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that is guided by some idea of purpose or end.

2 See p. 90.

3 Italics mine.


attainment of purposes or ends by the human
beings with whom we are acquainted in our
ordinary daily life.

We shall below 1 refer to the fact that this
rejection of teleology and value is one that must
be regarded as fatal to ethics or to Absolutism in
the realm of ethics. It requires, too, to be added
here that even the most unprejudiced reading of
Dr. Bosanquet's work must create in the mind of
the reader the conviction that its author is
altogether unfair to the views of those who believe
in the existence of definite manifestations of
purpose in human life. 2 He talks as if those who
uphold this idea or this fact are committed either
to the absurd notion that man is " the end of the
universe," or to the equally absurd notion that
" art, thought, society, history, in which mind
begins to transcend its finiteness should be ascribed
to the directive abilities of units in a plurality,
precisely apart from the world content and
the underlying solidarity of spirits, the medium
through which all great things are done."

With a view of bringing our discussion of these
striking Gifford Lectures within the scope of the
general subject of this book the following might
be regarded as their leading, fundamental char-
acteristics to which the most serious kind of
exception might well be taken : (1) its " abstrac-
tionism " 3 and its general injustice to fact due to

1 P. 225. 2 gee p. 90.

3 Having already given instances of this abstractionism in the case


its initial and persistent " conviction " x [strange
to say, this is the very word used by Bosanquet]
that the real movement in things is a " logical "
movement ; (2) its fallacious conception of the task
of philosophy as mainly the obligation to think the
world " without contradiction " ; (3) its obvious
tendency in the direction of the " subjective
idealism " 2 that has been the bane of so much
modern philosophy and that is discarded altogether 3
by Pragmatism and Humanism ; (4) its retention

of such things as the " self " and the " universal " and " spirit," it will
suffice to point out here in addition (i) its tendency to talk of " experi-
ence " and " experiences " as if there could be such things apart from the
prior real existence of the experients or the experiencing persons with
whom we are acquainted in our daily life, and (2) its tendency to talk
of getting at " the heart of actual life and love " in a " system " which
leaves no place for the real existence of either gods or men who live
and love. And then I trust that it may not be regarded as an
impertinence to allege as another puzzling piece of abstractionism on
the part of Dr. Bosanquet, that he has allowed himself to speak and
think in his book as if his theory of the " concrete universal " were
practically a new thing in the thought of our time — apart altogether,
that is to say, from the important work in this same direction of
other Neo-Hegelian writers, and apart, too, from the unique work of
Hegel in the same connexion.

1 See below, p. 230.

2 This is revealed in the main in its exposition of the world as the
logical system of a single complete individual experience — a tend-
ency that students of philosophy know to exist in Neo-Hegelianism
generally from Green to Bradley. I admit that this tendency is
literally a different thing from solipsism in the ordinary sense, as the
inability of a particular finite person to prove to himself that any
person or thing exists except himself. It is still, however, it seems
to me, possible to regard as solipsistic the tendency to set forth the
universe as the experience, or the thought, of a single experient or a
single thinker, even although the impersonalism of Dr. Bosanquet's
logical " whole ' conflicts somewhat with the individuality of his

8 Cf. p. 160.


of many of the characteristic polemical 1 faults
of Neo-Hegelianism and its manifestation of a
similar spirit of polemical unfairness 2 on the part
of their accomplished author ; (5) its implica-
tion in several really hopeless contradictions in
addition to the broad contradiction already re-
ferred to ; (6) its failure [a common Neo-Hegelian
failing] to do justice to the spirit and (in certain
important regards) the letter of Kant ; (7) its
essential non-moralism or its apparently anti-
ethical character.

As for the first of these charges, the " abstrac-
tionism " of " Individuality and Value," coming
as it does on the top of the general perversity
of the book, is really a very disastrous thing

1 The well-known inability of Mr. Bradley, for example, to be content
with the reality of any portion or any phase of reality that falls short
of what he regards as absolute reality, and with the merely relative
meaning that he attaches to any category of the " finite." Also the
well-known Neo-Hegelian tendency to make an opponent forge the
weapon by which he is to be dislodged from any particular point of view.
In the case of Dr. Bosanquet this tendency takes the form of making
out any one who holds to a belief in the real existence of finite conscious
persons to hold the absurd position of believing in "an impervious
and isolated self," a thing, of course, that no one who knows anything
about biology or ethics, or social psychology, really does.

