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exigencies. Without reference to these limiting conditions it is impossible to define the goodness of the ruler; and if that reference be condemned, then the method of definition is condemned. There is no ground for the assertion of a perfection so exalted that it shall be limited by no conditions whatsoever.
Nor is the situation essentially altered if a more general conception of value is employed. Suppose that we define the activity of the ruler in terms of the demands of social life, and then define these in terms of the demands of human nature. Social life itself may then be understood in the Platonic way, as the organization of activities necessary to the expression of the ideal essence of man. But even so, although what man does may now be understood as good in terms of what man is, the ideal essence of man has itself to be defined in terms of categories that are not teleological at all. And if this be regarded as vicious, then the whole method is vicious. Similarly, every case of knowledge by teleological principles involves the apprehension and acceptance of some elements which are not determined by such principles. We are not justified in projecting a good that shall be all good, or a teleological system that shall be through and through teleological, for this would be to contradict the meaning of goodness and teleology.
Nor does absolutism succeed any better if we substitute the mathematical-deductive logic of Spinoza for the teleological logic of Plato. Spinoza thought that the conception of substance implied the conception of an absolute substance that is "self-caused" in that its "essence involves existence"; and “infinite,” in that it contains all attributes in its definition, and implies all things and events as its modes. But precisely as there is no absolute maximum definable in terms of goodness, so there is no absolute maximum definable in terms of deductive necessity. The actual deductive systems of human knowledge are
Spinoza: Ethics, loc. cil.
those in which, as in the case of Euclidean geometry or the Newtonian mechanics, the axioms, postulates, indefinables, etc. that is, the terms and propositions that are not deduced — are few and fruitful. The investigator doubtless makes them as few and as fruitful as possible. But there is no deductive principle that determines how few or how fruitful they shall be. The deductive method, which is the basis of Spinoza's system, clearly requires some elements that are not deduced. These elements stand in certain simple relations, such as difference, to one another; but they are not brought under the determination of the principles of the system itself. Now this being the case, it is clearly absurd to infer an absolute system in which every element shall be deduced — a system in which, through excess of deductive cogency, the very conditions of deduction shall be removed!
Or, if this be untrue to Spinoza's real intent, it is still gratuitous even to infer that there shall be but one deductive system. There is, let us grant, a universal totality;' but is there any reason why it should possess any definite degree of deductive unity? Is there any reason why that totality should not be composed of many systems which are related to one another, as are the non-deductive elements within these several systems? Now if it be contended that this is equivalent to the assertion of a single all-embracing system, of which the particular systems, such as geometry, mechanics, ethics, etc., shall be the axioms, then we have only to remind ourselves of the entire insignificance of such a contention. There is no ground for determining whether these several systems, together with such systems as exceed present knowledge, form a highly coherent or a loosely collective system. It is entirely possible that together they imply nothing other than that which they imply severally, except the collective totality of all that they imply. In other words, we are justified in saying no more than that if we knew all the first principles, we could deduce all objects and events. No self-respecting philosopher would go to the trouble of proving this, and it is certain that Spinoza did not mean to assert so trivial and obvious a proposition. But the dilemma is unavoidable. Either he is limited to that conclusion, or he must be charged with attempting to override his own logic — with seeking to find an argument for an absolute deductive system by condemning the deductive method itself.
1 On the ground that all the components of the universe must be somehow 'related. That relation does not imply dependence and unity, is the contention of 'pluralism.' The issue is discussed below, pp. 242–246.
Thus the proof of absolutism fails through the fact that neither teleology nor deduction defines an absolute maximum or ideal. And this failure is fraught with serious consequences. For in order to prove the necessity of ‘absolute' knowledge, the actual instances of knowledge are virtually discredited. In other words, the procedure of absolutism involves more than inconsistency and failure - it involves agnosticism, that is, the denial of positive knowledge, and the substitution for it of an unrealized project. It encourages the sweeping condemnation of science, and an irresponsible and autocratic procedure in philosophy.
