Updated: Jul 16
Watson, John. “The Idealism of Edward Caird: II.” The Philosophical Review 18, no. 3 (1909): 259. https://doi.org/10.2307/2177873
IN the last number of the PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW an attempt was made to give some account of the mental development of Edward Caird, and to indicate the conclusion to which he was brought by a study of the great masterpieces of ancient, medieval, and modern literature and philosophy. The training to which he was subjected in Oxford, as well as the natural bent of his own disposition, which was modest in a large and impersonal way, together with his antipathy to all dogmatic utterances, led him to seek for truth by an assimilation of the highest products of all-time, and by the construction of a system of thought that should reconcile the partial truth of opposite schools in something approaching to the calm arid unimpassioned voice of reason. Those who take a less sympathetic view of his writings will naturally attribute this indirect method of presentation to the absence of the highest kind of speculative originality; and indeed he would have been himself the first to protest against his being ranked as more than a humble, though not a slavish, follower of the great masters of speculation; but it may be permitted to those who have found in his writings the insight and inspiration of a sane, well-balanced, and comprehensive mind to give him a foremost place among those thinkers of the nineteenth century whose power is best attested by their wide and far-reaching influence. However, this may be, the manner in which Caird preferred to set forth his ideas was through the exposition and criticism of Plato and Aristotle, Plotinus and Augustine, Descartes and Spinoza, Kant and Hegel; and this makes it difficult, for one who would sum up his ideas with something of his own clearness and vigor, to present his philosophy in a short and concise form.
In my former article I pointed out that Caird did not shrink from carrying out to its only logical issue the principle, common to T.H. Green and himself, that the world is in its inner nature essentially spiritual. But, though he and his friend might differing this and other respects, they were in substantial agreement at the one-sidedness of empiricism and subjective idealism, or, ascarids sometimes put it, perhaps in a slightly misleading way, in regard to the radical defect of the 'psychological ‘point of view. Thus, in the Introduction to his Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, he remarks that the problem of Kant "seems at first sight to be identical with that which Locke endeavored to solve in his Essay on the Human Understanding" whereas there is this important difference, that Locke "conceives the question as one of Psychology." An incautious or unsympathetic critic is apt to take this and similar sayings as implying contempt for psychology, whereas Caird had no intention of conveying that impression, but merely meant to point out that general philosophy or metaphysic has "to deal with the knowledge of mind only in so far as mind is presupposed in everything known or knowable," whereas psychology, as he conceives it, or at least human psychology, has as its aim to supply a knowledge of man "as a human being, distinguished from other human beings, from the animals and from nature in general, and standing in definite relations to each of them." Caird had therefore rooted objection to any philosophy which ignores the fact that conscious being, as such, is a subject of knowledge, holding that a due consideration of this fact "must essentially modify our view of his relation to all other objects in a world which cannot logically be considered as existing apart from such a subject. “For him all questions run back into the problem of the relation of man as a self-conscious being to the Absolute. Holding this view, he could not admit that, in an ultimate synthesis, whatever may be said of the provisional syntheses of special branches of investigation, there can be any absolute distinction between the science of nature, the science of soul or mind, and the science of the Absolute. The physical sciences, whether they know it or not, must be regarded as really dealing with but one aspect of the whole: that aspect which is expressed by the term 'nature,' and which includes man so far as he is regarded as a 'natural' being. And as the biological sciences treat of organic beings, again including man as possessed of life, so psychology, to be really fruitful, must deal with man as at once an animal and a self-conscious being. The distinctive character of psychology, or of a philosophical psychology, if we must distinguish it from what ordinarily bears that name, must therefore be to enquire into the process by which man, as a knowing, willing, and feeling being, advances from his first immediate state to the most developed form of knowledge, will, and emotion of which he is capable. To Caird this problem did not seem soluble, unless it is recognized that "the intelligence is able to understand “the world, or, in other words, to break down the barrier between itself and things and find itself in them. Hence, he held that “the knowledge of things must mean that the mind finds itself in them, or that, in some way, the difference between them and the world is dissolved." Moreover, Caird could not admit that Epistemology is a science distinct from Metaphysic since a knowledge that is not in some sense a comprehension of reality can only be a knowledge of illusion. The prevalent opposition of Epistemology to Metaphysic he regarded as largely due to the way in which Kant was led to state his problem and must disappear for anyone who sees the logical consequences of a really idealistic view of the world. Epistemology, in other words, is properly branch of Metaphysic or General Philosophy, dealing with the explicit comprehension of the real world, just as Logic also must” ‘be regarded as that branch of it which treats of the logical determinations of reality in their organic connection. Anyone who admits that in us as rational there is a principle by which we are enabled to comprehend the world as it really is, will see that these conclusions are inevitable.
