« PreviousContinue »
other hand, the special categories of the sciences as they stand. In thus formalizing and neutralizing their universal principles, idealists have bettered their logic, but at the expense of their metaphysics. The old-inspired idealism of art, literature, and life, the idealism that made a difference, has been discredited by idealists themselves.
Thus the weakness of Hegel, from the later idealistic point of view, lies not in his general programme, but in the fact that he boldly set about carrying it out. He made too many positive assertions. The fact that Hegel did make positive assertions about natural evolution, about historical development, and about international politics, accounts for the fact that his philosophy was of vital human consequence, and to many a source of inspiration. But today no one is more ready than the idealist to point out that Hegel made the mistake of forcing ‘psychological' categories upon nature and history. He tried to deduce the actual cosmic process from the laws of spirit; and it is now generally conceded that he failed. Everyone but the idealist explains his failure by the falsity of the project itself; but he attributes it to the fact that Hegel's categories of spirit were not purely logical.
The new way is to identify spirit with 'synthetic unity' in general; and, for the rest, with things as they are. Then, if you require more definite information you must wait until scientists, historians, and others discover what things really are. But this is what the world has long since been doing anyway. The only advantage the idealist enjoys is the hope that some day, when the returns are all in, he may rise triumphantly and say — "That is the Absolute Spirit.” But meanwhile he must wait like the rest of us, or himself engage in the lowlier task of studying nature and life.
i Or with things as they are not! For Mr. Bradley, who discredits all the special categories of science, the valid special categories must remain problematic; cf. above, pp. 101, 150. Cf. in this connection, McTaggart: Studies in Hegelian Dialectic, Ch. VII, passim. Admitting that Hegel's philosophy of nature and history cannot be sustained, the author says: “The practical value of the dialectic, then, lies in the demonstration of a general principle ('the abstract certainty which the Logic gives us that all reality is rational and righteous'), which can be carried into particulars or used as a guide to action, only in a very few cases, and in those with great uncertainty.” (pp. 255, 256.) Cf. also, above, pp. 148-150.
An analogous case is presented by the gradual devitalization of the Fichtean and Romanticist tendencies. One would scarcely expect an orthodox neo-Fichtean to preach a national uprising. Carlyle and Emerson would find little to their taste in present-day accounts of the “overindividual will." And the reason lies in the fact that the absolute will has gradually been reduced to a will that things shall be as they are, or rather to the will through which things are as they are. It was once supposed that the primacy of the will, or the creative originality of genius, had something to do with a man's power over his environment. Idealism was the justification of the religion of self-reliance. As an idealist a man might substitute his affections for the alien categories of mechanical science, and discern behind the hard outer aspect of nature a response to his own longings. He might assert himself, and yet claim the world as his own. Idealism was the justification of faith in the triumph of the human spirit over its adversaries - the triumph of the individual over authority, of the nation over its conquerors, of humanity over fate.
But this moving idealism is now condemned for its anthropomorphism. Its claims were so specific that they were exposed to refutation. The universe is not necessarily responsive to any historical individual interest. If, then, 'will' is to be retained as the originating condition of being, it cannot be your will or mine, for these prefer special claims which events in their neutrality are not disposed to regard; it must be an "over-individual will," whose essential character is that it shall will things as they are whatever they are.
“Cannot my will,” asks Professor Münsterberg, "aim at the realization of an end which does not appeal to my personal interest, but which I will because I enter into the willing and feeling of the independent world, and because I feel satisfied if its purpose becomes realized? All this is possible, it is clear, only if two conditions are fulfilled: the objective world must have a will of its own, and its will must force itself upon me and must thus become my own desire." In other words, there is one fundamental act of will, the "demand that there be a world." The rest follows as a matter of logical necessity and empirical fact. “For everyone who wants to have a world at all, all the relations which result from the self-assertion of the experiences must be acknowledged as absolutely valid for the true world.” 1
But how does such a "self-assertion of the world" differ, save in name, from that very impartiality or indifference from which the romantic faith is popularly supposed to have promised deliverance? One is reminded of Heine's description of Catholicism as "a concordat between God and the devil — that is to say, between the spirit and the senses, in which the absolute reign of the spirit was promulgated in theory, but in which the senses were nevertheless practically reinstated in the enjoyment of their rights.”? Similarly, modern Fichteanism of the more rigorous type, under the influence of logical and scientific motives, has virtually reduced will to an endorsement of necessity and fact. The "pure will,” “the only “a priori' for the true world,” is the “will for identities." 3 In other words the formal principle of 'identity' as the supreme logical category, and the principle of order in science, is virtually all that is left to define the meaning of spirit.
