- Bradley, F.H.
- Bradley T.L.S.Sprigge INTRODUCTORY F.H.Bradley (1846–1924) was a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, for all his adult life. Though his personality and life are interesting, information about them is not required for an understanding of his philosophy. Suffice it to say that he was widely acknowledged as the most important British philosopher of his time. His thought represents the climax of the late nineteenth-century reaction in Britain against British empiricism and utilitarianism, and turning towards the great German masters, Kant and more especially Hegel. Bradley’s pages are shot through with negative remarks on this tradition, exhibiting a particular hostility to J.S.Mill, contrasting here with the much more balanced criticisms in the work of such other main figures of the absolute idealist reaction against it as T.H.Green (1836–82) and Bernard Bosanquet (1848–1923). Yet Bradley, despite himself, often develops his idealism in ways closer to the British empiricist tradition than do these other thinkers. This was, indeed, a point made against some of his work by Bernard Bosanquet, who mostly held very similar views. Apart from a number of articles on introspective psychology (included in Collected Essays, 1935, posthumously published) Bradley’s main works are Ethical Studies (1876; second edition 1927, [15.4]); The Principles of Logic 1883; second edition 1922, [15.3]); Appearance and Reality: A Metaphysical Essay (1893; second edition 1897, [15.1]). In each case the second edition includes important new material. We will give some account of each of these works, respectively on ethics, logic and metaphysics. References will also be made to the important late collection of essays, reprinted from journals, called Essays in Truth and Reality (1914, [15.2]). ETHICAL STUDIES In Ethical Studies, his first major work, Bradley speaks as one bringing to a benightedly provincial ‘England’ the news of a philosophy from overseas possessing a depth of insight largely unfamiliar to his compatriots. The work is concerned with what it is to be moral and with the character of the ordinary man’s moral consciousness. Sometimes Bradley implies that his is only a phenomenological clarification of how ordinary decent people, rightly or wrongly, think and feel. However, he clearly supports the ordinary man against what he considers the distorted accounts of morality of many philosophers. (Bradley, of course, uses ‘man’ for ‘person’ like most writers of his time. It seems better, in this exposition of his thought, to follow him here than give him an air of false up-to-date-ness by employing a less sexist terminology.) The first chapter concerns moral responsibility and free will. Philosophers are divided into two main schools, determinists or necessitarians and free-will-ists. Neither makes sense of the notion of moral responsibility. If it was settled by the causal process of the world, even before I was born, what kind of man I was to be and how I would act, how can I ever be blamed for anything I do? Equally, if what I do is due in part to the exercise of a contra-causal free will, this seems no more than the intervention of sheer chance into the procession of phenomena. I can hardly be held responsible for doing things where there is no explanation of the fact that I acted thus. Each theory, thinks Bradley, trades on the defects of the other, as the wrongly supposed only alternative to it. (In his treatment of the law of excluded middle in Principles of Logic he points out how easy it is to say ‘P or not-P’, where not-P, as it is being understood, is not the only alternative to P.) To resolve matters Bradley considers how the ordinary man would react to precise predictions of his own behaviour in some important, situations. He would certainly dislike the idea that some super-scientist might have been able to predict, on the basis of general laws, perhaps in advance of his birth or emergence from infancy, just how he would behave. But he does not dislike the fact that a friend, knowing his character, correctly predicts that he would behave well in an emergency. (And, if his friend predicts correctly that he would behave badly, it is the fact that he is a bad man, and that his friend knows it, which disturbs him, not the fact of prediction as such.) Indeed, the good man would be offended if the decency of his behaviour could not be predicted. The fact is, argues Bradley, that we do not mind prediction which is based on a knowledge of oneself as a unitary personality. What one objects to is the idea that there could be predictions in which one’s own self seems to be bypassed, because appeal is made to general laws of nature, whether physical or distinctively psychological, (for example, laws of the association of ideas or, in our own day, reinforcement theory of a Skinnerian type) couched in impersonal terms which take no account of one’s individuality. Bradley interprets this as showing that the ordinary man conceives himself as what, in the technical language of Hegelian philosophy, may be called a concrete universal. His behaviour, in so far as it really springs from him, is a manifestation of how that universal manifests itself in that particular situation. Increasing familiarity with the character of that universal which constitutes another’s self will increase my power to predict his behaviour, but I will not be doing so on the basis of laws which apply to other people, still less to inanimate nature. That, at least, is the opinion of the ordinary man, and Bradley evidently endorses it. We must pause for some explanation of the concept of a concrete universal, developed by Bradley, Bosanquet and others under the stimulus of Hegel. An abstract universal is some common feature humans have found in many different things. It is abstract because this common feature is not an independent reality which could exist on its own and because, as an abstraction, it plays no real role in explaining why the things which exemplify it are as they are. You do not explain why a box is of the shape it is simply by pointing out that one can apply the general idea cube to it. If the idea of a human being is simply that of an abstract universal, then you cannot really explain anything about an individual human being by reference to it, for it is simply a nonexplanatory registration of similarities. Moreover, the thin idea of what a human being is which we reach by dropping everything which individuates one person from another is far from that full idea (whose object is a concrete universal) of what it is to be a human which involves grasping something of the rich and varied potentialities there are in human nature. A concrete universal is, like an abstract universal, something identically one and the same in a whole lot of particular things or events. But it is such that the specific nature of these things or events is just what it needs to be if the universal is to insert itself into history at that point. Moreover, to conceive a universal as concrete is to grasp something of the rich variety of its possible instances. The thesis is not really that some universals are abstract, others concrete, but rather that the idea of abstract universals belongs to an inadequate view of the world better replaced by that of concrete universals. The notion of a concrete universal (so we may