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ism as an
relation which bestows on them both their nature and their being, there is no difference between such idealism and a sheer romantic or spiritualistic bias.
$ 12. Before bringing this chapter to a close we must inquire whether objective idealism has accomplished its
restricted domestic task of saving idealism Objective Ideal
from a vicious subjectivism. There is but one Escape from crucial consideration here. Has idealism emSubjectivism
ployed such a subjectivism, or has it been able to dispense with it? For it must be admitted that no philosophy can without contradiction both employ and reject the same assertion.
The answer would seem to be perfectly clear. Idealism gets its proof from putting a certain construction on human consciousness, that being the only instance that comes under observation. The idealist must, then, first regard human consciousness as constitutive of its objects. Where this theory is strictly maintained, it holds not only of the individual consciousness, but even of the momentary consciousness. But the idealist himself sees that this involves contradictions. It provides no way of distinguishing the true or valid cases of knowledge from mere opinion. All cognitive states are made equally authoritative with reference to their objects. And where, as often happens, the same object is differently and inconsistently known in several cognitive states, there is no way of relieving the contradiction. So objective idealism is led to attribute constitutive validity only to some standard or universal consciousness, which shall afford objects their true and permanent ground.
But this requires a correction of the initial interpretation of the individual or momentary consciousness. We must now suppose that these instances of consciousness do not constitute their objects; but either conform to them or misrepresent them. In other words, objects are now independent of those concrete instances of consciousness which first came under observation. And then what becomes of the proof of idealism? Having construed his own and his neighbor's consciousness realistically, where is the idealist to find the analogy for his hypothetical universal consciousness? And what occasion is there now for a universal consciousness? Had the idealist begun with a realistic version of human consciousness, the error of subjectivism would never have arisen, and his universal consciousness would have been a gratuitous as well as a meaningless invention.
Thus the error which idealism corrects with so much ceremony proves to be indispensable to its own inner development. The error must be cherished if there is to be any demand for remedial intervention. Subjectivism cannot be abolished; it must, as has been frankly avowed, be retained as a “Durchgangstadium” on the way to a complete idealism. But either objective idealism must be taken as rejecting subjectivism, in which case it must banish it altogether from its councils, and start from an account of human consciousness that is wholly free from it; or it must be taken as accepting subjectivism, in which case it stands condemned by its own admissions.
The basal arguments for idealism are the same as those for subjectivism. The arguments from the ego-centric predicament,' and from ‘initial predication, if they prove anything, prove subjectivism - even the extremes of relativism and solipsism. If they do not prove anything, then idealism, subjective and objective alike, is left unproved. In either case, the ground on which the idealistic system has been erected affords no reliable support. Whether this system is to be valued as an illumination of life cannot yet be judged. For there is another primary motive, the motive of absolutism, with which the cardinal idealistic principle has come to be allied. And it is impossible to reach any final estimate of idealism as a religious philosophy without examining absolutism on its own independent grounds.
1 Cf. Rickert. op. cit., p. 56.
ABSOLUTE IDEALISM AND RELIGION
§ 1. THE religion of an idealist is not a forlorn hope, or a defence of last ditches, but an enjoyment of all the emoThe General
tions of sovereignty. Idealism undertakes to Meaning of substantiate the extreme claims of faith, - the Absolutism
creation of matter by spirit, the indestructible significance of every human person, and the unlimited supremacy of goodness. The terms of a devotional mysticism — Spirit, Perfection, Eternity, Infinity — appear in the very letter of its discourse. Nor has this promise of good tidings been unheeded. Idealism has acquired prestige and a position of authority. While it has little if any direct access to the popular mind, it is resorted to habitually by the middle men of enlightenment, by clergymen, litterateurs, lecturers, and teachers. Hence it comes about that many an honest man has invested all his hopes of salvation in the adventure. And this is my apology for undertaking to audit its accounts; the question of its solvency being of no small human importance.
