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such a belated conception of the individual be regarded as ethics at all ?

3 I do not think that this is a fair preliminary description of the
problem of teleology. A person who believes in the realization of
purpose in some experiences with which he thinks himself to be ac-
quainted does not plead for the guidance of the universe by finite minds,
but simply for a view of it that shall include the truth of human purposes.
And of course there may be in the universe beings other than ourselves
who also realize purposes.


that his subject-matter throughout will be " the
principle of ' individuality/ of ' self -completeness/
as the clue to reality." This " individuality "
or " self-completeness " is then set forth in a
quasi-Platonic manner as the " universal," the
real " universal " being (he insists) the " concrete
universal," the " whole," that is to say, " the
logical system of connected members," that is to
him the " ideal of all thought." We must think
of this " individuality," therefore, either as "a
living world, complete and acting out of itself, a
positive, self-moulding cosmos," or "as a definite
striving of the universe " [I] 1

The next question (so far as our partial purposes
are concerned) that Dr. Bosanquet asks is, " What
help do we get from the notion of a ' mind ' which
1 purposes ' or ' desires ' things in appreciating
the work of factors in the universe, or of the
universe as [ex-hypothesi] self-directing and self-
experiencing whole ? " The answer is spread
over several chapters, and is practically this, that
although there is undoubtedly a " teleology " in
the universe (in the shape of the " conjunctions
and results of the co-operation of men," or of
" the harmony of geological and biological evolu-
tion "), and although " minds such as ours play a
part in the work of direction, we cannot judge of
this work in question in any human manner."
The real test of teleology or value is " wholeness,"
" completeness," " individuality " [the topic of

1 Italics and exclamation mine.


the book], and it is made quite clear that it is the
"Absolute" who is "rear' and "individual"
and not we. We are, indeed, in our lives " carried
to the Absolute without a break," * and our nature
"is only in process of being communicated to us." 2
"We should not think of ourselves after the pattern
of separate things or personalities in the legal
sense, nor even as selves in the sense of isolation
and exclusion of others." " Individuality " being
this " logical self -completeness," there can be
only one " Individual," and this one Individual
is the one criterion of " value," or " reality," or
" existence," " importance " and " reality [!] "
being sides of the one " characteristic " [i.e.
" thinkableness " as a whole]. Dr. Bosanquet
confesses in his seventh chapter that this idea
of his of " individuality," or " reality," is es-
sentially the Greek idea that it is only the " whole
nature " of things that gives them their reality
or value.

We are then assured, towards the close of this
remarkable book, that " freedom " (the one thing

1 Italics mine. There is a large element of truth in this great idea
of Professor Bosanquet's, connecting [for our purposes] his philosophy
with the theism and the personalism for which we are contending as
the only true and real basis for Humanism.

2 Readers who remember Green's Prolegomena to Ethics will
remember that it is one of the difficulties of that remarkable, but one-
sided, production (exposed, I think, with many other defects in Pro-
fessor Taylor's brilliant, but unduly intellectualistic Problem of Conduct)
that it also seems to teach a kind of " Determinism " in ethics, in what
our nature is unduly communicated to us by the Absolute, or the
" Eternal Consciousness." This whole way of looking at things must
largely be abandoned to-day.


that we mortals value as the greatest of all "goods")
is " the inherent effort of mind considered as a [!]
world, and that the " Absolute " [the " universal "
of logic, Plato's " Idea "] is the " high-water mark
of our effort," and that each " self " is " more like
a rising and a falling tide than an isolated pillar with
a fixed circumference." The great fact of the
book, the fact upon which its accomplished author
rests when he talks in his Preface of his belief,
" that in the main the work [of philosophy] has
been done," is the daily " transmutation of
experience according to the level of the mind's
energy and self-completeness," the continued and
the continuous "self -interpretation [of 'experience']
through the fundamental principle of individu-

