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same thing as the " personal self " with which we
alone are mainly concerned in ethics, is that it
is but another instance of the old " spectator " 1
fallacy that we have already found to underlie his
whole treatment of the " self " and of " purpose "
and of " striving." Such a philosophy, or point of
view, is quite foreign to ethics, because it is only
in the ethical life that we think of ourselves
as " persons," as beings playing a part, as actors
or players upon the great stage of life. By
not facing the ethical life directly, from within,
instead of from without, Dr. Bosanquet has
entirely failed to understand it. And if he had

doctrine of the " self," and in his general doctrine that the " external "
must be frankly accepted as a factor in the universe.

1 By the " spectator " fallacy we mean his tendency to talk and
think of the self as it is for a spectator or student, looking at matters
from the outside, and not as the self is for the man himself.


attempted this internal consideration of " person-
ality," his whole metaphysic of " individuality "
and of the great society of beings who inhabit.
(or who may be thought of as inhabiting) this
universe, would have been very different from
what it is.

Then as for the second and third points, it is
surely evident from the footnotes that have been
appended in connexion with the matter of his
transformation of the facts of ethics in the interests
of other things like logic, and aesthetics, and
metaphysics, that there is indeed, in Bosanquet,
no recognition of what must be called the genuine,
or independent reality of the moral life, or of the
moral ideal as a force in human nature. And
as for the fourth point, students of modern ethics
are naturally by this time perfectly familiar
with the tendency of Rationalism to make evil
action and the " evil self " simply the affirmation
of a " logically incoherent " point of view. It
exists in an English writer like Wollaston 1 as well
as in a German philosopher like Hegel. This
tendency is indeed a piece of sophistry and illu-
sion because the distinction between good and
evil, and the distinction between right and
wrong (perhaps the better and the more crucial
formulation of the two — for us moderns at least)

1 Wollaston is the English ethical philosopher who, according to
Leslie Stephen's account, thought, after thirty years of meditation,
that the only reason he had for not breaking his wife's head with a
stick was, that this would be tantamount to a denial that his wife was
his wife.


is unintelligible apart from the fact or the idea of
the existence of moral agents, who make (in their
volition, and in the judgments that accom-
pany or precede their volitions) a " norm," or
rule, or line between the ethically permissible
and the ethically unpermissible. The rationalism
that makes these distinctions merely a matter of
" logic," overlooks the fact that in actual life men
must be warded off from wrong-doing (and they
are in many cases actually so warded off by their
consciences and by other things, like the love
of home, or the love of honour, or the love of God)
by something stronger than the mere idea of a
possible theoretical mistake.

As for the fifth point of the Determinism or the
Necessitarianism that hangs like a sword of
Damocles over the entire ethic of Dr. Bosanquet,
the nature of this should be perfectly apparent
from many of the statements and considerations
that have been brought forward as typical of his
entire line of thought. He teaches a " passivism " 1
and an " intellectualism " that are just as pro-
nounced and just as essential to his thought as
they are to the great system of his master, Hegel,
in whose ambitious philosophy of spirit man's
whole destiny is unfolded without the possibility

1 See Idola Theatri by Henry Sturt (the editor of the well-known
" Personal Idealism " volume) of Oxford — a book that enumerates and
examines many of the fallacies of the Neo-Hegelian school. Mr. Sturt's
first chapter is entitled the " Passive Fallacy," which he calls, with
some degree of justice, the prime mistake of the idealistic philosophy,
meaning by this the " ignoring " of the " kinetic " and the " dynamic "
character of our experience.


of his playing himself any appreciable part in the
impersonal, dialectic movement in which it is
made to consist.