The 'eternity' or universality of value is thus conceived so formally, as not to affect the really significant moral and religious issues. Among the values for which men actually contend, absolute idealism guarantees the ultimate conservation of but one, the logical value of a world-order. The attempt to invest will with the universality of logic has led to the reduction of will to logic. But a will so conceived, while it may claim universality, must be insufficient and indeterminate with reference to life.
1 Science and Idealism. pp. 31-32; The Eternal Volues, pp. 75, 78. • Prose Writings, trans. by Havelock Ellis, p. 155. • Münsterberg, op. cit., p. 79.
$ 7. In spite of the fact that when strictly interpreted absolute idealism succeeds in grounding reality in spirit Equivocation only through having first reduced spirit to in Absolute logic, it has nevertheless been offered, and is Idealism
still offered, as a confirmation of religious belief. This is possible, I am convinced, only by virtue of the suggestive power of terms borrowed from religious tradition, and used without a strict regard for their meaning. In other words, idealism, like preKantian absolutism, appears to escape formalism only by falling into the more serious error of equivocation.
The fundamental equivocation in idealism is its use of terms that ordinarily refer to characteristic forms of human consciousness - such as thought,' 'will,''personality,' and 'spirit.' Whatever may be true of consciousness in general,” the moral and religious significance of consciousness is bound up with those very elements which must be eliminated if the conception is to be employed as an unlimited generalization. Thus thought' suggests a stage of development in life, a prerogative of man, distinguishing him from the greater part of his environment; but a universal thought, an absolute idea, must be coextensive with the totality — and exhibited as truly in the mechanisms of nature as in the purposes of man. Indeed, the greater the stress laid on the universality of thought, the more is one compelled to identify it with nature rather than with man. The term 'will' belongs inseparably to the assertion of particular interests in the face of indifferent circumstance, and in the midst of other wills that may be friendly or hostile. But an 'over-individual will' must coincide with all particular interests and also with their environment. Its over-individuality is better exhibited in the environment than in the interests themselves. Similarly, “personal self” refers to a coördination of “inner world, fellow-world, and outer world.” But Professor Münsterberg, nevertheless proposes to conceive the fundamental principle from which all three are derived, as "selfhood without individuality.” “We might suggest it,” he writes, “by the words 'over-self.' The over-self is therefore reached as soon as the reference to the personal conditions in our experience is eliminated. On the other hand, as soon as the over-self posits in itself a limited personal self, its undifferentiated content must at once separate itself into a self, a co-self, and a not-self.” 1
1 Cf. also, above, pp. 151, 152. The 'eternity' of value may be taken to mean that true judgments of value, like other true judgments, must have objective validity, or be in some sense independent of the individual judging mind. But this affects neither the question as to what is valuable, nor the question as to whether value shall prevail. It is thus non-committal both with reference to morals and religion. Cf. below, pp. 335-340.
: Cf. Chap. XII.
Now such qualifications as 'over,' 'super,' 'absolute,' attaching to words " by way of eminency," in the majority of cases really alter their meaning. But since the words
thought,' 'will,' and 'self' are none the less retained, the unsuspecting layman not unnaturally understands them in the familiar sense, in that sense in which he can verify them in his own experience. The suggestions of these and other like terms must inevitably outweigh the technical meaning which they possess in the discourse of idealistic philosophy. The layman is never really taken into the confidence of the augurs. Hence he is readily led to believe that he is guaranteed the triumph of civilization over the mechanical cosmos, and of good over evil. He is
"Op. cit., pp. 395, 398. Of all absolute idealists, Bradley most consistently avoids such procedure as this, with the result that his first principle is almost wholly devoid of characters. For his discussion of the self, see Appearance and Reality, Ch. X, especially p. 114. An excellent illustration of this procedure is afforded by the conception so much in favor with critical idealists, of a "non-psychological subject.” Cf. above, pp. 140, 144, 146.