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persuaded that the Absolute takes sides with him against his foes and promises him the victory. Little does he suspect that such a being must by definition stand uncommitted to any cause, the impartial creator and spectator of things as they are.

The most signal equivocation of which idealism has been guilty is its use of the terms 'good' and 'evil.' Equivocation is involved even in the project of such a solution as that which idealism undertakes. Evil constitutes a problem because it opposes, retards, or defeats the good will. If evil were not in this sense uncompromisingly alien to good, defined in contradistinction to it, there would be no problem. Now, to solve this problem in the idealistic sense means to discover some way of regarding evil as conducive to good, as good for' good, as part of a whole that is better for its presence. But such a project necessarily involves a new definition of good, in which the old good shall be neutralized through the complicity of evil. And this is undeniably the case with every interpretation of the Absolute's goodness that idealism has formulated. Good and evil are united in a new conception of value, the very essence of which is its implication of both good and evil. Now assuming that it is possible to formulate such a conception, and to attribute to it the unlimited generality that absolutism requires, it is certainly impossible to call it 'good' without equivocation. For that term will continue to suggest what is now construed as only one of its partial aspects. And the new conception appears to be a solution of the original problem only because of this suggestion. It seems to assert a victory of good over evil, whereas it really asserts only a perpetual and doubtful battle between the two, giving a certain fixity and finality to the very situation from which it promised deliverance.

The same motive which leads absolutism to the equivocal

1 Cf. McTaggart: Studies in Hegelian Cosmology, Chap VI, especially $$ 182–188. I return to this subject in discussing pluralism. Cf. below, pp. 246-248.

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use of words leads it to mysticism. For mysticism is the express admission that the first principle cannot properly be characterized at all. Words can do no more than suggest an experience that lies beyond the reach of their definite meanings. Thus absolute idealists who seek to avoid both formalism and agnosticism, and who, like McTaggart, admit that self, will, and volition all involve relations and limitations that cannot be attributed to an absolute, are prompted to employ some less articulate version of spirit, such as “love.” In terms of this dissolving emotion he ventures "to indicate the possibility of finding, above all knowledge and volition, one all-embracing unity, which is only not true, only not good, because all truth and all goodness are but distorted shadows of its absolute perfection-'das Unbegreifliche, weil es der Begriff selbst ist."”

The equivocation into which absolute idealism so readily falls, can scarcely be said to be an accident. It is the result of an effort to escape formalism. If equivocation be strictly avoided, there is no content which can be attributed to the all-general principle, save the abstract and insufficient categories of logic.

$ 8. We have now to inquire whether absolutism is enabled by the aid of idealism to escape dogmatism. The Dogmatism in proof of absolutism depends, as we have seen, Absolute on the implication of a maximum of knowledge.

a Idealism

It must be supposed that as a curve can be plotted from several points, so a progression can be defined from the several instances of human knowledge. And this progression, thus defined, must be supposed to define a supreme or consummate knowledge as its upper limit.? Employing the idealistic principle, and assuming that reality is answerable to the demands of the cognitive consciousness, we may thus attribute to reality the ultimate demand or ideal of the cognitive consciousness.

Op. cit., p. 292. · "It is involved in the very idea of a developing consciousness such as ours, that . . . as an intelligence, it presupposes the idea of the whole.” (Caird: “Idealism and the Theory of Knowledge,” pp. 8-9.)

What, when I think, am I virtually postulating as the perfect success of thought? What unlimited cognitive attainment may I infer from the very limitations which I seek to escape? Let me cite two contemporary exponents of the doctrine. “Truth," writes Mr. Joachim, "was the systematic coherence which characterized a significant whole. And we proceeded to identify a significant whole with an organized individual experience, self-fulfilling and self-fulfilled.' Now there can be one and only one such experience: or only one significant whole, the significance of which is self-contained in the sense required. For it is absolute self-fulfilment, absolutely self-contained significance, that is postulated; and nothing short of absolute individuality — nothing short of the completely whole experience - can satisfy this postulate. And human knowledge — not merely my knowledge or yours, but the best and fullest knowledge in the world at any stage of its development - is clearly not a significant whole in this ideally complete sense. Hence the truth, which our sketch described, is – from the point of view of the human intelli

an Ideal, and an Ideal which can never as such, or in its completeness, be actual as human experience.”

