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This volume contains the substance of the 
Gifford Lectures delivered at the V diversity 
of Glasgow in Jnnuary and February 1914. 
I say the substance of the lectures, lest any of 
those who formed part of .ly most kindly 
audience should expect a verbal reproduction 
of what they then heard. No such repro- 
duction would have been either expedient or 
possible. The lectures were not read : they 
were spoken (with the aid of brief notes) in 
such terms as suggested themselves at the 
moment ; and theii duration was rigidly 
fixed, to suit my academic audience, so as 
just to occupy the customary hour. Al- 
though, therefore, they were largely (though 
not wholly) based upon written drafts, none 
of the language, and not all the ideas and 
illustrations contained in the original cculd 
be reproduced in the spoken lectures, nor 
did everything in the spoken lectures repre- 
sent passages in the written originals. 
It is not, in these circumstances, surprising 




ihat the work has had, in large measure, to 
be rewriften, though the argument itself, and 
the order in whieh its various parts are pre- 
^ ?nted for consideration, remains substantially 

I should not have troubled the reader with 
this very unimportant narrative except for 
the puipose of explaining the long interval 
that has elapsed between the delivery of the 
lectures and their publication. Literary com- 
position I have always found laborious and 
slow, even in favourable conditions. But the 
conditions have not been favourable. My 
anxiety to make the argument easy to read 
for persons who take little interest in, and 
have small knowledge of, philosophical con- 
troversies did not make it easy to write; 
while external circumstances were singularly 
unfavourable to rapid composition. No one 
who took any part in public affairs between 
March 1914 and the outbreak of the war, or 
between the outbreak of the war and 'the 
present moment, is likely to regard these 
months as providing convenient occasion for 
quiet thought and careful writing. I say this, 
however, not as an excuse for poor workman- 
ship, but only as an explanation of long 
delay ® 










It may be desirable to warn the intending 
reader before he embarks on these leetures, 
that though the basis of the argument is wide,' 
its conclusion is narrow : and though that con- 
chision is religious, the discussions leading up 
to it are secular. I make no dialectical use 
of the religious sentiment ; nor do I attempt 
any analysis of its essential character. Still 
less do I deal with any doctrines outside what 
is called " natural " religion ; for to " natural " 
religion the Gifford Lecturer is expressly con- 
fined. Bui even themes which might well be 
deemed to fall within these limits are scarcely 
referred to. For example, God, freedom, and 
immortality have been treated by at least 
one eminent writer as the great realities 
beyond the world of sense. I believe in them 
all. But I only discuss the first— and that 
only from a limited point of view. 

One other caution I must give, though it is 
hardly necessary. No one, I suppose, is likely 
to consult this small volume in the hope of 
finding an historic survey, properly "docu- 
mented," of the great theistic controversy. 
But, if so misguided an individual exists, he 
is doomed to the severest disappointment. 
There have been, and will be, Gifford 
Lecturers well equipped for so great an 


undertaking; but most assuredly I am not 
among them. 

My warm thanks are due to my brother, 
Mr. Gerald Balfour ; my sister, Mrs. Sidg- 
wick, and my brother-in-law, Lord Rayleigh, 
for the trouble they have taken in reading 
the proofs, and for the aid they have given me 
in correcting them. 

In connection with a passage in the ninth 
lecture, Sir Oliver Lodge has been good 
enough to give me an interesting note on 
" energy," which appears in its proper place. 

4 Carlton Gardens 
Mau2i, 1915. 





I. Introductory: Metaphysics and the 

" Plain ]VIan " 3 

II. " Inevitable " Beliefs and Common 

Sense 13 

III. The Material of the Present Argu- 
ment FOR Theism : the Character of 
the Theism to be established . . 17 

IV'. What the Argument is not. Some of 

ITS Limitations .... 23 

• • 

I. Design and Selection 

II. Argument from Values. The Cogni- 
tive and the Causal Series 






I. .Esthetic described 
II. Whence comes it ? . 

III. Values and the Higher Emotions 

IV. Natural Beauty 
V. Esthetic of Iiistory . 



I. Ethics described 
II. Egoism, Altruism, and Selection . 
IIL Selection and the Higher Morality . 
IV. Same subject continued 

* • • 

V. Theism and the Collision of Ends 








I. Retrospect . . r!!'o 

• • • • XOvj 

II. Reason and Causation .134 

III. Leslie Stephen, and Locke's Aphorism 130 

IV. Reason and Empirical Agnosticism 145 


L Common Sense AND THE External World 149 

II. Science and the External World . 153 

III. Primary and Secondary Qualities 

IV. Perception as a Causal Series . 
V. Perception as a Cognitive Act 

VI. An Irresistible Assumption 





I. Mathematicians and Probability . 175 

II. Calculable Probability . . 173 

III. Intuitive Probability . . igg 

I. Habit, Expectation, Induction . . 192 
II. Regularhy, Causation . . .195 

III. The Principle of Negligibility . .199 

IV. Causation and Foreknowledge . . 207 



I. From Beliefs that we must hold to 
Beliefs that we are inclined to 
hold 217 

II. Atomism. Beliefs of Conservation . 220 
III. Epilogue 288 



n! I. Humanism and Theism. 
II. The Doctrine of C'ongruity 

III. Is THIS Systematic Philosophy ? . 

IV. Conclusion 



[Tfie paragraph heading.i i„ this Tahk of Contents 
are not dtsigmd to give more tf n a very imperfect mg^ 
gestion of the ml^ects dmmned. I have put them in for 
the convenience of those u-ho, having read the Imok, wish to 
refer back to some paiiicnlar passage. The headings da 
not appear in the teat.] 




I ^:» 


Those responsible for the seleelion of Gifford 
Lecturers have mode it elear that, in their 
interpretation of Lord Giftord's Trust, studies 
.n » ve,y wide range of subjects are relevant 
to the theme of Natural Behgion. Gifford 
ectures have been devoted to sueh diverse 
themes as Comparative Religion, Primitive 
Mythologies, Vitalism, Psychology of Religious 
ixpenenees, the History of Religious Develop- 
ment at particular Epoch.. And, in addition 
to these, we have had expounded to us systems 
of Metaphysics of more than one type, and 
drawing then- inspiration from more than one 

When I was honoured by an invitation to 
take a share in the perennial debate which 
centres round what Lord Gifford described as 
^atural Religion, I had to consider what kind 
of contribution I was least unfitted to make 
Perhaps if this consideration had preceded 



my reply to the invitation, instead of following 
it, I n)ight have declinefl the perilous honour. 
Neither in my own opinion nor in that of 
anybody else, am I qualified to eontributc a 
special study of any of the scienlifie, psycho- 
logical, anthropological, or historical problems 
which nay throw light upon the central issue. 
This must of necessity be the work of special- 
ists. No metaphysical system, again, am I 
in position to provide ;— for reasons which 
will appear in the sequel. A merely critical 
commentary upon the systems of other people 
might hardly meet either the expectations of 
my audience, or the wishes of those who ap- 
pointed me to the post. Indeed, the enormous 
range of modern philosophic literature, and 
the livergent tendencies of modern philosophic 
thought would make the task, in any ease, one 
of extreme difficulty. Few, indeed, are those 
who, by the width of their reading and the 
quickness of their intellectual sympathy, are 
qualified to survey the whole field of con- 
temporary speculation ; and, assuredly, I am 
not among them. 

The vast amplitude of relevant material 
daily growing with the growth of knowledge, 
cannot but hamper the sincerest efforts of 
those who desire to take a compreliensive 


view of the great problems which Lord Gifford 
desired to solve. Most men arc amr.»eurs in 
all departments of activity but the one, be it 
scientific or practical, or artistic, to which 
they have devoted their lives. Bacon, indeed, 
with the magnificent audacity of youth, took 
all knowledge for his province. But he <lid 
so in the sixteenth century, not in the twen- 
tieth ; and even Bacon did not escape the 
charge of being an amateur. No one, wliile 
human faculty remains unchanged, is likely 
to imitate his ambitions. More and more 
does the division and subdivision of labour 
becorrr^ necessary for knowledge, as for in- 
dustry. More and more have men to choose 
whether they shall be dabblers in many 
subjects or specialists in one. More and more 
does it become clear that, while each class 
has its characteristic defects, both are required 
m the republic of knowledge. 

So far as specialists are concerned, this last 
proposition is seli-evident. Specialists arc a 
necessity. And it may well be that those 
who have successfully pressed forward the 
conquering forces of discovery along some 
narrow front, careless how the struggle to- 
wards enlightenment fared elsewhere, may be 
deemed by the historian to have been not 



only th happiest, but the most useful thinkers 
of their generation. Their achievements are 
definite. Their contributions to knowledge 
can be named and catalogued. The memory 
of them will remain when contemporary efforts 
to reach some general point of view will seem 
to posterity strangely ill-directed, worthless 
to all but the antiquarian explorers of half- 
forgotten speculation. 

Yet such efforts can never be abandoned, 
nor can they be confined to philosophers! 
There are for all men moments when tlic need 
for some general point of view becomes 
insistent; when neither labour, nor care, 
nor pleasure, nor idleness, nor habit will 
stop a man from asking how he is to regard 
the universe of reality, how he is to think of it 
as a whole, how he is to think of his own 
relation to it. 

Now I have no wish to overpraise these 
moments of reflection. They are not among 
the greatest. Tliey do not of necessity involve 
strenuous action, or deep emotion, or con- 
centrated thought. Often they arc periods 
of relaxation rather than of tension, moods 
that pass and leave no trace. Yet it is not 
always so ; and when the pressure of these 
ancient problems becomes oppressive, then 




those who, from taste or necessity, have lived 
only from hour to hour, seek aid from those 
who have had leisure and inclination to give 
them a more prolonged consideration. 

Of these there is no lack ; some speaking 
in the name of science, some in the name of 
religion, some in the name of philosophy. 
The founder of these lectures regarded philo- 
sophy, and (if I mistake not) philosophy in 
its most metaphysical aspect, as the surest 
guide to the truths of which he was in 
search. And certainly I am the last to criticies 
such a view. It is clearly the business of 
metaphysicians, if they have any business 
at all, to provide us with a universal system. 
They cannot lose themselves in concrete 
details, as may happen to men of science. 
They are neither aided, nor trammelled, 
as all working organisations, whether in 
Church or State, are necessarily aided and 
trammelled, by institutional traditions and 
practical necessities. They exist to supply 
answers to the very questions of which I 
have been speaking. Yet metaphysics does 
not appeal, and has never appealed, to the 
world at large. For one man who climbs to 
his chosen point of view by a metaphysical 
pathway, a thousand use some other road j 



and if wc ask ourselves how many persons 
there arc at this moment in existence whose 
views of the universe have been consciously 
modified by the great metaphysical systems 
(except in so far as these have been turned to 
account by theologians), we must admit that 
the number is insignificant. 

Now, I do not think this is due to the fact, 
so often commented upon, both by the friends 
of metaphysics and its foes, that in this 
branch of inquiry there is little agreement 
among experts ; that the laI)ours of centuries 
have produced no accepted body of know- 
ledge; that, while the separate sciences 
progress, metaphysics, which should justify 
them all, seems alone to change without 
advancing. Mankind is not so easily dis- 
couraged. New remedies are not less eagerly 
adopted because old remedies have so often 
failed. Few persons are prevented from think- 
ing themselves right by the reflection that, if 
they be right, the rest of the world is wrong. 
And were metaphysical systems what men 
wanted, the disanrreements among metaphy- 
sicians would no more destroy interest in meta- 
physics than the disagreements among theo- 
logians destroys interest in theology. The 
evil, if evil it be, lies deeper. It is not so 



much that mankind reject metaphysical 
systems, as that they omit the preHminary 
stage of considering them. Philosophy is 
now, perhaps has always been, an academic 
discipline which touches not our ordinary life. 
A general knowledge of the historic schools of 
thought may indeed be acquired by the 
young as part of their education ; but it is 
commonly forgotten by the middle-aged ; and, 
whether forgotten or remembered, is rarely 
treated as in any vital relation to the beliefs 
and disbeliefs .vhich represent their working 
theories of life and death. 

If Du desire confirmation of this statement, 
consider how few men of science have shown 
the smallest interest in metaphysical specula- 
tion. Philosophers, with one or two notorious 
exceptions, have commonly had a fair amateur 
acquaintance with the science of their day. 
Kant, though I believe that his mechanics 
were not always beyond reproach, anticipated 
Laplace in one famous hypothesis. Descartes 
and Leibnitz would be immortalised as niathe- 
maticians if they had never touched philosophy, 
and as philosophers if they had never touched 
mathematics. In our own day Huxley not 
only contributed to biology, but wrote on 
philosophy. Yet, speaking generally, meta- 



physics has in modern times been treated by 
men of science with an indifference which is 
sometimes respectful, more commonly con- 
temptuous, almost always complete. 

Nor can we attribute this attitude of mind, 
whether on the part of scientific specialists or 
the general public, to absorption in merely 
material interests. There are some observers 
who would have us believe that the energies 
of Western civilisation arc now ' entirely occu- 
pied in the double task of creating wealth 
and disputing over its distribution. I cannot 
think so ; I doubt whether there has been for 
generations a deeper interest than at this 
moment in things spiritual — however different 
be its manifestations from those with which 
we are familiar in history. We must look 
elsewhere for an explanation of our problem. 
There must be other reasons why, to the 
world at large, those who study metaphysics 
seem to sit (as it were) far apart from their 
fellow-men, seeking wisdom by methods hard 
of comprehension, and gently quarrellii.g with 
each other in an unknown tongue. 

Among these reasons must no doubt be 
reckoned the very technical character of much 
metaphysical exposition. Some of this could 
* Written before the war. 



be avoided, much of it could not ; and, in any 
case, philosophers might well ask why people 
should expect metaphysics — to say nothing 
of logic and psychology — to be easier of com- 
prehension than the differential calculus or 
the electro-magnetic theory of light. Plainly, 
there is no reason : and, in so far as the 
thoughts to be expressed arc difficult, and the 
language required to express them is un- 
familiar, the evil admits of no remedy. 

But there is something more to be said. 
It must, I think, be admitted that most men 
api roach the difficulties of a scientific exposi- 
tion far more hopefully than the difficulties 
of a metaphysical argument. They will take 
more trouble because they expect more result. 
But why ? In part, I think, because so much 
metaphysical debate is not, or does not 
appear to be, addressed to the problems of 
which they feel the pinch. On the contrary, 
it confuses what to them seems plain ; it 
raises doubts about what to them seems 
obvious ; and, of the doubts which they do 
entertain, it provides no simple or convincing 

The fact is, of course, that the metaphysician 
wants to re- think the universe ; the plain man 
does not. The metaphysician seeks for an 



inclusive system where all reality can be 
rationally housed. The plain man is less 
ambitious. He is content with the kind of 
knowledge he possesses about men and things 
—so far as it goes. Science has already told 
him much; each day it tells him more. And, 
within the clearing thus made for him in the 
tangled wilderness of the unknown, he feels 
at home. Here he can manage his own affairs ; 
here he needs no philosophy to help him. If 
philosophy can speak to him about questions 
on which science has little to say, he will 
listen; provided always that the problems 
dealt with are interesting, and the treatment 
of them easily understood. He would like, 
for example, to hear about God, if there be a 
God, and his Soul, if he has a Soul. But he 
turns silently away from discussions on the 
One and the Many, on Subject and Object 
on degrees of Reality, on the possibility of 
Error, on Space and Time, on Reason and 
Intuition, on the nature of Experience, on 
the logical characteristics of the Absolute. 
These may be very proper topics for meta- 
physicians, but clearly they are no topics for him. 
Now I am far from saying that in these 
opinions the plain man is right. His specula- 
tive ambitions are small, and his tacit assump- 



tions are many. What is familiar seems to 
him easy ; what is unfamiliar seems to him 
useless. And he is provokingly unaware of 
the difficulties with which his common-sense 
doctrines are beset. Yet in spite of all this, 
he has my sympathy ; and I propose, with 
due qualifications and explanations, to ap- 
proach the great subject, described by the 
Trust as Natural Religion, from his — the 
plain man's — point of vievv. 


But what is the plain man's point of view ? 
What is the creed of common sense ? 

It has never been summed up in articles, 
nor fenced round with definitions. But in 
our ordinary moments we all hold it; and 
there should be no insuperable difficulty in 
coming to an agreement about certain of its 
characteristics which are relevant to the 
purposes of my immediate argument. One 
such characteristic is that its most important 
formulas represent beliefs which, whether true 
or false, whether proved or unproved, are at 
least inevitable. All men accept them in 
fact. Even those who criticise them in theory 
live by them in practice. 



Now this category of '* incvitablencss " is 
not often met with in metaphysics; indeed, 
so far as I know, it is not met with at all. 
We hear of innate beliefs, a 'priori judgments, 
axioms, laws of thought, truths of reason, 
truths the opposite of which is " inconceiv- 
able "—and so forth. These various descrip- 
tions are all devised in the interests of episte- 
mology, i.e. the theory of knowledge. They 
are intended to mark off classes of judgments 
or beliefs which possess peculiar validity. 
But none of these classes are identical with 
the class " inevitable." There are inevitable 
beliefs which nobody would think of describing 
either as a priori or axiomatic. There are 
others of which the contradictory is perfectly 
conceivable ; though no one who had other 
things to do would take the trouble to conceive 
it. An inevitable belief need not be seli- 
evident, nor even, in the last analysis, self- 
consistent. It is enough that those who deem 
it in need of proof yet cannot prove it, and 
those who think it lacks coherence yet can- 
not harmonise it, believe it all the same. 

But, arc there such inevitable beliefs? 
There certainly are. We cannot, in obedience 
to any dialectical pressure, suppose the world 
to be emptied of persons who think, who 



feci, who will ; or of things which arc material, 
independent, extended, and enduring. \Vc 
cannot doubt that such entities exist, nor 
that they act on one another, nor that they 
are in space or time. Neither can we doubt 
that, in the world thus pictured, there reigns 
an amount of stability and repetition, whieii 
suggests anticipations and retrospects— and 
sometimes justifies them. 

These beliefs arc beliefs about what arc 
sometimes called " facts " and sometimes 
"phenomena" — neither term being either 
very convenient or very accurate. They are 
assumed in all sciences of nature, in all his- 
tories of the past, in all forecasts of the 
future, in all practice, in all theory, outside 
philosophy itself. But there are two othei 
kinds of beliefs which must, I think, be also 
regarded as inevitable, of which I shall have 
to speak in the course of these lectures. They 
have unfortunately no generic names, and 1 
must defer any description of them till future 
lectures. It is sufficient for the moment to 
say that one of them relates to the ends of 
action, and includes morals ; while the other 
relates to objects of contemplative' interest, 
among which is beauty. In some shape or 
other— perhaps in shapes which seem to us 



utterly immoral or <lisgustin<^ beliefs of both 
kinds are, so far as I can judge, entertained 
by all men. And though they have not the 
coercive force possessed by such beliefs as 
those in the independent existence of things 
and persons, they may be counted, for my 
purposes, among the inevitable. 

Here, then, arc three classes of belief which 
in some shape or other common sense holds, 
has always held, and cannot help holding. 
But evidently the shapes in which they may 
be held arc many. They vary from age to 
age and from person to person. They are 
modified by education, by temperament, by 
the general condition of learning, by individual 
opportur'^^ies, and by social pressure. The 
common Sense of the twentieth century a.d. 
is very different from the common sense of 
he twentieth century B.C. Yet, different 
taough it be, it possesses unalterable simi- 
larities, and up to a certain point submits to 
the same classification. 

If you desire an illustration, consider the 
ease of matter, or of material things. All 
men believe in what is commonly called the 
" external world " — they believe in it with 
evidence, or without evidence, sometimes (like 
David Hume) in the teeth of evidence, in any 



case iiulopriidcntly of cvidcntr. But as to 
wliat this *' external world " really is they 
differ profoundly. The expert of to-day differs 
from the expert of yesterday, both differ from 
the average man, the average man of the 
twentieth century differs from his predecessors, 
an«l they differ from each other according to 
the stage of general and scientific culture at 
which they have severally arrived. 


But, though all this be gi anted, to what, 
you may be disposed to ask, does it lead ? 
What has it got to do with Theism ? It is not 
alleged that in any shape these inevitable 
beliefs arc necessarily true; it is admitted 
that in most of the shapes in which men have 
held them they arc actually false ; it is not 
even suggested that a belief in God is to be 
counted among them. How, then, is Natural 
Theology advanced ? 

To answer this question would be to antici- 
pate the nine lectures which are still to come. 
In the meanwhile, it may be enough to say 
that these beliefs of common sense supply the 
material on which I propose to work ; that I 



shall treat them a.s a clevtlopin,? and improving 
system, of which the present phase is the most 
developed and the best. It is with this phase 
that I am chiefly eoncerned. If, for example, 
I make use of beliefs about the " external 
world " they will be (mainly) the beliefs of 
contemporary or recent science so far as I 
know them. If I make use of ethics or asthe- 
tics, it will be the ethics and esthetics of 
Western civilisation, not of Melanesia. I shall 
not add to them nor subtract from them. I 
shall not criticise nor question them. I shall 
accept them at their face values. But I shall 
ask what this acceptance implies. I shall ask 
how these values are to be maintained. And 
in particular I shall inquire whether the course 
of development, whose last known stages these 
beliefs represent, can be regarded as a merely 
naturalistic process without doing fatal damago 
to their credit. 

The answer I shall give to this last question 
will be in the negative. And, if the only 
alternative to Naturalism be Theism, as from 
the common-sense standpoint it certainly is, 
then the effect of my argument, for those who 
accept it, will be to link up a belief in God with 
all that is, or seems, most assured in knowledge, 
all that is, or seems, most beautiful in art or 



"atuiT. and all that is, or seems, most noble 
in morality. 

At this point you will inevitably ask me to 
explain what sort of Deity Jle is whose exist- 
enee I to establish. Men have thought 
ot t.o(I HI many ways. In what way is He 
thought of in these lectures ? 

The question is legitimate! though I am in 
some doubt how far you will regard my answer 
as satisfactory. I, of course, admit that the 
eonception of God has taken many shapes in 
the long-drawn course of human development, 
some of them degraded, all of them inadequate. 
But this, or something lik<. this, was inevitable 
on any theory of development ; and the sub- 
ject-matter of theology does not seem to have 
fared differently in this respect from the 
subject-matter (say) of physics or psychology. 
It .. n, all cases the later stages of the process 
whicli mainly concern us. 

There is, however, something more to be 
said. The highest conceptions of God seem 
to approximate to one of two types, which, 
without prejudice, and merely for convenience 
I may respectively call the religious and the 
metaphysical The metaphysical conception 
emphasises His all-inclusive unity. The reli 
gious type emphasises His ethical personality 



The metaphysical type tends to regard Him as 
tlie logical glLU! which holds multiplicity to- 
gether and makes it intelligibk. The religious 
type willingly turns away from such specula- 
tions about the Absolute, to love and worship 
a Spirit among spirits. Which of these types 
is contemplated in the argument that follows ? 
To this question I would reply by another. 
Are the two conceptions incompatible ? Must 
we abandon the second if we accept the first ? 
If so, it is the second of which 1 propose to 
speak. It is the God according to religion, 
and not the God according to metaphysics, 
whose being I wish to prove. But there are 
theologians and philosophers of repute who 
tlnnk the two conceptions can be harmonised. 
They hold that b. lief in a personal and trans- 
cendent God is consistent with the acceptance 
even of those forms of Absolute Idealism which 
their friends call logical and their critics call 
intellectual— in both cases, perhaps, without 
sufficient justification. 

For myself, I must admit that I have never 
succeeded to my own satisfaction in fusing 
the two conceptions. Yet I do not profess to 
be content with their separation. The attri- 
bution of personality to God, though much 
truer, I think, than the denial of it, is mani- 



fcstjy iiiudcquate to the full roaiity we are 
St niggling to express. Some of the greatest 
religious teachers, Christian and non-Christian 
that the world has seen have more or less ex- 
plicitly held both, or at least have leaned to- 
wards neither exclusively. Thi is surely true, 
for example, of Plato the w.eek philo.^opher,' 
of Philo the piatonising Je-v, ?>f St, 1 aul the 
Christian Apostle, of St. Augu.tii.c tlu> patristic 
theologian. Nor (so far as I know), has re- 
ligious mysticism ever felt the least difficulty 
in bridging the chasm by which, in the eyes of 
discursive reason, the two conceptions seem 
to be. divided. This may well represent the 
highest wisdom. But, the argument of these 
lectures has a narrower scope : and when, in 
the course of them, I speak of God, I mean 
something other than an Identity wherein all 
differences vanish, or a Unity which includes 
but does not transcend the differences which 
it somehow holds in solution. I mean a God 
whom men can love, a God to whom men can 
pray, who takes sides, who has purposes and 
preferences, whose attributes, howsoever con- 
ceived, leave unimpaired the possibility of a 
personal relation between Himself and those 
whom He has created. 
But is not this (it may be objected) the de- 



gradation of religion ? What is a deity so con- 
ceived but the old tribal god, with his character 
improved and his local limitations swept away ? 
If God be not the Absolute, can he be more than 
a magnified man ? Can you hope to cleanse 
these religious conceptions from the mud in 
which they once so rankly flourished ? 

Now there are plenty of unsolved, and per- 
haps insoluble, difficulties involved in the 
religious, or indeed in any other, conception of 
God. But I hardly count among them the 
lowly origin and crime-stained history of 
religious development. On this point you will 
be able to form a better opinion as these lec- 
tures proceed. But, in the meanwhile, it may 
be observed that though no tragic accompani- 
ments attach to the growth of a purely Abso- 
lutist philosophy, this by no means implies that 
metaphysics is better than religion. It is true 
that, for the sake of a purely logical Absolute 
no man has been moved to do what a later and i 
higher morality condemns— to placate it for ( 
example, with bloody rites or obscene revels 
But this is because, for the sake of such an 
Absolute, no man has ever yet been moved to 
do anything at all. A belief in it may be the r 
conclusion of our intellectual labours; but hardly ^ 
(as It seems to me) their motive or their reward 



Let mc now bring this introductory lecture 
to a close by adding to what, so far, must 
seem a bare and obscure suggestion of what 
m3^ argume. I is, a warning hint as to what, 
at first sight, it might seem to be, but is 

It is not an argument from common sense, 
as that phrase ought properly to be interpreted. 
It does not say to the opponents of Theism : 
"You accept current beliefs in science, in 
morality, in ethics. In some shape or other 
common sense has always accepted them, in 
some shape or other you cannot help accepting 
them. You do, in fact, probably accept them 
in the shape which finds favour with the ' best 
thought of the age ' or what you conceive to 
be such. This is comr- sense. Why not 
do in the sphere of relig hat you are ad- 

mittedly doing in these otner spheres of theory 
and practice? Would not this be common 
sense also? True, there is one important 
difference between the two cases. Theological 
beliefs are not inevitable—at least not at our 
present stage of culture. It is possible to be 
an atheist; and easy to be an agnostic. 
But inevitableness, in itself, is no ground of 



philosophic certitude. So this point may be 
ignon (1 ; and in all otiier respects the paralha 
seems to be complete. Some form of Theism 
has been prevalent from aa immemorial past 
It has strongly appealed to the needs and 
fcelmgs of mankind. You do not pause before 
accepting beliefs about things and persons 
till philosophy has solved all the speculative 
doubts about them which philosophy itself 
has raised. Why, then, should you apply a 
standard of rationality to religion which, 
with general approval, you reject in the case 
ot science ? " 

Now I do not suggest that this is bad advice 
Quite the contrary. Neither is it necessarily 
bad argument. But it is not the argument of 
these lectures. Whatever be its intrinsic 
merits, it has, from my point of view, the 
defect of implying a theory of knowledge-a 
very modest and unassuming theory indeed ; 
but still a theory. And it therefore conus 
into competition with all other theories of 
^lowledge-Absolutist, Empirical, Pragmatic, 
Neo- Kantian, Neo - Hegelian, Realist, New 
Realist, to say nothing of Professor Mach's 
philosophy of science, or M. Bergson's world- 
lamous speculations. 
Now I preach no theory of knowledge; 


partly brcaus* T have none to pivacl,, partly 
because, in tliese lectures, I desire to dogmatise 
as little as I can about fundamentals, and to be 
constructive rather than critical. If you ask 
me how it is possible to be constructive 
Without first settling fundamentals, and how 
It IS possible to settle fundamentals without 
first being critical, I reply that it is only 
possible if you start from premises which are 
practically accepted by both parties to the 
controversy, however little agreement there 
may be as to their speculative proof; and 
this IS what I am trying to do. 

Nor ought this procedure to be deemed 
unworthy of the attention of serious thinkers 
It IS provisional, no doubt; but I do not 
thmk it shallow. It can never give us a 
metaphysic of the universe; but the creators 
of such a metaphysic, when they come, will 
not find it stand in their way. Moreover it 
takes account of facts as they are. A creed 
of some kind, religious or irreligious, is a 
vital necessity for all, not a speculative luxury 
for the few : and the practical creed of the 
few who speculate has a singular, and even 
suspicious, resemblance to that of the many 
who do not. While those rare individuals 
who have thought deeply about the theory of 





knowledge arc profoundly divided as to zvhtj wc 
should believe, they largely agree as to what 
we should believe with that vast multitude 
who, on the theory of knowledge, have never 
thought at all. Ts not this a cireumstance in 
itself most worthy of closer consideration ? 
May it not guide us to some approximate solu- 
tion of our present perplexities ? The present 
lectures are an attempt to answer this question. 
Is my argument, then, nothing better than 
an appeal from the competent to the in- 
competent, from the few to the many ? By 
no means. Progress, though of small ac- 
count unless it touch the many, gets its 
vital impetus always from the few. It is to 
the patient labours of those rare intelligences 
who possess originality, courage, subtlety, 
and sympathy that we must look for the 
gradual workingout of a theory of the universe 
which shall as fully satisfy our reason and our 
conscience as the limitations of our faculties 
permit. But that consummation is not yet. 
And since, whether we be philosophers or not, 
we all act on a working body of root-beliefs 
about men and things : since we are also in 
general agreement as to the form in which 
those beliefs can best express the present state 
of knowledge, is it not legitimate to ask 


whether, on the basis thus provided, a still 
larger measure of practical harmony cannot 
in the meantime be reasonably established ? 
It is true that Theism could never by such 
methods acquire a certitude either greater 
than, or independent of, the beliefs of science 
and common sense. But, could it acquire as 
much, theologians might well be content, 
though philosophers most rightly strove for 



TiiK argument, tlicn, which I propose to lay 
before you, though its material is provided 
by our common-sense beliefs, is not an argu- 
ment from common sense. It does not extend 
to theology those uncritical methods which 
wc accept (most of us without protest) in 
the sphere of our every-day activities. Is it, 
then, you may be tempted to ask, some form' 
of the yet more familiar argument from 
design? Is it more than Paley and the 
Bridgwater treatises brought up to date ? And, 
If so, has not the vanity of all such endeavours 
been demonstrated in advance : from the side 
of sceptical philosophy by Hume; from the 
side of idealist philosophy by Kant and his 
successors ; from the side of empirical philo- 
sophy by the nineteenth-century agnostics- 
from the side of science by the theory of 
Natural Selection ? Do not the very catch- 
words of the argument—" contrivance," " de- 




sign," " ci 

adaptation," cxm-isid by tin- " Aichi- 
tcct c,f the Univcst. " lill „s with a certain 
weariness v Do they not represent the very 
dregs of stale apoh>getics ; the outworn residue 
of haif-.orgotten controversies? 

