lay in transporting the process from the sphere of percepts to that of concepts and treating it as the universal method by which every kind of life, logical, physical, or psychological, is mediated. Not to the sensible facts as such, then, did Hegel point for the secret of what keeps existence going, but rather to the conceptual way of treating them. Concepts were not in his eyes the static self-contained things that previous logicians had supposed, but were germinative, and passed beyond themselves into each other by what he called their immanent dialectic. In ignoring each other as they do, they virtually exclude and deny each other, he thought, and thus in a manner introduce each other. So the dialectic logic, according to him, had to supersede the ‘logic of identity’ in which, since Aristotle, all Europe had been brought up.

This view of concepts is Hegel’s revolutionary performance; but so studiously vague and ambiguous are all his expressions of it that one can hardly tell whether it is the concepts as such, or the sensible experiences and elements conceived, that Hegel really means to work with. The only thing that is certain is that whatever you may say of his procedure, some one will accuse you of misunderstanding it. I make no claim to understanding it, I treat it merely impressionistically.

So treating it, I regret that he should have called it by the name of logic. Clinging as he did to the vision of a really living world, and refusing to be content with a chopped-up intellectualist picture of it, it is a pity that he should have adopted the very word that intellectualism had already pre-empted. But he clung fast to the old rationalist contempt for the immediately given world of sense and all its squalid particulars, and never tolerated the notion that the form of philosophy might be empirical only. His own system had to be a product of eternal reason, so the word ‘logic,’ with its suggestions of coercive necessity, was the only word he could find natural. He pretended therefore to be using the _a priori_ method, and to be working by a scanty equipment of ancient logical terms–position, negation, reflection, universal, particular, individual, and the like. But what he really worked by was his own empirical perceptions, which exceeded and overflowed his miserably insufficient logical categories in every instance of their use.

What he did with the category of negation was his most original stroke. The orthodox opinion is that you can advance logically through the field of concepts only by going from the same to the same. Hegel felt deeply the sterility of this law of conceptual thought; he saw that in a fashion negation also relates things; and he had the brilliant idea of transcending the ordinary logic by treating advance from the different to the different as if it were also a necessity of thought. ‘The so-called maxim of identity,’ he wrote, ‘is supposed to be accepted by the consciousness of every one. But the language which such a law demands, “a planet is a planet, magnetism is magnetism, mind is mind,” deserves to be called silliness. No mind either speaks or thinks or forms conceptions in accordance with this law, and no existence of any kind whatever conforms to it. We must never view identity as abstract identity, to the exclusion of all difference. That is the touchstone for distinguishing all bad philosophy from what alone deserves the name of philosophy. If thinking were no more than registering abstract identities, it would be a most superfluous performance. Things and concepts are identical with themselves only in so far as at the same time they involve distinction.'[1]

The distinction that Hegel has in mind here is naturally in the first instance distinction from all other things or concepts. But in his hands this quickly develops into contradiction of them, and finally, reflected back upon itself, into self-contradiction; and the immanent self-contradictoriness of all finite concepts thenceforth becomes the propulsive logical force that moves the world.[2] ‘Isolate a thing from all its relations,’ says Dr. Edward Caird,[3] expounding Hegel, ‘and try to assert it by itself; you find that it has negated itself as well as its relations. The thing in itself is nothing.’ Or, to quote Hegel’s own words: ‘When we suppose an existent A, and another, B, B is at first defined as the other. But A is just as much the other of B. Both are others in the same fashion…. “Other” is the other by itself, therefore the other of every other, consequently the other of itself, the simply unlike itself, the self-negator, the self-alterer,’ etc.[4] Hegel writes elsewhere: ‘The finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced to surrender its own immediate or natural being, and to turn suddenly into its opposite…. Dialectic is the universal and irresistible power before which nothing can stay…. _Summum jus, summa injuria_–to drive an abstract right to excess is to commit injustice…. Extreme anarchy and extreme despotism lead to one another. Pride comes before a fall. Too much wit outwits itself. Joy brings tears, melancholy a sardonic smile.'[5] To which one well might add that most human institutions, by the purely technical and professional manner in which they come to be administered, end by becoming obstacles to the very purposes which their founders had in view.