2 As another instance of Dr. Bosanquet's unintentional unfairness
to his opponents, I would note his positive injustice to Theism as such.
What many of us think of (however imperfectly) and believe in as God
is invariably to him " a theistic Demiurge in his blankness and isolation.' '
I do not believe in such an abstract Demiurge any more than I believe
in the separate, isolated self that he conjures up to his mind when he
thinks of personality. The problem of the twentieth century may well
be what Dr. Ward has signalised as the relation of God to the "Absolute "
of the Hegelian metaphysicians, but this suggestion simply means to
me the discovery on the part of philosophers of terms and concepts
more adequate to the Supreme Being than either the Absolute, or the
external deity rejected by Dr. Bosanquet.


for philosophy. While we may pardon an en-
thusiastic literary Frenchman x for saying that,
" The fact is, you see, that a fine book is the end
for which the world was made," there is hardly
any excuse for a philosopher like Dr. Bosanquet
coming before the world with the appearance of
believing that the richly differentiated universe
that we know only in part, exists for the benefit
of the science that he represents, for the dialectic
of the metaphysician, to enable the " universal "
to " become more differentiated " and " more in-
dividualized," to become " more representative '
of the " whole." 2 We might compare, says Dr.
Bosanquet, in a striking and an enthralling 3
passage, " the Absolute to Dante's mind as uttered
in the Divine Comedy ... as including in a
single, whole poetic experience a world of space
and persons, . . . things that, to any ordinary

1 Stephane Mallarme, according to Nordau in Degeneration, p. 103.

2 And the general reader must remember that the " whole " is always
(with all due respect to his high dialectic ability and his high temper
of mind and his scholarship) a kind of ignis fatuus in Dr. Bosanquet's
book, a kind of shadow thrown by the lamps and the tools of his own
choosing in his Quixotic search. The "whole" is the "perfected
individuality " of the individual who sets out to find truth in this
great world of ours with all its real possibilities of gain and loss.
It is the completion of the " system " of truth to which the truth-
seeker would fain reduce the entire universe, that becomes for him (for
the time being) the mere " subject-matter " of his thought. It is, that
is to say, in both cases, a purely formal conception— an abstraction,
although to Dr. Bosanquet it is the reality implied in the very exist-
ence and activity of the individual thinker. But the latter is the case
to him only because he looks upon man as existing to think instead of as
thinking to exist.

3 That is to say, for the scholar and the lover of Dante and Dante's


mind, fall apart." Now even apart from the
highly interesting question of the manifestly great
and far-reaching influence of Dante over Dr.
Bosanquet, and apart, too, from the notable
modesty of Dr. Bosanquet's confession as to the
" imperfect " character of the simile just repro-
duced, no one to-day can think of attaching any
ultimate importance to " Dante's mind " without
thinking of the extent to which this truly great
man 1 was under the influence, not only of his own
passions and of the general " problem " of his own
life, but of such specialized influences as, for
example (1) the mediaeval dualism between the
City of God and the Empire of the World, (2)
Aristotle's unfortunate separation of the " intel-
lectual " and the " practical " virtues, (3) the evil
as well as the good of the dogmatic theology of
the fathers of the Church. Goethe is of infinitely
more value to us men of the twentieth century
than Dante. And one of the very things Goethe
is most calculated to teach us is precisely this very
matter of the limitations of the cultural ideal of the
Middle Ages and of the entire Renaissance period
that succeeded it. 2 We should never, therefore,
think for a moment of taking Dr. Bosanquet's
intellectual abstractionism about the " universal "
literally without thinking at the same time of its

1 For he was not merely a " mind," reflecting " Italy " and " minds "
and " experiences."

2 And that, we might add, is still kept alive by some of our
humanists and educators of to-day as the ideal for both primary and
secondary education.


limitations, and of its sources in Plato and in
Hegel and in Neo-Hegelian rationalism, and of
remembering with Hegel himself, " after all, the
movement of the notion is a sort of illusion."