It is now necessary to speak definitely and out-
spokenly of the element of supreme truth and
value in Dr. Bosanquet's unique book, of the
positive contribution it makes to philosophy and
to natural theology. 1 This is, in a word, its
tribute to the permanent element of truth and
reality in the idealistic philosophy. And he testi-
fies to this in his " belief" that in the main the work
of philosophy has been done, and " that what is now
needed is to recall and concentrate the modern
mind from its distraction rather than to invent
wholly new theoretic conceptions." This declara-
tion is of itself a position of considerable import-
ance, however widely one is obliged to differ from
its author as to what exactly it is that has already
been demonstrated and accomplished " in philo-
sophy." If there has really been " nothing done "
in philosophy since the time of Socrates, if philo-
sophy is to-day no true antithesis of, and corrective
to science, then there is possible neither Prag-
matism, nor Humanism, nor any other, possibly
more fundamental, philosophy. There can, as
Dr. Bosanquet puts it, indeed be no progress if no
definite ground is ever to be recognized as gained."
This then is the first thing of transcendent im-
portance in " Individuality and Value," its insist-

1 It is Natural Theology that is the subject proper of the Gifford


ance upon the fundamentally different estimate
of reality given by philosophy in distinction from
science and its merely hypothetical treatment
of reality. This " difference " is, of course, but
natural, seeing that to philosophy there are no
things or phenomena without minds, or persons
or beings to whom they appear as things and

The second great thing of " Individuality and
Value ' is its insistence upon the need to all
philosophy of a recognized grasp of the principle
of " Meaning." x What this instance implies to
Dr. Bosanquet is, that " at no point in our lives
[either] as [agents or] thinkers are we to accept
any supposed element of fact or circumstance as
having any significance " apart from the great
"whole' or the great "reality," with which we
believe ourselves to be in contact in our daily
experience, when interpreted in the light of our
consciousness of ourselves as persons. In the letter
of the book his interpretation of the great "whole,"
or the great reality, of life is by no means as
broad and as deep as the one at which we have
just hinted in attempting to describe his position.
But overriding altogether the mere intellectualism
of Dr. Bosanquet's interpretation, is the fact of
the dynamic idealism for which he virtually stands, 2
in virtue of the great and the simple effort of his
lectures 3 to find " value " in " our daily experience

1 See p. 149 of Chapter VI.

2 With, we might almost say, the pragmatists and the humanists.

3 This is really their main distinguishing characteristic and merit.


with its huge obstinate plurality of independent
facts." He would start, as we mentioned (at the
beginning of this chapter), with what he believes
to be " the daily transformation of our experience
as verified within what we uncritically take as our
private consciousness, so far as its weakness may
permit," and " as verified on a larger scale when
we think of such splendid creations as the State and
fine art and religion," and when we think, too, of
" the mode of our participation in them." Now
again nothing could indeed be more nobly true
(in idea) of the great work of the philosopher than
the proper theory and description of this " daily
transformation " of our lives, out of the life of
" sense " and the life of selfishness, into the
spiritual communion 1 that is the essence of all
right thinking and all right living.

But we may go further than all this and
signalize one or two things in Dr. Bosanquet that
we venture to construe as a kind of unconscious
testimony, on his part, to the very humanism for
which we have been contending throughout.

The things to which we refer are, firstly, his use
of the word " belief " 2 in speaking of his opinion
that the work of philosophy has in the main been
accomplished, and, second, his fine and really
praiseworthy 3 confession that his lectures, whatever

1 See p. 162.

2 " Indeed, I do not conceal my belief that in the main the work has
been done." — Preface.

3 I think that the confession is a praiseworthy one in view of the
fact of the prejudice of Rationalism, that philosophy has nothing to do
with convictions but only with knowledge.


they may have done or may not have done, at least
" contain the record of a very strong conviction."
Dr. Bosanquet's departure, in the letter of his
argumentation, from the spirit of these declarations
only accentuates what we regard as the regrettable
failure and abstractionism of his whole official
(or professed) philosophy.

