The Idealism of Edward Caird Part I


Watson, John. “The Idealism of Edward Caird. I.” The Philosophical Review 18, no. 2 (1909): 147. https://doi.org/10.2307/2177813


TO appreciate in its fullness all that Idealism meant for Deadcart it is necessary to have some idea of the process by which he was led to adopt the philosophy that in its main purport he never ceased to regard as true in substance, however it may have been gradually modified and developed by further reflection. Born in 1835, Ciardi’s 'apprenticeship,' to use Goethe’s term, extended from his entrance to the Greenock Grammar School, about 1845, till the year 1865, when he first showed that a new power in philosophy had entered the world by the publication of an article in the North British Review (No. 86) on Plato and the other Companions of Socrates, ostensibly a review of Grote's work under that title, but really an independent treatise, displaying perfect familiarity and mastery of the whole philosophy of Plato in its inner development, and indicating an equal acquaintance, to those who could read between the lines, with the doctrines of Kant and Hegel. During those twenty years was laid that extensive and accurate scholarship which was so valuable an organon in the development of his thought. At the University of Glasgow, which he entered in 1850, Card for some years gave his main attention to classics and mathematics. Philosophy was at that time represented by Robert Buchanan, irreverently known among the students as 'logic Bob,' who taught Logic and Rhetoric, i. e., Formal Logic and English Composition, and William Fleming ('moral Will'), whose lectures on Moral Philosophy were of rather a commonplace character. Card, therefore, not unnaturally directed his attention mainly to reading that had no very close connection with his academic work.


Among the writers by whom he was most powerfully impressed was Carlyle, to whom he always attributed the real beginning of his Weltanschauung. When Carlyle began to write England had not yet entered the mainstream of European thought, and it was part of his task to interpret to his countrymen in broad outlines the meaning of the movement which began in France with Rousseau and culminated in the tragedy of the revolution, and in Germany with the great constructive philosophy of Kant and his idealistic successors. It is true that Coleridge had previously protested against the narrowness of the current English philosophy, but partly from a certain vacillation in his own thought, and partly because he seemed to more adventurous minds to breather the mouthpiece of reaction than of progress, he left no indelible impression on the public consciousness. As John Sterling said of him: "His misfortune was to appear at a time when there was a man's work to do and he did it not. Hews lacking in firmness of character; he acknowledged doctrines in which he no longer believed in order to avoid the discomfort of a quarrel." Even before the close of the eighteenth century Burke had given partial expression to the characteristic idea of the nineteenth century, the idea of organic unity, maintaining that the State does not rest upon a contract of individuals, but is the product of the reason working unconsciously in society; but the reflective ideas of the earlier part of the nineteenth century were mainly individualistic, the spiritualistic movement being poetic and literary rather than philosophic. Down to the year1860 the prevalent philosophy was empiricist. On its practical side, indeed, this philosophy owed its power and influence largely to its rejection of theological prejudices, its opposition to class privileges, and its firm advocacy of the equal rights of all men. This was what gave convincing force to the formula of Bentham, that "everyone is to count for one and no one for more thane," and to his assertion that the aim of legislation is to secure "the greatest happiness of the greatest number." What Bentham did not see was that he had not justified his assumption, that, if each individual seeks to promote his own happiness, the result must be such a harmony that will secure the greatest happiness of the community. He is able to reach this conclusion only because he endows the State with the power of punishing those individuals who violate its laws; but why the State should have the power to override what he has admitted to be the legitimate aims of individuals, he fails to explain. Thus, while Bentham's practical efforts in the reform of legislation, and in the development of the constitution into a democracy by the introduction of universal suffrage, were appreciated by all who had learned the lesson of the French Revolution, the principle of ‘utility,' on which he based those reforms, overlooked the fundamental nature of the State, as not an arbitrary association of independent units, but an expression of the social nature of man.


