3. Revelation and Philosophy
To pragmatism belongs the great merit of having freed us from the bane of monism and of having exposed the barrenness of its abstract conceptions. It deserves appreciation and praise so far as it turns its back upon “fixed habits, pure abstractions, and verbal solutions,” calls us back to the facts, and places emphasis afresh on the practical element in all knowledge and science.
But if it may be justly demanded of every world-view that it shall satisfy both the requirements of the intellect and the needs of the heart, it will be seen that pragmatism also is unsatisfactory. It is itself not pragmatic enough. While professing to have no dogmas, and rejecting alike the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, of Spinoza and Hegel, of Bradley and Taylor, in point of fact it aligns itself with the humanism of Socrates, links its thinking to that of Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, and simply replaces the philosophy of rationalism by that of empiricism. When it not only throws overboard the abstract conception of the absolute and its self-realization in the world-process, but also refuses to acknowledge as realities “upon which it can rest” God and his attributes, mind and matter, reason and conscience, and finds in all these names merely “a programme for more work, only with a practical value”; when it discards the idea of substance and resolves the thing into its properties; when it regards religion and philosophy as “largely a matter of temperament, even of physical condition,” and places the criterion of all truth in “satisfactoriness” alone; pragmatism proves that it is far from merely a new method, but is to all intents a new philosophy, and comes therewith into conflict with its own point of departure and its own fundamental principle. No wonder James declares that it cannot be refuted by pointing out in it a few contradictions, but that the only way to learn to understand and accept it is by becoming thoroughly “inductive-minded” one’s self through “a real change of heart,” “a break with absolutistic hopes.”58 Here we touch the real core of pragmatism: it has abandoned all hope of knowing anything that bears any absolute character,—not only God, but all ideas and names. It is born from a sceptical frame of mind, and for this reason as a last resort clings to what it considers ultimate, incontrovertible facts.
It follows from this that pragmatism is not correctly defined by indispensable, practically inalienable ingredient of our mental equipment.”59 As though idealism had become frightened by its own practical consequences, Paulsen and Verworn hasten to assure us, that, whether one’s philosophy be idealism or realism, everything in life remains the same, and science retains its truth and value.60 But, in addition to this, the facts directly contradict the assumption that reality is reached only through a process of reasoning from representation or will. It is by no means in every case that we posit reality behind our representations. Difficult as it may be to point out the difference theoretically, practically we all draw a distinction between the waking and dreaming states, between the representation of reality and hallucination. And in the same manner we ascribe reality to many things with which our will has no concern whatever, and from which it experiences no resistance whatever. The sun and the moon and the stars possess no less reality for us than the stone against which we strike our foot or the wall which shuts off our view.
Now, since we are not in the least conscious of any such process of reasoning or inference, some have thought that these activities take place in the subconscious region of our mind.61 This, however, entirely fails to make the matter more plausible. For either an unconscious inference of this kind must be the precipitate of long years and ages of experience, in which case it would presuppose the very thing to be established by it; or the human mind must by its very nature be under the necessity of connecting its representations with reality, in which case the procedure can neither be unconscious nor consist of an act of syllogistic reasoning; or, as von Hartmann actually represents it, it is something accomplished in us by the great Unconscious, in which case it is no conclusion of ours, and all self-activity of man in thinking and acting disappears. When idealism has begun by severing the representation in its origin and essence from reality, it has lost the power to reinstitute the inward connection between them. The mind, having once shut itself up in the circle of representations, is unable to free itself from this self-constructed prison. Whithersoever it may turn, it perceives nothing but representations, products of its own consciousness ; its will is a representation; the resistance that will encounters is a representation; the ego is a representation. Representations gird it about on all sides, and nowhere is access open to reality; for no inference can be drawn from thinking to being; from the representations there is no bridge to reality. Just as little as Satan can be cast out by Satan is there escape from representations by means of representations.62
Idealistic philosophy is like the she-bear which draws all her nourishment from her own breasts, and thus eats herself up, ipsa alimenta sibi.63 The case becomes entirely different if we take our starting-point not from the representations as such, but from self-consciousness; if for the act of cogitare we substitute the fact cogito. But modern psychology seeks to obstruct also this last road to reality. It bids us remark that we do not observe in ourselves any ego, any soul, any substance, but only a continuous succession of phenomenal states of consciousness, and that we lack warrant to infer from these the existence of a bearer or substrate. This obstruction, however, is easily removed, because the same mistake is made here that before was found to vitiate the reasoning with regard to the reality of the outside world. As our perception does not have for its object the representations, but in and through these the things themselves, so in the phenomena of consciousness our own ego always presents itself to us. In neither case is there involved any process of reasoning or inference. As the external perception, of itself and immediately, convinces of the reality of the perceived object, so the perception of self in the phenomena of consciousness assures us spontaneously and immediately of the existence of ourselves.
