THE UNIVERSITY SERIES
BY GEORGE GROOM ROBERTSON
LATE GROTE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON
EDITED FROM NOTES OF LECTURES DELIVERED
AT THE COLLEGE, 1870-1892
A. FOLEY RHYS DAVIDS, M.A.
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
THAT I have been able to compile a second volume of
lectures delivered by the late George Croom Robertson is
again due, in the first place, to the kindness of Mr. Charles
Robertson in placing at my disposal the MS. notes left by
the professor, and, in the second place, to the ready help
afforded me, through the loan of their note-books, by those
students to whom I acknowledged my debt of gratitude in
the Elements of Psychology, and to whom I here once more
express my grateful obligation 1 . Once more, too, I wish to
record my sense of the benefit derived from the corrections
and suggestions made by Mr. Charles Robertson and
1 I append the names of those who contributed materials that I was
able to use for this manual : George A. Aitken, Esq. ; Rev. Martin
Anstey, M.A. ; Mrs. Archer Hind (Miss Laura Pocock) ; Mrs. Sophie
Bryant, D.Sc. : Herman J. Cohen, Esq. ; Professor W. Hall Griffin,
B.A. ; Rev. Isidore Harris, M.A. ; H. Frank Heath, Esq., B.A.,
Ph.D. ; Rev. Alfred Hills, B.A. ; Principal J. Viriamu Jones, M.A ,
F.R.S. (University College S. Wales and Monmouthshire) ; J. Neville
Keynes, Esq., M.A., LL.D. ; Benjamin Leverson, Esq., B.A. ; Rev. S.
Levy, B.A. ; J. W. Manning, Esq., M.A. ; Miss Dorothy Marshall,
B.Sc. ; Andrew Ogil vie, Esq., B.A. ; Miss Mary Robertson, M.A. ;
Ernest C. Robinson, Esq., M.A. ; G. Armitage Smith, Esq., M.A. ;
President J. G. Schurman, M.A., D.Sc. (Cornell University); Rev.
E. H. Titchmarsh, M.A. ; H. J. Tozer, Esq., M.A.
viii Introductory Note.
Mr. Thomas Whittaker when going through the proofs.
I am also indebted for kind advice and cordial help to
Excepting the full draft of an Introductory Lecture on
the History of Philosophy, which has been collated with
students' note-books to form Lectures III- VI, the author's
own materials have been wrought up almost wholly in
Part II. For instance, in the concluding three lectures
on Kant they practically superseded my having recourse to
reports of college lectures. It so happened that, although
the professor had more than once had occasion to give
college lectures on this subject, only one set of notes on
Kant had come into my hands.
The first seventeen lectures, presenting a definitely con-
secutive treatment an outline-history of Western philosophy
(I-VII) and a somewhat closer consideration of the three
main problems of that philosophy (VIII-XVII) constituted
the annual elementary course on General Philosophy, or
Epistemology, delivered in alternation with a course on
Ethics during May and June. I do not mean that -the
number was always precisely seventeen ; it was usually less.
The historic outline had sometimes to be dropped or
transferred to the special courses, while the consideration
of particular problems was prolonged. I have combined
both the one and the other in a slightly enlarged course.
Finally, in the two lectures on Logic and Ethics, I have
borrowed from the annual courses on those subjects, in
order that the manual might be enriched by an outline,
however brief, of the author's practical philosophy.
Introductory Note. ix
The special lectures are intended to form a course of
somewhat more advanced reading, to succeed the study of
Part I. They were delivered to an inner circle of students,
small in number, candidates for the most part qualifying
for the higher London University examinations, assembled
during the years of the lecturer's declining health at a round
table in his own house at Notting Hill. The special work
or works under discussion lay open before each person.
The professor's utterances took therefore the form rather of
a running commentary, with here and there a more general
disquisition, than of a lecture systematically developed. (This
remark does not, of course, apply to the last three ' special '
lectures.) Of these running commentaries I have given
the substance in a more or less condensed form. Thus the
lecture on Plato's epistemology is a condensation of a course
of eight conversational discourses on the Thcaetetus, Ttmaeus,
and part of the Republic (delivered a few months before the
professor's death). The lecture on Aristotle's Psychology
is condensed from a like number ; those on Descartes from
fifteen. There were many such advanced courses given during
Professor Robertson's long occupancy of the Grote chair.