If the distinctions just stated are borne in mind, there will be no difficulty in understanding what Caird meant by "Idealism, “which is apt to be confused with what sometimes goes by that name, and why no one who adopts its fundamental principle can possibly accept the "Radical Empiricism" which is at present making so bold a bid for recognition and acceptance.
For Plato an 'idea' was primarily the permanent objective reality, to which all our conceptions of goodness, beauty, and UnityPoint; and therefore "Idealism" meant for him the doctrine that man is capable, in virtue of his reason, of comprehending reality as it actually is. No theory therefore which denies that we can attain to a real comprehension of things is entitled to be called “Idealism" in the Platonic sense of the term. And this is the sense in which Caird always speaks of it. Kant he therefore regarded as, in the letter of his philosophy, an opponent of "Idealism, “since, although he maintained that " the world of experience cannot be regarded as independent of consciousness in general, and, indeed, of the consciousness of man he yet held that the objects of our experience cannot be identified with reality as in its own nature itis. At the same time, it is Caird's contention that, had Kant consistently carried out the line of thought by which he endeavored to refute the so-called "Idealism" of Descartes and Berkeley, he would have been compelled to reconstruct the whole of his philosophy in the sense of an "Idealism," the fundamental principle of which is that reality as it is, and not merely as it appears, is capable of being known, and indeed that, unless this is admitted, all experience, theoretical or practical, becomes inexplicable. Any so-called "Idealism," therefore, which assumes that were first conscious of our ideas, as our ideas, and then that secondly we proceed to infer from them the existence of objects, inverts the order of our intellectual life, and tears asunder its constituent elements. It is to invert its order: for, though the unity of the self may be implied in all consciousness of objects, yet it is to the object in the first instance that our attention is directed, and we observe the outward world and construe its meaning long before we turn the eye of reflection upon the inner life. And it is to tear the elements of it asunder: for the outer and the inner life are at every point in close correlation, and there is no experience of ours, theoretical or practical, in which we have not to do with both. The growth of our inner life is just the development of our knowledge of the outer world, and of our interests in it, and the attempt to retire into ourselves and in a literal sense to make our mind a ‘kingdom' to itself is suicidal. It would be like the attempt of the abstract pleasure-seeker to get pleasure apart from all interesting anything but pleasure itself. "Nor is the doctrine which, claiming the title of "Idealism," denies "the reality of any world but a world of spirits and their conscious states," a tenable theory; for "the denial of the reality of the material world will inevitably lead to the denial of the reality of any world at all. “Such a desperate refuge from Materialism is not only indefensible but unnecessary; for the true result of Kant's teaching is “not to cast any, even the slightest, doubt on the reality of the external world, but only to show that a new element must be added to all that we know of it as an external world, namely, its relation to the subject. No doubt, this new element brings important modifications into our previous views of objectivity. For, on the one hand, it absolutely precludes the attempt to explain the spiritual by the material, and, indeed, compels us to conclude that there is no material world "which is not also spiritual. And, on the other hand, as the correlation between the self and the not-self is not one-sided, it brings with it also the conviction that there is no spiritual world which is not also material, or does not presuppose a material world. Thus, the reality of that which is other than the self-conscious intelligence is seen to rest on the same basis with that of the self-conscious intelligence itself, and the one cannot be denied without the other." No doubt there is "a sense in which all that is apprehended by the intelligence must have something of the nature of the intelligence in it." For " everyone who holds that the realis relative to mind, and, therefore, that the difference between mind and its object cannot be an absolute difference, must acknowledge that whatever is real (and just so far as it is real) has the nature of mind manifested in it. Reality cannot be alien to the subject that knows it, nor can the intelligence comprehend any object except as it finds itself in it. In other words, objects can be recognized as real, only if, and so far, as, they have that unity in difference, that permanence in change, that intelligible individuality, which are the essential characteristics of mind. At least we can regard an object as an independent and substantial existence only in so far as it possesses such characteristics. It is not, however, necessary to infer from this that every object, which is in any sense real, 'thinks,' or is a conscious subject; for we do not need to take reality as a simple predicate, which must be attached to everything in exactly the same sense. We may, and, indeed, we must admit that there are what Mr. Bradley calls differences of degree, or what might perhaps even be regarded as differences of kind, in reality. In its highest sense the term ' real 'can be predicated only of res complete, of that which is complete in itself, determined by itself, and, therefore, capable of being explained entirely from itself. But this does not involve the denial of reality even to the most transient of phenomena if it be but as a phase of something more substantial than itself. There is a certain graduation in the being of things, according to the measure of their independence. From this point of view, every systematic whole must stand higher