feel) possesses rather an excess of ‘open texture’ so that its use is extended from time to time in ways which suit an author’s present enthusiasms. Thus there is a concrete universal where many individuals with a common characteristic (of some complexity, usually) each owe their possession of it, and what is more their possession of some specific determination of it, to their relation to another of its instances. Humanity is a concrete universal because we are each human through being born of humans and owe our particular form of humanity to them in both physical and environmental ways. (A Martian with no blood relationship to us—even if anatomically akin to us—would not be an instance of the same concrete universal.) On the face of it, humanity conceived in this way as a concrete universal is not a totality made up of human beings but an identical characteristic present in each of us, in a distinctive form, in virtue of the causal relations between its instances. However, proponents of the concrete universal usually take the totality of its instances as itself the universal in question, arguing that it is a kind of whole which is present in each of its parts. Maybe an insistence on such distinctions is an attempt to transform the notion of a concrete universal into something belonging to another conceptual scheme, and we should learn how to play the relevant conceptual tune rather by ear than by analysis. At any rate for Bradley’s plain man the self is a concrete universal and a man is responsible for what he does in so far as his behaviour is a manifestation (however regrettable a one) of that universal which he is. As for why that particular concrete universal has emerged in connection with that particular human organism, we cannot pursue Bradley’s not very decisive answer here beyond remarking that it is built up gradually in childhood by the creative response of itself in an undeveloped version to the challenges of life as they occur. We can now move on to the key questions of the book. Firstly, why should I be moral? Secondly, what is it to be moral? Firstly, insists Bradley, it would betray morality to suppose that there was some extrinsic reason for being moral. However, we can give sense to the question if we realize that all action is ultimately motivated by an urge to self-realization and that we can properly ask whether moral behaviour is an adequate form of self-realization or is even perhaps identical therewith. Self-realization is another difficult concept. Put at its most metaphysical, it is the urge of the concrete universal, which is one’s self, to be exemplified in as full and rich a fashion as possible in each of its particulars, i.e. each particular psychological state one lives through, and each action one performs. More informally, it is the urge to live so that one can feel as much as possible in everything that one does that one is really being oneself in doing it, hence living in a way such that one can be satisfied with the image of oneself as so living. Secondly, granted there is good cause to be moral, doing so must realize the self. But what is it to be moral? Bradley now examines a series of representative answers to this question, and tests their adequacy by the test of the extent to which they show how moral life is a form of (or perhaps the same as) self-realization. The first answer he considers is hedonism: the good life is one in the course of which one achieves as much pleasure as possible (understand henceforth: and minimum of pain, however these two are balanced). Bradley has a series of objections to this as a human ideal; some deeply metaphysical, some more matter of fact. (1) (a) Whatever amount of pleasure I achieve in any situation, a bit more, not too painful effort, could have brought me more; so I can never achieve the end of the maximization of pleasure, (b) Or, looked at in another way, whatever amount of pleasure I achieve, I could never have achieved more, for I always did what so far as my insight went (something I cannot determine for myself) would maximize my pleasure. (Bradley assumes that the hedonist’s conception of the good life is derived from a hedonistic account of actual motivation.) (2) I can never say to myself I have now achieved the maximum of pleasure in my life, for my success in this is not settled till I die and then I am no longer here to be gratified at my success. (3) The self as an abiding entity rather than a mere flux wants an abiding satisfaction, a state in which it can say here am I presently in achievement of my goal. It is not, of course, that it wants a goal such that, having once reached it, it can simply halt there for ever without further effort, but it does want a state in which it can say here I am presently in possession of what I looked for, and if am careful, can continue in its enjoyment throughout my life. But a series of passing pleasures can never constitute such a satisfying state. Moreover, the concrete universal, which is the self, feels itself to be in some sense an infinite whole, not in what Hegel called the bad sense of ‘infinite’, namely an uncompletable series, but in the sense of something which has a certain sort of completeness from which nothing is missing. (Hegelians would surely have thought the Einsteinian universe infinite in a good sense in contrast to the bad infinite of a Newtonian or Democritean space which stretches on indefinitely.) But surely the relevant form of hedonism for discussion in the nineteenth century is utilitarianism, in particular as advocated by J.S.Mill, and it is this which is really the object of Bradley’s attack.1 Here, of course, the goal is the maximization of the pleasure (understand: and minimization of the pain) of all sentient creatures. And surely this is a genuinely moral goal. But it was worth examining the simpler egoistic form of hedonism, thinks Bradley, for we there find in a simpler form the faults which are, for the most part, still present writ large in utilitarianism with its goal of the maximization of the pleasure of sentients. Finally, utilitarianism has the peculiar fault of trying to derive its universalistic ethic from a an egoistic hedonistic psychology. But this is a complete non sequitur. Because each man desires his own maximal pleasure, and thus finds it good, he should recognize (so Mill seems to argue in chapter IV of Utilitarianism) that the maximal pleasure of all is the good of all, and that each should therefore desire this. But this is like arguing that since every pig at a trough ‘desires his own food, and somehow as a consequence seems to desire the food of all’ that ‘by parity of reasoning it should follow that each pig desiring his own pleasure, desires also the pleasure of all’ ([15.4], 113). The main argument against hedonism, whether individualist or universalist, is that trying to maximize pleasures is no proper end for man since no self can find itself realized in having maximized pleasure either for itself or for others. For the pleasures of different times form no real totality, since they never exist together, and can never constitute a state of affairs of which we can say: ‘Here I have that which I was seeking.’ Bradley now turns to the sharply opposed moral theory of Kant. This he calls the ideal of duty for duty’s sake. Here the good is identified with sheer rationality, in fact, simply with living a life which exemplifies the law of non-contradiction. One is to behave only in a way which one could will universalized without contradiction. This marks an advance on pleasure for pleasure’s sake in its emphasis on the contrast between two aspects of the human being, the good self and the bad self, and the identification of morality with control of the latter by the former. It also rightly conceives the self as a universal rather than as a series of ‘perishing particulars’. But it is only an abstract universal with a purely formal purpose, to live without self-contradiction, and this can give no real satisfaction; for our sensuous selves do not enter into the selfrealization of the universal but simply remain in sulky opposition to it. Moreover, the injunction to live without self-contradiction is really quite empty and either allows or forbids everything equally. One should keep a promise because promise-breaking universalized would destroy the very institution on which it depends. But so equally would universal charity towards the poor, for it would leave no poverty to be alleviated. The inadequacies of pleasure for pleasure’s sake and of duty for duty’s sake show the need for a concept of morality which will provide unitary satisfaction both to sensuous appetite, that is to our nature as a series of particular desires, and to reason, the universal aspect of the personality. This is provided by the Hegelian notion of morality which Bradley calls the ethic of ‘my station and its duties’. Here the community plays the role of concrete universal with individual people as its instances realizing themselves as such. Because the community is (1) (a) Whatever we do we could have produced more pleasure for ourselves and others. (There seems nothing corresponding to (b). (2) Much the same applies. (3) If the maximization of pleasure provides no adequate satisfaction for the individual, we should not foist it on the human race, or the animal realm. historical and concrete, the requirements it puts upon the individual are determined not by some remote logical abstraction with no appeal for flesh and blood but by the needs of a role in the world which provide a satisfying life for the real empirical man. The good self is no longer depicted as at war with the natural man, while the bad self is simply such propensities as need control if one is to enjoy the satisfactions proper to a social being. Bradley speaks rhapsodically (to a degree for which he himself apologizes) in favour of this social ethic. But in the end he admits that it is not the whole truth. For this there are a number of reasons. The great recommendation of my station and its duties is that it achieves a reconciliation of the ought and the is. That is, the ought no longer comes as a demand from some other world in which the I of this world can find no satisfaction but as a demand from precisely that in this world which can most satisfy. However, even this ethic does not quite live up to its pretensions. (1) My community may not be adequate even for my good self, let alone for my bad self. For (a) It may be itself in a rotten state and my goodness may involve recognizing this, (b) Even the best community cannot be morally adequate throughout, (c) There are miseries no absorption in my community can stem, (d) My community may demand sacrifices frustrating self-realization. In short, self-realization in the faithful carrying out of my station and its duties cannot be complete. (2) Since society is in progress, there is always some call to criticize the demands and practices of one’s own community by reference to some more ultimate human ideal which one dimly feels in contrast to it. (3) My station and its duties cannot be the whole good for man. There are values which may take us beyond social life in our community for example the development of our artistic and intellectual powers. These limitations push us on to what Bradley calls ideal morality. The basic injunction here is to realize everywhere the best self, and our idea of our best self, though it must arise from the ideals we learn in the family and in life in the community, may develop beyond it to take account of values learnt from other societies or based on internal criticisms of our own society. The good self as thus conceived has these main aspects: So is morality simply the same as self-realization? No, it is self-realization in respect of our will. External results are not part of morality. Of course, a will which does not express itself in genuine action is nothing, but success or failure as determined by forces outside us may help or hinder our self-realization but not that aspect of it which belongs to morality. Morality is ‘the realization of the self as the good will’. This good self is especially concerned with more or less permanent objects with which it identifies itself, in whose presence or known flourishing it finds itself affirmed—such as my family, my Church, my nation, some great social or cultural enterprise. Such felt 1 The ideal self of my currently socially recognized stations and its duties; 2 A social self which goes beyond this and which divides into (a) a social self going beyond, or divergent from, my currently recognized station and its duties and (b) a non-social self devoted to such ideals as the fullest possible realization through my activity of truth and beauty. self-affirmation in such things is neither natural appetite (the satisfaction of passing bodily needs) nor lust (craving for savoured pleasures). How can I come to concern myself with anything other than the satisfaction of my own appetites? My ability to do so originates in my identification in childhood with my mother or nurse (or whoever plays these roles). Unwelcome as some of their demands may be, I feel their will not as something alien but as pertaining to my own more stable self. Thus the good self originates as obedience to dear ones in whose satisfaction I feel myself affirmed, develops, as the ideal of conduct thus set before me, matures through the expectations of society and my own criticism of these in the light of the ideal’s own promptings, and may continue into self-affirmation through the knowledge that an impersonal goal is being reached, perhaps quite remote from my own private interests. But what is the origin of the bad self? (For we are born neither good nor bad.) Its material is simply the variety of impulses, appetites and moods which do not fit in with the good self approved by our loved ones. However, you are neither good nor bad till you know both and experience their contradiction. And you can know both only because you feel genuinely affirmed in both. Only the person who knows evil can be good, and only the person who wills evil can know it. But you must not only know both but know their clash, as a universal whose self-consciousness lies in its ability to separate itself from both and choose (but not by indeterministic free will). As one becomes a genuine moral agent the chaos of impulses opposed to the unified good self becomes a bad self with its own unity (though what unifies them is solely their common negation of the good). Moral responsibility arises when there is both a good self and a bad self in which one can consciously affirm oneself. And now the final question is broached: Why can I realize myself only properly in the good self, granted I feel myself