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ARCHIBALD B. D. ALEXANDER - 1922 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt






Its origin and character


SOCRATES. Cynics and Cyrenaics



Stoicism. Epicureanism

Roman Moralists: Seneca, Epictetus, M. Aurelius
Alexandrian Mystics: Philo, Plotinus, Proclus


THE PATRISTIC PERIOD Augustine and Church Fathers

SCHOLASTIC PERIOD Nominalism and Realism

Anselm, Abelard, Peter Lombard

1. Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas
2. Duns Scotus, Francis of Assisi, William of Occam


1. Revival of Learning
2. Reformation
3. Rise of Sciences
Bruno, Böhme, Montaigne



Geulinx, Occasionalism
Malebranche, Pantheism
Spinoza, Acosmism



Development of empiricism-Berkeley
Sceptical Conclusion-Hume

Natural Philosophy
Theological Controversy
Ethical Theories
Scottish Philosophy

Earlier Rationalism
Bossuet, Fontenelle, Bayle, Montesquieu, Condillac, Helvetius
Materialistic Tendencies
Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert,  La Mettrie, Holbach, Rousseau


Thomasius, Tschirnhausen, Wolff

Mendelssohn, Nicolai







Hamann, Herder, Jacobi
Schiller and Humboldt

1. Science of Knowledge
2. Its Theoretic Principles
3. Its Practical Sphere

1. Philosophy of Nature
2. Philosophy of Identity
3. Mythology and Revelation

1. Novalis and Schlegel
2. Baader and Krause
3. Schleiermacher


1. Herbart
2. Beneke
3. Schopenhauer


1. Influence of Hegelianism
2. Materialistic Tendency—Haeckel
3. Idealistic Tendency
Fechner, Lotze, Hartmann, Wundt
4. Modern Psychology
5. Neo-Kantianism
Dühring, Schuppe, Ritschl
6. Eucken and Activist Tendency

1. Cousin and Eclecticism
2. Comte and Positivism
3. Religious Philosophy
4. Philosophy of Development—Taine, Renan, Fouillée

1. Utilitarianism—Bentham and Mill
2. Evolution—Darwin and Spencer. Maurice, Newman, Martineau
3. Influence of German Idealism. Caird, Green, Bradley, etc.

Pragmatism—Wm. James
Neo-Realism. Revival of Idealism in Italy. The Philosophy of the Gifford Lectures







Chap. IV. The Trend of Thought in the Twentieth Century

Of the century upon which we have recently entered it is too early to speak positively concerning its promises or tendencies. It has only just reached its maturity, and though it has fallen heir to the rich intellectual legacy of its predecessor, it would be unsafe to prophesy what its future may be. Since the "Great War," which lamentably intercepted the movements of speculative thought, as well as every form of progressive enterprise, and concentrated the energies of the world upon the one purpose of deliverance from the domination of material force, we hear it frequently said that "there never was a time when humanity was so persistently haunted by the spiritual." It is to be feared, however, that the growth of pseudo-mystical cults, and the revival of ancient superstitions indicate that the resurgence of the spiritual is little more than a vague and feverish quest of some abnormal way of relieving the soul's unrest and anguish. In the domain of mental activity attention is chiefly directed to minute psychological analysis, to the observation of exceptional moods and emotions, or the recounting of vagrant mental experiences.


It was only natural, perhaps, that there should arise a reaction against the extreme Idealistic Philosophy of the late century, and that a conception of existence which lays the emphasis upon the claims of practical life should grow in favour. In any case, the alleged bankruptcy of naturalism on the one hand and intellectualism on the other has made way for certain forms of activist and vitalistic philosophy which mark the opening of the new era. 

Some philosophers, in order to escape the difficulties of the intellectualist, have abandoned the idea that truth is attainable by means of ideas, and have sought to avoid scepticism by falling back upon immediate feeling, or intuition; while others, though they regard ideas as valuable for the attainment of truth, refuse to find this truth in an identity between subject and predicate, but in the purely practical value of the ideas. The former view has been called Anti-Conceptualism; the latter, Current Pragmatism. A third school, if it may be so called, is that of Neo-Realism, the aim of which is to arrive at an absolute monism in epistemology by the opposite route to that taken by the idealists. As the idealists said in effect there are no things but only ideas, these would-be realists seek to prove there are no ideas, but only things—we are, it is said, in immediate conscious contact or cognitive relation with independently existing things. In this chapter we shall attempt to give a short account of these three movements, taking as our representative of each its most outstanding champions.

1. As the exponent of anti-conceptualism we select Henri Bergson, the greatest figure and most original thinker in contemporary philosophy. Bergson was born in Paris in 1859. His father was a Pole, his mother an English woman. When he was only sixteen he won distinction by a treatise on the Annales de Mathématiques. From 1881 to 1883 he was professor in the Lycée d'Angers, and afterwards for several years at Clermont, where he wrote L'Essai sur les Données immédiates, the thesis for his doctorate in 1889. In 1900 he was appointed professor at the Sarbonne, Paris, where he still lectures. His fame as a teacher is world-wide, and there flock to his lecture-room crowds of students from all countries. It is needless to say that his influence upon French thought has been exceedingly great. Not only has his philosophy gripped the young mind of France, but many matured professors have adopted his views as the soul of their teaching. And beyond France several thinkers both in Germany and America acknowledge him as their master. The late Wm. James of Harvard confesses that he owes his emancipation of thought to Bergson's influence. Not only is there a Bergsonian philosophy but also a Bergsonian art and literature, and even a Bergsonian Labour-Movement as well as a Bergsonian Catholicism. Men like Anatole France, Barrès, Bourget, Claudel, and Romaines, are said to have come under the spell of his philosophy. He has become the centre of a group of modern writers who have broken away from the naturalistic school into which had flowed the lees of Romanticism. In virtue of the nimbleness of his fancy, the charm of his personality and speech, and perhaps of a certain vagueness and elusiveness of his purpose, he has become the foremost literary force of our time.