His follower, James Mill, sought to apply the principle of ‘utility' in many departments of philanthropy and politics, directing his efforts mainly to the enlightenment of the middle classes. To him is due the attempt to supply the psychological basis which was lacking in Bentham's ethics by an appeal to the principle of the 'association of ideas'; for, on this principle, ashes argued, what are originally independent units of feeling may be so fused together as to become virtually inseparable. What is defective in this explanation obviously is, that it misrepresents the mind as made up of a number of separate units, not seeing that it is essentially an organism, which develops towards ever greater rationality and in developing comes to a better understanding of the world and of itself. The psychology of James Mill is thus open to the same objection as the ethics of Bentham: even if it could explain the origin of complex ideas, it furnishes no reason why the disinterested feelings should be regarded as higher than the interested. In harmony with his psychological analysis James Mill held that the moral degradation of the lower classes was not due to any inherent or insuperable defect in themselves, but to the influence of circumstances and imperfect education, and might therefore be removed by the ‘enlightenment' which it was the duty of the State to provide. Create new 'associations' of feeling by disseminating an enlightened view of human life and things will right themselves. Thus the individual was first isolated from the spiritual atmosphere without which he could not live, and was then artificially restored to society, under the fiction that nothing was required but the influence of an appropriate environment; a conclusion which is only true, because under the ambiguous term 'environment ‘is included a creative reason operative in the individual by which he realizes the universal.


In John Stuart Mill the individualistic philosophy of Benthamism widened by the incorporation of elements suggested to him by his study of Coleridge, Comte, Wordsworth, and Carlyle. Under his hands utilitarianism assumed a form inconsistent with its individualistic basis, and his remarkable candor of mind compelled him in his defense of the association psychology to acknowledge frankly the difficulties it has to face, the greatest being how a series of feelings can know itself to be a series; while in his Logic he unwittingly makes assumptions which are incompatible with his analysis of the mind into feelings and associations of feelings; and in his Essays on Religion he tries to save as mucus Christianity as he thinks it possible to reconcile with his individualistic psychology and hedonistic ethics. Latent dissatisfaction with the narrow basis of the philosophy which he had inherited produced a crisis in his history, in which all the springs of feeling seemed to be dried up, and from this appalling apathy he was only aroused by an excursion into the realm of poetry. Familiarity with Wordsworth gradually renewed that sympathetic interest in the well-being and progress of humanity for which his philosophy supplied no justification. John Stuart Mill, in fact, though he was hardly aware of it, had virtually transcended the narrow creed in which he had been reared, and had already Hal unconsciously come under the influence of the new idea of development, no doubt suggested to him by Comte and the Tasmanians, an idea which was in the air and was soon to revolutionize all men's ideas of things.


In Scotland philosophy was at a low-water mark. Hume had in the eighteenth century aroused Kant from his dogmatic slumbers, but he had been less successful in his native land, where those-called 'common sense' philosophy of Reid and Digestant allowed men to jog along contentedly, with no very strong faith and no very disquieting disbelief. Sir William Hamilton had indeed attempted a bolder flight, endeavoring to show that all attempts to comprehend the Infinite are foredoomed to failure from the fundamental impotence of the human intellect, but otherwise he moved in the well-beaten paths of formal logic and introspective psychology. To him is due the unintentional reduction absurd of formal logic; for, by his doctrine of the quantification the predicate, he showed that, on the basis of that logic, a judgment is simply an empty tautology; while his endeavoring his lectures on psychology and his Notes to Reid to bring the mind into direct contact with external reality on resulted, as has been proved beyond doubt in Dr. Hutchison Stirling’s examination of his doctrine, in confining it within the limits of its own organism, and thus converting the whole external world into a phantom.