They would have been even more varied had it not been
for the limits in the cycle of philosophical works prescribed
by the University of London, to which the curriculum
of University College adapts itself 1 . Limits of space made
1 No post-Kantian work was prescribed during Robertson's pro-
fessoriate for the examinations in history of philosophy with one
exception the Hetapkysic of Lotze. At tl.at time (1887-88, the pro-
fessor was, alas ! too ill to lecture.
x Introductory Note.
it imperative that I should select, and the choice was
determined less by the nature of my materials than by what
seems to me to have been a salient standpoint in my master's
critical philosophy. Holding by an enlightened Experien-
tialism, he was repelled by the Individualism prevailing
in experiential doctrine from Locke till the present century.
Advance in biology has rendered in philosophy, as he says *,
for ever impossible the older Experientialist position, that
knowledge, with its objectivity, its universality, its necessity,
can be acquired by every individual for himself, in the
course of his own experience, from the beginning. Close
and sympathetic study of the great Rationalist thinkers, from
Plato to Kant, enabled him to discern what they, burdened*
by faulty method and the then scanty store of the fruits of
scientific research, were groping after in their insistence on
the innate furniture of the mind, namely, the predetermina-
tion, the collective endowment of the individual by the
race, as a prius to whatever his own experience can teach
him. Adjusting his own philosophy, on the one hand, to
take account of every advance in scientific theory, he was
careful, on the other, to bring out the continuous evolution
of philosophic thought, history of human error though it
might be 2 . And he held that the Experientialism even of
to-day needed to be widened and deepened, not only by
frankly adopting the evolutionary standpoint, but also by
being brought face to face at all points with the best teaching
of Rationalist thought, including especially the critical stand-
points of Kant. Hence it is that I have selected the
1 See below, p. 153. 2 See below, p. 19.
Introductory Note. xi
Cartesian school and the Kritik rather than lectures on
Bacon, Locke, Hume, and others.
I need not here repeat what is written in the Elements of
Psychology by way of apology to the memory of the dead
philosopher for undertaking a task so heavily fraught with
responsibility as the editing of these lectures. That re-
sponsibility is but slightly alleviated in the present volume
by my having had access, in the lectures where it is indicated,
to more complete MSS. by the author's own hand. The
task was undertaken in the hope of suggesting to the
philosophic thought of the generation that has witnessed
the untimely close of a life just come to philosophic maturity,
with what generous ardour and constructive thought on
behalf of the minds he was guiding, that life for a quarter
of a century had spent itself, and more than spent itself,
in the ungrateful if noble work of the class-room. At the
same time, by presenting a part of that work in practically
its original form, and in availing myself of the opportunity
afforded me of incorporating it in an educational series, I
hope no less to serve the interests of the student, standing
on the threshold of the precincts of philosophy, by making
him partaker in benefits that the living source so richly
If such a student should take up this volume without
having previously read and re-read the companion manual,
Elements of Psychology, or some equivalent text-book of
modern date on the same subject, he is earnestly recom-
mended to lose no time in making good that omission.
Thus only will he be able to read this volume with the
xii Introductory Note.
maximum of profit. It was a fundamental principle with
Professor Robertson true to the tradition of the British
School that philosophic considerations, from whatever other
groundwork they might spring, should not precede, but be
complementary to, the study of psychology that, in his
own words, the consideration of how we come to know
anything should precede that of what it is as known. The
reader, on the other hand, who has mastered the essential
data of psychology, and naturally he most of all who
has acquainted himself therewith as they are ordered by
the same mind that planned the philosophic arguments
in the present volume, will have his reward. Especially
will he see how rich in philosophic import becomes
that central point in George Croom Robertson's psycho-
logical analysis the theory of objective perception, with
its vertebral idea of the coefficient, in sense, of conscious-
ness of activity put forth. He will see this point applied,
again and again, in the explanation of such ultimate notions
as necessity in knowledge, the conception of substance, the
idea of causation, and the belief in an external world. And
he will find effective in suggestiveness, not to say guidance,
a philosophy thus psychologically based. In that philosophy
the tradition handed down in this country the school of
British psychological philosophy attains a distinct develop-
ment. More than its well-known modern exponents, Robert-
son had, in his own phrase, ' gone to school under ' Leibniz
and Kant. And it is with a philosophic grasp and insight
worthy of these two, while carrying on the direct line of
succession in the psychological tradition, that he seeks to
Introductory Note. xiii
show how it is no mere metaphor to say that the world
as we know it is as we mentally construct it : that we know
it not with, as it were, a quasi-detachable intellect only, but
with our whole living energy; that we know in so far as
we act, nay, that ultimately, only as we will, as we put forth
activity, as we act, can we claim fully to be \
CAROLINE A. F. RHYS DAVIDS 2 .