Bergson has not been a prolific writer. He has written some lesser volumes in the domain of Psychology, though, in a sense, all his works have a psychological basis. His three chief books have been translated, under the titles of Time and Free Will; Matter and Memory; and Creative Evolution. As a thinker Bergson is not easy to classify. It might not be difficult to show his agreement with the most various and strictly opposed philosophies. He is not to be styled an eclectic, since he claims that many of the propositions which have hitherto been supposed to be incompatible involve one another in the light of the higher synthesis which he offers. While, in a sense, he is an idealist, there is a sense in which he is also a realist. He has sometimes been called a Pragmatist, and indeed much of his work consists in insisting upon the effect of practical considerations upon thought. Yet he believes in the power of thought to transcend this influence, and he contends that philosophy is only possible if the distinction between thought and action is clearly recognized.

Yet he is not an idealist in the ordinary sense, and it is because he has so trenchantly affirmed the externality of perception that we claim him as the representative of anti-conceptualism. He makes a direct attack upon intellectualism, which is charged with laying its desiccating hand upon the very springs of mental initiative and life's novelty and forced all creative effort and freedom into the moulds of mechanical necessity. To the old theories of finalistic evolution Bergson opposes a universe not created once and for all, nor logically necessitated, but dynamic, creative, original, evolving under the free impulse, or élan vital, of life itself.

He describes the conceptual mechanism of ordinary knowledge, and especially of the exact sciences, as of a cinematic character. He compares our concepts to snapshots of passing reality, which we are accustomed to bring before us by means of the internal movement of thought. Just as there is no movement in the snap-shots of a moving object, so there is none in our concepts of the duration of life that constitute the content of immediate experience.(1) Bergson contends that "our thought, in its purely logical form, is incapable of presenting the true nature of life, the full meaning of the evolutionary movement." "Not one of the categories of our thought—unity, multiplicity, mechanical causation, intelligent finality, etc.—applies exactly to the things of life... In vain we force the living into this or that one of our moulds. All the moulds crack. They are too narrow, too rigid, for what we try to put into them..." "It would be difficult to cite a biological discovery due to pure reasoning." (2) Yet, says Bergson, evolutional philosophy from Plato to Kant and his successors attempts to gain knowledge of the real by an examination of mental concepts, and does not hesitate to extend to the things of life the same methods which it applies to unorganized matter. Instead of seeking true knowledge, therefore, by means of the intellect, Bergson would have recourse to immediate intuition. He distinguishes, indeed, between sensuous intuition and a supra-intellectual intuition. The latter is a sort of artistic sympathy by means of which we share the inner life of the object we would know—a power by which we pierce to the very heart of life and view it from within.

An important element in the philosophy of Bergson is, therefore, the significance he attaches to intuition and its superiority to intellect as the organ of human development. Intuition is the truly creative power in man which penetrates to the heart of reality and shapes its own world. The intelligence has a practical function only. It is related to the needs of action.(3) It is the faculty of manufacturing artificial articles, especially tools, to make tools. It deals with solids and geometrical figures, and its instrument is logic. It can decompose, but it cannot create. It can only fabricate. "Of immobility alone does the intellect form a clear idea." (4) Hence its incapacity to deal with life. When we contrast the rigidity of intellect with the fluidity and intimacy of intuition we see at once wherein lies the true creative power of the latter. Only life is adequate to deal with life. "Instinct is moulded on the very form of life. While intelligence treats everything mechanically, instinct proceeds organically."(5)