For my own part, I do not think the argu- 
ment from contrivance bad, but I do think it 
very limited : lin.ited in respect of its premises ; 
limited also in respect of itr. conclusions. It 
may, perhaps, be worth dwelling on some of 
thc3e limitations, if only to make my own 
position clearer by contrast. 

In the first place, it must be noted that, 
from a consideration of inanimate nature 
alone it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to 
mfer design. The mere existence oi" natural 
laws is not, as it seems to me, a sufficient basis 
for the argumcTit ; we require also that these 
laws should combine to subserve an end 
W ere the universe, for example, like a huge 
impervious reservoir of some simple gas 
where nothing rested but notiiing changed' 
where amid all the hurry and bustle of colliding 
atoms no new thing was ever born, nor any 
old thmg ever perished, we might find in it 
admirable illustrations of natural law, but 
no hints, so far as I can see, of purpose or 
design. Nor is the case really mended if 



instead of thus artificially simplifying inani- 
mate nature, we consider it in all its concrete 
complexity. Kven cosmic evolution of the 
Spencerian type will scarcely help us. Herbert 
Spencer, as we know, regarded the world-story 
as a continuous progress from the simple to 
the complex, in which the emergence of the 
living out of the not-living is treated as a 
harmonious episode in one vast evolutionary 
drama. The plot opens in the first chapter 
with diffused nebula-; it culminates in the 
laF' -ith the social organisation of man. Un- 
fortunately its central episode, the transition 
from the not-living to the living, was never 
explained by the a-^hor of the " Synthetic 
Philosophy"; and .j lamentable gap must 
be filled in by each disciple according to 
his personal predilections. For the moment, 
however, we are concerned only with one 
part of the story, that which deals with the 
evolution of inanimate nature. Can this be 
regarded as displaying design? I hardly 
think so. Granting, for the sake of argument, 
the validity of the Spencerian physics, grant- 
ing that the material Universe exhibits this 
general trend from the simple to the complex, 
from a loose diffusion of nebulous matter to 
the balanced movements of suns and satellites, 



cloes this of itself give any hint .,r p„,poso y 
Only, I beheve. if we confound .volution with 
elaboration and elaboration m ith in.provcn.ent 
and read into it some suggestion of progress 
borrowed fron. biology or ethies. soeiologv or 
religion. "^ 

But wc have not the shghtest right t„ ,|„ 
tins. Apart from life „„,! ,h„ugh,, ,|„,,. i, 
no reason to regard one form of „,aterial 
clistnbut,on as in any r,,peet snperior to 
another A solar systen, may be n.or.. inter- 
'■''tmg tha., its parent nebula; it „,ay be 
more beautiful. But if ther,- b.. none ,o 
unrave ,ts intrieaeies or a.l>nir.. its splendours 
... what respect is it bctt.r V u, eonstituent 
aton.s are more .lelinitely grouped, the groups 
move m assignable orbits ; but why shoui.l 
the process by which these results hav.- bee., 
aclueved be --..rded as other than one of 
purposeless super-induccl upon mean- 
mgless uniformity? Why shoul.l this type of 
evolution have about it any suggestion of 
progress ? And, if it has not, hoi can 
indicate design ? 

Spencer himself was, of course, „o advocate 
of design " after the manner of Paley ; and 
I only mention his cosmic speculations because 
the.r imavowed optimism-the optimism that 



is always apt to jmk in llic word " » vohiHoii " 
—makes of lluni inat<rial iRciiliarly suilahic 
for those who seek for marks of ^Wsi^u in 
lifeless nature. But let us add two touehcs 
to Spencer's picture, and see how the argu- 
ment then stands. 

I have already conmiented on the great 
omission which mars the continuity of his 
world-story the omission, I mean, of any 
account of the transition from the not-living 
to the living. I shall have again to refer to 
it. But there are, besides this, two other 
omissions, one at the beginning of his narra- 
tive, and the other at the end, whose signifi- 
cance in relation to " design " should receive 
a passing conmient. 

As I understand the nuitter, an intelligencf 
sufliciently endowed— let us call him Laplace's 
calculator— might infer the past state of the 
material universe from the present by a 
process of rigorous deduction, on accepted 
physical principles. But, if he carried back 
his investigations into a period sufliciently 
remote, he would find a point at which eertaiii 
fundamental processes reach a theoretical 
limit ; and, though we must believe that this 
condition of things had antecedents, yet in- 
finite powers of calculation, based upon infinite 




kn«»l,..lKe „f ,|,c present, could not, it sccn.s 

tell us wimt tlioy were 
So „„a.|, for the past.' Now for the future 
creourcaleulator would I.e n.ore suecessf^' 

e eouW "^ '*"""' ""^ '"'""""''''= '»"™'-- 

ouTdn of, *''7™»P-^ t'-ougl. unboundcl, 
«>ould not be exiularating. No faintest ting,: 
or op.„„„ ,d ^^,,,^^ ,_.^ antieipation^ 

Kveortlung that happened, good or h,"d 
would subtraet son,ething fronf the le selg 
store of useful energy, till a tin,e arrived when 
"otlnng eould happen any n.ore, and t " 
universe frozen into eternal repose. wouW 
for ever be as if it were not. 
Bo our ideas of material evolution, thus 

aX tot,""' ''"PP'--"'''. '-' t'-enlsel 
th k so "'; "'8"'"^nf fro". design ? I hardly 
think so. It ,s true that in retrospect we ean 
"leal ly reach a li„,it which no calculation 
[ based upon physical laws, will permit TZ 
overpass and that where (what n ol 

a tT" fa r"*""'*^.""*^ called, -.seeonday 
causes fad us, a First Cause may plausiblv 
be mvoked,. but, if wc gaze forwa'^.d ." ead 
of backward, the physical course of nature 
tloes not meielv f.,;i f^ • i- "ature 

^ nieieiy lail to indicate design, it 



seems loudly to proclaim its absence. A 
world where all energy suffers inevitable de- 
gradation, considered by itself, appears athe- 
istic on the face of it : nor can even life 
consciousness or thought redeem it, if they, 
too, are doomed to perish when further trans- 
formations of energy become impossible. 

It is not, therefore, on any general survey 
of material nature that, in the present state 
of our knowledge, we can base the argument 
from "design." Nor is this the foundation 
on which those who use the argument have 
chiefly built. They have always sought for 
proofs of contrivance rather among the living 
than among the dead. In the intricate ad- 
justment of different parts of an organism to 
the interests of the whole ; in the adaptation 
of that whole to its environment, they found 
the evidence they required. Arrangements 
which so irresistibly suggested purpose could 
not (they thought) be reasonably attributed 
to chance. 

This argument possessed immense force in 
what was, comparatively speaking, the infancy 
of biology. Has that force been lessened by 
the growth of knowledge ? Yes and No. If 
we consider organic adaptations and adjust- 
ments in themselves, scientific discovery has 



increased a thousand-fold our sense of their 
exqu,,s,te n,eety a„d n,oi. com- 
plexity. I take ,t as certain that, had no 
sueh theory as Natural Selection been devised 
nothmg would have persuaded mankind It' 
( f"^. °'^'^"= ^™^'d oame into being unguided 
bymtelhgence. Chance, whatever ehanc^ly 

soM'on" A "T""^'' "^^ accepted aTa 
solution. Agnostics™ would have been 

scouted as stupidity. 

All this has been changed, as every one 
knows by Darwin. But what exactly was "t 
that ,n this connection. Darwin d d ? He 
justly regarded as the greatest among the 

ut the "' "T'"' "' "'8-- -"'"'ion 
but there ,s nothing in the mere idea of 

^ On th"" '^f " '" -o-S^-us tvitl 
design. On the contrary, it almost suggests 
gu dance, ,t has all the appearance of S 

to fh V ; ^^^''>'"™' Selection been supposed 
to shake teleology to ■• , foundation ? 

The reason, of course, is that though the 
fact of Selection does not make it ha^ o 
behevc m design, it makes it easier to bel eve 
n accident ; and, as design and accid^t J! 

t ween C-h^rr^ ^"^'"^'^^^ ^"^"^^'^"^ - 
tween which the argument from design re- 

nunes us to choose, this comes to the^lme 



thing. Before Darwin's great discoveiy those 
who denied the existence of a Contriver were 
hard put to it to explain the appearanee of 
contrivance. Darwin, within certain limits 
and on certain suppositions, provided an ex- 
planation. He showed how the most com- 
plicated and purposeful organs, if only they 
were useful to the species, might gradually arise 
out of random variations, continuously weeded 
by an unthinking process of elimination. 
Assume the existence of living organisms, 
however simple, let them multiply enough 
and var>' enough, let tueir variations be herit- 
able, then, if sufficient time be granted, all the 
rest will follow. In these conditions, and out 
of this material, blind causation will adapt 
means to ends with a wealth of ingenuity 
which we not only cannot equal, but which we 
are barely beginning to comprehend. * 

1 As I shall often have to mention " selection " in tlie 
course of these lectures, I must observe that it is no part 
of my business to weigh tlie comparative merits of competiiij^ 
evolutionary theories. It may be that the hypothesis of 
small random variations accumulated or elinunated according 
as they help or hinder survival, is, in the light of recent 
research, insufficient and unsatisfactory. From my point 
of view this is immaterial. I use the word " selection " as 
a convenient name for any non-rational process, acting 
through heredity, which successfully imitates contrivance. 
Darwin's theory, be it true or false, still jiiovide.s, I suppose, 
the only suggestion as to how this feat may be accoin- 




The theory of seleetion thus destroys much 
of the foundation on which, a hundred years 
ago, the argument from design was based. 
What does it leave untouched ? 

It leaves untouched all that can be inferred 
from the existence of the conditions which 
make organic evolution possible : matter which 
hyes multiplies, and varies ; an environment 
which possesses the marvellously complex con- 
stitution required to make these processes 
possible. Selection may modify these condi- 
tions, but It cannot start them. It may 
modify the manner in which multiplication 
IS secured; it may modify the lines which 
variations follow; it may enable organic 
species to adapt their powers to their environ- 
ment, and (within narrow limits) their en- 
vironment to their powers. But it cannot 
produce either the original environment or the 
original living matter. These must be due 
either to luck or to contrivance; and, if they 
be due to luck, the luck (we must own) is 
great. How great we cannot say. We can- 
not measure the improbability of a fortuitous 
arrangement of molecules producing not 
merely living matter, but living matter of the 



right kind, living matter on which selection 
can act. Here, indeed, Laplace's calculator 
might conceivably help us. But suppose 
him to have done so, suppose him to have 
measured the odds against the accidental 
emergence of the desired brand of protoplasm, 
how are we to compare this probability witii' 
Its assumed alternative— intelligent design? 
Here, I think, even Laplace's calculator would 
fail us ; for he is only at home in a material 
world governed by mechanical and physical 
laws. He has no principles which would 
enable him to make exhaustive inferences 
about a world in which other elements arc 
mcludc 1 : and such a world is ours. 

For .K Greek philosopher to assert that the 
world is material was legitimate enough. He 
was in search of a universal principle ; and if 
he found it in matter we need neither wonder 
nor criticise. After all, matter lies round us 
on every side; we are immersed in it; we 
are largely dependent on it. It may well 
seem but a small step further, and a very 
natural one, to treat it as the essence of all 
that is. 

But, as it seems to me, we now know too 
much about matter to be materialists. The 
philosophical difficulties in the way of accepting 





a materialistic world-system are notorious— 
at least to philosophers. But I am not 
speaking of them. I am thinking of the scien- 
tific difficulties, those that cannot but suggest 
themselves when we consider the breach of 
continuity involved in the appearance of life, 
and still more obviously of feeling, at par- 
ticular points in the long procession of material 
causes and effects. The very essence of the 
physical order of things is that it creates 
nothing new. Change is never more than a 
redistribution of that which never changes. 
But sensibility belongs to the world of con- 
sciousness, not to the world of matter. It is 
a new creation, of which physical equations 
can give no account; nay, rather, which 
falsifies such equations; which requires us 
to say that, before a certain date in the history 
of the universe, energy in one shape was con- 
verted into precisely the same amount of 
energy in another shape, and into nothing 
more ; that matter in one position was trans- 
ferred to another position without increase 
or diminution : but that, after this date, the 
transformations of energy and the movements 
of matter were sometimes accompanied by 
psychical " epiphenomena " which differ from 
them in kind, which are incommensurable 



with them in amount, and which no equations 
can represent. 

^^ B^bbage in order to show how occasional 
miracles'' might "naturally" break the 
contmuity of the longest sequences, devised 
a machme which produced numbers according 
to a particular law for an indefinite period 
then broke this uniformity by a single excep- 
tion, and, thereafter, reverted for ever to its 
original principle of action. But Babbage's 
results, however startling, depended wholly 
on known mathematical and mechanical laws 
Their irregularity was only apparent. To 
Laplace s calculator, they would have seemed 
not merely inevitable but obvious. It is 
quite otherwise with the appearance and dis- 
appearance of feeling, thought, will, con- 
sciousness m general, within the strictly deter- 
mma series of mechanical causes and effects. 
Here the anomaly is real : the breach of 
continuity inexplicable by any physical laws 
and indeed incompatible with them. I am 
not at this moment concerned either to denv 
or to assert that at the critical frontier where 
mind and matter meet, the even course of 
nature suffers violence. I am not suggesting 
for example, that, if a given physiologicS 
state were exactly repeated, the psychical state 



i formerly associated with it would not },o 
I repeated also. My point is different. It is 
that m a strictly determined physical system, 
i dependmg on the laws of matter and energv 
I alone, no room has been found, and no room 
can be found, for psychical states at all Thev 
are novelties, whose intrusion into the material 
world cannot be denied, but whose presence 
and behaviour cannot be explained by the 
laws which that world obeys. 

The difficulty is a very familiar one ; and I 
cannot see that the progress either of science 
or philosophy has brought us nearer to its 
solution But what (you may be disposed 
to ask) has It to do with the argument from 
design ? At least this much • 

Those who refuse to accept design do so 
because they think the world-story at least 
as intelligible without it as with it. This 
opinion IS very commonly associated with a 
conception of the universe according to which 
the laws of matter and energy are sufficient 
to explain, not only all that is, but all that 
has been or that will be. If we thus know 
the sort of explanation which is sufficient to 
cover the facts, why (it is asked) should we 
travel further afield into the misty realms of 
theology or metaphysics ? 



But the explanation does not cover the 
facts, even when all has been conceded to the 
opponents of design that I, at least, am ready 
to concede. Grant that the inorganic world 
considered in and for itself, does not suggest 
contrivance ; grant that the contrivance which 
the organic world does undoubtedly suggest 
may in great part be counterfeit— there still 
remains a vast residue of fact quite recalcitrant 
to merely physical explanation. I will not 
argue whether in this residue we should or 
should not include life. It is enough that we 
must undoubtedly include feeling and all 
other phases of consciousness. We must 
include them, even if they be no more 
than the passive accompaniments of material 
change ; still more must we include them if 
we speculatively accept (what I deem to be) 
the mevitable belief that they can, within 
limits, themselves initiate movement and guide 
energy. The choice, therefore, is not between 
two accounts of the universe, each of which 
may conceivably be sufficient. The me- 
chanical account is not sufficient. It doubly 
fails to provide a satisfactory substitute for 
design. In the first place, it requires us to 
believe that the extraordinary combination 
of material conditions required for organic 





life is due to lia-.ard. In the second place, it 
has to admit that these material conditions 
are insufTicient, and have somehow to be 
supplemented. We must assume, that is to 
say, an infinitely improbable accident, and, 
when we have assumed it, we are still unpro- 
vided with an explanation. Nay, the case 
is even worse-— for the laws by whose blind 
operation this infinitely improbable accident 
has been brought about are, by hypothesis, 
mechanical; and, though mechanical laws 
can account for rearrangements, they cannot 
account for creation; since, therefore, con- 
sciousness is more than rearrangement, its 
causes must be more than mechanical. 

To me, then, it seems that the common-sense 
"argument from design" is still of value. 
But, if it carries us beyond mechanical material- 
ism, it must be owned that it does not carry 
us very far towards a religious theology. It 
is inconsistent with Naturalism: it is inconsis- 
tent with Agnosticism. But its demands would 
be satisfied by the barest creed which acknow- 
ledged that the universe, or part of it, showed 
marks of intelligent purpose. And, though 
most persons willing to accept this im- 
poverished form of Theism will certainly ask 
for more, this is not because they are swept 



Z7 i ^^''" '"*"'"''''' '"«'« "f ""• argu- 
ment but because the argument has done 

something to clear a path which they were 
already anxious to pursue. 


As the conclusions which I desire to establish 
are richer m contents than any which can be 
derived merely from marks of eontrivance. so 
the meti,od of arriving at them is essentially 
different. In the first place, it is based not 
upon considerations drawn from external 
nature, but from the mind and soul of man. 
Stress ,s laid, not upon contrivances, adjust- 
ments and the happy adaptation of means to 
ends, but on the character of certain results 
attained. It ,s not an argument from design 
but an argument from value. To emphasise; 
the contrast It might be called an ar^ment 
<o design. Value (we assert) is lost if design 
be absent. Value (you will ask) of what% 
Of our most valuable beliefs, (I answer) and 
ot their as.sociated emotions. 

We are, no doubt, accustom.-d to connect 
the notion of value rnther with thing, be- 
lieved in, than with th. beliefs of which they 
are the subjects. A fine symphony, an heroic 


deed, a good dinner, an assured livelihood 
have ar'mittcd values. But what values can' 
we attribute to beliefs and judgments, exeept 
IS so far as they are aids and instruments for 
obtaming valuable objects? 

This question, however, is based, as I think, 
upon an insuflicient survey of the subject. We 
are in search of a world outlook. Creeds, 
therefore, are our concern. The inquiry with' 
winch these lectures are concerned is whether 
among the beliefs which together constitute 
our general view of the universe, we should 
or should not, include a belief in God. And 
to this question it is certainly relevant to 
inquire whether the elimination of such a 
belief might not involve a loss of value in 
other elements of our creed— a loss in which 
we are not prepared to acquiesce. 

But how, you will ask, is this loss of value 
brought about ? What is the connection be- 
tween a belief in God and a belief concerning 
(say) beauty, or goodness, or natural law ? 
Evidently the connection is not, in the or- 
dinary sense, a logical one. Neither esthetic 

T^ ^^^f: "''" '^^^^*^^^ judgments can be 

deduced from Theism ; nor can Theism 

be deduced ' from them. We are not dealing 

with premises and conclusions bound together 



by n formal chain of inference. How, then, 
IS our procedure to be dcscriberl ? 

In order to nmke this clear, I must call your 
attention to a double aspect possessed by all 
beliefs alike, whatever be the subject-matter 
with which they deal. AH beliefs have a 
position, actually or potentially, in a cognitive 
series; all beliefs, again, have a position, known 
or unknown, in a causal series. All beliefs 
in so far as they belong to fh, ijrst kind of 
series, arc elements in one or more col- 
lections of interdependent propositions. Thev 
are conclusions, or premises, or both \il 
beliefs, in so far as they belong to the second 
kind of sc rus, are elements in the temporal 
succession of interdependent events. Tluy 
are causes, or effects, or both. 

It has, further, to be noted that whereas 
reasons may, and usually do, figure among the 
proximate causes of belief, and thus play a part 
m both kinds of series, it is always possible to 
trace back the causal series to a point whore 
every trace of rationality vanishes; whore 
we are left face to face with conditions of 
beliefs-social, physiological, and physical- 
which, considered in themselves, are quite 
a-logical in their character. 

It is on this last point that I particularly 


desire to insist. \Vc arc all very fannlinr 
with the equivocal origin of most human 
creeds. To be sure, we observe it chiefly in 
the case of other people. In our own ease, we 
dwell by preference on those causes of our 
beliefs which arc also reasons. Hut in our 
d(;tached studies of the opinions we do not 
share, we easily perceive how insufficient are 
the arguments officially urged on their behalf, 
and how often even these insufficient argiuTients 
have only a nominal connection with the con- 
victions of which they claim the legal paternity. 
AVc must, however, go yet one step further. 
We must realise that, on any merely naturalistic 
hypothesis, the rational elements in the causal 
series lie always on the surface. Penetrate 
but a short way down, and they are found no 
more. You might as easily detect life in the 
mmerals wherein plants arc rooted, as reason 
m the physiological and physical changes to 
which the source of our most carefully reasoned 
beliefs must, in the last resort, be traced. 

Consider, for example, an extreme case— say 
a proposition of Euclid. Here we have a 
belief logically inferred from well-assured pre- 
mises—so, at least, we were accustomed to 
suppose before mathematicians became so very 
fastidious in the matter of proof. Can we 



not say that in this case the elements of t he 
two series are in a sense identical, that all the 
causes for our belief are also reasons for i t ? 
Certainly we are not moved by prejudice, c ^r 
affection, or authority. It is neither sell •- 
interest nor party passion that induces us 
to believe, for example, that the three angles 
of a triangle are equal to two right angles. 
Has our thought, then, in this case freed 
itself from the dominion of a-logical condi- 
tions ? Is our belief the child of uncontami- 
nated reason ? I answer— No. Though the 
argument, qua argument, is doubtless inde- 
pendent of time, the argumentative process 
by which we are in fact convinced occurs 
in time, and, like all psychological processes, 
is somehow associated with physiological 
changes in the brain. These, again, are part 
of the general stream of physical hap- 
penings, which in themselves have nothing 
rational about them. Follow up this stream 
but a little further and every trace, not only 
of mind but of life, is completely lost ; and 
we are left face to face with unthinking 
matter and its purposeless movements. Logical 
inference is thus no more than the reasoned 
termination of an unreasoning process. Scratch 
an argument, and you find a cause. 




If this be admitted, the question at once 
arises whether we ean treat the two kinds of 
series thus intimately connected as separable 
when we are estimating the values of the beliefs 
with which they are both associated. Is it 
permissible, is it even possible, to ignore the 
genesis of knowledge when we are considering 
Its validity ? Do not origins qualify values 9 
In many cases they notoriously do. A dis- 
tinguished agnostic once observed that in 
these days Christianity was not refuted, it was 
explained. Doubtless the difference between 
the two operations was, in his view a 
matter rather of form tl.n of substance. 
Ihat which was once explained n. ded, he 
thought, no further refutation. And certainly 
we are all made happy when a belief, which 
seems to us obviously absurd, is shown never- 
theless to be natural in those who hold it 

But we must be careful. True beliefs are 
ellects no less than false. In this respect magic 
and mathematics are on a level. Both demand 
scientific explanation ; both are susceptible 
01 it. Manifestly, then, we cannot admit 
that explanation may be treated as a kind of 
refutation. For, if so, the more successfully 
science carried out its explanatory task, the 
more completely would it shatter its own 



principles. This way lies universal sceptieisni. 
Thus would all intellectual values be utterly 

But we have not to do with intellectual 
values alone. There are beliefs (as I have 
already said) round which crystallise complex 
emotions, aesthetic and ethic, which play no 
small part in our highest life, \^'ithout the 
beliefs the emotions would dwindle ; without 
the emotions the behefs would lose their 
worth. Though they do not imply each other 
in the world of logic, they are mutually neces- 
sary in the world of values. Here, of course, 
there is no question of a contrast between the 
logical and the causal series. Emotions are 
alvvays effects; they are never inferences. 
In their case, therefore, the relation of value to 
origin is not obscured by considerations like 
those which must occupy us in the case of mere 
beliefs ; and we have to face in a simpler and 
more direct form the central problem of these 
lectures: the problem of the relation which 
origin bears to value. It is with this branch of 
my subject as it is raised by aesthetic and by 
ethic emotions that I shall be mainly occupied 
in the next two lectures. And as in the later 
part of my course I shall contend that it is 
destructive of rational values to root them 




in unreason, so I shall now contend that 
the emotional values associated with and 
requTod by, our beliefs about ber^' :nd 

tIn'trtrT '"""' ■""* -"gruous source 

eL If •"' ^--fo™"*-" of physical 

Tlfli hi T "'"'"''^"' '" "-y endeavour 

"de^^ ' . "" ■'"""''"''"8 '" 'how that 
design ,s demanded by all that we deem 
most valuable in life, by beauty, by morT 
by scentific truth : and that it'^is d'^^srgrfi; 
deeper m purpose, far richer in significance 
than any which could be infcrred^from the' 
mos mgenious and elaborate adjustments 
displayed by organic life. 



In this lecture I have undertaken to consider 
certain beliefs and emotions relating to beauty 
and to inquire how far their value is affected 
by our views as to their origin. 

The poverty of language, however, makes 
It rather difficult to describe with any exact- 
ness the scope of such an inquiry. Beauty is 
an Ill-defined attribute of certain members 
of an ill-defined class ; and for the class itself 
there is no very convenient name. We might 
describe its members as " objects of esthetic 
interest " always bearing in mind that this 
description (as I use it) applies to objects 
ot the most varying degrees of excellence-to 
the small as well as the great, the trifling as 
well as the sublime : to conjuring and dancing ; 
to literature, art, and natural beauty. 
It follows from this description that, while 




all things of beauty possess ..sthetic interest, 
not all things of esthetic interest woul.l in 
common parlance be deseribed as beautiful ■ 

or skill. They might, therefore, properly ex- 
cite admiration. But beauty is a term whose 
use may well be eonfined to the qualit" 
-hieh excite only the highest forms of Ithe ie 
■ntcrest, and it is thus I propose to employ 

Now what are the characteristics which' 
distinguish objects of esthetic interest from 
mteresting objects generally ? I will mention 

nJ"/*"^^ ""* P'*'''^' *•'" ^"'"'^ of esthetic 
olMcets depends on the intrinsic quality „f 
the emotions they arouse, and not upon th.. 
importance of any ulterior purpose which 

me,,. „, til ZX I ItolT'lr"'"^ ">' "" "^■ 
in th.t cMe no ex^I., ^ "Authority." And »,,. 

conception Jo I ImZ 7, "**::!? '"«"""' '» """- ■'"- 
But wl«t^,. ^ " """ ** '" "'» P"»ent CMO. 

preaching. Where L I to Jt it ^ If .h '^°'*""'" ' "'" 
in ordinary use I must «i?h • *'®'"^ " "° ''"^^ word 


they may happen to subserve. In the seeond 
place, tlie emotions themselves, whatever be 
their value, must be contemplative. Thev 
must not prompt to action or reach forward 
to any end. They must be self-sufficient, and 

Of course, I <lo not suggest that works of 
art ar.. useless A building may be beautiful, 
although It IS also convenient. A sword most 
delicately damascened may be an admirable 
engine of destruction. We may even go 
further and admit that utility unadorned may 
have about it an aesthetic flavour. Nice 
adjustment and fitness exquisitely accom- 
plished are without doubt agreeable objects of 
contemplation. But, in the first two of these 
cases, beauty is deliberately added to utility 
not organically connected with it. An ill! 
proportioned building might have been equally 
fitted for Its purpose; a plain sword might 
have been equally lethal. In the third ease 
the connection between utility and esthetic 
ntercst is organic, yet undesigned. From 
the very nature of the ease it forms no part 

It'lvT"" '" "'"^" '"^ ■"-"-- -- 

rain-when I say that aesthetic interest 

dote not prompt to action. I am. of course. 



speaking of those who enjoy, not of those 
who are laboriously trying to enjoy, still less 
of those who create what is to be enjoyed 
It commonly requires effort, conscious and 
unconscious, to be a good spectator ; it always 
requires effort to become a good artist. Yet 
these are no real exceptions to the princi- 
ple. Esthetic interests, once aroused, do not 
prompt to action ; and it is. I conceive, of 
their essence that they should not. The most 
emotional spectator does not rush to save 
Dcsdcmona from Othello ; and. though tragedy 
may (or may not) purify by - pity and terror," 
the pity does not suggest a rescue, nor the 
terror urge to flight. 


Now these characteristics of esthetic emo- 
tions and beliefs raise problems of great 
interest. How came they to be what they 
are ? To what causal process are they due ^ 
In the case of ethics (to anticipate a discussion 
that will occupy us in the next lecture) the 
earlier stages at least are seemingly due to 
selection. They lead to action, and to action 
which has survival value. But what survival 
value have aesthetic judgments and feelings 







_ 'f culture? It is true that 
actions which arc sometimes represented as 
primitive forms of artistic creation play their 
part in the drama of animal courtship. Some 
animals dance, some sing, some croak ; some 
flaunt colours, some exhale smells. Apes (it 
seems) make inarticulate noises which (accord- 
«ng to Spencer) were the humble beginnings 
not only of speech, but of music. I own that 
to me this sort of explanation leaves our 
aesthetic interests quite unexplained. Grant 
for the sake of argument that, were our 
knowledge sufficient, we could trace a con- 
tmuous history of musical emotions from the 
simple satisfaction excited in the fem lie ape 
by the howling of the male, down to the 
delicate delights of the modern musician. 
Should we be nearer an answer to the problem 
of aesthetic causation? I doubt it. Certainly 
we should not have succeeded in coupling 
the development of our feelings for beauty to 
the general process of organic evolution. Be- 
fore this can be satisfactorily accomplished 
It must be shown, not merely that the tastes 
of anthropoid apes are useful to anthropoid 
apes, but that the tastes of men are useful 
to men and in particular that the tastes of 
civihsed men are useful to civilised men 



Nor would even this be enough unless useful- 
ness be earefully dellrud in terms of survival 
value. It must, in other words, be shown 
that communities rich in the genius whici, 
creates beauty and in the sensibility whiel, 
enjoys it. will therefore breed more freely 
and struggle more successfully than their less 
gifted neighbours. And I am not aware that 
any attempt to establish such a doctrine has 
ever been seriously undertaken. 

