Part VII. MOVEMENTS SINCE HEGEL TO THE PRESENT
Chap. III. British Philosophy in the Victorian Era
There has been a tendency in some quarters to speak slightingly of the general culture of Britain during that portion of last century styled the Victorian Era. This judgment seems to be hardly in accordance with facts. It is true, as Mr. T. S. Marvin points out, that if we compare the state of France and England in the early part of the century immediately after the fires of the Revolution had died down, France, in spite of her material exhaustion, had in many respects advanced beyond our own country.(1) While in France the people quickly responded to the call of liberty and swept away many of the privileges which the nobility had abused under the Feudal tradition, in Britain reforms were brought about more slowly, and for a time the stream of social improvement was completely stayed. But the same principles were at work in both countries, and though the seeds of liberty took longer to attain fruition, they ultimately yielded a richer harvest. Certainly when we reach the period in our history which began with the accession of Queen Victoria one may without exaggeration endorse the verdict of a modern writer who says that in that age «there was a certain heroism of temper and magnificence of character which we may dub heavy and priggish in our lighter moods, but for the loss of which our finer conscience would chide us.»
It was pre-eminently the age of scientific discovery and invention ; and even in the realm of political and social philosophy we encounter a succession of great writers, from Adam Smith to Spencer, which has hardly been equalled during the same time in any other part of Europe. By the side of this stream of political thought must be placed the rich volume of poetry and prose-romance, the efforts of a brilliant group of historians who have sought to recreate the past of their own and other lands, and the achievements in the special sciences of Chemistry, Biology and Medicine which have made the whole world our debtors. In all these activities one note may be detected. It is the call to liberty through knowledge of the trutha note so distinctive of the age that in the fine phrase of T. S. Marvin the Victorian Era may be called «the Century of Hope.» A new order was being created in which all mankind was to inherit a life of greater freedom and greater potency for self-realization than the world had yet known.
In this period the prevailing type of British Philosophy has been practical rather than speculative, and spiritual rather than metaphysical. The trend in the earlier decades at least has been towards the discussion of ethical and social problems. In England, after the reaction of the French Revolution had died down, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill became the leading figures in the first period of reform. The philosophy of the day drew much from David Humethe most critical intellect of the age. Hume’s thought goes back to Bacon and Hobbes and the Scientific Movement of the Seventeenth Century. Kant, whose influence was greatly felt in the later phases of British speculation, owed to Hume, as he acknowledges, his awakening from dogmatic slumber.
|All of them in their turn go back to Rousseau in France and to Locke in England. It was immediately through the influence of the French writer, Helvetius, a disciple of Locke, who sought to identify the interests of the individual with those of the community, that Bentham was instigated to enter the field of polemics and thus to inaugurate, in the early years of the nineteenth century, the doctrine of Utilitarianism.|
In general, three factors distinguish the shaping of the mental activity of the age under reviewan ethical, a realistic or scientific, and an idealistic. The first is the doctrine of Utilitarianism, the second the theory of Evolution, the third the newer idealism which owed its inspiration to the Kantian Philosophy.
1. Though David Hume was the real founder of modern Utilitarianism, and William Paley (1743-1805) one of the first writers who gave a systematic treatment of morality based upon what might be called other-worldly happiness, the honour of inaugurating the school of Utilitarianism belongs to Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Paley defines virtue as «the doing of good to mankind in obedience to the will of God and for the sake of everlasting happiness.» Bentham, though agreeing with Paley that pleasure is the only self-evident good which every man naturally strives after in some form, differs as to the nature of the motives or «sanctions,» as he calls them, for moral action. He does not lay much stress on the religious sanctions, emphasizing rather the physical and political. Pleasure according to Bentham differs in quantity rather than quality. In investigating the good and bad effects of an act, he adduces the different elements which must be taken account of in calculating the value of a pleasure. These are «intensity, nearness, certainty, purity and fruitfulness.» By purity is meant not moral quality, but freedom from accompanying pain. Thus intellectual pleasure may take precedence of sensual. By the fruitfulness of a pleasure is meant the tendency to bring forth other pleasuresthe benefit which accrues. When we sum up the values of all pleasures or pains thus scrutinized, the balance on the one side or other gives the total good or bad tendency of an act. Ethics thus becomes with Bentham a matter of calculation. He defines the end of morality to be «the greatest happiness of the greatest number,» calculated upon the basis of the equality of the claims of all. Happiness is a social thing. His idea is that the sum of pleasure is to be raised to the utmost and to be equally distributed among as many people as possible. «Everybody is to count for one, and nobody for more than one.» Our first care, however, must be for our own welfare, but it will be usually found that regard for self involves consideration of others. Hence arise two classes of virtue prudential and benevolent. As a political economist and social reformer, Bentham was more concerned to impress upon his countrymen how much their individual happiness was promoted by whatever conduced to the general well-being, than to reconcile self-love with benevolence. However you may explain it, he seemed to say, the practical outcome is that in serving others you serve yourself.
In propounding these views Bentham was aided by the co-operation and sympathy of James Mill. He was, however, no mere disciple of Bentham, but a profound and independent thinker whose Elements of Political Economy (1829) and Analysis of the Human Mind gave considerable impetus to psychological study and associational philosophy. To him his more illustrious son, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), was greatly indebted. It is with the name of the son rather than that of the father that the doctrine of utilitarianism is connected, and to Bentham rather than James Mill that we must turn to discover J. S. Mill’s relation to the school of ethics with which he is generally associated.
Before, however, discussing his contributions to utilitarianism it will be well to refer briefly to his general position in philosophy. His principal writings are his System of Logic (1843); his Examination of Sir W. Hamilton’s Philosophy (1865); his essay on Utilitarianism (1861); On Liberty (1859); Principles of Political Economy (1848); and after his death, Three Essays on Religion (1874).