His use of the word belief 1 shows that it is,

» By belief I have understood throughout this book simply man's
working sense for reality, and I am inclined to think that this is almost
the best definition that could be given of it — our working sense for
reality. It is at least, despite its apparent evasiveness, most in harmony
with the pragmatist-humanist inclusion of will elements and feeling
elements in our knowledge and in our apprehension of reality. It is
also in harmony with the conception of reality which may, in my
opinion, be extracted from both Pragmatism and Idealism — that reality
is what it proves itself to be in the daily transformation of our experi-
ence. By the retention of the term " working " in this attempted
definition I express my agreement with the idea that action, and the
willingness to act, is an essential element in belief. The outstanding
positions in the definitions of belief that are generally given in philo-
sophical dictionaries are, firstly, that belief is a conviction or subjective
apprehension of truth or reality in distinction from demonstrable
knowledge or direct evidence ; and, secondly, that feeling elements and
action elements enter into it. I am inclined to think that the sharp
antithesis between belief and knowledge, or the tendency of philo-
sophical books to emphasise the difference between belief and know-
ledge, is a characteristic, or consequence, of our modern way of looking
at things, of our break with the unfortunate, medieval conception of
faith and of the higher reason. The study of the facts either of the
history of religion or of the history of science, will convince us, I think,
that it is always belief, and that it still is belief (as the working sense
for reality), that is man's measure of reality, our knowledge about the
universe being at all times but a more or less perfect working out of our
beliefs and of their implications — of our sense of the different ways in
which the world affects us, and of the ways in which we are affected
towards it. Nor do I think, as I have indicated in different places, that
" reality " can be defined apart from belief, reality being that in which
we believe for all purposes, theoretical and practical and emotional.
In the conception of reality as a world of intersubjective intercourse
in which beings, or persons at different stages of development, share in
a common spiritual life, we have attained so far (and only so far) to


after all his professional homage to " mediation '
and to the necessary abstractions of logic and
system, belief and not knowledge that is to him
the final and " working " estimate of truth and
of reality. And the same conclusion follows from
the second matter of the confession of which we
have spoken, that his entire argumentation is but
the expression of a strong conviction. 1 It is again,
therefore, we would insist a spiritual conviction,
and not a conceptual system that is actually
and necessarily the moving force of his entire
intellectual activity. And, we would add to his
own face, it is a conviction moreover that " works,"
and not a " logical whole " or a mere conceptual
ideal, that he must (as a philosopher) engender in
the mind of his average reader about reality. His
" logical whole " and his " individuality as logi-
cal completeness," " work " with him [Professor
Bosanquet] for the reason that he is primarily
an intellectual worker, a worker in the realm
of mind. But reality (as the whole world of
human work and human effort is there to

the truth that is common to an idealism of the type of Dr. Bosanquet's,
and to pragmatist-humanism when properly developed and interpreted.
There are, I find, upon thinking of the matter, any number of philo-
sophers and thinkers who interpret belief, in the larger sense of the
term, as our complete and final estimate of reality, and as therefore not
exclusive of, but inclusive of knowledge in the ordinary sense of the

1 He even says in the Abstract of his first lecture upon the " Central
Experiences," that Lord Gifford's desire that his lecturers should "try
to communicate " a "grave experience " is the demand that "intro-
duces us to the double task of philosophy. It [philosophy] needs the
best of logic, but also the best of life, and neither can be had in philo-
sophy without the other."


tell us) is more than an intellectual system.
And what is a conviction to him is not
necessarily a conviction that works with the
ordinary man, who knows reality better than
he does, or who knows it (like himself) in his
desires and in his beliefs rather than in the
terms and conceptions that are the mere tools
of the intellect and the specialist. For, taking
his book as a whole, we may say about it that the
dissolution of reality into a conceptual system
that is effected there is at best but another con-
vincing proof of the truth of the words of the
great David Hume, 1 that the understanding,
" when it acts alone, and according to its most
general principles, entirely subverts itself, and
leaves not the slightest degree of evidence in any
proposition, either in philosophy or common life."