But, if so, our aesthetic sensibilities must be 
regarded (from the naturalistic standpoint) 
as the work of chance. They form no part 
of the quasi design which we attribute to 
selection ; they are unexplained accidents of 
the evolutionary process. This conclusion 
harmonises ill with the importance whiel. 
civilised man assigns to them in his schenu 
of values. On this point, at least, there reigns I 
a singular unanimity. However people may I 
differ as to what we should admire, all are f 
agreed that we should admire something. I 
However they may differ about the benefits to 
be derived from esthetic, all are agreed that 
the benefits are great. The pessimist finds 
m art the solitary mitigation of human 
miseries. A certain type of agnostic treats 
It as an undogmatic substitute for religion. 


lie worships beauty, but nothing dw; a.ul 
.xpccts from it all the corisolutioiis of rcliirious 
oxpericncv without the Ininlens of religious 
Mu'f. Kven those who would refuse to art 
and literature this exalted position, are 
prepared to praise them without stint. They 
regard the contemplative study of beautifJl 
thmgs as a most potent instrument of eivilisa- 
tion; m countless perorations they preach 
Its virtues ; delicacy of aesthetic discrimina- 
tion they tleem the surest proof of culture 
and the enjoyment of u-sthctic cxcellenr. its 
highest reward. . 

The case is apparently, but not really, 
different when we turn from beauty to the 
nrunor aesthetic interests-the popular novel 
the music-hall song, the cricket-match (as 
spectacle), the cinematograph, and so forth. 
Nobody, it is true, greatly praises these things, 
but multitudes greatly enjoy them. The space 
they occupy in the life of the community has 
increased beyond computation. As locomo- 
tion becomes easier and leisure greater 
that space will increase yet more. This 
may be good or bad; but none will deny 
that ,t IS important. \Vhat a paradox this 
seems I Theories of selection were devised 
to explain the complex structures and the 



marvellous adjustments of the organic world 
without needlessly postulating design. Mv 
should think but poorly of them if thev 
accounted for some organs by methods quite 
inapplicable to others-if they showed us 
for example, how the eye had developed 
but appealed to some wholly different prin- 
ciple (say special creation) when they set to 
work on the ear ; or taught that the nose 
must be regarded as an evolutionary accident 
not to be^ explained on any general principle 
at all. If what required explanation was of 
small biological importance, this last hypo- 
thesis would not seem perhaps startling. The J 
most convinced selectionist is not obliged to ' 
suppose that selection eliminates everything 
which does not make for survival. Useless 
variations may be spared if they be hr-mlcss 
Even harmful variations may be .pared 
If they be linked to variations so advantage- 
ous that their joint effect proves beneficial 
on balance. But is this the case with es- 
thetic ? Are we to treat as unconsidered 
trifles our powers of enjoying beauty and of 
creating it ? Can we be content with a world- 
outlook which assigns to these chance products 
of matter and motion so vast a value measured 
on the scale of culture, and no value worth 



counting measured on the scale of race sur- 
vival ? If design may ever be invoked where 
selection fails and luck seems incredible, 
surely it may be invoked here. 

^ III 

These observations are applicable, more or 
less to the whole body of our aesthetic interests 
-whether they be roused by objects we deem 
relatively trivial, or by objects which are 
admittedly rare and splendid. But while 
neither fit comfortably into a purely natural- 
istic framework, it is only the second which 
m virtue of their intrinsic quality, demand a 
source beyond and above the world of sense 
perception. Here, then, we are face to face 
with a new question. So far we have been 
concerned to ask whether that which is 
admittedly valuable can be plausibly attributed 
to chance. Now we must ask whccher that 
which IS attributed to chance can thereafter 
retain its value. Of these questions the first 
's germane to the ordinary argument from 
^'e^ign. It ,s the second which chieflv eon- 
cerns us m these lectures. 

Perhaps an affirmative answer may seem 
to have been already given by implLtion. 


The admission that the second problem only 
touches the highest values in the asthttic 
scale may be thought to render thr whole 
mquiry vain. And the admission cannot be 
avoided. No one supposes that when we an 
lookmg (for example) at an acrobat, it matters 
m the least what we think of the universe 
Our beliefs and disbeliefs about the Cosmic' 
order will not modify either in quantity (,r 
quality such satisfaction as we can derive 
from the contemplation of his grace and agility 
Where, then, it will be asked, do we reach tlu- 
point in the aesthetic scale at which values 
begin to require metaphysical or theological 
postulates? Is it the point where beauty 
begins ? If so, who determine where this lies'- 
and by what authority do they speak ? 

Evidently we are here on difficult and deli- 
cate ground. On questions of taste there is 
notoriously the widest divergence of opinion. 
Nor, if we regard our aesthetic interests simply 
as the chance flotsam and jetsam of the 
evolutionary tides, could it well be otherwise 
If there be practically no " limits of deviation " 
in.posed by selection; if, from a survival 
pomt of view, one taste be as good as another. 
It IS not the varieties in taste which should 
cause surprise so much as the uniformities. 



To be sure, the uniformities have often no 
d*ep eesthetie roots. They represent no strong 
spee,fle lilces and dislikes shared by all men at 
a certain stage of culture, but rather tenden- 
cies to agreement (as 1 have elsewhere called 
them), whieh govern our social ritual, and 
thereby make social life possible. Mc rail 
at "fashion " whieh by an unfelt compulsion 
dnvcs multitudes simultaneously to approve 
the same dresses, the same plays, the same 
p.etures, the same architecture, the same 
music, and the same scenery. He smile at the 
obsequious zeal with whieh men strive to 
admire what th. prophets of the moment 
assure them is admirable. But admitting, as 
I think we must, that these prophets neither 
possess any inherent authority, nor can point If in Art there were no orthodoxies, if the 

mtrr ;'T'"'^ ""^ "-'■«-i-'i. if every 
man based his aesthetic practice on a too 

espectfu consideration of his own moods and 
fancies, the world we live in would be eve 
more uncomfortable than it is 

However this may be, it is' clear that this 
^econd portion of my argument, which is not 
based, ,,k the first, on any objective sur^ej 
of the part played in human affairs by general 


aesthetic interests, has special difficulties to 
surmount. For it rests on experiences of 
high emotion rare for all, unknown to many 
roused in different men by different objects.' 
How can any conclusions be securely based 
on foundations at once so slender and so 
shifting ;' 

I agree that the values dealt with in this 
part of the argument are not values for every- 
body. Yet everybody, I think, would be pre- 
pared to go some way in the direction I desire. 
They would acknowledge that, in art, origin 
and value cannot be treated as independent. 
They would agree that those wlio enjoy poetry 
and painting must be at least dimly aware of 
a poet beyond the poem and a painter beyond 
the picture. If by some unimaginable process 
works of beauty could be produced by 
machinery, as a symmetrical colour pattern is 
produced by a kaleidoscope, we might think 
them beautiful till we knew their origin, after 
which we should be rather disposed to de- 
scribe them as ingenious. And this is not, I 
think, because we are unable to estimate works 
of art as they are in themselves, not because 
we must needs buttress up our opinions by ex- 
traneous and irrevelant considerations ; but 
rather because a work of art requires an artist, 





no| n,.,vly in ti,e or,l..>- of „at„ral causation, 
but as a n,att...- of ..stLotie necessity. It co^- 
vevs a n«.ssHj,c whicl, is valueless to the re- 

i7rl;r''" " '"•.""'''•^^tood by the sender. 
n must bo expressive. 

Such phrases are no <l„ubt easily misunder- 
,r ■ '"<••. th.ref„re, hasten to add that 

<.y an express,ve " „,essagc 1 do not mean 
a n.essage can be expressed in words. 
A work of art can never be transferred from 
one medium mto another, as fron, marble to 
mus,e. hven wh.-n are the n.edium 
employed, perfe., translation is impossibi" 
One poet „,ay paraphrase, in a different Ian- 
guage, the work of another ; a„d a new work of 

follows he or,g„,al, it will never be the san,e 
<).. the other hand, if the mediun, used be (fo; 
.xample) colour, or sound, or stone, the work 
of art cannot be translated into wJrds at ^^l 
It „,ay be deseribc-d ; and tl^- des, ription 
n.ay better the original. Yet .t cannot reg: 
' • ^"' .'■^''■•y »™k "t art is unique ; and 
. s meann,g cannot be alternatively rc.nlered 
But are we, therefore, to eonelu.le that i as 
"" meamng ? Be<.ause its message can o 
bo fanslated, has it therefore no ''^agr' 
1" put these questions is to answer them 



Many people, however, who would travel 
with me so iar would refuse to go further. 
They would grant that a work of art uiust 
be due to genius, and not, in the first instance, 
to mechanism or to chance. But whether, in 
the last resort, mechanism or chance has pro- 
duced the genius, they would regard as, froni 
the a;sthetic point v/f view, quite inmiaterial. 
Music and poetry must Jiave a personal 
source. But the musician and the poet may 
come whence they will. 

And perhaps, in very many cases, this is so; 
but not, I think, in all, nor in the highest. If 
any man will test this for himself, let him recall 
the too rare moments when beauty gave him 
a delight which strained to its extremest limit 
his powers of feeling ; when not only the small 
things of life, but the small things of Art- 
its technical dexterities, its historical associa- 
tions — vanished in the splendour of an un- 
forgettable virion ; and let him ask whether 
the attribution of an effect like this to un- 
thinking causes, or to an artist created and 
wholly controlled by unthinking causes, would 
not go far to impair its value. 

To such an appeal it is not difficult to raise 
objections. It may be said, for example, that, 
under the stress of emotions like those I have 



rfescribcl, no „,a„ troubles his head about 
J p.oblems of eosn.ology; thought is memed 

I "' '"■"«• ^P«'"'-'ion is sn.n,hcre,l. lut 
tl,ou8h fh,s ,s tn„., it i, „„f „,,,„„ 

M no pan, I suppose, is so intense as to ex-" 
elu.le all refleehons on its probable duration, 
so no rapture ,s so absorbing as to exeludc al 
|H^ct,„ns on .ts probable souree. I grant 
that at sueh n.oments we do not philosophis,. • 
we ,lo not analyse a problem, turning t this 
«ay or that, and noting every aspeet of it 
w,tl, a coo curiosity. Nevertheless, for those 
aceustonae,! to reflect, reflection is never wholly 
choked by feeling. Nor can feeling, in 2 
long run, be wholly unaffeete.1 by reflection 
Aga n, .t may be said that such moments 

^l-X "' ?r" '■" *"y """•'" ^-P"™"- to 
ust, y even the most modest generalisations- 
let alone generalisations that embrace theuni- 
verse. But this objection seems to rest on L 
misapprehension. We nmst remember that the 
argument from esthetic values is not a scientific 
mduefon or a logical inference. There is here 
noquestion of truth and falsehood, or even of 
good tasteand bad taste. We are not striving 
to .solate what .s essential to beauty by well 
de.,sed experiments; „„,,,, wc concerned with 
psyeho-physical determination of th^ normal 

-■ T- : .'^/ m-..^ ■'irmfiavM.'-iH-*^ 



relation between feeling and stimulus. If it 
be urged that some particular example of 
deep aesthetic emotion quite outruns the merits 
of its object, so that sound canons of criticisnj 
require its value to be lowered, we need not 
deny it. We arc not dealing with sound 
canons of criticism ; though I may observe, 
in passing, that if they lower emotional 
values in one direction without raising them in 
others, good taste bci omes a somewhat costly 
luxury. My point is different. I am not 
appealing to all men, but only to some men 
— to those and to those only who, when they 
explicitly face the problem, become deeply 
conscious of the incongruity between our 
feelings of beauty and a materialistic account 
of their origin. 

The extreme individualism of this point of 
view may seem repulsive to many. Are the 
feelings (they will ask) of some transient 
moment to be treated as authentic guides 
through the mysteries of the universe, merely 
because they are strong enough to overwhelm 
our cooler judgment? And, if so, how far 
is this method of metaphysical investigation to 
be pressed ? Are we, for example, to attach 
transcendental value to the feelings of a man 
in love ? There is evidently a close, though 


doubtless not a perfect, parallel between the 
two cases. It is true that love is rooted in 
appetite, and that appetite has a survival 
value which I. at least, cannot find in the 
purely contemplative emotions. But romantic 
love goes far beyond race requirements. From 
this point of view it is as useless as jesthctic 
emotion itself. And, like aesthetic emotion of 
the profounder sort, it is rarely satisfied with 
the definite, the limited, and the immediate 
It ever reaches out towards an unrealised 
infinity. It cannot rest content with the 
prose of mere fact. It sees visions and 
dreams dreams which to an unsympathetic 
world seem no better than amiable follies Is 
It from sources like these-the illusions of love 
and the enthusiasms of ignorance-that wc 
propose to supplement the world-outlook pro- 
vided for us by sober sense and scientific 
observation ? 

Yet why not ? Here wc have values which 
by supposition we are reluctant to lose 
.Neither scientific observation nor sober sense 
can preserve them. It is surely permissible 
to ask what will. And if Naturalism be inimi- 
cal to their maintenance, the fact should at 
kast be noted. 

It is true, no doubt, that these high-wrought 



feelings have worse enemies even than natural- 
ism. When the impassioned lover has sunk 
into a good husband, and the worshipper 
of beauty has eooled into a judicious eritie, 
they may look back on their early raptures 
with intelligent disdain. In that event 
there are for them no values to be main- 
tained. They were young, they were foolish, 
they made a mistake, and there is no 
more to be said. But there is a higher 
wisdom. Without ignoring what experience 
has to teach, they may still believe that 
through these emotions they have obtained 
an authentic glimpse of a world more resplen- 
dent and not less real than that in which they 
tramp their daily round. And, if so, they will 
attribute to them a value independent of their 
immediate cause — a value which cannot be 
maintained in a merely naturalistic setting.' 

This may seem a doctrine too mystical to 
suit the general tenor of these lectures. Let 
me, therefore, hasten to add that our ordinary 
and repeatable experiences of beauty seem 
to point in the same direction as these rarer 
and more intense emotions. It is, of course, 
true that even about these we cannot generalise 
as we may (for example) about the external 

» Cf. Plato in the " Phsedrus." 


world. Wo cannot, I mean, assume that 
there is a great body of asthetic experience 
which all normal persons possess in eomnmn. 
There is always something about our feeling 
for beautiful things which can neither be 
described nor communicated, which is un- 
shared and unshareable. Many normal per- 
sons have no such feelings, or none worth 
alking about. Their aesthetic interests may 
»)c great, but they lie at a lower level of 
intensity They do not really care for beauty. 
Again, there arc many who do care, and care 
greatly, who would yet utterly repudiate the 
doctrine that the highest aesthetic values 
were in any sense dependent on a spiritual 
view of th universe. The fact that so much 
ol the greatest art has been produced in the 
service of religion they would not regard as 
relevant. They would remind us that one 
great poet at least has been a passionate 
materialist ; that many have been pessimists ; 
that many have been atheists ; that many 
have been in violent revolt against the religion 
of their age and country. Of these we cannot 
say that their art suffered from their opinions, 
lor we cannot imagine what their art would 
have been like had their opinions been different. 
.Neither can wc say that the readers who 







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shared their opinions, became, thereby, less 
qualified to enjoy their art. Such a paradox 
would "oe too violent. How, then (the objectors 
may ask), are facts like these to be harmonised 
with the views I am recommending ? 

Probably they cannot be harmonised. We 
are confronted with a difference of tempera- 
ment which must be accepted as final. 
Yet the contradiction may often be less 
than at first appears. In the case which 
I brought forward just now, strong sesthetic 
emotion was assumed to carry with it, 
both at the crisis of immediate experience 
and yet more in periods of reflective retro- 
spect, a demand for some cause emotionally 
adequate to its effect. In other words, it was 
assumed that such an experience suggested 
the question — whence comes it ? of matter ? 
or of spirit ? and required the answer— if it 
be not born of spirit it is little, or it is naught. 
But in many cases this answer is not given 
because the question is not asked ; or, if it 
be asked, is misunderstood. And there arc 
many reasons why it should not be asked; 
and many why it should be misunderstood. 

For there are two things which must, in 
this connection, be remembered. The first 
is that materialism has never been the pre- 





vailing creed among 

second is that though (as I contTndTa deVp' 
lying incongruity infects theories which trace 
the ultimate genesis of beauty exclusively to 
causes which neither think, nor feel nor 
will, such theories involve no contradiction 
nor can those who hold them be taxed witli 
inconsistency. There is, therefore, little in 
the ordinary routine of artistic criticism which 
raises the point which we are now discussing. 
A critic examining some artistic wholc--a 
picture, a poem, a symphony-is much occu- 
pied m separating out the elements which 
contribute to the total effect, and in observing 
their character, value, and mutual relations. 
But it is only when we cease to analyse, when 
we contemplate, directly or in retrospect, the 
whole as a whole, that the problem of origin 
arises; and even then it need never become 
explicit. It may remain in the shape of an 
unsatisfied longing for a spiritual reality 
beyond the sensuous impression, or of a vaguely 
felt assurance that the spiritual reality is 
there. And in neither case has it developed 
into a question definitely presented-and 
pressing for a definite reply. 

While, then, I am quite ready to believe 
that there arc many persons whose enjoyment 



of boauty is quite independent of their world 
outlook, I am also convinced that there arc 
some who count themselves among the number 
only because they have never put the matter 
to the proof. It may be that they have 
given but little thought to questions of theology 
or metaphysics. It may be that they are 
pantheists after the manner of Shelley, or 
pessimists after the manner of Schopenhauer. 
Perhaps, again, they hold one or other of the 
theosophies which pass current in the West 
as the esoteric wisdom of the East. In any 
case, they are averse from orthodoxy, or what 
they regard as such. A lover of the beautiful 
belonging to any type like these, if asked 
whether his estimate of aesthetic values de- 
pended on his creed, might easily miss the 
point of the inquiry, and his negative reply 
would be worthless. Let the question, there- 
fore, be put in different terms. Let him be 
asked whether beauty would not lose value 
for him if his world-outlook required him to 
regard it as a purposeless accident ; whether 
the aesthetic delights which he deems most 
exquisite would not be somewhat dimmed if 
reflection showed them to be as vain, as transi- 
tory, though not so useful, as the least con- 
sidered pleasures of sense. If he replies in 


the negative, there is no more to be said. This 
lecture is not addressed to liini. But I beheve 
there are many to wiion. such an answer 
would be profoundly unsatisfying ; and they 
at least, can hardly deny that aesthetic valuer! 
are m part dependent upon a spiritual con- 
ception of the world we live in. 


So far I have been considering art and the 
beauty expressed by art. But there are two 
kmds of aesthetic interest, which, though not 
artistic in the ordinary sense of the word are 
so important that something must be 'said 
about them before this lecture closes. 

The first of these is natural beauty. Hegel, 
if I rightly understand him, altogether ex- 
cluded this from the sphere of esthetic. For 
him the point of importance was Spirit— the 
Idea-expressing itself in art; and since 
nature is nut spirit, nor natural beauty art 
the exclusion was logical. J me, on the 
other hand, the main thing is feeling roused 
by contemplation; and particularly feeling 
at Its highest level of quality and intensity. 
Natural beauty, therefore, cannot be ignored • 



since no feelings of contemplation possesfj 
higher quality, or greater intensity, than those 
which natural beauty can arousr 

Evidently, however, there is, ev( .i from my 
point of view, a great difference between 
beauty in art and beauty in nature. For, in 
the case of nature, there is no artist ; while, as 
I observed just now, " a work of art requires 
an artist, not merely in the order of natural 
causation, but in the order of aesthetic neces- 
sity. It conveys a message which is valueless 
to the ecipient unless it be understood by the 
sender. It must be significant." 

Are we, chen, to lay down one rule for artistic 
beauty and another rule for natural beauty ? 
Must the first be expressive, but not the 
second ? Is creative mind necessary in one 
case, and superfluous in the other ? And if 
in the case of nature it be necessary, where 
is it to be found ? On the naturalistic hypo- 
thesis, it is not to be found at all. The glory 
of mountain and of plain, storm and sunshine, 
must be regarded as resembling the kaleido- 
scopic pattern of which I just now spoke; 
with this difference only— that the kaleido- 
scope was designed to give some pattern, 
though no one pattern nrore than another; 
while nature was not dtsigned with any 


intention at all. and gives us its patterns <,„|y 
by accident. ■' 

I know not wlicther you will think that 
this tram ol thought is helped or hindered by 
bringing n into relation with our scientific 
knowledge of natural realities. The world 
which stirs our esthetic emotions is the worhl 
of sense, the world as it appears. Jt is not the 
world as science asks us to conceive it. This 
.s very ill-qualifled to afford aesthetic delight 
of the usual type ; although the contempla- 
Hon of complicated relations reduced to law 
may produce an intellectual pleasure in the 
nature of aesthetic interest. Yet none I 
think, would maintain that mass and motion 
abstractly considered, nor any concrete ar" 
rangement of moving atoms or undulating 
ether, are beautiful as represented in thought 
or would be beautiful could they becle 
objects of perception. We have a bad habit 
of saying that science deals with nothing but 
phenomena." If by phenomena are meant 
appearances it is to .esthetics rather than 

udJTT T' °" *'' P^-^'P'^ of Solomon's 
judgment, phenomena most properly belong 

ro get away from appearances, to read tlf; 
physical fact behind its sensuous effect s 
one chief aim of science ; while to put the 


physical fact in place of its sensuous effect 
would be the total and immediate ruin of 
beauty both in nature and in the arts which 
draw on nature for their material. Natural 
beauty, in other words, would perish if physical 
reality and physical appearance became one, 
and we were reduced to the lamentable pre- 
dicament of perceiving nature as nature is ! 
Now, to me, it seems that the feeling for 
natural beauty cannot, any more than scien- 
tific curiosity, rest satisfied with the world of 
sensuous appearance. But the reasons lor 
its discontent are different. Scientific curi- 
osity hungers for a knowledge of causes ; 
causes which are physical, and, if possible, 
measurable. Our admiration for natural beauty 
h IS no such needs. It cares not to understand 
either the physical theories v hich explain what 
it admires, or the psychological theories which 
explain its admiration. It does not deny the 
truth of the first, nor (within due limits) the 
sufficiency of the second. But it requires more. 
It feels itself belittled unless conscious purpose 
can be found somewhere in its pedigree. 
Physics and psycho-physics, by themselves, 
suffice not. It longs to regard beauty as a 
revelation— a revelation from spirit to spirit, 
not from one kind of atomic agitation to the 



''psychic" accompaniment <,f another. On 
this condition only can its highest values be 

fherc ,s yet ono other subjeet of a.sthetic 

nterest on which I desire ,o say something 

before the course of these lectures carries „.! 

■nto very different regions of speculation. 

i he subject I refer to is liistory. 

Tim' history has a.sthetic value is evident 
An age which is both seicntinc and utilitarian 
oeeasionally pretends to see in it no n.ore than 
the raw material of a science called sociology 
an.l a storehouse of precedents from which 

profusion. ' °"' '" exhaustless 



statesmen may draw maxinis fur the guiclanee 
of mankind. It may be all tliis, but it is 
certainly more. What has in tlie main eaused 
history to be written, and when written to be 
eagerly read, is neither its seientific value nor 
its praetieal utility, but its esthetic interest. 
Men love to cont- .iplate the prrformanees of 
their fellows, and whatever enables them to 
do so, whether we belittle it as gossip or exalt 
it as history, will find admirers in abundauee. 
Yet the difference between this subject of 
contemplative interest and those provid(<l 
either by beauty in art or beauty in naure are 

In the first place, history is not concerned 
to express beauty. I do not deny thtt a 
great historiiin, in narrating some heroic inci- 
dent, may rival the epic and the saga. He 
may tell a tale which would b- fascinating 
even if it were false. But such cases are 
exceptional, and ought to bt exceptional. 
Directly it appears that the governing pre- 
occupation of an historian is to be picturesque, 
his narrative becomes intolerable. 

This is because the interest — I mean the 
OBstheiic interest— of history lar^^ely depends 
upon its accuracy; or (more strictly) upon 
its supposed accuracy. Fictitious narrative, 


wl.cth.r r,.„|isH. „,. ,„„,„,„;,_ ,„ 

"-P;^ '"'tl. Icll u. „,ore about Tic 

were w„tt.n .• a.u. .,,ay tell it „,or.. agreX 
Hut fact has a„ interest, because it is fact- 
-caus,. ,t actually bappeud ; b..causc aeruai 
people wb„ really live.l a„,| really suffered am 

affect <1 by its liappenn.g. And on tbis interest 

the e am. of history essentially depends 
In tins respect there is. I think, a certain 

analogy between the esthetic interest arou«! 

by US ory and that aroused by natural beauty 
ur pleasure ,„ a landscape is qualified if we 
.1 seover .rsclves to have been the victims 
of an opfcal delusion. If, for example, puZ 
peaks are seen on a far horizon, the t a^X 
may cxcla.n, "What beautiful mountains " 
Some hmg thereupon convinces him that the 
n.ountams are but clouds, and hisdclight suffers 
an .mmciate chill. But why . The'moun 
tains, ,t ,s true, proved unreal ; but they had 
as „,ueh reali,^ ar, mountains in a p ctu^' 
"here hes the essential difference between a 
representation accidentally produced by con 

a^; enlT, ""' ''• '^P---"""" delibc - 
ately embodied in paint and canvas ' It is 

not to be found, as might be at first supposed! 


in tlu; fact that tin- oiu- <Itc<'ivrs us arui tlu- 
otiur <Io<s not. \\\w \sv lamiliar with this 
particular lamlstapc, <li(i wo know that nothing 
but a level plain stretched before us to the 
limits of our vision, we might still feel that, if 
the clouds on the horizon were what they 
seemed to be, the view woid<l gain greatly in 
magnificence. 1 1 ore there is no deception 
and no shock of disillusionnu'nt. If, therefore, 
we remain dissatisfied, it is because in this 
cas. verisimilitude does not suffice us; we 
•nsist on facts. 

It has, perhaps, not been sufficiently noticed 
that brute fact, truth as it is apprehended in 
courts of law, truth as it is given by an accurate 
witness speaking on oath, has for some pm- 
poses great {esthetic value. That it is all- 
important in the dealings between man and 
man would be universally conceded ; that it 
has no importance either in fint art or imagina- 
tive literature, and no meaning in nmsie or 
architecture, most people would be ready to : 
admit. But that it possesses worth where no j 
practical issues are involved, and that this 
worth is of the contemplative or a sthetic order, 
is perhaps not so easy of acceptance. Yet so 
it is. A tale which would be inexpressibly 
tedious if we thought it was (in the " law 

.*:sTni:Ta and tiikism ph 

CO. J " svusv) false may iMroinr of absorbing 
intcnst if w(. it tnir. And this not bc- 
caus<. It tonchcs morals or practice, not because 
It has theoretic interest or controversial ini- 
pittance, but in its own right and on its ow., 

Now this asthetic quality is, it seems to me, 
required both from "natural beauty" an<l 
historic narrative: but if there is ^ here a 
resemblance between them, in other resp<rts 
they are profoundly different. Landscape 
appeals to us directly. I do not mean that our 
enjoyment of it, both in quality and oua;.tity 
IS not largely due to the work of artists. Our 
t. tes have, no doubt, been formed and our 
sensibilities educated by the interpretation of 
nature which we owe to painters and poets. 
But though this is true, it is also true that v.hat 
we see and what we enjoy is not art but nature 
natL- at first hand, nature seen immediately* 
It not as she is, at least as siie appears. In the 
case of history it is otherwise. Except when 
we happen to have been ourselves spectators 
of important events, there is always an artist 
to be reckoned with. It may be Thucydides 
It may be Dr. Dryasdust. It may be a 
mediaeval chronicler. It may be Mrs. Candour 
at the tea-table. But there is always some- 


body; and though that somebody might 
repudiate the notion that his narrative was 
a work of art, yet he cannot evade responsi- 
biHty for selection, for emphasis, and for 
colour. We may think him a bad artist, 
but, even in his own despite, an artist he is ;— 
an artist whose material is not marble or sound, 
but brute fact. 

There is another way in which the jcsthetic | 
interest of history characteristically differs from 
the interest we feel in beauty, whether of art 
or of nature. It is massive rather than acute. 
Particular episodes may indeed raise the most 
poignant emotions. But, broadly speaking, the 
long-drawn story of man and his fortunes stirs 
feelings which (to borrow a metaphor from 
physics) are great in quantity but of low in- 
tensity. So it comes about that, whereas in 
the case of art the emotions stand out promi- 
nently above their associated judgments, in the 
case of history the positions are commonly 

Yet this need not be so ; and in particular 
it need not be so when we are contemplating 
the historical process as a whole. Details are 
then merged in a general impression ; and the 
general impression drives us beyond the 
limits of history proper into questions of 


origin and purpose, into reflections about man 
and destiny, into problems of whence and 
whither. Speculations like these have an 
emotional as well as an intellectual value, which 
must be affected by the answers we give them. 
Let me illustrate and explain. It is pos- 
sible, indeed it is easy, to contemplate aspects 
of history with the coolest intellectual interest. 
In this mood we might, for instance, study 
the development of science and religion out of 
primitive magics and superstitions. In this 
mood we might observe the characteristics 
of the city state, or the growth and decay of 
feudalism, or the history of the Mongols. 
On the other haii<I, the interest often becomes 
tinged with stronger feelings when we sym- 
pathetically follow the changing fortunes of 
particular individuals or communities. We 
are then, as it were, spectators of a drama, 
moved by dramatic hopes and fears, dramatic 
likes and dislikes, dramatic " pity and terror." 
And our emotions are not merely those appro- 
priate to drama ,- they have, besides, that special 
quality (already referred to) which depends on 
the belief that they are occasioned by real 
events in a world of real people. 

But there is yet a third case to be con- 
sidered, in which the two previous cases are 



included and partially submerged. This oc- 
curs when the object of our contemplative 
interest ,s not episodic but general, not the 
fate of this man or that nation, this type of 
polity or that stage of civilisation, but the fate 
of mankmd itself, its past and future, its 
collective destiny. 