With his passion for symmetry and completeness Bergson has sought to present a new theory of the evolution of the universe, resorting, strange to say, to a form of reasoning which implies the validity of logic, the instrument of the intellect which he is never weary of impugning. Freedom is the corner-stone of his system, and his whole philosophy is a powerful vindication of the independence and self-determination of life. Life is creation. "Reality is a perpetual growth, a creation pursued without end. Our will already performs this miracle. Every human work in which there is invention, every voluntary act in which there is freedom... brings something new into the world. True, these are only creations of forms. We are not the vital current itself; we are this current already loaded with matter,—that is, with congealed parts of its own substance which it carries along its course." (6) Life, in other words, cannot create absolutely because it is confronted with matter. But, as Bergson says, it seizes upon this matter and strives to introduce into it the greatest possible indetermination and liberty. Thus, though he emphasizes the immediacy and incalculableness in all human action, he cannot deny that the bodily conditions and mechanisms are at least the basis of the soul's reactive energy. Life can produce no change in the world save in strict co-ordination with the forces and qualities of material things. Purpose does not come out of an empty mind. Initiative never begins entirely de novo. Life is a creation, but it is also an evolution. A moral personality is a self-determining being; but it is self-determining in a world. The co-operation of spontaneity and necessity is implied in every true idea of freedom. Bergson himself seems to acknowledge this. Matter, he admits, plays at once the role of obstacle and stimulus. "The spectacle of life," says M. Bergson, "from the very beginning down to man suggests the image of a current of consciousness which flows down into matter as into a tunnel, which endeavours to advance, which makes efforts on every side, thus digging galleries, most of which are stopped by a rock that is too hard, but which, in one direction at least, prove possible to follow to the end, and break out into light once more." The aim of life and consciousness is self-development, not the development of matter. Matter is a means to that end. The very inertia and obstructiveness of matter, the resistances which it offers to the realization of ideals, contribute to the development of incarnate consciousness and enable it to rise in the scale of existence. Thus the creative consciousness pushes on, giving to matter, where it can, its own life and drawing from matter its nutriment and strength. The effort is painful, but in making it we feel that it is precious, more precious perhaps than the particular work it results in: because through it "we have raised ourselves above ourselves." That is the aim of the whole process. The very inertness of matter contributes to the result: its very necessity makes of organized matter an instrument of liberty.

What is this creative force that seems to be behind and within all being—the real productive agent of novelty which unfolds a living self-evolving universe, the scope and goal of which cannot be foreseen or apprehended? Bergson does not tell us. In one passage he seems to hint that the world of matter and of consciousness have the same origin. This feature of his philosophy the author has only dimly sketched or barely indicated so far. We may well believe that he assumes that the faint beginnings of consciousness and the rudiments of matter, utterly divergent as they now are, have arisen from something which was neither conscious nor material, but which had within it the potentiality of both attributes. But the crux of the problem is the origin and guidance of the vital energy. As M. Bergson has truly said, life utilizes solar energy to store organic explosives and then "pulls the trigger, a frictionless easy trigger, that requires only an infinitesimal force." But, says Mr. Balfour,(7) "to pull even a hair trigger some force is required." How is life to exert force on matter? It is not enough that in organic life accumulated energy is released. "What is really essential is the manner of its release. If the release is effected by pure mechanism fate still reigns supreme." Sir Arthur Balfour has here laid his finger upon a gap in the argument which is not to be got over by the rather unconvincing suggestion of "a slight inaccuracy in the laws of physic," or "any peculiarity or inadvertence" to be excused by reason of its smallness.

It has been said that there is room in Bergson's conception of evolution for neither the personality of a Divine Being nor the idea of teleology. Of the former there is no evidence in the work, but the theory does not, we think, necessarily exclude the idea of a Deity. And in his Gifford Lectures, delivered in 1913 in Edinburgh, his treatment of Personality seemed to involve the existence and purpose of a Supreme Being. With regard to the question of finality or purposiveness in creation, the criticism of Sir A. Balfour and others seems hardly fair to M. Bergson. He clearly affirms that there can be no uncertainty or even ignorance as to the desired goal, though there is contingency as to its being reached in any attempted direction. To maintain a rational conception of teleology, M. Bergson warns us, we must beware of the analogy of a mechanical construction to a design, and we must get rid of the "artificer" notion. There is, and must be, a finalism about all life, but not, what Bergson calls, "radical finalism." "Evolution creates as it goes on, not only the forms of life, but the ideas that will enable the intellect to understand it. Its future overflows its present and cannot be sketched out in the idea." (8) Life is not mechanism, and it does not go to work as a workman "proceeds, by the assemblage of parts with a view to the realization of an idea or the imitation of a model." The universe, as we perceive it, does not set to work after our conscious manner and put things together according to a given pattern. But that is no reason for denying an aim, an ultimate goal. Bergson is specially concerned in refuting the predetermined and rigid teleology of Absolute Idealism. If all is "given" before-hand, says Bergson, if "tout est donné," why should life do over again what is already absolutely completed and determined, thus reducing all freedom and endeavour to a mere sham. The world is in the making, and though we know it is working to a final goal, we, who are within, and part of, it, cannot foresee what that goal may be. But, according to the relevant criticisms of Bosanquet and other idealists, though we cannot predict what form the world will ultimately take, we may at least be certain that it can assume no character which will contradict the nature of intelligence. All enterprise and effort are based upon the faith that we belong to a rational world.(9) Even in the making of a world, if life has any moral worth or meaning underlying all its diversity, change and movement pervading all its novelty, initiative and freedom, there must be a spiritual purpose and unity which we may believe a higher Divine Mind is working out.

While we cannot read Creative Evolution without feeling there are many problems which, though stated, have not been solved, we must at least acknowledge that the author has contributed not a little to liberate us from the bonds of mechanism and the thraldom of a fatalistic necessity. It is his merit that he has lifted the burden of a hard determinism and given a philosophical vindication to the freedom and choice of the human spirit. If he has not given us a distinctly Christian message, he has disclosed for the soul the possibility of new beginnings, and shown that there is room in the spiritual life for change of heart and choice of life.

2. Pragmatism. We have now to turn to those who in their repudiation of intellectualism, while not rejecting the significance of ideas seize rather upon their practical or instrumental value, claiming to find in the function of truth the key to its criterion. This is the position of what has been called Current Pragmatism.