Of course a distinction must be made here between the psychological investigation to which the man of science subjects the phenomena of consciousness, and by means of which he may abstract these from the self-consciousness, and the state of self-consciousness experienced in daily life by every man, the scientist not excluded. But in the latter case the self is always and immediately given in self-consciousness. If this were not so, we should indeed be shut up to the proposition, advocated no doubt by idealism, but none the less paradoxical, which is formulated by Max Verworn as follows: “There is no such thing as a soul dwelling in the human body, nor as a man which is the seat of sensations, but a man is a complex of sensations, and to others as well as to himself he consists of sensations.”64 That this is a paradox is recognized even by John Stuart Mill, for in spite of his actualistic standpoint, he declares that here a dilemma confronts us: we must either believe that the ego is distinct from the phenomena of consciousness belonging to it, or accept the paradox that a series of sensations can become conscious of itself as a series.65 Here, as little as in the case of outward perception, does monism suffice. There is a distinction, an irremovable distinction, between the representation and the thing of which it is a representation, and there is an equally sharp and equally indelible distinction between the phenomena of consciousness and the subject that manifests itself in them. How else could unity and continuity of psychical life, how could memory and imagination, thinking and judging, comparison and inference, be possible? The ego is not an aggregate of parts, not a mass of phenomena of consciousness, afterwards grouped together by man under one name. It is a synthesis, which in every man precedes all scientific, reflection, an organic whole possessing members. It is complex but not compound.66
In self-consciousness, therefore, we have to deal not with a mere phenomenon, but with a noumenon, with a reality that is immediately given us, antecedently to all reasoning and inference. Self-consciousness is the unity of real and ideal being; the self is here consciousness, not scientific knowledge, but experience, conviction, consciousness of self as a reality. In self-consciousness our own being is revealed to us, directly, immediately, before all thinking and independently of all willing. We do not approach it through any reasoning or exertion of our own; we do not demonstrate its existence, we do not understand its essence. But it is given to us in self-consciousness, given gratis, and is received on our part spontaneously, in unshaken confidence, with immediate assurance. In self-consciousness the light dawns for us on our own being, even as nature emerges from darkness and stands revealed in the rays of the sun. To ignore this fact of self-consciousness, this primary fact, this foundation of all knowledge and activity, to make it dependent on our own affirmation, to undermine it by doubt, is to commit against ourselves and against others not merely a logical but also an ethical sin. It is to shake not only the foundation of science, but also the indispensable basis of all human conduct; to weaken all confidence, spontaneity, volitional energy, and courage. And no effort of the will can repair afterwards the injury which has been wrought by thought. The will lacks the authority and the power to become the foundation of faith and knowledge, of religion and morality. “Practical reason” cannot bear the weight which “theoretical reason” has cast off of itself, and “theoretical reason” is not in a position to demonstrate that which is the presupposition of all demonstration. The “will to believe” may be indispensable to faith, but it can never become the ground of faith; and every demonstration of the intellect must rest on the intuitive certainty of self-consciousness.
In self-consciousness, however, there is revealed something different from and more than our own self. Or rather, the ego that is revealed to us in self-consciousness is no cold, bald unity, no dead mathematical point, no quiescent, unvarying substance but is rich in content, full of life and power and activity. It is no monad without windows, no insensible “Reale” lying beneath the psychical phenomena and bearing them as the stage bears the players. On the contrary, it is itself immanent in the psychical phenomena and develops itself in and through and with them; it is capable of working out its own salvation with fear and trembling, but also of working its own destruction and ruin. It is, but at the same time it becomes and grows; it is a fulness of life, a totality of gifts and powers, which do not play their roles behind the curtain, but reveal themselves and find development in the multiform activities of psychical life, in the whole man with all his works. Augustine was the first who so understood self-consciousness. Socrates did not comprehend this; for although he brought philosophy back from nature to man, he was interested exclusively in gaining true conceptions of knowledge and conduct. And later Descartes took, it is true, his starting-point from thought, but thought meant for him the essence of the soul. Augustine went deeper and found more; he discovered reality within himself. The scepticism into which Greek philosophy had issued had lost, together with God and the world, also the self-certainty of man. But when the Christian religion revealed to us the greatness of God’s heart, and in the day-spring from on high visited us with his tender mercy, it at the same time cast its light on man and on the riches and value of his soul. It imparted to him an ew certainty, the certainty of faith; it restored to him his confidence in God, and therewith his confidence in