Or compare the statement of Professor Royce. "In the first place, the reality that we seek to know has always to be defined as that which either is or would be present to a sort of experience which we ideally define as organized – that is, a united and transparently reasonable - experience. .. Passing to the limit in this direction, we can accordingly say that by the absolute reality we can only mean either that which is present to an absolutely organized experience inclusive of all possible experience, or that which would be presented as the content of such an experience if there were one."'Elsewhere, Professor Royce describes this “absolutely organized experience” as “an individual life, present as a whole, totum simul.


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1 Joachim, The Nature of Truth, pp. 78–79. Royce, The Conception of God, pp. 30, 31.


“This life," he continues, "is the completed will, as well as the completed experience, corresponding to the will and experience of any one finite idea." And “to be, in the final sense,” he concludes, “means to be just such a life, complete, present to experience, and conclusive of the search for perfection which every finite idea in its own measure undertakes whenever it seeks for any object.” 1

Now what content do these statements enable us to attribute to the cognitive ideal? Do they mean, for example, merely that it is “inclusive of all possible experience,” that it is the knowledge of everything? If so, then absolute idealism has done no more than to add to the total reality, whatever it be, a knower that envelopes it. And this throws no light on the nature of the total reality; nor is it of any special significance that there should be such a mere spectator of things as they are, totum simul.

Or do these statements mean merely that such a knower of everything must enjoy a “completed will,” or perfect satisfaction, that is unattainable by the fallible mind of man? If so, then it may be observed that the mere state of complete satisfaction is relative and indeterminate. Man does experience perfect satisfaction, often when he might better be troubled by a “divine unrest.” If it be objected that man's satisfaction, despite its inward selfsufficiency, is nevertheless imperfect, then this must be because his ideals are not high enough. The Absolute experiences the complete satisfaction of the highest cognitive ideal. But what, then, is the highest cognitive ideal? We can now no longer answer in terms merely of satisfaction. It may be that the highest cognitive ideal is the knowledge of everything, in which case the Absolute is the being that is perfectly satisfied to know everything. But such an Absolute, even if there were any ground for asserting it, would be otherwise consistent with any kind of a world whatsoever. As a matter of fact, neither of these versions of the cognitive ideal makes any use of the absolutist principle proper. They simply employ the cardinal principle of idealism to add to the world as it stands a consciousness that shall support it. Since we must postulate a totality, and since on idealistic grounds things cannot be without being known, it follows that there must be a knowledge to correspond to the totality. But if there is any virtue in the absolutist principle itself, it must be possible to define a cognitive ideal in other than quantitative terms, not a knowing of everything merely, but a perfect knowing of everything. From what it is to know well, it must be possible to infer what it is to know best. And that the Ideal Experience is a maximum in this sense is the really crucial contention of such writers as Joachim and Royce. I have considered other alternatives in order to clear this contention from confusion.

i The World and the Individual, First Series, pp. 341-342.

Mr. Joachim's Ideal Experience is “completely selfcoherent,” and Professor Royce's "absolutely organized.”ı 'Coherence' and 'organization' are not essentially different; and they are equivalent to the Kantian notion of 'synthetic unity. All three express the same idea that is expressed outside the idealistic school, by the word "system. The question now arises as to whether this conception defines a maximum. Does it mean anything to speak of absolute coherence, organization, or system?

That these expressions seem to mean something is due, I think, to the loose quantitative suggestions of the terms employed. Thus it is fair to say that a living organism is more coherent than a sand-bank, in that there is a greater cross-reference of parts and inter-dependence of function. One gets more light on each element from its relations to all the other elements, in the former case, than in the latter. Similarly, it is possible to suppose an assemblage even more coherent than the living organism. But between this and the supposition of an absolutely coherent unity, there is an immeasurable gulf. A coherent whole must contain both relation, connection, and unity, and also

Joachim: op. cit., p. 114; Royce: Conception of God, p. 31.


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