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and incidental feature of the cosmos. Man was now of small account in that world which he had once been led to believe was contrived for his especial comfort and salvation. If the religious attitude was to be maintained with such a philosophical background, only two possibilities seemed to remain. Either, as in the case of Spinoza himself, the religious consciousness must be reduced to the reason's approval of truth; or religion as a whole must be conceived with Hobbes’ as a secular institution, used to pacify disorderly men, and sharing the pettiness which under the mechanical philosophy attaches to all human affairs. But religion of the former type must be as rare as the spirit of renunciation and the capacity for intellectual mysticism; while religion of the latter type is a mere convention imposed by cynical enlightenment upon servile ignorance. Hence, not without reason, Spinoza and Hobbes were singled out and anathematized as the great prophets of irreligion.
Spinoza and Hobbes do not, it is true, adequately represent the rationalism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was on the whole characteristic of these centuries to believe that religion, even Christian orthodoxy, could be established by strictly rational means. But Spinoza and Hobbes represent the rationalistic spirit of this age in its freest and purest expression, and their philosophies typify its logical trend. To keep one's eye single to things as they are, to yield one's mind only to facts and necessities, seemed to lead in the end to the belittlement of man and the disallowance of his spiritual claims.
84. We are now prepared to understand the service which modern idealism offered to religious belief. True The Idealistic religion required to be defended, not, as in the
days of Socrates and Plato, against the prejudices and blindness of unthinking men, but against the claim of science to have alienated the world from man. Faith and 1 Cf. above, pp. 13-15.
2 Cf. his Leviathan (1651), Ch. XII. • Cf. above, pp. 32-34.
revelation had been left unsupported in their demand that the world should be subordinated to spirit. That nature which religion had conceived to be the handiwork of God, or the stage-setting of the moral drama, or at most merely the principle of negation in the spiritual life, threatened to swallow up both man and God. A new philosophy must redeem nature from mechanism and restore its spiritual centre. It must not be supposed that this was the conscious aim of the idealists and their forerunners, or that the tendency was not in large part due to purely theoretical motives. But it is this that accounts for the great human importance of idealism, for its stimulating power and widely diffused influence. And it is in this sense that idealism is revolutionary. Kant, for example, compared his theory of knowledge with the Copernican revolution in astronomy. He proposed to assume that “the objects must conform to our mode of cognition” rather than that “our knowledge must conform to the objects," just as Copernicus, “not being able to get on in the explanation of the movements of the heavenly bodies, as long as he assumed that all the stars turned round the spectator, tried, whether he could not succeed better, by assuming the spectator to be turning round, and the stars to be at rest.” 1
But Kant did not point out the fact, nor has its importance ever been sufficiently recognized, that the idealistic revolution was virtually a counter-revolution, through which the spectator again became the centre of the system. Nor did this counter-revolution either begin or end with Kant. It is a movement of epochal proportions, supported by a wide diversity of thinkers, and dominating philosophy from the time of Berkeley down to the present day. Its central motive is the restoration of the supremacy of spirit. Its distinguishing characteristic as a philosophy of religion is its subordination of nature to God by means of a preliminary reduction of nature to knowledge. Science is to be allowed a free hand in nature; and having annexed nature, its title is to be transferred to mind. That very mechanical cosmos which had served to belittle man, is now made to glorify him through being conceived as the fruit of intelligence. God, the discarded hypothesis of science, is enthroned again as the master-knower of whom science itself is only the imperfect instrument.
1 Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Max Müller's translation, second edition, p. 693.
Thus, while the burden of idealism is a religious interpretation of nature, its cardinal principle is a theory of knowledge. For the purposes of technical philosophy it consists in a single proposition, to the effect that knowledge is an originating or creative process. Idealism's claims can be substantiated only provided it is true that to know is to generate the reality known. It must be proved that the being and nature of things are conditioned by their being known. In what follows, the attempt will be made, amidst the confusing motives which attend the history of idealism, to keep this cardinal principle constantly in view, and to sift and test the evidence with which it has been supported. And first, let us consider the manner in which Descartes and Locke, the forerunners of idealism, prepared the ground for Berkeley, its founder.