genuinely affirmed in both good and evil? The self, being a universal, realizes itself in the good self which is a genuine system or universal. The bad self stands in opposition to this with no principle of unity organizing it except that negative property of being opposed to the good self. Thus the bad self is a mere collection (like the only self acknowledged by pleasure for pleasure’s sake) and thus the ultimate self, which is a concrete universal, cannot realize itself therein, and, when it tries to do so, is false to its very essence. The book ends with ‘Concluding Remarks’ on the relation between morality and religion. Religion is not the same as morality. Matthew Arnold wrote mere claptrap when he said that religion was morality tinted with emotion—for the emotion has to be religious. The distinction between morality and religion is that religion asserts that the good self is not merely something we should strive to realize but that somehow the good self alone is ultimately real, is indeed identical with God or the fundamental reality of the universe, while the bad self is somehow unreal and, just for that reason, must be suppressed. And because only the good is ultimately real, the often despairing struggles of morality give way to the calm activity of faith. Bradley here broaches the absolute idealism he will develop more fully in later works for which we are all aspects of a unitary spiritual Absolute. If we know the whole, it can only be because the whole knows itself in us, because the whole is self or mind, which is and knows, knows and is, the identity and correlation of subject and object. ([15.4], 324n.) This idealism is here treated as the essential truth of Christianity. Later Bradley no longer conceives his metaphysical idealism as so close to Christianity, and at times speaks of the Christian religion in a distinctly negative way. This was doubtless partly the result of a change in his metaphysics, but it was probably more due to his increasing sense that Christian tradition, by its emphasis on preparation for a hereafter, detracted from concern with the possibilities of human fulfilment in the present life. (Bradley thought the question of a life after death was of very secondary importance ethically; a bare possibility with little bearing on what really matters, the realization of eternal values, grounded in the Absolute, in our daily life and in society.) Religion thus interpreted resolves the contradiction endemic to ethics conceived without it. For, so Bradley rather puzzlingly holds, there is something incoherent in the very idea of a good which is not realized. One is inclined to object that there is no incoherence in the proposition that things are not as they ought to be. In Appearance and Reality Bradley does, indeed, say that one cannot simply take it for granted that the noncontradictory nature of the real precludes it from being overall and ultimately bad, but, by rather tortuous reasoning, he does in the end reach this conclusion, and seems always to have found it inviting and natural (see [15.1], 132–3). Thus he seems always to have inclined to see a clash between ideals and sense of fact as a source of unease essentially akin to that which we feel in embracing a logical contradiction and which we have the same necessary nisus to remove, not only in practice but in our conception of how things are. In spite of the Christian language invoked in this rather passionately written chapter, Bradley already distances himself from any commitment to Christian sacraments as anything other than optional aids to morality and spirituality. ‘We maintain that neither church-going, meditation, nor prayer, except so far as it reacts on practice and subserves that, is religious at all’ ([15.4], 337). In fact, ‘[y]ou can have true religion without sacraments or public worship, and again both without clergymen’ ([15.4], 339). The object of true Christian faith, then, is a universal will, present as identically the same, though in a state of difference from itself, both in the individual and in the community and, indeed, in the world as a whole and such that all that appears to conflict with it is an unreality which we must grasp as such by overcoming it. There is some kinship here with the religion of mankind promoted at that time by the Comtian positivists. However no such deification of mankind will do so long as humanity is supposed a mere collection of resembling particulars, rather than as a genuine concrete universal identically yet differently present in us all. ‘Unless there is a real identity in men, the Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these’ becomes an absurdity’ (original note 2 to [15.4] 334–5). In stressing the common essence present in us all, Bradley’s position chimes in somewhat with the ethical thought of Schopenhauer. But, from his more Hegelian perspective, he must have thought that Schopenhauer paid insufficient attention to the difference which is essential to the identity. We must have a sense of the different roles we each have to play in the scheme of things. For the concrete universal of humanity at large is articulated into a system of distinct roles, each grounding partly different duties, as well as those which spring from the sheer identity of the common essence. Moreover, from a religious point of view, it is the ideal self, rather than one’s whole chaotic personality, which is identical with the ultimate single reality present in all things. If there is some incoherence in looking at things in this way, that is, none the less, the religious way of experiencing the world ([15.4], 322). Metaphysically, this presumably means that it is only our ideal self which gives us a clue as to how things would look if we could see them as a whole. THE PRINCIPLES OF LOGIC In The Principles of Logic Bradley presents an account of judgement, that is, of what it is to think that something is the case, and a principle of inference, of what it is to move rationally from one judgement to another. Like Ethical Studies much of it is concerned to present an account of these matters which will serve as a corrective to the indigenous empiricist tradition. Yet the work is less Hegelian than the previous one, and (though Bradley was scarcely aware of this) much nearer to his empiricist forebears. He does, however, draw on a range of German thinkers not very familiar, probably, to most British readers. The biggest contrast with empiricism is Bradley’s continued insistence on the reality of universals (qua concrete) and the inadequacy of the concept of mere resemblance between particulars to explain that real identity-in-difference between them which is the basis of predication and of inference. A related theme is the unsatisfactory nature of purely psychological accounts of thought and reasoning. Bradley is sometimes praised, in this connection, as an early opponent of psychologism, that is, of the treatment of judgement, inference, truth, meaning, the laws of logic and so forth as psychological processes to be studied empirically. Gottlob Frege is regarded as the great saviour of modern thought from the errors of such psychologism, and there is a risk that people may suppose that the main merit of Principles of Logic is that of a less lucid attack upon the same thing. That Bradley was in important respects a critic of psychologism is true. Thus he