Wilfrid Richmond.

An essay on personality as a philosophical principle online

. (page 3 of 19)
Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondAn essay on personality as a philosophical principle → online text (page 3 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

another person. Thus to start with, and by definition, |
person is the correlative of person. The individual I
person is an abstraction, not a reality. The individual I
emerged into personality out of the family, where at /
the beginning of the individual life his rights and his
personality were absorbed in the father of the family.
And he emerged into .personality by emerging into
citizenship, into the life and society of the state. The
state, the society, gave him his privileges as a citizen,
and, in giving them, also conferred upon him, at any
rate in fact, the liberty which, in idea, in later Roman
times was his original and natural right.

In this view the power of action, and of action
governed by desire, to us, perhaps, the primary charac-
teristics of a person, are already assumed and taken for

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Personality — the Meanings of the IVord 15

granted. But this is only another way of saying that
this use of the word " person " gives no warrant for the
abstraction of the individual from the social life of the
person — ^that the person is conceived only as a social
being, and that the power of action and of action from
desire is, in fact, only a " power," a potentiality ; the 1
actual personal life is the social life. The ideas repre- '
sented by this definition of personality have found their '
way into common language through the conception of
personal responsibility. The person who is personally
responsible for his actions grows into his personality in
the social life of the family, becomes free to act only as
becoming simultaneously the subject of the obligations
of duty, i.6. as becoming a member of the wider human
family, in which each member carries in his own con-
sciousness of himself at once the claim of freedom and
the sense that he is answerable to the moral world in
which this consciousness lives and moves and has its

Our idea of personality is next indebted for a
part of its meaning to that chapter in the history
The theological of the Word which introduces its use
meamngisthecapap into the definitions of theology. Here

aty for the com- in . . ,

mnnion, which the the first pomt to notice IS that the
Eternal Beiiis: is. ^^^jj^ ^^^^ u persona " appears as the

representative of the Greek word " hypostasis," of
which it may be said that it had come to stand
generally for the underlying or absolute reality of
the world. In Greek philosophy the question had been
at issue whether the absolute reality, the very being
of the world, was to be thought of rather as thing
or as quality. When the word " hypostasis " comes into

Digitized by VjOOQIC

1 6 An Essay on Personality

philosophical use, we should naturally expect it to be
associated rather with the underlying reality than with
the qualities in which it manifests itself. But by the
time the word comes into theological use, it seems to
carry with it no definite or unvarying emphasis on either
of these aspects of being, and to denote simply absolute
real being. It is to be noted, then, at the outset that
the theological use of the Latin word "persona," as the
equivalent of the Greek "hypostasis," carries with it
the instinctive assumption, the implicit assertion of the
emphatic reality of personal being. The word "per-
sonality," with the associations with which its legal use
had launched it in popular speech, is assumed to be
capable of bearing the burden of the meaning of the
absolute reality of the world. For this very reason it
becomes the more important to note the meaning which
theology imports into the term, in using it as a designa-
tion of the Being of God.

We are concerned, it is scarcely necessary to observe,
not with the philosophical legitimacy of the theological
definition, but only with the meaning which, as a matter
of fact, it assigned to the word — a meaning which, in
common with the other meanings historically borne by
the word, has contributed to the conception of per-
sonality as current in general thought. It is quite
immaterial for our purpose whether, in the conception
of the Personality of God, men were making a correct
analysis of the truths implied in their experience of the
Universal Being, or were merely reflecting the image
of human personality upon the misty void of human
ignorance. Either hypothesis leaves us the undisputed
fact that such a conception of what personality is made

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Personality — the Meanings of the IVord 17

its appearance upon the stage of history and in the
minds of men.