  The original promoter and arch-defender of this view is the late Prof. William James of Harvard University, the distinguished psychologist, and for a generation the genial friend and revered master of American thinkers (1842-1910). He has been a prolific writer, and his works on Psychology are justly esteemed for their originality, suggestiveness, and clear limpid style. Among his more notable works may be named: The Principles of Psychology; The Will to Believe; his Gifford Lectures, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902); Pragmatism (1907); A Pluralistic World; and Essays in Radical Empiricism, posthumously published in 1912.

It is admittedly difficult to say exactly what Pragmatism stands for. In discussions regarding it a great variety of divergent meanings have emerged. Bradley complains of "the ambiguity of Pragmatism." Wm. James himself acknowledges that "the Pragmatic movement is seldom spoken of with clear understanding." Prof. A. O. Lovejoy makes a classification of thirteen different types! It would be hardly an exaggeration to say that there are as many sorts as there are pragmatists. If we ask what is Pragmatism? and what does it propose to do? it is hardly satisfactory to answer with James—"It is a new name for some old ways of thinking." D. L. Murray,(10) one of the younger members of the school, says that the mission of Pragmatism is "to bring philosophy into relation to real life and action" —a somewhat colourless description applicable to most forms of philosophical endeavour. Mr. Schiller of Oxford affirms that "pragmatism, as a logical method, is merely the conscious application of a natural procedure of our minds in actual knowing." (11) And in illustrating his definition he says, that "the true way of deciding the truth or falsity of rival theories must be to treat them as working hypotheses, and to judge them by the way they work." That which works most satisfactorily is, he claims, not only useful, but true. The criterion of truth, according to A. W. Moore, "is always the fulfilment of a specific finite purpose."

Pragmatism is mainly the product of American thought. It can scarcely be said to have taken root in Germany. But a number of recent British writers have lent it their support in varying degrees. Among the American thinkers who have adopted it, besides James, we may mention Caldwell, Dewey, Royce, H. H. Bawden, Balwin, Lovejoy and Hocking. There is, moreover, a special "Chicago school," which has made a type of pragmatism the chief plank in its basis of teaching. In England the movement is represented chiefly by the "Humanism" of Schiller, and perhaps the "paradoxism" of Bernard Shaw. The pragmatic point of view was first proposed as a maxim by C. S. Peirce in a magazine article entitled "How to Make our Ideas Clear," written in 1878, to whom Prof. James accords the honour of being the pioneer in this line of thought. Peirce indeed uses the term, but according to him it is the name of a doctrine, not of truth, but of meaning. Prof. James, however, elaborated the idea and gave it a much wider application. According to James, Pragmatism seeks to interpret the meaning of conceptions by asking what difference they make in the affairs of practical experience? What is their value for life? The ultimate test of what a truth means is the conduct it dictates and the consequences it involves. What hypotheses are to science, concepts generally are to mankind. The justification of a theory is that it is practically helpful. Anything "that works" in life may be called true. When we call an action right, the old notion is that it corresponds with some abstract ideal standard. But, says the pragmatist, we can only judge of actions by their consequences. Prof. James affirms that the true is the expedient in our way of thinking; just as the right is the expedient in our way of behaving." The whole function of Philosophy ought to be, to find out what difference it will make to you and me, at definite instances of our lives, if this world-formula or that world-formula is the one which is true."

Originally set forth in his Will to Believe, Pragmatism was claimed to be a method rather than a system of philosophy. It was, according to James, simply a working conception by which, in default of scientific evidence, one may contrive to live and turn nature to one's own ends. After maintaining this guarded position for a number of years Prof. James claimed that Pragmatism was not a "method only," but "a certain theory of truth." It is now maintained, without qualification, that "an idea is true only in so far as it leads to satisfying and successful experiences." "True ideas," says Prof. James, "are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify." (12) According to this view, Truth would appear to have no independent existence. It is wholly subjective, relative, instrumental. The emphasis is laid not on absolute principles, but on consequences. The test of truth is its utility, its workableness. If Prof. James really means that truth is, after all, just what answers best and that an idea can be made true by its satisfactory consequences, then some will not scruple to go a step further and say, "truth is what pays best." It is but fair to assume that so astute a thinker as Prof. James can hardly mean anything so crude. It is only natural that his position has called forth much controversy. Like every new theory, it has probably assumed an exaggerated form, and many of its excrescences have, during the last few years, been dropped. Strictures have been made, and some of those who acknowledge their adherence to the main principle seek by subtle explanation, and cautious qualification in regard to details, to tone down their advocacy. D. C. Macintosh (13) divides Pragmatists into three classes: Quasi-Pragmatists (or Semi-Pragmatists), Pseudo-Pragmatists, and Higher-Pragmatists. It is not our purpose to follow him in discussing the minute differences between these classes. Among the most thorough-going he instances Wm. James and Schiller. Of the Semi-Pragmatists he names Balwin, who defines Pragmatism as "the doctrine that the whole 'meaning' of a conception expresses itself in practical consequences, consequences either in the shape of conduct to be recommended or in that of experience to be expected, if the conception is true." Royce's "absolute pragmatism," he says, "falls short of essential pragmatism. He insists that an idea is a 'plan of action'; but he does not definitely propose to measure trueness in any sense by the demands of practice." The only other example of Semi-Pragmatism we shall mention is the "negative pragmatism" of W. E. Hocking, the author of The Meaning of God in Human Experience (1912). In the preface to that profound and valuable work he says, "the pragmatic test has meant much in our time as a principle of criticism, in awakening the philosophic conscience to the simple need of fruitfulness and moral effect as a voucher of truth." This critical test, however, he would call Negative Pragmatism—whose principle is, "That which does not work is not true." "The corresponding positive principle, 'whatever works is true,' I regard," he says, "as neither valid nor useful. But invaluable as a guide do I find this negative test: if a theory has no consequences, or bad ones: if it makes no difference to men, if it diminishes the worth to them of what existence they have; such a theory is somehow false, and we have no peace till it is remedied..." "This instrument is nowhere so significant as in the field of religious knowledge. What difference is made to you (and necessarily made) by your equipment of religious ideas and beliefs? If they are powerless they are false." (14) Much of Hocking's contention is plausible and even admissible. But it is doubtful if his negative does not involve a positive: and he seems to be logically driven on to an essential and thorough-going Pragmatism which really makes truth in the last resort instrumental, dependent upon what it effects.