expressly says that in ‘England at all events we have lived too long in the psychological attitude’ (see [15.3], 2; 197–9). He believed that the empiricist treatment of thought by James Mill, Bain, J.S.Mill, and others was wrongheaded in treating it as a mere succession of empirical events. None the less, for him (as for Edmund Husserl) judgement and inference were activities of conscious minds, though logic is concerned rather with their assertive content and validity than with their empirical occurrence. Bradley begins his account of judgement by criticizing a number of theories including most of the typically empiricist views. Thus he objects to the Lockean view that judgement is the joining of ideas, on the ground that if all the mind does is join its own ideas it could not think about anything beyond them. The theory also mistakenly assumes that judgement always involves two ideas. This it clearly does not, for example when it simply affirms the existence of something. It is truer to say that there is always just one idea, our total idea of the state of affairs we believe to be real. Hume thought that belief consisted in vivacious ideas, but such an account is patently inadequate. Imagination, even when recognized by itself as such, can be very vivacious. In general, empiricists, like Berkeley and Hume, identify judgement with the formation of images, failing to explain what it is for the mind to take these images as representations of something beyond. After criticizing various inadequate views of judgement Bradley moves towards his own account of judgement as the abstraction of a universal (or concept) from the sensory flux of its own contents and ascription of this universal to reality as that exists beyond one’s own private experience in a manner inexplicable as any mere manipulation of my own images. Bradley develops this view by insisting that we distinguish a psychological and a logical sense of the word ‘idea’. Ideas in the first sense are unrepeatable events in time; ideas in the second sense are concepts or meanings which can be embodied in successive ideas in the psychological sense but to which much of their character as mental phenomena is irrelevant. The importance of Bradley’s distinction between these two senses of ‘idea’ has been widely recognized. More likely to be questioned is his particular view about the nature of the logical idea as a repeatable character or universal which is an abstracted part of the total character or whatness of the mental ideas which embody it, applied as a predicate to a reality beyond itself. It will be seen that Bradley was really at one with the empiricist tradition in holding that the fullest sort of judgement involves imagery. (He always regarded merely verbal judgements as secondary to ones carried by thought stuff with more sensuous fullness.) The difference, as he saw it, was that he conceives the mind as actively utilizing a repeatable part of the character of the imagery to characterize a world beyond its own ideas. For surely we could not refer our ideas to a reality beyond the contents of our own consciousness if we had no awareness of that reality except through our ideas of it. Conceptual thought presupposes non-conceptual awareness of something other than concepts. Unless we encounter something other than concepts we cannot think of our concepts as applying to anything (see [15.3], 50). This pre-conceptual awareness cannot be directed on any particular finite reality since, as Bradley sees it, we need concepts to distinguish any distinct part or feature of reality from others. So the pre-conceptual basis of judgement must be a primordial direction of the mind on reality at large, this being the ultimate subject to which all ideas are ascribed as predicates. Certainly, with the aid of our ideas, we can pick out a particular part or feature of reality as the subject of our thought, but as picked out by ideas it belongs strictly to the predicate rather than the subject of judgement. Bradley spoke in his later work on thought of a special subject of judgement, chosen by our ideas as that which is to be characterized more specifically, but the ultimate subject remains reality at large. But how does the mind manage to direct itself upon a reality not constituted by ideas? It does so because it is intrinsically continuous with, indeed somehow identical with, a larger reality beyond itself and it feels itself as being such. This is not an opinion in the sense of a judgement using ideas or concepts but the necessary pre-conceptual background of conceptual thinking. Thus at the root of thought is a feeling of continuity with a larger whole of which our present state of mind is just a fragment. Our thoughts are an effort to apply ideas to this whole which will carry us beyond this mere dumb acquaintance. (At the level of ordinary thought and experience this larger whole presents itself to us spatio-temporally as a physical world. As metaphysicians, or in moments of illumination, we may become aware of it in a manner which leads to a more spiritual characterization of its nature.) Bradley says in his initial statements that it is the reality presented in the perceptual manifold, as experienced immediately quite apart from any ideas we form of it, which is the subject of which we predicate our ideas. But, as he makes clearer in the second edition, it is not presented only by the perceptually given but by anything else thus directly presented or experienced. There are intriguing similarities and contrasts in Bradley’s position here and that of Bertrand Russell, who was influenced by Bradley in his own treatment of definite descriptions (talking of the King of France where Bradley talks of the King of Utopia) as belonging logically to the predicate (and in his related account of existential statements). For Russell propositions which can be grasped without acquaintance with the particulars with which they are ostensibly concerned are parasitic upon propositions about particulars which can be grasped only by those acquainted with them. Bradley is even more insistent that a kind of acquaintance, which goes beyond its specification in terms of universals, is required if we are to think of something. But for him the reality with which we have this pre-conceptual acquaintance is always the same, namely the one sensible reality which we encounter non-conceptually through sense experience. Not that the thought had failed to occur to him that we may have a pre-conceptual encounter with particular bits of reality, which we can refer to by such words as ‘this’ and ‘here’; indeed he makes suggestions in this connection which may well have influenced Russell. But, although thinking of our ability to locate particular bits of reality by our direct preconceptual awareness of them is quite useful at a rather superficial level of analysis it will not, as Bradley sees it, ultimately do. In the end it is always simply reality, tout court, rather than some particular bit of reality which is the subject of predication (see [15.3], 50). This account of judgement strongly suggests the view that a judgement is true if and only if the idea (in the logical sense) which functions as its predicate is a universal actually found in the reality to which it ascribes it. For what else can we be doing in ascribing the character we abstract from our imagery to a reality