R. B. Haldane (Richard Burdon Haldane) Haldane.

The pathway to reality : being the Gifford lectures delivered in the University of St. Andrews, 1902-1904 (Volume 2) online

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M.P., LL.D., K.C.



Printea in Great Britain.



THE lectures which this volume contains were
delivered consecutively, the first six in October
1903, and the last four in the following January.
As in the case of the earlier series, published last
year, they were, for the most part, not written. It
had been suggested to me from the first that the
plan of talking instead of reading, with the aid of a
note just sufficient to fix the general sequence, was
likely to prove less burdensome to the audience
than an endeavour to rivet their attention to written
and therefore rigid discourses on topics which were
largely technical. The proposal suited my own cir-
cumstances, and, at least in the case of a layman,
seemed admissible. The scheme of the lectures I
had for some time past been thinking out, in the in-
tervals of different avocations. But binding engage-
ments, public and private, did not facilitate writing.
Indeed, the delivery of the lectures contained in
this volume had to take place in the intervals of
utterances of other kinds. Possibly there has, as
a consequence, been carried into what follows
something of an atmosphere which is not strictly
academic. At all events, by the terms of my



engagement to the Gifford Trustees, I was bound
to publish the lectures as I gave them, and on
reading over the transcript I felt that it contained
things which I wanted to say, and which I was
not likely to have another opportunity of saying-
What is here printed is simply a carefully corrected
copy of what a most competent shorthand writer
took down day by day. To the lady who under-
took this duty I must here express my gratitude
for the skill with which she spared me much of what
is often a wearisome burden of correction. Here and
there I wrote out passages, and these I used where
I could. But in the main I relied on the capacity of
the reporter, even where the points were technical
and obscure. The only exception to this was in the
last part of the first lecture, and in the whole of
that which comes seventh in order. These were
written during a holiday in Germany.

Such a method of producing a metaphysical
book has defects. Stern critics may say that
no man has the right to publish anything of this
kind put together in such a fashion. I admit the
weight of the criticism, and I throw myself on the
mercy of the critics. I also plead that the Gifford
Trustees insisted, somewhat against my will, on my
accepting their Lectureship, and then bound me to
publish what I should say. I am not by profession
a philosopher, and as I had no reputation to lose,
I agreed to do what they wished. They allowed
me time and time, as has been observed by persons
of great authority, is infinitely long. Then there


were some things to be considered on the other side.
I had spent in these investigations a good deal of
my life, and it seemed to be permissible for me,
finding myself in such a situation, to try to say
how the world seemed to one whose occupa-
tions necessitated his living in it. Again, my
plan, the only possible one for a busy person,
was not wholly without its advantages. In the
first place, he who is going to speak ex tempore
has to make a determined effort not to allow the
trees to prevent him from seeing the wood as a
whole. I think I may say that I have not spared
myself in the effort to do this. The writer who
shuts himself up with his lamp in his study is
sometimes in peril of getting lost in his details.
He is tempted to think as he expresses himself,
instead of thinking before he expresses himself.
He does not easily, such is the force of habit,
reflect as he walks through the market place.
And yet the market place has its own kind of
stimulus for those who have to be constantly
striving to pull themselves together, a stimulus
which is not to be felt to the same extent either
in the pulpit or the chair. Moreover, upon the
whole, experience shows that the spoken word is
better for teaching purposes than the written manu-
script. It leaves the lecturer free to follow into
their perplexities the minds of those who are his
hearers. Finally, the circumstance that he has
but talked, leaves the talker with a sense of liberty
remaining to him. It was, I think, Eenan who

somewhere declared that to write a book was to
limit oneself. If, however, the author has but
expressed his thought in language which owed its
form to the audience and the hour, the sense of
self-limitation is less oppressive.