Once catch well the knack of this scheme of thought and you are lucky if you ever get away from it. It is all you can see. Let any one pronounce anything, and your feeling of a contradiction being implied becomes a habit, almost a motor habit in some persons who symbolize by a stereotyped gesture the position, sublation, and final reinstatement involved. If you say ‘two’ or ‘many,’ your speech betrayeth you, for the very name collects them into one. If you express doubt, your expression contradicts its content, for the doubt itself is not doubted but affirmed. If you say ‘disorder,’ what is that but a certain bad kind of order? if you say ‘indetermination,’ you are determining just _that_. If you say ‘nothing but the unexpected happens,’ the unexpected becomes what you expect. If you say ‘all things are relative,’ to what is the all of them itself relative? If you say ‘no more,’ you have said more already, by implying a region in which no more is found; to know a limit as such is consequently already to have got beyond it; And so forth, throughout as many examples as one cares to cite.

Whatever you posit appears thus as one-sided, and negates its other, which, being equally one-sided, negates _it_; and, since this situation remains unstable, the two contradictory terms have together, according to Hegel, to engender a higher truth of which they both appear as indispensable members, mutually mediating aspects of that higher concept of situation in thought.

Every higher total, however provisional and relative, thus reconciles the contradictions which its parts, abstracted from it, prove implicitly to contain. Rationalism, you remember, is what I called the way of thinking that methodically subordinates parts to wholes, so Hegel here is rationalistic through and through. The only whole by which _all_ contradictions are reconciled is for him the absolute whole of wholes, the all-inclusive reason to which Hegel himself gave the name of the absolute Idea, but which I shall continue to call ‘the absolute’ purely and simply, as I have done hitherto.

Empirical instances of the way in which higher unities reconcile contradictions are innumerable, so here again Hegel’s vision, taken merely impressionistically, agrees with countless facts. Somehow life does, out of its total resources, find ways of satisfying opposites at once. This is precisely the paradoxical aspect which much of our civilization presents. Peace we secure by armaments, liberty by laws and constitutions; simplicity and naturalness are the consummate result of artificial breeding and training; health, strength, and wealth are increased only by lavish use, expense, and wear. Our mistrust of mistrust engenders our commercial system of credit; our tolerance of anarchistic and revolutionary utterances is the only way of lessening their danger; our charity has to say no to beggars in order not to defeat its own desires; the true epicurean has to observe great sobriety; the way to certainty lies through radical doubt; virtue signifies not innocence but the knowledge of sin and its overcoming; by obeying nature, we command her, etc. The ethical and the religious life are full of such contradictions held in solution. You hate your enemy?–well, forgive him, and thereby heap coals of fire on his head; to realize yourself, renounce yourself; to save your soul, first lose it; in short, die to live.

From such massive examples one easily generalizes Hegel’s vision. Roughly, his ‘dialectic’ picture is a fair account of a good deal of the world. It sounds paradoxical, but whenever you once place yourself at the point of view; of any higher synthesis, you see exactly how it does in a fashion take up opposites into itself. As an example, consider the conflict between our carnivorous appetites and hunting instincts and the sympathy with animals which our refinement is bringing in its train. We have found how to reconcile these opposites most effectively by establishing game-laws and close seasons and by keeping domestic herds. The creatures preserved thus are preserved for the sake of slaughter, truly, but if not preserved for that reason, not one of them would be alive at all. Their will to live and our will to kill them thus harmoniously combine in this peculiar higher synthesis of domestication.