beyond but supposing that it is actually found there as an actual feature of that reality? And in what other sense could our judgement be true than that it is in fact present there? Such an account of truth is not far off from the Scholastic view that in true thinking an essence objectively exemplified in the mind is recognized to be the essence formally exemplified by that reality beyond on to which the mind is directed. And, though Bradley never presents this explicitly as his account of truth, it seems to be frequently presupposed in what he has to say as to how various different sorts of judgement must be taken if they are to give genuine truth about reality. Admittedly such a view of truth could apply only to judgements the content of which is imaginatively realized in a fairly full manner. However, for one who thinks, as Bradley does, in effect, that other judgements are a kind of substitute for these, their truth will consist in the truth of the more imaginatively fulfilled judgements for which they substitute. This certainly seems to be the view of truth most obviously implied by Bradley’s theory of judgement as we have so far considered it. However, while commentators usually allow that there are traces of a correspondence view of truth in the first edition of Principles of Logic they usually take him as having rejected this in his later writings in favour of a coherence view. Though Appearance and Reality is relevant here, the main sources for Bradley’s supposed coherence view of truth are some of the essays collected in Essays in Truth and Reality, first published in 1914, consisting largely of essays published in journals (mainly Mind) from 1904 to 1911 (though one goes back to 1899). Of these the most important is chapter VII, ‘On Truth and Coherence’. He there sets out to argue, as against expressions of the contrary view by G.F.Stout and Russell, that there are no immediately certain facts delivered to us either in perception or in memory and that every such judgement, like all other judgements, is subject to the test of includability within a total system of acceptable beliefs. This test includes not merely coherence but also comprehensiveness ([15.2], 202; 223–6). These two requirements have, indeed, a common source, according to Bradley, for, he holds, there is always incoherence in any body of thought which stops short of the whole truth. However, in practice we have to treat them as two distinct criteria which our thought must satisfy if it is to be true. Taken together these criteria constitute the notion of membership of a judgement in a system (see [15.2], 241). Thus if a judgement as to what I am perceiving, or a memory judgement as to what I perceived in the past, cannot fit into the main body of my knowledge (that is, my current system of beliefs) it will be quite proper for me to reject it, and put a different interpretation on my experience. The standard criticism of coherence as a criterion of truth is that you can have a coherent system of false propositions. But when it is realized that the test was meant to be used, along with that of comprehensiveness, only on judgements which someone is inclined to affirm, the force of the criticism is largely blunted. Thus taken it bids us accept only judgements which cohere with the largest body of other beliefs which will continue to solicit us however encyclopaedic our concerns become. The difference between Bradley’s position and that of the coherence view of textbooks may go deeper still. For he sometimes says that it is not only with other judgements that a judgement must cohere to be true, but also with experience (i.e. or e.g. sense experience). Such, at least, seems to be his meaning when he says that the ‘idea of system demands the inclusion of all possible material’. It must be emphasized, in any case, that the idea that somehow thought can remove itself from its basis in experience and discover how things are in some quite a priori fashion is firmly rejected by Bradley (see [15.2], 203). What Bradley denies, then, is (not that our knowledge or belief system arises from experience and is continually subject to testing thereby, but) that it is based on some hard data supplied by perception which cannot be rejected. It has been observed that Bradley’s view, especially as developed in this particular essay, has some affinity to currently influential views of W.V.O.Quine’s. Bradley himself was not unaware, it seems, of a conflict in his thought between a view which makes truth a feature of a system of ideas considered in its own right, and one which makes it turn on its relation to something else. For his final answer to the question ‘what is truth?’ (reached by the intermediate suggestion that truth is what completely satisfies the intellect) seems to be that ‘[t]ruth is an ideal expression of the Universe’ ([15.2], 223) and this seems designed to meet this very difficulty. Not that the answer is an easy one to grasp. What Bradley seems to mean is that the Absolute, as somehow present in all its parts, is striving within each part to develop itself into the whole, with the result that the thought pertaining to any part has an initial tendency to develop into ideas which capture something of its total character. Since the whole is coherent and comprehensive this urge takes the form of a nisus towards a coherent and comprehensive system of ideas which will reproduce the character of the Absolute to whatever extent it satisfies itself. However, the ideas do not form a completely closed-off world, for the intellectual part of reality to which they pertain is continually fed by experience stemming from the other parts. However obscure the notion that reality is working itself out within the intellect of each of us may be, it is apparently Bradley’s attempt to combine the view that truth consists in ideas which capture something of the essence of the reality of which they are predicated with the view that it consists in the satisfaction of having ideas which are coherent and comprehensive. For if the reality we are thinking about is expressing itself in the way we think of it, then our system of thoughts can best reach a correct characterization of what they are about by satisfying the internal criteria it imposes on itself. Besides this general account of judgement Bradley provides an interesting account of the different types of judgement, categorical, hypothetical, negative and so forth. However the main topic of Principles of Logic, pursued in Books 2 and 3, is the nature of inference. The central thesis is that inference consists in ‘ideal experiment’ in the form of synthesis and analysis. Typically this consists in synthesizing the ideas we have of things into some more comprehensive idea of a whole to which they must or may belong and finding through analysis that the whole or its constituents, as thereby presented in idea, consequently possess certain characteristics, or relations to each other, which must or would belong to these as they exist in external fact. ‘Reasoning thus depends on the identity of a content inside a mental experiment with that content outside’ ([15.3], 436). In his account of judgement Bradley had already insisted that to think of all judgements as subject-predicate in the Aristotelian sense was a misconception which foundered on existential and relational judgements. (Though Russell