Mill is a disciple of Hume, with whom he combines the influence of Comte’s positivism, according to which the whole history of the human mind shows that we can only know facts and their relations. Experience, Mill holds, is the only source of knowledge. We know nothing of innate or intuitive elements. Experience tells us what is, but not what must be. Mind and matter belong to two distinct realms and cannot be compared. Matter, he defines, «as a permanent possibility of sensations.» Our belief in an external world is not the result of immediate or primitive intuition. Mind, he resolves into «a series of feelings with a background of possibilities of feelings.» Psychology, as the science of the laws of mental life, has to do with the facts of the mind alone. What we call «intuitions» are wholly the product of experience. As Hume has taught us, so-called primary truths are only habits of the mind which time and repetition have rendered irresistible. But while Hume seems to make an exception of mathematical truths, Mill, with more consistency, boldly declares that even the axioms of geometry have no inherent validity. They are only true by association. In other planets 2 +2 may not equal 4. A conviction created by experience may be destroyed by experience. All inference is from particulars to particulars. The syllogism is but a concealed induction. Universal judgments are merely «brief expressions for aggregates of particular truths.» Causation, as Hume alleges, is another name for the invariable association of phenomena, which custom and frequent occurrence conduce to a belief in their necessary or causal relation. The uniformity of nature, which is the basis of induction, is not absolutely certain, and can only be accepted as highly probable. On this assumption, indeed, we build the positive sciences. But history shows us that conclusions accepted to-day were once regarded as absurd and may be proved delusions to-morrow. Mill’s attitude of scepticism is even more pronounced than that of Hume. It is only to be expected that such a speculative position should affect not only his religious views, but his whole attitude to life. In such a sensationalistic theory of knowledge, unable to rise above empirical generalizations which, for aught the human mind can tell, may be subverted by larger experience, there is manifestly no room for any absolute trust. He believes neither in the beneficence of nature nor the omnipotence of God. In his Essays on Religion he tells us «that nearly all things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another are nature’s every day performance»; and that «the notion of a providential government by an omnipotent Being for the good of His creatures must be entirely dismissed.» Yet, strange to say, Mill is neither a pessimist nor an atheist. But such a God as he acknowledges would furnish but slender hope for the final triumph of goodness. His optimism, such as it is, rests, if anywhere, upon his faith in man. From what sources did his faith in the future of man draw its strength? The answer to this question ismainly in his attitude as a political thinker. To understand his ethical theory we must turn to his famous autobiography. It is the apologia of his faith. He there describes a «mental crisis» which came upon him in his twentieth year, and forced him to the conviction that happiness, though the test of all rules of conduct and the end of life, was only to be obtained by not making it the direct end, but by having one’s mind fixed on some such ideal of the general improvement of mankind. Hence in his essay on Utilitarianism J. S. Mill, while advocating the greatest-happiness theory, defends it against the charges of selfishness and sensualism. It is not selfish, for it requires impartiality in deciding between our own interests and those of others; and it is not sensual, for man possesses faculties which sensual pleasures cannot satisfy, and until a man provides for his highest nature, he cannot attain to the true end or happiness of life.
In dealing with the problem which Bentham left unsolved the mode of reconciling self-love with the promotion of general happinessMill adduces his famous argument in the fourth chapter of Utilitarianism. «No reason,» he says, «can be given why the general happiness is desirable, except that each person desires his own happiness. Each person’s happiness is a good to that person, and the general happiness, therefore, a good to the aggregate of all persons.»
While Mill agrees with Bentham in maintaining that the principle of morality is the promotion of the happiness of all, he differs from him in recognizing qualitative as well as quantitative differences in pleasure. In thus giving up a qualitative identity, the utilitarianism of Mill loses its distinctive element. But how are we to discriminate between sorts of pleasure? What is to be the standard of value? Two pleasures cannot be felt together. Memory of past happiness as against present gratification is an insufficient guide, for even the estimate of a former pleasure depends upon a present state of feeling. Assuming, then, that pleasures differ in quality, the question arises, what makes the difference? Mill sets up no standard. He refers us only to men of experience. But obviously if we select men for their character, we have already decided for the kind of pleasure corresponding to their view of things.
In repudiating some of the most characteristic tenets of Utilitarianism, J. S. Mill marks the gradual break-up of the school and its submergence in a deeper tide of thought. Its modified form is disclosed in the works of John Austin, George Grote and Buckle, who represent the party in the realm of Jurisprudence, Ethics, and the Philosophy of History, respectively. It is the merit of J. S. Mill that he at least perceived the significance of the problem of uniting benevolence and prudence. But he simply lays side by side in human nature self-regarding and other-regarding tendencies, and seeks a solution very much on his father’s lines by bringing in the uniting idea of association. He was hampered by his individualistic philosophy and his static view of life. He did not see that a purely self-regarding action is nothing better than a figment. A man is not one person in his private deeds and another in his social efforts. He is one and the same in both. The Self to be realized is always a social self, and the moral ideal is nothing less than the idea of a common good.
It must be acknowledged, however, that utilitarianism has rendered services of the most important kind to the true interests of mankind, and particularly by their works on political and social subjects Bentham and the Mills have largely contributed to the reforms and progress of our institutions. J. S. Mill’s noble treatise on Liberty, in which he attempts to reconcile the freedom of the individual with the restraints of social order, is one of the great books of modern times. Mill himself possessed in a rare degree an independent and progressive mind. In spite of his parental upbringing and the narrowness of his mental environment he had the vitality to go his own way and think his own thought, leaving behind him, as has been said, «Something greater than Benthamism.»
A view of the origin of moral sentiments somewhat similar to that of J. S. Mill is maintained by Alexander Bain (1818-1903), late professor of Aberdeen and one of the best known writers of the psychological school. He lays particular stress on the operation of purely disinterested sympathy, which he regards as a particular case of «the tendency of every idea to act itself out, to become an actuality, not with a view to bring pleasure or to ward off pain, but from an independent prompting of the mind.» Without explaining the combination of selfish and altruistic tendencies the school of which Prof. Bain was the representative simply regards the moral promptings of any normal individual as harmonizing < on the whole with the general interests of the community.
Bain was a thinker of much acuteness and independence who exerted a considerable influence on Scottish philosophy. His principal works are The Senses and the Intellect (1855); The Emotions and the Will (1859); Mental and Moral Science (1868); Logic (1870); and The Relation of Mind and Body (1873). He also wrote a Biography of James Mill, as well as a Criticism of J. S. Mill (1882). His writings are chiefly remarkable as affording the most complete treatment of the principle of the Association of Ideas in British Philosophy. His psychology is based on Physiology after the manner of Hartley. But he differs from the latter writer in maintaining that the human organism is not merely the passive recipient of impressions, but has also the power of originating impulses. In this way he combats the objections which modern Idealism has raised against the system of sensationalism.
2. Partly through the influence of Hegel and Comte, and partly through the reaction of biological conceptions upon philosophy and general thinking, the individualistic or atomistic view of the relation of the individual to society had given place to an evolutionary explanation of life and morals. As has been pointed out, the older forms of utilitarianism rested on a false idea of man’s nature. It regarded society as stationary and as consisting of an aggregate of individuals mechanically united like the atoms of matter. Pleasure was considered as a fixed thing for all time, having a certain definite value for all. Instead of this atomic theory of human nature and happiness, modern science has substituted the organic. It is held that just as the human organism is the product of heredity, the result of selection and development, so society as a whole is an evolution, and all mental faculties and moral sentiments advance from lower to higher stages. The individual exists only in society, and acquires all it has of inner and outer endowment in and through society. All man’s powers of body and mind are inherited from the past. A man’s life takes its form at every point from the relation in which he stands to his social environment. «A full perception of this truth,» says Sir Leslie Stephen, «that society is not a mere aggregate, but an organic growththat it forms a whole, the laws of whose growth can be studied apart from those of the individual atomsupplies the most characteristic postulate of modern times.»