Then, secondly, to attempt to think in philo-
sophy or any other science merely in accordance
with the Principle of <( Non-Contradiction' will
never 1 take us beyond the few initial positions
of fact or of principle (God, "substance," pure
being, matter, identity, final cause, freedom, force,
the will, the idea a perfect being, or what not) with
which we happen for one reason or another to start
in our reflections. Nor will this procedure ac-
count, of course, for these initial assumptions or

Thirdly, in virtue of its implication in the
" solipsism ' and the " representationalism " of
Subjective Idealism, Dr. Bosanquet's " Absolute "
is inferior (both so far as fact and theory are con-
cerned) to the Pluralism and the possible Theism
of Pragmatism and Humanism to which we have
already made partial references. 2

1 This is a thing that the beginner is taught in lectures introductory
to the study of the philosophy of Kant — in regard to Kant's relation
to the barren, dogmatic formalism of Wolff — a one-sided interpreter of
the philosophy of Leibniz. I am quite aware that Dr. Bosanquet does
not merely use the Principle of Non-Contradiction in the aggressive, or
polemical, manner of Mr. Bradley in Appearance and Reality. The
principle of positive coherence at which he aims, begins, to some extent,
where Mr. Bradley stopped. But it is still the idea of consistency or
inconsistency, with certain presuppositions of his own, that rules his
thinking ; it determines, from the very outset of his Lectures, what
he accepts and what he rejects.

2 See p. 152 and p. 156, note 2.


Fourthly, it is only natural that, on account of
these, its many polemical mannerisms, " Individu-
ality and Value " has already made upon some
of its critics the impression of being a book that
refuses to see things as they are — in the interests
of their forced adaptation to the purposes of a
preconceived philosophical theory.

Fifthly, there is certainly a sufficient number of
contradictions in " Individuality and Value " to
prevent it from being regarded as a consistent and
a workable (i.e. really explanatory) account of
our experience as we actually know it. Of these
contradictions we think the following may well be
enumerated here : (1) That between Dr. Bosan-
quet's professed principle of accepting as real only
that which is " mediated " or established by proof,
and the arbitrariness he displays in announcing
convictions like the following : " That what really
matters is not the preservation of separate minds
as such, but the qualities and achievement which,
as trustees of the universe, they elicit from the
resources assigned them." (2) The contradiction
between his belief in the conservation of " values "
without the conservation of the existence of the
individuals who " elicit " these " values," or who
are, as he puts it, the " trustees " for the " uni-
verse." (3) That between what he logically wants
(his " concrete individual ") and what he gives us
(an impersonal " system "). (4) The contradiction
between the completed personal life in God (or
in a perfected society of individuals) that most of


us (judging from the great religions of the world)
want as human beings, and the impersonal
" conceptual " experience of his book. (5) The
contradiction that exists between his intellectual-
ism and his commendable belief in " great con-
victions " and " really satisfying emotions and
experiences. (6) The standing contradiction be-
tween his " solipsistic " view of reality (his reduc-
tion of the universe to the conceptual experience
of a single self -perfecting individual), and the
facts of history in support of the idea of the
" new," or the " creative " character of the con-
tributions of countless individuals and groups of
individuals, to the evolution of the life of the
world, or the life of the infinite number of worlds
that make up what we think of as the universe.
(7) The remarkable contradiction between Dr.
Bosanquet's calm rejection in his argumentation
of all " naive ideas " and his own na'ive or Greek-
like faith in reason, in the substantial existence of
the concept or the idea over and above the
phenomena and the phenomenal experiences which
it is used to intepret.