Such was the intellectual atmosphere into which Card was introduced during his student days in Glasgow. In the empirical philosophy he was interested as an attempt to explain the mind on the principle of pure individualism, but it never seems to have had any special attraction for him; and the logic, psychology, and metaphysic of Hamilton, he quietly set aside, as affording no solution to the problems in which he was interested. Carlyle, on the other hand, appealed to his higher instincts, and opened for him a vista into a realm in which, as he vaguely felt, he could feel at home. For in Carlyle he found a writer who was neither an empiricist nor an intuitionist, but who, like his own Teufelsdrockh, “sat above it all, alone with the stars." Carlyle spoke, moreover, not only for himself, but with all the added weight thinkers whose names were hardly known in England Goethean Fichte, Schiller, and Richter and Novalis. Furnished with fresh clue to the meaning of life, he gave a new interpretation to history, bringing to light the hidden spiritual forces which are ever at work beneath the life of association and custom. Carlyle also expressed that passion for social reform which was to issue later in many social and political movements. His influence on poniard was all the greater, no doubt, that he appealed to the Puritanism so natural to a Scotsman who had been nourished on the Shorter Catechism and the Bible, though to a Puritanism freed from the narrowness of its first expression. Carlyle, it is true, rarely attempts to express his ideas in an abstract form, but by his penetrative imagination he has so entered into the historical characters he paints for us, his Mirabeau and Danton, his Cromwell and Frederic, that we seem to see the men as they really are, with their whole spiritual nature laid bare. In his Sartor Resorts Carlyle tells us that the world is no dead machine but palpitates with the life of a single spiritual principle. In bringing this home to us, he makes no attempt to demonstrate anything logically: indeed, he usually speaks contemptuously of all metaphysical theories as absurd attempts to measure the immeasurable, though he admits that we cannot make things too clear to the understanding; but by the sheer power of his imagination he lifts us into a higher region. While he silently rejects all superstitious beliefs in the supernatural, he does so because he believes that the actual world is itself miraculous. We cannot, indeed, directly comprehend the divine principle manifested in the world, and are, therefore, forced to figure it forth by “symbols," which die when they are outworn. The history of religion is thus an account of the rise and decadence of these "symbols. “His own age Carlyle is regarded as one in which the "symbols had lost their meaning; and it is for this reason that nature appears dead, and man a machine moved by the springs of pleasure and pain. But the germs of a higher faith are beginning to show themselves. For, after all, 'might is right,' in the sense that in the end "each fighter prospers according to his might"; the man dies, but his work lives, and thus even death is swallowed up in victory. In this imaginative creed Caird seemed to find the suggestion of a conception of life that must be true in the main, and indeed, later he found that it was identical with Idealism, ins far as it maintained that the sensible world is “itself in its deepest essence spiritual." The sciences deal only with the outward vesture of nature, and, as Schiller expresses it, Die Weltgeschicht eist das Weltgericht. Before he had completed his course at Glasgow University the delicacy of his health made it advisable that Caird should rest from study, and, no doubt with a view to familiarizing himself with the language of Schiller and Goethe, to whom he had been directed by reading Carlyle, he went to Germany, where he stayed until he had mastered the language and made considerable progressing the study of its literature. The author to whom he gave special attention during this period was Goethe. In him Coarsened to find one in whom poetry was truth and truth poetry. Not that poetry can employ the method of philosophy; on the contrary, they proceed by different paths and only coincide in their final goal. Philosophy must begin with abstraction and analysis separating the spiritual from the natural, the subject from the object, the universal from the particular, the ideal from the real and only reaches unity after abstraction and division have been