This theory of evolutionary ethics, of which Herbert Spencer is the chief exponent, is an attempt to deduce morality from Biological laws, and is based on the general doctrine of evolution connected with the name of Charles Darwin (1809-1882).
|The idea of a progressive transition from lower to higher forms of existence was not a new one. The evolution of the physical universe from a primitive mass by a mechanical process of change was implied in many previous systems of philosophy, both in ancient and modern times. But the history of evolution, in the modern sense, as the development of living beings from lower and less perfect forms of existence, by material causation, begins with Darwin, who was the first to propound the doctrine as a scientific theory of life.|
Darwin began his life as a naturalist by a study of the fauna of South America during a voyage on the Beagle. The perusal of Malthus’ Essay on Population (1766-1834) led him to reflect upon the general idea of the struggle for existence. As the result of twenty years’ consideration of this problem, he published his epoch-making work, The Origin of Species (1859). He endeavours to show that not only does the evolution of species proceed in a regular and natural way from lower to higher, but also that, partly by the law of the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence, and partly by adaptation to environment, new variations and types are evolved; while special organs and habits tending to the preservation of the individual or species, under the conditions of life in which it has been placed, are gradually formed. Since more individuals of all kinds come into the world than nature can support, those which have some slight advantage have the best chance of survival, while the weaker variations succumb. These variations, which survival in the fight for life reveals, are transmitted to their offspring, and thus afford a basis of advancement which, in the process of ages, results in the highly specialized forms we witness to-day. Thus the whole aspect of the organic world is altered. The old static view of life gives place to the evolutionary. Instead of simultaneous beginnings, as formerly assumed, a continuous stream of process, in which each step is connected with the foregoing by a series of minute and almost imperceptible changes, takes place. While there is a general consensus of agreement as to the main principle, some diversity of opinion exists regarding the factors which promote variation. Darwin himself laid stress upon natural selection, and somewhat underrated environmental conditions. Among modern scientists the tendency is to put the main emphasis partly upon «organism,» partly on «function,» and partly on «environment,» giving significance more or less pronounced to all three elements as the decisive factors in the process.
In the Descent of Man, published in 1871, Darwin extended his argument to the development of the human species. He did not believe that his theory encroached upon the theistic field or in any way tended to subvert the Christian Faith. Why it should be «more irreligious to explain the origin of man as a distinct species of descent from some lower forms, through the laws of variation and natural selection, than to explain the birth of the individual through the laws of ordinary reproduction» he could not understand. It is true the old idea of God, as Paley conceives Him, as an external designer, acting without the world and creating the universe by a series of interferences, is no longer tenable. But evolution does not contradict the notions of purpose nor exclude the thought of a divine ruler. So far from diminishing, the theory rather enhances the wonder of the universe, and suggests a higher conception of the Deity and His relation to man than is afforded by the mechanical view of creation.
It is hardly possible to overstate the far-reaching effects of Darwin’s theory. It has revolutionized our whole view of life. It has given a new impulse and value to every science. Nor has it been without its ethical significance. Darwin himself, though he did not elaborate the moral implications of his theory, helped to lay the foundations of modern evolutionary ethics by his references to the moral elements in natural selection and in the struggle for life which fosters those qualities contributory to the highest good of the race. Modern thought is beginning to discern that the struggle for existence is not, even in its lower stages, the final clue to survival. And the higher we rise in the evolutionary process there is evidence of another law, a law of co-operation, known as Symbiosis. Darwin himself has enumerated not a few examples of co-action and reciprocity of service. Even in lower natures, as in the higher stages of consciousness, there are features of sympathy, interrelationship, mutual help, and even sacrifice, which can only be expressed in the phrase, «dying to live»; and instead of the «fiercely raging struggle» which earlier evolutionists picture, and the intense individualism and selfishness which are supposed to dominate the world, there is evidence of a principle of mutual service and co-partnery which suggests that the final issues of life depend not on rivalry and conflict, but on co-operation of individuals which find their raison d’être as members of a greater whole.
Among the writers who have elaborated the doctrine of evolution mention must be made of A. R. Wallace, who shares with Darwin the honour of establishing the theory; and W. K. Clifford (1845-1879); John Tyndall (1820-1893); Geo. Romanes (1848-1894); Thomas Huxley (1825-1895)all of whom, in various ways, applied and amplified the Darwinian theory.
Darwin was professedly a naturalist, and only incidentally touched upon the moral and spiritual domain. But what he did not essay was attempted by Herbert Spencer, who in recent times has elaborated a complete system of philosophy embracing the entire field of human knowledge on the basis of evolution.
Spencer was born in 1820 at Derby. Originally intending to adopt his father’s profession of teacher, on concluding his education he decided to become a civil engineer. But at the age of twenty-five he devoted himself entirely to philosophical pursuits. His works are numerous. He early formed the design of explaining all phenomenaphysical, psychical, socialas manifestations of one ultimate principlethe persistence of Force. Before the appearance of Darwin’s Origin of Species he had published Social Statics (1850); Principles of Psychology (1855); and Progress: its Law and Cause (1857). But impressed by the study of Darwin, his purpose now took definite shape, and there followed The First Principles (1862); Principles of Biology (1863-7); Principles of Sociology (1877); and Principles of Ethics (1879-93). These works comprise what he has called his «system of synthetic philosophy.» They deal with every department of knowledge, and seek to classify and synthesize the sciences in one comprehensive system. In the preface to the third volume of the Sociology (1896), Spencer explained that a fourth volume (linguistic, intellectual, moral, aesthetic) must, on account of infirmity and age, remain unwritten. He died in 1903.