Now it is quite obvious that according to many
of the considerations that have been put forward
as true in the foregoing chapters, this philosophy
of Dr. Bosanquet's which treats the " concept,"
or the " universal " as an end in itself (as the one
answer to all possible demands for a " teleology ")
and as an " individual," " a perfected and self-
perfecting [!] individual," can be regarded as
but another instance of the abstract Rationalism
against which Pragmatism and Humanism have
entered their protests. It is untrue, therefore,
to the real facts of knowledge and the real
facts of human nature. It will be sufficient to
state that the considerations of which we are
thinking are (in the main) the positions that have


been taken in respect of such things as : (1) the
claim that a true metaphysic must serve not
merely as an intellectual " system " but as a
" dynamic," and as a " motive " for action and
achievement; (2) the fact of the "instrumental"
character of thought and of ideas, and of all
systems (of science or of philosophy or of
politics) that fail to include as part of their data
the various ideals of mankind ; (3) the idea that
all truth and all thought imply a belief in the
existence of objects and persons independent of
the mere mental states or activities of the think-
ing individual, and that belief rather than know-
ledge is, and always has been, man's funda-
mental and working estimate of reality ; (4)
the fact that our human actions and re-actions
upon reality are a part of what we mean by
" reality," and that these actions and re-actions of
ours are real and not imaginary ; (5) the attitude
in general of Pragmatism to Rationalism ; (6) the
various concessions that have been made by
representative rationalists to the pragmatist

Dr. Bosanquet's theory of reality has already
impressed some of his most competent critics as
utterly inadequate as a motive or an incentive to
the efforts and endeavours of men as we know
them in history and in actual life, and we shall
immediately return to this topic. And although
there are many signs in his Lectures that he is
himself quite aware of the probability of such an


impression, his book proceeds upon the even tenor
of its way, following wherever his argument may
lead him, irrespective entirely of the truth con-
tained in the facts and the positions we have
just recounted and reaffirmed. It lends itself,
therefore, only too naturally to our present use
of it as a highly instructive presentation of many,
or most, of the tendencies of Rationalism and
Intellectualism, against which Pragmatism and
Humanism would fain protest. At the same time
there is in it, as we hope to show, a fundamental
element 1 of truth and of fact without which there
could be no Pragmatism and no Humanism, and
indeed no philosophy at all.

A broad, pervading inconsistency 2 in In-

1 See below, p. 226.

2 It is, I am inclined to think, the existence of this contradiction in
Dr. Bosanquet's Lectures that will cause the average intelligent person
to turn away from them as not affording an adequate account of the
reality of the world of persons and things with which he knows himself
to be directly and indirectly acquainted. Another way of stating the
same thing would be to say that Absolutism fails to take any adequate
recognition of that most serious contradiction (or " defect ") in our ex-
perience of which we have already spoken as the great dualism of modern
times, the opposition between reason and faith an opposition that is
not relieved either by the greatest of the continually increasing dis-
coveries of science, or by any, or all, of the systems of all the thinkers.
Hegelianism in general assures us that from the point of view of a
" higher synthesis " this opposition does not exist or that it is somehow
" transcended." And its method of effecting this synthesis is to convert
the opposition between faith and reason into the opposition between
what it calls '* Understanding " and what it calls " Reason " [an
opposition that is to some extent a fictitious one, " reason " being, to
begin with, but another name for our power of framing general con-
ceptions or notions, and not therefore different from "understanding"].
It removes, that is to say, the opposition between two different phases
or aspects of our experience by denying the existence of one of
them altogether. It changes the opposition between knowledge and


dividuality and Value " which militates somewhat
seriously against the idea of its being regarded
as a tenable philosophy, is the obvious one
between the position (1) that true reality is
necessarily individual, and the position (2) that
reality is to be found in the " universal ' (or the
"concept ") of logic. 1 It would, however, perhaps
be unfair to expect Dr. Bosanquet to effect a