Now we may, if we please, treat this as no 
more than a chapter of natural history. Com- 
pared with the chapter devoted, let us say, to 
the Dinosaurs it no doubt has the disadvantage 
of being as yet unfinished, for the Dinosaurs 
arc extinct, and man still survives. On the 
other hand, though the natural history of 
Homo Sapiens " is incomplete, we may ad- 
mit that It possesses a peculiar interest for the 
biologist ; but this interest is scientific, not 

For what does historical interest require » 
Not merely " brute faet," but brute fact about 
beings who arc more than animals, who look 
before and after, who dream about the past 
and hope about the future, who plan and 
strive and suffer for ends of their own inven- 
t.on ; for ideals which reach far beyond the 
appetites and fears which rule the lives of their 
brother beasts. Such beings have a " natural 
history," but it is not with this that we are 


concerncl. Tlu. l.isto>y whicl, concerns „s 
IS the history of self-conscious personalities, 
and of communities which are (in a sense) self- 

Z^Tv,"^""- ^^" *'"' ™"t™P>«tive values 
which this possesses, especially in its most 

comprehensive shape, be regarded as inde- 
pendent of our world-outlook ? Surely not 

Observe that hir;ory, so conceived, must 
needs compare faculty with desire, achieve- 
ment with expectation, fulfilment with design 
And no moralist has ever found pleasure in 
the eomparison. The vanity of human wishes 
and the brevity of human life are immemorial 
henics of lamentation ; nor do thcv become 
ess lamentable when wc extend our ;iew from 
the individual to the race. Indeed, it is much 
the other way. Men's wishes are not always 
vain, nor is every life too brief to satisfy its 
p»scssor. Only when we attempt, from the 
point of view permitted by physics and biology, 
to sum up the possibilities of collective human 
endeavour, do we fully realise the "vanity of 
vamties proclaimed by the Preacher. 

I am not, of course, suggesting that history 
IS uninteresting because men are unhappy 
nor yet that naturalism carries pessimism in 

could draw up a hedonistic balance-sheet, the 



pleasures of mundane existence would turn 
out to be greater than its sufferings. But 
this is not the question. I am not (for the 
moment) concerned with the miseries of the 
race, but with its futility. Its miseries might 
be indefinitely diminished, yet leave its fu- 
tility unchanged. We might live without 
care and die without pain; nature, tamed 
to our desires, might pour every luxury into 
our lap ; and, with no material wish unsatisfied, 
we might contemplate at our ease the inevit- 
able, if distant, extinction of all the life, 
feeling, thought, and effort whose reality is 
admitted by a naturalistic creed. 

But how should we be advanced ? What 
interest would then be left in the story of the 
human race from its sordid beginnings to its 
ineffectual end ? Poets and thinkers of old 
dimly pictured a controlling Fate to which 
even the Olympian gods were subject. The 
unknown power, which they ignorantly wor- 
shipped, any text-book on physics will now 
declare unto you. But no altars are erected 
in its honour. Its name is changed. It is no 
longer called Fate or Destiny, but is known 
by a title less august if more precise, the law 
of energy-degradation, or (if you please) 
"the second law of thermo- dynamics." It 


has become the subject of scientifle expoi- 
ment; the physicists have taken it over 
Irom the seers, and its attributes are .lofined 
in equations. All terrestrial life is in revolt 
agamst it ; but to it, in the end, must all 
terrcstnal l,fe sueeumb. Eschatology, the 
doetnne of the last things, has laps^ fron. 
prophecy to calculation, and has become (at 
least potentially) a quantitative science 

An,|, from a scientifle point of vie,.-, this is 
quite satisfactory. But it is not satisfactory 
when we are weighing the aesthetic values of 
universal history. Shakespeare, in the passion- 
ate indictment of life which he puts into the 
mouth of Macbeth, declares it to be '< a talc 
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury," and 
(mark well the climax) "signifying nothing." 
That IS the point with which in this lecture 
we are chiefly concerned. It most clearly 
emerges when, in moments of reflection, we 
enlarge the circuit of our thoughts be^on.l 
the needs of action, and, in a mood untouched 
by personal hopes or fears, endeavour to 
survey man's destiny as a whole. Till a 
period within the memory of „,en now living 
■t was possible to credit terrestrial life with 
an infinite future, wherein there was room 
lor an infinite approach towards some, as yet 



unpicturcd perfection. It could always be 
hoped that human efforts would leave behind 
them some enduring traces, which, however 
slowly, might accumulate without end. But 
hopes like these arc possible no more. The 
wider is the sweep of our contemplative 
vision the more clearly do we see that the 
role of man, if limited to an earthly stage, is 
meaningless and futile ;— that, however it be 
played, in the end it "signifies nothing." 
Will any one assert that universal history can 
maintain its interest undimmed if steeped 
in the atmosphere of a creed like this ? 

Here, however, we are evidently nearing 
the frontier which divides aesthetic from ethic. 
Before I cross it, and begin a new subject, let 
me very briefly touch on a difficulty which 
may have occurred to some of my hearers. 

The line of thought followed in the last 
section of this lecture assumes, or seems to 
assume, that our only choice lies between 
history framed in a naturalistic, and history 
framed in a theistic, setting. In the fixst case 
we have a world-outlook which forbids the 
attribution of permanent value to human 
effort ; in the second case we have a world- 
outlook which requires, or, at the least, per- 
mits it. But are these the only alternatives ? 


\Vhat are wc to say, for example, about tlu^se 
metaphysical religions whieli, wiietlier they 
be described as theistic, pantheistic, or athe- 
istic, agree in regarding all life as illusion, all 
desire as wretchedness, and deem the true 
end of man to be absorption in the timeless 
Identity of the real ? Such creeds have no 
affinity with naturalism. Philosophically they 
are in sharpest contrast to it. But even less 
than naturalism do they provide history 
with a suitable setting. For naturalism does, 
after all, leave untouched the interest of 
historical episodes, so long as thev are con- 
sidered out of relation to the whole of which 
they form a part. As we are content, ii the 
realm of fiction, to bid farewell to the hero 
and heroine on their marriage, unmoved by 
anxieties about their children, so, in the 
realm of " brute fact." we may arbitrarily 
isolate any period we choose, and treat the 
story of it without refernce to any theories 
concerning the future destiny of man. But 
this process of abstraction must surely be 
useless for those who think of the world in 
terms of the metaphysical religions to which 
I have referred. In their eyes all effort is 
inherently worthless, all desire inherently vain 
Nor would they change their opinion even 


were they persuaded that progress was real 
and unending; that effort and desire were 
building up, however slowly, an imperishable 
polity of super-men. For those who in this 
spirit faee the struggling world of common 
experience the contemplative interest of uni- 
versal history must be small indeed. 


I TURN now from contemplation to action • 

from Esthetics t > Ethics AnH in c ' 

T ^ , ^uiits. And m so dcuiff 

I must ask permission to stretch the ordinarv 
meanmg of the term whieh I use to describe 
the subject-matter of the present lecture, 
as I have already stretched the meaning of 
-he term which described the subject-matter 

much b "^'- :'^'"»'««'=»" there included 
much besides beauty ; " Ethics " here will 
me ude much besides morality. As, under the 
first head, were ranged contemplative interests 
far lower in the scale than (for example) those 

tthies till It embraces the whole range 
of what used to be called the "springs of 
ac.on," from the loftiest love down to im- 
pute which in themselves are non-mora , 
instinctive, even automatic. 

The grounds lor this procedure arc similar 




in botJi ctts»'s. I am mainly, almost exclu- 
sively, eonceriuMl witli beliefs and emotions 
touching beauty and goodness. Yet it is 
important to remember that, considered as 
natural products, these shade off by insensible 
gradations into manifestations of life to which 
the words "belief" and "emotion" are 
quite inapplicable, where " beauty ' and 
" goodness " have little meaning or non<'. 
And as this larger class, when concerned witli 
action, lias at present no better name, I may 
be permitted to describe it as ethical. 

I am mainly concerned, however, with that 
higher part of the ethical scale which all 
would agree to call Moral, and with the 
debatable region immediately below it. Of 
purposive action, or what seems to be such, 
of a still lower type, I need say little— but we 
nmst never forget that it is th< re. 

Morals, as I conceive them, are concerned 
^\ith ends of action: and principally with 
tdtimate ends of action. An end of action, in 
so far as it is ultimate, is one which is pursued 
for itself alone, and not as a means to some 
other end. Of course an end may be, and 
constantly is, both ultimate and contributory. 
It is sought for on its own account, and also 
as an instrument for procuring something 




<l»<-- It is „„.i„|y i„ the first of those eapaei- 
t.-. ... vever. it eone,.r„s n.orali*; ' 

«'t-i»tio-e«oistie':::rjei;'Lxr - 

;;— "iat-ly c„n„ee,e<, with' *'":.,": T 
ll.L T;- . '« >"" '" reiueniber that 

;::'':£' :'„7 '"" — p-. to :;,:: 

virtuous/ c:,7 r " f ,?r '"^^'"""y 

. iiKKui, as I shall have occasinn 
t- point out later, the blaekest vieos Tud "" 
-e ity a„, hatred, are .rten altr^L" 
iiiis IS an unusual, though nr.f T fi • i 

n.eessitv of ,r , T' *"" '"■<' ""''" ""•' 

or other ncoDio T.i . iiappiness 

M uoiroxv their phraseoloffv. Ilanni 

nn*udh.g , o e„ nt fie. ,"""*" ""<'"''^- 
7 « ^'1 It the only one. To <leseribe 



the sensual man, the vain man, the merely self- 
ish man, the niiser, tlie asfitie, the man moved 
by rational self-love, the man ahsorbecl in the 
task of '• self-realisation," the man eonsunu'<l 
by the passion for posthumous fame, as all 
pursuing the same egoistie end by different 
means, is surely to confuse distinetions of great 
moral importance without any gain of scientitle 
clarity. In like man .er, to suppose that the 
man who spends himself in th<i service (sa) ) of 
his family, his v< mtry, or his church, is only 
striving for the nappiness " of the human 
race, or of certain selected members of the 
human race, is (it seems to me) to ignore the 
plain teaching of daily experience. As there 
arc many egoistic ends besides our own happi- 
ness, so there are many altruistic en<ls besid<s 
the happiness of others. The ext.'iided sense, 
therefore, in which I employ these tcniis 
seems justified by fnels. 


I shall not atten pt to determine the point 
at which we can first clearly discriminate 
between the " egoistic " and " altruistic " ele- 
ments in animal instinct. Evidently, how- 
ever, it is anterior to and independent of any 


I onncopt„„| roco„„i,i„„ Hfhor of „„ re„ ,„ 

j ■'" '-'/-. h -nig.-., .,.. „,„ „,„, „,; I 

I ""'"" '" '"• P'-'-'orvnti,.,, „r tl„. rac,. n,,t 
OW.V.. t .., „.«y ,,., ,^^^ 

""true. J|„.r,. ar<. altmistic instincts inti, 
"iHch no ..l,.„,ent of ..g<.i.„. „„..,, ' ^ ^^ 

Cor ..xaniplc) a hive of bees. I , „,;„, ,^,;' 

hm . t w,il sacrifice ,ts life for its offspring, 
"r for the conm.onwealth of which it is a 
"-"ber Kgoisn, i., „,„„y ,„,, in al r„ n, 

tion, all the.,e animal instincts, b<- thev 
goisfc or altruistic, n.ust be tread as con 
nvances for ai.ling a species in the sta,Z' 
"■• V^'t""'- " ""■""''"S be due to s< c" ffn 
" Ihese n,ust be. This is plainly t^o^ 

^mcts. lake, for instance, the case of 



parental devotion. Its survival value is clearly 
immense. The high . animals, as at present 
constituted, could not exist without it ; and 
though, for all we can say to the contrary, 
development might have followed a different 
course, and a race not less effectively en< lowed 
than man might flourish though parental care 
played no greater part in the life-history of its 
members than it does in the life-history ol" 
a herring, yet this is not what has actuully 
happened. Altruistic effort, in the world as 
we know it, is as essential to the higher or- 
ganisms as the self-regarding instincts and 
appetites are to organic life in general ; and 
there seems no reason for attributing to it a 
different origin. 

Can this be said with a like confidence about 
the higher portions of the ethical scale ? Arc 
these also due to selection ? 

Evidently the difference between primitive 
instincts and developed morality is inmienst- ; 
and it is as great in the egoistic as in the non- 
egoistic region of ethics. Ideals of conduct, 
the formulation of ends, judgments of their 
relative worth, actions based on principles, 
deliberate choice between alternative policies, 
the realised distinction between the self and , 
other personalities or other centres of feeling- I 



.■■11 these are involved in .leveloped n.orality, 
«l..le m anmrnl ethics they exist not at all, or 
only m the most rudimentary forms 

Compare for instance, a society of bees and 
a s,K,.,ety of men. In both there is division of 
labour ; „, both there is organise,! effort to- 
«ar,ls an en,l which is other and greater than 
K. „,d,v.dual goo<l of any single of 
'"' ^"'"'""'ty- But though there are these 
deep-lymg rcsen.blances between the two eases 
■"»• -.portant are the differences which 

.b.yed, but not chosen. Alternative ends are 
not contrasted. No member of the com- 
."U"-ty t nnks that it could do something 
.lifferent fron,, and more agreeable than, thf 
nihented task. Nor in truth could it. General 
■nterest and in.lividual interest are never 
opposed, for they are never distinguished, 
sdectf ' "'""' """'P^'"'- ""<< therefore never 

Far .lifferent are the ethical conditions 
equn-mg consideration when we turn fron, 
•-ees to men. Here cgoisn, and altruisn, are 
not only d.stmguished in rellection ,■ they mav 
Iks and often are. incompatible in praetic; 
Noi does tins conflict of ends only show itself 
*«.«« these two great ethical divisions it 




is not less apparent within them. Here, then, 
we find ourselves in a world of moral conflict 
very faintly foreshadowed in animal ethics. 
For us, ultimate ends are many. They may 
reinforce each other, or they may weaken each 
other. They may harmonise, or they may 
clash. Personal ends may prove incompatihlc 
with group ends : one group end may prove 
incompatible with another. Loyalty may be 
ranged against loyalty, altruism against al- 
truism ; nor is there any court of appeal which 
can decide between them. 

But there are yet other differences between 
the ethics of instinct and the ethics of reflec- 
tion. Instincts are (relatively) definite and 
stable ; they move in narrow channels ; they 
cannot easily be enlarged in scope, or changed 
in character. The animal mother, for example, ] 
cares for its young children, but never for its i 
young grandchildren. The lifelong fidelity of J 
the parent birds in certain species (a fidelity 
seemingly independent of the pairing season, 1 
or the care of particular brootis) never becomes ] 
the nucleus of a wider association. Altruistic 1 
instincts may lead to actions which equal, or 
surpass, man's highest efforts of abnegation : 
but the actions are matters of routine, and the 
instincts never vary. They emerge in the 



same form at the same stage of individual 
growth, like any other attribute of the species 
—its colour, for instance, or its claws. And 
if they be, like colour and claws, the products 
of selection, this is exactly what we should 
expect. But then, if the loyalties of man be 
also the product of selection, why do they not 
show a similar fixity ? 

Plainly they do not. Man inherits the capa- 
city for loyalty, but not the use to which he 
shall put it. The persons and causes (if any) 
to which he shall devote himse.. are suggested 
to him, often, indeed, imposed upon him, by 
education and env nment. Nevertheless, 
they are his by choice, not by hereditary com- 
pulsion. And his choice may be bad. He 
may unselfishly devote himself to what is 
potty or vile, as he may to what is generous 
and noble. But on the possibility of error 
depends the possibility of progress; and if 
(to borrow a phrase from physics) our loyalty 
possessed as few " degrees of freedom " as 
that of ants or bees, our social organisation 
would be as rigid. 

The most careless glance at the pages of 
history, or the world of our own experience, 
will show how varied are the forms in which 
this capacity for loyalty is displayed. The 



Spartans at Thcrniopylae, the "Blues" and 
the " Greens " at Byzantium, rival politicians 
in a hard-fought election, players and specta- 
tors at an Eton and Harrow Match, supply 
familiar illustrations of its variety and vigour. 
And do not suppose that in thus bringing 
together the sublime, the familiar, and the 
trivial, I am paradoxically associating matters 
essentially dis-^rate. This is not so. I an. 
not putting on a moral level the patriot and 
the partisan, the martyr to some great cause 
and the shouting spectator at a school match. 
What I am insisting on is that they all have 
loyalty in common; a loyalty which often 
IS, and always may be, pure from egoistic 

Loyalties, then, which are characteristically 
human differ profoundly from those which 
are characteristically animal. The latter are 
due to instincts which include both the end 
to be sought for and the means by which it 
IS to be attained. The former are rooted in 
a general capacity for, or inclination to 
loyalty, with little inherited guidance either 
as to ends or means. Yet, if we accept selec- 
tion as the source of the first, we can hardly 
reject it as the source of the second. For 
the survival value of loyalty is manifest. It 


lies at the root of all effective co-operati(,n 
ANithout it the family and tribe would be 
impossible ; and without the family and the 
tribe, or some yet higher organisation, men. 
if they could exist at all, would be more 
helpless than cattle, weak against the alien 
forces of nature, at the mercy of human foes 
more capable of loyalty than themselves \ 
more powerful aid in the struggle for existence 
cannot easily be imagined. 

^Ve are indeed apt to forget how important 
are its consequences, even when it supplies 
no more than a f . :it qualification of other 
and more obvious motives. It acts like those 
alloys which, in doses relatively minute, add 
strength and elasticity even to steel The 
relation (for example) between a commercial 
company and its officials is essentially a 
business one. The employer pays the market 
price for honesty and competence, and has 
no claim to more. Yet that company is 
surely either unfortunate or undeserving wluse 
servants are wholly indifferent to its fortunes 
feclmg no faintest flicker of pride when it 
succeeds, no tinge of regret when it fails 
Honourable is the tie between those who 
exchange honest wage and honest work ; yet 
loyalty can easily better it. And a like truth 



IS manifest in spheres of action less reputable 
than those of commerce. Mercenaries, to be 
worth hiring, must be partly moved by forces 
higher than punishment or pay. Even pirates 
could not plunder with profit were their selfish- 
ness unredeemed by some slight tincture of 
reciprocal loyalty. 

There are, however, many who would admit 
the occasional importance of loyalty while 
strenuously denying that social life was wholly 
based upon it. For them society is an in- 
vention ; of all inventions the most useful, 
but still only an invention. It was (they think) 
originally devised by individuals in their 
individual interest; and. though common 
action was the machinery employed, personal 
advantage was the end desired. By enlight- 
ened egoism social organisation was created ; 
by enlightened egoism it is maintained and 
improved. Contrivance, therefore, not loyalty, 
is the master faculty required. 

This is a great delusion— quite unsupported 
by anything we know or can plausibly con- 
jecture about the history of mankind. No 
one, indeed, doubts that deliberate adaptation 
of means to ends has helped to create, and is 
constantly modifying, human societies; nor 
yet that egoism has constantly perverted 


political and social institutions to niorclv 
private uses. But there is something nior'e 
fundamental to be borne in mind, namely 
that without loyalty there would be no socie- 
ties to modify, and no institutions to pervert 
If these were merely well-designed instruments 
like steam-engines and telegraphs, they would 
be worthless. They would perish at the 
first shock, did they not at once fall into 
ruin by their own weight. If they are to be 
useful as means, they must first impose them- 
selves as ends ; they must possess a quality 
beyond the reach of contrivance : the quality 
of commanding disinterested service and un- 
calculating devotion. 


I should therefore be ready to admit, as a 
plausible conjecture, that the capacity for 
altruistic emotions and beliefs is a direct 
product of organic evolution ; an attribute 
preserved and encouraged, because it is useful 
to the race, and transmitted from parents to 
oflspring by physiological inheritance. On 
this theory loyalty in some shape or other is 
as natural to man as maternal affection is 
natural to mammals. Doubtless it is more 



variable in strength, more flexible in direction, 
more easily smothered by competing egoisms ;' 
but the capacity for it is not less innate, and 
not less necessary in the struggle for existence. 
But when we ask how far selection has been 
responsible for the development of high altruis- 
tic ideals out of primitive forms of loyalty, 
we touch on problems of much greater com- 
plexity. Evidently there has been a profound 
moral transformation in the course of ages. 
None suppose that ethical values are appraised 
in the twentieth century as they were in the 
first stone age. But what has caused the 
change is not so clear. 

There are obvious, and, I think, insur- 
mountable difficulties in attributing it to 
organic selection. Selection is of the fittest— 
of the fittest to survive. But in what consists 
this particular kind of fitness ? The answer 
from the biological point of view is quite 
simple ; almost a matter of definition. That 
race is "fit" which maintains its numbers; 
and that race is fittest which most increases 
them. The judge of such " fitness " is not 
the moralist or the statesman. It is the 
Registrar-General. So little is " fitness " in- 
separably attached to excellence, that it would 
be rash to say that there is any quality, 


however unattractive, which might not in 

conceivable circumstances assist survival. 

High authorities. I beJiove, hold that at this 
moment in Britain we have so managed 
matters that congenital idiots increase faster 
than any other class of the population. If 
so, they must be deemed the " fittest " of our 
countrymen. No doubt this fact, if it be a 
fact, is an accident of our social system. 
Legislation has produced this happy adapta- 
tion of environment to organism, and legisla- 
tion might destroy it. The fittest to-day 
nught become the unfittest to-morrow. But 
this is nothing to the purpose. That part of 
man's environment which is due to man 
does no doubt usually vary more quickly 
than the part which is due to nature ; none 
the less is it environment in the strictest sense 
of the word. The theory of selection draws no 
essential distinction between (say) the secular 
congelation of a continent in the ice age, and 
the workings of the English Poor Law in the 
twentieth century. It is enough that each, 
while it lasts, favours or discourages particular 
heritable variations, and modifies the qualities 
that make for " survival." 

What is more important, however, than the 
fact that heritable " fitness " may be com- 


pIctHy (livorml from rmutnl nnd niorni cx- 
celltncf, is tJur fatl that so h.rpc a part of 
man's iiu-ntal and moral tliaraftcristus arc 
not heritable at all, and cannot therefore be 
tlircctly duf to organic selection. Haces may 
accumulate accomplishments, yet remain or- 
ganically unchanged. 'J'hey may ham and 
they may forget, th. i may rise from bar- 
barism to culture, and sink back from culture 
to barbarism, while through all these revolu- 
tions the raw material of their humanity 
varies never p bit. In such cases there can 
be no question of Natural Selection in the 
sense in which biologists use the term. 

And there are other coi :iderations which 
suggest that, as development proceeds, the 
forces of organic selection diminish. \Nhile 
man was in the .. cing we may easily believe 
that those possessmg no congenital instinct 
for loyalty failed, and that failure involved 
elimination. In such circumstances, the her<- 
ditary instinct would become an inbred char- 
acteristic of the race. But in a civilised, or 
even in a semi-civilised, world, the success 
of one competitor lias rarely involved the 
extinction of the other— at least by mere 
slaughter. When extinction has followed de- 
feat, it nas been due rather to the gradual 


offsets of .liscaso ami hardship, or to oth<r 
causes more obscure, but not Jess iliadly. 
Tlie endless struggles between tribes, eities 
nations, and races, have in the main been' 
struggles for domination, not for existene.- 
Slavery, not death, has been the pc'nalty of 
hulure ; and if donunation has pro<lueed a 
change in the inherited type, it is not because conquered has perished before the con- 
queror, but because, conquest having brought 
then, together, the two have interniarrie<l 
J here is thus no close or necessary connection 
between biological " fitnci^s '» and n.ilitary or 
political success. The beaten race, whose 
institutions or culture perish, may be the 
race which in fact survives; while victors 
who firmly establish their language, religion 
and polity may, after a few centuries, leave 
scarce a trace behind them of any heritable 
eliaracteristics which the anthropologist is 
able to detect. 

This observation, however, suggests a new 
point. Is there not, you may ask, a " struggle 
ior existence " between non-heritable acquire- 
nients which faintly resembles the biologi- 
cal struggle between individuals or species v 
Hehgious systems, political organisations, 
speculative creeds, industrial inventions, na" 


tionni policits. sricntifir f?«'n<rnIisations, ami 
(what sp<cially ronrrrns un now) ethical idtalH, 
iiro in perpetual competition an<i conflict. 
Some maintain themselves or expand. 'I'lies«' 
are, hy definition, the " fit." Sonu- wane or 
perish. These are, hy ch'finiticui, the unfit. 
Here we find selection, survivid, elimination ; 
and, t'lough we see them at work in quite 
other regions of re-.lity than those expiond 
by the student of organic evolution, the 
analogy between the two cases is obvious. 

But is the analogy num- than superficial ? 
Is it relevant to our present argument ? (an 
it (explain either the sprea<l of higher moral 
ideals or their development? Let us con- 
sider for a moment some examples of this 
psychological '* struggle for existence." Take, 
as a siniple case, the competition between rival 
inventions— between the spinning-jenny and 
the hand-loom, the breech-loader and the 
nmzzle-loader, prc-Listerian and post-Listeriaii 
methods of surgery. Unless the environnunt 
be strongly charged with prejudice, ignorance, 
or sinister interests, the "fittest" in such 
cases is that which best serves its purpose. 
Measurable efficiency is the quality which 
wins. But this supplies us with no useful 
analogy when we are dealing with ethics. 


>forality, ns T have already insistr<K is not 
on mvrntioi. clrsignrd to mtv<. an cxfimai 
purpose. The. - struggle f„r existence " be- 
tween higher and lower ethical ideals has no 
resemblance to the struggle between the 
spuining-jenny anel the hanel-leum.. It is a 
struggle between enels. not between means. 
Kniciency is not in question. 

A like observatiem applies te) that quality 
«>f our be'liefs which might be described as 
"argumentative plausibility." This is to ab- 
St met theorising what emciency is te) practical 
mvcntion. It has survival value. of 
♦"tnse. are relative terms, application 
vmies with circumstances. An inventiem is 
only elhcient while the ce»mme)ditv it proeluces 
•s in elemanel. A theory is only plausible 
while It hits off the intellectual temper of the 
♦lay. Lid 1 efficiciicy and plausibility 1„. thus 
unelerstood, the more efficient invention and 
the more plausible de)ctrine will oust their 
less favoured rivals. They arc the " fittest " 
But as morality is not a means, so neither is 
It a conclusion. AVhatcver be its relation to 
Heason, reasoning can never determine the 
•ssential nature of its contents. Plausibility, 
therefore, is no more in question than eifi' 




I do not, of course, deny that tthics arc 
always under discussion, or that the basis ol 
moral rules and their application are themes 
of unending controversy. This is plainly true. 
But it is also true that there is no argumenta- 
tive method of shaking any man's allegiance 
to an end which he deems intrinsically worthy, 
except by showing it to be inconsistent with 
some other end which he (not you) deems 
more worthy still. Dialectic can bring into 
clear consciousness the implicit beliefs which 
underlie action, but it cannot cither prove 
them or refute them. It is as untrue to say 
that there is no disputing about morals as to 
say that there is no disputing about tastes. 
But also it is as true ; antl the truth, properly 
understood, is fundamental. 

What pass for opposing arguments are 
really rival appeals ; and it is interesting to 
observe that the appeal which, to the un- 
reflecting, seems the most rational is tiie 
appeal to selfishness. I am told ' that on 
any fine Sunday afternoon in some of our big 
towns you may find an orator asking why 
any man should love his country. *'What," 
he inquires, " does a man get by it ? \\'ill 
national success bring either to himself or to 

» Written in 1913. 



oi" liis ]) 

any oi Jus lu-aivrs nunv Wnnl more drink 
•nore a,nu«e,nonts v j," „^j, ,,i,^ ,^^^^^^ ^.^.; 
sonal sacriiices for what will never confer 
personal advantage?" To this particular 
question It might be replied (though not alwa , 
with truth) that the antithesis is a false ol 
and that on the whole the selfish ideal and thJ 
patriotic ideal are both pron.oted by the same 
policy of public service. But there is another 
question of the same type to which no such 
answer is possible. \Vc have all heard it, either 
•n jest or in earnest. " Why " (it is asked) 
should we do anything for posterity, seeing 
that posterity will do nothing for us '^ " The 
iniphcation is infamous, but the statement is 
true. We cannot extract from posterity an 
equivalent for the sacrifices we make on its 
beiialf. TJiese are debts that will never be 
recovered. The unborn cannot be sued ; the 
dead cannot be repaid. But what then v 
Altruisn. is not based on egoism ; it is not 
egoism ,n disguise. The ends to which it points 
are ends in themselves ; and their value is 
quite independent of argument, neither capable 
ol proof nor requiring it. 

In vvhat, then, consists the psychological 
(as distingxiished from the organic) "fitness" 
ot the higher moral ideals ? If it cannot be 



found in their practical efficiency, nor yet 
in their argumentative phuisibility, where 
shall we seek it ? 

Sometimes, no doubt, the explanation is to 
be found in their association with a culture, 
other elements of which do possess both these 
kinds of " fitness." Thus Western morality 
— or (to be accurate) Western notions of 
morality — find favour with backward races, 
because they are associated with Western 
armaments and Western arts. Again, they 
may be diffused, perhaps as part of some 
militant religion, by the power of the sword 
or by its prestige. They reach new regions 
in the train of a conqueror, and willingly or 
unwillingly the conquered accept them. 

But these associations are seemingly quite 
casual. The prestige of Western arts and 
science may assist the diffusion of Western 
morals, as it assists the diffusion of AVestern 
languages, or Western clothes. Conquests by 
Mahommedan or Christian States may sub- 
stitute a higher for a lower ethical creed in 
this or that region of the world. Such cases, 
however, leave us still in the realm of accident. 
The causes thus assigned for the spread of a 
particular type of ethical ideal have nothing 
to do with the quality of that type. They 


W(Mil<l promote bad morals not loss offoctivcly 
than good; as a hose will, with eqn ,1 ease- 
scatter dirty water or clean. Moreox er, the 
powth of the higher type in its place of origin 
IS left wholly unexplained. Its " fitness " 
seems a mere matter of luck due neither to 
design nor to any natural imitation of design. 
The rigour of this conclusion would be little 
mitigated even if we could connect psycho- 
logical fitness with some quite non moral 
peculiarity habitually associated with the 
iiigiier morality, but not with tlu; lower. If, 
lor example, the former were found to leacl 
normally to worldly success, its repute would 
need no further explanation. If, in private 
life, those endowed with Sir Charles Grandi- 
so!i's merits usually possessed Sir Charles 
Grandison's estate, if, in political or nat- ;' 
life, victory and virtue went ever hand in Ik 
morality might be none the better, but cer- 
tainly it would be more the fashion. Heaven 
would be wearied with prayers for an un- 
selfish spirit, uttered by suppliants from 
purely selfish motives. Saints would become 
the darlmgs of society, and the book of Job 
would be still unwritten.' 