The metaphysical basis of his philosophy is laid down by Spencer in his work entitled First Principles. He starts from the principle of the relativity of knowledgethe distinction between the knowable and the unknowable. Along with a definite consciousness of things known in relation to one another, there is implied an indefinite consciousness of an absolute existence, in the recognition of which science and religion find their reconciliation. Science shows us the existence of an Absolute behind all phenomena, but religion points to the inscrutable nature of this existence. All knowledge is limited to relations and consists in a series of generalizations. We begin with crude observations, and go on to more complete propositions. «Knowledge of the lowest kind is un-unified knowledge; science is partially unified knowledge; philosophy is completely unified knowledge.» The data of philosophy are those organized components of our knowledge without which thought could not proceed. Besides the unknowable power and its manifestations, space, time, matter, motion, force, are the ultimate postulates on which all other truths depend. But once more all these are traceable to experiences of that mode of consciousness whose reality is shown by its persistencein other wordsto force. The persistence of forcethe persistence of some cause which transcends our knowledge and conceptionis a truth which all other truths imply. «The phenomena of evolution,» he says, «have to be deduced from the persistence of force. To this an ultimate analysis brings us down, and in this a rational synthesis must be built up.» From the fact that force can neither arise out of, nor lapse into, nothing, follows the uniformity of law. Motion follows the line of least resistance, and is rhythmical. Force can never disappear; it can only be transformed. Hence from the persistence of force there follow the indestructibility of matter, the continuity of motion, and the rhythm of motion.
But now these analytic truths, or «components of phenomena,» as Spencer calls them, demand a law of universal synthesis. «Having seen that forces are everywhere undergoing transformation, and that motion, always following the line of least resistance, is invariably rhythmic, it remains to discover the similarly invariable formula expressing the combined consequences of the actions thus separately formulated.» This may be defined as «the law of the continuous redistribution of matter and motion,» which holds good for each single thing and every change. At every moment all objects are undergoing some change, either absorbing motion or losing motion. What then is the principle which expresses this constant change of relation?
The whole universe is involved in a double process of evolution or integration, and dissolution or disintegrations The formula of evolution is thus stated: «Evolution is an integration of matter and concomitant dissipation of motion: during which the matter passes from an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity; and during which the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation.» The law of evolution applies to every order of phenomenaastronomic, geologic, biologic, psychologic, sociologicsince these are all component parts of one universe.
The causes which necessitate this evolution from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, and from the indefinite and incoherent to the definite are: (1) The instability of the homogeneous which is consequent upon the different exposures of different parts to various forces; and (2) the multiplication of effects. Every mass on which a force falls, subdivides, and each part becomes the parent of further differences. At the same time, by a principle of segregation, which is a process tending ever to separate unlike units and bring together like units, the differences are sharpened and made definite.
But now what is the goal of this evolution? Equilibrium is the final result of these transformations. Changes go on until the various forces become balanced and so produce rest. There is a tendency in every organism, however disordered by some unusual influence, to return to a balanced state. To this principle may be traced the capacity of individuals, and still more of species, of becoming adapted to new circumstances. It also affords a basis for the inference that there is a gradual advance towards harmony between man’s mental nature and the conditions of his existence. And, finally, from this same principle «we may draw a warrant for the belief that evolution can end only in the establishment of the greatest perfection and the most complete happiness.»
Dissolution is the counter-change which sooner or later every evolved aggregate undergoes. Once equilibrium is reached all change takes place in the direction of disintegration. This, which is illustrated in the destruction and death of planetary systems, of societies and of individuals, is no less true of the world as a whole. Thus the rhythm of evolution and dissolution, completing itself during short periods in small aggregates, and in the vast aggregates in periods immeasurable by human thought, is, so far as we can see, universal and eternal. All these phenomena, from their greatest features down to their minutest details, are necessarily results of the permanence of force under its forms, matter and motion.
The First Principles closes with a restatement of the doctrine of the Unknowable with which Spencer started. «That which persists unchanging in quantity, but ever changing in form, under those sensible appearances which the universe presents to us, transcends human knowledge is an unknown and unknowable power, which we are obliged to recognise as without limit in space and without beginning or end in time.»
In his First Principles Spencer’s whole philosophy is contained, and it would be impossible here to show how he applies and works out his principles in the various departments of Biology, Psychology, Sociology, and Ethics.
In all these realms change from the simple to the complex is the order of organic growth. The application of the theory of evolution to physical and mental phenomena is focussed in the definition which Spencer has given of life as «the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations,» which, reduced to its simplest form, is the interaction of organism and environment.
The theme of the first five books, one on First Principles, two on Biology, and two on Psychology, is the individual life, which prepares the way for the science of Society «super-organic evolution,» as Spencer calls it, implying the co-ordinated actions of many individuals. Society is a vast living organism whose development, like that of the individual, is to be accounted for by the interaction of organism and environment. The evolution of humanity is traced from primitive man, through the family, the community, the nation, to the confederation of nations. Through struggle for existence, by gradual adaptation to his surroundings, by means of co-operation and individualism, man has advanced from his simple, savage condition in pre-historic times to his present complex civilized state. In the chapter entitled «The Factors of Social Phenomena,» Spencer presents a vivid picture of human progress. «First comes the material appliances, which, beginning with simply-chipped flints, end in the complex automatic tools of an engine-factory driven by steam . . . which from huts of branches and grass grow to cities with their palaces and cathedrals. Then we have language, able at first only to eke out gestures in communicating simple ideas . . . from which we pass through picture-writing up to steam-printing, multiplying indefinitely the number communicated with, and making accessible in voluminous literatures the ideas and feelings of innumerable men… Concomitantly there goes on the development of knowledge, ending in science.» Simple customs end in systems of laws. Rude superstitions grow up into elaborate mythologies, theologies, cosmogonies. Opinions become embodied in creeds, ceremonies, and social sentiments. The necklace of fish bones passes into elaborate ornaments and gorgeous forms of dress. From the discordant war-chant come symphonies and operas. Cairns develop into temples. Rude cave-markings, to galleries of paintings. The recital of deeds of blood gives rise to the epic, the drama, and the history. Everywhere social progress is an advance in the number and complexity of adjustments of organism to environment.
Spencer traces the origin of religion to ancestor-worship, and generally to the worship of the dead. The idea of another lifefrom which the belief in deities is generally evolvedoriginated mainly «in such phenomena as shadows, reflections, echoes,» which were regarded by primitive man as his double or other self. The belief in ghosts and phantoms gives rise to all belief in supernatural powers. It was fear of the dead that lay at the root of religious control, just as it is fear of the living that is at the root of all political control.
It may be pointed out here that the ghost theory of Mr. Spencer has been subjected by Max Müller and others to a searching criticism, and is found to be based on totally mistaken data. In his Anthropological Religion, Max Müller, after a historical examination of the theory, says: «I make no secret that I consider the results of Mr. H. Spencer’s one-sided explanation of the origin of religion as worthy of the strongest condemnation which a love of truth can dictate.» With this criticism Pfleiderer and Renouf Réville generally agree, finding the beginning of religion rather in the worship of the greater objects of nature, such as the sun, mountains, rivers, etc.