1 See below, Lecture XVII.
2 All footnotes in the lectures, unless the contrary is stated, are
parenthetical remarks made by the professor himself. The works, or
passages in works, prescribed for the student's special reading were,
in nearly every case, those prescribed by the lecturer himself. In
a few lectures I have given references to books or subjects discussed,
and also to the lecturer's own published writings.
I. THE BOND AND THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN PSYCHO-
LOGY AND PHILOSOPHY i
II. PHILOSOPHY AS EPISTEMOLOGY 10
III. THE HISTORICAL ASPECT OF PHILOSOPHY AND OF
IV. HISTORICAL SKETCH OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY . . 24
V. MEDIAEVAL PHILOSOPHY 37
VI. SCHOLASTICISM AND THE RISE OF MODERN SCIENCE
AND PHILOSOPHY 47
VII. MODERN PHILOSOPHY 56
VIII. UNIVERSALS 68
IX. UNIVERSALS (continued}. NOMINALISM AND CON-
X. THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE. KNOWLEDGE AND
BELIEF , . 85
XI. THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE. BEFORE LOCKE . 97
XII. THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE. AFTER LOCKE. . 112
XIII. THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE. CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY 124
XIV. THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE. CAUSATION . .135
XV. THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE. EVOLUTION . . 147
XVI. THE PERCEPTION OF AN EXTERNAL (OR MATERIAL)
WORLD . 154
XVII. THE PERCEPTION OF AN EXTERNAL (OR MATERIAL)
WORLD (continued} 168
XVIII. REGULATIVE PHILOSOPHICAL DOCTRINE . . .181
XIX. THE BASIS AND THE END OF ETHICS . . .191
XX. ON THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF PLATO .... 201
XXI. ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ARISTOTLE . . .214
XXII. ON THE METHOD OF DESCARTES .... 231
XXIII. ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF DESCARTES . . . 244
XXIV. ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF DESCARTES (continued) . 258
XXV. ON CARTESIANISM 270
XXVI. ON CARTESIANISM (continued"} 287
XXVII. ON KANT'S CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY .... 304
I. Kanfs importance in the present state of English
XXVIII. ON KANT'S CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY (continued') . 317
II. General view of the Kritik and the Prolegomena.
III. Mathematical Necessity and Muscular Sense.
IV. On the Nature and Conditions of Intellectual
XXIX. ON KANT'S CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY (continued) . 339
V. The Ideas of Pure Reason.
THE BOND AND THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN PSYCHOLOGY AND
General Philosophy as based upon and supplementing Psychology.
IN these lectures I wish to supplement the preceding
psychological course in two ways. We found that in the
process of psychological discussion certain philosophical
questions were more or less involved. Into these, which
we then passed by, we will now inquire. Again, our former
course touched on many purely psychological questions, which
from our wider philosophic standpoint we may review,
fill in, and add to. We saw that ' Philosophy of Mind '
meant Science of Mind, whatever else it might mean. But
we have also seen that science of mind or psychology does
not contain all that is meant by philosophy of mind. And
psychological treatment needs to be supplemented, before
we can be fully satisfied, by a philosophical consideration of
the problems of mind. I do not go so far as to say that
philosophy is nothing more than a review of the problems
of psychology from another point of view, but it is from this
2 Elements of General Philosophy. [LECT.
side that I introduce students to philosophy, and it is this
that I mean by ' General Philosophy.' We are going to take
up philosophical questions on a psychological basis. Not that
we can settle such questions so determinately as those of
psychology. We can dogmatise in psychology, for we are
there treating of phenomena ; but we cannot do so in philo-
sophy, where we can no longer distinguish, as we can in
psychology, between thinker and thought. But it is most
important for the student to separate from psychology proper
the philosophical considerations which arise out of that
science, all the more so that in this country psychology has
been generally mixed up with philosophy. Mill, Hamilton,
Professor Bain, Mr. Spencer are apt to confuse both kinds of
inquiry, so that I am the more concerned that students*
should be fully aware when the aspect is shifted.