in the order of reality than an aggregate of unconnected or externally connected parts and a living being in its organic individuality would be regarded as more real than any inorganic thing. In the sphere of the organic, again, we may find many grades of being, from the simplest vegetable cell up to the highest and most complex of animals. But, while all such beings are conceived as in a sense substantial in so far as their existence is referred to a center in them-selves, it is only in man that we find that permanent self-identity, that unity with himself in all difference and change, which is needed fully to satisfy our conception of substantial reality. He only can be properly said to have a self, since he only is fully conscious of it. And it is only as self-conscious that he is able to refer all things to himself and so to generate a new world for himself; or, if we prefer to put it so, to reconstitute the common world of all from a fresh individual center. Even here, however, we cannot stop; for no finite spirit is complete in itself. As finite, he is part of a greater whole, the member of a society which itself “is but one phase of humanity, conditioned by all other phases of it, and, indeed, by all the other elements that enter into the constitution of the universe. We can, therefore, find that which is absolutely real or substantial only in a creative mind, from whom all things and beings must be conceived as deriving whatever reality or substantiality they possess. Now, if we adopt this point of view, it is possible to regard all objective reality as kindred with the intelligence, without going on to assert that nothing exists except minds and their states. In other words, itis possible to maintain that every intelligible object is a partial former expression of the same principle which is fully expressed in the intelligence, without denying the relative reality either of the inorganic or the organic world, and without, on the other hand, treating every mind as an absolutely self-determined being."
Anyone who clearly apprehends the force of the passages just quoted will see that Caird's "Idealism “is not only incompatible with what ordinarily bears the name, but is equally opposed to Realism, new or old, as well as to Empiricism in whatever format presents itself. Caird indeed has not himself made any direct reference either to Realism or to Empiricism, in the forms at presenting vogue, but some light may be thrown on his doctrine by a short examination of what has been called "Radical Empiricism. “For what is said on this topic the present writer is responsible, though he believes that Caird would have endorsed it in substance, had he broken his almost universal rule of allowing attacks upon his doctrine to answer themselves.
Empiricism, as we find it in the school of Locke, adopts the opposition of real things and states of the individual mind, and endeavors to explain how from these states a knowledge of real things is obtained. It further holds that such knowledge can only come to the individual through impressions of sense, and that universals or conceptions derive their meaning from what is discovered by a comparison of impressions with one another. Now, the objection which Idealism makes to this doctrine is, that it assumes the independent or separate existence of things, and, in its endeavor to account for knowledge of them on the part of the individual, employs the idea of external causation, thereby making the knowledge of the individual the result of a purely passive apprehension on his part. Idealism rejects this whole method of explaining knowledge, maintaining that the separation of things and thought is inadmissible. Manifestly, therefore, no modification of Empiricism that continues to assume the separate reality of things can alter its fundamental nature. For, so long as that separation is made, the mind must be regarded as the inactive medium of impressions simply received by it. To say that the individual subject does in point of fact find before him, not unrelated feelings, but feelings that are 'conjoined' to one another, does not overcome the fundamental vice of Empiricism, which consists in viewing mind as if it were on the same level as other things, and may, therefore, be treated as a 'stream,' in which anew 'thought’ internally complex as it may be, perpetually displaces the old. For, though it is no doubt true that an absolutely simple feeling is a fiction, the mere complexity of feeling will not explain the universality of judgments, without which knowledge of reality is impossible. So long as the separate individuality of minds is assumed, and each mind is resolved into a temporal succession, the difficulty remains that there is nothing in a minds so defined that entitles us to say anything about the nature of things, which are assumed to consist of a number of particulars connected only by external relations. The vice of Empiricism, therefore, is that it conceives of reality as a collection of separate things, and, applying the same idea to mind, is forced to reduce it, either with the older empiricists to a 'succession,' or with radical empiricism to a 'stream' of feelings. Whether we take the OneView or the other is of subordinate importance, so long as the mind is practically defined to be a 'collection' of elements only related to one another by the superficial bond of time. A disconnected ‘series of feelings and a 'stream' of feelings have this in common, that the feelings are merely particular, and as such can yield no universal judgment. Surely it is obvious that a stream of feelings is no higher characterization of mind than a discontinuous ' series.' What is really characteristic of mind is that it is not single but dual; so that it not only is, but is capable of comprehending that it is, and that other being is. A mind, on the other hand, which is conceived of as a single ‘stream,' can neither comprehend itself nor anything else; and if it seems too so, that is only because the psychologist imports into it what is inconsistent with its character as he defines it.