The earlier communities, according to Spencer, were of the predatory and warlike type, and tended, therefore, to centralized control. The later, the industrial type, tends rather to restriction of governmental authority and to freedom of the individual. Spencer thinks that a still higher type than the industrial is possible in the future, when the present belief that life is for work will be changed for the principle that work is for life, and that instead of the individual existing for the State, the idea will prevail that the State exists for the individual.
The climax of Spencer’s systemto which all his previous studies lead upis his theory of ethics. Ethics, he holds, has its root in the physical, biological, and social conditions which he has considered. The moral sense is the result of a process of evolution. Development implies the acquisition of new instincts and desires. Hence happiness resulting from the satisfaction of desires, which satisfies at one stage of development, ceases to satisfy at a higher. The production of vitality, health of the complete social organism, is the aim of morals, and the best conduct is that which most fully realizes the law of evolution, which is really making for the greatest totality of life.
Apart from the obvious circle in which Spencer moves, making happiness a means towards the completion of life, and then assuming that «increase of life» is desirable in order to greater happiness, it may be said that a theory which sets out «to deduce from the laws of life and the conditions of existence what kinds of actions necessarily tend to produce happiness and what kinds to produce unhappiness,» is not a theory of ethics at all. There is no room for freedom of the subject. If man is necessitated like any material object, as the theory asserts, then it is as absurd to enjoin on him anything at all as to command the sun to stand still. Moral conduct is transmitted. We are what the past has made us, and what we must do is determined by heredity and environment, so that the future action of the individual and of society can be predicted and even tabulated from the known laws of life. Mr. Spencer’s language implies that there is something else transmitted than a nervous systemour very experiences and sensations are transmitted. Our moral sense is nothing but the highly developed product of a series of modifications which have been going on through the generations, and have resulted in our present necessary intuitions and aims. Spencer really applies causality to mind and will, and by reducing ethics to a form of mechanism, empties morality of all contents.
The strength of Spencer, as has been pointed out, lies in his brilliant power of generalization; and through his acquaintance with science he has thrown much light upon the problems of biology, especially in their relation to psychology. But his conclusions in the regions of sociology, religion, and ethics are by no means so satisfactory. He starts with a false duality between subject and object which vitiates his whole system. While he maintains that these exist in relation, he never succeeds in showing the inner connection between the subjective modes of thought and the objective forms of force. His attempt to reconcile science and religion, materialism and idealism, on the basis of an abstract unknown substratum, while saving him from the position of materialism, involves him in innumerable contradictions. He tells us we cannot know the absolute, and yet almost with the same breath he insists that we have an idea of the absolute, which our minds are compelled to form. Now he defines it as that which stands out of all relations, and is, therefore, unknowable; and, again, he affirms that it manifests itself in all that is, and is an element in every idea we form. The absolute, in other words, stands in relation to both mind and matter, and has, indeed, its very nature in that relation, and yet though it is continually manifesting itself in innumerable ways, it is absolutely unknown and unknowable!
An author, however, has a right to expect to be interpreted by his best, and there is a sense in which it may be said that Mr. Spencer does contend for an ultimate reality from which all things proceed,a reality which binds together our whole consciousness and gives a spiritualistic rather than a materialistic aspect to the universe. His latest commentator, M. Emile Boutroux of Paris, in his little work recently published, Religion according to Herbert Spencer, says that the value of Spencer’s religious teaching lies in its testimony to the living consciousness of the tie that binds the individual being to that common source of all, which wells up in the thinking mind; and, after quoting Spencer’s famous question: «Is it not just possible that there is a mode of being transcending intelligence and will as these transcend mechanical action?» he finds its natural and necessary completion in the prayer, «Thy kingdom come.»
Before passing from the ethical and evolutionary phase which has just been under consideration, a brief notice may be fittingly added here of three eminent Victorians who by their lives and writings did much to mould and enlarge the moral, social and spiritual conception of life in our country during this period. These are D. F. Maurice, John Henry Newman, and James Martineau. All of them were born in the year 1805, and the lives of the last two were practically contemporaneous with the century. D. F. Maurice, though brought up in the Unitarian Faith, took orders in the Church of England and in 1866 became professor of moral philosophy in Cambridge, where he exercised a profound influence upon modern theology. Of his numerous writings, the most important bearing upon philosophical subjects are his Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (1847); his lecture on The Conscience; and a treatise on Social Morality. Maurice was the mainspring of the movement known as «Christian Socialism,» in the work of which he was associated with Charles Kingsley. He was also regarded as the leader of the «Broad Church» party. His theological views, and particularly his teaching in regard to the Fatherhood of God and the Sacrifice of Christ, gave a fresh stimulus to religious thought and have exerted a broadening influence on the spiritual life of the country.
Of John Henry Newman little requires to be said here. He was, as is well known, the inspirer and leader of the Tractarian Movement in the English Churchand ultimately went over to the Church of Rome, of which he became an eminent Cardinal. He had a strongly philosophic and critical mind, and besides his many theological and ecclesiastical writings, he has enriched philosophical thought by two remarkable worksThe Grammar of Assent, in which he propounds the nature and grounds of belief; and an essay on The Development of Christian Doctrine written as early as 1846, in which, in an original and independent way, he worked out the idea of development, before it became in this country at least the watchword of science and philosophy, and thus became a pioneer in a line of thought which has become specially fruitful in all departments of study.
The most important name from a philosophical point of view is that of James Martineau who, though born in the first decade of last century, lived to see the beginning of the present. An eminent Unitarian, he was the principal of Manchester College till a few years before he died. He was a man of profound thought, of beautiful life, a distinguished theologian, an eminent Biblical critic, an original and effective writer on philosophical and ethical science. He stood forth all his days as a valiant champion of idealism, strongly opposed to materialism, and upholding in all his writings the spiritual interpretation of the world of nature and life. In an early volume of theological essays, in several volumes of pulpit discourses of singular beauty of thought and language he evolved the conception of the Divine Being and man’s relation to Him, as well as his views of moral and social life which found more systematic expression in his principal works. Of these, it is enough to name Types of Ethical Theory (1885); A Study of Religion (1888); and The Seat of Authority in Religion (1890); and not least A Study of Spinoza in 1882all of which have become classics in philosophical literature and have exerted a powerful influence upon the higher thought of our country.