himself. And by this light of revelation Augustine descended deep into his own inner life; forgetting nature, he desired to know naught else but God and himself. There he found thought, to be sure, but not thought alone; beneath thought he penetrated to the essence of the soul, for in himself always life preceded thought; faith, knowledge; self-consciousness, reflection; experience, science; he first lived through the things which later he thought and wrote. Thus Augustine went back behind thought to the essence of the soul and found in it not a simple unity, but a marvellously rich totality; he found there the ideas, the norms, the laws of the true and the good, the solution of the problem of the certainty of knowledge, of the cause of all things, of the supreme good; he found there the seeds and germs of all knowledge and science and art; he found there, even, in the triad of memoria, intellectus, and voluntas, a reflection of the triune being of God. Augustine was the philosopher of self-examination, and in self-consciousness he discovered the starting-point of a new metaphysies.67
The mind of man is indeed no tabula rasa, no empty form, but a totality of life from the very first moment of its existence. And when it becomes conscious of itself, this self-consciousness is not a mere formal apprehension of existence, but always includes in it an apprehension of a peculiar nature, a particular quality of mind. It is never a consciousness of pure being, but always a consciousness of a specific being, of a definite something. This is acknowledged even by those who follow Herbert Spencer in assuming that the rational, moral mind of man has been slowly evolved out of an animal state and has acquired in the struggle for existence a set of general conceptions, a common sense, to which attaches, up to the present day, great practical value, and which is transmitted as a habitus from parents to children.68 By this evolutionary explanation the difficulty is simply pushed back into the past, into the life of our ancestors. In actual life we never see mere sensation developing into thought, and it is highly improbable that such a transition will ever be witnessed, as, for example, in the case of apes. But such an evolution is no easier to understand in the past than in the present; between perception and intellect, representation and conceptions, association of representations and conceptual thinking, there is a fundamental difference. Association combines representations according to accidental, external points of resemblance; thought combines conceptions according to the laws of identity and contradiction, cause and effect, means and end. Causation, for example, is something wholly different from habitual association, because it has its essence in an internal and necessary connection of phenomena. Unless the thinking mind be introduced into the explanation from the outset, every effort to make it emerge out of the faculty of perception by way of evolution must remain futile. Very properly Mr. R. W. B. Joseph, in his criticism of James, observes, that in order to acquire a “common sense,” man must needs be possessed antecedently of mind. “A mind which had no fundamental categories and whose experience was purely chaotic would not be a mind at all.” The nature of mind consists just in “the fundamental modes of its thinking.”69 But, be this as it may, the evolutionists themselves will have to acknowledge that to the mind of man, as at present constituted, this “common sense” is an integral possession which belongs to it from the start.
When we endeavor to determine more closely the nature of this mind and descend for this purpose into the depths of self-consciousness, we find at its very root the sense of dependence. In our self-consciousness we are not only conscious of being, but also of being something definite, of being the very thing we are. And this definite mode of being, most generally described, consists in a dependent, limited, finite, created being. Before all thinking and willing, before all reasoning and action, we are and exist, exist in a definite way, and inseparable therefrom have a consciousness of our being and of its specific mode. The core of our self-consciousness is, as Schleiermacher perceived much more clearly than Kant, not autonomy, but a sense of dependence. In the act of becoming conscious of ourselves we become conscious of ourselves as creatures.
This dependence is brought to our knowledge in a two-fold way. We feel ourselves dependent on everything around us; we are not alone. Solipsism, although the inevitable outcome of idealism, is in itself an impossible theory. According to the philosopher Wolf, there lived in his day in Paris a pupil of Malebranche, who advocated solipsism, and still found adherents, quod, Wolf observes, mirum videri poterat. Even Fichte felt compelled, chiefly by moral considerations, not to regard himself as the only existent being.70 Every man knows that he does not exist alone, that he is not able to do what he pleases, that on every side he is curbed and hedged in, and encounters resistance. But in the second place we feel ourselves, together with all creatures, wholly dependent on some absolute power which is the one infinite being. How this power is defined does not matter for the present; the main point is that all men feel themselves dependent on a being which is the cause and ground of all being. This sense of dependence, with its two-fold reference, is not a philosophical conception, not an abstract category, not “a verbal solution,” but a fact which in point of certainty is equal to the best established fact of natural science. It is something genuinely empirical, universally human, immediate, the very core of self-consciousness, and involves the existence of both the world and God.