held that the Bradleyan treatment of relations depends upon that assumption, his own way out of it owes much to Bradley.) This challenge to tradition is continued in his account of inference in an elaborate critique of the doctrine that all reasoning is syllogistic. (He has received some credit for this from modern logicians who would not, however, go along with his associated view that the criteria of valid inference can never be purely formal.) One of the main themes is the impossibility of reducing all valid inferences to the syllogistic form except perhaps by an act of torture which distorts their significance. Bradley shows carefully how various sorts of inference cannot be thus treated, in particular those which turn on the meaning of relational expressions. Thus inference cannot be reduced to the application of a limited set of standard rules nor can it become such simply by the addition of some extra rules not recognized by traditional logic. Such an aspiration turns on the wholly mistaken view that the validity of inference is determined solely by the form and never by the content of premisses and conclusion. Such rules as there are, are only general guides not formulas to be followed mechanically (Bradley associates this with a similar point about moral rules). There is much that is of continuing importance in Bradley’s treatment of inference and of related themes, though it is often clumsy in comparison with the treatment that modern symbolism makes possible. APPEARANCE AND REALITY We must now turn to Bradley’s metaphysical position as advanced in Appearance and Reality and developed further in Essays in Truth and Reality. Bradley sets out in this work to show that all ordinary things are unreal, such as physical things, space, time, causation and even the self (which is treated with distinctly less respect than in Ethical Studies). Though unreal, however, he insists that these things can properly be said to exist. What can be meant by saying that tables, space, time or ourselves are unreal, though they certainly exist? Bradley, it would seem, has two things in mind which he does not clearly distinguish, though he would probably say that in the end they come to the same. In the first sense, to say of certain things that they exist but are unreal is to say that, though the concept of such things, and the postulation of their existence, is an effective, indeed indispensable, tool through which thought can deal with the world, so that we must go on speaking of there being such things, there is an incoherence in our concept of them, which means that thought which postulates them cannot possess that final truth as to how things really are which metaphysics seeks. The second sense in which he seems to think of such existing things as unreal is that though they are so to speak there, we conceive of them as having a degree of independent existence when they are really only abstractions from a more concrete totality. Commonsense examples of things which exist but are unreal in something like this sense might be shadows and the surfaces of three-dimensional objects and their merely two-dimensional shapes. While we may listen patiently to an idealist who tells us that the physical world is unreal in the first sense, it is harder for him to persuade us that we, and even our passing thoughts, are so. In the latter case emphasis on the second sense of ‘unreal’ renders his thought more promising. However, Bradley himself would say that in so far as a thing is a mere abstraction from some more concrete whole (of whose nature we take inadequate account) what we have in mind when we speak of it as existing is bound to be somewhat incoherent. So the second sense will be a case of the first. Bradley marshals a large array of arguments to show that the things mentioned are unreal. Physical things are unreal, because we can form no conception of them which distinguishes between those of their ‘properties’ which genuinely inhere in them and those which are a matter of their effects on an observer. Yet the very idea of a physical thing is of something to which this distinction applies. Moreover, the space and time within which they supposedly exist are riddled with paradoxical contradictions which Bradley exhibits with glee. So whatever aspect of reality it is with which we are really dealing when we think of the physical, it cannot in its true nature answer to properly physical predicates. We ourselves are similarly contradictory and unreal. Whatever is doing what is known as ‘our’ thinking cannot really be a self or person as such thought conceives it, for there are too many incoherences in the idea of a person for this to be so. (These turn particularly on the matter of personal identity over time.) The detailed contradictions present in all our concepts are largely instances of one very basic contradiction involved in all our thought, a contradiction inherent in the very idea of a world of distinct things standing in distinct relations to each other. We (that is eventually the Absolute masquerading as ourselves) cannot help thinking in terms of there being lots of individual things in the world. Equally, we cannot help thinking of these individual things as standing in a variety of relations to each other. But the idea of things held together by relations is radically incoherent, essential tool for dealing with the world though it is. For if the relations between things are themselves things, then they require themselves to be related to the original things, and those relations must again be related to these relations and what they relate, and so on in an endless incoherent regress. Should we then say that the relations are not things? But if not things, what are they? Unless something can be said about them they had better not claim to figure in any ultimately true account of the world. Perhaps then they are aspects of the things they relate. But if the relation between A and B is an aspect of either A or of B, or separately of each of them, they do nothing to connect A and B. R as in A is just there in A, and has nothing to do with B. Perhaps then they are aspects of AB, the unity of A and B. But if A and B are a unity to which the relation R belongs, then it seems it is not through R that they are brought together. This is by no means an adequate account of Bradley’s famous, and often correctly or incorrectly controverted, argument but gives a hint of his style of reasoning in this connection. Some of the criticism of it certainly misses the point. It is said that Bradley thinks of relations as things, but that they are not things but how things stand to each other. But this misses the point that Bradley asks us what they can be if they are not things, and claims to dispose of them whether we conceive of them as things in any proper sense or not. But probably critics are right, that Bradley’s arguments can be answered if we bring our full conceptual resources to bear on them. The Bradleyan reply would be that this is not surprising, since our concepts incorporate all sorts of devices for disguising their basic incoherence. They would not work if there were not such devices. But to appeal to these devices is to lose sight of the underlying insight to which these seemingly rather sophistical arguments are trying to lead us. That fundamental insight is that when we think of a thing first