It is to be observed, then, that when Christian
theology conceives God as a Personal Being, it does
not conceive God as a Person. Personality attaches
to God not as one Person, but as Three. God is One,
individual, in the sense that He is whole, complete in
Himself, but, as it has been said, "whereas each human
individual being has one personality, the Divine Being
has Three." * His unity is a unity of Persons, and it
is as a unity of Persons, and as a unity of Persons only,
that Personality is conceived to be the supreme Reality.
Personality, in the form in which it is supposed to be
most intensely and unmistakably real, is a cbmmunion,
a fellowship of Persons, a communion of will and
character, a communion of intelligence and mind, a
communion of love, implying that each Person is, in
these various phases or aspects of personal life, capable
of complete communion with others.

And it is further to be observed that the person thus
conceived is definitely conceived as an object of know-
ledge. The purpose of theology in this region was to
define the personality of God as Tinovm ; not to describe
His operations on the will, or to shadow forth the mean-
ing of religious emotion, but definitely to answer the
question what God is. The personality, that is, which
we have described, had the definiteness of conception
which belongs to an idea of what is conceived actually
to exist The question of theology was: What is
God ? and the answer was : God is a fellowship, a
communion of Persons.

* Newman, " Arians," Appendix, p. 439.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

1 8 An Essay on Personality

Certainly there attaches to personality here, and
wherever else we speak of a person, no insignificant
part of the idea of individuality in the ordinary sense ;
not only the exclusive possession of definite individual
personal attributes, but besides this the sheer spon-
taneity of the will, the inwardness of the mind, the
sense of property in Ms own feelings and emotions, all
of which belong to the individual personal life. But
even so, the distinctive personal attributes designate
relations of communion with other persons, and the
person in each case is conceived to owii himself, only as
also owing himself to others, and in order to give himself
to others.

When we pass to our modem use of the terms
person, personal, the relation between these two aspects
The modem meaning, ^f personal life, the inwaxd and the
in accenting indi- outward, the individual and the social,
ai^^i^eiativrto ^ inverted. It is the individuality of
society. personal life which marks the charac-

teristically modern idea of a person, as, e.g.^ when we
speak of personal sympathy, of personal antipathy, of
personal affection, of personal religion. All these emo-
tions are eminently personal in the sense that they are
eminently individual. They intensify the sense of indi-
vidual life. They are keen, vivid, emphatically accented
moments of individual existence. But on a moment's
consideration it is plain that, in such cases as these,
what evokes and intensifies the personal life of the indi-
vidual person is some relation to a person other than
himself. Personal religion is perhaps the most sugges-
tive instance. There is no stronger case of the use of
the word " personal " to indicate what is genuiuely and

Digitized by VjOOQIC

Personality — the Meanings of the Word 19

thoroughly spontaneous, inward, individual. Personal
religion emphatically means the religion which is one's
own. There is, in fact, no region in which men have
claimed so decidedly to call their souls their own. And
yet it is just in regard to their own relation to a person
other than themselves that they make the claim. It is
in regard to faith, the dependence of the soul on God ;
to belief, the formulation of the soul's own knowledge
of God ; to love, the devotion of the soul to Grod. The
very quarrel of the champions of personal religion with
the ecclesiastical system from which they wished to
make good their escape, has been that by these systems
the spiritual relationship and communion between the
soul and God had been obscured and clogged. Eeligion
is here conceived as a relation between the personal
being of God and the personal being of man ; and the
complaint is that, God being shut off, the personal life
of man is impoverished and starved. The closer con-
sideration, indeed, of this and similar uses of the word
would suggest the hypothesis, that the word " personal "
is only rightly applied to any feeling of the individual,
when the feeling is a consciousness of relation to another
person. There are uses of the word which seem to be
exceptions from this rule: sometimes the relation to
another person, though it may be shown to be implied,
is not obvious on the surface. Personal liberty, for
instance, and personal property are assertions of the
claim of one person against others. Personal wants are
those which bear upon the individual, as he consciously
sets himself up against the community. Sometimes
individuality amounts to a withdrawal from the privi-
lege, or a failure to realise the life, or an incapacity to

Digitized by VjOOQIC

20 An Essay on Personality

exercise the faculties which are the distinction of per-
sonal beings. The most personal feelings, e.g., those of
melancholy and depression, are the sheer protest of the
individual soul against his isolation from that com-
munion with his spiritual kind in which a personal
being lives the truly personal life.