faith into an opposition between an alleged lower and an alleged
higher way of knowing. This alleged higher way of knowing, how-
ever, is, when we look into it, but the old ideal of the perfect
demonstration of all the supposed contents of our knowledge (prin-
ciples and facts alike) that has haunted modern philosophy from the
time of Descartes. It is an unattainable ideal because no philosophy
in the world can begin without some assumption (either of " fact "
or of principle), and because our knowledge of the world comes
to us in a piecemeal fashion — under the conditions of time and
space. A fact prior to all the issues of the demand of Rationalism
for a supposedly perfect demonstration is the existence of the conscious
beings (Dr. Bosanquet himself, for example) who seek this supposed
certainty in order that they may act better — in ignorance of the fact that
complete initial certainty on our part as to all the issues and aspects
of our actions would tend to destroy the personal character of our
choice as moral agents, as beings who may occasionally act beyond the
given and the calculable, and set up precedents and ideals for ourselves
and for others — for humanity. It is this underlying faith then in the
reality of our moral and spiritual nature that we would alone oppose
(and only in a relative sense) to the supposed certainties of a completely
rational, or a priori, demonstration, the whole contention of humanism
being that it is in the interests of the former reality that the latter
certainties exist. The apparent opposition between faith and reason
would be surmounted by a philosophy that should make conscious-
ness of ourselves as persons the primal certainty, and all other forms
of consciousness or of knowledge secondary and tributary, as it were,
to this.

1 I am aware that there is a difference between the " universal " of
ordinary formal logic and Dr. Bosanquet's (or Hegel's) " concrete
universal," but it is needless for me to think of it here. Dr. Bosanquet
uses in his Lectures the phrase " logical universal " for his " concrete
universal " or his principle of positive coherence. It is always logical
coherence that he has in view.


harmony between these two positions that Aris-
totle (who held them both) was himself very
largely unable to do. There is, in other words, a
standing and a lasting contradiction between
any and all philosophy which holds that it is
reason [or logic] alone that attains to truth and
reality, and the apparently natural and inevit-
able tendency of the human mind [it is repre-
sented in Dr. Bosanquet's own procedure] to
seek after " reality " in the " individual " thing,
or person, or being, and in the perfecting of
" individuality " in God (or in a kingdom of
perfected individuals).

The positive errors, however, which we would
venture to refer to as even more fatal to Dr.
Bosanquet's book than any of its incidental in-
consistencies are those connected with the following
pieces of procedure on his part : (i) his manifest
tendency to treat the " universal " as if it were
an entity on its own account with a sort of develop-
ment and " value " and " culmination " of its
own ; * (2) his tendency to talk and think as if
a " characteristic " or a " predicate " (i.e. the
" characteristic " or " quality " that some ex-
periencing being or some thinker attributes to
reality) could be treated as anything at all apart
from the action and the reaction of this " experient '

1 " For everywhere it is creative Logic, the nature of the whole working
in the detail, which constitutes experience, and is appreciable in so far
as experience has value." Now Logic of itself does not thus " work "
or " do " anything. It is men or persons who do things by the help
of logic and reasoning and other things — realities and forces, etc.


(or " thinker ") conceived as an agent ; (3) the
tendency to talk of " minds " x rather than persons,
as " purposing " and " desiring " things ; (4) his
tendency to talk as if " teleology " were " whole-
ness " ; (5) his tendency to regard (somewhat in the
manner of Spinoza) " selves " and " persons " as
like " rising and falling tides," and of the self as
a " world of content " 2 engaged in certain " trans-
formations " ; and (6) his tendency to think and
speak as if demonstration [" mediation " is perhaps
his favourite way of thinking of the logical process]
were an end in itself, as if we lived to think, instead
of thinking to live.

In opposition to all this it may be affirmed
firstly that every " conception " of the human
mind is but the more or less clear consciousness
of a disposition to activity, and is representative,
not so much of the " features " of objects which
might appear to be their " characteristics " from
a purely theoretical point of view, as of the different

1 Cf. p. 31. " We are minds," he says, "i.e. living microcosms, not
with hard and fast limits, but determined by our range and powers
which fluctuate very greatly." My point simply is that this is too
intellectual! stic a conception of man's personality. We have minds,
but we are not minds.