independently of how it stands to other things, and then as an element of a situation in which other things figure, there is really a gestalt switch between two incompatible ways of conceiving the situation. They are incompatible because when we envisage something as a detail in a larger whole it takes on not just characteristics additional to those we envisaged it as possessing when we think of it in isolation (or in something closer to isolation) but characteristics incompatible with this. An angel seen as a detail in a large painting looks different from when it is looked at alone. Our friend presents himself differently to us when we learn about his or her family background. These are not merely different ways of registering the world in our mind; they are different conceptions of what is really there. But we cannot choose either to envisage the thing in comparative isolation or as a detail in a larger situation. For, on the one hand, the very concept of a thing is of something which can be conceived without reference to other things as a separate unit in its own right, while equally we cannot avoid enriching our concept of every individual thing we postulate by envisaging it simply as a detail in some larger whole. (We may be prepared to say that some of our things, like two-dimensional objects, are mere abstractions from some larger whole, but we cannot say it of every single thing, or else we have no proper things left. Yet every single thing, the universe apart, does figure in a larger whole.) The concept of a relation is that of something which connects things without making them simply aspects of a larger whole in which they lose their separate identities. The proposition ‘A is R to B’ allows us to take up two incompatible stances, turn and turn about, as suits our convenience: that of A as a thing in its own right and that of A as an abstraction along with B from some larger whole. Since the proposition is thus an attempt to synthesize two incompatible views it cannot be the literal truth about anything. It should be evident that these reflections lead by inevitable steps to the view that the only real thing is the universe and that everything else is a mere aspect of it. (The only but unthinkable alternative is that real things exist in total isolation from one another; Leibniz tended to this view though incoherently invoking God to provide a semblance of a single cosmos.) To arrive at his final conclusion that the only reality is the Absolute, and that everything else is a mere abstraction from it, Bradley has to show that the universe merits this title in virtue of its mental or spiritual nature. This he does by arguing that when we really press the matter there is nothing which we can form any clear idea of as existing apart from some mental process or activity. Either we tacitly envisage it as presented to some mental state, and in effect a component of that state, or as itself a mental state. So in the end—for reasons quite separate from the argument concerning relations—we can accept only mental realities as genuinely real. The physical world, for example, must be conceived as existing only as presentation to perception or thought, or perhaps as experiencing itself. But if the only finite realities which can pass this test of clear conceivability are mental, it follows that the universe is a single reality from which the indefinite number of mental states which so to speak supply its stuff are mere abstractions. But the only conceivable thing from which these mental states can be abstractions must be itself some sort of cosmic mental state or form of consciousness. This cannot change through time, but must rather eternally include all those mental states which appear to themselves to pertain to beings living at different times. That it is not changing in time follows from the fact that past and future and present can only appear to be related to each other because they are all abstractions from something embracing all times, and therefore itself timeless. Critics such as Bertrand Russell and G.E.Moore were long thought to have put paid to Bradley’s metaphysical system. (A more insightful critic was William James.) Upon the whole, they missed the real thrust of it and thought that it was rebutted by exhibiting certain confusions or sophistries in its presentation. Anyone who knows anything of the Hindu tradition, especially Vedanta. (though Bradley showed no interest in this), will realize that views like Bradley’s are not too eccentric to be the basis of a whole culture. Perhaps western philosophy will turn again to an outlook more like Bradley’s. It must stand, at the least, as one of the great possible visions of the world open to humanity. Historically, however, it gave way soon after its completion to different styles of philosophizing in which Moore, Russell and Wittgenstein were key figures. A.N.Whitehead, however, continued, to some considerable extent along the path laid out by Bradley (envisioning a world composed solely of experience and unified in God), though he sought to do greater justice to the scientific view of things. NOTES BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Bradley 15.1 Appearance and Reality: A Metaphysical Essay (1893), text of 2nd edn, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930. 15.2 Essays in Truth and Reality (1914), Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968. 15.3 The Principles of Logic (1883), text of 2nd edn, 2 vols, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963. 15.4 Ethical Studies (1876), text of 2nd edn, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927. Other works There are not many recent whole books devoted to Bradley’s philosophy, though some are known to be in preparation. The main available works are: 15.5 McHenry, L. Whitehead and Bradley: a Comparative Analysis, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. 15.6 McNiven, D. Bradley’s Moral Psychology, Lewiston/Queenston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1987. 15.7 Manser, A. Bradley’s Logic, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983. 15.8 Manser, A. and Guy Stock, eds, The Philosophy of F.H.Bradley, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984 (collection of essays by various names). 15.9 Sprigge, T.L.S. James and Bradley: American Truth and British Reality, Chicago: 1 The thinker who did most to clarify the relations between psychological hedonism, and ethical hedonism in its two versions, egoistic and universalistic, was Henry Sidgwick in his Methods of Ethics, London: Macmillan, 1874, with further revised editions. Although in various controversies Bradley exhibits the utmost contempt for Sidgwick I have to a limited extent made use of Sidgwick’s terminology in expounding Bradley. Open Court, 1993. 15.10 Wollheim, R. F.H.Bradley, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1959. Recent books with some general relevance include 15.11 Rescher, N. The Coherence Theory of Truth, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973. 15.12 Sprigge, T.L.S. The Vindication of Absolute Idealism, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1983. 15.13 Walker, R.C.S. The Coherence Theory of Truth, London: Routledge 1989.
Routledge History of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis e-Library. 2005.
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