carried to a further extent even than by science. Poetry, on the other hand, if it is to be true to itself, while it must never lose the idea of the unity and harmony of things, must keep close to the world of sense, exhibiting by the force of the interpretative imagination the law that is working in it and is hidden from the ordinary consciousness. "Only one who regards the abstractions of science as the ultimate truth of things, can take this process to be a mere play of subjective fancy, or can suppose that any great poetic creation is produced by an imagination which merely follows its own dreams and does not bend to any objective law." The difficulty of "widening nature without going beyond it," as Schiller expressed it, was immensely increased in an age of reflection, especially an age in which there was on throne hand a lifeless orthodoxy, with its external world-architect and externally determined design, and on the other hand an external enlightenment which was gradually undermining it, but at the same time was reducing itself to a platitude. At bottom these apparent antagonists were really infected by the same untruth, for both conceived existence as a mere aggregate of parts from which all life and self-activity had fled. The poetic soul of Goethe, ever seeking for the unity of things, revolted against both. Nor could he be contented for long with the exaltation of 'nature,' as preached by Rousseau and Byron, especially when ' nature ' was conceived as a power within man, which is self-justified against every restraint forced upon him from without; for at bottom, as he showed in his Werther, the sentimentalist's rebellion against the conditions of human life is really due to the inner self-contradiction of his own state. Hence the period of revolt ended for Goethe when he seemed to learn from Spinoza that the true lesson of life is "renunciation once for all in view of the Eternal," or, in its practical aspect, that we must " do the duty that is nearest “to us, cheerfully renouncing what is beyond our reach and putting behind us "the blasphemous speech that all is vanity.” ‘Nature' Goethe therefore now conceived, not as a power that reveals itself at once in the immediate appearance of the world or the immediate impulses of the human spirit, but as a plastic organizing force which works secretly in the outward and especially in the organic world, and which in human life reveals itself most fully as the ideal principle of art. In this sense Goethe went onto apply the ideas of organism and development. There is in all existence a shaping and transforming principle, which comes to its clearest expression in the peculiar faculty of the artist. This idea of development Goethe used to throw light upon the animal kingdom, when as yet few or none of the professed biologists had reached such a point of view, and in himself he seemed to find the same principle at work, originating his poetic creations. Hence, he shrank from all negation, controversy, and conflict, which he identified with the spirit of evil, as embodied in his wonderful creation of Mephistopheles "der Geist der stets verneint." He could not reconcile himself to a war with nature even as the way to a higher reconciliation. Here, in fact, ascarids suggests, the limitation of his genius is to be found; for, had he carried out his principle of reverence for that which is beneath us, as well as for that which is above us and beside us, he would have recognized, more fully than he did even in his later days, that the Christian idea of self-realization through self-sacrifice is the only conception of life which fits the facts. At the same time Caird learned from Goethe the futility at once of a mere intellectual 'enlightenment,' which ignores the spiritual side of things, and of a supernaturalism, which turns away from the present world and puts all the emphasis on the world to come. The modern spirit can recognize the ideal only when it presents itself as the deeper fact, but this deeper fact can be discerned only after " the earnestness, the pain, the patience and the labor of the negative" have done their perfector. The physical sciences must carry the work of explanation to its furthest point, even when the result seems to be the reduction of the universe to a mechanical system. In fact, however, this danger is not a real one, as Goethe convincingly showed; for nothing short of the idea of a spiritual organism, of which the mechanism of nature is merely the outer form, can be ultimately satisfactory.