3. The third feature in the philosophy of the Victorian Era was the new impulse given to British thought by the study of German Idealism. Earlier in the century the writings of S. T. Coleridge (1772-1832), particularly his Biographia Literaria and Table Talk, did much to promote a knowledge of German thought; while at a later date the works of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) brought the people of Britain into closer touch with continental literature. In Philosophy this influence was chiefly exerted by the speculations of Kant, to whose theory of Knowledge J. Herschel (The Study of Natural Philosophy, 1831) and especially W. Whewell (The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, 1840) are indebted.
Only, however, in the last quarter of the century was a methodical study of German thought first instituted. This movement took its rise principally among a small circle of scholars in Oxford. The special form which this impulse took was a radical re-examination of the constitution of reality and experience in the light of the contributions of the post-Kantian thinkers to the problem. The name commonly given to this movement, which has been really revolutionary and far-reaching in its effects upon British thinking, is Neo-Hegelianism; as it was to the teaching of Hegel that these writers turned and in which they found at first their inspiration. Among the earliest representatives of the Neo-Kantian or Neo-Hegelian school the name of Hutcheson Stirling (1820-1909) is prominent, whose independent work on The Secret of Hegel, published in 1865, gave a powerful impulse to the study of German Idealism. Stirling was a Scotsman born in Glasgow. After practising as a surgeon for nine years, he devoted himself entirely to philosophic speculation. Among his other writings may be named a Text Book to Kant (1881); Sir Wm. Hamilton: The Philosophy of Perception (1865); As Regards Protoplasm (1869), an answer to Huxley’s essay on the Physical Basis of Life. He was the first Gifford Lecturer in Edinburgh, his subject being Philosophy and Theology, published in 1890. In his attitude to Hegel Stirling is strongly conservative. He affords the best example of what has been called «Intellectualistic Absolute Idealism.» Like Wm. Wallace in Britain and W. F. Harris in America, Stirling confined his efforts to an exposition and defence of the Hegelian system, with little deviation from the master’s doctrine. It would be difficult in a few words to say what Stirling regarded as the «secret of Hegel.» The thought-construct or «universal» must be taken not abstractly but in all its relations, so as to include the diverse particulars of sense. It is a «universal in the particular,» the «concrete notion» or «concrete universal,» as Stirling names it. Stirling was one of the earliest, in Britain at least, to show that Hegel was the exponent and completer of the work of Kant. «The concrete idea, and its derivation from Kant,» that is the «secret of Hegel.» Thought is the ultimate principle and pulse of all that is. Let all things be demonstratively resolved into thought, and absolute idealism is established.
Not long after the publication of Stirling’s Secret of Hegel, there appeared, in the person of Edward Caird (1835-1908), also a Scotsman, another notable exponent of Hegelianism. First as professor in Glasgow University, and later as Master of Balliol College, Oxford, few men have more deeply influenced British speculation. His works, on Kant, Comte, Hegel, as well as his Gifford Lectures on The Evolution of Religion (1892), and on The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers (1904), are of first importance in the realm of philosophy. In his Critical Philosophy of Kant, first published in 1877 and rewritten in 1889, he gives a careful survey of the whole field of Kant’s writings, showing that Kant is the true basis of Hegel and Hegel the true interpreter and fulfiller of Kant. In this and in his other writings Caird maintains that the task of philosophy is to gain or regain such a view of things as shall reconcile us to the world and ourselves. This need is not merely theoretic: it is intensely practical. For it is impossible, so long as our thought of the world is in discord with itself, that our lives can rise to that energy of undivided reason and will, that free play of concentrated intelligence, that sense of the infinite resources of the spirit which moves us, out of which the highest achievements of man at all times have sprung.
Readers of Caird, it has been pointed out, are sometimes baffled by his use of the terms «self-consciousness» and «universal self-consciousness,» and his appeal to the «unity of self-consciousness» as the key to all mysteries. «Self-consciousness» to Caird is our normal consciousness developed into the form in which we are fully aware of what we really are. As we come to analyze its contents we are at first aware of something opposed, something given and so far independent of usthe so-called object. But along with this there is involved the consciousness of a self or subject, in contact with, and reacting upon, the object. Subject and object are thus the opposite poles between which lies the field of experience. With this sense of opposition there arises a further sense of the essential relation of subject and object. Kant, as Caird teaches, had a glimpse of this synthesis or relation. He saw that the self is the key to the world as we know it, but he was under the spell of the opposition of knowing and being, and was only able to overcome it by affirming that the object which we know is not the reality in itself, but simply an appearance. What Caird thus seeks to do is to lay that ghost and show that subject and object, the ego and the outer world, though seemingly opposed, are parts of an organic unity or whole. Each stands opposed to the other, and yet each contains the secret of the other’s life; and the unity of which we are in search is a unity which maintains itself not in spite of, but in, and through, the diversity. Caird has often been described as a Hegelian, and he would be the last to deny his indebtedness to that thinker. But the important thing, as he tells us, is not whether we are disciples of this or that teacher, but whether we recognize the existence of a living development of thought, and especially of that spiritual or idealistic view of things in which a true interpretation of life must culminate. In two respects Caird had strong affinities with Hegel. He is a thorough-going idealist. He believes in the spiritual interpretation of reality. The world is essentially a rational world, and can have a meaning for us only as we find in it the expression of a mind to which our own is akin and to which it can appeal. Like Hegel, again, Caird emphasized the principle of development, and finds in it the key to all the problems of thought, life, history, poetry, art, religion, are but parts or phases of a connected whole, progressive manifestations of one spirit. Christianity is thus seen to be a religion, not revealed once and for all, but one which has been ever growing and expanding and showing greater power to use and transform the new elements which it is continually absorbing. It is on the ethical and religious side that Caird’s teaching is specially suggestive and influential. The practical tenor of his thought has been a protest against a shallow naturalism, and a plea for that larger self-consciousness in which a man loses himself, but in losing really finds his higher and fuller self.
It is only natural to associate here with the teaching of Edward Caird that of his brother, John Caird (1820-1898), Principal of Glasgow University, whose works, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (1880); Spinoza (1888); and his two volumes of Gifford Lectures on The Fundamental Ideas of Christianity (1899), reveal with remarkable lucidity and charm of literary style the same Hegelian trend of thought.
Slightly younger than Edward Caird, but earlier in the field of letters, Thomas Hill Green (1836-1882) stands out as the most notable figure in the Oxford philosophical party of this period. His influence on the liberal thought of the country is second to none, and his Prolegomena to Ethics, published after his death, is among the greatest books of our literature. He was «Whyte» Professor of Moral Philosophy from 1877 till his death. His interests were not, however, confined to theoretic philosophy. He preached a practical gospel, the social and economic principles of which were taken up by Arnold Toynbee, Canon Barnett, and a band of earnest students, and applied to the problems of life in East London. Besides his Ethics just named, he published in 1874 an edition of Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature, subjecting Hume’s philosophy to a searching criticism from an idealistic point of view. His Principles of Political Obligation, expounding his views on the nature and obligations of citizenship, forms an important part of his legacy to the world.