' Doubtless under sue}, circumstances ideal virtue rniRht 
also have survival value in the biological sense. ^ 



I can devise no more extravagant, hypothesis. 
But though, if it were true, the " fitness " of 
the higher morality might seem to have found 
an explanation, it is not the explanation \v( 
require. It is too external. It gives no 
account of the appeal which the nobler ends 
of action make to our judgments of intrinsic 
value. It suggests the way in which a higher 
ideal might increase the number of its pos- 
sessors at the expense of a lower, but not the 
way in which the higher ideal might itself arise. 
Indeed, we must go further. Few are the 
moralists who would maintain that indiffer- 
ence to worldly triumphs was not, on the whole, 
a bar to their attainment. Few are the bio- 
logists who would maintain that care an<l 
kindness, lavished on the biologically unfit. 
will never tend to diminish the relative number 
of the biologically fit. But, if so, we must 
agree with Nietzsche in thinking that ethicai 
values have become " denaturalised." In 
their primitive forms the products of selection, 
they have, by a kind of internal momentiun. 
overpassed their primitive purpose. Mack 
by nature for a natural object, they have 
developed along lines which are certainly in- 
dependent of selection, perhaps in opposition 
to it. And though not as remote from their 


first manifestations as is the iLSthctic of men 
from the aesthetic of monkeys, no evolutionary 
explanation will bridge the interval. If we 
treat the Sermon on the Mount as a natural- 
istic product, it is as much an evolutionary 
accident as Hnmlct or the Ninth Symphony.' 


In what setting, then,arewe to place morality 
so that these " denaturalised " values may be 
retained ? Can we be content to regard the 
highest loyalties, the most devoted love, the 
most limitless self-abnegation as the useless 
excesses of a world-system, which in its efforts 
to adapt organism to environment has over- 
shot its mark ? 

I deem it impossible. The naturalistic 
setting must be expanded into one which shall 
give the higher ethics an origin congruous with 
their character. Selection must be treated 
as an instrument of purpose, not simply as its 
mimic. Theistic teleology must be substituted 
for Naturalism. Thus, and thus only, can 
moral values, as it seems to me, be success- 
fully maintained. 

This would not, I suppose, have been denied 
by Nietzsche and Nietzsche's predecessors in 



revolt. On the contrary, they would admit 
the interdependence of morals and religion, as 
these are commonly understood in Christen- 
dom, and they would condemn both. It 
would, however, have been vehemently denied 
by agnostics like Huxley ; for Huxley accepted, 
broadly speaking. Christian ethics, while re- 
fusing to accept the Christian, or, indeed, any 
other form of theology. 

In my opinion, this position is not perma- 
nently tenable. I do not mean that it involves 
a logical contradiction. I do mean that it 
involves an emotional and doctrinal incom- 
patibility of a very fundamental kind. And 
this is a defect which may be even more fatal 
than logical contradiction to the stability of 
ethical beliefs. 

For what was Huxley's position ? His con- 
demnation of evolutionary ethics was far more- 
violent than my own. He states categorically 
that " What is ethically best involves conduct 
which in all respects is opposed to that whieli 
leads to success in the cosmic struggle for 
existence." On a biological question I differ 
from him with misgiving; but, as I have 
already urged, selection may plausibly be 
credited with the earlier stages of the noblest 
virtues. I cannot think that the mother who 



sacrifices herself for her child, the clansiDaii 
who dies for his chief, the generation which 
suffers for the sake of its posterity, arc in- 
dulging in " conduct which is in all respects 
opposed to that which leads to success in the 
cosmic struggle for existence." But, whether 
Huxley be right on this point or I, it is surely 
impossible for the mass of mankind to main- 
tain, at the cost of much personal loss, an ideal 
of conduct which science tells us is not merely 
an evolutionary accident, but an evolutionary 
mistake ; something which was, and is, con- 
trary to the whole trend of the cosmic process 
which brought us into being, and made us 
what we are. It requires but a small know- 
ledge of history to show how easily mankind 
idealises nature ; witness such phrases as 
"the return to nature," the "state of na- 
ture," " natural rights," " natural law," and 
so forth. Appeals founded upon these notions 
have proved powerful, even when they ran 
counter to individualistic selfishness. When 
the two are in alliance, how can they be re- 
sisted ? Is it possible for the ordinary man to 
maintain undimmed his altruistic ideals if 
ho thinks Nature is against them ?— unless, 
indeed he also believes that God is on their 

1 *» Ari 


Here are questions raised to wliieh there is 
no parallel in the case of asthetics. Doubtless 
differences of aesthetic judgment abound ; but 
they do not pro<luce difficulties quite matching 
those due to the collision of incompatible ends ; 
nor is their solution so important. On this 
subject I must say a few words before bringing 
this lecture to a conclusion. 

Possible collisions between ends are manv. 
for ends themselves are many. And of these 
ends some arc in their very nature irrecon- 
cilable ;— based on essential differences which 
reflection only makes more apparent, and 
moral growth more profound. 

Now these collisions are not always between 
altruism and egoism. Often they are between 
different forms of altruism — call them, if you 
please, the positive form and the negative. 
Enmity, hate, cruelty, tyranny, and all that 
odious brood whose end and object is the pain 
and abasement of others are not intrinsically 
egoistic. Though they be the vilest of all pas- 
sions, yet they do not necessarily involve any 
taint of selfish alloy. Often as disinterested as 
the mostdcvoted love or thcmostsingle-minded 



loyalty, they may <lemaiul no smaller saeriflees 
on the part of those whom they inspire, and the 
demand may be not less willingly obeyed. It is, 
perhaps, worth observing that these altruistic 
ends, the positive an(" the negative, the bene- 
volent and the malevolent, irreconcilably 
opposed as they are in moral theory, have often 
been associated in ethical practice. Family 
affection has in many half-civilised com- 
mnnities produced the binding custom of 
family vendetta. Political loyalty, which has 
blossomed into some of the noblest forms of 
positive altruism, has also bred cruelty and 
hatred against those who are outside the pale 
of the tribe, the state, the party, or the creed. 
The brightest light has cast the deepest 
shadows. To torture and enslave, not because 
it brings profit to the victor, but because it 
brings pain to the vanquished, has, through 
long ages, been deemed a fitting sequel to 
victories born of the most h(;roic courage and 
the noblest self-sacrifice ; while no small pj, t 
of moral progress has consisted in expelling 
this perverted altruism from the accepted ideals 
of civilised mankind. 

Egoism is far more reputable. The agent's 
own good, considered in itself, is, what negative 
altruism can never be, a perfectly legitimate 



object of tiKlcavoiir. >Vhcn, thcnrorc, there 
is a eollision between egoism arul positive 
flltniism, problems of real diflieulty may arise ; 
the competing ends may both have value, and 
the need for a reconciliation, practical as well 
as s[)ecnlativc. of necessity im[)ress« s both 
fiioralists and legislators. 

In practice; the evils of this conflict arise 
largely from the fact that the vnd which has 
most worth has too often least power. This 
is not surprising if the account of ethical 
evolution, which I have provisionally adopted 
in this lecture, ,.. ntar the truth. For the 
extra-regarding instincts art; of later birth 
than the self-regarding. All animals look 
after themselves. Only the mo ^ developed 
look also after others. The germ .a what, in 
rcllection, becomes egoism is of far earlier 
growth than the germ of what, in reflection, 
becomes altruism. Being more primitive, it 
is more deeply rooted in our nature ; an<l, 
even when recognised as morally lower, it 
tends, when there is conflict, to prevail over 
its rival. " The evil that I would not, that 
I do." 

Now^ this result has, as we all know, serious 
social consequences. Even the least stable 
society nmst be organised on some firm frame- 




work of custom, nile, nn<l law; and Hum-, in 
th.irfurn, must lind tluir main siipixut in tlur 
willing loyalty ol" tlu; general community. Hut, 
tlxMigli loyalty is the great essential, it is not 
suflieient. Legislators, lawyers, moralists, all 
agree that in the collision between ends— 
especially between egoistic and altruistic ends 
—it is not always the highest emi as judged by 
the agent himself, still less the highest end as 
nieasurc<l by the standards of the conummity, 
which finally prevails. Therefore nmst law and 
custom have the support of sanctions . sanc- 
tions being nothing els( than devices for bring- 
ing a lower motive to the aid of a higher, 
and so producing better conduct, if not ' 
better morals Public approval and disap- 
proval, the jailer and the hangman, heaven 
and hell, are familiar examples. Cau they in 
any true sense effect a reconciliation between 
discordant ends, and, i). ticular, between 
altruism and egoism ? I hardly think so. 
When they arc effective they doubtless dimin- 

' Tndiroctly , no doubt, sanctions niay perform a most im- 
portant educational work in stimulating and guiding tho 
liighor loyalties. The approval or disapproval of our fellows, 
the " teiTors of the law." the belief in future rewards and 
punishments, though their immediate appeal is only to self- 
interest, may powerfully aid m the creation of moral judg- 
ments sufficiently free from any "empirical elements of 
desire " to have satisfied Kant himself. 



Ish C'HiH'al <'onllict ; hut it is hy iRiKuinjj tliw 
intrinsic vahM- of tuw srI «»f rlliiinl nids. In 
so I'm' as wc arc lioncst Ixcaiisc lion«sty is the 
hcst policy, in so far as wv do not injure h'st 
wc siiouid ourselves he injured, in so far as we 
heneiit that we may l)e heiulited ourselves 
just in that proportion w<- tn'at altruistic 
actions merely as the means of attaining 
egoistic ends. The two competitors arc not 
reconciled, hut a working arrangement is 
reached under which the con<luct appropriate 
to tht! higher ideal is pursued Crom motives 
characteristic of the lower. 

Isanytruer reconciliation possible? Scarcely, 
MS 1 think, without religion. I do not sug- 
gest that any religious theory gets rid of 
ethical anomalies, or theoretically lightens hy 
a feather-weight the heavy problem of evil. 
But I do suggest that in the love of (iotl by 
the individual soul, the collision of ends for 
that soul loses all its harsiincss, and harniojjy 
is produced by raising, not lowering, the 
ethical ideal. 

Kant, by a famous feat of speculative 
audacity, sought to extract a proof of God's 
existence from the moral law. In his view 
the moral law requires us to hokl that those 
who are good will also in the end be happy ; 


mMl.siiKTwitlHMit (;o<| tl,i.s,X|HH;,li<,r. cannot 
iH lullillrd, tlu- lMi„« (.r(;o<l iMconirs ;, posh,- 
UiU' of morality. Is this (you may ask), or any 
variant of tliis. the argument suggrst<(l in the 
last paragraph ? It is not. In Kant's argunn nt, 

as I umifrstumi it. (;o(l vvascxtrrnal to morality 
in tlu; scnso that II,. was not Himstll' a n.oral 
•imI. It was not our A-ding of |„v,. ,„,<! loyalty 
to Ilim that was of moment, hut His guidance 
ui' the world in the interests of virtue and the 
virtuous. My point is dijjerent. I tin<l in the 
love of (iod a moral emi which reconciles other 
moral ends, heeuuse it includes them. It is 
tun intolerant of desires for our own good. II 
demands their ,lue subordination, not their 
»'«>rnplete suppression. It implies l,)yal service 
to ()n(- who by His essential nature wills the 
good of all. It requires, therefore, that (he 
goo<l of all shall be an object of our endeavoui- : 
I and it promises that, in striving for this in- 
elusive end, we shall, in Pauline phrase, be 
lellow-workers with Him. 

I will not further pursue this theme. Its 
development is plainly inappropriate to these 
lectures, which are not directly concerned with 
personal religion. In any case, this portion 
<»i my argument, though important, is sub- 
sidiary. My main contention rests, not upon 


i^JW iC f> -.Jl<- 



the difficulty of harmonising moral ends in a 
Godless universe, but upon the difficulty of 
maintaining moral values if moral origins are 
purely naturalistic. That they never have 
been so maintained on any large scale is a 
matter of historic fact. At no time has the 
mass of mankind treated morals and religion 
as mutually independent. They have left 
this to the enlightened ; and the enlighteni d 
have (as I think) been wrong. 

They have been wrong through their omis- 
sion to face the full results of their own theories. 
If the most we can say for morality on the 
causal side is that it is the product of non- 
moral, and ultimately of material agents, 
guided up to a certain point by selection, an<l 
thereafter left the sport of chance, a sense 
of humour, if nothing else, should prevent us 
wasting fine language on the splendour of the 
moral law and the reverential obedience owed 
it by mankind. That debt will not long be 
paid if morality comes to be generally re- 
garded as the causal effect of petty causes; 
comparable in its lowest manifestations with 
the appetites and terrors which rule, for their 
good, the animal creation ; in its highest 
phases no more than a personal accomplish- 
ment, to be acquired or neglected at the bidding 




of individual caprice. More than this is 
needful if the noblest ideals are not to lose all 
power of appeal. Ethics must have its roots 
in the divine ; and in the divine it must find 
its consummation. 






In the preceding lectures I have given reasons 
for thinking that in two great departments 
of human interest— Esthetics and Ethics— the 
In'ghest beliefs and emotions cannot claim to 
have any survival value. They must be 
treated as by-products of the evolutionary 
process ; and are, therefore, on the naturalistic 
hypothesis, doubly accidental. They are acci- 
dental in the larger sense of being the product 
of the undesigned collocation and interplay of 
material entities— molecular atoms, sub-atoms, 
and ether— which preceded, and will presum- 
ably outlast, that fraction of time during which 
organic life will have appeared, developed, 
and perished. They are also accidental in the 
narrower sense of being only accidentally asso- 
ciated with that process of selective elimina- 
tion, which, if Darwinism be true, has so 
happily imitated contrivance in the adaptation 



of oFfTanisms to their environment. They arc 
the accidents of an accident. 

I disagreed with this conclusion, but I did not 
attempt to refute it. I contented myself vvitli 
pointing out that it was destructive of values ; 
and that, the greater the values, the more de- 
structive it became. The difficulty, indeed, on 
which I have so far insisted is not a logical 
one. We have not been concerned with premi- 
ses and conclusions. Neither our aesthetic 
emotions nor our moral sentiments are the 
product of ratiocination ; nor is it by ratio- 
cination that they are likely to suffer essential 
wrong. If you would damage them beyond 
repair, yoke them to a theory of the universe 
which robs them of all general significance. 
Then, at the very moment when they aspire 
to transcendent authority, their own history 
will rise up i" judgment against them, im- 
pugning their pretensions, and testifying to 
their imposture. 


The inquiry on which I now propose to 
enter will follow a more or less parallel course, 
and will reach a more or less similar conclu- 
sion. Yet some characteristic differences it 


nuist necessarily exhibit. In the higher regions 
of aesthetics and ethics, emotions and beliefs 
are inextricably intertwined. They arc what 
naturalists describe as "symbiotic." Though 
essentially different, they are mutually de- 
pendent. If one be destroyed, the other 
withers away. 

But Knowledge— the department of human 
interest to which I now turn— is differently 
placed. The values with which we shall be 
concerned are mainly rational ; and intellectual 
curiosity is the only emotion with which they 
are associated. Yet here also two questions 
arise corresponding to those which we have 
already dealt with in a different connection: 
(1) what are the causes of our knowledge, 
or of that part of our knowledge which con- 
cerns the world of common sense and of 
science? (2) does the naturalistic account of 
these causes affect the rational value— in other 
words the validity— of their results ? 

We are, perhaps, more sensitive about the 
pedigree of our intellectual creed than we are 
about the pedigree of our tastes or our senti- 
ments. We like to think that beliefs which 
claim to be rational are the product of a purely 
rational process; and though, where others 
are concerned, we complacently admit the 


intrusion of non-rational links in the t'aus.Tl 
chain, we have higher ambitions for ourselves. 
Yet surely, on the naturalistic theory of 
the world, all such ambitions arc vain. It is 
abundantly evident that, however important 
be the part which reason plays among the 
immediate antecedents of our beliefs, tlu^rr 
are no beliefs which do not trace back their 
origin to causes which arc wholly irrational. 
Proximately, these beliefs may take rank as 
logical conclusions. Ultimately, they are with- 
out exception rooted in matter and motion. 
The rational order is but a graft upon the 
causal order ; and, if Naturalism be true, the 
causal order is blind. 


Before I further develop this line of specula- 
tion it may help you to understand what I am 
driving at if I venture upon an autobiographi- 
cal parenthesis. The point I have just en- 
deavoured to make I have made before in these 
lectures, and I have made it elsewhere. It is 
one of a number of considerations which have 
led me to question the prevalent account of the 
theoretical ground-work of our accepted be- 
liefs. Taken by itself, its tendency is sceptical ; 



and, since it has been associated with ar^ii- 
iiicnts in favour of a spiritual view of the 
universe, I Imve been charged (and not always 
by unfriendly commentators) with the desire 
to force doubt into the service of orthodoxy 
by reconunending mankind to believe what 
they wish, since all beliefs alike are destitute 
of proof. As we cannot extricate ourselves 
li-orn the labyrinth of illusion, let us at least 
see to it that our illusions are agreeable. 

This, however, is not what I have ever 
wanted to say, nor is it what I want to say 
now. If I have given just occasion for such 
a travesty of my opinions, it nmst have been 
an indirect consequence of my early, and no 
doubt emphatically expressed, contempt for 
the complacent dogmatism of the empirical 
philosophy, which in Great Britain reigned 
supreme through the third quarter of the 
nineteenth century. But was this contempt 
altogether unreasonable ? 

I went to Cambridge in the middle sixties 
with a very small equipment of either philo- 
sophy or science, but a very keen desire to 
discover what I ought to think of the world, 
and why. For the history of speculation I 
cared not a jot. Dead systems seemed to me 
of no more interest than abandoned fashions. 


INIy business was with the ground-work of 
living beliefs ; in particular, with the groun<l- 
work of that scientific knowledge whose recent 
developments had so profoundly moved man- 
kind. And surely there was nothing perverse 
in asking modern philosophers to provide us 
with a theory of modern science ! 

I was referred to Mill ; and the shock of 
disillusionment remains with me to the present 
hour. Mill possessed at that time an authority 
in the English Universities, and, for anything 
I know to the contrary, in the Scotch Uni- 
versities also, comparable to that wielded 
forty years earlier by Ilegcl in Germany and 
in the Middle Ages by Aristotle. Precisely the 
kind of questions which I wislicd to put, his 
Logic was deemed qualified to answer. II<- 
was supposed to have done for scientific in- 
ference what Bacon tried to do, and failed. 
He had provided science with a philosophy. 

I could have forgiven the claims then made 
for him by his admirers ; I could have for- 
given, though young and intolerant, wluit 
seemed to me the futility of his philosophic 
system, if he had ever displayed any serious 
misgiving as to the scope and validity of his 
empirical methods. If he had admitted, lor 
example, that, when all had been done that 


could be done to systematise our onliuary 
modes of experimental inference, the i iider- 
lying problem of knowledge still remained un- 
solved. But he seemed to hold, in common 
with the whole empirical school of which, in 
Kuglish-speaking countries, he was the head, 
that the fundamental difliculties of knowledge 
do not begin till the frontier is crossed which 
divides physics from metaphysics, the natural 
from the supernatural, the world of " pheno- 
mena" from the world of "noimicna," " posi- 
tive; " experiences from religious dreams. It may 
be urged that, if these be errors, they are errors 
shared by ninety-nine out of every hundred 
persons educated in the atmosphere of Western 
civilisation, whatever be their theological 
views : and I admit that it has sunk deep into 
our ordinary habits of thought. Apologetics 
are saturated with it, not less than agnosticism 
or infidelity. But, for my own part, I feel 
now, as I ' 't in the early days of which I am 
speaking, lat the problem of knowledge can- 
not be sundered in this fashion. Its 
difficulties begin with the convictions of com- 
mon sense, not with remote, or subtle, or other- 
worldly speculations ; and if we could solve 
the problem in respect of the beliefs which, 
roughly speaking, everybody shares, we might 


M'v our way more clearly in rtsprct of tin; 
holicfs on which many people are profouiitlly 

That Mill's reasoning should have satisfied 
himself and his immediate disciples is strange. 
Hut that the wider public of thinking men, 
whom lu; so powerfully inlluenced, shouUl on 
the strength of this llimsy philosophy adopt 
an attitude of dogmatic assurance both as to 
what can be known and what cannot, is surely 
stranger still. Thus, at least, I thought nearly 
half a century ago, and thus I think still. 

Consider, for example, a typical form of tlu; 
ordinary agnostic position : that presented by 
Leslie Stephen. The best work of this excellent 
writer was biographical aiul literary ; but he 
was always deeply inf ( .ested in speculation ; 
and his own creed scrns early to have taken its 
final shape under the philosophical influences 
of the British empiricists. lie regarded Uu; 
" appeal to experience " as the fundamental 
dogma of tignosticism, and by the " appeal 
to experience " he meant what Mill meant by 
it. lie sincerely supposed that this gave you 
indisputable knowledge of " phenomena," and 
that if you went beyond " phenomena " you 
were dreaming, or you were inventing. 

This is a possible creed ; and it is, in fact, 


the creed held implicitly, or explicitly, by 
many thoiisuiulK orrpiitt- sensible pcutplc. ]{iit 
why should those who hold it suppose that it 
must always satisfy impartial inquirers ? Why 
should they assume that those who reject it arc 
sa(!rificing their reason to their preju<lices or 
their fancies ? It may represent the best we 
can do, but is it, after all, so obviously reason- 
able ? On this subject the empirical agnostic 
iijis no doubts, lie holds, with unshaken con- 
lidencc, that nothing deserves to be believed 
but that which in the last resort is proved by 
" experience " ; that the strength of our be- 
liefs should be exactly proportioned to the 
evidence which *' experience " can supply, 
and that every one knows or can discover 
exactly what this evidence amounts to. Leslie 
Stephen refers to a well-known aphorism of 
Locke, who declared that " there is one un- 
erring mark by which a man may know whether 
he is a lover of truth in earnest, viz. the not 
entertaining any proposition with greater assur- 
ane<; than the proofs it is built on will warrant." 
Upon which Leslie Stephen observes that the 
sentiment is a platitude, but, in view of the 
weakness of human nature, a useful platitude. 
Is it a platitude ? Did Locke act up to it ? 
Did Hume act up to it, or any other of Leslie 


Stephen's philosophic progenitors ? Does any- 
body act up to it ? Does anybody sincerely 
try to act up to it? 

Read through the relevant chapters in 
Locke's Essay, and observe his ineffectual 
struggles, self- imprisoned in the circle of his 
own sensations and ideas, to reach the external 
world in which he believed with a far " greater 
assurance " than was warranted by any proofs 
which he^ at all events, was able to supply. 
Read Hume's criticism of our grounds for be- 
lieving in a real world without, or a real self 
within, and compare it with his admission that 
scepticism on these subjects is a practical 

But we need not go beyond the firut chapter 
of "An Agnostic's Apology " to find an illustra- 
tion of my argument. Leslie Stephen there ab- 
solves himself from giving heed to the conclu- 
sions of philosophers, because there are none 
on which all philosophers are agreed, none on 
which there is even a clear preponderance of 
opinion. On the other hand, he is ready to 
agree with astronomers, because astronomers, 
" from Galileo to Adams and Leverricr," sub- 
stantially agree with each other. Agreement 
among experts is, in his opinion, a guarantee of 
truth, and disagreement a proof of error. 



But then he forgets that these distressing 
differences among philosophers do not touch 
merely such entities as God and the soul, or 
the other subjects with which agnostics con- 
ceive man's faculties are incapable of dealing. 
They are concerned (among other things) with 
the presuppositions on which our knowledge 
of " phenomena "—including, of course " astro- 
nomy from Galileo to Adams and Lcverricr," 
is entirely constructed. What, in these circum- 
stances, is Locke's " sincere lover of truth " 
to do ? How is he to avoid " entertaining pro- 
positions with greater assurance than the proofs 
they are built on will warrant " ? Where will 
he find a refuge from the "pure scepticism" 
which is, in Leslie Stephen's opinion, the 
natural result of divided opinions ? How is he 
to get on while he is making up his mind 
whether any theory of the world within his 
reach will satisfy unbiased reason ? 

The fact is that the adherents of this philo- 
sophic school apply, quite unconsciously, very 
different canons of intellectual probity to them- 
selves and to their opponents. " Why," asks 
Mr. Stephen, "should a lad who has just run 
the gauntlet of examination and escaped to a 
country parsonage be dogmatic ? " If to be 
dogmatic is to hold opinions with a conviction 


in excess of any reason that can be assigned 
for them, there seems to be no escape for the 
poor fellow. The common lot of man is not 
going to be reversed for him. Though he aban- 
don his parsonage and renounce his Churcli, 
though he scrupulously purify his creed from 
every taint of the " metempirical," though he 
rigidly confine himself to themes which his 
critics declare to be within the range of his 
intellectual vision, fate will pursue him still. 
He may argue much or argue little; he may 
believe much or believe little ; but, however 
nmch he argues and however little he believes, 
his beliefs will always transcend his arguments, 
and to faith, in his own despite, he must still 

Those who accept Leslie Stephen's philo- 
sophy suppose that for this young man, as for 
all others, a way of escape may be found by 
appealing to experience. But surely none are 
so sanguine as to suppose that, by appealing 
to experience, they are going to avoid what 
Mr. Stephen describes as "endless and hope- 
less controversies." Alas, this is not so ! The 
field of experience is no well-defined and pro- 
tected region under whose clear skies useful 
knowledge flourishes unchallenged, while the 
mist-enshrouded territories of its metaphysical 


i.eiglibours arc devastated by unending dis- 
putations. On the contrary, it is the very 
battlefield of phUosophy, the cockpit of mcta- 
[•hysics, strewn with abandoned arguments, 
wliere every strategic position has been taken 
and retaken, to whicli every school lays formal 
claim, which every contending system pre- 
tends to hold in effective occupation. Indeed, 
by a singular irony, the thinkers who, at this 
particular moment, talk most about experi- 
ence are those metaphysicians of the Absolute 
in whose speculations Mr. Stephen saw no 
beginning of interest, except that of being 
(as he supposed) at once the refuge and the 
ruin of traditional religion. But these philo- 
sophers have no monopoly. All men nowa- 
days speak well of experience. They begin to 
tliffer only when they attempt to say what 
experience is, to define its character, explain its 
credentials, and expound its message. But, 
unhappily, when this stage is reached their 
differences arc endless. 


I am, of course, not concerned with Mr. 
Stephen except as a brilliant representative* 
of a mode of thought to which I most vehe- 



mently object. I do not object to it nicrcly 
because it is in my judgment insufficient and 
erroneous, still less because I dislike its con- 
clusion. I object to it because it talks loudly 
of experience, yet never faces facts; and 
boasts its rationality, yet rarely reasons home 
These are far graver crimes against the spirit 
of truth than any condemned in Locke's pre- 
tentious aphorism, and they lead to far more 
serious consequences. 

If you ask me what I have in mind when I 
say that agnostic empiricism never faces facts. 
I reply that it never really takes account of 
that natural history of knowledge, of that 
complex of causes, rational and non-rational, 
which have brought our accepted stock of be- 
liefs into being. And if you ask me what I 
have in mind when I say that though it 
reasons, it rarely reasons home, I reply that, 
when it is resolved not to part with a con- 
clusion, anything will serve it for an argument: 
only when it is incredulous does it know how 
to be critical. 

This is not an error into which I propose to 
fall. But I hope that i shall not on that ac- 
count be deemed indifferent to the claims of 
reason, or inclined to treat lightly our be] ids 
either about the material world or the ininia- 




terial. On the contrary, my object, and my 
only object, is to bring reason and belief into 
the closest harmony tJiat at present seems 
practicable. And if you thereupon reply that 
such a statement is by itself enough to prove 
that I am no ardent lover of reason ; if you 
tell me that it implies, if not permanent con- 
tentment, at least temporary acquiescence in 
a creed imperfectly rationalised, I altogether 
deny the charge. So far as I am concerned, 
there is no acquiescence. Let him that thinks 
otherwise show me a better way. Let him pro- 
duce a body of beliefs which shall be at once 
living, logical, and sufficient;- not forgetting 
that it cannot be sufficient unless it includes 
within the circuit of its doctrines some account 
of Itself regarded as a product of natural causes, 
nor logical unless it provides a rational ex- 
planation of the good fortune which has 
made causes which are not reasons, mixed, 
It may be, with causes which arc not good 
reasons, issue in what is, by hypothesis, a 
perfectly rational system. He who is fortu- 
nate enough to achieve all this may trample 
as he likes upon less successful inquirers. But 
I doubt wiiether. when this discoverer ap- 
pears, he will be found to have reached his 
goal by the beaten road of empirical agnos- 


ticism. This, though it be fashionubly iVi- 
qucntcd, is but a blind alley after all. 

In the meanwhile we must, I fear, suffer 
under a system of beliefs which is far shoi^ 
of rational perfection. But we need M(.t 
acquiesce, and we should not be contented. 
Whether this state of affairs will ever be cured 
by the sudden flash of some great philosophic 
discovery is another matter. My present aim, 
at all events, is far more modest. But thf^y. at 
least, should make no complaint who hold that 
common-sense beliefs, and science which is a 
development of common-sense beliefs, are, if 
not true, at least on the way to truth. For 
this conviction I share. I profess it ; I desire 
to act upon it. And surely I cannot act upon 
it better than by endeavouring, so far as I can. 
to place it in the setting which shall most effec- 
tually preserve its intellectual value. This, at 
all events, is the object to which the four 
lectures that immediately follow arc desigiud 
to contribute. 





Nothing would seem easier, at first sight, than 
to give a general description of the ordinary 
beliefs of ordinary people about our familiar 
world of things and persons. It is the world 
in which we live ; it is for all men a real world ; 
it is for many men the real world ; it is the 
world of common sense, the world where the 
plain man feels at home, and where the practi- 
cal man seeks refuge from the vain subtleties 
of metaphysics. Our stock of beliefs about 
It may perhaps be difficult to justify, but it 
seems strange that they should be difficult to 
describe; yet difficult, I think, they are. 

Some statements about it may, however, be 
made with confidence. It is in space and time ; 
i.e. the material things of which it is com- 
posed, including living bodies, are extended, 



have mutual position, and possess at least 
some measure of duration. 

Things are not ehanged by a mere change of 
place, but a change of place relative to an 
observer always changes their appearance 
for him. Common sense is, therefore, eoni- 
pelled in this, as in countless other cases, to 
distinguish the appearance of a thing from its 
reality ; and to hold, as an essential article of 
its working creed, that appearances may alter, 
leaving realities unchanged. 