True, from the standpoint of idealism this last-named conclusion will be rejected. Still, two things need to be sharply distinguished in connection with this. That the belief in the existence of an objective world (and likewise of God) is a fact nobody can deny. The most thorough-going idealist cannot ignore the fact that all men without distinction, and antecedently to all reasoning, are convinced of the reality of the world, and that he himself in daily life shares this conviction, nay, finds it indispensable for knowledge and activity. Nor did Kant himself deny this fact. The problem which Kant set himself to solve was not how the world of our perception, the Wahrnehmungswirklichkeit, is produced,, for it is self-evident that we obtain this from perception, and that from the first we conceive of it as existing in space and time. But, starting from this world of perception and presupposing it, Kant sought to answer this other question,—how we can obtain scientific knowledge of this empirical world. And for this problem he offered the solution, that such knowledge cannot come through sense-perception, because the latter discovers nothing but an orderless mass of phenomena; that scientific knowledge is possible and attainable only when the human mind introduces order into this chaos of phenomena and subjects it to its own law. According to Kant the mind has such a law of its own: it carries in itself all sorts of apriori forms, which are not called apriori because in point of time they precede perception, or because they lie ready-made in our minds, but because they are independent of perception and are produced and applied by the mind in the very act of working on the representations.71
From this activity of the mind in acquiring scientific knowledge, idealism (whether rightly or wrongly appealing to Kant cannot and need not be here investigated) has drawn the conclusion that the world of perception is either in part or in whole a product of the perceiving subject. But in doing this it confounds two questions which Kant kept distinct. The world of perception is given to us in our consciousness, not as dream or hallucination, but as phenomenon and representation, involving, according to universal belief, the existence of an objective world. This empirical and undeniable fact is recognized, and to some degree explained, only when self-consciousness is conceived in the sense above defined as the unity of real and ideal being; when it is recognized as a matter of intuitive certainty that in self-consciousness both the existence and the specific mode of existence of the self, the ego, are revealed. For in that case the gulf between the reality and the representation, between being and thinking, is bridged over. And with the selfsame certainty with which we assume the existence of our own ego, the existence of the world is recognized. For the representation is connected with reality by the same inner tie that binds self-consciousness to the self. It is the same sense of dependence that inheres in the mind as a whole which also inheres in all its representations and activities; the ego does not exist in a quiescent state, nor lie insensible outside of and behind the psychical phenomena, but is immanently active in them, and attains in them its revelation and development; and self-consciousness does not exist apart from the representations, but lives and realizes itself in them; it imparts its own certainty to these representations; it in them feels assured of itself. To undermine belief in the external world, therefore, always carries with it the undermining of self-confidence and of volitional energy, of the faith the mind has in itself, and hence of the superiority of the mind to nature, of religion and morality. Not evolution, but revelation, is the secret of the mind; in our self-consciousness, independently of our co-operation and apart from our will, the reality of our ego and of the world is revealed to us. Whosoever here does not believe shall not be established.
In seeking to obtain knowledge of this world of perception science must needs set out from this fact of inner consciousness. It can and must endeavor to understand this; but the reality of the fact should not be made dependent on our ability to explain it. We do not know how the world can exist, or how, in this world, consciousness is possible, yet no one doubts the reality of either. It is imperative, both logically and ethically, that science shall respect the reality of the soul’s inner consciousness, for if it refuses belief here, it undermines its own foundation. Epistemological idealism furnishes the most forcible demonstration of this. For according to this theory reality is itself a hyle, a chaos, and order is first introduced into it by the knowledge, and activity of the human mind. The world in itself is neither true nor good; it is we who slowly make it true and good. No doubt in this proposition, even when thus paradoxically expressed, there is always contained this much of truth, that the world apart from man is imperfect and unfinished. In the Pentateuchal account of creation the preparation of the earth is described from this very point of view; in man the world finds its head and its lord. Hence man is given a vocation with reference to this world. Though good, yet it is not “finished.” It exists in order to be replenished, subjected, made the object of knowledge, and ruled over by man. To this extent it would be proper to say that it was man’s task to make the world true and good.
But the idealistic philosophy understands all this in quite a different sense. It takes its position in the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis, placing itself not after but before the preparation of the earth by God’s omnipotent hand. The earth in itself, apart from man, is a waste and empty chaos, unformed, without ordinances and laws, without light and color. Now right here a difficulty emerges of so serious a nature that it divides the idealists into two camps, which we may, perhaps, call the “thoroughgoing” and the “half-hearted” idealists. The thoroughgoing idealists dispense even with the hyle, and regard the entire world as a product of the human mind, and man not merely as the orderer, but also as the creator of the world. It was in this sense that Fichte aftirmed that the ego posits the non-ego, and Paulsen, along with many kindred spirits in our own day, declares that the objects of the external world are “a creation of the subject.”72 Most idealists, however, draw back from this phenomenalism, which would seem bound to issue into solipsism; they, therefore, with Locke, draw a distinction between the primary and the secondary qualities of things, and, while ascribing to the latter a purely subjective origin, uphold the objective reality of the former as something that belongs to them independently of man.