Digitized by VjOOQIC



The purpose of the preceding chapter has been to
suggest rather than to justify, from the recognised uses
The definition of per- ^^ ^^® word, what is to be set forth
sonaiity thns'sag- in this essav as the true definition of

cestedia — ''thecapft- ,.

dty of society, feUow- personality, namely, that personauty
ship, commnnion." '^ ^}^q individual is the capacity for

society, fellowship, communion.*

Such an idea of personality stands in broad contrast
with current modem philosophical utterances on the

Thecmrentphilo. ^^^J^^*' ^^ modem philosophical

sophicai idea that per- literature, personality is assumed to
SES^-^^Tbe^ essentiaUy individual. essentiaUy
checked by an appeal limited, f But such expressions as
^'^'^^^"^^ imply this conception are not really

the outcome of any very serious analysis of personality
as it is realised in personal life. They only echo the
instinctive protest of individual persons against the
practical limitations which bar the realisation of their
own personal capacities. When our personality is said
to be limited, it is in tones of complaint, the protest of

* The i^a^us of jKoiywWo.

t JS,g. : " For me a person is finite or is meaningless ** (Bradley,
" Appearance and Reality," p. 532).


Digitized by VjOOQIC

22 An Essay on Personality

rebellion or the acquiescence of despair, the description
in any case of a condition which is felt to be abnormal
even while it is described as common to all.* ^uch
language testifies to the strength of the instinctive
aspiration after the perfect communion of an ideal
fellowship of persons — ideal, but not unreal, because
the earnest of its fulfilment is visible in the broad facts
of every department of human life.

In the region of action it is obvious to view the
individual person as a bundle of individual desires. But
I. In the regioii of a bundle of desires is a bundle of in-
S^ii?£ li'tue, sufficiencies. Desire is individual, but
•odai, not its satisfaction. If the range of

the desires of the individual were limited to those which
could be satisfied by the efforts of the individual alone,
he could not be said to attain to what we understand
by personal life. As a matter of fact, the individual
person wakes to desire as a fragmentary unit in a
collective life, the life of the family, an organisation
which owes its origin in each individual instance to
the desire of individuals for close communion with their
kind, and finds the scope of its activity in providing for '
the common satisfaction of the needs of its members.
When he emerges into independent life as an individual
person, his life is neither individual nor independent.
He finds himself the member of a society. Individual
need and individual desire act as the force that holds
this society together. Under the stress of individual
need and individual desire, men find themselves held in
the bonds of a society whose purpose is to minister not
to their own but to the common life.

* See Note C, Appendix, p. 189, on " The Sense of Isolation in the Indi-
vidual Person.''

Digitized by VjOOQIC

The Definition of Personality 23

But what is the common life? 80 far we have
only dwelt on the familiar fact that individual desire,
. . ,,, „ . the element of the moral life, is social

and "law" is a ' .

collective fact, an in its Satisfaction, in its working, in
rovn^^ofM^sOTiL *^® surroundings which it has created
of which it is the for itself. We may say that through-
^' out the intricate process of commerce

and exchange, in which the individual person helps the
society and is helped by it in return, he, the individual,
is seeking his own interest, and his own interest alone.
The other aspect of society, as a society for mutual help,
may be ignored, and the social impulses to which it
naturally gives vent may be left out of view. But it
will still be true that the conflict of individual interests
has to be adjusted. And in this process of adjustment,
at least, there appears unmistakably a new force upon
the scene — a common perception, a common standard
of justice and right, enforced by collective action.
Law, the result, the expression of the collective action
of persons, is, in the region of action, the undeniable
evidence of the fellowship of persons with one another.
The analysis of society on its economic side, the theory
of its origin, the account of the forces that sustain it,
may be matter of dispute, but law is a hard fact And
law is not a result of comwx>n action in which each
individual might still claim his selfish share. It is the
result of collective action. It involves, it presupposes
the fusion of wills. It expresses, and it is evidence for
the communion of persons with one another in a com-
mon element. It exhibits the innate tendency of indi-
vidual persons to build themselves together, not into
aggregations, but into wholes — into collective life. Of