Common sense does not, however, draw the 
inference that our experiences of material things 
is other than direct and immediate. It has never 
held the opinion — or, if you will, the heresy 
— that what we perceive (at least by sight and 
touch) are states of our own mind, which some- 
how copy or represent external things. Neither 
has it ever held that the character or duration 
of external things in any way depends upon 
our observations of them. In perception there 
is no reaction by the perceiving mind on the 
object perceived. Things in their true reality 
are not affected by mere observation, still less 
are they constituted by it. When material 
objects are in question, common sense never 
supposes that esse and percipi are identical. 

But then, what, according to common sense, 



are things in their true reality ? What are 
they *' in themselves," when no one is looking 
at them, or when only some of their aspects arc 
under observation ? 

We ean, at all events, say what (according 
to common sense) things are not. They are 
more than collections of aspects. If we could 
simultaneously perceive a " thing ** at a 
thousand different distances, at a thousand 
different angles, under a thousand varieties 
of illumination, with its interior ideally ex- 
posed in a thousand different sections, common 
sense, if pressed, would, I suppose, still hold 
that these were no more than specimens of 
the endless variety of ways in which things 
may appear, without either changing their 
nature or fully revealing what that nature is. 
But though common sense might give this 
answer, it would certainly resent the question 
being put. It finds no difficulty in carrying 
on its work without starting these disturbing 
inquiries. It is content to say that, though a 
thing is doubtless always more than the sum 
of those aspects of it to which we happen to 
be attending, yet our knowledge thai it is and 
what it is, however imperfect, is, for practical 
purposes, sufficiently clear and trustworthy, 
requiring the pport neither of metaphysics 


nor psychology. — This, with all its diflRculties, 
is, I believe, an account, true as far as it goes, 
of the world of things as common sense con- 
ceives it. This is the sort of world whieli 
science sets out to explain. Let me give an 

We perceive some object — let us say the 
sun. We perceive it directly and not sym- 
bolically. What we sec is not a mental imago 
of the sun, nor a complex of sensations caused 
by the sun ; but the sun itself. Moreover, 
this material external object retains its iden- 
tity while it varies in appearance. It is red 
in the morning ; it is white at midday ; it is 
red once more in the evening ; it may be 
obscured by clouds or hidden in eclipse ; it 
vanishes and reappears once in every twenty- 
four hours ; yet, amid all these changes and 
vanishings, its identity is unquestioned. 
Though we perceive it differently at different 
times, and though there are times when we do 
not perceive it at all, we know it to be the 
same ; nor do we for a moment believe (with 
Heraclitus) that when it is lost to view it has, 
on that account, either altered its character or 
ceased to exist. 

In the main, therefore, experience is, accord- 
ing to common sense, a very simple affair. We 



see something, or wc feci something, or, like 
Dr. Johnson, wc kick sometiiing, and " there's 
an end on't." Experience is the source of all 
knowledge, and therefore of all explanation ; 
but, in itself, it seems scarcely to require to be 
explained. Conunon sense is prepared to leave 
it where it finds it. No doubt the occurrence 
of optical or other illusions may disturb this 
mood of intellectual tranquillity. Common 
sense, when it has to consider the case of 
appearances, some of which are held, on ex- 
traneous grounds, to be real and others to be 
illusory, may feel that there are, after all, 
problems raised by perception — by the direct 
experience of things — which are not without 
their difficulties. But the case of illusions is 
exceptional, and rarely disturbs the even 
tenor of our daily round. 


Now science, as it gladly acknowledges, is 
but an extension of common sense. It accepts, 
among other matters, the common-sense view 
of perception. Like common sense, it distin- 
guishes the thing as it is from the thing as it 
appears. Like common sense, it regards the 
things which are experienced as being them- 


solves unaffected by experience. But, unlike 
common sense, it devotes great attention to 
the way in which experience is produced by 
things. Its business is with the causal series. 
This, to be sure, is a subject which common 
sense does not wholly ignore. It would ac- 
knowledge that we perceive a lamp through 
the light which it sheds, and recognise a 
trumpet through the sound which it emits; 
but tlie nature of light or sound, and the 
manner in which they produce our experience 
of bright or sonorous objects, it hands over to 
science for further investigation. 

And the task is cheerfully undertaken. 
Science also deems perception to be the source 
of all our knowledge of external nature. But 
it regards it as something more, and different. 
For perception is itself a part of nature, a 
natural process, the product of antecedent 
causes, the cause of subsequent effects. It 
requires, therefore, like other natural facts, 
to be observed and explained ; and it is the 
business of science to explain it. 

Thus we are brought face to face with the 
contrast on which so much of the argument of 
these lectures turns : the contrast between 
beliefs considered as members of a cognitive 
series, and beliefs considered as members of 




a CiiUHuI s<'rics. In the cognitive series, beliefs 
of perception are at the root of our wholo 
knowledge of natural laws. In the causal 
M-ries, they arc the effects of natural laws iit 
actual operation. This is so important an 
example of this dual state that you nuist 
permit me to consider it in some detail. 

We may examine what goes on between the 
perceiving person and the thing he perceives 
from either end; but it is by no means a 
matter of indifference with which end we 
begin. If we examine the relation of the per- 
ceiver to the perceived it does not seem con- 
venient or accurate to describe that relation as 
a process. It is an experience, immediate and 
intuitive ; not indeed infallible, but direct and 
self-sufficient. If I look at the sun, it is the 
sun I see, and not an image of the sun, nor 
a sensation which suggests the sun, or sym- 
bolises the sun. Still less do I see ethereal 
vibrations, or a retinal image, or a nervous 
reaction, or a cerebral disturbance. For, in 
the act of perceiving, no intermediate entities 
are themselves perceived. 

But now if we, as it were, turn round, and, 
beginning at the other end, consider the relation 
of the perceived to the perceiver, no similar 
statements can be made. We find ourselves 


concerned, not with an act of intuition, but with 
a physical process, which is complicated, whicli 
occupies time, which involves many stages. VVc 
have left behind cognition ; we are plunged in 
causation. Experience is no longer the imme- 
diate apprehension of fact ; it is the trans- 
mission of a message conveyed from the object 
to the percipient by relays of material nies- 
seiigers. As to how the transmission is effected 
explanations vary with the growth of science. 
They have been entirely altered more than 
once since the modern era began, and with 
each alteration they become more complicated. 
They depend, not on one branch of science 
only, but on many. Newtonian astronomy, 
solar physics, the theory of radiation, the 
optical properties of the atmosphere, tlie 
physiology of vision, the psychology of per- 
ception, and I daresay many other branches of 
research, have to be drawn upon : and all tliis 
to tell us what it is we see, and how it is we 
come to see it. 


Now there is no one who possesses the least 
smattering of philosophy who does not know 
that the views I have just endeavoured to 



describe arc saturated with difficulties: difTi- 
culties connected with the nature of percep- 
tion ; difficulties connected with the nature of 
the object as perceived ; difficulties connected 
with its unperceived physical basis ; difficulties 
connected with the relation in which these three 
stand to each other. For common sense the 
material object consists of a certain number of 
qualities and aspects which are perceived, an 
inexhaustible number which might be perceived, 
but are not, and (perhaps) a vaguely conceived 
"somewhat" lying behind both. The medieval 
Aristotelian, if I rightly understand him (which 
very likely I do not), developed this " some- 
what " into the notion of substance— an entity 
somewhat loosely connected with the qualities 
which it supported, and in no way explaining 
them. There was " substance " in a piece of 
gold, and " substance " in a piece of lead ; but 
there was nothing unreasonable in the endea- 
vour to associate the qualities of gold with the 
substance of lead, and thus for all practico^ 
purposes to turn lead into gold. 

Modern science teaches a very different 
lesson. It has, perhaps, not wholly abandoned 
the notion of material substance, if this be 
defined as the unperceivable support of per- 
ceivable qualities; but it persistently strives 


to connect the eharacteristics of matter with 
its structure, and, among other characteris- 
tics, that of protlucing, or helping to produce, 
in us those immediate perceptions which we 
describe as our experience of matter itself. 

An important stage in tliis endeavour was 
niarked by the famous distinction between tli( 
primary and the secondary qualities of matter : 
the primary qualities being the attributes of 
external material things which were deemed 
to be independent of the observer (for exam- 
ple, impenetrability, density, weight, configura- 
tion) ; the secondary qualities being those 
which, apart from observers endowed with 
senses like our own, woidd either exist diffe"- 
ently, or would not exist at all (for example, 
colour and taste). On this view the primary 
qualities were among the causes of the sccontlary 
qualities, and the secondary qualities were 
transferred from the thing perceived to tlie 
person perceiving. 

I am not the least concerned to defend this 
theory. It has been nmch derided, and is 
certainly open to attack. But something like 
it seems to be an inevitable stage in the de- 
velopment of modern views of nature. The 
w^hole effort of physical science is to discover 
the material or non-psyehical facts which shall, 


1 no 


among othor things, account for our psychicnl 
experiences. It is true that there are nun of 
sci'jncc, as well as philosophers, who regard all 
such constructions as purely arbitrary— mere 
labour-saving devices which liavc nothing to 
do with reality. But though I shall have 
something to say about these theories in my 
next course of lectures, for the present I need 
only observe that they do not represent ordin- 
ary scientific opinion, either as it is, or as it has 
ever been. Science thinks, rightly or wrongly, 
that she is concerned with a real world, which 
persists independently of our experience : she 
has never assented to the doctrine that the 
object of her patient investigations is no more 
than a well-contrived invention for enabling 
us to foretell, and perhaps to modify, the 
course of our personal feelings. 

But then, if science is right, we are com- 
mitted to a division between the contents of 
inunediate experience and its causes, which 
showed itself dimly and tentatively in the dis- 
tinction between the secondary and the primary 
qualities of matter, but has become deeper and 
more impassable with every advance in physics 
and physiology. It Wi. ; possible to maintain 
(though, I admit, not very easy) that, while 
the secondary qualities of nuitter are due to 


the action of the primary qualities on oin 
organs of perception, the primary qualities 
themselves are, nevertheless, the objects of 
direct experience. The fact, for example, t)iat 
colour is no more than a sensation need not 
preclude us from perceiving the material quali- 
ties which, like shape, or motion, or mass, arc 
the external and independent causes to which 
the sensation is due. I do not say that this 
view was ever explicitly entertained — nor (h)(s 
it signify. For, if we accept the teaching of 
science, it can, I suppose, be ei tcrtaiiud 
no more. The physical causes of percepUon 
are inferred, but not perceived. The real ma- 
terial world has been driven by the growtli of 
knowledge further and further into the realm 
of the unseen, and now lies completely hidden 
from direct experience behind the impenetrable 
screen of its own effects. 


For consider what the causal process of 
perception really is if we trace it from the 
observed to the observer — if we follow tlie 
main strands in the complex lines of comniuiii- 
cation through which the object seen reveals 
itself to the man who sees it. 




I revert to my previous example — tlie sun. 
We need not conskicr those of its attributes 
which are notoriously arrived at by indirect 
methods — which are not perceived but in- 
ferred — its magnitude, for example, or its mass. 
Confining ourselves to what is directly per- 
ceived, its angular size, its shape (projected 
on a plane), its warmth, its brightness, its 
colour, its (relative) motion, its separation from 
the observer in space — how arc these* inune- 
diate experiences produced ? 

The answ^ers have varied with the progress 
of science; nor, for my present purpose, does 
it greatly matter which answers we adopt. 
Let us take thos*- which are commonly accepted 
at the present moment. They are mjt ordy 
the truest, but the fullest ; and for that very 
reason they put the difficulty with which 
we are concerned in the highest relief. W'v 
begin our causal series with electrons, or, if 
you do not accept the electric theory of matter 
in any of its forms, then with atoms and 
molecules. We start with these, because the 
sun is a collection of them, and because it is 
their movements which set going the whole 
train of causes and effects by which the sun 
produces in us the perception of itself. 

We may take, as the next stage, ethereal 


vibrations, of various lengths and various ain- 
plitudcs, sent travelling into space by tin 
moving particles. A fraction of these waves 
reaches our atmosphere, and of that fraction 
a fraction reaches our eyes, and of that frac 
tion a further fraction falls within the narrow- 
limits of length to which our eyes are sensi- 
tive. It is through these tha we arc able 
to see the sun. Still another fraction, not 
necessarily identical in wave-lengths, affects 
the nerves which produce in us the sensation 
of warmth. It is through these that we arc 
able to jeel the sun. 

But, before we either see or feel, there is 
much still to be accomplished. The causal 
series is not nearly completed. Complicated 
neural processes, as yet only imperfectly 
understood; complicated cerebral processes 
—as yet understood still less— both involv- 
ing physiological changes far more complicated 
than the electrical " ace derations " or electro- 
magnetic disturbances u'th which wc have 
hitherto been dealing, bring us to the end ol 
the material sequence of causes and effects, 
and lay the message from the object perceivct 
on the threshold of the perceiving conscious 
ness. So does a postman slip into your letter 
box a message which has been first written 




tlu-n carried by hand, then by a mail-cart, then 
by a train, thfii by hand again, till it reaches 
its destination, and nothing further is required 
except that what has been written should be 
read and understood. 

Thus far the material process of transmis- 
sion. The psychical process has still to come. 
Psychology is a science, not less than physio- 
logy or physics ; and psychology has much 
to say on the subject of perception. It is 
true that scientific explorers whose point of 
departure is introspective ; who concern them- 
selves primarily with ideas, conceptions, sen- 
sations, and so forth, rarely succeed in fitting 
their conclusions without a break to those of 
their colleagues who begin with the " external " 
causes of perception. The two tunnels, driven 
from opposite sides of the mountain, do not 
always meet under its crest. Still, we cannot 
on that account ignore the teaching of psy- 
chology on the genesis of perceptual experience 
regarded, not as the ground of knowledge, but 
as a natural product. 

I do not mean to attempt a summary of 
psychology from this point of view, any more 
than I have attempted a summary of physics 
or physiology. My argimient is really inde- 
pendent, in this case as in the other, of par- 


ticiilar systems. All 1 ask for is the adinissioti 
that in perception there are conditions aiitt- 
cedently supplied by the perceiving conscious- 
ness which profoundly modify every pereeptuj.l 
experience— and that these conditions (unlike 
Kant's forms) are natural growths, varying, like 
other natural growths, from individual to indi- 
vidual. This admission must, I think, be ma. I. 
by every empirical psychologist, to whatever 
school he happens to belong. 

If this statement seems obscure in its general 
and abstract form, consider a particular ap- 
plication of it. Let us assume, with many 
psychologists, that Will, in the form of sekc- 
tive attention, lies at the root of our perceptual 
activities; that we may therefore be said, 
in a sense, voluntarily to create the objects we 
perceive; that experience of the present is 
largely qualified by memories of the past, and 
that the perceptual mould into which our sen- 
sations are run is largely a social product— born 
of the intercourse between human beings, and, 
in its turn, rendering that intercourse possible. 
Is it not clear that, on assumptions like these, 
consciousness, so far from passively receiving 
the messages conveyed to it through physical 
and physiological channels, actively moditie^ 
their character ? 





But why, it may be asked, should these eon- 
siderations involve any difficulty ? And, if there 
be a difTiculty, what is its exact character ? 

In its most general form the difficulty is 
this. It is claimed by science that its con- 
clusions arc based upon experience. The ex- 
perience spoken of is unquestionably the 
familiar perception of external things and their 
movements as understood by common sense ; 
and, however much our powers of perception 
be increased by telescopes, microscopes, bal- 
ances, tiiermometers, electroscopes, and so 
forth, this common-sense view suffers no altera- 
tion. The perceptions of a man of science are, 
in essence, the perceptions of ordinary men in 
their ordinary moments, beset with the same 
difficulties, accepted with the same assurance. 
VVliatevcr be the proper way of describing 
scientific results, the experimental data on 
which they rest are sought and obtained in 
the spirit of " naif realism." 

On this foundation science proceeds to 
build up a theory of nature by which the 
foundation itself is shattered. It saws off the 
branch on which it is supported. It kicks 


down the ladder by which it has climbed. It 
dissolves the thing perceived into a remote 
reality which is neither perceived nor perceiv- 
able. It turns the world of common sins* 
into an illusion, and on this illusion it calmly 

rests its case. 

But this is not the only logical embarrass- 
ment in which we are involved. When science 
has supplied us with a description of cxtt riml 
things as they " really arc," and we proceed t(. 
ask how the physical reality reveals itself to 
us in experience, a new difficulty arises, or, if 
you like, the old difficulty with a new face. 
For science requires us to admit that experi- 
ence, from this point of view, is equivalent to 
perception; and that perception is a remote 
psychological effect of a long train of causes, 
physical and physiological, originally set in 
motion by the external thing, but in no way 
resembling it. Look carefully at this process 
from the outside, and ask yourselves why 
there should be any such correspondence 
between the first of these causes and the last of 
these effects, as should enable us to know or 
infer the one from the other ? Why should the 
long train of unperceivable intermediaries that 
connect the perceived with the perceivcr be 
trusted to speak the truth ? 



I just now likened these intermediaries to 
relays of messengers. But messengers arc 
expected to hand on their message in the form 
in which they have received it. The nies- 
Mjngers change, but not the message. The 
metaphor, therefore, is far too complimentary 
to the train of physical causes which reveal 
the material thing to the perceiving conscious- 
ness. The neural changes which are in imme- 
diate causal contiguity with that psychical effect 
which we call " the experience of an external 
object " have no resemblance whatever either 
to tlie thing as it is perceived or to the thing as 
it really is. Nor have they any resemblance 
to the proximate cause which sets them going, 
namely, the ethereal vibrations ; nor have 
these to the acceleri-ied electrons which con- 
stitute the incandescent object which we 
" experience " as the sun. Nor has the sun, as 
experienced, tlie slightest resemblance to the 
sun as it really is. 

Hume, in his "Dialogues on Natural Religion," 
urges the absurdity of arguing from an effect 
like the universe to a cause like God, since 
the argument from a particular effect to a 
particular cause, or from a particular cause to 
a particular effect, is only legitimate when we 
have had some previous experience of that 





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particular class of causal sequence ; and 
nobody, it is plain, has had the opportunity 
of observing Creation. Whatever be the value 
of this argument in the case of God and tlic 
world, it seems to me conclusive in the case 
of matter and man. We cannot argue from 
purely psychical effects, like perceptions and 
sensations, to external causes, like physiological 
processes or ethereal vibrations, unless we can 
experience both sets of facts in causal relation. 
And this, if we accept the conclusions of science, 
we can never do — ^partly because the inter- 
mediate members of the causal series are un- 
perceivable ; partly because, if they were 
perceivable, perception has been reduced by 
science to a purely psychical effect — which 
obviously cannot include its material cause. 
This last must for ever remain outside tlic 
closed circle of sensible experiences. 

Here, of course, we find ourselves face to 
face with a familiar objection to those philo- 
sophies of perception which deny that we 
have any access to external reality, except 
through ideas which are its copy. But they 
are in a better case than science. They 
need not explicitly admit a discrepancy be- 
tween their premises and their conclusions. 
They arrive at the subjectivity of perception 

» 1 





by metliods of introspection. They interro- 
gate consciousness, and are convinced that 
every experience can be analysed into sen- 
sations and ideas, some of which, no doubt, 
suggest externality, but none of which are 
external. If, then, the worst comes to the 
worst, they can, and often do, lighten their 
philosophic ship by pitching the whole material 
universe overboard as a bit of superfluous 
cargo. But physical science cannot (at least 
in my opinion) do anything of the kind. Its 
whole business is with the material universe. 
Its premises are experiences of external things, 
not of internal sensation and ideas. And if 
it has associated its fortunes with a theory of 
perception which treats experience as a natural 
effect of the thing experienced ; if it has there- 
by wandered within sight of the perilous 
problems which haunt the frontier where mind 
and matter meet, it has not done so in a 
spirit of reckless adventure, but in the legiti- 
mate pursuit of its own affairs. 

This does not necessarily make things easier. 
We are not here concerned with questionings 
about the remoter provinces of knowledge— pro- 
vinces unexplored except by specialists, negli- 
gible by ordinary men engaged on ordinary 
business. On the contrary, the difficulties to 


which I have called your attention threaten tli 
unquestioned assumption of daily life, the pre 
suppositior of every scientific experiment, aii 
the meaning of every scientific generalisatioi 
They cannot be ignored. 

On the other hand, threaten as they nuu 
these difficulties can never modify our attitud 
either towards practical action or seientifi 
theory. Beliefs which were inevitable lictVn 
remain inevitable still. The supreme act c 
instinctive faith involved in the percept i<' 
of external objects stands quite unshakci 
Whatever we may think of Berkeley, we can 
not give up Dr. Johnson. " Seeing," says tli 
proverb, " is believing " ; and it speaks bcttc 
than it knows. 


Can we, then, adopt a middle course, an( 
imitating the serene acquiescence of Huiik 
accept the position of sceptics in the study an 
believers in the market-place ? This seen 
eminently unsatisfactory ; and, since believei 
on this subject we must perforce remain, i 
behoves us to consider how, and on what term; 
we can best qualify our scepticism. 

Observe, then, that the particular difficult 



which lias been occupying our attention arises 
in the main from the assumption that our 
common-sense beliefs in the reality and eiiar- 
acter of material things have no other founda- 
tion than the fact that we so perceive them. 
From such premises it was impossible, it 
seemed, to infer that they exist otherwise 
tiian as they are perceived ; and still more 
impossible to regard the immediate intuition 
by which we apprehend the object, and the 
long-drawn sequence of causes by which the 
object is revealed, as being the same process 
looked at from different ends. 

But this difficulty is greatly mitigated if we 
l»old that our belief in an indej ndent world 
of material objects, however it may be caused, 
is neither a conclusion drawn from this or that 
particular experience norfrom all our experiences 
put together, but an irresistible assumption. 
Grant the existence of external things, and it 
becomes possible and legitimate to attempt ex- 
planations of their appearance, to regard our 
perceptions of them as a psychical and physio- 
logical pre ^"ct of material realities which do 
not themselves appear and cannot be perceived. 
Refuse, on the other hand, to grant this assump- 
tion, and no inductive legerdemain will enable 
us to erect our scientific theories about an 



: I 

enduring world of material things upon the frail 
foundation of sue ssive personal perceptions. 

If this does nc^ seem clear at first sight it 
is, I think, because we do not consider our 
experiences as a whole. A limited group ol 
experiences — say Faraday's experiments with 
electro- magnets — may guide us into new know- 
ledge about the external world, including as- 
pects of that world which are not open to 
sense perception. But then these experiences 
assume that this external world exists, they 
assume it to be independent of perception, 
they assume it to be a cause of perception. 
These assumptions once granted, experiment 
may be, and is, the source of fresh discoveries. 
But experiment based on these assumptions 
never can establish their truth ; and if our 
theory of knowledge requires us to hold that 
*' no proposition should be entertained witli 
greater assurance than the proofs it is built 
on will warrant," our fate is sealed, and we 
need never hope to extricate ourselves from 
the en^anglements in which a too credulous 
empiricism has involved us. This means that 
one at least of the inevitable beliefs enumerated 
in the first lecture — the belief in an external 
world — is a postulate which science is com- 
pelled to use but 's unable to demonstrate. 




How, then, arc wc to class it ? It is not a law 
of thought in the accepted meaning of that 
expression. AVe are not rationally required 
to accept it by the very structure of our 
thinking faculties. Many people, indeed, theo- 
retically reject it ; none, so far as I know, 
regard it as self-evident. On the other hand, 
it is not an inference from experience ; neither 
is it an analytic judgment in wiiich the pre- 
dicate is involved in the subject. Described 
in technical language, it would seem to be a 
priori without being necessary, and synthetic 
without being empirical — qualities which, in 
combination, scarcely fit into any familiar 
philosophic classification. 

According to the view which I desire to 
press in these lectures, this marks a philosophic 
omission. I regard the belief in an external 
world as one of a class whose importance has 
been ignored by philosophy, though all science 
depends on them. They refuse to be lost in 
tiie common herd of empirical beliefs ; though 
they have no claim to be treated as axioms. We 
are inclined to accept them, but not rationally 
compelled. The inclination may be so strong 
as practically to exclude doubt ; and it may 
diminish from this maximum to a faint feeling 
of probability. But, whatever be the strength 


of these beliefs, and wliatevt^r the nature ol 
their eiaims, the nuportanee of tiie part t!i(\ 
play in the development and strueture of oui 
current creed cannot easily be exaggeratcil. 
Before, however, I consider other specinu ii^ 
of this class, I must interpolate a long parcn. 
thesis upon probability. I have just deserilxd 
these fundamental beliefs as being " probable ' 
in varying degrees. Gradations of probability 
arc familiar to the mathematical tiieorist, 
Arc we, then, here concerned with probability 
as conceived by the mathematician ? It is 
evidently essential to settle this question before 
proceeding with the main argument ; and 1 
propose, therefore, to turn aside antl devote 
the nex* lecture to its consideration. 



I WISH I were a mathematician. There is in 
the history of the mathematical sciences, as in 
their substance, something that strangely stirs 
the imagination even of the most ignorant. Its 
younger sister, Logic, is as abstract, and its 
claims are yet wider. But it has never shaken 
itself free from a certain pretentious futility : 
it always seems to be telling us, in language 
quite unnecessarily technical, what we under- 
stood much better before it was explained. 
It never helps to discover, though it may 
guarantee discovery ; it never persuades, 
though it may show that persuasion has been 
legitimate ; it never aids the work of thought, 
it only acts as its auditor and accountant- 
general. I am not referring, of course, to 
what I see described in recent works as 
" modern scientific logic." Of this 1 do not 



presume to speak. Still less ain I rcfcrririM 
so-called Inductive Logic. Of this it is sea 
worth while to speak.' I refer to their m 
famous predecessor, the formal logic of l 

But in what < Afferent tones must we sjx 

of mathematics I Mill, if I remember right 

said it was as full of mysteries us theoloj 

But while the value of theology for knowit ( 

is disputed, the valu^ of mathematics for kixi 

ledge is indisputable. Its triumphs can 

appreciated by the most foolish, they app( 

to the most niaterial. If they seem sometiii 

lost to ordinary view in the realms of abstr; 

infinities, they do not disdain to serve js 

the humbler fields ol" practice. They im 

helped mankind to al? the greatest general i> 

tions about the physical universe : and wit 

out them we should still be fumbling ov 

simple problems of practical mechanics, e 

tangled in a costly and ineffectual empiricisii 

But while we thank the mathematician f 

his aid in conquering Nature, we envy hi 

his powers of understanding her. Though 1 

deals, it vvould seem, entirely with abstra 

tions, they are abstractions which, at his pe 

» Although, a» a matter of fact, I do speak of it in tl 
next lecture. 


is scare 
leir iiior" 
3 of tllf 

tve spciik 
' rightly, 
or kiidw- 
can l)( 
y appeal 
ve js ill 
ey Imve 
id witli- 
ng over 
lies, e/i- 
cian lor 
ivy hir.i 
ough Ik' 
his per- 

it ill tlie 



.uiasion, supply the key to the profoundest 
ecrets of the physical universe. lie holds tlic 
clues to mazes where the clearest intellect, 
jnaidcd, would wander hopelessly astray. He 
belongs to a privileged caste. 

I intend no serious qualification of this high 
f)raise when I add that, us regard.^ the im- 
mediate subject of this lecture, I mean Proba- 
bility, mathematicians do not seem to have 
given ignorant inquirers like myvjlf all the 
aid which perhaps we have a ri^ht to ask. 
They have treated the subject as a branch of 
applied mathematics. They have supplied us 
with much excellent theory. They have exer- 
cised admirable skill in the solution of problJms. 
But I own that, when we inquire into the 
rational basis of all this imposing super- 
structure, their explanations, from the lay 
point of view, lee ve much to be desired. 

" Probability," says an often-quoted phrase 
of Butler, "is the guide of life." But the 
Bishop did not define the term ; and he wrote 
before the theory of probability had attained 
to ail Its present dignities. Neither D'Alembert 
nor Laplvice had discussed it. Quetelet had 
not applied it to sociology nor Maxwell to 
pliysics. Jevons had not aeseribed it as the 
'noblest creation of the intel.'ct." It is 


clouV)tfuI whctlur Buthr meant by it « x;ic 
what the niathoniaticiuiis nuan ' y it, a 
certain that he did not suspect any hnki 
ambiguity in the expression. 

Nor, indeed, wouhi the t xistenee of s» 
ambiguity be commonly admitted by any scli 
of thought. The ordinary view is tliat I 
theory of probabilities is, as Laplace descril 
it, "common sense reduced to ealeiilatioi 
That th'^rc could be two kinds of prol)al)ili 
only one of which fitted this description, \\u 
be generally regarded as a iieresy. Hut it 
a heresy in which I myself believe ; and wlii 
with much diffidence, I now propose to (KiV 


The well-known paradox of the theory 
probabilities is that, to all seeming, it can 
tract knowledge from ignorance and ccrtaii 
from doubt. The point cannot be better ] 
than by Poincar^ in discus?^ ng aic pliysi 
theory of gases, where the doctrine of pro 
bility finds an important application. Let 
give you his view — partly in paraplir; 
partly in translation. "For omniscicnc 
he says in substance, " chance would not tx 
" It is but the measure of our ignorance. \M 


it, aii'l 

' lurkiii<: 

of such, 
iiy sclioul 
tliat tlic 
>ii, W(»;il(| 
Hut it is 
ul wliicli. 
(» (U'lViid. 

hcory (!i 
t can t X- 
ettcr put 
of piuha 
Let nil' 
not exist. 
?e. VViuii 


"wr HescrilH- an event as aceiclental we mtan 
''no more than that we do not fully eonipre- 
"hentl the eonditions by which it was brought 

"Uut is this the full truth (.. the matter? 
" Are not the laws of chance a source of know- 
'• ledge ? And, stranger still, is it not sonic- 
*^ times ejisier to generalise (say) about random 
"irjovements than about niovcmcn'^ which 
"obey even a simple law— witiicss the kinetic 
'Mheory of gases? And, if this be so, how 
'' can chance be the cquiva' it of ignorance ? 
" Ask a physicist to explain what goes on in a 
"gas. Ilf might, perhaps, express his views 
"in some such terms as these : * You wish me 
" to tell you about these complex ohenomena. 
" li by ill luck I happened to know the laws 
'' winch govern them, I should be helpless. I 
"shor.ld be lost in endless calculations, and 
"could never hope to supply you with an 

^^ answer to your questions. Fortunately for 

^^ both of us, I am completely ignorant about 
the matter; I can, therefore, supply you 

^^ with an answer at once. This may seem 
odd. But there is something odder still, 

"niiniely, that my answer will be right.' " 
Now, what are the eonditions which make it 

possible thus to extract a correct answer from 


material apparently so unpromising ? TIk 
would seem to be a spceial combination 
ignorance and knowledge, the joint effect 
which is to justify us in supposing that tl 
particular collection of facts or events wii 
which we are concerned are happening " 
random." If we could calculate the coniplc 
causes which determine the fall of a pciin 
or the collisions of a molecule, we might co 
ceivably deal with pennies or molecules i 
dividually ; and the calculus of probabilil 
might be dispensed with. But we cannol 
ignorance, therefore, real or assumed, is thi 
one of the conditions required to provide i 
with the kind of chaos to which the doctrii 
of chances may most fittingly be applied. Bi 
there is another condition not less necdti 
namely, knowledge — the knowledge that i 
extraneous cause or internal tendency is ii 
fecting our chaotic group with some bias < 
drift whereby its required randonmess won 
be destroyed. Our penny must be symmcti 
cal, and Maxwell's demons ' must not nicdd 
with the molecules. 