If this latter position, however, be correct, and the primary qualities, such as impenetrability, extension, number, motion, can lay claim to independent existence, then the assertion that the world in itself is nothing but chaos seems overbold; for on such a view there must be in it substance and causality, law and government, order and measure, and man appears to be not the creator, but merely the orderer of the world. And in his ordering of the world he is dependent on these primary qualities; he is not absolutely free, or autonomous, but determined in his knowledge and activity by the objective world. But in that case his activity cannot, even with regard to secondary qualities, be held to be an autonomous, creative one. It is true, idealism considers the subjective nature of these secondary qualities the impregnable fortress of its position, and believes that both epistemologically and physiologically the correctness of its view in this respect has been irrefutably demonstrated.
Epistemology, however, teaches the very opposite of what idealism asserts. The perceptive and cognitive activity of man is only in a psychological, and not in a logical, sense a purely immanent act of the mind. Both perception and representation would cease to be what they are if nothing existed that was perceived and represented. On both the character of logical transcendence is indelibly impressed; by their very nature they point to an objective reality, detached from which they would become equivalent to hallucinations and illusions. As self-consciousness presupposes the self not outside but in the content of consciousness, so by the same law and with the same certainty the representation, which does not operate outside of self-consciousness but is the product and content of it, points back to an object. This explanation of the character of perception has not been modified in the least by the physiology of sensation. Physiology has clarified to a very important degree our insight into the conditions under which, the ways by which, and the means through which, perception takes place, but the act of perception itself remains precisely what it was before. We now know that the sensations of sight and of hearing cannot originate except under the condition of some millions of aether-vibrations per second, that the sensation of seeing is attended by an image thrown inverted on the retina of the eye, that smell and taste depend on a chemical dissolution of the constituents of the object, that nervous stimuli are transmitted from our sense organs to the centre of the brain. But the nexus that exists between all these intermediate processes and the perception itself utterly eludes us. What, for example, has the sensation of color as such to do with 437 billions of vibrations per second? What has the sensation of hardness or softness to do with stimulation of the nerves? The distinction between the cause and the condition, between the mediation and the object of the perception, for all this, retains its full validity. Just as writing and reading, telegraphy and telephony avail themselves of all sorts of mechanical movements of hand and tongue or of all kinds of visible signs and audible sounds, and nevertheless presuppose at each end of the process a thinking subject which by means of the signs understands the thought, so the sense-organs, together with all further intermediaries, are only the conditions under which, the ways in which, the subject sees and hears, tastes and smells, but in no wise the cause, and hence not in any way the explanation, of these perceptions. After all physiological investigation the mental act of perception remains as mysterious as before. Before and after there remains unshaken and unreduced the distinction between subject and object, between the act of perception and the object of perception, between sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, on the one hand, and being seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched, on the other hand. Both grammatically and logically the distinction between the active and the passive voice remains in force.
The moderate idealists, therefore, were wrong in conceding the subjectivity of the secondary qualities. Of course, continued observation and reflection may improve and render more accurate our perceptions of color and sound, of smell and taste, as well as those of space and time, of size and distance; both soul and body, the mental faculties and the senses, need teaching and training. But this does not affect the fundamental character that should be ascribed to the perceptions of the secondary qualities or the maintenance of their objectivity. It is already note-worthy that a number of such thinkers as Berkeley and Hume, Paulsen and Wundt, Eucken and Stumpf, consider the distinction between primary and secondary qualities unfounded and arbitrary.73 In regard to space— and time—relations errors are no more excluded than in regard to perceptions of color and sound. Apart from secondary qualities, space, extension, form are incapable of becoming objects of perception. The objective validity of the secondary qualities in no respect falls behind that of the primary qualities. If it be given up with respect to the former, it will be impossible to maintain it with respect to the latter; semi-idealism arbitrarily stops short half-way. But, apart from this, if such a great difference exists between the two groups of qualities, it is hard to understand that ordinary observation, in the learned and the unlearned alike, has remained entirely unaware of this. And yet ordinary observation in other cases draws all kinds of distinctions. It knows quite well that an hallucination is different from a, representation; if a person hurts his foot on a stone, it predicates the pain, not of the stone, but of the subject. It knows that food can be called healthy in a figurative sense only, because it promotes health (which is the attribute of a human being). And it is likewise aware that the senses of smell and taste are much more subjective than the others, so as to lie outside the region of disputation. Yet, notwithstanding all this, ordinary observation adheres to the conviction that the representations are no more light or dark, green or red, sweet or bitter, than they are high or low, round or square, near or distant, but that all these qualities belong to the object, and that the subject does not produce, but only perceives and takes knowledge of them.
