Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.

history. For this Hegel was doubtless partly to blame. But philosophical critics of his own and a later day are not hereby absolved from a certain perversity in interpreting these doctrines in a sense precisely opposite to that in which they were intended. The doctrine of the unity of contraries so far from being the denial of the law of non-contradiction is founded on an absolute reliance upon it. Freed from paradox it means that in every object of thought there are different aspects or elements each of which if brought separately into consciousness may be so emphasized as to appear to contradict another. Unity may be made to contradict diversity, permanence change, the particular the universal, individuality relatedness. Ordinary consciousness ignores these “latent fires ”; ordinary discussion brings them to light and divides men into factions and parties over them; philosophy not because it denies but because it acknowledges the law of non-contradiction as supreme is pledged to seek a point of view from which they may be seen to be in essential harmony with one another as different sides of the same truth. The “ rationality of the real” has in like manner been interpreted as intended to sanctify the existing order. Hegel undoubtedly meant to affirm that the actual was rational in the face of the philosophy which set up subjective feeling and reason against it. But idealism has insisted from the time of Plato on the distinction between what is actual in time and space and the reality that can only partially be revealed in it. Hegel carried this principle further than had yet been done. His phrase does not therefore sanctify the established fact but, on the contrary, declares that it partakes of reality only so far as it embodies the ideal of a coherent and stable system which it is not. As little is idealism responsible for any attempt to pass off logical abstractions for concrete reality. The “ Logic ” of Hegel is merely the continuation of Kant's “ Deduction ” of the categories and ideas of the reason which has generally been recognized as the soberest of attempts to set forth the presuppositions which underlie all experience. “ What Hegel attempts to show is just that the categories by which thought must determine its object are stages in a process that, beginning with the idea of ' Being, ' the simplest of all determinations is driven on byits own dialectic till it reaches the ideaof self-consciousness. In other words the intelligence when it once begins to define an object for itself, finds itself launched on a movement of self asserting synthesis in which it cannot stop until it had recognized that the unity of the object with itself involves its unity with all other objects and with the mind that knows it. Hence, whatever we begin by saying, we must ultimately say ' mind ' ” (Caird, Kant, i. 443).

While the form in which these doctrines were stated proved fatal to them in the country of their birth, they took deep root in the next generation in English philosophy. Here the stone that the builders rejected was made the head of the corner. The influences which led to this result were manifold. From the side of literature the way was prepared for it by the genius of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Carlyle; from the side of morals and politics by the profound discontent of the constructive spirit of the century with the disintegrating conceptions inherited from utilitarianism. In taking root in England idealism had to contend against the traditional empiricism represented by Mill on the one hand and the pseudo-Kantianism which was rendered current by Mansel and Hamilton on the other. As contrasted with the first it stood for the necessity of recognizing a universal or ideal element as a constitutive factor in all experience whether cognitive or volitional; as contrasted with the latter for the ultimate unity of subject and object, knowledge and reality, and therefore for the denial of the existence of any thingiin-itself for ever outside the range of experience. Its polemic against the philosophy of experience has exposed it to general misunderstanding, as though it claimed some a priori path to truth: In reality it stands for a more thoroughgoing and consistent application of the test of experience. The defect of English empiricism from the outset had been the uncritical acceptance of the metaphysical dogma of a pure unadulterated sense-experience as the criterion of truth. This assumption idealism examines and rejects in the name of experience itself. Similarly it only carried the doctrine of relativity to its logical conclusion in denying that there could be any absolute relativity. Object stands in essential relation to subject, subject to object. This being so, it is wholly illogical to seek for any test of the truth and reality of either except in the form which that relation itself takes. In its subseqiient development idealism in England haz passed through several clearly marked stages which may be distinguished as (a) that of exploration and tentative exposition in the writings of J. F. Ferrier,1 ]. Hutchison Stirling? Benjamin ]owett, “ W. T. Harris;4 (b) of confident application to the central problems of logic, ethics and politics, fine art and religion, and as a principle of constructive criticism and interpretation chiefly in T. H. Green, ” E. Caird, ° B. Bosanquet;7 (c) of vigorous effort to develop on fresh lines its underlying metaphysics in F. H. Bradleyf ]. M. E. McTaggart,9 A. E. Taylor, ” Iosiah Royce 11 and others. Under the influence of these writers idealism, as above expounded though with difference of interpretation in individual writers, may be said towards the end of the 19th century to have been on its way to becoming the leading philosophy in the British Isles and America. 3. Reaction against Traditional I dealism.-But it to be expected that the position idealism had thus won for itself would remain long unchallenged. It had its roots in W21S l'10l


a literature and in forms of thought remote from the Duallsm common track; it had been formulated before the “"';iP""Z llll S111-

great advances in psychology which marked the course of the century; its latest word seemed to involve consequences that brought it into conflict with the vital interest the human mind has in freedom and the possibility of real initiation. It is not, therefore, surprising that there should have been a vigorous reaction. This has taken mainly two opposite forms. On the one hand the attack has come from the old ground of the danger that is threatened to the reality of the external world and may be said to be in the interest of the object. On the other hand the theory has been attacked in the interest of the subject on the ground that in the statuesque world of ideas into which it introduces us it leaves no room for the element of movement and process which recent psychology and meta physic alike have taught us underlies all life. The conflict of idealism with these two lines of criticism-the accusation of subjectivism on the one side of intellectualism and rigid objectivism on the other-may be said to have constituted the history of Anglo-Saxon philosophy during the first decade of the zoth century.

I. Whatever is to be said of ancient Idealism, the modern doctrine may be said notably in Kant to have been in the main a vindication of the subjective factor in knowledge. But that space and time, matter and cause should owe their origin to the action of the mind has always seemed paradoxical to common sense. Nor is the impression which its enunciation in Kant made, likely to have been lightened in this country by the connexion that was sure to be traced between Berkeleyanism and the new teaching or by the form which the doctrine received at the hands of T. H. Green, its leading English representative between 1870 and 1880. If what is real in things is ultimately nothing but their relations, and if relations are inconceivable apart from the relating mind, what is this but the dissolution of the solid ground of external reality which my consciousness seems to assure me underlies and eludes all the conceptual network by which I try to bring one part of my experience into connexion with another? It is quite true that modern idealists like Berkeley himself have sought to save themselves from the gulf of subjectivism by calling in the aid of a universal or infinite mind or by an appeal to a total or absolute experience to which our own is relative. But the former device is too obviously a deux ex machina, the purpose of which would be equally well served by supposing with Fichte the individual self to be endowed with the power of subconsciously extraditing a world which returns to it in consciousness under the form of a foreign creation. The appeal to an Absolute on the other hand is only to substitute one difficulty for another. For granting that it places the centre of reality outside the individual self it does so only at the price of reducing the reality of the latter to an appearance; 1 Institutes of Metaphysics (1854); Works (1866). 2 Secret of Hegel (1865).

3 Dialogues of Plato (1871).

Journal of Spec. Phil. (1867).

5 Hume's Phil. Works (1875).

5 Critical account of the Phil. of Kant (1877). 7 Knowledge and Reality (1885); Logic (1888). 8 Appearance and Reality (1893).

9 Studies in Hegelian Cosmology (1901).

° Elements of Metaphysics (1903).

1* The Wort and the Iflflltlftltldl (1901).