The distinctive character of Radical Empiricism, as we are express told, is its refusal to admit that any absolute principles can be discovered which constitute the unchangeable nature of reality. We must in all cases go to "direct experience" in order to find out what as a matter of fact actually exists. As a result of this method we frame certain "hypotheses “in regard to facts, which enable us to reduce our experiences to a certain order, but we must not regard these as absolute " laws." Professor James, therefore, tells us that Radical Empiricism is "contented to regard its most assured conclusions concerning matters of fact as hypotheses liable to modification in the course of future experience. “Adopting this guarded attitude, Radical Empiricism “treats the doctrine of monism itself as an hypothesis"; i.e., it refuses to admit, as an ultimate or absolute truth, that the universe is a whole, all the parts of which are connected in a fixed and unchangeable way. In adopting this attitude, Radical Empiricism, we are told, "unlike so much of the half-way empiricism that is current under the name of positivism or agnosticism or scientific naturalism, does not dogmatically affirm monism as something with which all experience has got to square. “This form of Empiricism keeps so closely to 'experience ‘that, finding it impossible to reduce all facts to the unity of a single principle, it refuses to say whether or not they are all united in a single principle. So far as experience goes, Pluralism has the field. “Rima facie the world is a pluralism; as we find it, its unity seems to be that of any collection; and our higher thinking consists chiefly of an effort to redeem it from that first crude form. Postulating more unity than the first experiences yield, we also discover more. But absolute unity, in spite of brilliant dashes in its direction, still remains undiscovered, still remains a Grenzbegriff. . .. After all that reason can do has been done, there still remains the opacity of the finite facts as merely given, with most of their peculiarities mutually unmediated and unexplained. Tithe very last, there are the various 'points of view ' which the philosopher must distinguish in discussing the world; and what is inwardly clear from one point remains a bare externality and datum to the other. The negative, the logical, is never wholly banished. Something, ' call it fate, chance, freedom, spontaneity, the devil, what you will,' is still wrong and other and outside and unincluded, from your point of view, even though you be the greatest of philosophers. Something is always mere fictiveness; and there may be in the whole universe no one point of view extant from which this would not be found to be the case. . .. This is pluralism, somewhat rhapsodically expressed. He who takes for his hypothesis the notion that it is the permanent form of the world is what I call a radical empiricist. For him the crudity of experience remains an eternal element thereof. There is no possible point of view from which the world can appear an absolutely single fact. Real possibilities, real indeterminations, real beginnings, real ends, real evil, real crises, catastrophes, and escapes, a real God, and a real moral life, just as common-sense conceives these things, may remain in empiricism as conceptions which that philosophy gives up the attempt either to 'overcome' or to reinterpret in monistic form."
Radical Empiricism thus denies that the universe can show to be a rational whole, maintaining that the character of our experience does not justify such an inference. And, naturally, holding this view, it also refuses to admit that any of the conceptions by which we seek to introduce order into our experience, can be regarded as more than ' hypotheses' or 'working conceptions,' liable to be superseded at any time. Radical Empiricism is therefore opposed to Rationalism, understanding by this term the doctrine that the universe is a rational whole. “Rationalism," says Mr. James, "tends to emphasize universals and to make wholes prior to parts in the order of logic as well as in that of being. Empiricism, on the contrary, lays the explanatory stress upon the part, the element, the individual, and treats the whole as a collection and the universal as an abstraction. ... It is essentially a mosaic philosophy, a philosophy of plural facts, like that of Hume and his descendants, who refer these facts neither to the substances in which they inhere nor to an Absolute Mind that creates them aids objects." It would thus appear that Radical Empiricism affirms that there is nothing in experience that entitles us to go beyond particular facts, a view which it identifies with the denial of " substances in which they [facts] inhere" or of an “Absolute Mind."