General Philosophy as Theory of Knowledge.
Ethics, associated with ' General Philosophy/ is itself a
department of philosophy. It would be impossible to treat
of philosophy in general without treating at the same time
of ethics in particular. And ethics is no part of psychology
at all. Equally is this true with regard to assthetics. But
my intention, during at least the greater part of this course,
is not to refer to any philosophical questions arising out of
the psychology of conation or of feeling, but to such as have
all more or less bearing on knowledge. We see, therefore,
what part of our psychology it is mainly that we shall
rehearse, review, and supplement, viz. the psychology of
intellection. In practical philosophy, i. e. in Logic, Ethics,
and ^Esthetics, we need to know what functions of the mind it
is that these doctrines regulate. And if General Philosophy
is best faced from the point of view of Theory of Knowledge,
I.] Elements of General Philosophy. 3
then does philosophy follow rightly from psychology as
leading from that which appears to that which is, from the
consideration of how we come to know anything to that of
what it is as known.
Kant's followers, including Green, condemn this method
as involving the use of fundamental assumptions before these
have been sifted. Then must we indeed begin our sifting
early, for all use these assumptions with the use of their
mother tongue, every two-year old as well as every coster-
monger, though they do not come to the ultimate expression
thereof. Those writers end by never getting on to psychology
at all ! It is true, on the other hand, that some English philo-
sophers have been so content with their psychology that they
have never passed on to philosophy. I see the force of the
Kantian position ; no scientific basis is ultimate. But
a scientific basis is the only sound starting-point, and I will
maintain my view till I get new light. Touching intellect,
then, we have to make sure of our psychological ground
and see if we may draw philosophical conclusions.
Theory of Knowledge distinguishable from Logic.
Logic, no less than ethics and aesthetics, is a depart-
ment of philosophy and intimately concerned with the
psychology of intellection. Nevertheless, I propose to mark
off logic also from our philosophical inquiry, at least for
the present, and to confine our inquiry to Philosophy as
Theory of Knowledge in relation to science in general
and Science of Mind in particular. Logic, like ethics and
aesthetics, may be called science from a certain point of view ;
but that is not the point of view I adopt. For me, as I shall
show later on, they are regulative doctrines or disciplines, or
Nomology. Logic is regulative discipline of thought. Has
4 Elements of General Philosophy. [LECT,
science in itself anything to do with regulation ? No ; the
business of science is explanation, or phenomenology.
Psychology deals with phenomenology of mind, with in-
tellection as it naturally proceeds, with the explanation
according to natural laws of the intellectual function called
thinking. That function logic sets itself to regulate. This
notion of regulation is something which science in no wise
expresses. It is one of the ways in which we can define the
function of philosophy. And because thought is a means
of knowledge, logic in its widest sense is already a part of the
philosophical Theory of Knowledge. But logic is concerned
with true thinking or truth. Now, by truth of thought we
mean that our thought has a certain import, that it is valid.
Such considerations, namely, as to whether a given intellectual
act has any real validity or not, are altogether outside
psychology, though not outside logic. Now, if logic be
concerned with the validity of thought, let us generalise this,
and we get a definition of philosophy as theory, not merely
of the validity of thought, but of the validity of all knowing.
We can know otherwise than by thought, viz. by perception.
Ultimate Inquiry its Nature and its Names.
' How am I intellective of that pillar ? ' We resolved my
act of intellection into certain sensations plus mental activity
of a definite kind a complex function termed Perception.
And this was a psychological answer to a psychological inquiry
an inquiry which may be thus otherwise worded : ' How
comes it to pass in my consciousness that I perceive that
pillar ? ' But if I ask, ' Is there a pillar a real one ?
a real pillar there apart from my perceptive mind ? ' this is
a philosophical question, and whatever answer is made
is a philosophical statement, though it may be determined
I.] Elements of General Philosophy. 5
by psychological insight. For we are here asking a question
relating to the import of knowledge ; I am concerned to
know whether my subjective perception implies a corre-
sponding reality or no.