Digitized by VjOOQIC

24 -^^ Essay on Personality

the collective life of persons, law is the outcome and
expression ; nothing else describes it or accounts for it.
And if law is a product of the collective life, it is a
feature not of the collective life alone, but of the
represented in the ^^dividual life also. Whatever may be
individual by "con- the theory of its origin, conscience, be
saence, j^ cause or eflFect, the ectype or the

archetype of law, is in the fully developed personal life
perhaps the most pronounced, the most inevitable fact
the impulse of col- The individual attitude towards this
lective moral life, ^^ ^^^ particular ordinance may be

one of sympathy or of rebellion. But for submission to
the control of something other than itself the individual
will has the bidding of authority within, at one with
the bidding of authority without. Conscience is the
organ in the individual personality of the impulse
towards collective life in the region of action.

Nor is this impulse satisfied with its achievement
of an external expression in law. Religion is, on one
which inspires, in side of it, the aspiration of human
SJfiter^i',;^ personaUty after membership in a
moral fellowship. completer moral communion, after the
perfection of fellowship between the individual and
the universal and collective wilL

In the intellectual life, again, it seems obvious at
II. In the inteiiec- first sight to regard the individual as
indi^ujo* * ^^ independent unit of perception,

perception, as per- But if we are making our appeal to

ception of fisctf is a

perception of the common experience, perception m com-
^^M^^the wf- ^^^ experience— the perception of the
lective experience, individual consciousness — ^is the per-
ception of fact. And the individual consciousness of

Digitized by VjOOQIC

The Definition of Personality 25

fact is not merely individual. There are times when
the individual person would say, not "such was what
occurred in fact," but " such is my experience of what
occurred." But the normal perception of the individual
is represented by the former phrase, not by the latter.
The difference is a difference of assurance. We have
not to ask here how the higher degree of assurance is
arrived at in the normal case. We have to ask only in
what does the assurance consist which makes the former
perception what it is, a perception of fact. And a part
at least of our answer must be this, that in the case of
the assured perception there is an absence of the sense
of merdy individual perception, described in such words
as " that is my impression of what occurred." When
we perceive the fact, we perceive with the consciousness
or, if you will, with the assumption that it is a common
perception of which our individual mind is the organ.
It is not necessary to ask here how the individual con-
sciousness can be the organ of a common perception ; we
are here noting the actual nature of that common
experience which we call the perception of a fact. It is
not necessary to maintain that the individual perception
of a fact may be defined as an individual perception,
together with the consciousness that it is not merely
individual, that it has no other or more characteristic
distinguishing quality^ All that we need to maintain
is, that among the distinguishing marks of the individual
perception of fact is this, that it conceives itself to be
not merely an individual perception, but a common
perception of which our own individual act of perception
is an instance. The idea of fact, i.e., appears in ordi-
nary experience as the creation of the collective mind ;

Digitized by VjOOQIC

26 An Essay on Personality

perception of fact, as an element in common experience, is
perception of the individual as the organ of the collective
lUnstratioiis of the Dodnd.* As an illustration of this truth
tod^chancter of we may point to the feeling of dis-
percep on. cry, ^^^^^^^ where the discoverer's power to
enlighten mankind or to gratify his own pride depends
on his assumption not merely that his testimony will be
believed, but that it deserves to be believed, on his
consciousness, i.e. that not he only but in him the
intellectual society to which he belongs has made the
observation and attained to the fact. The general accept-
^ ^. ance of testimony, again, is witness not

to the general trust of mankind m any
and every individual observer, but to the general recog-
nition of the action of the collective through the indi-
vidual mind. When we give reasons for distrusting
testimony, we assign the testimony to some perverting
cause which has disturbed the individual mind, and
disqualified it from fulfilling its normal office as the
organ of the collective intelligence. Indeed, the actual
distrust of testimony itself is neither more nor less than
the refusal of the collective mind to allow a particular
individual mind to have acted for the collective mind in
a particular case, or the refusal of an individual to join
in the general acceptance of an individual perception of
fact as in fact a collective perception.