$ 5. The strategy of idealism depends on the adoption of a certain initial standpoint. The world must be viewed
under the form of knowledge. Although the The Beginnings of Modern precise significance of the fact cannot yet be
made clear, it is a fact that everything that sion of Knowl- can be mentioned, such as the sun, gold, or edge
Napoleon I, can be classed as an element of knowledge, or idea. This generalization does, it is true, require a qualification, the importance of which will shortly appear. Elements of knowledge, or ideas, imply a knower, which is not itself an idea, but which confers the character of idea on what it possesses. With this amendment, we may say that it is possible to regard the
1 The dialectical importance of this starting-point will appear later. Cf. below, pp. 127–128.
world of all mentionable things, even the Copernican plurality of worlds with their inflexible mechanical necessities, as comprehended under the knower and his ideas.
Descartes à adopted this standpoint only provisionally, but the difficulty he met in extricating himself from it demonstrated its dialectical possibilities. When you record the knower and his ideas, or all knowers and their ideas, what is there left to account for? Descartes, of course, thought that there were at least two things still to account for, namely, God and nature. If asked whether these too were not ideas, he would have replied, not merely ideas - for they exist also in their own right. Nevertheless, from the Cartesian standpoint, God and nature are primarily ideas, that being the most certain thing about them. That there are such ideas is indubitable; that they are more than ideas remains somehow to be proved from what is known of them as ideas. The existence of God must be argued from the idea of God, and the existence of nature from the idea of nature.
The characteristic difference between Descartes and Locke lies in the fact that the former seeks to establish existence (as something other than the knower and his ideas) first in the case of God, while the latter seeks to establish it first in the case of nature. Let us consider the procedure of Descartes. He believes that he escapes from the circle of the knower and his ideas, through the peculiar character of the idea of God. He here employs the traditional ‘ontological proof, according to which the idea of an infinite and perfect being implies the existence of its object; and further argues that the idea of God possesses so high a degree of meaning as to require a being of like degree to account for it. Once the existence of God was established, and the circle broken, Descartes thought it safe to infer that other “clear and distinct” ideas, such as the ideas of nature, were also representative of existence.
Let us turn to the case of Locke. Nominally, he follows 1 Cf. his Discourse on Method (1637), and Meditations (1640), passim. Descartes, and proves God before he proves nature. But logically he follows just the reverse order. Albeit with a certain becoming hesitation, he sets aside the ontological proof of God, and prefers those proofs that carried more weight with Englishmen and deists of the eighteenth century.' God's existence is proved from the necessity of an eternal and intelligent first cause of nature. The problem of existence must, then, be first solved with reference to nature. And here Locke's distrust of intellectualism leads him to define a new criterion. The ideas, he asserted, that are most significant of existence, are not those that are most clear and distinct, or most full of meaning, but those which are directly imprinted on the mind by an external cause. Existence is to be inferred, not from the import of ideas, but from the circumstances of their origin. It is not a question of proving the trustworthiness or representative validity of illuminating ideas; but of proving the extramental source of vivid and forceful ideas, that are beyond the mind's control. The unique case of such ideas is the sense-impression.
Owing to this difference of procedure between Descartes and Locke, there came to prevail two notions of the relation between existing nature and the idea of nature. According to the Cartesian procedure, existent nature is essentially that which corresponds to the idea of nature. According to the empirical procedure of Locke, on the other hand, existent nature is essentially the cause of the idea of nature. In the first case existent nature must resemble the idea, and the real difficulty is to distinguish it therefrom. In the second case existent nature need not resemble the idea, and the real difficulty is to give it any real character or meaning at all. We are now prepared to understand the form which idealism first assumed in the writings of Berkeley.
· Cf. Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Bk. iv, Ch. X, 87.
. Cf. op. cit., Bk. iv, Ch. XI, $ 1. “No particular man can know the existence of any other being, but only when, by actual operating upon him, it makes itself perceived by him.”