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Absolute Idealism and
Immortality



By
JESSE V^INECOFFE BALL



A Thetis prttented to the graduate faculty of the UniTenity of Nebraska in

partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy



Thi UNiviRimr OF Nibraska
JuNi, 1907



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FOREWORD

This thesis claims to be no more than its title indicates, a
discussion of the problem of immortality from the standpoint
of absolute idealism. Or rather it is an attempt to evaluate
the motives in absolute idealism which have a bearing upon the
doctrine of immortality, whether negative or affirmative. It
therefore does not aim at presenting the historical or the theo-
logical argument for immortality, but confines itself to the
metaphysical.

Certain currents of recent thought, .mainly naturalistic,
make such a discussion timely. The trend of naturalistic sci-
ence has revealed a decided tendency to cast doubt upon the
persistence of personality after death if not to discredit it
altogether. It is impossible to be wholly indifferent to dis-
cussions which would invalidate the most cherished beliefs of
mankind. An examination of the foundation principles upon
which the sciences themselves rest, reveals the fact that these
display the leadership of certain regulative ideals, that science at
bottom rests upon faith, although, indeed, upon the thoroughly
rational belief that the world displays the activity of a Mind
whose thoughts we are permitted to interpret. The belief in
immortality is similarly grounded and in its influence upon
mankind equally displays the ultimate Reality. Our govern-
ing ideals are among the most real things in life. Among
those ideals is the historic, the universal belief in immortality.

Grateful acknowledgment is hereby made of many helpful
suggestions in the preparation of this thesis from Prof. E. L.
Hinman, Prof, of Logic and Metaphysics, in the University of
Nebraska.

Lincoln, Neb., June 15, 1907.



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1908

Thb Woodruff-Collins Prkss

Linooln, Neb.



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INTRODUCTION:



ABSOLUTE IDEALISM AND THE PROBLEM OP
IMMORTALITY.

— A—

The Standpoint op Absolute Idealism.

I. Its hold tipon the philosophic world 1

1 . Its indebtedness to Hegel and its independence

of him 1

2. Its contest with naturalism and general sym-
pathy with the historic culture concepts 3

3. Its power to discuss an idealistic concept by
analyzing the implications of positive science,
and by thus showing the idealistic conception in
question as affirmatively involved in the world

as known.. • 3

II. Its logical structure 4

1. Its monism, "concrete," "spiritualistic," "con-
crete universal," "organic unity." Its war-
fare 01^ abstractions ♦ . . . 4

2. Its recognition of the ideality of finite con-
sciousness. The leadership of the universal in
science, art, ethics and religion 6

3. Ultimate Reality interpreted in terms of the
Absolute reading of the ideality of our finite con-
sciousness. Degrees of reality 7

— B—

The Problem op Immortality.

I . The import of the conception 9

1 . The positivist conception of subjective immor-
tality 9

2. The pantheistic conception of submergence of

the individual in the Absolute 10



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VI CONTENTS

3 . Metempsychosis or transmigration of souls 10

4 . Import of the conception in its popular form 11

a. Permanent self-identity of the individual
human life.

b. In a genuine sense the continuation of the
life of the present.

c. Death an event in life, not the end of life.

d. The life beyond the fulfillment of the pres-
ent life.

II. The resources of absolute idealism for the affirma-
tive treatment of the conception of immortality 12

1 . Less emphasis upon the time-space element than

the popular view 12

2 . The affirmation of an "eternal," spiritual factor

in the conscious life of man 12

3 . Its positing of spiritual things as absolute and

and final 13

4 . Its historical spirit 13

6 . Its doctrine of the reality of the ideal 14

III. The traits of absolute idealism which make for a
negative or obscuring treatment of the concep-
tion 14

1 . The domination of the universal over the finite
individual 14

2 , The denial of the finality of time 16

|IV. ^Desirability of a more harmonious adjustment of

these seemingly adverse motives within absolute
idealism 16

CHAPTER I

THE IDEALISTIC ANALYSIS OF HUMAN
INDIVIDUALITY.

— A—

The Human Self Defined Through the Unity of
Purpose.

I . Aristotle's conception of human individuality 18

II . Modern idealism 20

1 . Its emphasis upon the systematizing elements in

knowledge and in all facts 20



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CONTENTS VD

2 . Leibniz' doctrine of mind as a will-center 20

3 . Hegel's development of idealism 21

4 Human individuality as defined by contempo-
rary writers 22

a. Unsatisfactory use of terms self, person,
individual 22

b. The human self an ideal 22

(1) Self -identity in terms of continuity of
\ purpose.

(2) How one self is distinguished from
other selves.

c. Society as an individual 23

(1) Enlargement of self , of child, parent,
man of business, citizen.