» Maxwell, as all who interest themselves in pliysics 8 
aware, arrived at very interesting conclusions by considcri 
what would happen if little demons interfered witli the ramli 
motions of the molecules constituting a gas. 



Thr slow (lisiiitogiatioii of radiuni adruiiably 
illiistr.itcs the behaviour of a group or collection 
possessing all the qualities which we require. 
TIk; myriad atoms of which the minutest 
visible fragment is composed arc numerous 
enough to neutralise eccentricities such as 
tJiose which, in the case of a game of chance, 
call " runs of luck." Of these atoms we 


have nt) individual knowledge. What we 
know of one we know of all ; and we treat 
them not only as a collection, but as a collec- 
tion made at random. Now, physicists tell us 
that out of any such random collection a 
certain proportion will disintegrate in a given 
tijne ; and always the same proportion. But 
whence comes their confidence in the per- 
manence of this ratio ? Why arc they so 
assured of its fixity that these random explo- 
sions are thought to provide us with a better 
time-keeper than the astronomical changes 
which have served mankind in that capacity 
through immemorial ages ? The reason is that 
we have here the necessary ignorance and the 
necessary knowl.dge in a very complete form. 
Nothing can well exceed our ignorance of the 
differences between one individual radium atom 
and another, though relevant differences there 
must be. Nothing, again, seems better assured 


i i 

than our knowledge tliat no special bias o 
drift will make one collection of these atom 
behave differently from another. For tin 
atomic disintegration is due to no extenui 
shock or mutual reaction which might aflec 
not one atom only, but the whole group. J 
milligram of radium is not like a maga/ino o 
shells, where if one spontaneously explodes a! 
the rest follow suit. The disruption of tli* 
atom is due to some internal principle of dcaii 
whose effects no known external agent cni 
either hasten or retard. Although, therefore 
the proportion of atoms which will disinte- 
grate in a given time can only be discovered 
like the annual death-rate among men, h\ 
observation, yet once discovered it is discovcrcf 
for ever. Our human death-rate not onlj 
may change, but does change. The death-rat( 
of radium atoms changes not. In the oik 
case, causes are in operation which modih 
both the organism and the surroundings oi 
which its life depends. In the other case, ii 
would seem that the average of successive 
generations of atoms does not vary, and tliat 
once brought into existence, they scveralh 
nm their appointed course imaffected by cad 
other or by the world outside. 
So far we have been concerned with group! 



or collections or series ; and about these the 
doctrine of eJiances and the theory of error 
may apparently supply most valuable in- 
formation. But in practical affairs — nay, 
even in many questions of scientific specu- 
lation — we are yet more concerned about in- 
ilividual happenings. We have, therefore, 
next to ask how we can infer the probability of 
a particular event from our knowledge of some 
group or series to which it belongs. 

There seems at first sight no difficulty in this, 
provided we have sufficient knowledge of the 
group or series of which the particular event is 
a member. If we know that a tossed penny will 
in the long run give heads and tails equally often, 
we do not hesitate to declare that the chances 
of a particular throw giving ""' heads " are even. 
To expect in any given case heads rather than 
tails, or tails rather than heads, is inconsistent 
with the objective knowledge of the series 
which by hypothesis we actually possess. 

But what if our information about the group 
or series is much less than this ? Suppose that, 
instead of knowing that the two possible alter- 
natives do in fact occur equally often, we are 
in the less advantageous position of knowing 
no reason why they should not occur equally 
often. We ought, I suppose, still to regard the 

I i 


chances of a particular toss as even ; althon^jli 
this estimate, expressed by the same fraction 
(i) and hehl with the same confidence, is 
apparently a conclusion based on ignorance, 
whereas the first conclusion was apparently 
based on knowledge. 

If, for example, we know that a die is fairly 
made and fairly thrown, we can tell how often 
a particular number will turn up in a lonj,' 
series of throws, and we can tell what the 
chances arc that it will turn up on the occasion 
of a single throw. Moreover, the two con- 
clusions seem to be logically connected. 

But if we know that the die is loaded we can 
no longer say V.ow the numbers will be dis- 
tributed in a series of throws, however lonp, 
though we are sure that the distribution will 
be very different from what it would have been 
had the die been a fair one. Nevertheless, wc 
can still say (before the event) what the chances 
are of a particular number turning up on a 
single throw ; and these chances arc exactly 
the same whether the die be loaded or whether 
it be fair — namely, one-sixth. Our objective 
knowledge of the group or series has vanished, 
but, with the theory of probability to help us, 
our subjective conviction on this point appar- 
ently remains unchanged. 




There is iiere, surely, a rather awkward tran- 
sition from the " objective " to the " subjec- 
tive " point of view. \Vc were dealing, in the 
first case, with groups or series of events 
about which the doctrine of chances enabled 
us to say something positive, something which 
experience would always confirm if the groups 
or series were large enough. A perfect cal- 
culator, endowed with complete knowledge of 
all the separate group members, would have 
no correction to make in our conclusions. His 
information would be more complete than our 
own, but not more accurate. It is true that 
for him " averages " would have no interest 
and " chance " no meaning. Nevertheless, 
he would agree that in a long series of fair 
throws of a fair die any selected face would turn 
up one-sixth times as often as all the others 
taken together. But in the second case this is 
no longer so. Foresight based on complete 
knowledge would apparently differ from fore- 
sight based on the calculation of chances. Our 
calculator would be aware of the exact manner 
in which the die was loaded, and of the exact 
advantage which this gave to certain numbers. 
He would, therefore, know that in asserting the 
chance of any particular number turning up on 
the first throw to be one-sixth, we were wrons. In 


wliut stnse, then, tlo wo deem ourselves to liavi 
been right ? 

The answer, I suppose, is that we were rigli 
not about a group of throws made with thl 
loaded die, but about a group of sucii group: 
made with dice loaded at random — a group ii 
which " randomness " was so happily preser\(( 
among its constituent groups that its absence 
within each of these groups was immatcrijil 
and no one of the six alternative nunil)( n 
was favoured above another. 

A similar reply might be given if we suppose 
our ignorance carried yet a step further. In 
stead of knowing that our die was loaded, vm 
being ignorant only of the manner of its 
loading, we might be entirely ignorant whctlui 
it was loaded or not. The chances of a par 
ticular number turning up on the first throv 
would still be one-sixth. But the series t( 
which this estimate would refer would neitlui 
be one composed of fair throws with a fail 
die, nor one composed of a series of throws 
with dice loaded at random, but ( le com- 
posed of a series of throws with dice chosen 
at random from a random collection of dice, 
loaded and not loaded ! 

It seems plain that we have no experimental 
knowledge of series piled on series after this 



fashion. Our conclusions about tlicni arc not 
f)ase(l on observation, nor collected from sta- 
tistics. They arc arrived at a priori ; and 
when the character of a scries is arrived at 
a priori, the probability of a particular event 
belonging to it can be arrivctl at independently 
by the same method. \o reference to the 
seri( is required. The reason we estimate the 
chances against any one of the six possible 
throws of a die as five to one under each and 
all of the suppositions we have been discussing 
is that under none of them have we any ground 
for thinking any one of the six more probable 
than another ;— even though we may have 
ground for thinking that in a series of throws 
made with that partici !ar die, some number, 
to us unknown, will in fact turn up with ex- 
ceptional frequency. 

The most characteristic examples, therefore, 
of problems in probability depend for their 
solution on a bold use of the "principle of 
sufficient reason." We treat alternatives as 
equally likely when we cannot see any ground 
for supposing that one is more likely than 
another. This seems sensible enough; but 
how far may we carry this process of extracting 
knowledge from ignorance ? An agnostic de- 
clines to offer any opinion on the being of 


God Ixrcauso it is a matter about wliicli I 
professes to know nothing. But the univcr 
either has a spiritual cause, or it has in 
If the agnostic is as ignorant as \\v sup|>os( 
he cannot have any reason for preferring ti 
first alternative to the second, or the seeoi 
to the first. Must he, therefon conclude tli 
the chances of Theism arc even ? The nu 
who knows this knows much. He knows, 
may know, that God's existence is slightly nui 
probable than his own chance of winning 
coup at Monte Carlo. He knows, or may kno 
the exact fraction by which the two proh 
bilities differ. How, then, caa he call hinis( 
an agnostic ? 

Every one must, I think, feel that sueli re 
soning involves a misuse of the theory 
probability. But is that misuse without sor 
justification ? The theory, unless I misread 
permits, or rather requires, us to express 1 
the same fraction probabilities based on v>h 
is little less than complete knowledge, ai 
probabilities based on what is little more th^ 
complete ignorance. To arrive at a clear co 
elusion, it seems only necessary to apply tl 
" law of sufPcient reason " to defined altcrn 
tives ; and it is apparently a matter of perl'e 
indifference whether we apply this law in i 

; I 



iiflirmativc or its ncgativf sliapt" ; whether wc 
say •' there is every reason for believing that 
sucli and su(!li alternatives happen equally 
often," or whether we say " there is no reason 
for thinking that one alternative happens more 
(jften than the other." I do not criticise this 
nu'thod ; still less do I quarrel with it. On 
the contrary, I um lost in admiration of this 
instrument of investigation, the quality of 
whose output seems to depend so little on the 
sort of raw nuiterial with which it is supplied. 



My object, indeed, is neither to discus« the 
basis on wliieii rests the calculus of probabili- 
ties—a task for which I own myself totally 
unfit— nor yet to show that a certain ob- 
scurity hangs over the limits within which it 
may properly be employed. I desire rather 
to suggest that, wherever those limits are 
placed, there lies beyond them a kind of proba- 
bility yet more fundamental, about which the 
mathematical methods can tell us nothing, 
though it possesses supreme value as a " guide 
of hfe." 

Wherein lies the distinction between the 
two? In this: the doctrine of calculable 


pn)bal)ilify (if I may so call it) lias its oi 
application, or its only assured app'icati* 
within groups whose character is either pos 
lated, or is intlependcntly arrived at by 
ferenee and observation. These groups, 
they natural or conventional, provide a Iran 
work, marking out a region wherein prevji 
the kind of ignorance which is the subjerti 
reflection of objective " randonmess." 'J "his 
the kind of ignorance which the calculus 
probabilities can most successfully transnn 
into knowledge : and herein lies the rcas 
why the discoverers of the calculus found th 
original inspiration in the hazards of t 
gambling-table, and why their successors si 
find in games of chance its Iiappiest illusti 
tions. For in games of chance the gro 
framework is provided by convention ; ptrfi 
" randomness " is secured by fitting devict 
and hi who attempts to modify it is expdl 
from society as a cheat. 

None of these observations apply to the kii 
of probability on whose importance I am ik 
insisting. If calculable probability be indc 
"common sense reduced to calculation," i 
tuitive probability lies deeper. It supports coi 
mon sense, and it supplies the ultimate ground 
be it secure or insecure — of all work-a-di 

\ \ 




its only 

['V post II- 

t bv ill- 

)UJ)S, l)c 

u IVaiiu. 

Tliis is 
Iculus ((!' 
L' reason 
md thcii 

of the 
sors still 


,c group 


devices ; 


the kind 
am now 
c indeed 
on," in- 
irts com- 

prnctieeandallscicntifietlieory. It has nolliin^ 
to do witlj " raiKhuimess " ; it knows nothing' 
of av<rajfes ; it ob<ys no formal hiws ; no hght 
is thnjwii on it by t-ards or tlice ; it cannot be 
reduced to calculation. How, then, is it to be 
heated ? What place is it to cK?c'")y in our 
general schenu' ? 

These are all important questi.)ns. IJut 
no answer to them can be given till we have 
piessed somewhat further the line of thoutjht 
wl.ieh the discussion in this present hcture has 
for a moment interrupted. Before I began this 
Jong parenthesis on the theory cf ^•hance, 1 
was occupied with a most important exampl'- 
of a belief which possesses the highest <legree 
of intuitive probability, but no calculable 
probability at all. I mean the belief in an 
independent physical univeisc. In the next 
lecture I shall resume the general thread of 
my argimient, and consider another belief of 
the same kind which is not less— some would 
say even more— essential to natural science 
than Ihe on( with wliich I have already dealt. 
1 mean a belief in the regularity of nature. 


In my last lecture mit one I dwelt ii 
the interplay of causes and reasons in 
snccial case— the case of our iinnitd itc 
periences of the external world, the worh 
which we move, the world investigated by 
physical sciences. No case can indeed be u 
important ; for these immediate experiences 
deemed by every man to be his guide thro 
all the hours of his waking life, and by v\ 
man of science to supply the evidence on \vl 
dep'-nds all our knowledge of natural law 
Yet this very statement suggests the cj 
enee of another scries of problems not less 
portant and not less closely co.mected v 
my general argument. For, how do we 
from particular experiences to general lau 
from beliefs about individual occurrences 
beliefs about the ordering of the univcr 
These beliefs, looked at froUi the scicnl 



kVl'lt U|)Ut| 

IIS ill (iiu 
:(l .iti" ex- 
world ill 
t'd by tJK 
(I bo more 
^it'iitrs art- 
e tliroujrii 

by I' very 
! on which 
il laws, 
the c'xist- 
)t less im- 
[?U'(i with 
o we get 
al laws- - 
rcnces to 
universe ".' 



point of view, arc-, as I have sc, ofUu oh- 
scrviil, a natural product. Tluv bave a 
bistory like otbrr natural products/ Tlioy arr 
•Im- cff.vts of a long train of rnusvs ; „„,| 
•""""K tb(.M- causes aiv sonu- which claim 
"Ubtly or wrongly, to b<. reasons, an un- 
« —ntcd multitude which mak.- no such <laim 
and others, again, which occupy a doubtful 
position between the two. 

Imagine an external intelligence studyi,,,, 
Hxr nutluHls by which earth-born creatures of 
various types adjust themselves to future cir- 
cM.mstances. The most primitive method is 
1 suppose, no more than simph; nervou; re- 
action. The most <hrveloped method involves 
reasoned <^xpect«tion. And between these two 
I'xtrcmes our supposed observer would sec -i 
'-ng series of intermediate forms melting infi. 
^"ic another by insensibh. gradation. 

iTom the point of vitrw of the argument I ..„„ 
endeavouring to present to you, this develop- 
"H-nt is of the greatest interest. Thecna.iou 
"f a capacity lo. expectation, and of an iiu-lina- 

'-J to expect a future sh..ilart(> the past, n.ust 
> ; <I-'nied one of the most remarkable t riumpl.s 
> selection-if to s<.lcction it indc-cd be due 

^tartii^ ,..o,, ,j., ,,,,j„^.^^ ,^,,.^^^^ ^^^ 


to c tcrnal stimulus, improving thcni into sucl 
excellent imitations of inductive reasoning a 
those which lead a chick, no more than a fev 
hours old, to reject food which it has one 
found nasty'; and finally evolving out o 
these humble beginnings a mode of infercne 
which, ejcording to empirical philosophy, i 
the true and only source of all our gener? 
knowledge, whether of nature or of man. 

It must be owned, indeed, that the attemp 
to treat instinctive expectation as a form c 
rational inference has been a lamentabl 
failure. By no exercise of ingenuity can be 
liefs about what is not experienced be logical! 
extracted from particular experiences, multipl 
them as you will. It is in vain that empirici 
philosophers attempt to give an air of ratioi 

> Extract from Morgan's " Habit and Instinct," ^ago 4 
" A young chick two days old, for example, had learnt i 
pick out pieces of yolk from others of white of egg. I c 
little bits of orange-peel of about the same size as the jn.'e 
of yolk, and one of these was soon seized, but at once reli 
quished, the chick shaking his head. Seizing another, 1 
held it for a moment in the bill, but then dropped it ai 
scratched at the base of his beak. That was enough ; I 
could not again be induced to seize a piece of orange-pe. 
The obnoxious material was now removed, and pieces 
yolk of egg substituted, but they were left untouchctl, ben 
probably taken for orange-poel. Subsequently, he looked 
the yolk with hesitation, but presently pecked doubttuli 
not seizing, but merely touching. Then he pecked aga. 
seized, and swallowed." 


ality to this leap from the known to the un- 
known by the use of liigh-sounding logical 
titles. " Induction by simple enumeration " 
is doubtless an imposing name. But those 
who practise the thing are in no wise improving 
on their predecessor, the chick. Indeed they 
lag behind it. For the chick expects— but 
gives no reason; the empirical philosopher 
expects— and gives a bad one. 


Expectation, then, if it is to be rational, can 
only be rationally extracted from experiences 
by the aid of one or more general principles. 
What principles are they ? 

One of them, at all events, must be the regu- 
larity of nature. In some form or other, and 
to some degree or other, this is assumed in 
every scientific speculation and in every pur- 
poseful action reflectively performed. It is, as 
you may recollect, one of the "inevitable 
beliefs of common sense " to which I referred 
in my Ih-st lecture. 

But you may also recollect that in the same 
lecture I pointed out that inevitable beliefs, 
though we cannot avoid holding them in some 
shape, are. and have been, held in many shapes ; 


shapes which vary with the changes in 01 
general outlook on men and things. In wli 
shape, then, should our belief in regularil 
now be held ? 

The shape in wliich it i? very connnoii 

formulated is something of this kind : " ever 

thing is caused ; and the same causes a 

always followed by the same effects." Tl 

is the so-called " law of universal causation 

It has been treated as an assured truth 1 

philosophers of many 'iifferent schools, thou] 

not always for the same reasons ; and, so 1 

as the physical universe is concerned, t 

modern world accepts it without demur. 

is, nevertheless, open to criticism from U 

points of view. It asserts somewhat nu 

about the course of nature than experieii 

suggests, and somewhat less than science i 

quires. Let me take the two points separate 

When I was dealing with ethics I had oc( 

sion to point out that if the primitive ma 

festations of loyalty and love are products 

selection, +hey have developed by a kind 

internal momentum, to a point far beyu 

that to which selection can possibly lia 

carried them. Something of the same ki 

has happened in the case of tlie causal posl 

late. Selection, we must suppose, has prodiu 


in onr 
[n what 

'' every - 
ises arc 
sat ion."' 
ruth hy 
, though 
1, so far 
icd, the 
niir. It 
oni two 
it more 
ence re- 
lad oee;i- 
ve iiiaiii- 
►ducts of 
kind ol 
>ly have 
nie kind 
al ])Ostii- 


the capacity for acquiring habitual expecta- 
tions ; and habitual expectation is induction 
without reasoning. Like induction, it would 
not only be useless, but harmful, if no regu- 
larity existed ; if at any moment the future 
(cased to bear some resemblance to the past 
But the regularity asserted by the law (,f 
universal causation is far in excess of this 
requirement. The law applies to regions whir-h 
never come within the range of finite experi- 
ence ; and, ,s regards regions which do come 
witlim that range, experience hardly confirms 
1 We may, of course, attribute the apparent 
irregularities in nature to our ignorance or our 
enors ; and this, in fact, is what we always do 
We must (we think) have observed wongly or 
Hisullieiently ; or it may be that a clearer in- 
sight would show how apparent aberrations 
reaUy illustrate some larger law, or depend on 
oond.t.ons at present beyond our ken. Such 
explanations are easy ; and, what is more thev 
Hre true There is no complaint to be made 
of a verdict in favour of absolute uniformity 
except that it outruns the evidence. None 
surely, who understand the meaning of the 
-ords they use, will dare to assert that nature 

that the more you examine it, the more 


regular it appears. The reign of law is ahva 
extending. New provinces are always bcii 
added to its domains. Anomalies vanish 
knowledge grows ; and the absolute uniform i 
which we now only know by faith, wc may soi 
day know by sight. 

To this "credo" (with reservations) 

readily subscribe. But it sounds a lit I 

strange in the mouths of some who proaeii 

Does it not imply that we interpret our i 

periences in the light of a preconceived sr-lui 

of things ; that we force our observations in 

a mould which they do not naturally fit ? 

in unravelling a cypher, I come across passuf 

which are unintelligible, I attribute the chc 

to my own ignorance or dullness. Why ? 1 

cause I know independently that the cypl 

has a meaning, if only I could find it. But t 

empirical agnostic professes to know nothi 

about the world, except what he has observ 

himself or what other people have observ 

for him. Why, then, should he suppose pcrf 

regularity to exist when no perfect regular 

appears ? Why is he not content to acc( 

what he finds, namely, a regularity which 

real but incomplete ? 

It is no reply to say that patient genius 
constantly detecting order in apparent clia 

I i 



i always 
^s bcinj]; 
misli as 
ay sonic 

ions) I 
a little 
reach it. 
our cx- 
l Sfhc'iiu' 
ous into 
fit ? If, 
lie check 


? Be- 

n cypher 
But the 
;e perfect 
o accept 
which is 

genius is 
nt cliaos. 

So it is. And when this happens, by all means 
rearrange your map of the universe accord- 
ingly. But do not argue that chaos is therefore 
non-existent. The belief in universal causation 
is not based on argument, nor yet on obser- 
vation. It depends on what I have described 
as intuitive probability. And if we refuse to 
regard nature as liable to lapses from perfect 
uniformity, this is not because such a theory 
is unthinkable, not because it is contrary to 
experience, not because it is incompatible with 
knowledge, not because it is fatal to purposeful 
action ; for it is none of these things. We 
reject it because it is out of harmony with the 
ideal we have formed of what the material uni- 
verse ought to be and is : and so strong is this 
speculative prepossession that there is no experi- 
mental evidence which would convince a man 
of science that, when physical causes were the 
same, physical consequences could be different. 


But this observation orings mc to my second 
conmientary on the fornmla of universal 
causation. If, as I have contended, it goes 
beyond what mere experience suggests, it 
also falls short of what scientific inference 


requires. The uniformity it postulates lael 
a certain kind of '* structure " which is abs 
liitely necessary if the past is to be exphiinc 
and the future foreseen. It is not enough f 
this purpose that the course of Nature shou 
be determined. It must be determined afl 
a particular pattern ; its uniformity niu 
conform to a particular type. 

At first sight this statement may seem rat Ik 
obscure. What (you will ask) is this " stru( 
ture " or pattern whose absence would be f 
disastrous to knowledge ? It is a structure i 
reply) which makes it possible to break up tl 
flow of events into intelligible repetitions. J 
is not enough that the condition of the worl 
at any moment should be strictly determine 
by its ci>ndition at the preceding moincn 
Such a world would, I suppose, completely coi 
fqrm to the doctrine of uniformity, and obe 
both in spirit and in letter the law of univcrs; 
causation. Yet, unless it also conformed t 
the additional canon I have just laid dowi 
it would provide no basis either for scientiii 
knowledge or for practical decision. The sum 
consequent would always succeed the sain 
antecedent, if and when it recurred. But 
unless we accept the cyclic theories of thi 
Stoics, it never would recur. The completes 


krK.wlodgc of the past would tell us nothing 
about tlie future ; not because the succession 
of events was arbitrary or (as the word is 
eonirnonly misused) miraculous; but because 
each cross-section of the stream of Time (that 
is to say, the sum of all contemporaneous facts 
and events) had to be considered as a single 
cause, completely determining the whole cross- 
sections immediately in front of it ; and, as a 
single effect, completely determined by the 
whole cross - section immediately behind it. 
Such a world might have a history, but it could 
never have a science. 

The reason is plain. Science requires uni- 
formities even more than uniformity ; and a 
universe such as I have just described has 
uniformity but no uniformities. The very 
phrase "laws of nature" shows that it is 
these subordinate uniformities for which we 
look. The whole efforts of the skilled in- 
vestigator are directed towards so isolating 
the sequences he is examining that his experi- 
ments shall become (as the phrase goes) crucial. 
If no such isolation could be effected, it woula 
never be possible to point to some "pheno- 
menon" and say of it "Here is a cause," and 
to some other " phenomenon " and say of it 
" Here is its effect." The world, in short, nmst 


have a structure which connects its success 
phases in such a way that definite parts of 
that exists or happens are knit with pecul 
closeness to definite parts of what existed 
happened before. It is on these connect i 
strands that we mainly fix our gaze ; they i 
often difficult to trace, they are sometiii 
hopelessly entangled ; but when we can bi 
them into clear vision, then, and not till Ih 
we triumphantly say that we have discovci 
a law of nature. 

We arc so familiar with this " fibrous " str 
turo of the natural world that it seems aim 
a matter of course. Mill, for example, assuii 
it, unconsciously no doubt, through all 
exposition of inductive methods : and if 
had not assumed it, these methods would lu 
come tumbling about his ears in irrcj.ara 
ruin. But assuredly neither he nor any ot 
logician has a right to make such an assiiii 
tion in silence. In spite of many spcculat 
difficulties, there is no principle more vital 
knowledge, practical and theoretical, than 
principle of " negligibility " ; the princi 
which asserts that sequences can be isola 
and repeated, and that vast bodies of c 
tcmporancous facts and happenings may 
wholly neglected. It is much more importi 

I I 



rts of ail 
cisted oi 
they arc 
an bring 
till Hum, 

is aliiutst 

1 all ills 
lul if Ik' 
luUl iiavc 
rej. arable 
,ny other 

: vital to 
than tlic 
I isolated 
, of coii- 

niay be 

tlian the principle of causation, if by causation 
is meant, not a working, though possibly ini- 
jHTfcct, regularity, but the speculative com- 
pleteness implied by the phrase " universal 
causation " as commonly interpreted. 

It may be said, and I think with truth, that 
these observations scarcely apply to a material 
world conceived in a purely mechanical fashion. 
In such a world negligibility is theoretically 
measurable. The mass of Sirius, without doubt, 
modifies the weight of the pen with which I 
am writing. But the effect is demonstrably 
inliiiitesimal, and negligibility is not assumetl, 
but proved. Laplace's calculator, surveying 
the universe, would have no difficulty either in 
lixing his attention on particular repetitions 
which exemplify the " laws of nature," or in 
regarding them as integral parts of a single 
mechanical whole, whose successive phases (if 
the law of energy dissipation be universal) can 
never be repeated. 

But this does not lighten the difficulty. The 
world may, or may not, be a single mechanical 
system ; but, if it is, the fact can only be em- 
pirically known to us through induction : and 
intluetion assumes negligibility, and cannot, 
so far as I can see, move a step without it. 
Choose the most perfect experiment on record, 


i<l(Hliso its conditions to your heart's contci 
for jrrctitcr security, sui)post! it repeated ev<'n 
weariness, how will you he advanced ? Tin 
are, I suppose, millions of circunistanejs. \ 
the most part utterly unknown, which Im 
co-exist(!d with all the experiments alr<a 
trie<l, hut will have vanished h(;fore the ik 
experiment is undertaken. Does this dislii 
you ? Do you ask yourself whethrr, am<> 
the unnmnbered circumstances in which t 
world of to-day differs from the world 
yesttjrday, then? may not be one which 
nec(»ssary to the expected effect ? Not at ji 
You b'-Msh them aside. You say they nujy 
neglect d. And doubtless you do well. U 
why ? Not on any grounds which observalic 
or reasoning can supply, not on any groum 
formulated in the logic of induction, or tl 
calculus of chances. You trust yoijrseif 
a feeling of antecedent probability ;- the i 
tuitive probability on whose importance I dwo 
in the last lecture, which is not tho llowi 
of cxpcTiencc but its root ; — and your tru 
will sometimes be betrayed. 

The principle of negligibility, or (in tern 
of belief) the belief that observed regulariti( 
may often be treatetl as if they were complcl 
and self-contained cases of cause and eiicc 


L'OIltfllt ; 
I ('V<>l| 1(1 

' TIh..- 
iH'.vs, for 
vh liiivi 
II I rent ly 

tlu' IK \t 


lich the 
mrU\ ill' 
v'hiclj is 
•t at Jill. 
nuiy he 
11. 'lUd 

or the 
rsrlf to 

the in- 
; I dwelt 
' llowcr 
ir trust 

1 terms 
I effect. 


separable from eontoniporary events, is thus 
a neeessary presuf)position of eonerete seieiiet- ; 
and, like other presuppositions, it is ineapahle 
ol" seitntilie proof. \\v often hear it said, in- 
drrd. that prineiples of this kin<l should he 
rejrarded as hypotheses verihed by an ever- 
inereasii.g volume of experimental proof. 'Hay 
are found to work ; what nu»re ean be de- 
sired ? 

But it is not accurate to say that these and 
other fundamental principles are, or ever have 
htvn, regarded either by common sense or 
seienee as inferences from experience or as 
hypotheses requiring viTilication. Nor is it 
aecurat*' to suggest that veritication differs 
essentially fn)m any other kind of experi- 
mental evidence except in the date of its 
oecurr(;nce. If evidence follows conjecture, 
but not otherwise, it is called verilieacion ; an<l 
Iliouph, from the point of view of method, 
this chronological order is of immense import- 
ance, from the pt)int of view of logic it is 
nothing. A doubtful conjecture (let us sup- 
pose) is " verified " by experiment. If the 
eNiperiment had come earlier there would have 
been no conjecture, but there would have been 
equal evidence, indeed the same evidence. It 
IS true that without the conjecture there might 



have Immh no rxp<'rinKnt, niul that with«t 
the fX|Mrini('nt then- might \m\v hrcn !io pro. 
But, though the conjecture (K-casioiu-a tl 
proof, it certainly a<l(ls nothing to its fon 
ami we therefore come back to the quest i. 
already discussed- namely, whether prin<ipl 
without which no inference fronj experi. ik 
is possihh*, can he themselves infern-d tm 
cxpt;riences ? — a question to which, as I eo 
ceive, only one answer is possible. Kxpr 
ences may pro<hice habit, and habit may \n 
(luce expectation, an<l this process nuiy in; 
qucrade as induction. Hut expectations th 
engen<l(>red belong to the causal series, not t 
cognitive. Physiology and psychology m; 
explain them. But they can neither be pn.\ 
nor treated as axiomatic. 

