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of which it fails to take cognizance, although it
has evidently many things to give to Rationalism
in the way of a constructive philosophy of human
life.

Now it would be easily possible to continue
our study of Pragmatism along some or all of those
different lines and points of view. In the matter,

116



CRITICAL 117

for example, of the affiliations and associations
of Pragmatism, we could show that, in addition
to such things as the "nominalism" and the
utilitarianism, and the positivism, and the " volun-
tarism " and the philosophy of hypotheses, and
the " anti-intellectualism " already referred to,
Pragmatism has an affinity with things as far
apart and as different as the Scottish Philosophy
of Common-sense, the sociological philosophy of
Comte and his followers, the philosophy of Fichte
with its great idea of the world as the " sensualized
sphere " of our duty, the " experience " philosophy
of Bacon and of the entire modern era, and so on.
There is even a "romantic" element in Prag-
matism, and it has, in fact, been called " romantic
utilitarianism." 1 We can understand this if we
think of M. Berthelot's 2 association of it not only

1 And apart from the idealism and the ethical philosophy of which
I speak, in the next chapter, as necessary to convert Pragmatism into
the Humanism it would like to become, Pragmatism is really a kind of
romanticism, the reaction of a personal enthusiasm against the abstrac-
tions of a classical rationalism in philosophy. There is an element of
this romanticism in James's heroic philosophy of life, although I would
prefer to be the last man in the world to talk against this heroic romanti-
cism in any one. It is the great want of our time, and it is the thing
that is prized most in some of the men whom this ephemeral age of
ours still delights to honour. It was exhibited both in Browning and
in George Meredith, for example. Of the former Mr. Chesterton writes
in his trenchant, clean-sweeping little book on The Victorian Age in
Literature, p. 175 : " What he really was was a romantic. He offered
the cosmos as an adventure rather than a scheme." The same thing
could be said about James's *' Will to Believe " Philosophy. Meredith,
although far less of an idealist than Browning, was also an optimist by
temperament rather than by knowledge or by conviction — hence the
elevation of his tone and style in spite of his belated naturalism.

1 In Un Romantisme utilitaire (Paris, Alcan, 191 1), chiefly a study
of the Pragmatism of Nietzsche and Poincare.



n8 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

with Poincare, but with Nietzsche, or of Dr.
Schiller's famous declaration that the genius of
a man's logical method should be loved and
reverenced by him as is " his bride."

And there is always in it, to be sure, the im-
portant element of sympathy with the religious
instincts of mankind. And this is the case, too,
whether these instincts are contemplated in some
of the forms to which reference has already been
made, or in the form, say, expressed by such a
typical modern thinker as the late Henry Sidgwick,
in his conviction that " Humanity will not, and
cannot, acquiesce in a Godless world." 1

Then again we might take up the point of the
relations of Pragmatism to doctrines new and old
in the history of philosophy, to the main points of
departure of different schools of thought, or to
fundamental and important positions in many of
the great philosophers. The writer finds that he
has noticed in this connexion the doctrines of
Stoicism and Epicureanism, 2 the " probability '

1 I am indebted for this saying of one of my old teachers to Mr.
C. F. G. Masterman, in his essay upon Sidgwick in that judicious
and interesting book upon the transition from the nineteenth to the
twentieth century, In Peril of Change.

2 Stoicism and Epicureanism, as the matter is generally put, both
substitute the practical good of man as an individual for the
wisdom or the theoretical perfection that were contemplated by Plato
and Aristotle as the highest objects of human pursuit. For Cicero, too,
the chief problems of philosophy were in the main practical, the question
whether virtue alone is sufficient for happiness, the problem of practical
certainty as opposed to scepticism, the general belief in Providence and
in immortality, and so on. And Lucretius thinks of the main service
of philosophy as consisting in its power of emancipating the human
mind from superstition. All this is quite typical of the essentially



CRITICAL 119

philosophy of Locke 1 and Butler, and Pascal,
the ethics and the natural theology of Cicero,
the " voluntarism " of Schopenhauer, 2 Aristotle's
philosophy of the Practical Reason, 3 Kant's philo-
sophy of the same, the religious philosophy of
theologians like Tertullian, Augustine, Duns Scotus,
and so on — to take only a few instances. 4 The

practical nature of the Roman character, of its conception of education
as in the main discipline and duty, of its distrust of Greek intellectualism,
and of its preoccupation with the necessities of the struggle for existence
and for government, of its lack of leisure, and so on. I do not think
that the very first thing about Pragmatism is its desire to return to a
practical conception of life, although a tendency in this direction doubt-
less exists in it.