Without dwelling further upon the varieties of meaning which have been given to Pragmatism, it may be asked, does not this subjective mode of regarding truth contradict the very nature of truth? If truth has no independent validity, if it is not something that exists in its own right, irrespective of the interests and inclinations of man, then its pursuit can bring no enrichment to our spiritual being. It remains something alien and external, a mere arbitrary appendix of the self. It is not the essence and principle of human life. If its sole test is what is advantageous, is desirable, it sinks into a mere utilitarian opinion or selfish bias. Eucken's objection to Pragmatism seems justifiable. "It does not sufficiently distinguish between the natural desires and the elevation of life, between the decorations of a given world and the struggle for a new one, between what is useful and what is good." (15)

According to the pragmatic theory, moreover, truth is apt to be broken up into a number of separate fragments without correlation or integrating unity. There will be as many hypotheses as there are individual interests. The truth that seems to work best for one man or one age may not be the truth which will best serve another. In the collision of opinions who is to arbitrate? If it be the institutions and customs of to-day that are to be the measure of what is good, then we seem to be committed to a condition of stagnancy.

Finally, truth is undoubtedly a growth; it is in the making in the sense that we are only gradually attaining to a fuller realization of the meaning and value of life. The old cleft between two fixed worlds is no longer tenable. The theory of a static reality over against the mind, which it is the function of thought simply to "copy," leads indeed to the breakdown of all knowledge: and the conviction of the unity of existence has permeated all the best thought of the time. Cause and effect, acts and consequences, roots and fruits, cannot be separated. The one is the potency of the other. They are inseparably bound together. It is the truth of the whole that counts, a partial or abstract or instrumental truth falls short of reality. Truth can only exist as an ultimate or end in itself. Truth presupposes a rational universe. We can regard those judgments only as true which express what is compatible with the totality of reality.

3. The last movement to which we shall draw attention is styled Neo-Realism. This new form of an old problem has this in common with Pragmatism, that it, too, has its origin in a reaction to the Absolute Idealism of the Neo-Hegelian school. "The original idea of the new realists," says Prof. Clyde Macintosh, "seems to have been to arrive at an absolute monism in Epistemology by the opposite route taken by the idealists." As the idealists had said in effect "There are no things, but only ideas," so the new realists in effect say "There are no ideas, but only things." In other words, realism maintains that between us and reality there is no mental construct. We are in immediate touch with objects. Thus Neo-realism holds that the problem of knowledge is simplified and the old Kantian bugbear of "the thing in itself" disappears. Neo-realism is, in one sense, an elaboration and development of the Scottish "Philosophy of Common Sense," though, of course, the modern school would repudiate the naïve point of view of the ordinary beholder. But though the new realism is more elaborate and complex it shares Reid's doctrine of ideas, holding with him that they are but "fictions" contrived to account for the phenomena of the human understanding. Reid's doctrine of "immediate presentation" has within it the seeds of the modern theory.

The realistic movement which belongs to this century includes among its adherents a large number of English and American philosophers. Among its English representatives may be named L. T. Hobhouse, G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, Samuel Alexander, T. P. Nunn, A. Wolf, and, as a recent convert, G. F. Stout. Among those associated with the movement in America are F. J. E. Woodbridge, G. S. Fullerton, E. B. M'Gilvary, and six others who have collaborated in the interests of the problem, viz. : R. B. Perry, W. P. Montague, E. B. Holt, W. T. Marvin, W. B. Pitkin, and E. G. Spaulding.

To attempt a resumé of the vast literature which has already appeared, or even to indicate, except in the most general way, the minute shades of difference among the writers of the school, would be impossible within the limits of this history. As yet no comprehensive treatment of the subject has been published, and the individual views are to be discovered chiefly in fugitive papers and articles in current philosophical journals.18 We can, therefore, merely mention some of the main questions that have been raised and indicate the general lines of the movement.