It is impossible, therefore, to remove or separate these qualities—and the secondary no less truly than the primary ones— from the object. It will not do to say with Verworn, The stone is hard—a sensation; it is heavy—a sensation; it is cold—a sensation; it is gray—a sensation, etc., and thence to conclude that what I call a stone is nothing but a specific combination of sensations. Or rather, it is possible to talk in this way, but it is not feasible to practise it in actual life. We may proceed after this fashion in abstract thinking and come to maintain that nothing objective remains; but such an abstract procedure is no proof that we can act on it in practical life. The important point is precisely that the stone is a specific combination, or rather a complex, of qualities, which occur in combination with one another, and which are not held together subjectively in my consciousness, but objectively in the thing itself.74 And so it is with every object we perceive and with the entire world spread out before our eyes. The world is not a group of perceptions formed by us for economic reasons, for the sake of the practical necessities of life, but a complex of qualities which exist objectively and are mutually bound together, a totality which cannot be reduced to any representation of ours. As little as subjectively the ego, the personality, admits of being resolved into a series of sensations, can the world of our external perception be reduced to a group of representations. In both cases we are face to face with one and the same fact. In consciousness our own being, and the being of the world, are disclosed to us antecedently to our thought or volition; that is, they are revealed to us in the strictest sense of the word.75
In man’s self-consciousness, however, still more is implied. Unless there were more, the result obtained could not satisfy us. For without more we should not be warranted in speaking of revelation, and could not maintain our confidence in the testimony of our self-consciousness. A true unity would be unattainable for us; naturalism and humanism, materialism and idealism, monism and pluralism, would continue to stand in irreconcilable opposition to each other. We should in that case have to call in doubt even the possibility of objective knowledge, and not be able to answer the objection that all our knowledge is pure delusion and imagination. Idealism has felt the seriousness of this objection, and has been led by it to seek in some way or other in the absolute the ground for the objectivity and the reality of our knowledge. In regard to the nature of this absolute there is difference of opinion. Malebranche conceived of it as a personal God in whom we see all things. Green speaks of an eternal consciousness. The Marburg school assumes a transcendental consciousness, which bears in itself the apriori forms. Rickert believes that an abstract impersonal consciousness will suffice. Paulsen and von Hartmann think of an absolute substance which is the only true being and of which all real things are unsubstantial accidents.
That idealism has come to such a belief in the absolute cannot cause surprise. For it set out by breaking down the bridge between thinking and being, and thus created a chasm which, afterwards, no reasoning of the intellect could fill up nor any act of the will overleap. Thinking lost hold upon being. If, therefore, it was not to lose itself in subjective dreaming, but actually to issue in knowledge of the truth, it was necessary to re-establish, either high in the air or deep underground in the absolute, some connection between thought and being, between subject and object. The absolute thus serves to guarantee the truth of human thought. According to some it is not even necessary that this absolute shall restore the reality of the objective world or shall itself know all things according to truth; it suffices if it be no more than the objective norm of thinking or that as unconscious force it attain to consciousness in man.
Although the attempt to recover after this fashion the lost unity of thought and being deserves appreciation, it is impossible to regard it as the true solution of the problem. Here again it is the testimony of self-consciousness that enters a protest. It has already been observed that Schleiermacher apprehended better than Kant the essence of self-consciousness when he defined it as an absolute sense of dependence. It now remains to add that in this sense of dependence self-consciousness at the same time posits the independence and freedom of man. Apparently this is an irreconcilable antinomy, but it will be shown presently that these two testimonies of self-consciousness are not mutually exclusive, but inclusive, of each other. Even Sehleiermacher himself overlooked this, and Kant was so far ustified in affirming the autonomy of human knowledge and action. For no matter whether learned or unlearned, all of us without distinction are conscious that we ourselves perceive, we ourselves think, we ourselves reason, we ourselves draw conclusions, and in the same manner that we ourselves deliberate, will, and act. Religion and morality, responsibility and accountability, science and art, all the labor and culture of humanity are built on this basic assumption. Hence the absolute cannot be conceived as an unconscious and involuntary force. No doubt from time to time the deity has been so conceived by a few “intellectuals,” but pantheism has never been the creed of any people, the confession of any church. Men have, it is true, often broken up, along with the unity of the world and the unity of the human race, the unity of God, also ; but the personality of God has remained firmly established, always and everywhere, among every nation and in every religion. Just as confidently as man is convinced in his self-consciousness of his own existence and of the reality of the world, does he believe also in the reality and personality of God.
This belief is interwoven with his self-consciousness, more particularly with its double testimony to dependence and freedom. These are not antagonistic, but rather postulate each the other. The sense of dependence is the core of self-consciousness and the essence of religion, but it is not a mere de facto dependence, as the unconscious and the irrational creation is dependent on God; in man it is a sense of dependence; the dependence in him attains to a cognizance, to a testimony of his self-consciousness, and thus certainly does not cease to exist, but yet assumes a different form. It becomes a felt, conscious, voluntary dependence, a dependence of man as a rational and moral being, and for this very reason it becomes a sense of absolute, schlechthinnige dependence. If the sense of dependence did not include this element, if it did not know itself as a conscious and voluntary dependence, it would cease to be absolute, because the most important factors in man, consciousness and will, would fall outside of it, or stand opposed to it. Consequently, if man repudiates his dependence, withdraws from it, he does not thereby become independent, but his dependence changes in nature. It loses its rational and moral character and becomes the subservience of a mere means to an end. Man, in becoming a sinner, does not rise, but falls; does not become like God, but like the animals. Therefore the feeling, the sense of dependence, conscious and voluntary dependence, includes the freedom of man: Deo parere libertas; Libertas ex veritate.