After this fruitful interregnum Caird returned to his native land, and in 1856-1857 he studied divinity at St. Andrews, with view to entering the church; but, probably under the conviction that he required a wider sphere of operations, in the following year he attended for a sixth session at Glasgow, and in 1860 he obtained the Snell Exhibition, with which to proceed to Balliol College, Oxford. A man of his fine scholarship and training had no difficulty in obtaining a first class, both in 'Moderations ‘and in 'Literis Humanioribus.' In 1864-1866 he was Fellow and Tutor of Merton College, and in 1866 his 'apprenticeship ‘came to an end when he was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow.


The intellectual and spiritual excitement that was aroused during Caird's career at Oxford, was eminently fitted to call out his natural powers and to complete the development which, as we have seen, had already begun through the influence of Carlylean Goethe. He was fortunate in having Jowett as a Tutor, and, even before he became a Fellow of Merton, in enjoying the close friendship of Thomas Hill Green. The publication in 1855 of Jowett's Epistles of St. Paul may almost be said to mark the beginning of a new epoch in the study of theology in England. The year before Caird entered Balliol (1859) saw the publication of Darwin's great work, The Origin of Species, and in the year following (1860) the Essays and Reviews aroused the ecclesiastical world from its intellectual torpor. But the greatest influence upon Caird was undoubtedly due to Green. The education of a Balliol man then, as now, included the study of the poets, historians, and philosophers of Greece and Rome, special stress being laid upon a knowledge of Plato and Aristotle. Thus Caird, with his wide outlook on human life, came to be familiar with Homer and the Greek Tragedians, Virgil and Horace, and he also laid deep his knowledge of literature and history, and indeed acquired the reputation along with Green of being as well versed in those subjects as in philosophy. Part of the Oxford training was also directed to Logic, and especially to the Logic of John Stuart Mill. This, combined with the publication in 1862 of Herbert Spencer's First Principles, compelled the two friends to give their serious attention to the study of the empirical school of philosophy. The early reading of Caird naturally led him to see beyond the principle on which the philosophy of Spencer rests; for the unknowability of the Infinite he had set aside as untenable when he met with it in Sir William Hamilton; at least, if he had brought with him to Oxford any leanings in that direction, they were effectually quenched by his study of Kant and Hegel. On the other hand, he had perfect sympathy with Spencer’s reference of all forms of existence to a single unity, and he was naturally attracted by the attempt to explain the movements of nature and mind by the idea of development, which Darwin had shown to be applicable at least to all the forms of life. Spencer’s conception of the State, however, could not but seem, to one familiar with Plato and Aristotle, Kant and Hegel, even less satisfactory than the utilitarian; for, though Spencer avoids in words the defect of Utilitarianism by holding that Society inorganic, he so interprets this idea as to maintain what Huxley happily calls an "Administrative Nihilism," and Carlyle “Anarchy plus the Street-constable." Caird was convinced that the State is in no sense a mere aggregate of individuals, but the expression of man's essential nature. Hence, while, like Green, his practical politics was and always remained liberal, he held that the Platonic idea of the State as a spiritual unity was fundamentally sound, though it could only in modern times be realized by a government which has a strong democratic force behind it. Freedom, in other words, is not an end in itself, but exists and indeed is possible only because the reason which operates in all men cannot be realized except in a State that allows free play to individuals, while yet it suppresses all that is recognized to be contrary to reason. The result of Caird's studies in Oxford was to carry him beyond the point which he had previously reached by the study of Goethe and Carlyle. As against the former, he was convinced that it is possible, and for all ordinary men necessary, that the spiritual unity which lies at the basis of things should be obtained by a slow reflective process, in which full justice is done to the divisions of the ordinary consciousness and especially of science; and this unity, he therefore held, must be compatible with the utmost division, and indeed can only be realized by man in so fares he goes down into the lowest depths of pain and evil, in order to transform the negative into a positive. In contrast to Carlyle, he refused to admit that religion is merely a system of “symbols," and that society can only be renewed by the superior insight of its great men or " heroes." Religion became for him the process by which man comprehends, and comprehends evermore clearly and fully, the spiritual unity which combines all existence and manifests its power in that process, while the salvation of society and the influence of great men he ascribed to the free play of reason in converting all that seems foreign to it into a means of its own realization.


This doctrine was of course suggested to Caird by his study of the Greek philosophers, and more especially by the study of Hegel, to whom he seems to have been directed by occasional remarks of Jowett. Both Green and Caird, when they came to give the results of their reflection to the world, had the habit of conveying their ideas through the interpretation or criticism of some thinker from whom they had learned or from whose' principles they differed. Green, indeed, was more directly polemical than Caird not because he took pleasure in controversy for its own sake, but because he was never satisfied until he had tested his principles by confronting them with their opposite. And as the prevalent school of philosophy in England was the empirical, the two friends, either by agreement or by natural affinity, divided the work of criticism and exposition between them Green devoting his attention to what he afterwards called the 'anachronistic' systems of Mill, Spencer and Lewes, and endeavoring to show that when confronted with its own history it had refuted itself in the nescience of Hume; while Caird, who as a rule steered clear of negative criticism, elected to expound and examine the Critical Philosophy, with the object of proving that, while it had transcended empiricism by demonstrating that experience is inexplicable from a mere series of feelings without the cooperation of thought, it had not carried out the idealistic or rational interpretation to its legitimate conclusion in the Absolute Idealism advocated by Hegel. The published writings of the two friends follow the lines indicated. In 1865 Caird began his philosophical career as an author with the article on Plato already mentioned, and in1866 Green furnished a companion-study of Aristotle. These were followed up by Green's Introductions to Hume's Treatise of Human Nature (1874), in which he analyzes in the most minute and pertinacious way the doctrines of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, dragging to light every incongruity, and seeking to demonstrate in this way the impossibility of avoiding the admission of the constructive activity of thought in even the simplest forms of apprehension; and by Caird's Philosophy of Kant (1878),which draws in large and bold outlines the main features of the Critical Philosophy, being much more concerned to indicate what is wanting to transform it into a perfectly consistent doctrine than to convict its author of inadequate or self-contradictory statements. The point of view from which the book is written is that of Hegel, and it is therefore advisable to see what Caird had learned, or believed himself to have learned, from the study of this last of the great originative idealists.