Lastly, as for the matter of the non-moralism or
the essentially anti-ethical character of " Individu-
ality and Value," this is a characteristic of the
book that should, as such, be partly apparent from
what has already been said, in respect of its main
argument and its main contentions, and in respect
of the apparent contributions of Pragmatism and
Humanism to philosophy generally. The abstrac-


tionism of the book, and the absence in it of any
real provision for the realities of purpose and
of accomplishment (and even of " movement "
and "process" in any real sense of these words),
are all obviously against the interests of ethics
and of conduct, as purposive, human action.
So, too, are the findings of the critics that Dr.
Bosanquet's " Absolute " is not a reality (for,
with Professor Taylor and others, man must x have
an Absolute, or a God, in whom he can believe as
real) that inspires to action and to motive on the
part of ordinary human beings. And it is also
fatal to the ethical interests of his book that he
does not see with the pragmatists that our human
actions and reactions must be regarded as part
of what we mean by " reality." And so on.

Apart, however, from these and other hostile
pre-suppositions the following would seem to be
the chief reasons for pronouncing, as unsatisfactory,
the merely incidental treatment that is accorded
in " Individuality and Value " to ethics and to
the ethical life.

(1) It is not "conduct" or the normative 2
voluntary actions of human beings (in a
world or society of real human beings) requiring
" justice " and " guidance " and " help " that is
discussed in these Lectures, but abstractions like

1 I use this word " must " in a logical as well as in an ethical sense,
seeing that all judgment implies a belief in the reality of a world of
persons independent of the mere fact of " judgment " as a piece of
mental process.

2 See p. 145.


" desire," or " ordinary desire," or " the selective
conations of finite minds," or " the active form of a
totality of striving " or [worst of all] the " self as
it happens to be," that are discussed there.

(2) Even if conduct, as of course an " organic
totality " in its way, be faced for the nonce in " In-
dividuality and Value," it is invariably branded
and thought of by Dr. Bosanquet as " naive moral-
ity," * and it is forthwith promptly transformed

1 On p. 345 the words are : " When we consider the naive or elementary
life of morality and religion " ; and on p. 346 : " The naive, or simple
self of every-day morality and religion," and the marginal heading of the
page upon which these words occur is " The naive good self compared
to grasp of a fundamental principle alone." Could anything more
clearly indicate what the Kantians call a confusion of categories [in the
case in point the categories of " goodness " and the categories of
"truth"] or what Aristotle calls a fieTapaais eh &\\o yivos, the un-
conscious treatment of one order of facts by the terms and conceptions
of another order of facts. To Dr. Bosanquet as the Neo-Hellenist that
he is in his professed creed, badness is practically stupidity, and " lack
of unification of life," and " failure of theoretical grasp." This con-
fusion between goodness and wisdom is again indicated on p. 347 in
the words : " A man is good in so far as his being is ' unified at ' all in
any sphere of wisdom or activity." [This is simply not true, and its
falsity is a more unforgivable thing in the case of Dr. Bosanquet
than it is in the case of the pragmatists who also tend to make
the ' moral ' a kind of ' unification ' or ' effectiveness ' in ' purpose ']
As a proof of Dr. Bosanquet's transformation of the facts of the ethical
life in the interest of logical theory, we can point to p. 334 : " Our
actions and ideas issue from our world as a conclusion from its premises,
or as a poem from its author's spirit," or to p. 53, where it is definitely
stated that the " self, as it happens to be," cannot, in any of its " three
aspects," " serve as a test of reality." To do the latter, it must, in his
opinion, follow the law of the " universal," i.e. become a logical con-
ception. Now of course (1) it is not the self " as it happens to be" that
is chiefly dealt with in ethics, but rather the self as it ought to be. And
(2) the ethical self, or the " person," does not follow the " law of the
universal " [a logical law] but the law of right and wrong [an ethical
law]. As a proof of the subordination of the facts of conduct to the
facts of aesthetics, we may take the words on p. 348 where aesthetic
excellence is said to be " goodness in the wider or (' shall we say ') in the


and transmuted, in the most open and unabashed
manner in the interests and exigencies of (1) logi-
cal theory, (2) aesthetics and aesthetic products
[perhaps Dr. Bosanquet's deepest or most emotional
interest], and (3) metaphysical theory of a highly
abstract character.

(3) The conception of ethics as a " normative
science " and of conduct as free and autonomous, 1
and as the voluntary affirmation of a norm or
standard or type or ideal, is conspicuous by its

(4) There is really no place either in Dr.

narrower sense." Now the distinction between ethics and aesthetics is
not one of degree, but one of kind.