2 See p. 192. " But as the self is essentially a world of content en-
gaged in certain transformations"; and p. 193, " a conscious being . . .
is a world ... in which the Absolute begins to reveal its proper
nature." How can a " world of content " [that is to say, the " sphere
of discourse" of what some person is thinking for some purpose or
other] be " engaged " in certain transformations ? It is the person, or
the thinker, who is transforming the various data of his experience
for his purposes as a man among men. It is time that philosophy ceased
to make itself ridiculous by calmly writing down such abstractions as
if they were facts.


ways in which objects have seemed to men to sub-
serve the needs of their souls and bodies. The
study of the development of the " concept " in
connexion with the facts of memory and with the
slow evolution of language, and with the "socialized
percepts " of daily life will all tend to confirm this
position. The phenomena of religion, for example,
and all the main concepts of all the religions are
to be studied not merely as intellectual phenomena,
as solutions of some of the many difficulties of
modern Agnosticism, or of modern Rationalism,
or of modern Criticism, but as an expressive
of the modes of behaviour of human beings (with
all their needs and all their ideals) towards
the universe in which they find themselves, and
towards the various beings, seen and unseen, which
this universe symbolises to them. These pheno-
mena and these conceptions are unintelligible, in
short, apart from the various activities and cults
and social practices and social experiences and
what not, with which they have dealt from first
to last.

Then it is literally impossible to separate in the
manner of Dr. Bosanquet the " predicate " of
thought from the active relations sustained by
things towards each other, or towards the human
beings who seek to interpret these active relations
for any or for all " purposes." Dr. Bosanquet's
idea, however, of the relation of " mind " to
" matter," to use these symbols for the nonce (for
they are but such), is in the main purely "repre-


sentational " x or intellectualistic. 2 To him "mind"
seems to reflect either a " bodily content " or
some other kind of " content " 3 that seems to
exist for a " spectator " of the world, or for the
" Absolute," rather than for the man himself as an
agent, who of course uses his memories of himself,
or his " ideal " of himself, for renewed effort and
activity. One of the most important consequences
of this unduly intellectualistic view of mind is
that Dr. Bosanquet seems (both theoretically and
practically) unable to see the place of " mind,"
as " purpose," in ordinary life, 4 or of the place of
mind in evolution, 5 giving us in his difficult but
important chapter on the " relation of mind and
body ' a version of things that approaches only
too perilously close to Parallelism or Dualism, or
even to Materialism. 6 And along with this quasi-
" representational " or " copy-like " theory of
mind there are to be associated his representational

1 Cf. " Mind as the significance and interpretation of reality," p. 27.

2 " Mind has nothing of its own but the active form of totality, every-
thing positive it draws from Nature."

8 This again is an abstraction, and how on earth can it be said that
" mind " and conscious life " reflect " merely certain abstractions (or
creations) of their own ? They have invented such terms as " content "
for certain purposes, and their own being and nature is therefore more
than these terms. Mind is not a " content " ; it makes all other things
" contents " for itself.

4 It has even there, according to Dr. Bosanquet, only its purely
theoretic function of working after its own perfection in the way of
attaining to a logical " universal." " The peculiarity of mind for us,
is to be a world of experience working itself out towards harmony and
completeness." This is simply not true.

6 " Finite consciousness, whether animal or human, did not make
its body."

6 " Thus there is nothing in mind which the physical counterpart
cannot represent." (Italics mine.)


and intellectualistic views of the " self " * and the
" universal " 2 and " spirit." 3

There are, doubtless, hints in Dr. Bosanquet's
pages of a more " dynamic " view of mind or of
a deeper view 4 than this merely "representational "
view, but they are not developed or worked into the
main portion of his argument, which they would
doubtless very largely transform. This is greatly
to be regretted, for we remember that even Hegel
seemed to notice the splitting-up of the real
for our human purposes which takes place in the
ordinary judgment. And of course, as we have

1 " What we call the individual, then, is not a fixed essence, but a
living world of content representing a certain range of externality."
P. 289.