1 The idea that our " demonstrable knowledge is very short, if
indeed we have any at all, although our certainty is as great as our
happiness, beyond which we have no concernment to know or to be "
(Essay, iv. 2-14) ; or Locke's words : " I have always thought the actions
of men the best interpreters of their thoughts."

2 Schopenhauer, for example, used to be fond of repeating that his
own philosophy (which took will to be the fundamental reality) was on
its very face necessarily more of an ethic than a system like that of
Spinoza, for example, which could only be called an ethic by a sort
of Incus a non lucendo.

3 The Practical Reason to Aristotle is the reason that has to do with
the pursuit of aims and ends, in distinction from the reason that has
to do with knowledge, and the " universal " and science. This
twofold distinction has given many problems to his students and to his
commentators, and to succeeding generations. It is responsible for
the entire mediaeval and Renaissance separation of the intellectual life
and the intellectual virtues from the practical life and the practical
virtues.

4 It might be added here that Logic has always recognized the
validity, to some extent, of the argument " from consequences " of
which Pragmatism makes so much. The form of argumentation that
it calls the Dilemma is a proof of this statement. A chain of reasoning
that leads to impossible consequences, or that leads to consequences
inconsistent with previously admitted truths, is necessarily unsound.
That this test of tenable or untenable consequences has often
been used in philosophy in the large sense of the term must be known
only too well to the well-informed reader. As Sidgwick says in his
Method of Ethics : " The truth of a philosopher's premises will always



120 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

view of man and his nature represented by all these
names is, in the main, an essentially practical,
a concrete, and a moral view as opposed to
an abstract and a rationalistic view. And of
course even to Plato knowledge was only an
element in the total spiritual philosophy of man,
while his master, Socrates, never really seemed
to make any separation between moral and
intellectual inquiries.

And as for positions in the great philosophers
between which and some of the tendencies of
Pragmatism there is more than a merely super-
ficial agreement, we might instance, for example,
the tendency of Hume 1 to reduce many of the
leading categories of our thought to mere habits
of mind, to be explained on an instinctive rather
than a rationalistic basis ; or Comte's idea of the
error of separating reason from instinct ; 2 or the
idea of de Maistre and Bain, and many others that
" will " is implied in the notion of " exteriority " ;

be tested by the acceptability of his conclusions ; if in any im-
portant point he is found in flagrant conflict with common opinion,
his method will be declared invalid." Reid used the argument from
consequences in his examination of the sceptical philosophy of
Hume. It is used with effect in Mr. Arthur Balfour's Foundations
of Belief in regard to the supposed naturalism of physical science.
Edmund Burke applied it to some extent to political theories, or
to the abstract philosophical theories upon which some of them were
supposedly based.

1 Pragmatism has been called by some critics a " new-Humism "
on the ground of its tendency to do this very thing that is mentioned
here in respect of Hume. But the justice or the injustice of this appella-
tion is a very large question, into which it is needless for us to enter here.

2 Cf. " Intelligence is the aptitude to modify conduct in conformity
to the circumstances of each case " {The Positive Philosophy , Martineau,
i. 465).



CRITICAL 121

or the idea of Descartes * that the senses teach
us not so much " what is in reality in things," as
" what is beneficial 2 or hurtful to the composite
whole of mind and body " ; or the declaration of
Kant that the chief end of metaphysic is God and
immortality ; or the idea of Spencer 3 that the
belief in the unqualified supremacy of reason is a
superstition of philosophers ; or the idea of Plato
in the Sophist 4 that reality is the capacity for acting
or of being acted upon ; and so on.