Before, however, referring to the principal topics discussed, a glance may be given to the immediate causes or antecedents of this phase of thought. Many factors have contributed to its appearance. Emphasis may be laid, first of all, upon the influence of modern science. It has been suggested that not only the general scientific attitude to reality, but the hypotheses regarding external existence which many naturalists and others have found to yield satisfactory results, would seem to afford a more solid basis for a correct understanding of the actual world than that which has been so long accepted by idealistic philosophy. The close interdependence of body and mind, the mutual relations and frequent overlapping of psychological and physical facts have disclosed complexities of condition which absolute idealism fails to account for. It has been contended also that historically idealism has broken down. In the ranks of Absolutism itself doubts have arisen as to the validity of the idealistic conception of the world. The disintegration of the Hegelian school brought to a head by the negative criticism of Bradley seemed to call for an attempt to develop a realistic interpretation of life more in consonance with actual experience.

Once more, the "Experience philosophy" of some continental thinkers concerning the genesis of the "Self,"—notably Wundt, Avenarius, and Mach—was not without its influence upon both English and American psychologists. Finally, some American realists acknowledge especially the influence of Wm. James, whose last work, Empirical Radicalism, struck a new note; not a few also have been indebted to the writings of the English veteran, Shadworth Hodgson (for many years president of the Aristotelian Society), whose keen criticism of the Kantian "thing in itself," and whose acute Analysis of Consciousness without Assumptions have had no little effect in stimulating and consolidating the new departure.

Of those who have led the way in this enquiry prominence must be given, among English writers, to Hobhouse, Schiller, and latterly Stout; and among Americans, to Fullerton, whose essay entitled "The New Realism" (in Essays in Honour of William James, 1908), and, still more, his recent volume, The World We Live In (1912), sound the challenge of undiluted Realism. Of the more critical writers who have conceived it to be their mission to expose the fallacies of idealism rather than expound the positive aspect of realism, none have been more active than G. E. Moore and R. B. Perry; and from the logical or mathematical side, Bertrand Russell, who is the promoter of a singularly subtle if somewhat vague fusion of which the main principle seems to be the almost Platonic doctrine—that "universals are realities."

Of the most prominent themes discussed by Neo-realism reference can only be made to three:—The doctrine of Qualities: The doctrine of Consciousness: and The doctrine of Relations.

1. Perhaps the most characteristic theory of this school, and that which most clearly indicates its nature and intention, concerns the externality and independent Reality of Secondary or Sense-qualities. Woodbridge says categorically that "consciousness and knowledge do actually disclose to us that which is in no way dependent on consciousness for its existence or character." What he apparently means is that while objects must be in some way in consciousness for us to know what they are, what they are is not dependent upon our consciousness of them. In other words, "reality is precisely what it appears to be." Both the normal and the colour-blind perceive the thing as it is—though under different physiological conditions. The particular qualities of things remain the same in consciousness as they are in reality, though it is acknowledged by some that the problem is rendered more complex by the well-known facts of hallucination, delusion, and imperfection or impairment of the senses. It is even admitted by S. Alexander that mental peculiarity may dislocate the real object from its normal place in the system of things and refer it to a context to which it does not belong, and thus give it a delusive aspect. But in themselves image and percept are the same physical object under whatever different connections they may be presented.

2. The Neo-realistic doctrine of Consciousness is the complement of the doctrine of sense-qualities. In the words of Montague, "as long as the secondary qualities are accepted as objectively real, there is no temptation to regard consciousness as anything but a relation." The typical English view of Consciousness is to be found in the writings of Moore, Russell, S. Alexander, and Nunn, who, in this respect, have been evidently influenced by the philosophy of Shadworth Hodgson, whose characteristic note may be stated as the emphasis upon the distinction between the knower and his knowing. "Mind is that which we perceive as the subject of Consciousness; matter is that which we perceive as the object of Consciousness." Hobhouse, and more particularly, M'Dougall in his work, Body and Mind, describe Consciousness in a way which is practically identical with the view of Hodgson just referred to. "Consciousness," says M'Dougall (Psychology, 1912), "is an activity of some being which in all cases in which we have positive knowledge, is a material organism, but to which we conveniently give the name, subject." It is significant that some of the more advanced realists seem to be tending towards a physical interpretation of mind. "Mind," says S. Alexander, "consists in a mental activity which is located in the body"; and in a later article he is more explicit: "Mind and body are one thing, because we experience them in the same place." Woodbridge, the writer among American realists who has given most attention to the mental problem, seems to lean in the same direction, defining consciousness in terms of the physical alone. He contends for the application of the methods of empirical science to the problems of the mind. If the mind be not actually material we can at least say, so he holds, that it belongs to the physical order of things and may be defined as a real relation between things.

3. The third feature which has claimed the special attention of Neo-realism is the doctrine of Relatedness and values. The problem of relations, as we have seen, is directly involved in the consideration both of sense-qualities and the nature of Consciousness. The significance of the question lies in the fact that if it could be proved that all relations are external to the terms related, we could deduce the independence of the known object from the knower. This subject, though of some importance, does not seem to have received the attention it deserves. The theory of relativity since the discovery of Einstein is now much in the forefront, and is receiving all kinds of applications not only to physical matters, but to metaphysical and mental problems. Einstein's doctrine is that space and time are relations between the observer and the thing observed, which alter with the situation and condition of the observer; and that consequently the appearance, and indeed the proportions and value of the object, vary according to that situation and those conditions. Far-reaching consequences follow. For one thing, as Lord Haldane has pointed out, who has done much to apply the theory to both speculative and practical matters, each of us has his own private space and time. There is no such thing as objective space and time. We carry about with us our own systems of measurements, according to situation and conditions. "I looking at you and you at me—though looking at each other and watching the different expressions on each other's faces, cannot enter into each other's sensations." "All the hearers see the same lecture hall, listen to the same sort of sounds, and yet what they are aware of is only their own private sensations." It is in thought that the relation between the speaker and the hearer exists. The significance of this theory for Neo-realism is obvious, and it would seem to be a direct refutation of the contentions of those who affirm that relations are wholly independent of their terms, and that the mind which perceives the external object has no relational, no constitutive or interpretative effect upon what enters its consciousness.