But Radical Empiricism differs, not only from Rationalism, but from "the Humean type of empiricism in one particular. . ..To be radical, an empiricism must neither admit into its constructions any element that is not directly experienced, nor exclude from them any element that is directly experienced. For such a philosophy, the relations that connect experience must themselves be experienced relations, and any kind of relation experienced must be accounted as ' rear as anything else in the system. Elements may indeed be redistributed, the original placing of things getting corrected, but a real place must be found for every kind of thing experienced, whether term or relation, in the final philosophic arrangement. "This recognition of 'conjunctive relations' is the great superiority of radical to ordinary empiricism. For, "ordinary empiricism, in spite of the fact that conjunctive and disjunctive relations present themselves as being fully coordinate parts of experience, has always shown a tendency too away with the connections of things, and to insist most on the disjunctions. Berkeley's nominalism, Hume's statement that whatever things we distinguish are as 'loose and separate' as if they had 'no manner of connection’ James Mill's denial tahsildars have anything 'really' in common, the resolution of the causal tie into habitual sequence, John Mill's account of both physical things and selves as composed of discontinuous possibilities, and the general pulverization of all Experience by association and the mind-dust theory, are examples. . . . The natural result of such a world-picture has been the efforts of naturalism to correct its incoherencies by the addition of trans experiential agents of unification, substances, intellectual categories and powers, or Selves; whereas, if empiricism had only been radical and taken everything that comes without disfavor, conjunction as well as separation, each at its face value, the results would have called for no such artificial correction. Radical empiricism does full justice to conjunctive relations, without, however, treating them as rationalism always tends to treat them, as being true in some supernal way as if the unity of things and their variety belonged to different orders of truth and vitality altogether. “It finds no reason for treating either as illusory. It allots to each its definite sphere of description and agrees that there appear to be actual forces at work which tend, as time goes on, to make the unity greater. The conjunctive relation that has given most trouble to philosophy is the co-conscious transition, so to call it, by which one experience passes into another when both belong to the same self. ... To be a radical empiricist means to hold fast to this conjunctive relation of all others." ..."In a picture gallery a painted hook will serve to hang a painted chain by, a painted cable will hold a painted ship. In a world where both the terms and their distinctions are affairs of experience, the conjunctions which we experience must be at least as real as anything else." Radical Empiricism, then, as it would seem, while it denies that we can find in experience a perfect unification of particular facts yet insists that there are given in experience ‘conjunctions,' connecting certain particular ‘facts' with each other.
The difficulty in dealing with a doctrine of this kind is partly due to the element of truth that it contains. Nothing seems at first sight more reasonable than the contention that we must not go beyond what the facts of experience warrant. In the infinity of particulars ever crowding upon us, it is argued, we are in many cases forced to be content with mere 'brute fact,' without being able to show its reasonableness. Who will prove to us that a thunderstorm or an earthquake is rational? And if we cannot show the rationality of all the facts that we experience, how are we to prove the rationality of the whole? Does the rationality of the whole demand that there should be pain and strife, crime, and guilt? Must we have a Catiline and a Caesar Borgia? Is it not more reasonable to say that while these are undeniable facts, we cannot explain them? Are we forced to hold that whatever occurs must be consistent with the rationality of the universe? Why should there not be 'chance, ‘accident,' 'matter’ or whatever term we employ to express our ignorance of the ultimate nature of things?
Now, it seems obvious that reasoning of this kind cannot be met by simply urging the probability that, as many things have been explained which once seemed inexplicable, there is good ground for believing that all things could be explained if only our experience were sufficiently enlarged. For it may be retorted with equal force, that, as many things always remain for us inexplicable, the probability is that they are by their very nature inexplicable. We must therefore attack the problem in another way and enquire whether we are really compelled to leave the question as to the rationality or irrationality of the whole in a state of doubt.
The first thing to notice is, that the plausibility of the argument against the complete rationality of the universe implies that we can discern its partial rationality. Now, it may be shown, I think, that, with the denial of complete rationality even partial rationality must logically disappear. The changes which objects present are capable of explanation just in so far as they occur, riot in an irregular way, but in a fixed order; and if this order is denied, there is no longer anything that admits of explanation. Suppose for a moment that our experience was so contradictory that there was absolutely nothing in any two experiences that we could call identical; and what would be the result? The result would be that no judgment whatever could be formed, since judgment rests upon a recognition of something, identical in our experience. But the hypothesis of an experience in which there is no identity whatever is absurd, for the simple reason that the minimum of experience involves at least the distinction of ‘this' from 'that,' and such a distinction is impossible unless there is something identical in 'this' and 'that,' whether it is identity in extension, or in time, or in quality, or in some other form. An absolutely chaotic experience, in fact, is no experience at all. Whatever element of 'opacity,' therefore, there may be in the universe, there must be some fixity or order in it. Now, fixity or order, from the nature of the case, is not something which can be limited in its application. For it cannot be established by any accumulation of particular instances of it. There is therefore nothing in Radical Empiricism to prevent us from supposing that all order should at any moment disappear, leaving us weltering in an absolute chaos of disconnected particulars. Thus, the supposition of an 'experienced' world absolutely destitute of order, or absolutely irrational, is one that cannot be entertained without self-contradiction; in other words, the irrationality of the universe is an hypothesis which, by making all experience impossible, makes itself impossible. If the universe is only partially rational it is not rational at all, because partial rationality means that there is nothing in the nature of things to prevent the world from resolving itself into an infinity of separate particulars.