2 " The system of the universe, as was said in an earlier Lecture, might
be described as a representative system. Nature, or externality [!] fives
in the fives of conscious beings. (Italics mine.)

3 " Spirit is a light, a focus, a significance [!] which can only be by
contact with a ' nature ' an external world."

* " For, on the other hand, it has been urged and we feel, that it is
thought which constructs and sustains the fabric of experience, and that it
is thought-determinations which invest even sense-experience with its
value and its meaning. . . . The ultimate tendency of thought, we have
seen, is not to generalise, but to constitute a world," p. 55. Again, " the
true office of thought, we begin to see, is to build up, to inspire with
meaning, to intensify, to vivify. The object which thought, in the true
sense, has worked upon, is not a relic of decaying sense, but is a living
world, analogous to a perception of the beautiful, in which every thought-
determination adds fresh point and deeper bearing to every element of
the whole," p. 58. And on p. 178 he says that he sees no objection to
an idealist recognising the " use made of " " laws " and " dispositions "
in recent psychology. [How one wishes that Dr. Bosanquet had really
worked into his philosophy the idea that every mental " element " is
in a sense a " disposition " to activity !] Some of these statements of
Dr. Bosanquet's have almost a pragmatist ring about them, a suggestion
of a living and dynamic (rather than a merely intellectualistic) con-
ception of thought. They may therefore be associated by the reader
with the concessions to Pragmatism by other rationalists of which we
spoke in an early chapter (see p. 74).


noticed, all " purpose " is practical and theoretical
at one and the same time.

Then, thirdly, it is persons, and not " minds,"
who desire and purpose things, " mind ' being
a concept invented by the spectator of activity
in a person other than himself, which (from
the analogy of his own conscious activity and
experience) he believes to be purposive. 1 Dr.
Bosanquet's use, too, of the expression "mind "
invariably leaves out of the range of consideration
the phenomena of desire and volition — intelligible,
both of them, only by reference to an end that
is to be understood from within, and not from
outside of the personality, from the point of
view of the mere spectator. The phenomena of
desire and volition are just as integral ingredients
of our lives as persons as are our cognitive states.

Fourthly, it is doubtful whether the treatment
of teleology as " wholeness " (or its sublimation
in " Individuality and Value " into " wholeness ")
is much of an explanation of this difficult topic,
or indeed whether it is any explanation at all.
Dr. Bosanquet, in fact, confesses that teleology
is a conception which " loses its distinctive meaning
as we deepen its philosophical interpretation, and
that it has very little meaning when applied to
the universe as a whole " [a thing that is apparent
to any Kantian student]. "It is impossible
seriously," he says, " to treat a mind which is the
universe [!] as a workman of limited resources,

1 See Chapter III. p. 90.



aiming at some things and obliged to accept others
as means to these." And it is equally impossible,
he holds, to apply " to the universe " the dis-
tinction of " what is purpose for its own sake and
what is not so." In fact, Dr. Bosanquet's treat-
ment of teleology is thus mainly negative, as
including not only this rejection 1 of the notion in
reference to the " universe as a whole," but its
rejection, too, in reference to the purposes of our
human life; 2 although he admits (as of course
he must) that the conception of end or purpose
is drawn from some of the features (" the simplest
features," he says) of our " finite life," or " finite
consciousness," If the notion were "to be re-
tained at all," he says, " it could only be a
name for some principle which would help to tell
us what has value quite independent of being or not
being, the purpose of some mind." 3 Now, of course,
according to the Pragmatism and Humanism that
we have been considering in this book, no intelligent
person could take any conceivable interest in such
a useless fancy as a teleology of this kind. Thus
teleology is really blotted out altogether of
existence in this volume, and with its disappearance
there must go also the notion of any value that
might be intelligibly associated with the idea of the

1 I must say that apart from any questions in detail about this
rejection of teleology by Dr. Bosanquet, there is something inexplicable
about it to me. He cannot retain his own great notion of " wholeness "
without the idea of" end," because" wholeness " is a demand of thought

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Online LibraryWilliam CaldwellPragmatism and idealism → online text (page 16 of 21)