Such, then, was the state of absolutism at the time of Kant. Ambitious in the interests of the speculative dogma
. to formulate an all-general and all-sufficient principle, it neglected the essential formality and abstractness of logic (the discovery of which was its great achevement); it violated the meaning of ethical, physical, and other conceptions by over-generalizing them; and disparaged actual knowledge by arbitrarily asserting a problematic conception of ideal knowledge. We have now to consider whether modern idealism, profiting by the insight of Kant' has succeeded in avoiding formalism, equivocation, and dogmatism
$ 5. There is, as we have seen, a merely 'critical' as well as a metaphysical, Kantianism. A critical or strictly logical Kantianism commends that philosopher for his reTransition to
1 Inasmuch as “absolute idealism’is identified with objective idealism it develops from Kant, rather than from Berkeley.
discovery of the categories, and for his conAbsolute tributions toward their complete formulation Idealism. The Absolute
and systematic classification. If this interpreCognitive tation be set aside, as having no necessary Consciousness
connection with the idealistic metaphysics, only one alternative remains. If Kant's originality does not lie in the formulation of the category of synthetic unity, then it must lie in the contention that this and other categories are supplied or enacted by consciousness. And in this contention metaphysical idealists of all schools are virtually agreed.
We are now concerned, not with the merits of this contention, but with its bearing upon absolutism. United with absolutism it gives rise to the philosophy known as 'absolute idealism.' Reality is defined in terms of an absolute cognitive consciousness, that is both prior to things known, in the idealistic sense, and also a maximum or ideal, in the absolutist sense. The Absolute Good of Plato, and the Infinite Substance of Spinoza, are thus replaced by the “Absolute Idea" of Hegel; and by such contemporary conceptions as Professor Royce's "absolutely organized experience inclusive of all possible experience," or “the absolute self-fulfilment, absolutely self-contained significance” of the “one and only one" ideal experience, described by Mr. Joachim. Let us inquire, then, whether idealistic absolutism, such as this, escapes the formalism, equivocation and dogmatism of earlier absolutism.
86. The absolute idealist, like the pre-Kantian absoluFormalism
tist, necessarily turns to those properties of in Absolute things which have the maximum of generalIdealism
ity. Like his forerunners, he depends for the definition of his universal principle upon the logical
See Chap. VII, $ 5.
· See above, pp. 154-156. • J. Royce: Conception of God, p. 31; H. H. Joachim: The Nature of Truth, p. 78.
categories. And his universal consciousness must again be defined exclusively in terms of these categories, since no other attributes will measure up to its unlimited generality. The Kantian category which has assumed fundamental importance is, as we have seen, that of synthetic unity, or systematic totality. The absolute consciousness, then, is that which contributes to all things, by the thinking or the willing of them, those determinate interrelationships by virtue of which they form a consistent and orderly universe. The world is one systematic whole, thought or willed.
Now such is the power of words that this rings like an important conclusion. And yet it explains so little that a scientist, moralist, or religious believer would be justified in conceding it without hesitation. For as respects the issues of science, morality, even of religion, it is utterly noncommittal; it is consistent with anything. When the idealist proceeds further, and enumerates certain subordinate categories, such as difference, identity, quality, etc., wherewith the absolute consciousness effects this union of things into a systematic whole, he has to reckon with the logician, but he can still be safely ignored by everyone else. In other words, if consciousness is to be generalized, it must be defined in logical terms; and when so defined it serves to explain the logical elements of experience, and nothing more. To explain the other aspects of experience, one must look to other, and, as will inevitably be the case, less general principles.
It is significant that idealism loses its pragmatic value, its fruitfulness of application and pertinence to life, in proportion to the refinement of its logic. There was a time when idealists believed that the specific characters of spirit could be assigned a universal logical value, and so be attributed to nature and history. But there has been a growing tendency to abandon the logic of spirit; and to accept, on the one hand, some general formal category such as of 'relation,''unity,''coherence,' etc.; and, on the