The Prolegomena to Ethics may be regarded as generally typical of the Neo-Hegelian movement, but it reveals also the independent character of Green’s mind. The work begins with a metaphysic of knowledge as the proper basis of a system of ethics. But though Green acknowledges the validity of the first part of Kant’s doctrine, he refuses to accept the principle of the primacy of practical reason. He maintains with Kant that our ordinary experience presupposes the operation of the combining activity of thought. He claims, therefore, that as the world of experience exists only for a self-conscious being we must interpret reality not in a mechanical or phenomenal way but «as a spiritual system.»
With Hegel he places first the systematic unity of all things as grasped by thought. We must be able to comprehend the world in a synthesis by a principle of reason, within which we have a kind of expression of the rational order without. But at the same time, Green holds that it is only by a gradual process that the spiritual system which constitutes reality comes into existence for us. He postulates indeed an absolute reason at the heart of the universe which is in no way affected by the process of experience in us. But he regards human knowledge of the good as the progressive self-imparting of this absolute consciousness to us. Divine thought constitutes the world, and human experience is not so much knowledge of the world as the finite transcript gradually made, of divine thought.
This contrast between the world of experience as arising for us only in the process by which we gradually come to know it, and the world as it is for the eternally complete consciousness leads Green to deny that we can know God in an absolute sense. We know indeed that the world in its truth or full reality is spiritual, because nothing else will explain the fact of our experience; but such knowledge of the spiritual unity of the world as would be a real knowledge of God is impossible for us. Indeed, as Green strongly puts it, «to know God we must be God.»
In the region of ethics Green holds that the end or good of every man is the realization of his being, as one of the many self-conscious «spirits» or «persons» in whom the Divine Mindthe Supreme Spirit of the worldpartially reproduces itself. Man is the instrument of a higher power, which realizes itself in humanity through the activity of self-conscious persons. Man is free so far as he is in sympathy with the Divine, and at every step of his development is manifesting the thought of God. While Green’s analysis of knowledge would seem to preclude a pantheistic identification of God with the soul, he appears to find some difficulty in safe-guarding the self-identity and freedom of the individual; and though in one sense his system is theistic and his whole philosophy a justification of the religious consciousness, it must be noticed that he resolutely refuses to entertain the idea, in the common theological sense, of a supernatural revelation.
The aim of the Prolegomena is to show that man truly realizes himself only when the motive of his action is the moral ideal. But this highest good must not be construed as merely an individual thing. It can only be realized in society. Each has to fulfil the duties of his station. «Yet it is only in the intercourse of men, each recognized by each, as an end, not merely a means, and thus as having reciprocal claims, that the capacity (of realizing ourselves) is actualized and that we really live as persons.» A further problem remains, a problem to which Green devotes the latter half of the Prolegomena: «If society is the condition of all development of our personality, and if the necessities of social life, put limits to our personal development,» how can we suppose it to be in persons that the Spirit, operative in men, finds its full expression and realization? «Green’s work,» says Caird (in the preface to the fifth edition), may be described as an attempt to explain this antagonism, and especially to show that the conception of man, sub specie aeternitatis, may be taken as the basis of our view of him sub specie temporis. It is the merit of Green that he has succeeded in expressing this unity without falling into one of the opposite forms of error; «a mysticism which loses man in God, or an individualism which forgets his relation both to God and the world.»
The last representative of the Neo-Hegelian school to whom we shall devote more than a passing reference is F. H. Bradley, whose works, Ethical Studies (1876), Principles of Logic (1883), Appearance and Reality (1893), and Essays on Truth and Reality (1914), have established his position as one of the foremost British thinkers of our time. Born in 1846, he studied at Marlborough and Oxford, and held for many years a Fellowship of Merton College. Ever. during his student days his thinking was largely moulded by the writings of Hegel and Lotze, and the teaching of Green, then Whyte-professor of Philosophy. But Bradley soon disclosed the independence of his mind and his divergence from early philosophic traditions. He was not satisfied with the Hegelian idea of the Absolute, nor could he rest, without further examination, in the conclusions «inherited from others.»
If we were to characterise the philosophy of Bradley in a single word, it might be said that it is the Problem of Wholeness that interests him and is the clue to his thought. «What matters and what is ultimately good is the whole.» «There is no aspect of life which abstracted and set utterly by itself can retain goodness.» «On the other hand, we may insist upon the unassailable right of every aspect of life to its own place, function and liberty.» Every idea, no matter how imaginary, qualifies by its content the universe, and thus is real.» In his earliest book, Ethical Studies, Bradley contends against the Atomism of the English Psychologists in the spirit of Hegel and Lotze. Consciousness, he affirms, cannot be described as «a mere collection of elements,» since it would be impossible to conceive how such a collection could «become aware of itself.» The ego must be regarded as a harmonious and consistent whole, in which there is an ultimate agreement between our practical and theoretic nature. The whole yearning and the trend of our soul are toward the realization of the self, for it is of the essence of the soul to reach forward to ever richer and fuller harmony. Within ourselves we possess a standard or criterion of wholeness, by which we can determine what is higher and what is lower in life. This measure rests upon and is constituted by the stage we have reached in our realization of self-consciousness. A man could never feel the pain of contradiction if he were not a whole or had not within him a sense of harmony, an intuition and prophecy of completeness.
This idea of a standard, which Bradley sets forth in his Studies, is the ground-thought of his philosophy, and it contains the inner kernel of the view of reality which he has more fully developed in his Appearance and Reality. This work he names «a metaphysical study,» and its object is to examine the ultimate truths of reality, «to comprehend the universe, not simply piecemeal or by fragments, but somehow as a whole.» Such a pursuit may encounter objections. Some may say the undertaking is impossible; others that it is useless. But even if the effort be seemingly barren of positive results, or even if it leads to scepticism, it will serve at least to preserve us against the dogmatic superstitions of theology on the one hand or a crude materialism on the other. But Bradley acknowledges a more personal reason for the investigation. «All of us are more or less led beyond the region of ordinary facts, and in different ways many seem to touch and have communion with what is beyond. With some the intellectual impulse to understand the universe is a principal way of experiencing the Deity. Wherever it is strongly felt, it is its own justification.» Philosophy can therefore be regarded as offering «a satisfaction of what may be called the mystical side of our nature.» But it must not be concluded that the intellect is the highest side of man’s nature, or that intellectual work is the only kind of work. «There is no calling or pursuit which is a private road to God. And assuredly the way of speculation is not superior to others.» Philosophy was thus for Bradley himself a spiritual quest. It is this personal element which, apart from all other considerations, gives to this remarkable book its vitality and charm.