This testimony of self-consciousness, combining dependence and freedom in one, is further the basis of religion, and likewise of morality. It leads man everywhere and always, and that quite freely and spontaneously, to belief in and service of a personal God. In view of the universality and the spontaneity of religion many have assumed an innate idea of God. But this representation is scarcely well conceived, and the name is somewhat unfortunately chosen. Of course, in the strict sense of the term innate ideas do not exist. They savor rather of rationalism and of a mysticism which separates man from the world, than of a Christian theism which finds God’s eternal power and divinity revealed in the works of his hands. It is the mind of man, with all of its peculiar nature and organization, its intellect and reason, heart and conscience, desire and will, and with the ineradicable consciousness of its dependence and freedom, that is innate, brought into the world in principle and germ at birth, not acquired later phylogenetically or ontogenetically. Thus, when man grows up and develops in accordance with the nature implanted in him, not in detachment from the world and the social organism, but in the environment in which a place was assigned to him at birth, he attains as freely and as inevitably to the knowledge and service of a personal God as he believes in his own existence and that of the world. He does not invent the idea of God nor produce it; it is given to him and he receives it. Atheism is not proper to man by nature, but develops at a later stage of life, on the ground of philosophic reflection; like scepticism, it is an intellectual and ethical abnormality, which only confirms the rule. By nature, in virtue of his nature, every man believes in God. And this is due in the last analysis to the fact that God, the creator of all nature, has not left himself without witness, but through all nature, both that of man himself and that of the outside world, speaks to him. Not evolution, but revelation alone accounts for this impressive and incontrovertible fact of the worship of God. In self-consciousness God makes known to us man, the world, and himself.
Hence this revelation is of the utmost importance, not only for religion, but also for philosophy, and particularly for epistemology. All cognition consists in a peculiar relation of subject and object, and is built on the agreement of these two. The reliability of perception and thought is not assured unless the forms of thought and the forms of being correspond, in virtue of their origin in the same creative wisdom. Philosophy itself has not failed to perceive the necessity of this, but by taking a wrong start it has strayed either to the right or to the left. It either, with Hegel, has identified thought with being and raised logic to the rank of metaphysics ; or with Kant and humanism it has separated thought from being, leaving to logic a purely formalistic character. In either case the true relation between thought and being, and hence the correct principle of all cognition and knowledge, are imperfectly recognized. As even von Hartmann admits, there is no other way of doing justice to both subject and object except by recognizing that it is one and the same reason “which is active in consciousness as a principle introducing order into the sensations, and in the objective world as the principle of synthesis for the things in themselves.”76 The forms of being, the laws of thought, and—to add this here for the sake of completeness—the forms of conduct, have their common source in the divine wisdom. The three departments of philosophy, physics, logic and ethics, form a harmonious whole. What monism seeks in the wrong direction, and cannot attain unto, has here been reached, viz., the unity which does not exclude but includes the multiformity the systema of philosophy.
On this firm theistic foundation, finally, there is room for belief in the progress of science and the realization of the ideal of truth. There is some degree of warrant for the assertion that the truth is not, but becomes. As a matter of fact, the truth nowhere meets us “cut and dried,” ready, as it were, to be simply taken into our consciousness. On the contrary—and this is the difference between “revelation” and “discovery”—man has to conquer the truth in the sweat of his brow, with the exertion of all his strength, foot by foot and piece by piece. The branches of knowledge have without exception “grown up in the practice of life itself”;77 they have all been born of necessity, and possess a practical, economic value. Nor is the truth a mere copy, a portrait of reality; it is something different from a globus intellectualis. No one, by the mere act of gathering into his consciousness a complete account of Goethe’s life and labors, to their smallest details, will attain the truth concerning Goethe; such knowledge is a mere chronicle, not science; a photograph, not a painting; a copy, not a living reproduction. Science aims at something higher: it seeks not the dead, but the living; not the transitory, but the eternal; not the reality, but the truth. Only it does not find the truth apart from the reality. Whosoever wants to know Goethe must inform himself as to his person and labors. Whosoever wants to know nature must open his eyes. Whosoever desires to enter the kingdom of truth, no less than he who wants to enter the kingdom of heaven, must, to quote Bacon’s words, become as a little child which learns by obeying. We do not create the truth and we do not spin it out of our brain; but, in order to find it, we must go back to the facts, to reality, to the sources.