To these general considerations we may go on to add others. Radical empiricism, as we have seen, rests upon the assumption that experience presents to us a collection of facts, the relation of which to one another we are capable of partially discovering. The reason it assigns for refusing to admit the 'monistic' view of reality is, that the facts of which we have experience do not warrant that conclusion. Obviously, therefore, the doctrine pre-supposes the reality of the facts, while denying the inference that they warrant the conclusion as to the perfect unity of the world. Now, what is a fact? It is assumed to be something that presents itself within the experience of this or that individual, and so presents itself that he is forced to admit its reality. The assertion indeed of the reality of what falls within the 'experience' of the individual is the ground upon which the denial of Monism is attempted to be based. The character of the facts, it is alleged, is such that they do not warrant the inference to the complete rationality of the world. If therefore there is any doubt of the facts, the whole negative conclusion based upon their character disappears. But the 'facts' are not momentary states of this or that subject, but an identity of experience, either in the same subject, or in different subjects. Deny this identity, and there is no 'fact,' and indeed nothing that we can call 'experience.' Its isthmus evident that Radical Empiricism presupposes a certain unalterable nature in the objects of 'experience.' What is this but an assumption that the world is a systematic whole? Deny that it is so, and there is no meaning in 'experience’ and therefore nothing upon which Empiricism in any "form can be based.
We may see the same thing by looking more closely at Professor James’s attitude towards psychology. In his Principles of Psychology, he takes it for granted that there are various individual subjects of experience, and that the experience of each forms a whole, the parts of which cohere with one another. Now, it is surely obvious that both of these assumptions, the assumption of individual subjects, and the assumption that the experience of each is continuous, disappear, if we say that reality has no fixity in its nature. How can we affirm individuality and continuity, if we are serious with the statement that we can affirm nothing beyond what particular experiences warrant? If that doctrine is carried out to its consequences, is it not plain that we can say nothing about reality beyond the moment in which a particular 'experience' is had? And as this particular experience is a guarantee of nothing but itself, to talk of a continuity of experiences, and still more of continuity in the experience of different individuals, is wholly unwarrantable. If there is no constancy in the nature of things, there can be no system of experience; if there is a system of experience, the world must be rational.
Rationalism, as contrasted with Radical Empiricism, Professor James tells us, "tends to emphasize universals and to make wholes prior to parts in the order of logic as well as in that of being. Empiricism, on the contrary, lays the explanatory stress upon the part, the element, the individual, and treats the whole as a collection and the universal as an abstraction."
The "Rationalism" to which Professor James here refers is, I believe, largely a creation of his own, due to want of appreciation of what is really maintained. If his characterization of it has any truth at all, it applies only to the pre-Critical Rationalism of Wolff; in any case the Rationalism, or Rational Idealism, of Edward Caird certainly does not " tend to emphasize universals and to make wholes prior to parts": what it does is to maintain that particulars involve universals, just as universals involve particulars. Neither is 'prior' to the other, logically, or really. Take the simple case of causality. What Idealism affirms is that no change occurs in the world which does not occur as an instance of the universal and necessary connection of every element in the whole. It does not start from the 'universal,' and proceed to determine the particular by it, but it does maintain that the character of experience is such that every element is connected with every other, and therefore that we are forced to treat any given element as having no existence except in relation to the whole. To isolate the 'universal,' giving it an independent position, is to destroy it; for the 'universal' has no reality except as the order or system or unity of the particulars; to isolate the 'particular,' on the other hand, is to give it an apparent independence which destroys its connection with other particulars and with the whole. This latter fallacy is the one which besets all forms of Empiricism, and most of all what is called Radical Empiricism; for the latter, by making even the systematic unity of particulars problematic, removes the very foundation without which there can be no system of experience whatever. Thus, setting up a mere chaos of particulars, it is no wonder that Radical Empiricism regards “the whole as a collection and the universal as an abstraction." The whole would be 'collection' no doubt, if it were anything at all; but, since all universality, i.e., all identity, system, law, or unity, is denied, nothing remains but a rhapsody of particulars that cannot even preserve the appearance of stability.
It follows from what has been said, that Radical Empiricism has not got rid of the fundamental defect of ordinary Empiricism. A 'stream' of feelings, as felt by a single individual who is conceived of as limited to his own feelings, does not bring us any nearer to reality than a ' series ' of feelings. Grant that the individual subject, if the radical empiricist could consistently talk of any individual subject, experiences a stream of feelings; how does this account for the judgment that reality is constituted in a certain way? Within the stream appears what we ordinarily call 'fictions' as well as what we ordinarily call 'truths,' but there is nothing in the idea of a 'stream' to justify the distinction. We 'directly' experience, e.g. (to use the radical empiricist’s language), say, color; is color, then, a property of things, or only feeling in us? We 'directly' experience the heat of a stove; can we pass from the statement that a certain feeling arises in us to the statement that it is a true index of the nature of things? It is just because this question must be answered by the radical empiricist in the negative, that any knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality is denied by him.