In my earlier volume the chief topic was the
complete relativity of our knowledge, in everyday
life and in physical science. The nature of reality
was subjected to a scrutiny which ended in the
recognition of a boundary line to such knowledge.
Beyond that boundary line it appeared to be im-
possible to pass in the absence of an interpretation
of mind, and of its relation to the Universe, more
definite and more extensive than that which is
current in everyday usage. In this volume I have
done what I could to find the interpretation needed,
and, with its aid, to cross the line. I have tried to
find the answer to the question what we are really
striving to express when we speak of God and of
Freedom and of Immortality. It has seemed to
me that, in the two thousand years which have
passed since Aristotle taught on these topics,
progress in our knowledge has been made, but
progress in the main on certain lines which he
laid down.

The first volume of this book had a reception
more generous than one who is to be reckoned
with laymen was entitled to look for. Only of
two criticisms which were made on it, do I wish
to say anything. One was that the book was a
mere reproduction in modern form of what had


before been taught by Aristotle and by Hegel.
On this I will merely observe that the criticism
cannot carry the critic far. I believe it to be
true, and have already said so. But my assertion
depends for its validity on the accuracy of my
interpretation of the doctrine of these great men.
Now of what is a very difficult doctrine the in-
terpreters have been many, and as various as they
were many. They have not seldom reproached
each other with liberties taken with their gospel.
Accordingly I will endeavour to disarm hostility by
frankly confessing here that in both volumes I have
freely used the method of what theologians call exe-
gesis. Some, for whose judgment and authority I
have the deepest respect, have shaken their heads,
and have told me that, whether or not I have inter-
preted Aristotle aright, I have not truly followed the
teaching of Hegel. I have laid, as they think, too
little stress on the abstract element in knowledge
and on the dialectical character of knowledge as a
system of universals. I can only answer that what
I have done has been done after deliberation, and
that in the present volume I have sought to justify
it. I have thought for long that metaphysical
investigation has had its credit seriously impaired,
not only in Germany but in this country, by a too
narrow view taken of the nature of mind. This
word has been used by certain writers as meaning
either the process of relational or discursive thought,
in its essence of the character of what is universal,
or else something no one seems quite to know


what considered somehow to exist apart from time,
and to be that of which thought is the activity.
The next step has been to put the process (or the
activity, as the case may be) in contrast with feel-
ing. Thereupon has come the splitting of the
philosophers into camps, in some of which it is
sought to reduce feeling to thought, and in others
to reduce thought to feeling. In short, people
have fallen into the way of insisting on construing
the concrete riches of the world of the actual, as if
they must be reduced either to universals of reflec-
tion or to particulars of sense. To me the dilemma
appears to rest on too narrow a view of the nature
of mind. With mind, if there be any truth in the
doctrine of these lectures, we must begin. It is the
actual, what lies nearest to hand, and it is also the
ultimate, beyond which we cannot get, and which
can only be described in terms of itself. Universal
and particular seem to me, following Aristotle,
to be but abstractions, made in the process in which
it is actual by the subject which has before and
within it its experience and itself. That subject,
with its experience and its self-consciousness, is the
actual concrete fact in which all knowledge has its
starting point. Such a starting point is concerned
with what is singular and individual, and it is within
what is thus in its actuality singular and individual
that the universal and particular, which can emerge
only as abstractions, have reality. The grounds
for this opinion, which appears to me to have been
that of Aristotle and Hegel, and to have been


dropped out of sight by some of their interpreters,
I partly set forth in the earlier lectures. In this
series I have returned to the attack from another
side. I am unable to assent to a narrow use of
the word which would confine thought to a par-
ticular mode of thinking that is itself the mere
outcome of abstraction. Yet this identification
seems to me to be frequently made by writers
whose aim it is to interpret from the standpoint
of idealism. That Hegel himself (of Aristotle it
is hardly necessary to speak) would have repudi-
ated this form of idealism, appears from his express
declarations.* The warnings have been disregarded,
and the result has been something of a breach and
much of confusion in the camp of the idealists. A
striking incident has been the departure of Mr
F. H. Bradley from the headquarters of orthodox
idealism, and his adoption of a separate position,
He has intimated his decision that thought, rela-
tional and discursive as, in the sense in which the
late Mr Green and others have used the word, he
finds it to be, has no capacity to reach final truth
or to penetrate beyond appearance. Yet is Mr
Bradley's view of thought sufficiently wide ? One
asks how, if thought be merely what he takes it to
be, he gets as far as he does. Is not his scepticism
self-destructive ! And is his Absolute any better
than " the night in which all cows look black " ;
an unknowable substance of which we may say,

* See Werke, Band vi., p. 5, and also the final part of his
Religions -Philosophic, passim.