The religious creed of idealism may be said to contain two major articles. The one of these is the cardinal principle already examined — the assertion of the priority of consciousness in the act of cognition. The second article is the principle of absolutism, and with this we shall, in the present chapter, be chiefly occupied.
The sense in which I propose to employ the term 'absolutism,' is to be distinguished from two other senses in which it is also currently employed. These other uses of the term appear, it is true, chiefly in the writings of idealists; but they may nevertheless be regarded as quite independent. In the first place, 'absolute' is often taken to mean the antithesis of 'relative'; and is used to characterize such fact, being, or truth, as is independent of the vagaries of a fallible mind. But it is quite possible to accept absolutism in this sense, as indeed it is accepted both by naturalism and by realism, without accepting any of the distinguishing premises of absolute idealism." In the second place, 'absolute' may be taken to mean 'certain,' as opposed to 'probable' or 'hypothetical.' Absolutism in this sense signifies the theory that some truths are indubitable; capable of being established dialectically, and not subject to correction by experience. But this theory relates to a special question of methodology or logic which may be treated quite independently of the broader issues raised in the present discussion.
As I shall employ the term, absolutism means the assertion of a maximum or superlative ideal having metaphysical validity. This ideal, variously construed as “the Good,” “the Infinite Substance," "the ens realissimum," "the Universal Will," etc., is the Absolute; or, in the language of religion, God. Absolutism in this sense may, and commonly does, embrace absolutism in the first and second senses; for one may maintain that such an ideal alone possesses objective validity and certainty, and escapes relativity and contingency. But I shall from thenceforth employ the term in this third and most general sense.
It will be remarked that absolutism is closely related to 'the speculative dogma' which we have already encountered as a motive in naturalism. This dogma consists in the assumption of an all-general, all-sufficient first principle; and arises from the tendency to anticipate that complete unification toward which knowledge appears progressively to move. Absolutism is the expression of this motive in its purity. It is the formulation of the goal of knowledge from an analysis of the process and trend of knowledge; and the assertion of that goal as necessary. So that while absolutism is allied with naïve naturalism in its acceptance 1 Cf. below, pp. 335-340.
· See above, pp. 64-65.
of the speculative ideal, it is distinguished therefrom by its method. It regards the speculative ideal as an ideal, and expressly formulates it as such. Thus absolutism is not merely monistic, as is naïve naturalism; but is also normative, in that its cosmic unity is the limit or standard of the activity of thought.'
The motive of absolutism is evidently quite independent of the cardinal principle of idealism. Absolutism, indeed, had already had a long and significant historical development of its own, prior to the advent of idealism. Hence in order to understand 'absolute idealism,' the union of the two, we shall do well first to isolate absolutism, and examine it on its own grounds. And for this purpose it will be convenient to confine our attention to two great exponents of this doctrine, Plato and Spinoza - the one ancient, the other modern. These great thinkers are eminently representative of an absolutism that did not enjoy the support of idealism. The characteristic difficulties which beset their philosophies are the characteristic difficulties of absolutism proper; and having comprehended them, we shall be in a position to judge of the success of absolute idealism in overcoming them. These characteristic difficulties are, I believe, three: formalism, equivocation, and dogmatism.
§ 2. Absolutism's first and only undisputed success was the discovery of logic. This science began when it
was observed that the 'things' of practical Formalism, Arising from
common sense, the gross objects of motion, the Logical manipulation, and social intercourse, could be Basis of Abso- analyzed; and that such analysis revealed
certain highly general and perhaps universal terms of discourse, such as being,' 'negation,' 'unity,' manyness,''space,''number,' etc. While the list of these
1 In other words, absolutism is ‘idealistic' in the popular sense of the term. I have employed this term exclusively to refer to the theory of the priority of consciousness. It is unfortunate that the same word should refer to this, and also the quite different notion of 'ideals.'
• Plato is perhaps the founder of logic in this sense. Cf., e.g., the Par. menides.