After offering these general reflections upon the nature and spirit of philosophy the author undertakes a critical examination of the conceptions which are usually employed to explain the world. He passes in review such ideas as Matter and Qualities, Space and Time, Motion and Change, Causation and Activity,with which natural science deals. These, though admirably suited to their own finite purposes, lead to contradictions if applied beyond their realm, and are quite inadequate to express the essence of being. They are but «working ideas good for science, but abstract and finite.» They cannot offer a metaphysic, and if stretched beyond their legitimate sphere lead to a materialistic conception of life. It is equally vain to seek refuge in Psychology, the idea of the soul. For Psychology is a special science like every other. It operates with provisional fictions, and discloses only partial truths. The idea of the soul is as much an abstraction as the idea of the body. Idealism just as little as materialism suffices to express the truth in its entirety. Both, in other words, need a standard or criterion of reality independent of themselves. That standard is the conception of experience in which two elements, though closely related, are to be distinguished, viz. the mark of «Expansion» (or compass) and the mark of «Harmony.» These two characteristics are diverse aspects of a single principle, which becomes the criterion or test of all grades of reality. The Absolute, considered as such, has no degrees. It is perfect, and there can be no more or less perfection. Such a standard of compass and harmony, therefore, can apply only to the world of appearances, and is of value as showing their lesser or greater degree of reality. The Highest must be all-embracing and absolutely harmonious. For us there can be only smaller or greater approximations to completeness. Only an infinite Being can be wholly harmonious. The absolute reality we can never knowwe only know that it is and must be somehow, but cannot tell what it is. The highest truth we are able to reach is still conditioned for us by an unknown «something» still greater. «We cannot construe the one absorbing experience to ourselves.» Our thought ever strains after something which is greater than thought: our personality after that which is more than personality: our morality after that which stands above all morals. The spirit conceives a unity in which it loses itself. The river runs into the sea and the self loses itself in love. The higher must always embrace more than the lower. The infinite must include all that is finite.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that the philosophy of Bradley ends in Scepticism, or at least, Agnosticism. While he grants that there are degrees of reality which point to the existence of the whole, he refuses to admit that even the highest form of reality known to us is an adequate characterization of the absolute. Reality itself is nothing apart from appearances. But appearances must not be taken for reality. Reality appears in appearances, and they are its revelation, but otherwise they are nothing whatever. «We do not know, except in vague outline, what the unity is, or, at all, why it appears in our particular forms of plurality.» «Truth when made adequate to reality would be something other than truth, and something for us unattainable.» «We admit,» he says, «the healthy scepticism for which all knowledge in a sense is vanity, which feels in its heart that science is a poor thing if measured by the wealth of the real universe… Our conclusion is the irresistible impression that all is beyond us.» Two principles underlie his view of things: one is the relational way of thought; the other, that the standard of reality must be our complete experience. Both lead to the same resultthe impossibility at any particular point to call a halt; although we may advance step by step to a more complete determination of reality. Bradley acknowledges his indebtedness to Hegel. «As a matter of fact, if we are to classify him at all,» says Höffding, «he must be named a Kantian.»
Some are reminded by his philosophy of the relativity of Hamilton ; others, again, see a kinship with Spinozainto whose «substance» all is merged, but out of which no differences come forth. Perhaps it would be truest of all to call him, not so much a sceptic, or a rationalist, as a mystic who mistrusts thought and is content to rest in passive contemplation or calm prospect of all things sub specie aeternitatis. In the interest of a severe intellectualism the Absolute which Bradley sets forth remains relationless, distinctionless, negative and static. «It has no history of its own though it contains histories without number.» «It enters into, but is itself incapable of, evolution and progress.» He declines to ascribe Personality to the Absolute, since that would imply finitude, or at least relationships with finite beings. «The Absolute,» he says, «is not personal, nor is it moral, nor is it beautiful or true.» In short, the Absolute stands above, and not below, all internal distinctions. «It would be better,» he says, «to call it super-personal.» He admits the difficulty of harmonizing Religion and Philosophy. Either we must accept a God who is finite if personal, or an Absolute which, because it is not a finite being, cannot be personal. Many will decline to admit this alternative; as in human experience the fuller the self is, the truer and richer it is, so it is in regard to God. Just as the experience, by which a self rises above itself and gains greater inclusiveness, invests the fact of personality with added significance; so when we give to the Absolute the attribute of personality, are we not interpreting the meaning and value of the Absolute in the only intelligible, and indeed the highest conceivable way possible for the human mind? As love gives to human personality its richest meaning, so may it not be that Divine love unites the categories of reality and personality? For as love is the highest expression of personality, so love may be the attribute which alone is adequate to give to the Absolute its fullness of content and significance.
Though calling himself a Hegelian Bradley dissented considerably from the earlier British interpretation of Hegel. It has been said indeed that he began the disintegration of Absolute Idealism. He has been called «the most formidable foe within its own household.» «In view of the havoc wrought by this critic,» says a recent American writer (D. Clyde Macintosh, Problem of Knowledge, 1916), «we may classify all types of Anglo-American Absolute Idealism under three main heads, viz. Pre-Bradleian, Bradleian, and Post-Bradleian. Amongst the Pre-Bradleian, occur the names of Hutcheson Stirling, Green, W. Wallace, Edward and John Caird, Harris, John Watson; while amongst the Post-Bradleian may be noted M’Taggart, Royce, Bosanquet, Pringle Pattison, A. E. Taylor, Sir Henry Jones, Muirhead, and to a lesser degree, Sorley, W. E. Hocking.
Among those who may be regarded as the critics and disintegrators, the most eminent are: James Ward, a philosopher who has been deeply influenced by Lotze, but who has not adhered so closely to his master’s conclusions as have many others in America; Hastings Rashdall, who regards as valid the process of thought by which we arrive at Psychological Idealism; and F. C. S. Schiller, whose Humanism professes to be a union «of the true idealism and the true realism,» but is after all simply personal idealism falling back into an extreme form of psychologism. In Germany, Absolute Idealism, it is said, has all but disappeared. A large proportion of recent and contemporary philosophy has been following other lines of thought than those of the Classic Absolutism. But as some of the names already mentioned bring us well into the twentieth century, we shall reserve for a last chapter a brief outline of the trend of philosophic thought of the present time.
(1) Marvin, The Century of Hope, p. 14.