"De non apparentibus et de non existentibus, eadem
est ratio f " Mr Green himself seems to have had
misgivings about this use of the word thought. In
one passage he even protests against it, blaming
Hegel, as I think, not quite justly.* For myself
I prefer to believe, what the facts seem to me to
demonstrate, that the scope of the activity which is
of the essence of mind, is wider than the limits of
relational or discursive thinking. It follows that
abstract reason has no monopoly of the means
of access to reality, although I hold it to be the
only competent guardian of the pathway. It seems
to me that relational thought and feeling are alike
aspects which arise by distinctions which are really
abstract, within the ultimate reality which we call
Self-consciousness or Mind or Spirit, and which is
in its nature singular and all-embracing. In this
volume I have accordingly pressed the point that if
by the word thought we wish to indicate the
activity in which mind consists, we must interpret
it as extending to every form of that activity, and
not in the contracted sense in which it is some-
times used.

For these and other reasons which are set out
in the lectures that follow, I have assigned to Art
and to Religion parts as important as that of
Philosophy in the search after truth. That, like
Philosophy, Art and Religion can aim at reaching
nothing short of the reality that is ultimate, I
cannot doubt. The difference is one of method and

* See Works of T. H. Green, vol. iii., p. 142. .


of symbol It is no function of Art or of Religion
to bring us to scientific results. It is just because
the scientific aspect of the truth is the aim of
Philosophy that its language is abstract and that
its methods have the defect of their quality. Its
results can never be for our minds wholly sufficing.
At our plane of intelligence the tendency to frame
abstractions, and so to separate what are but
aspects in a single reality, the Beautiful, the Good,
and the True, is too powerful. Yet the content of
our minds will not the less on this account always
be more than abstract thought. And this leads
me to add a final observation to this preface.

If any one should say that the name of Goethe
occurs too frequently in the pages of what purports
to be a metaphysical book, my answer will be, that
my way of looking at things made it impossible
not to turn frequently, in the course of an investi-
gation such as this, to the greatest critic of life that
has spoken in modern times. Should I, in the
course of these lectures, have succeeded in helping
any one to realise more fully the depth of meaning
in the precept of that great genius :

" . . . Im Ganzen, Guten, Schonen
Resolut zu leben,"

I shall feel that I have been well repaid for the
little that I have been capable of doing.



On p. xiii., line 27, far "self-destructive! " read "self-destructive? "

On pp. 19 and 21, for " Glancon " read "Glaucon."

On p. 59, in footnote, for " Glaubens-lehre" read " Glaubenslehre."

On p. 126, in third line of third stanza, for "zients' " read "ziemt's.'

On p. 145, line 28, for "Boland " read "Bolland."

On p. 158, line 20, for "nnity " read "unity."

On p. 240, in fifth line of first stanza, for "last 'gem" read "last 'gem.

On p. 240, in last line of first stanza, for " Geniiss " read " Genuss."

On p. 273, in Index, for " Boland " read " Bolland."