(2) Society as one inclusive individual.

d. The human race as an individual 25

(1) Organic relation of persons and
families through heredity.

(2) Growth of world-consciousness.

(3) The interests of individuals coex-
tensive with those of mankind.
Resume.

e. The Absolute as the completed individual .... 26

(1) Human life an aspect of the divine.

(2) The Absolute as a personal being.

— B—

Difficulties of the Teleological Conception of Mind.

Mind as Relative 27

I . The finite individual and the Absolute.

Royce's definition of the individual 28

1 . The human self defined in terms of meaning and
purpose of the Absolute 28

2 . How the element of imiqueness is conserved 29

3 . The Absolute as a self all-inclusive 30

4 . a. In criticism, the elements of uniqueness

not sufficiently safe-guarded by Royce 30

' b. The truth that "in God we live and move
and have our being" does not necessarily
involve identity of thought and will 31



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▼Ul CONTBNTS

c. This full identity endangers ethical distinc-

tions that are fundamental 31

d. Royce's failure to provide an adequate
ground in the individual for the will and
purpose whose uniqueness is essential to his
theory 32

e. The individual an existent, greater than the

sum of his thoughts and purposes, related to
the Absolute by inclusion in the latter,
rather than by identity 33

f . His will therefore free even to oppose the

Eternal, however ineffectually in the end 34

II. The apparent instability of the organic unity of

mind 34

1. Questions raised by facts of "multiple personality." 34

2. Study of these comparatively recent. Hence
conclusions can scarcely be considered final 34

3 . Lines of dissociation mainly follow tastes and
moods. Dissociated states capable of being
resolved back into primary states 34

4 . Possible extent of dissociation. . * 35

5 . The range of the subconscious life far greater than
usually supposed 35

6. The development of secondary selves tends to
definition of the individual as "the organized ex-
pression of special functions and capacities."

The personal "I" an index of personality voicing

the predominant state 86

7 . Causes of dissociation and its general effects 36

8 . May it be that, with removal of physical organism
these and all other suppressed purposes will come

to normal expression 36

CHAPTER II

THE HUMAN MIND AND THE NATURAL ORDER

I. The finite individual and the physical universe 38

1 . The eternity of mass and energy in contrast with

the ephemeral nature of the physical individual ... 38



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CONTENTS IX

2, The application of the categories of physical

sciences to human life and development 39

II . The apparent dependence of mind upon the body 40

1 . The problem grows out of the close and intimate
relation of mind and body 40

2 . Is this dependence final? 40

3. Need of closer definition of the terms of the
problem , . . 41

III. The body 42

1 . The popular view 42

a . Recognizes reality of both mind and body.

b. But is dualistic.

2 . The naturalistic view 42

a . Connects the body with organic life in general.

b . Critique of naturalistic view. Idealistic ele-
ments involved.

3 . Idealistic view 45

a. An objective expression of mind through
which experience arises in perceptive life,

b . Exists for and is sustained by the Absolute.

c. Possesses a relatively low degree of reality.

IV . The mind 46

1 . The popular view of mind, the center of person-
ality, intimately connected with the body but
never completely so 46

2 . The naturalistic view of mind 46

a . Mind as product of brain activity.

b. Criticism of this view.

3 . The idealistic view of mind 47

a . Manifestation of mind in imperfect expressipn.

b . Defined in terms of teleology.

c. In close relation with physical objects
which, like mind itself, are maintained by
the Absolute.

V . Mutual relations of body and mind 48

1 . Difiiculty of defining satisfactorily 48

2 . Need of keeping in view that body and mind are
manifestations of the Absolute in different de-
grees of reality. Their relations not necessarily
parallel 49



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X CONTENTS

3 . The true relation to be found in some form of in-
teractionism. Bradley's conclusions 49

4 . Nevertheless the mind being the more complete
expression of the Absolute is more fundamental

than the body and capable of surviving it 50

CHAPTER III

THE ETERNAL LIFE AND THE FLOW OF TIME

I . The ideas of worth and permanence in early con-
ceptions of eternal life 51

1 . The ideas of worth and permanence seeking har-
monious expression

2. Immortality among the Greek philosophers,

Plato and Aristotle 51

3 . The Persian hymns and prayers 53

4 . The Hebrew Psalms 53

II . The Christian conception 54

1 . Nature of eternal life 54

2. Implications. Man's capacity to receive the
divine gift : 55

3 . Over-individual aspects of human life 56

III . Eternal life defined with over-emphasis upon value 56

1 . Spinoza's doctrine of immortality 56

2 . The conception of MUnsterberg 57

a . Human life beyond time. Time a creation
of mind.

b . Science likewise created by mind and can give
no information of our true self.

c . The real personality found in will-attitudes .

d . Mind as expression of value is uncaused.

e. Relation to the Absolut.e.