As for such further confirmation of pragmatist
teaching as is to be found in typical modern
thinking and scholars, thought of almost at
random, it would be easy to quote in this con-
nexion from writers as diverse as Hoffding, Fouill£e,
Simmel, Wundt, Mach, Huxley, Hobhouse, and
many others. It might be called a typically
pragmatist idea, for example, on the part of Mr.
L. T. Hobhouse to hold that "The higher con-
ceptions by which idealism has so firmly held are
not to be ' scientifically ' treated in the sense of
being explained away. What is genuinely higher

1 Principles of Philosophy, Part II. iii. It is also an eminently
pragmatist idea on the part of Descartes to hold that " I should find
much more truth in the reasoning of each individual with reference to
the affairs in which he is personally interested, and the issue of which
must presently punish him if he has judged amiss, than in those con-
ducted by a man of letters in his study, regarding speculative matters
that are of no practical moment " (Method, Veitch's edition, p. 10).

2 Principles of Philosophy, Part II. iii. p. 233.

3 See Principles of Psychology, ch. ii., " Assumption of Meta-
physicians," and also elsewhere in his Essays.

4 " Any power of doing or suffering in a degree however slight was
held by us to be the definition of existence " (Sophist, Jowett's Plato,
iv. p. 465).



122 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

we have . . . good reason to think must also be
truest," and we "cannot permanently acquiesce
in a way of thinking what would resolve it into
what is lowest." x These last words represent
almost a commonplace of the thought of the day.
It is held, for example, by men as different and as
far apart in their work, and yet as typical of phases
of our modern life, as Robert Browning and Sir
Oliver Lodge. The close dependence again of the
doctrines of any science upon the social life and
the prevalent thought of the generation is also
essentially a pragmatist idea. Its truth is recog-
nized and insisted upon in the most explicit
manner in the recent serviceable manifesto of Pro-
fessors Geddes and Thomson upon " Evolution," 2
and it obviously affects their whole philosophy
of life and mind. It figures too quite promi-
nently in the valuable short Introduction to
Science by Professor Thomson in the same series
of manuals.

Another typical book of to-day, again (that of
Professor Duncan on the New Knowledge of the new
physical science), definitely gives up, for example,
the " correspondence " 3 notion of truth, holding
that it is meaningless to think of reality as sorae-

1 The Theory of Knowledge, Preface, p. ix.

2 " The independence of the doctrines of any science from the social
life, the prevalent thought of the generation in which they arise, is
indeed a fiction, a superstition of the scientist which we would fain
shatter beyond all repair ; but the science becomes all the sounder for
recognizing its origins and its resources, its present limitations and its
need of fresh light from other minds, from different social moulds "
(pp. 215-216).

8 See p. 81.



CRITICAL 123

thing outside our thought and our experience of
which our ideas might be a possible duplicate. This
again we readily recognize as an essentially prag-
matist contention. So also is the same writer's
rejection of the notion of " absolute truth," J and
his confession of the "faith" that is always
involved in the thought of completeness or system
in our scientific knowledge. " We believe purely
as an act of faith and not at all of logic," he says,
" that the universe is essentially determinable
thousands of years hence, into some one system
which will account for everything and which will
be the truth." 2

Nor would it be at all difficult to find confirma-
tion for the pragmatist philosophy of ideas and
thoughts in what we may well think of as the
general reflective literature of our time, outside the
sphere, as it were, of strictly rational or academic
philosophy — in writers like F. D. Maurice, W.
Pater, A. W. Benn (who otherwise depreciates
what he calls " ophelism ") , J. H. Newman, Karl
Pearson, Carlyle, and others. 3 Take the following,

* Cf. p. 13.

4 The New Knowledge, p. 255.

3 It would indeed be easy to quote from popular writers of the day,
like Mr. Chesterton or Mr. A. C. Benson or Mr. H. G. Wells, to show that
a knowledge of the existence of Pragmatism as a newer experimental
or " sociological " philosophy is now a commonplace of the day. Take
the following, for example, from Mr. Wells's Marriage (p. 521) : " It was
to be a pragmatist essay, a sustained attempt to undermine the con-
fidence of all that scholastic logic-chopping which still lingers like the
sequelae of a disease in our University philosophy ... a huge criticism
and cleaning up of the existing methods of formulation as a preliminary
to the wider and freer discussion of those religious and social issues our
generation still shrinks from." " It is grotesque," he said, " and utterly