Among the English realists Bertrand Russell appears to be the only one who has devoted some attention to the internality or externality of relations. His view seems to be that relations in themselves are separate existent entities, apart from any terms which they seem to involve. Among the American realists the discussion of relativity is confined almost exclusively to the six "programmists." According to the essay, The New Realism, which is their joint manifesto, they say that "realism rejects the premise that all relations are internal. While things may be related, many of the relations are not constitutive or determinative, i.e. do not enter into the explanation of the nature of their terms." This cautious utterance is, they acknowledge, all that the present evidence will permit them to affirm.

Closely connected with the problem of relatedness, upon the externality of which the Neo-realistic theory of knowledge depends, is the question of Values. And here we touch upon a subject which has immense suggestiveness, and which is now receiving in wider connections much attention. It has been truly said that "the appreciation of values which is commonly intuitive and always fundamentally perceptual, may function in the recognition of certain realities." The special point of interest for Neo-realism is whether value is independent of or dependent upon consciousness. Are moral values, for example, in the objects themselves, or does the mind of the subject help to constitute them? Moore holds that goodness is a quality attaching to things independently of consciousness. Russell universalizes this statement, and dogmatically asserts that values are in the objects and are wholly independent of the mind. M'Gilvary seems to give away the entire position of Neo-realism by defining value as "a certain specific relation between the valuable thing and our desires and interests." (16)

Without pursuing further our account of Neo-realism, it may be remarked that what the school is anxious to maintain is the proposition that that which is presented to us in knowledge is real, in all its qualities, relations, and values, independently of consciousness. While it may be acknowledged that modern realism has brought to notice some elements which subjective idealism, at least, was apt to forget, there is an undue dogmatism with reference to the extent to which what is presented to knowledge is real, independently of consciousness. Without the ultimate synthesis and unifying power of consciousness there could be no appreciation of the objects we perceive. Without the constructive and interpretative action of ideas there could be no real values and no sense of relatedness whatsoever. It is not surprising to find that some of the realists have been driven to a form of material monism, or even dualism, while others, like Bertrand Russell, can only escape scepticism by pronouncing entities to be universals, and thus approaching the position of Plato.

Prof. Eucken has truly said that the contrast between idealism and realism may be formulated in various ways, but the essentials of the problem remain unchanged. The question at issue comes to be: Are the chief purposes of existence to be realized in the physical or the spiritual realm? Can we be content to measure reality by realistic standards alone? The idealist contends, as against the realist, that without the thought-world the concept of reality would not even be possible, that indeed the world of sense depends upon the world of thought for its meaning and value. At the close of the nineteenth century the old conflict entered upon a new phase. The contentions of the Neo-realists cannot be confined simply to the epistemological question—the problem of knowledge. The whole meaning and construction of life is implicated. The new method of approach to reality is bound ultimately to re-shape every department of intellectual and practical activity. It will affect our attitude to art, culture, literature, ethics, and religion, as well as the problems of society, economics and industrialism. The chief result will be a binding of human interest more closely, if not exclusively, to the immediate and tangible world in which man has his being. It will make every form of activity more dependent upon the external system of things. And the more ardently men tend towards the outward, the less needful will appear to be the support and "inspiration of the inner spiritual life." It is indeed more than doubtful if realism of itself, without the aid of idealism, can constitute a system of thought at all adequate to the exigencies of life as a whole. Any view of the world which, in the last resort, does not acknowledge the constitutive, pervasive, and even determining power of the spirit, would seem to narrow the meaning and purpose of life, and ultimately to reduce man to a mere link in the chain of causal existence.

There is evidence in the philosophical speculation of the present that Neo-realism is not to be permitted to have the last word. Paradoxical as it may seem, the specialization in science has made some form of idealism an almost vital consequence of thought. The main problem of modern philosophy lies in the search for some unity beyond or within the apparently hostile conceptions of the world implied in subjectivism and objectivism.