All science rests on the assumption that reality is not coextensive with the phenomena, but contains a kernel of divine wisdom, being the realization of the decree of God. In so far the truth is bound to reality, and finds its criterion in correspondence with reality. But the truth transcends the empirical reality, because and in the same degree that scientific investigation descends more deeply and penetrates more fully into its essence. And the truth thus found by science is adapted to consciousness, as it can be discovered and received by consciousness alone. It would, therefore, not be improper to say that for us the truth comes into being only by being made the object of our knowledge and an element of our consciousness. For this purpose God has deposited the truth in nature and Scripture, that we might have it, and by knowing it might rule through it. In the knowledge of the truth lies the end of its revelation; reality is an instrument to enable us to find the truth; reality is intended to become truth in our consciousness and in our experience. Reality, therefore, does not offer us in the truth a mere copy of itself, so that the world, as pragmatism objects, would be duplicated.78 In the truth, reality rises to a higher mode of existence; having first lain in darkness, it now walks in the light; having once been a riddle, it now finds its solution; not understood at the beginning, it now is “declared.”
So the truth obtains an independent value of its own. Its standard does not lie in its usefulness for life, for, if usefulness were the criterion of truth, then perfect unanimity ought to prevail in regard to usefulness, and life itself ought to be a value not subject to fluctuation. But in regard to life, what counts is not merely existence, or pleasure, or intensity, but first of all content and quality. And it is precisely by truth that this content and quality are determined. The truth is of more value than empirical life: Christ sacrificed his life for it. None the less, by doing so he regained his life. Truth is worth more than reality; it belongs to that higher order of things in which physis, and gnosis, and ethos are reconciled, and in which a true philosophy gives full satisfaction both to the demands of the intellect and to the needs of the heart.
58James, Mind, 1905, p.191.
59Ed. von Hartmann, Kritische Wanderungen durch die Philosophie der Gegenwart, 1890, p.190, in: C. Willems, Die Erkenntnisslehre des modernen Idealismus, Trier, 1906, p.13. Comp. also Max Frischeisen-Kohler, Die Lehre von den Sinnesqualitaten und ihre Gegner, Zeits. f. Wissensch. Philos. und Soziologie, 1906.
60Paulsen, Einl. in die Philosophie, Berlin, 1892, p.363. Verworn in Dennert, Die Weltanachauung des modernen Naturforschers, p.147.
61So Helmholtz, von Hartmann, and others, in C. Willems, Die Erkenntnislehre des mod. Ideal, pp.42 ff.
62E. L. Fischer, Die Grundfragen der Erkenntnisstheorie, 1887, p.424.
63Paulsen, in Willems, op. cit., p.103.
64Verworn, Naturwissenschaft und Weltanschauung, 1904, p.43. Comp. Mach. in Hell, Ernst Machs Philosophie, 1907, p.23. Heijmans, Het Ik en het psychisch Monisme, Tijdschr. voor Wijsbegeerte, I, 3.
65Stuart Mill, in Willems, op. cit., p.79.
66John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart, Some Dogmas of Religion, London, 1906, p.108. Over against idealism the unity and independence of the ego are upheld by Landmann, Die Mehrheit geistiger personlichkeiten in einem Individuum, 1894. Gutberlet, Der Kampf um die Seele, Mainz, 1903, pp.121 ff. Rudolf Otto, Naturalistiche und religiose Weltansicht, Tubingen, 1904, pp.244 ff.
67Comp. Dilthey, Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften, Leipzig, 1880, pp.322 ff. Warfield, Augustine’s Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority, Princeton Theol. Review, July and Oct., 1907.
68James, Pragmatism, pp.165 ff.
69Mr. H. W. B. Joseph, in Mind, 1905, p.33.
70Flugel, Die Probleme der Philosophie, Cothen, 1906, pp.114-115.
71Paul Kalweit, Das religiose Apriori, Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1908, I, pp.139-156.
72Paulsen, Einl. in die Philos. 1892, p.425.
73In Willems, op. cit., pp.36-47. Comp. also Bradley, Appearance and Reality, London, 1906, pp.11 ff., and further the article by Frischeisen-Kohler, cited in note 4 above.
74Verworn, in Dennert, op. cit., p.140.
75Comp. G. E. Moore, Refutation of Idealism, Mind, N. S. n. 48, and, in answer, C. A. Strong, Has Mr. Moore refuted Idealism? Mind, 1905, pp.178-189. Further, J. S. Mackenzie, The New Realism and the Old Idealism, Mind, 1906, pp.308-328.
76Ed. von Hartmann, in Willems, op. cit., pp.56-79.
77Dilthey, Einl. in die Geisteswissenschaften, pp.26-48.
78James, Pragmatism, p.257.