And as another illustration of his tendency to transform ethical facts
in the light of a metaphysical, or a logical, theory [they are the same
thing to him] we may quote the emphatic declaration on p. 356 : " Our
effort has been to bring the conception of moral and individual initiative
nearer to the idea of logical determination," or the equally outspoken
declaration on p. 353 : " But metaphysical theory, viewing the self in its
essential basis of moral solidarity with the natural and social world . . .
cannot admit that the independence of the self, though a fact, is more than
a partial fact." Or the words at the top of this same page : " The
primary principle that should govern the whole discussion is this, that the
attitude of moral judgment and responsibility for decisions is only one
among other attitudes and spheres of experience." These last words
alone would prove definitely the non-ethical character of " Individu-
ality and Value." The ethical life is to its author only a " quatenus
consider atur," only a possible point of view, only an aspect of reality,
only an aspect, therefore, of a " logical system." Now if the ethical life
of the world is to count for anything at all, it may be said that the
ethical life is no mere aspect of the life of the self, and no mere aspect
of the life of the world, seeing that " nature " in the sense of mere
" physical nature " does not come into the sphere of morality at all.
It is rather the activity of the " whole self," or the " normative "
reflection of the self as a whole upon all the merely partial or sub-
ordinate aspects of its activity, upon bodily life, economic life, intel-
lectual activity, and so on that constitutes the world of morality.

1 See p. 147, and p. 244.


Bosanquet's " concrete universal " or in his
fugitive pages upon ethics for the reality of the
distinction between good and evil (as " willed "
in actions or as present in dispositions and tend-
encies). Good and evil 1 are for him, " contents "
either for himself as a spectator of man's actions,
or for the " concrete universal," or the " whole,"
or the completed " individual " of his too consum-
mate book.

(5) Like nearly all forms of Absolutism (Hegel-
ianism, Neo-Hegelianism, Spinozism, Hobbism)
Dr. Bosanquet's ethics (or the vestigial ethics
with which he leaves us) comes perilously near
to what is known as Determinism 2 or Fatalism or
even Materialism.

1 Good and evil to Dr. Bosanquet are two quasi-rational systems
in active antagonism as claiming to attach different " principles and
predicates " to identical data. The essence of their antagonism to Dr.
Bosanquet is not, however, that evil is contemplated, as it must be
sooner or later, in repentance for example as wrong, but rather that the
" evil " is an imperfect " logical striving (p. 351) of the self after unity "
which is in " contradiction with a fuller and sounder striving " after
the same. The evil self is to him merely the vehicle of a logical con-
tradiction in the self.

2 This is seen in his admission (on p. 351) that the " bad will " no
less than the " good will " is a logical necessity, when taken along with
his doctrine about mind and body, his doctrine of the " dependence "
(p. 318) of the finite individual upon the external mechanical world.
Dr. Bosanquet, of course, thinks that even in this apparent Deter-
minism he is justifiably supplementing the ordinary ideas about the
" self " as " creative " and " originative " (p. 354), by the wider
recognition that I am more or less completely doing the work of the
" universe " as a " member " in a " greater self." And he adds in the
same sentence the words that " I am in a large measure continuous with
the greater (p. 355) self," and " dyed with its colours " — a further step
in Determinism, as it were, and a step which, with the preceding one
to which we have just referred, no critic can fail to connect with the
Determinism that we have already found to be implicated in his


As for the first of the preceding five points,
it is perfectly evident that any discussion of the
various psychological phenomena that are doubt-
less involved in conduct can be regarded as but
a preliminary step to the discussion of the real
problems of ethics — that of the actions and habits
and standards of persons who are the subjects of
rights and duties and who affirm certain actions
to be right, and certain other actions to be
wrong. The point, however, about Dr. Bosan-
quet's psychological abstractionism, especially
when it rises to the height of writing as if the
" self " as the " active form of a totality of striv-
ing,' ' or the "self as it happens to be," were the

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Online LibraryWilliam CaldwellPragmatism and idealism → online text (page 17 of 21)