It is interesting to note that this is the point of departure of a new idealistic tendency which has become prominent in Italy. Although Benedetto Croce may be called the founder of this new school of thought, its work has been much extended by the contributions of Guido Ruggiero and Giovanni Gentile. Ruggiero says of Croce and Gentile, and of the school generally: "Here we find Italian philosophy moving towards a metaphysic of Absolute Immanence, which can be indifferently described as Absolute Idealism and as the true and Absolute Positivism." Professor Wildon Carr, who is the translator of Gentile's latest work, Teoria generalle dello Spirito come alto puro, under the title "The Theory of Mind as Pure Act," says of the author, "it is doubtful if there is a more influential teacher in the intellectual world to-day." The feature of the school is its criticism of Neo-realism and its claim for an idealistic interpretation of reality. "Being in its abstractness is nothing." The genesis of being is thought. Facts are the past creations of the act of thinking, and do not anticipate the actuality of thought. Truth alone lies in the act of thinking, not in thought. Thought, in so far as it is abstract or past, does not exist: thought, inasmuch as it is concrete or present, is truth in the act of thinking. Truth begins in the act of thinking, and the movement of mind remains real, only so long as it is movement. The creation of thought means the negation of thought. The transcendental comes to life in the immanent, and is contained in the immanent. It is significant that Gentile works out his philosophy in its applications to art, and especially to history; and it is in this respect evident that the shaping factors of his idealism are Hegel and Vico. "The true history is not that which is unfolded in time, but that which is gathered up eternally in the act of thinking in which it is realized." Thought or mind is immortal and infinite, and the truth of religion remains the truth of the act of thought. "Immortality is an ever-present conception of the mind and lives in the exquisite passion of the soul." In Art, as in history and religion, creation and appreciation become united in the mind. In criticising a work of art we create in our own mind the work; it becomes flesh of our flesh, and spirit of our spirit.

Of the singular beauty of language and rare suggestiveness of thought no brief abstract of this work can give any indication. Though difficulties are raised which Gentile as little as Hegel has been able to solve, the significance of the Italian movement lies in a renascence of an idealistic interpretation of life which is evidently spreading over European thought. There are points of contact berween the Intuitionists, among whom may be reckoned Bergson, Sinmel, and Croce, and the more pronounced idealists of the Neo-Hegelian school, which at least show that the claims of Neo-realism are not likely to pass without challenge.

Finally, no account of contemporary philosophy would be complete without a reference, however slight, to the fresh interest in the philosophy of religion which has been awakened by the institution of the Gifford Lectureships in the Universities of Scotland. Probably no literary bequest since its inception in 1890 has brought forth such a brilliant succession of thinkers, or afforded so rich a variety of fruitful discourse as this series of lectures has evoked. Lecturers from almost every part of the world have been invited. Scholars so diverse as Max Müller and Andrew Lang, Prof. Driesch and Boutroux, Pfleiderer and Wm. James, Prof. Stout and C. C. J. Webb, Bergson and Dean Inge are among the contributors. Amid all the diversity of outlook and treatment one truth has been impressed upon the mind of the student: that in some way religion is central to man and must gather all human interests into itself; that every advance in science and art, poetry and romance, and in ethical and social life has an intimate bearing on religious conceptions, and ultimately involves some form of spiritual interpretation of life. These writers, each from his own standpoint, unite in showing that a knowledge of God or the Absolute is the goal and crown of all philosophical enquiry, and that in some way the vision of the Divine must underlie and illumine all our quest of truth. No one can follow the general trend of teaching embodied in the Gifford Lectures without realizing how far we have travelled since the days of Paley or from those of the Bridgewater Treatises in the interpretation of the universe. Nature is still teleologically interpreted by the philosopher, but the teleology is no longer conceived as external and mechanical, but as immanent in the universe and especially associated with man's ideals and aspirations and with the conception of values. It is especially associated also with the conception of the universe as an evolving process, and of man, too, as in course of development and working out his destiny.(17)

It would be impossible to enumerate in detail the writings of this long line of eminent thinkers, which, as a result of the Gifford Bequest, have enriched our philosophical literature. Some of the most recent of these works have become classics. Of these, mention may be made of the volumes of Edward Caird, Lord Haldane, Prof. Bosanquet, Prof. Watson, representatives of Neo-Hegelianism; and those of Prof. Ward, Prof. Pringle-Pattison, Prof. Sorley, and the late Sir Henry Jones, in which idealism is stript of its specific Hegelianism. Nor can we omit the works of Dr. Driesch, Prof. Arthur Thomson, dealing with evolution in relation to theism. "Those of the Gifford philosophers who are pronounced theists have this peculiarity, that they are fully alive to the necessity of basing Theism on a sound theory of knowledge."(18) This is the point of view of Prof. Pringle-Pattison's Idea of God; of Prof. Sorley's Moral Values and the Idea of God; of Prof. Ward's Realism of Ends; and Mr. C. C. Webb's Treatment of Personality. The latest contribution is that of Sir Henry Jones' The Faith that Enquires. So far it crowns the series, and is a noble exposition and vindication of philosophical idealism of the present day.


(1) Time and Free Will, pp. 115, 228.

(2) Creative Evolution, pp. X-XIV.

(3) Idem, pp. 161-2.

(4) Idem, p. 164.

(5) Idem, p. 174.

(6) Idem, p. 252.

(7) Hibbert Journal, October, 1911.

(8) Idem, p. 108.

(9) See Bosanquet, Value and Destiny of the Individual.

(10) Pragmatism, p. 70.

(11) Studies, p. 186.

(12) See Pragmatism, William James.

(13) Problems of Knowledge.

(14) The Meaning of God, pp. XIII-XIV.

(15) Knowledge and Life, pp. 94-7. Cf. Main Currents of Modern Thought, pp. 79-81.

(16) Quoted by Clyde Macintosh, p. 307.

(17) See Recent Theistic Discussion, by W. I. Davidson, for an illuminating resumé of the Gifford Lectures.

(18) Davidson, Recent Theistic Discussion.

British Philosophy in the Victorian Era                                            A Short History of Philosophy. Conclusion



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