Such questions may be raised concerning any intellectual
function ; they belong to the ultimate questions which the
human mind is able to raise, and for them is still reserved
the ancient term Philosophy. If they are raised, as here
and now, in connexion with intellection or knowing, the more
specific terms are Theory of Knowledge, Epistemology, or
Metaphysic. If emphasis is thrown, as it used to be, rather
on the question of ' Being ' than of ' Being in as far as
known,' they are, or rather were, expressed by the term
Ontology. Thus we have got four names which are all
more or less related to one another, all being the same in
respect of extension but differing in intension; all denoting
the same, but having different connotation. Let us enter more
fully into their meaning and history, and then more clearly
differentiate what they collectively amount to from modern
science and psychology.
Philosophy is the oldest term of them all ; first to be
started, it will probably survive longest. We meet with
' philosophy ' and ' philosopher ' in Greek history earlier
than with the other three. Plato, e.g., uses only these two.
Philosophy originally stood for reasoned knowledge in
general '; it was not differentiated from science. Human
knowledge was supposed to be a kind of organic whole,
and Philosophy was the word for it. But from the time
of Plato, and still more in that of Aristotle, another word
began to grow up, viz. Epistemology. And Plato was already
6 Elements of General Philosophy. [LECT.
commencing to speak of ' the sciences,' though the only
science which then underwent development was mathematics.
It is not till the modern period that an antithesis or opposi-
tion is set up between sciences and philosophy. The sciences
were at first rather departments of philosophy, but from the
beginning of the seventeenth century mathematics and other
sciences were pursued in a certain method of their own, and
regarded apart from anything that may still be called
philosophy. An ancient philosopher had a complete view
of the whole field of knowledge. Now, thinkers are mainly
specialists, knowing little, or but vaguely, of any department
except their own. The opposition since then has so far
widened that some modern thinkers have said there is
nothing beyond science. Comte, e.g. called philosophy
a co-ordination of the sciences *. There is a good deal
called philosophy beyond that ; at all events, whereas
philosophy originally meant all reasoned knowledge, it has
now come to mean reasoned knowledge no less, but of
a kind that stands apart from certain limited bodies of
doctrine pursued according to a strictly definite method
called that of the sciences, and apart from psychology too,
because in respect of method psychology is as much science
as chemistry is.
Philosophy as Wisdom.
Again, all ancient knowledge was bent to a practical issue.
This is the specific mark of what was originally called
philosophy. Philosophy is ' love of wisdom,' and wisdom
is a term of practical import, is knowledge with a practical
reference ; is- not mere insight, but conduct guided by
insight. And still our concern in ultimate questions has
1 V. Positive Philosophy, Bk. VI, ch. xiii.
I.] Elements of General Philosophy. 7
a more or less practical object an object which we call
the wise conduct of life. But this aspect of philosophy
is not found in modern science. Science as such leaves
aside practical considerations. It has reached its present
development during the last three centuries by such elimina-
tion and specialisation. As long as men could and would
think about everything they made little advance.
The term Metaphysic in this country and in Germany
has been loosely used. It is often used as indistinguishable
from psychology itself; e. g. in Hamilton's Lectures on Meta-
physics, five-sixths of which are psychological, the remainder
philosophical, and in which he passes without warning from
psychology into pure philosophy. Professor Bain speaks of
'mental science' and sometimes of psychology, but there is
a goodly amount of philosophy too in his M.mual, certain
chapters and much in the historical notes being as philo-
sophical as can be.
Metaphysic also, as a name, has an accidental origin.
Aristotle did not use the term, and yet the term has grown
out of Aristotle's works. He left, in addition to his treatises
on life, mind or Foul, and the treatise called Physica,
another work dealing with what he sometimes calls First
Philosophy, with the notion of ' fundamental,' and at other
times 'being as being' (TO w / oV), in fact, Ontology. The
precise word ontologia is not found there, yet all is there but
the word. His editors and commentators placed this treatise
after the Physica, and called it so (ra /^ra ra <uo-ia), although
the author had called it ' first philosophy.' No sooner had the