124 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

for example, quoted with approval from Herschel
by Karl Pearson : " The grand and indeed the
only character of truth is its capability of enduring
the test of universal experience, and coming un-
changed out of every possible form of fair dis-
cussion." x The idea again, for example, recently
expressed in a public article by such a widely read
and cleverly perverse writer as Mr. Bernard Shaw, 2
that " the will that moves us is dogmatic : our
brain is only the very imperfect instrument by
which we devise practical means for satisfying
the will," might only too naturally be associated
with the pragmatist-like anti-intellectualism 3 of
Bergson, or, for that part of it, with the deeper
" voluntarism " of Schopenhauer. The following
quotation taken from Mr. Pater reveals how great
may be correspondence between the independent
findings of a finely sensitive mind like his, and the
positions to which the pragmatists are inclined in
respect of the psychology of religious belief. " The
supposed facts on which Christianity rests, utterly
incapable as they have become of any ordinary
test, seem to me matter of very much the same
sort of assent as we give to any assumption in the
strict and ultimate sense, moral. The question
whether these facts were real will, I think, always
continue to be what I should call one of those



true that the sanity and happiness of all the world lies in its habits of
generalization."

1 I cannot meantime trace, or place, this quotation, although I
remember copying it out of something by Karl Pearson.

2 In the Literary Digest for 191 1. 3 See p. 234.



CRITICAL 125

natural questions of the human mind." l Readers
of Carlyle will easily recognize what we might call
a more generalized statement of this same truth
of Pater's in the often-quoted words from Heroes
and Hero-Worship : 2 "By religion I do not mean
the church creed which a man professes, the
articles of faith which .... But the thing a man
does practically believe (and this often enough
without asserting it even to himself, much less to
others); the thing a man does practically lay to
heart and know for certain concerning his vital
relations to the mysterious universe, and his duty
and destiny there." It has long seemed to the
writer that a similar thing to this might be written
(and James has certainly written it) about a man's
" philosophy " as necessarily inclusive of his
working beliefs as well as of his mere reasoned
opinions, although it is the latter that are
generally (by what right ?) taken to be properly
the subject-matter of philosophy. 3 And it is this
phase of the pragmatist philosophy that could, I
am inclined to think, be most readily illustrated
from the opinions of various living and dead writers
upon the general working philosophy of human
nature as we find this revealed in human history.
We are told, for example, by Mr. Hobhouse, in his
monumental work upon Morals in Evolution, that
in " Taoism the supreme principle of things may

1 From a letter to Mrs. Humphry Ward, quoted in A. C Benson's
Walter Pater, p. 200. 2 Lecture I. towards the beginning.

3 See p. 62 and p. 197. It should be remembered that our reasoned
opinions rest upon our working beliefs.



i 2 6 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

be left undefined as something that we experience
in ourselves if we throw ourselves upon it, but
which we know rather by following or living it
than by any process of ratiocination." 1 And
" this mystical interpretation," he adds, " is not
confined to Taoism, but in one form or another
lies near to hand to all spiritual religions, and
expresses one mode of religious consciousness, its
aspiration to reach the heart of things and the
confidence that it has done so, and found rest
there."

We are reminded, of course, by all such con-
siderations of the philosophy of Bergson, and of its
brilliant attempt to make a synthesis of intuition
or instinct with reflection or thought, and indeed
it may well be that the past difficulties of philo-
sophy with intuition and instinct are due to the
fact of its error in unduly separating the intellect
from the " will to live," and from the " creative "
evolution that have been such integral factors in
the evolution of the life of humanity.

This entire matter, however, of the comparison
of pragmatist doctrines to typical tendencies in
the thought of the past and the present must be
treated by us as subordinate to our main purpose,
that of the estimation of the place of Pragmatism
in the constructive thought of the present time.
With a view to this it will be necessary to revert
to the criticism of Pragmatism.

The criticism that has already been made is

* Vol. ii. p. 86.