1 Treatise upon Human Nature, sect. vii. (Green and Grose, i. 547).


It is necessary for me to append a few words as to the possible
connexion between the foregoing criticism of the first volume of
Dr. Bosanquet's Gifford Lectures and the subject-matter of the
second volume, which appeared while I was preparing the manu-
script of this book for the press. I have been able only to inspect
its contents and to inform myself about the ways in which it has
impressed some of its representative critics. What I have thus
learned does not, in my opinion, make it necessary for me to unsay
or to rewrite what I have said in this chapter. My desire was to
indicate the kind of criticism that the pragmatists and the human-
ists, as far as I understand them, would be inclined to make of
Absolutism as represented in the Principle of Individuality and
Value as the last significant Anglo-Hegelian output. This, I


think, I have done, and the reader may be desirably left to himself
to settle the question of the relation of the first of Dr. Bosanquet's
books to its companion volume that appeared in the following
calendar year. I cannot, however, be so wilfully blind to the
existence of this second great " Gifford " book of his as to appear
to ignore the fact, that on its very face and surface it seems to do
many of the things that I have allowed myself to signalize as
things that Absolutism and Anglo-Hegelianism have not done, or
have done but imperfectly. Its very title, The Value and Destiny
of the Individual, and the titles of many of its chapters, and the
reception accorded to it in such instructive reviews as those of
Professor Sir Henry Jones and Professor Muirhead (in the July
numbers of the Hibbert Journal and Mind respectively), are to
my mind convincing proof that it is by far the most serious Anglo-
Hegelian attempt of the passing generation to deal with many of
the objections that have been brought against Rationalistic
Idealism by the pragmatists and the voluntarists, by the defenders
of faith and feeling and experience, and (before all these recent
people) by many independent idealist writers of our time in
England and elsewhere. In the interest of truth and of the
thinking public generally, I append the mere titles of some of the
chapters and divisions of Dr. Bosanquet's second volume : " The
Value of Personal Feeling, and the Grounds of the Distinctness
of Persons," " The Moulding of Souls," " The Miracle of Will,"
the " Hazards and Hardships of Finite Selfhood," the " Stability
and Security of Finite Selfhood," " The Religious Consciousness,"
"The Destiny of the Finite Self," "The Gates of the Future."
There is in all the rich content that is thus indicated, and in all
the high and deep discussion of " the ideas of a lifetime " that it
includes, a veritable mine of philosophical reflection for the reader
who desires to think in a connected, or Hegelian, manner about
things — a mine, too, that is at least indicative of the wide territory
both of fact and of principle upon which pragmatist philosophy
must enter before it can become a true philosophy. I cannot find,
however — this was surely not to be expected in a thinker of Dr.
Bosanquet's power — that the principles of argumentation that
determined the nature and contents of the earlier volume have un-
dergone any modification in its success or successor ; indeed, what
is here offered, and discovered by the reader and the critics, is but
a continuation and application of the same dialectic principles to
" finite beings, that is, in effect to human souls." If any one
will take upon himself the task of estimating the success or the
non-success of the enterprise he will travel through a piece of
philosophical writing that is as comprehensive and as coherent,
and as elevating in its tone, as anything that has appeared from
the Neo-Hegelian camp. The things that I chiefly feel and believe
about it are, firstly, that its account of the facts of life and thought
are, again, all determined by certain presuppositions about con-
ceivability and about the principles of contradiction and negation ;
secondly, that it is still the same " whole " of logic that is to it
the test of all reality and individuality ; and, thirdly, that it is,