3 . Criticism of Mllnsterberg 59

a . Obscurity of his doctrine.

b . Individuality dissipated in the Absolute .

c . Over-emphasis upon value.

IV . Temporal aspect of eternal life 60

1 . Need of clearer presentation 60

2 . Unreality of time as presented by Taylor 60



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CONTENTS p.

3 . Reality of time, the view of naive realism and
pragmatism 61

4 . Mediating position of Watson 61

5 . Time as "a sublated form within a perfected ex-
perience." 62

6. The eternal expresses itself in the temporal,

otherwise an abstraction 63

The eternal life the fulfillment of the present.



CHAPTER IV
THE REALITY OF THE IDEAL.

I . The ideals of science and knowledge 64

1 . Science presupposes a rational order in the world ... 64

2 . It results from processes of idealization 65

3 . Knowledge in any sense is possible only through
the activity of the universal mind within human
thought 66

^ 4. How scientific knowledge advanced. It is pri-
marily a faith. But the degree of verification of
that faith shows the scientific to be a true ex-
pression of Reality 66

II . Immortality as an ideal of reason 68

1 . It is likewise rests on faith in the rational order

of the world. The reasonableness of this faith 68

2. The persistence of the belief. Practically imi-
versal 68

3 . Its cultural value and influence 69

a. Influence of the ideal as a social factor.

(1) in overthrow of slavery and every form of
human servitude; (2) in the creation of asy-
lums for orphans, the aged, blind, insane
and the like; (3) in reformatories, industrial
homes and generally in efforts to reform and
care for convicted persons; (4) in systems of
public instruction ; and (5) in efforts to estab-
lish international peace 70



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Xii CONTENTS

b. Influence of immortality upon poetry and

the fine arts 71

(1) Method by which poetry attains its end.

(2) Themes of music, painting, etc., drawn
from human destiny.

c. Presence of the ideal of immortality in morals

and religion 72

^1) The ethical ideals eternal verities.

v2) The note of permanence involved in

moral and religious movements for reform . 74
4. Reality involved in the ideal of immortality as
as truly as in scientific ideals.



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INTRODUCTION:



ABSOLUTE IDEALISM AND THE PROBLEM OF
IMMORTALITY.



The Standpoint of Absolute Idealism.

I. Its hold upon the philosophic world. Its indebtedness to Hegel and
its independence of him. Its contest with naturalism and ^neral sympathy
with the historic culture concepts. Its power to discuss an idealistic concept
bv ana^ing the implications of positive science and by thus showing tne
idealistic conception in question as affirmatively involved in the worid as
known.

II. Its logical structure. Its monism, ''concrete/' ''spiritualistic,"
"concrete universal," "organic unity." Its warfare on abstractions. Its
recognition of the ideality of finite consciousness. The leadership of the
universal in science, art, ethics and religion. Ultimate Reality interpreted
in tenns of the abscdute reading of our finite consciousness. Degrees of
jeality.

I. Its hold upon the philosophic world.

The influence of a system of thought upon any age may be
due either directly to the system itself, or indirectly to its gen-
eral point of view. The system itself usually bears in a marked
degree the peculiarities of its foimder. The general point of
view, however, is apt to have wider relations to the general
development of thought which the founder of the system has
succeeded in bringing to a focus.

1. Absolute idealism traces its descent from the philosophy
of Hegel. It would be a mistake, however, to identify it fully
with the system of Hegel ; for in adopting this general point of
view it by no means adopted the details of his system in their
entirety. It has, on the contrary, developed a considerable
degree of independence of its founder. In Germany the Hege^
lian system took root at once. But presently it gave rise to
conflicting parties. In the controversies which thus arose over
the application of its principles in particular directions the
special significance of the Hegelian point of view was largely
lost. In England and America it has exerted a greater influ-
ence.* It was introduced into England by Dr. Hutchison

>See The Hegdiaii Point of View, by J. S. Mackenne, Mind, n. ■. p. 64.ff.



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2 ABSOLUTE IDEALISM AND IMMOBTAUTT

Stirling who sought to propagate the system as a whole. Few
of the later exponents of the Hegelian tendency followed him
in this respect. Wallace did more than any other to render the
works of Heg^l accessible to English readers, but he dealt with
him, not so much as the maker of a system, as one who brought
out certain larg9 ideas and modes of treatment. T. H. Green
is justly regarded as having been a leading representative of
Hegelian thought, yet he too was far from being a close ad-
herent of the Hegelian system. The same remark holds true of
Edward Caird and F. H. Bradley. Bosanquet has followed
Hegel more closely. His general attitude, however, is that of
one who has absorbed certain leading ideas of the Hegelian
standpoint, but has used them with considerable freedom in
his own way. These men have been leaders in the philosophi-
cal thought of recent times, and may all be classed as exponents
of absolut eidealism in one form or another. On this side of the
Atlantic the name of Royce is probably more conspicuous than
that of any other in the circles of philosophy. With him may
be ranked Morris, Watson and Taylor, all of whom are repre-
sentatives of this same school of thought.