Merely as a reporter of certain empirical aspects of the actual, Hegel, then, is great and true. But he aimed at being something far greater than an empirical reporter, so I must say something about that essential aspect of his thought. Hegel was dominated by the notion of a truth that should prove incontrovertible, binding on every one, and certain, which should be _the_ truth, one, indivisible, eternal, objective, and necessary, to which all our particular thinking must lead as to its consummation. This is the dogmatic ideal, the postulate, uncriticised, undoubted, and unchallenged, of all rationalizers in philosophy. ‘_I have never doubted_,’ a recent Oxford writer says, that truth is universal and single and timeless, a single content or significance, one and whole and complete.[6] Advance in thinking, in the hegelian universe, has, in short, to proceed by the apodictic words _must be_ rather than by those inferior hypothetic words _may be_, which are all that empiricists can use.

Now Hegel found that his idea of an immanent movement through the field of concepts by way of ‘dialectic’ negation played most beautifully into the hands of this rationalistic demand for something absolute and _inconcussum_ in the way of truth. It is easy to see how. If you affirm anything, for example that A is, and simply leave the matter thus, you leave it at the mercy of any one who may supervene and say ‘not A, but B is.’ If he does say so, your statement doesn’t refute him, it simply contradicts him, just as his contradicts you. The only way of making your affirmation about A _self-securing_ is by getting it into a form which will by implication negate all possible negations in advance. The mere absence of negation is not enough; it must be present, but present with its fangs drawn. What you posit as A must already have cancelled the alternative or made it innocuous, by having negated it in advance. Double negation is the only form of affirmation that fully plays into the hands of the dogmatic ideal. Simply and innocently affirmative statements are good enough for empiricists, but unfit for rationalist use, lying open as they do to every accidental contradictor, and exposed to every puff of doubt. The _final_ truth must be something to which there is no imaginable alternative, because it contains all its possible alternatives inside of itself as moments already taken account of and overcome. Whatever involves its own alternatives as elements of itself is, in a phrase often repeated, its ‘own other,’ made so by the _methode der absoluten negativitaet_.

Formally, this scheme of an organism of truth that has already fed as it were on its own liability to death, so that, death once dead for it, there’s no more dying then, is the very fulfilment of the rationalistic aspiration. That one and only whole, with all its parts involved in it, negating and making one another impossible if abstracted and taken singly, but necessitating and holding one another in place if the whole of them be taken integrally, is the literal ideal sought after; it is the very diagram and picture of that notion of _the_ truth with no outlying alternative, to which nothing can be added, nor from it anything withdrawn, and all variations from which are absurd, which so dominates the human imagination. Once we have taken in the features of this diagram that so successfully solves the world-old problem, the older ways of proving the necessity of judgments cease to give us satisfaction. Hegel’s way we think must be the right way. The true must be essentially the self-reflecting self-contained recurrent, that which secures itself by including its own other and negating it; that makes a spherical system with no loose ends hanging out for foreignness to get a hold upon; that is forever rounded in and closed, not strung along rectilinearly and open at its ends like that universe of simply collective or additive form which Hegel calls the world of the bad infinite, and which is all that empiricism, starting with simply posited single parts and elements, is ever able to attain to.

No one can possibly deny the sublimity of this hegelian conception. It is surely in the grand style, if there be such a thing as a grand style in philosophy. For us, however, it remains, so far, a merely formal and diagrammatic conception; for with the actual content of absolute truth, as Hegel materially tries to set it forth, few disciples have been satisfied, and I do not propose to refer at all to the concreter parts of his philosophy. The main thing now is to grasp the generalized vision, and feel the authority of the abstract scheme of a statement self-secured by involving double negation. Absolutists who make no use of Hegel’s own technique are really working by his method. You remember the proofs of the absolute which I instanced in my last lecture, Lotze’s and Royce’s proofs by _reductio ad absurdum_, to the effect that any smallest connexion rashly supposed in things will logically work out into absolute union, and any minimal disconnexion into absolute disunion,–these are really arguments framed on the hegelian pattern. The truth is that which you implicitly affirm in the very attempt to deny it; it is that from which every variation refutes itself by proving self-contradictory. This is the supreme insight of rationalism, and to-day the best _must-be’s_ of rationalist argumentation are but so many attempts to communicate it to the hearer.