Idealism, then, refuses to admit that the rationality of the universe as a whole is a debatable question. As Caird puts it: “The only reasonable controversy between philosophers must be, on the one hand, as to the nature of the all-embracing unity on which every intelligible experience must rest, and on the other hand, as to the nature of the differences which it equally involves.. . . The problem of knowledge is to find out how the real unity of the world manifests itself through all its equally real differences, and we can show that any abstract view, which would deprives of any element of it, would make the progressive solution of it by science and philosophy impossible. But we cannot prove these presuppositions of all knowledge directly, or by making the system based upon them complete, if for no other reason, because with our increasing experience the problem itself is always enlarging. ... It is involved in the very idea of a developing consciousness such as ours, that while, as an intelligence, it presupposes the idea of the whole, and, both in thought and action, must continually strive to realize that idea, yet what it deals with is necessarily a partial and limited experience, and its actual attainments can never, either in theory or practice, be more than provisional. ... If in one sense we must call this idea a faith, we must remember that it is in no sense an arbitrary assumption; rather it is the essential faith of reason, the presupposition and basis of all that reason has achieved or can achieve.”
The first principle of Idealism is thus the rationality of the rea, a principle which is incapable of demonstration, in the ordinary sense, only because it is the basis of all demonstration. It may be objected, however, that, like the famous Cogito ergo sum of a Descartes, to use Carlyle’s phrase, it “takes us a very little way”; or the objection of a recent writer may even be raised, that it does nothing to settle “the problem of the relation of mind and body.” The answer, however, cannot be difficult for anyone who has once put himself at the idealistic point of view. It might just as well be objected that philosophy does not tell us how to cure gout, or why a candle cannot burn in a vacuum, or establish the law of organic descent. The problem of the investigation into the conditions unde3r which mind operates is a special branch of science and can only be answered by a special investigation. At the same time, nothing could be further from the truth than to say that Idealism, as Carid understood it, pays no heed to the results of scientific investigation, and especially to the important problem of psychology; what it does it not point out, as I have already indicated, that a psychology which ignores the distinction between the various forms of life, and treats the mind as if it were merely one object among other objects, violates the very nature of mind, and treats it as that which it is not. It is not necessary to enter into the at bottom verbal dispute whether ‘psychology’ is, or is not, a ‘natural science’; for, granting this to be true of what is ordinarily called ‘psychology’, there still remains the problem of determining its relation to the other branches of knowledge and reality, and this problem cannot be settled by anything short of a comprehensive philosophy. If psychology, as Mr. Bradley says, “deals with the facts immediately experienced within a single organism or soul,” and excluded all metaphysics, its conclusions cannot be more than provisional, and it therefore becomes a serious problem whether, after this exclusion, we have any right to speak of 'psychical events' at all; in any case, the so-called 'psychical events' cannot be those of a self-active or self-determining subject, and nothing less will explain 'experience.' On the other hand, if psychology claims to be a final rendering of the nature of experience, it is equally fallacious to base this form of it, which is virtually a metaphysic of the conscious subject, upon the subjective states of the individual conscious subject. Caird at least refused to admit the final legitimacy of this point of view, claiming that, while Dr. Ward, "in his able Lectures on Materialism and Agnosticism, admits frequently the correlation of subject and object," he yet “seems in effect to withdraw this admission when he speaks of each individual consciousnesses having a subject and object of its own." Much nearer to a really philosophic psychology is, in Caird's eyes, the main doctrine of the De Anima. For, though Aristotle never liberates himself from the false conception of ' matter ' as a mere indeterminate possibility, yet, in the sphere of life, he conceives ‘matter' and 'form' to be strictly correlative, and indeed to differ only as the 'potential' from the 'actual.' There is for him no living 'body' apart from 'soul,' the principle through which the latent capacities of body are realized, and therefore body and soul are not separable, but are properly only distinctions or aspects of the one single concrete living being. Moreover, as soul and body are essentially correlative, a specific body implies a specific soul, and therefore the more complex the body, the higher the functions of the soul. Aristotle, however, is unable to maintain himself at this level of speculation, and therefore, "for the most part he seems rather to regard the forms giving to the matter a unity which does not belong to it, and to which it is never completely subordinated." Thus, he declares that the soul neither grows nor decays, though all activities usually ascribed to it are conditioned by the growth and decay of the body. Hence, he says that, "if the old man had the young man's eyes he could see as well as the young man, “where he obviously thinks of the soul as an independent substance only accidentally related to the body ; a doctrine that logically leads to the absurdities of metempsychosis, which is ultimately based on the fallacy that any soul may inhabit anybody. In this superstitious conception of soul, a conception which hassled in our own day to the materialistic dualism and chicanery of "psychical research," Caird had no faith, though he came more and more to be convinced on general grounds of the immortality of the individual. 1 He was therefore unable to follow Aristotle when, passing beyond the life of plants and animals, he denied that imagination and discursive thought are modes or affections of reason; for, Caird argued, if reason is in its own nature entirely independent of all corporeal existence, the wolf nature, including the sensitive and passionate life of man, becomes essentially unreal and irrational.