The individual mind, indeed, wakes to the exercise
of intelligence in an intelligent, a thinking, society. To
what extent the activity of thought is dependent upon
mere words may be matter of dispute. But if we can
think without even virtually using words, it is only

* Cp. Note D, on " Interaubjective Intercourae," p. 191.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

The Definition of Personality 27

because we can think the meaning of words without
thinking the words themselves. We shall not be
exaggerating the intimacy of union between the indi-
. ^^ vidual and the collective mind if we

creation of the coUec- note, as an instance of it, the depend-

tiTeiiitcffigeiicc,in ^^^ ^f ^^ individual mind on what
wnoae communion tne

indmduai inteUigence is, in fact, the content of language.
^^^^*^ Language is the creation, the expression

of the collective intelligence. It is not merely the
means of communication between mind and mind ; it is
the storehouse of common ideas, the record of the col-
lective perception and experience of the society among
which it circulates. Language is in the intellectual
region what we saw law to be in the region of action —
a hard fact, an undeniable result of the collective action of
individual minds ; an evidence, accordingly, of the intel-
lectual communion of individual persons with another.

If, in the play of intelligence, in the intercourse of
mind with mind, we lay stress on the assertion of indi-
Even the assertion of vidual judgment, and ascribe the pro-

'^^:^^ g^ o'f tl^o'igl^t to the conflict of
Standard of tmth. opinion, this conflict itself concerns
the issue as to trvih. The conflict and the assertion of
individual judgment alike involve and imply a common
standard of truth. And this standard, again, is syste-
matically applied in argument or proof, the very nature
of which implies that we start from the premisses of a
common experience, and establish what is never a merely
individual conviction, always and only a universal, in
the sense of a collective^ conclusion.

Science includes and expresses the aspiration and
hope of the human mind to convert our casual and

Digitized by VjOOQIC

28 An Essay on Personality

unevenly distributed experiences into a collective whole
of human knowledge, to be appropriated by any and
Science aims at every individual independently of his
realising: the results origin or nationality, finding thus an

of an experience that ^ i i» i i -i

assumes itself to be, escape not merely from the bonds set to
by right, coUective. understanding by individual experience
and capacity, but from whatever limitations of thought
or knowledge any intellectual fellowship narrower than
the communion of the universal intelligence may seem
to impose or to maintain.

The authoritative claim of the collective mind, like
the authoritative claim of the collective will, is recog-

The appeal to and the ^^S^^ "^ *^® ^^g^^^ ^^ *^® individual

claim of individual consciousness itself, in the appeal to
a*r^^tion^f1^e^ individual experience as the first step
authority of the to the knowledge of the truth — an

collective mind. 11-11

appeal which, by acceptmg it as a test,
invests it with the authority of universal experience.
Still more is the claim of the individual mind to attain
to the generally accepted truth by genuine conviction,
or else to deny it to be truth, a recognition of the collec-
tive standard as a vital element in the life of the indivi-
dual mind, which contains the strongest possible assertion
of the reality of the collective standard and of its
authority over the individual mind.

Lastly, there is a higher degree of assent than even
individual conviction, in the acceptance of a conclusion,
CoUective beUef *® ^ collective possession of the intel-
makes for the ideal lectual Community of mankind, where
of a creed. ^^ truth is accepted like a scientific or

a philosophical doctrine by the disciples of some great
teacher of mankind as the soul and rationale of a spiritual

Digitized by VjOOQIC

The Definition of Personality 29

movement, laying hold of life, and claiming from the
intellectual sphere authoritative power over the moral
and emotional intercourse of spiritual beings. And this
belief in a principle or a system is carried to its highest
point in the religious idea of a creed, a body of truth
concerning the universal being, the collective life of the
universe, conceived as the rationale of the existence of

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondAn essay on personality as a philosophical principle → online text (page 3 of 19)