LECTURE I. Pages 3 to 38


Throughout these Lectures what has been meant by the
word " God " is nothing short of the Highest and most Real.
The images and metaphors of everyday theology are inadequate
in an inquiry of the character prescribed by Lord Gifford.
Ultimate Reality was, as the result of the first series of lectures,
found to be Mind, and within Mind the whole of experience,
possible as well as actual, was found to fall. In the course of
the first part of the inquiry three things became apparent :

(1) Peril of going off the track through the use of metaphors ;

(2) the necessity for careful criticism of the limits and validity
of categories ; (3) the absurdity and self-contradiction of the
notion that abstract thought could either be a product of
things, or itself create them. Neither Aristotle nor Hegel
sought to deduce nature from logical forms, though it is a
common superstition to believe that they did. They held that
self-consciousness was the ultimate fact behind which it was
logically impossible to go ; that it was no net-work of abstract
universals, but concrete and living subject, not substance ; that
within it arose and were contained, as the outcome of its own
distinctions, the entire universe of thought and things. For
them this ultimate reality was individual, unique, and singular,
as an ultimate fact must be. Outside of it nothing could, with
any intelligible meaning, be said to exist, and within it the two

XTU fr


aspects or moments of its nature as Intelligence, the universals
of thought and the particulars of feeling, were separable in
logical analysis but not in fact. Among the further topics
which must engage our attention are the question in what sense
mind so conceived can be described as a Person, and what is
the relation to such mind of the finite forms in which self-
consciousness appears e.g., in man.

LECTURE II. - Pages 39 to 70

Further examination of what is implied in self-conscious
mind. Metaphors more than usually out of place here. To
call mind a "thing" is utterly wrong. To call it "subject" is
better, but is still misleading, for the distinction from the
object, though essential for self-consciousness, is made by and
falls within it. Again, to look upon mind as resoluble into
feeling, out of which what is higher has become evolved by
differentiation, is for the purpose of a metaphysical inquiry
quite insufficient, for such evolution presupposes time, and time
has itself to be accounted for. Nor, as we have already seen,
can it be described as a system of universals, for, as Aristotle
showed, such a system is nothing apart from the particulars in
which it realises itself. It must be described in terms of itself,
as a final and unique fact, the nature of which is to be disclosed
only by the study of its own movement. The meaning of
" finiteness " in relation to the self. Comparison with Berke-
leianism. With the rejection of the conception of mind as
substance, solipsism becomes meaningless, for it is apparent
that to try to think of a finite self as the ultimate form of
reality is to try to think what is st If -contradictory. The forms
of finitude are the outcome of the limited ends and purposes by
which our intelligence is in everyday life dominated. Meaning
of Understanding as distinguished from Reason. Illustration
from space and time. The categories of thought are the forms
of Reason, and they constitute a system in which each link
logically implies every other link. The whole system is
implicit in and presupposed by the earliest link. From the
days of Plato onwards the method of the greatest thinkers has
more or less explicitly been to try to comprehend and set out
the nature and interrelation (if categories. Meaning and
nature of Dialectic. The Hegelian " Notion " and " Idea."


The nature of mind is to posit itself in distinction, and to
comprehend and pass beyond the distinctions. What is called
Pantheism is a misunderstanding of the nature of God.

LECTURE III. - Pages 71 to 94

The result of the inquiry so far has been to insist, with
Bradley and Royce, as against Green, that stress must not be
laid exclusively on intelligible relations. But Bradley holds
thought to be at once capable of raising the problem of reality
and incapable of adequately solving it. His reason is that to
him thought appears to be relational or finite. It is difficult to
see how his scepticism can escape from the reproach of in-
consistency. For if thought is adequate to the comprehension
of its own limits, it must be able to go beyond these limits.
Royce's work is valuable because of his insistence on the
concrete and ethical character of the activity of intelligence.
But it is open to the criticism that it is only in the systematic
exposition of its own forms that intelligence can at all adequately
set forth its nature as the ultimate reality. Notwithstanding
the freshness of Royce's method, it therefore appears to be
unsatisfying. One is driven back to the Hegelian system, not
because one believes that it contains the final word, but because
of its unflinching thoroughness. The value of Hegel's attempt
at a dialectical explanation of the relationship of the distinctions
which self-consciousness makes is that it leaves no gaps. He
declared that all that is actual is rational, and all that is
rational is actual, and, again, that the spiritual alone is the
real, but he certainly did not mean that nature could be dis-
played in terms of intelligible relations. He insisted, on the
contrary, that the appearances which make up the realm of
nature have the characteristic of contingency and foreignness
to reason, and he explains that this is so because the system of
these appearances is a system of abstract separations, made by
intelligence dominated by purposes which do not lead to full
comprehension, and which operate under finite forms of thought.
So far from being rational, nature is rather for him unreal,
excepting as comprehended at a higher level than that of
thinking under finite forms of self-consciousness, a comprehen-
sion which would change its appearance. Such a line of
criticism leads back to the conception of God as the mind of