CRITICAL 127

that in the main Pragmatism is unsystematic and
complex and confusing, that it has no adequate
theory of " reality," and no unified theory of
philosophy, that it has no satisfactory criterion of
the " consequences " by which it proposes to test
truth, and that it has not worked out its philosophy
of the contribution of the individual with his
" activity " and his " purposes " to " reality "
generally, and that it is in danger of being a failure
in the realm of ethics. 1

To all this we shall now seek to add a few words
more upon (1) the pragmatist criterion of truth,
(2) the weakness of Pragmatism in the realms of
logic and theory of knowledge, (3) its failure to
give consistent account of the nature of reality,
and (4) its unsatisfactoriness in the realm of
ethics.

(1) We have already expressed our agreement
with the finding of Professor Pratt 2 that the prag-
matist theory of truth amounts to no more than the
harmless doctrine that the meaning of any con-
ception expresses itself in the past, present, or
future conduct or experiences of actual, or possible,
sentient creatures. Taken literally, however, the
doctrine that truth should be tested by con-
sequences is not only harmless but also useless,
seeing that Omniscience alone could bring together
in thought or in imagination all the consequences
of an assertion. Again, it is literally false for the

1 Sec the reference in Chapter II. p. 26 to the opportunistic ethic
of Prezzolini. a In What is Pragmatism? Macmillan & Co.



128 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

reason that the proof of truth is not in the first
instance any kind of " consequences," not even
the " verification " of which pragmatists are so
fond. If the truth of which we may happen to
be thinking is truth of " fact," its proof lies in its
correspondence (despite the difficulties 1 of the idea)
with the results of observation or perception. 2
And if it be inferential truth, its proof is that of
its deduction from previously established truths,
or facts, upon a certain plane of knowledge
or experience. In short, Pragmatists forget
altogether the logical doctrine of the existence
(in the world of our human experience, of course)
of different established planes of reality, or
planes of ascertained knowledge in which all pro-
positions that are not nonsensical or trivial, are,
from their very inception, regarded as necessarily
true or false. The existence of these various
planes of experience or of thought is in fact implied
in the pragmatist doctrine of the fundamental
character of belief. 3 According to this perfectly
correct doctrine, the objectivity of truth (i.e. its
reality or non-reality in the world of fact or in the
world of rational discourse) is the essential thing
about it, while the idea of its "consequences'
is not. A truth is a proposition whose validity
has already been established by evidence or

i Cf. p. 81.

2 Professor Pratt makes an attempt in his book on What is Prag-
matism ? (pp. 75-6-7) to show that the true meaning of the " correspond-
ence theory" is not inconsistent with Pragmatism or that Pragmatism
is not inconsistent with this truth.

8 Cf. supra, p. 64.



CRITICAL 129

by demonstration. It has then afterwards the
immediate "utility" of expressing in an intelli-
gible and convenient manner the fact of certain
connexions among things or events. And its
ultimate utility to mankind is also at the same
time assured, humanity being by its very nature a
society of persons who must act, and who act, upon
what they believe to be the truth or the reality
of things. But a proposition is by no means
true because it is useful. Constantine believed
eminently in the concord-producing utility of
certain confessions enunciated at the Council of
Nice, but his belief in this does not prove their
truth or reality outside the convictions of the faith-
ful. Nor does the pragmatist or utilitarian char-
acter of certain portions of the writings of the
Old Testament or of the Koran prove the matter
of their literal and factual truth in the ordinary
sense of these terms. As Hume said, " When any
opinion leads us into absurdities 'tis certainly false,
but 'tis not certain that an opinion is false because
it has dangerous consequences."

And then, apart from this conspicuous absence
of logic in the views of pragmatists upon " truth,"
the expression of their doctrine is so confusing that
it is almost impossible to extract any consistent
meaning out of it. They are continually con-
founding conceptions and ideas and propositions,
forgetful of the fact that truth resides not in
concepts and ideas but only in propositions.
While it may be indeed true, as against Rationalism,



130 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

that all human conceptions whatsoever [and
it is only in connexion with " conceptions " that
Pragmatism is defined even in such an official place
as Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy x ] have, and
must have, reference to actual or possible human
experience or consequences, it is by no means true
that the test of a proposition is anything other
than the evidence of which we have already spoken.

Then the pragmatists have never adequately
defined terms that are so essential to their purposes
as " practical," " truth," " fact," " reality," " con-


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