again, a great pity that Dr. Bosanquet should not have acted upon
some sort of recognition of the relation of his own dialectical
principles to those of his master Hegel, or to those of some of his
Neo-Hegelian predecessors in England and America. Although
it is almost an impertinence on the part of one who has just made
the acquaintance of this outstanding volume to speak in any detail
of its contents, I can indicate part of my meaning by pointing
out that it is throughout such things as " finite mind," the " finite
mind " that is " best understood by approaching it from the side of
the continuum " [the " whole "], the "finite mind " that is "shaped
by the universe," that is " torn between existence and self-
transcendence," " appearance," an " externality which is the
object of mind," the " positive principle of totality or individuality
manifesting itself in a number of forms," " good " and " evil as
attitudes concerning a creature's whole being," " volition " in
terms of the " principle that there is for every situation a larger
and more effective point of view than the given " — that are dis-
cussed, and not the real persons who have what they call
" minds " and " volitions " and " attitudes," and who invent all
these principles and distinctions to describe the world of their
experience and the world of their thoughts. As against him
Pragmatism and Humanism would, I think, both insist that the
first reality for all thought and speculation is not the " logical
whole " that underlies, in the mind of the thinker, the greater
number of all his categories and distinctions, but the life and the
fives of the persons in a world of inter-subjective intercourse,
wherein these points of view are used for different purposes. And I
cannot see how Dr. Bosanquet is entitled to scorn all those who
hold to the idea of the reality of the fives of the persons who are
agents and thinkers in this personal realm, which is for us the
highest reality of the universe, as believers in the " exclusiveness
of personality," although I would certainly agree with him that
our experience, when properly interpreted, carries us beyond the
subjectivism and the individualism of some forms of Pragmatism
or Pluralism. The reader who is anxious to know about the real
value of the Hegelianism upon which Dr. Bosanquet's philosophy
reposes should consult the work of Croce upon the " living " and
the " dead " elements in Hegel's System. It has recently been
translated into English. Dr. Bosanquet, like many Hegelians,
seems to me to overlook almost entirely the important elements
in the philosophy of Kant — of some of which I speak of in the
next chapter as developed in the spiritualistic philosophy of



The pragmatist elements in the philosophy of
Bergson of which it is, perhaps, legitimate for us
to speak here are (i) his " Anti-Intellectualism,"
and (2) his " Activism " or " Actionism." The
latter culminates in his freedom-philosophy and
his spiritualism. I shall comment shortly upon
these two things, and then suggest one or two
general criticisms of his philosophy as a whole.

Bergson's anti-intellectualism rests ultimately
upon his contention that the human intellect is
related in the main to the needs of action, that the
brain is an organ of action rather than an organ

1 I had originally the idea of calling this chapter by the more modest
title of a note upon " pragmatist elements " in the teaching of
Bergson. I have allowed myself to call it a chapter partly for the sake
of symmetry, and partly because the footnotes and the criticism
(of his Idealism) have carried it beyond the limits of a note. I find, too,
(as I have partly indicated in my preface) in the teaching of Bergson so
many things that make up almost the very body of truth and fact upon
which Pragmatism, and Humanism, and Idealism all repose (or ought to
repose) that I quote them directly in my footnotes. They indicate to
me the scope and the territory of my entire subject. And they are a
confirmation to me of much that I had myself arrived at before I read
a line of Bergson.



of thought, that our intelligence is at home
only in the realm of the physical and the mathe-
matical sciences, 1 that contrivance and inven-
tion and the practical comprehension of the
" material " are its proper activities, and that
for these latter purposes it splits up the world
of the senses and the understanding into a dis-
continuous aggregate of physical units, which
it then proceeds to reconstruct in a spatial
and temporal order. We perceive in Nature,
he holds, what interests 2 us in the way of

1 " Our intelligence, as it leaves the hands of nature, has for its chief
object the unorganised solid" (Creative Evolution, p. 162); "of im-
mobility alone does the intellect form a clear idea " (ibid. 164). " The
aspect of life that is accessible to the intellect — as indeed to our senses,
of which our intellect is the extension — is that which offers a hold to
action" (ibid. 170). "We see that the intellect, so skilful in dealing
with the inert, is awkward the moment it touches the living. Whether
it wants to treat the life of the body or the life of the mind, it pro-
ceeds with the rigour, the stiffness, and the brutality of the instrument
not designed for such use. The history of hygiene or of pedagogy
teaches us much in this matter. When we think of the cardinal,
urgent, and constant need we have to preserve our bodies and to raise
our souls, of the special facilities given to each of us in this field to

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Online LibraryWilliam CaldwellPragmatism and idealism → online text (page 18 of 21)