It has commonly been assumed that an important distinc-
tion between German and English speculation has been the
appeal of the latter to experience. This, it is now generally
admitted, does not accurately point out the difference; for it
would be difficult to find systems of philosophy that make a
more emphatic appeal to experience than do those of Kant and
Hegel. The point of difference lies rather in the emphasis of
German thought upon the reality of the universal as expressing
the element of identity in difference. In contrast with this
there is to be found in English speculation what has been re-
garded as a disintegrating atomism, attaining a constructive
result in Hobbes and a sceptical result in Hume.^ It should be
pointed out, likewise, that this recognition of the imiversalin more
recent English thought, due to German influence, has brought
about a remodeling of the treatment hitherto given to certain
fundamental questions in logic, in psychology, in ethics and in
political philosophy. In logic this result has been accomplished
by Bosanquet and others, following the lead of Bradley. In
psychology a similar result has followed the labors of Ward and

^Mackensie, J. S. The Hegeliaa Point of View. Mind, n. a. p. 58.

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INTKODUCTION 3

Stout. In political philosophy the works of Green, Caird,
Bradley and Bosanquet have been produced from the same
standpoint. The same remark applies to the works of Green,
Mackenzie, Muirhead and a considerable number of others in
the field of ethics.

The influence of a school is, however, not confined to its
direct representatives. It may be extended by other men who,
while agreeing with it in the main, have been found among its
sharpest critics. And this has frequently happened in the
history of thought. The attitude of Lot^e toward the philosophy
of Hegel was precisely this. He is f oimd in sharp antagonism
to it at times, and yet his own system of metaphysics has much
in common with that of Hegel. Both directly and indirectly
therefore, it has come about that absolute idealism has exerted
a ruling influence over a large part of the philosophic world.

2, Two features of this system are worthy of special mention
here. It has, on the one hand, conducted a vigorous contest
with naturalism on account of the attempt of the latter to ex-
plain all events and phenomena in terms of mechanism. No
such explanation, it contends, can ever be adequate or satisfy-
ing. But while mechanism is freely recognized by idealism,
it is also pointed out that mechanism is always found in the
service of larger ends and purposes. In respect of these idealism
also contends that naturalism has no sufiicient explanation.
On the other hand absolute idealism early disclosed a genuine
and profound appreciation of the culture concepts that have
been historic in developing civilization. It has uniformly dis-
played a keen interest not only in science, but also in art, ethics
and religion. Its genius is that of evolution in the best sense,
not of revolution.

3. From the outset the idealism of Kant and of the Kantian
school recognized the mind-given elements in the grouping of
phenomena and in the development of science. But for the
Kantian the deeper meaning of the phenomena is unknown.
We know things as they appear, we can not know them as they
are in themselves. The physical world was therefore given over
to the mechanical categories of the understanding, which ad-
mittedly are powerless to apprehend things in their inner mean-
ing. In the sphere of the practical reason or morals, however,
it was maintained that we come directly upon the noumenal



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4 ABSOLUTE IDBAU8M AND IMMORTALITY

world as opposed to the phenomenal. For the practical reason
there are directly given certain postulates which theoretical
reason can neither demonstrate nor deny. These postulates
are native to reason. They are grounded in the moral nature,
and essential to its complete expression. These postulates
are God, freedom, and immortality.

To this arbitrary breaking up of philosophy and throwing
all that pertains to the natural world over into the unknown,
the absolute idealist is decidedly opposed. Neither can the
activities of the mind be so sharply separated and placed over
against each other. The absolute idealist, therefore, seeks a
closer analysis of the implications of science and aims to show
that the higher and more speculative categories of idealism are
directly and affirmatively involved in the world as known. They
ar6 in fact the very conditions of its being known. Therefore
absolute idealism does not turn over to naturalism the whole
world of intelligible experience, meanwhile seeking to
conserve in some other way the higher cultural values,
or to recoup itself in some transcendental 'world affirmed
for practical reason alone. On the contrary it enters directly
into the very structiure of science. It aims to show that nature
is in fact unintelligible until the higher categories of idealism
have received their due; for these, it claims, are no less signifi*


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Online LibraryJesse Winecoffe BallAbsolute idealism and immortality → online text (page 1 of 9)