There is only one other point to which space will allow me to refer and with this I must bring these articles to a close. No charge has been more persistently made against Idealism that hat of 'panlogism,' as Lutze calls it, the charge that it gives no place to the will or the feelings in its scheme of existence. The misunderstanding is due to a false opposition of intellect and will, and to the plausible, but fallacious, arguments by which the ‘primacy' is given, now to the one and now to the other. If I have managed to convey at all Caird's comprehensive conception of philosophy, as the science which includes all other sciences within itself, or which justifies the existence of all other sciences by showing that they are each and all but phases in the development for the rational subject of a rational universe, it will almost go without saying that any abstract opposition of intellect and will, and therefore any elevation of the one over the other, rests upon a forced and untenable separation of elements that "never can be sundered without tears." This point is brought out in the most forcible way, where Caird shows the opposite defects of Aristotle and Kant, the former of whom ascribes the 'primacy' to intelligence, the latter to will. Aristotle is led to exalt the theoretical over the practical reason because, as it seemed to him, the only way in which reason reveals its essential nature is in the direct comprehension or intuition of universal and eternal principles; whereas practical reason “has to realize itself in a subject-matter which is not purely rational but mixed with contingency, and in which the universality of pure science is reduced to generality, and the absolute necessity of law to the hypothetical necessity of empirical fact." Thus, for him is the only absolutely free activity of reason. In contrast to this 'intellectualism,' Kant, and he has in this respect had, and still has, many followers, maintained that the only world of which we can have scientific knowledge is one the law of which is necessity, and therefore that we can never, by theoretical reason, advance to an actual knowledge of the self, the world, or God. "A practical necessity, however, is found in the moral law which, as it issues unconditioned commands, compels us to believe in our own freedom. And the idea of an intelligible world is just the conception on which we must take our stand, in order to think of ourselves as self-determining beings."
Caird refuses to admit that it is any real answer to Aristotle to say that his mistake was in assuming that we are capable of knowing reality as it is in itself, instead of recognizing that the whole idea of such a reality is an 'over-belief,' which we may feel compelled to accept although we are unable to convert it into scientific knowledge. Nor can it be admitted with Kant that what is a mere possibility or probability for theoretical reasons a rational faith for practical reason. The whole difficulty, Cordocenteses, is due to the untenable opposition of the phenomenal and the real or intelligible worlds. We can indeed distinguish between the world as imperfectly conceived and the world as more adequately interpreted. For their own purposes the special sciences treat the world as if the only explanation of it were that which traces out its relations of coexistence or succession; but, though it is true that the higher teleological view of nature presupposes the humbler work of the special sciences, we cannot admit any abstract contrast between the mechanical and the ideological conceptions of the world, as if the one were contradictory of the other. Nor can we stop even with the determination of existence as involving purpose, for the world of necessity “stands in essential relation to the unity of the self that knows it, “and thus " the external necessity which characterizes the objective world when we regard it as complete in itself (as it is generally regarded by science), must receive a new interpretation when we recognize that it cannot be separated from the unity of the intelligence."
The effect of these considerations is to break down the opposition between the theoretical and the practical life; for, if the object cannot be separated from the unity of the self, neither can the unity of the self be severed from the multiplicity and externality of the object. If the world is not a world of mechanical necessity, and if the subjective unity of self-consciousness cannot be severed from the objective consciousness of the world in space and time, we "cannot suppose that the aspirations of the soul or the obligations of the will can carry us into a new region absolutely separated from that phenomenal world, which is the object of our knowledge. On the contrary, the practical must be viewed as continuous with the theoretical life. . .. The good cannot be opposed to the true; for they are only different aspects of the relation of the same self to the same all-embracing whole, in which the self finds its objective counterpart."