which ours is a manifestation on a lower plane. The Hegelian
Logic is no ordinary logic, but the system of categories in
which the notion, the characteristic movement of thought,
displays itself. This system, as exhibited in the Logic, is but
one aspect of Ultimate Reality, of the Absolute Mind, and it is
reached by abstraction. The philosophy of nature deals with
another aspect which is abstract in another way, and is the
outcome of intelligence operating after the fashion of the
understanding, which separates and isolates, as in the forms of
sense perception, in space and time. The standpoint of such
particularism is the outcome of abstraction, and, like that of
the Logic, finds its correction and completion in the self-
consciousness of concrete spirit, which is described in the
Philosophy of Mind.

LECTURE IV. - ... Pages 95 to 116

It is the elusiveness of the subject-matter that makes
philosophy difficult. Hard thinking is the only instrument
with which we can break through the misleading images and
metaphors of daily use, misleading because they furnish views
which, while sufficient for the purpose in hand, and in that
sense representative of truth, are inadequate for those who
want light on the nature of Ultimate Reality. Art and religion
demonstrate the fact of this inadequacy, and, after all, the diffi-
culty appears in the same fashion in other studies for example,
those of the higher mathematics. Having found that the
apparently hidden nature of Reality is self-conscious mind
which contains within itself all the appearances which go to
make up the world as it seems, we have now to ascertain how and
why it is that the distinctions exist to which these appearances at
their various grades are due. That self-consciousness is the
final form of mind cannot be doubted, for the very doubt really
implies the principle as its basis. To speak of absolute mind
as unconscious is to use words without meaning. In some sense,
accordingly, God is a Person, and we have to inquire in what
sense ! The fact of self-consciousness implies a distinction of
subject from object, of self from not self. The nature of mind
is to make distinctions and to exist in and through them. It is
no inert simultaneum, but, as Aristotle long ago pointed out, is
active reason, life and more than life, intelligence which com-


prebends, and in its comprehension is present in every form of
the content of its self-consciousness. The end which deter-
mines its activity is the end of making itself explicit to itself,
and this end seems to be implicit even in the lowest forms of
mind. In its lower forms, as mere understanding, mind lays
stress on the reality of its distinctions and the self-subsistence
and isolation of what is distinguished. In its higher forms, as
reason, mind interprets and comprehends what is distinguished
and the acts of distinction as having meaning only as links or
moments in a series. Examination of the nature of time. Time
is continuous just as much as it is discrete, and, when taken as
a final form of reality, proves to be self-contradictory in its
conception, and unreal in appearance. The meaning of the
expression " comprehension sub specie ceternitatis." The world
as it must appear in the mind of God. The degrees of reality
in appearance.

LECTURE V. - Pages 117 to 142

In this lecture we must not pass by the next problem that
confronts the inquirer, that of the nature of finite mind. The
ground of finiteness lies in distinctions made within the Absolute
Mind, whereby it appears as object to and other than itself.
But these distinctions and what results from them presuppose,
as their logical foundation, the notion of a mind that is absolute.
It is a misconception of the teaching of Hegel to imagine that
he identified the Absolute Mind with mind as it appears in
History. For there the forms in which mind displays itself are
never more than finite, i.e., relative to what has gone before or

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Online LibraryR. B. Haldane (Richard Burdon Haldane) HaldaneThe pathway to reality : being the Gifford lectures delivered in the University of St. Andrews, 1902-1904 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 19)