The philosophy of Kant is in a sense an epitome of the individualism of the eighteenth century, which began by depressing man and ended by exalting him. For, though it admits, or rather contends, that as a finite knowing subject man is confined within the limits of space and time and therefore is only a link in the chain of natural causation, it yet holds that, as a subject to whom all objects, including his own finite individuality, are necessarily relative, he is lifted above these limitations by the operation in him of the universal principle of reason. Especially in his moral life man is revealed to himself as a self-determining subject, emancipated from all sensuous motives and from the necessity of nature, and conscious of subordination only to the law of duty which is the law of his own reason. This law man ought to obey, and therefore can obey, notwithstanding all the pressure of circumstances and all the allurements of passion. Thus, Kant leaves us with the sharp antithesis of man as natural and spiritual, as limited to a finite individuality, hemmed in by necessities on every side, and yet as possessing a universal capacity of knowing, and an absolute power of self-determination. Now, the answer which the nineteenth century gives to this problem is, that the antithesis is not so absolute as Kant represents it to be; and, in fact, that materialism and spiritualism, sensationalism and idealism, empiricism and a priori speculation, individualism and idealism, are not really absolute, but only relative, opposites. The principles or ideas which have affected this irenicon are those of organic unity and organic development. In the application of these ideas no thinker, in Caird's opinion, was so successful as Hegel. Schelling indeed had insisted that there is an identity which is below or above all distinction, and that the universe is one through all its multiplicity and permanent through all its changes; but he seemed to assert the unity almost at the expense of the differences. This defect was remedied by Hegel, who maintained that the absolute*/is a self-differentiating principle, realizing itself in a world of difference which is no mere appearance, but is its own essential manifestation, while yet the various forms of existence are by no means all on the same plane, since there is a regular ascent from inorganic things, through organic beings, to the self-conscious life of mind. What Caird finds in Hegel is, therefore, in the first place, a principle of reconciliation, which had not been detected, or at least not clearly detected, by any previous thinker. Hegel’s assault on the law of contradiction was no mere freak of an oversubtle intellect that had lost its hold of fact; it was an absolute necessity if the central principle of his philosophy was to be demonstrated. Hence he sought to show that no distinction of thought whatever is absolute, and that all the great controversies which have divided the world have arisen from the abstract assertion of an element of truth taken for the whole, though these very conflicts have been the means by which a fuller truth has been brought to light. And, in the second place, Hegel conceives of the universe as an organic whole, every change in which is a phase of its self-evolution. We comprehend nothing adequately until we have seen it as the partial manifestation of a single principle. Lastly, this principle is spiritual, and therefore manifests itself fully only in the life of man, with his self-conscious intelligence. Hegel's doctrine thus seemed to himself to be the philosophic rendering of the essential principle of Christianity, the union or identity of the human and divine.


Caird, then, undoubtedly believes with Hegel that " the hidden being of the universe has no power in itself that could offer resistance to the courageous effort of science." On the other hand, he entirely dissents from much of the doctrine popularly ascribed to Hegel. Thus, the charge that it is a Panlogism, or, as Mr. Bradley expresses it, a "spectral woof of impalpable abstractions, or unearthly ballet of bloodless categories," he regarded as an entire misunderstanding, and even an inversion of the Hegelian philosophy. No doubt Hegel, in his Disenchanter Logik, treats the functions of thought in their isolation from the facts of experience, but he never intended, or supposed anyone would imagine that he intended, to deny the reality of the concrete facts of experience, though he certainly refused to admit that they had any isolated or independent being. So, in regard to the notion that Hegel claimed that the contents of his logic could be spun out of his own inner consciousness as a spider spins its web, Caird remarks: "If Hegel or anyone ever pretended, or could reasonably be interpreted as pretending, to construe the universe a priori, the pretense is futile. A true and valuable idealism can be reached only through the interpretation of the data of experience by the special sciences, and the re-interpretation of the results of these sciences by philosophy.” Hegel, it is true, was not altogether successful in his attempt to apply the ideas of his Logic to nature, or even to the different provinces of the spiritual life, mainly because the scientific interpretation of them had not been carried far enough to prepare for the final interpretation of philosophy. Thus, he refused to apply the idea of development, even in its Lamarckian form, in interpretation of the succession in time of the various forms of life while Caird at once accepted the Darwinian theory as the only tenable explanation of the facts. Nor could Caird endorse Hegel’s attempt to show that the current theological dogmas can be retained without any substantial alteration or accept his strongly conservative political doctrine. In these cases, Hegel did not seem to him to have been true to his own principles. Caird, however, refused to admit that for Hegel man is a mere modus of the divine, or God ' the poetic substantiation of an ‘abstraction'; maintaining that the former is the fundamental defect in the philosophy of Spinoza, who refers all things to God, but does not recognize that God must equally be manifested in all things; and that the latter converts reality into a meaningless chaos by the withdrawal of the unifying principle which gives it meaning. But, while Caird definitely rejects the misinterpretations and inadequacies of the Hegelian philosophy, he never wavers in his conviction of the essential truth of its fundamental principle, that the universe is rational and that its rationality is capable of being proved. This is the main point in which he differs from Green.