Thus, you see, my last lecture and this lecture make connexion again and we can consider Hegel and the other absolutists to be supporting the same system. The next point I wish to dwell on is the part played by what I have called vicious intellectualism in this wonderful system’s structure.

Rationalism in general thinks it gets the fulness of truth by turning away from sensation to conception, conception obviously giving the more universal and immutable picture. Intellectualism in the vicious sense I have already defined as the habit of assuming that a concept _ex_cludes from any reality conceived by its means everything not included in the concept’s definition. I called such intellectualism illegitimate as I found it used in Lotze’s, Royce’s, and Bradley’s proofs of the absolute (which absolute I consequently held to be non-proven by their arguments), and I left off by asserting my own belief that a pluralistic and incompletely integrated universe, describable only by the free use of the word ‘some,’ is a legitimate hypothesis.

Now Hegel himself, in building up his method of double negation, offers the vividest possible example of this vice of intellectualism. Every idea of a finite thing is of course a concept of _that_ thing and not a concept of anything else. But Hegel treats this not being a concept of anything else as if it were _equivalent to the concept of anything else not being_, or in other words as if it were a denial or negation of everything else. Then, as the other things, thus implicitly contradicted by the thing first conceived, also by the same law contradict _it_, the pulse of dialectic commences to beat and the famous triads begin to grind out the cosmos. If any one finds the process here to be a luminous one, he must be left to the illumination, he must remain an undisturbed hegelian. What others feel as the intolerable ambiguity, verbosity, and unscrupulousness of the master’s way of deducing things, he will probably ascribe–since divine oracles are notoriously hard to interpret–to the ‘difficulty’ that habitually accompanies profundity. For my own part, there seems something grotesque and _saugrenu_ in the pretension of a style so disobedient to the first rules of sound communication between minds, to be the authentic mother-tongue of reason, and to keep step more accurately than any other style does with the absolute’s own ways of thinking. I do not therefore take Hegel’s technical apparatus seriously at all. I regard him rather as one of those numerous original seers who can never learn how to articulate. His would-be coercive logic counts for nothing in my eyes; but that does not in the least impugn the philosophic importance of his conception of the absolute, if we take it merely hypothetically as one of the great types of cosmic vision.

Taken thus hypothetically, I wish to discuss it briefly. But before doing so I must call your attention to an odd peculiarity in the hegelian procedure. The peculiarity is one which will come before us again for a final judgment in my seventh lecture, so at present I only note it in passing. Hegel, you remember, considers that the immediate finite data of experience are ‘untrue’ because they are not their own others. They are negated by what is external to them. The absolute is true because it and it only has no external environment, and has attained to being its own other. (These words sound queer enough, but those of you who know something of Hegel’s text will follow them.) Granting his premise that to be true a thing must in some sort be its own other, everything hinges on whether he is right in holding that the several pieces of finite experience themselves cannot be said to be in any wise _their_ own others. When conceptually or intellectualistically treated, they of course cannot be their own others. Every abstract concept as such excludes what it doesn’t include, and if such concepts are adequate substitutes for reality’s concrete pulses, the latter must square themselves with intellectualistic logic, and no one of them in any sense can claim to be its own other. If, however, the conceptual treatment of the flow of reality should prove for any good reason to be inadequate and to have a practical rather than a theoretical or speculative value, then an independent empirical look into the constitution of reality’s pulses might possibly show that some of them _are_ their own others, and indeed are so in the self-same sense in which the absolute is maintained to be so by Hegel. When we come to my sixth lecture, on Professor Bergson, I shall in effect defend this very view, strengthening my thesis by his authority. I am unwilling to say anything more about the point at this time, and what I have just said of it is only a sort of surveyor’s note of where our present position lies in the general framework of these lectures.

Let us turn now at last to the great question of fact, _Does the absolute exist or not_? to which all our previous discussion has been preliminary. I may sum up that discussion by saying that whether