In the Prolegomena to Ethics Green reasons backwards, like Kant, from our intellectual and moral experience to that spiritual nature in which lies the possibility at once of knowledge and of moral action; but he refuses to characterize the self-conscious principle to which he has referred all things, or to work out positively any view of nature and human history as the manifestation of spirit. In regard to the theoretical aspect of the subject Green tells us that, "as to what the eternal consciousness is in itself, or in its completeness, we can only make negative statements. That there is such a consciousness is implied in the existence of the world; but what it is we can only know through its so far acting in us as to enable us, however partially and uninterruptedly, to have knowledge of a world or an intelligent experience"(p.54). Similarly, he denies that we can say what the practical ideal in its completeness is. "We cannot conceive it under any forms borrowed from our actual experience, for our only experience of activity is of such as implies incompleteness. Of a life of completed development, of activity with the end attained, we can only speak or think in negatives, and thus only can we speak or think of that state of being in which the ultimate moral good must consist '' (p. 180). In harmony with this attitude, Green, in his review of John Caird's Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, while admitting that "the world in its truth or full reality is spiritual," yet denies that " such a knowledge of the spiritual unity of the world, as would be a knowledge of God," is possible for us. These two contentions, firstly, that the world is 'spiritual,' and, secondly, that a knowledge of it as a unity is impossible, seemed to Caird to be mutually destructive. If we have no knowledge of the unity of all things, how can we know that it is 'spiritual'? On the other hand, if we have a knowledge of it, experience must be a process in which its actual realization is ever more fully discovered. No doubt we cannot explain the principle which itself explains everything else, but this can only mean that "our knowledge of the self is rather the type to which all other knowledge imperfectly approximates, than an inferior kind of knowledge. And, on the other hand, if it is possible for us to carry back the world of experience to conditions that are spiritual, there seems to be nothing that should absolutely hinder us from regarding the world positively as the manifestation of spirit, and from reinterpreting the results of science by the aid of this idea, however difficult it may be to realize satisfactorily such an idealistic reconstruction of science. And in like manner, if it is possible to carry back our moral life to its conditions, and to regard it as the realization of the self, there seems to be no absolute hindrance in using this idea positively, not only as a key to the history of the past, but also to determine, in outline at least, the idea of moral perfection. “No doubt" the work of science, and still more the work of philosophy, must always be a work of faith, meaning by faith, not believing anything merely upon authority, but proceeding upon a principle the complete vindication or realization of which is for us impossible; for, obviously, nothing short of omniscience could grasp the world as a complete system." But, though in one sense the principle of philosophy is a faith, it is in no sense an arbitrary assumption, but the essential faith of reason in itself. Caird, in all his speculations, while he never loses sight of this principle, yet keeps close to the facts of experience, conceived in the widest sense as the evolution of humanity. Provided with his main principle, he goes on to apply it to history, and especially to the history of philosophy, which he views as the reflective expression of reasons it evolves itself in time, through antagonism and conflict, in the successive phases of art, morality, politics and religion. Much has to be done in the detailed explanation of the world by the special sciences, including psychology and sociology and the concrete history of religion, but in the end it will be found, I think, that without a spiritual interpretation of existence, such as Circumvented for, we are left "with the parts in our hands," and are thus fated to live a divided life, in which we can neither frankly accept the results of the sciences, nor vindicate our spiritual interests on a rational basis.


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