Axiomatic they certainly are not ; nor . 
they possess the universality and precision 
outline which we are accustomed to as.MK-.. 
with axioms. It is curious, in this connect i( 
to note that the philosophers who are iik 
firmly resolved to root the principli.' of I'fi 
larity (they ignore negligibility) in experini 
always insist on giving it that absolute charj 
ter which our inferences from experience r;irt 
possess. The notion that fundamental h«Ii' 
should be liable to exception, should be eapal 

{ ' 



u» pn>«>r. 
U'«l tin- 
s force. 
I'd I'loiii 
s I coti- 

iiny pn»- 
uy iiijis- 
)ns thus 

not the 
gy iiiiiy 
:• prov<(l 

nor (Im 
cisioii (tf 

IS.MKi, i ' 

meet ion. 
I re Mio^t 
of rctfii- 
' fhiiriu- 
I'c rarely 
\\ h«Ii<ls 
' capnhK' 

of (Irgrrrs, nii<i should apply lUMHpinlly in 
(lirfcrt-nt tiflds of observation, is as ahhornnt 
to them as to any metaphysician out of the 
opposite camp. One would suppose, to h<ar 
them talk, that, unless causation li<- universal, 
experience is Worthless. 


r The region where these uncompromising 
(loetrines slum- to least advantage is human 
ehnraeter. I do not propose to <liscuss causa- 
tion and free will ; hut I may with advantage 
say something on a less hackneyed theme, 
ntimely, lu'gligihility and foreknowledge. The 
thesis I desire to maintain is that, in dealing 

^ with a human character, full foreknowledge is 
theort'tically impossible, even though free will 
he wholly absent, and the succession of psychic 

I states be completely determined. Practically 
impossible we know it to be. But most deter- 
minists would hold that this impossibility is 
due partly to our ignorance and partly to our 
ifieapacity. We know too little either of the 
general laws of mind, or of individual character, 
or of surrounding circumstances, to make accu- 
rate forecasts ; and, even if we possessed the 
requisite information, we could not use it, 



ov'ing to tlio iriTnierliabl<^ weakness of 
powers of culeuJjition. It is this eont<'iit 
tliat I wish to trav<!rse. I hold that, hud 
the siiperiiatiiral powers of Laplace's enlei 
tor, armed with a knowledge of the hiin 
heart which supernatural powers of obser\a( 
could alone supply, we shouM still fail, l)((':i 
we are face to face with that which is inhere; 

The contrary opinion is due, I think, to 
imperfect comprehension of the doctrine 
have touched on in this lecture. All hui 
foreknowledge depends on dct(!cting old 
quences in a new context. The context, 
course, is always new. There is never fiil 
complete rej^ etition. But, unless there be | 
tial repetitions embedded in the universal t 
prescience is impossible. This is the doci 
of " negligibility." 

Now consider two illustrative examples 
First, imagine yourself standing on tin- < 
of a valley down which a landslip has jusl 
loose the waters of some great reservoir in 
hills. The catastrophe is sudden in its oi 
brief in its duration, wildly irregular in 
character. Even the most tumultuous eat;' 
retains a certain steadiness of outline : and 
sights arc more impressive than the statioi 


s of our 
t, had uc 
> (*al('iiJ;i- 
(' luiiiiaii 

I, bcCIIIl^r 


nk, to .111 
ctriiifs i 
.11 liuiiuin 
y old sc- 

>Ut('Xt. (if 

'cr full ill 
re hv |):ir- 
crsal tliiw 
; cloclriiu: 


I till- ri\m' 
IS jlisl Irt 

^oir ill thi' 
its oiisit. 

lar in iN 

IS cat:' ict 
: ami f( w 



waves in a groat rapid. But there is here no 
Iraee of order imposed on disorder, lixit^- on 
motion. The rushing wall of water, spouting 
into foam over every obstacK; it encounters, 
the tossing flood that follow -= furiously behind, 
seem in their brief violei • to j)]-esf it the very 
id'-al of incalculable cor usum. Ih.t we know 
it is not so. In the presci.;,o '.f ;-ich a spectacle 
our calculator would not feel a moment's em- 
barrassment, lie could forecast without difti- 
eulty the whole scene down to its minutest 
eddy; the motions of each drop obey laws 
with which he was perfectlv familiar; and 
the total eilect, catastrophic though it be, is 
but the sum of all these component examples 
of natural uniformity. 

Turn now antl contemplate a calmer scene. 
Co.isider the conunonplace life of a common- 
place man as it develops in the untroubled 
prosperity of a st('ady business and a quiet 
'">"><•. Such a career seems as orderly and 
'"'il'orm as the llootl I have been describing is 
terrible and strange. Surely no supernatural 
••alculator is required to cast the horoscopt; ,>f 
"s hero: for he <loes, and leaves undone, the 
same actions, he thinks ami leaves unthought 
the same ideas, as thousands of his contem- 
poraries ; and, so far as outward appearance 


goes, he is an indistinguishable nienibei 
undistinguished crowd. 

Yet, in spite of this, we know him 
unique. There never has been before, r 
there ever be again, another individual < 
like him. A similar statement, it n 
urged, can be made about our cat as 
flood. Though this has plenty of pe 
none of them, strictly speaking, are 
Where, then, lies the distinction on whic 
trying to insist ? Let me endeavour t< 
the contrast. 

If the material world be conceives 
mechanical system, the flood in my illuf 
may be regarded as a piece arbitrarily 
of it at the whim of the spectator, 
sesses no natural unity ; and, like the v 
which it is a fraction, the moving p 
which compose it do each obey laws w 1 
(we assume) perfectly well known, an 
been endlessly exemplified. Its beha 
the sum of the behaviour of these severa 
and it is by estimating their movemei 
our imaginary calculator can proph 
course with absolute exactness. He i 
perplexed by the problem of negligibili 
negligibility in such a case can be ac< 
measured, and our calculator possesses 


ember ol" an 

J him to be 
fore, nor will 
idual exactly 
it may bf 
of parallels. 
, are exuet. 
1 whieh 1 am 
our to mark 

iceivcd as a 
y illustration 
•arily eut out 
tor. It pos- 

the whole of 
ing particles 
,\vs whieh arc 
'^n, and have 

behaviour is 
several parts : 
vements tlmt 
prophesy its 

He is ncvir 
ligibility; lor 
be accurately 
jsesses all the 


data n-quired for its Tiu-asuremeiit. In short, 
the principle of regnlaiity may here be applied 
in its most uncompiomising form ; it requires 
no qualification, nor can it be pressed too boldly 
or too far. 

But the case is otherwise when we have to 
abandon the strictly mechanical point of view, 
and investigate regions where negligibility 
has a small and uncertain application. Such 
a region is individual consciousness. This 
possesses a natural or intrinsic unity. Its 
phases arc never precisely repeated ; nor can 
it be regarded as a collection of independent 
elements, the sequences of which may be 
separately examined, verified, and repeated. 
Not only is the whole unique, but the parts are 
unique also. Or, perhaps it would be more 
accurate to say that th'^- are no parts possess- 
ing a fixed character g t own apart from 
the whole. Not only is everything qualified 
by everything else, but few of these qualifica- 
tions are negligible. Perfect repetition is 
therefore impossible, and our calculator, what- 
ever his powers, could never feel at home with 
his premises, or secure in his conclusions. The 
present would always be new, and the future 
would always be doubtful. 

If this seems paradoxical it is, I think, mainly 


for two reasons. In the first place, 
a doctrine scenis inconsistent with the 
that, whatever Laphiee's eaieuhitor eonUI 
injmbler beings Hk'^ ourselves manage s( 
how or other to forecast the behaviour ol 
neighbours with some snuill measure of sue 
This, no doubt, is true. But it is in pari 
cause the alternatives of behaviour are 
few and very definite compared with th( 
finitely graduated variations of thought, 
and feeling. Action is " canalised." It 
flow only along channels engineered for i 
circumstances, and among these the choi 
commonly small. But the character w 
lies behind action is complex beyond all p 
of analysis, and variable beyond all powt 
anticipation. The routine which is unwt 
ingly pursued from month to month and 
to year is pursued each day in a diffc 
spirit : and often a critical hour strikes \ 
some well-drilled creature of custom, to his 
surprise and the scandal of his friends, dc 
the ancient ways and wanders suddenly 1 
into the unknown. 

Of course, these violent aberrations ar( 
exception. The more familiar expcrienc 
that, in an orderly society, the alternutivi 
action which need be taken into aceoiui 

lacT, such 

I tlu' I'aci 
could (1(». 

age soi.K- 
our ol" our 
of success. 

II part !)('- 
• arc \(i\ 
th the iii- 
ught, will. 
" It can 
I for it by 
3 choice is 
tcr which 
I all ])()Wir 

I and year 
I different 
•ikes when 
to his ow !i 
ds, deserts 
[enly forth 

ns arc the 
)crience is 
rnatives (»!' 
,ccount are 


fVw, and the "limits of deviation" narrow 
nttcn, therefore, we can anticipate conduct 
without any real insight into the depths of 
character or the complexities of motive from 
wind, the conduct springs. And truly this is 
fortunate; for, if mutual comprehension were 
nrecssary to social intercourse, how could 
society exist ? 

But there is another reason whv we take 
little note of the distinction I am endeavouring 
to draw between the calculable uniformities 
of a material world and the incalculable regu- 
larities of psychic life. The distinction is 
vathcr speculative than practical. It docs not 
affect the routine of daily existence. For al- 
though the course of the material world is 
calculable, we mortals have neither the time 
nor the knowledge nor the mental powers 
required to calculate it. We behave, there- 
fo towards nature as we behave towards 
man. Wc content ourselves with approxima- 
t ons, with analogies, with resemblances Even 
J we had the power, we should not have the 
t me o resolve the movement of all the bits 
o m ter with which w. have to deal from 

Xch tt """'' "'" ''" ^"^^^ -q— of 
^«"^d. We apply rough methods ; we are 


satisfied with imperfect results. Nor are tl 
results always more imperfect in the psy 
than in the material sphere of observat 
The ways (for example) of Britisii weather 
even more mysterious than the ways of Bri 
men. Why, then, should we interest ourst 
in a speculation which tells us, liowever ti 
that perfect foreknowledge is theoretic 
possible in the first case, but tlieoretic 
impossible in the second ? In practice i 
impossible in both. And with this we r 
be content. 

And yet the speculation is interesting, 
the distinction between the two cases lies d 
It has nothing (let me say again) to do 
free will. It has nothing to do with 
ignorance of facts. It has nothing to do 
our intellectual insufficiency. It is due 
fundamental difference between the unifo 
ties of matter and the regularities of n 
Perfect foresight requires perfect repetil 
and in the psychic sphere perfect repetition 
never happen. Every self is unique ; al 
experiences are unique ; and these un 
wholes are not compounded of interchange 
elements obeying identical laws. The\ 
not alter by mere addition, subtraction 
rearrangement of parts. They grow. 


are these 
c psycliie 
rather are 
of British 

ver truly, 
;tice it is 

we must 

ing. For 

lies dee}). 

o do with 

with our 

o da with 

due to a 


of mind. 


itition can 

e ; all its 

se unique 


They do 

action, or 

•QW. And 


the sequence of one pliase upon another faintly 
resembles that which would prevail in the 
imaginary universe of which I spoke just now, 
tliO universe where all contemporaneous events 
were treated as the single effect of the imme- 
diate past and the single cause of the imme- 
diate future. Of such a universe I observed 
that it would have a history, but could have no 
science. And though we cannot go so far when 
speaking of psychic unities, though we cannot 
rule out psychology or sociology, it must be 
admitted tliat no regularities which observa- 
tion discloses can ever possess the precision 
which we theoretically attribute to material 
mechanism. Instructive likenesses we shall 
.find in abundance, complete determination we 
may assume if we please; but "laws," in 
tiie full and strict sense of the term, we shall 
not find, for they are not there. 


The shortcomings of mechanism have been dis- 
cussed by M. Bergson in a manner which no other 
thmkerisjikely to rival. He has, however, usually 
dealt with the subject in connection with freedom ; 
whereas m this section I have only dealt with it in 







connection with foreknowledge, repetition, aiul wli 
1 have termed the doctrine of " neghgibihty." 1 
ai>i)roaches it from the side of reaUty. 1 approa 
it from the side of inductive inference and the L 
of universal causation 

." II. 



In the sixth and eiglith lectures of this course 
I dealt with two inevitable beliefs which lie at 
the root of all science and all practice — the 
beliefs that an independent, or, as it is com- 
monly called, an " external " world exists, and 
the belief that the world, whether external or 
internal, has at least a measure of regularity. 
In the seventh lecture I interpolated a dis- 
cussion upon probability ; and showed, or 
attempted to show, that we must take account 
of a kind of probability other than that which, 
in the hands of mathematicians, has so greatly 
contributed to knowledjre. 

If, now, we consider these subjects in their 
mutual relation, we perceive that an '* in- 
evitable " belief is one which possesses the 
highest degree of this intuitive probability. 
These are two descriptions of the same 
quality — one emphasising the objective, the 
other the subjective, aspects of a single fact. 




But this at once suggests u further iiuini 

Probabihty is evidently a matter of degr 

A beUef may bo more probable or less probal 

Inevitablencss, on the other hand, seenjs 

first sight to be insusceptible of gradation. 

is, or it is not. Yet this extreme deliniteii 

vanishes if we regard it as a limiting case- 

the last term of a series whose earlier menili 

represent vaiying degrees of plausibility. 

this view we should regard our beliefs ah 

the universe as moulded by formative fun 

which vary from irresistible coercion to fj 

and doubtful inclination. Beliefs in the rea 

of the external world and in its regularity 

important ; oducts of the first. I now | 

pose to caii attention to some beliefs wl 

are due to the less obvious action of 

second. Both kinds, whether capable of pi 

or not, arc more or less independent ot 

Both are to be regarded rather as the res 

of tendencies than as the conclusions of loj 

I am well aware that a doctrine like this 

fmd few admirers among systematic thinl 

Inevitable beliefs which are fundamental nv 

out being axiomatic ; which lack definite 

and precision ; which do not seem equally 

plicable to every field of experience ; whicl 

not claim to be of the essence of our uti 




)robal)l( . 
»ecms at 
tiun. h 
case— as 
nicml)( IS 
lity. On 
jl's abdiit 
re forces, 
I to iiiint 
he reality 
larity arc 
now prtt- 
efs wliic: 
n of tlie 
e of proof 
[jnt of it. 
he results 
; of logic. 
:e this will 
; thinkers, 
ntal with- 
qually ap- 

wiiieh (1(1 
)ur under- 

standing,', like the eatejfories of the eritieal 
pliiloscipliy, or the so-called laws of thouj^lit. 
luivc little to reeonuiieiul Hiein to philosophers. 
And when inevitahleiu ss is treated as merely 
an extreme form of plausibility, when guidance 
is discovered in tendencies which are weak and 
of une(rtain ap[)lication, leading to error as 
Will as to trutii, their objections will scarcely 
he mitigated. 

.Many of those who look at these problems 
from (v.hat they deem to be) a strictly .scientilic 
point of view are not likely to be more favour- 
alile. Their loyalty trt experience takes the 
form of supposing that men accumulate know- 
ledge by peering about for " sequences " among 
" phenomena," as a child looks for shells upon 
the beach — equally ready to go north or south, 
east or west, as the humour of the moment 
moves him. They would regard any ante- 
ce<!' preference for this or that sort of 
exphmation as a sin against the categorical 
imperatives of intellectual morals. Science, 
they think, should have no partialities : and 
as the honest investigator " entertains no belief 
with a conviction the least in excess of the 
evidence,"' so he will resist any leaning toward 
one kind of conclusion rather than another. 

* See Lecture VI. 

«a fl« If 


Siicli is tlnir view of sfiontirK' duty. Sciniti 
prjutticc, however, has been otherwise. 

That the praetiee of ordinary hunianity I 
been otherwise seems in<lee<l suflieiently pl:t 
The folk-lore, the nwiRic, and the relij;i(ms 
priniitivt! raees, with all their unborniwrd 
scniblanees, are there to attest it. Kut th 
(you will say) are superstitions. The ohj 
tioii is not, I think, relevant; yet, for the s: 
of peace, let us pass to what is not re}»ai« 
as a superstition, namely, morality. Ibn > 
have the singidar sp-etaele of a elose agn < in 
among moralists as to the contents of the m. 
law, and a profound disagreement as to 
grounds on which the moral law is to 
accepted. Can the power of " tendency "' 
better shown ? Can there be a clearer ill 
tration of the way in which it nuiy guide In 
and anticipate proof ? 


But our business to-day is neither with ni; 
nor morality. It is with physical scioi 
When we survey man's strivings to nnderst 
the world in which he lives, can we detect 
secular leanings towards certain types of be 
any deep- lying inclination to guess by pn 




inity li;is 
iy plain, 
jjiotis 111' 
own I n- 
lut. tins. 
<■ ohjcc- 
tlic sak'' 
Icn- you 
lie iii<ir;il 

is to fll«' 
is to lie 

iicy " I" 
IHT illus- 
i(U- brlicl 

ilh magic 
[ science. 
ict<'('t any 
. of l)cliit. 
jy pnfcr- 

riK-c ill one direction rntlier tli.'ui aiiotluT ? 
\\ <• Miitly villi. Tin re arc some answers, lor 
example, wiiicli \vc rcluse to take IVom experi- 
iiH'iit aiui observation. 1 have already referred 
to one such cas.r in c<»nnection with causation. 
No man of science can be prt)V«)ked, !)y any 
secmiiijir irrej^nlaritics, into supposing that the 
course of nature is subject to lapses from the 
rule of perfect uniformity. Consider, again, 
another case, where the tendency is far li'ss 
strong, but where few can doubt that it is 
real. I refer to the deep-seated reiuctanct! felt 
by most physicists to accept as final any 
scientific explanation which involves a belief 
in " action at a distance " a reluctance whi<*h 
is the more remarkable since acticm at a dis- 
tance seems a familiar fact of experience, while 
action l)y contact, when you attempt to work 
it out in detail, seems hard to comprehend. 

lint there are tendencies feebler and less 
gcTieral than these which give much food for 
reflection. Consider, f«)r examj)ie. the familiar 
history of atomism. At least as far back as 
Demoeritus wc find the confident assertion that 
the world consists of atoms, and that its infinite 
variety is due to the motions and positions of 
immutable and imperceptible units, which, if 
tiny arc not exactly alike, at least dilTer h-ss 



uniong thonisolves than do the visible objc ( 

into which they are compoinuled. Tinou 

successive centuries this theory never (h( 

With the revival of learning and the beginni 

of modern science it burst into fresh life. 

was believed in firmly by Bacon, the prophet 

the new era. It was treated as almost seH'-c 

dent by philosophers like (Jassendi and llohl) 

Boyle held it in its most uncompromising for 

Newton assumed it without question. Aftc 

period of varying fortunes in the eighteei 

century, a modification of it in the hands 

Dalton started a new era in chemistry. Tal 

over by the physicists, it now lies at the root 

the modern theory of gases and liquids : 

modern theory of matter, the modern the 

of heat, and the modern theory of electric 

This is a very strange story ; and it is 

really made less strange by those who eniji 

sise the differences between the atoms 

Democritus, which are the theme of its 1 

chapter, and the electrons of Sir Jos 

Thomson, which appear in its last. Diflei 

indeed they arc ; but, though the diflerenc 

great, the agreement is fundamental. 

There are some who think that the aehi 
ment sung by Lucretius is lessened by shoN 
that the ancients who believed in atoms 

5 ? 


4W ^*f 

: oV)j<(ts 



lilV. It 

•ophot of 



Jig t'onn. 

Aftfi- a 


hands ot 

. Taken 

le root (»l 

lids : the 

n theory 


it is not 

o eniphii- 

atoms of 

f its first 

r Joseph 


IVrcilce he 


c aciiiovt- 
y shoNving 
itonis luul 

no experimental warrant for their eonvietions. 
And this is perfectly true. They luid nt>t. 
\or had Bacon, nor Gassendi, nor Ilobbes, nor 
Boyle, nor Newton. But this only brings into 
clearer relief the point I desire to emphasise. 
If experience did not establish the belief, 
whence came it ? If it represents nothing 
better than an individual guess, why did it 
appeal so persistently to leaders of scientific 
Miouglit, and by what strange hazard does it 
turn out to be true ? It is certainly curious 
that Tyndal, in a once famous address to the 
British Association at Belfast, should have 
sketched the story from Democritus to Lucre- 
tius, and from Lucretius to 1874. without ever 
putting these questions to his audience, or, so 
far as I know, to himself. 

But the Atomic Theory is by no means tiie 
only example of tendencies which have played 
an important part in the evolution of science. 
There are other beliefs, or kinds of beliefs, of 
the most far-reaching importance which have 
ahnost exactly similar characteristics. 'J'hey 
anticipate evidence, they guide research, and in 
some shape or other they turn out to be true. 

Consider, for example, the group of beliefs 
wiiieh may be <lescrihed generally as beliefs 
in persistence, or beliefs in conservation—the 



I j 

kind of belief which has been applied atdille 

peri(Kls, and by dilTerent schools of scieii 

thought, to matter, mass, bulk, weight, inol 

force, heat, and energy. As every one kii 

these ascriptions have not always been eon 

Hut this only emphasises the strength of 

tendency. Weight was at one time supp 

to be invariable. Wc know now that 

weight of a body varies with its position 

tively to other bodies. It is different, for ( ? 

pie. at the po os from what it is at the Ecpi; 

But how was the error discovered ? 

by experiment. There were experiments 

doubt. But those who undertook them air 

believed in the law of gravitation ; and th( 

of gravitation made it necessary to distiuj 

the mass of any given fragment of matter 

from its weight and from the occult quail 

gravity, which is one of the factors on v 

its weight in any given situation dep 

The desire for conservation was not, how 

defeated ; since physicists, till within tin 

few years, regarded both mass and gravity i 

alterable characteristics of all material b( 

Again, consider the case of heat, 
also has been regarded by powerful selux 
scientiiic thought as a substance tiiat 
"conserved." It is so regarded no !( 


*• M tJ 


t, inotii)n, 

lie knows. 

!ii correct. 

rth ol" the 
that the 

iition rdii- 

, for cxaiii- 

eii ? N<it 
init'iits. 11(1 
v.m already 
,nd the lav 
latter hotli 
; quality di 
s on whiih 

1 depends. 
t, howevt r. 
tin the last 
avity as \iii- 
■rial bodii^. 
eat. llii^ 

1 .schools el 

: that was 
no loJig'i- 

liut is the inclination to believe in conservation 
thereby defeated ? Not at all. Though heat 
may vanish, energy remains, and heat is a 
form of energy. 

This doctrine of the conservation of energy 
I is indeed the crowning triumph of the tendency 
I I am discussing, and provides the best illus- 
I trations of its strength. For natural philoso- 
I phers, intent on finding conservation wherever 
I they could, started too boldly on their quest. 
Descartes regarded the conservation of motion 
I as a self evident inference from the rationality 
I of God. It is true that he neither had experi- 
mental evidence of his doctrine, nor could he, 
I under any circumstances, have obtained it ; 
I for the energy of motion, as he incorrectly 
described it, is not conserved. Leibnitz de- 
scribed it correctly, and had as great a confi- 
dence as his predecessor in its conservation, 
and as little proof to support him. So confi- 
dent indeed was he, and so independent of 
experimental evidence was his faith, that he 
dogmatically asserted that, when motion seemed 
to disappear, what was lost by the bodies 
which we see, was exactly taken up by their 
component elements which we do not see ; so 
that nothing in the nature of what he called 
vis viva was either lost or created. That this 



transformation of energy from molar to r 
citlar motion is constantly occurring we 
have sufficient proof. But Leibnitz ha( 
proof; and apparently thought none wa 
quired other than the Cartesian deduction 
the rationality of God. He made a bold 
cipation of experience, with nothing to suf 
him but a priori inclination. 

His anticipation, however, was not 
bold ; it was fortunate. Kinetic energy 
really be transformed from molar to mole 
motion, and suffer no variation. It is 
served. On the other hand, it may not 
may altogether cease, and what beconK 
conservation then ? 

The scientific formula which satisfies 
the facts of the case and our desire for 
servation is well known.' Energy, wc 
taught, is of two kinds : kinetic and pot( 
energy — energy in act and energy in ] 
bility. Each may turn into the other, ti 
continually so turning. Each, therefore, 
vary in quantity, and does vary in quantit 
is only their sum which is indestructible. 

Few scientific generalisations have 
more fruitful ; few have been acccpte 
more slender evidence ; none are more cei 

» See note at the end of tlie Loctur.!. 

S ' i 



T to niolo- 
g we. now 
tz h.'id iKi 
tic was rc- 
iction from 
bold aiili- 
to su[)port 

not only 
nergy niiiy 
) molecular 
It is eon- 
ly not. It 
jccomcs of 

tisfics both 
re for con- 
y, we arc 
id potential 
y in possi- 
tlier, and is 
reforc, may 
uantity. It 
have been 
cccpted on 
ore certain : 


none more clearly illustrate our natural appe- 
tite for beliefs of conservation. For, indeed, 
to the over-critical this sort of conservation 
must needs leave something to be desired. 
When we assert the indestructibility of matter 
we mean that a real entity continues through 
time unchanged in quantity. But the word 
has a less obvious meaning when it is applied 
to energy. The propriety of describing motion 
as energy seems indeed clear enough ; and if 
all energy were energy of motion, and if energy 
of motion were always conserved, the conserva- 
tion of energy would be on all fours with the 
c-onservation of matter. But this is not the 
case. In spite of Leibnitz, the amount of vis 
viva is not indestructible. What, then, hap- 
})ens when some of it is destroyed ? In that 
case, says science, energy changes its form but 
not Its quantity. Energy of motion becomes 
energy of position. W^hat was kinetic be- 
comes potential; and, as the transformation is 
'Ifeeted without loss, the principle of conserva- 
tion is saved. 

When, however, energy thus becomes potcn- 

tial, m what sense does it still exist, and why 

;lo we still call it energy ? Energy suggests 

<|oings" and "happenings." In the case 

ol potential " energy there arc no " doings " 



and no " happenings." It. is " stored " 
stored it may for ever remain, hibernatii 
it were) to all eternity, neither ehangiii 
causing change. 

I do not quarrel with this ; but I ask i 

why " energy " should be treated 

leniently than " force." Though force i 

known not to be " conserved," ordinary th 

attributes to it a certain continuity of 

ence even when it does not show its 

motion. Force may be exerted thougli n( 

moves ; as, for example, by a book pi 

on a table. But this view is profound 

satisfactory to many scientific thinkers. 

them force is nothing apart from " ac( 

tion " ; it does not represent a cause, i 

measures an effect. And if in our or 

moments we think otherwise, this (tlicy 

is simply because we illegitimately at I 

to matter something which correspon 

muscular effort in man. 

It is not, perhaps, so easy as these 
suppose to extrude from scientific thoi 
say nothing of scientific language) this 
of latent force— force which would \: 
movement if it could ; and is actively, 
imperceptibly, striving to show itself in i 
But why should they try ? They ^^ 

: i 



red " ; iuul 
?rnating (us 
umgiiig IK), 

'. ask niysilf 
atod 111'*.) 
oree is now 
arv thougl i 
ty of cxist- 
)\v itself ill 
ugli notliiiiff 
lok piTSsir.f; 
>foundly uii- 
nkers. For 
1 " acoelcn- 
lusc, it only 
mr onlinary 
(they think; 
?ly {ittributi 
responds tu 

these critics 
c thouglit (I 
■) this notion 
mid prodiifi 
ively, thoiigli 
elf in motion. 
hev welconit 

potential energy— why should they anathe- 
matise latent force ? 

I think tiie answer is to be found in the fact 
that, whether force has, or has not, any being 
apart from acceleration, it is certainly not 
conserved ; while, if energy be as real when it 
is potential as when it is kinetic, it certainly i.v 
conserved. A lapse into anthropomorphism, 
therefore, is without excuse in the first case, 
while a lapse into metaphysics is justified 
in the second. Any heresy may be forgiven, 
a»id any evidence is worth respectful atten- 
tion when conservation is the thing to be 

I iiave sometimes amused myself by wonder- 
ing what would have happened about the year 
1842 if the conservation of energy had been a 
theological dogma instead of a scientific guess. 
Descartes, as I mentioned just now, inferred 
the conservation of motion from the attributes 
of God. Colding and -Joule used the same 
argument in favour of the conservation of 
energy. Now, if a belief in the conservation of 
energy had been an integral part of religious 
orthodoxy in the early forties of the last century 
surely some positivist philosopher would have 
used Joule's first investigation on Work and 
Heat to upset the very dogma they were in- 



tended to establish. " Here " (he would 1 

said) "you have a believer in these m 

physico-theological methods of diseovering 

laws of nature ; and mark what happens. 

true medieval fashion he begins with s 

fanciful deduetions from the way in whicl 

thinks God must have made the world. Ihj 

nately, however, though his principles 

medieval, his methods are modern. Not 

is he a most brilliant experimenter, but he 

the courage to put his own speculations t( 

experimental test. He takes the mini. 

precautions, he chooses the most favour 

conditions, and what happens ? Docs he p 

his case ? Do his results square with 

theories ? Does he find a fixed relation bct^ 

work and heat ? Docs he justify his vi( v 

God ? Not at all. Between his lowest d 

mination of tiie mechanical equivalent of 1 

and his highest, there is an iinincrise 

lamentable gap. What does he do ? He t 

their mean value : — a vciy proper nieth( 

he knew there ivas a mechanical equivalei 

heat ; a very improper method if the rcalil 

such an equivalent was the thing to be pro 

Clearly, if he had not put his theological opii 

into his scientific premises when he begar 

experiment, he never would have got t 



ould have 
L'se metji- 
i^ering the 
•pens. Ill 
rith SOI lie 

whicli hr 
I. Furl II- 
:iplcs arc 

Not only 
lUt he has 
ions to an 

s he prove 

witli liis 
>n between 
IS views of 
vest deter- 
nt of heat, 
iiense ami 

He takes 

nietliod it 
Liivaleiit of 
e reahtyol' 
be proved. 
■al opinions 

began his 

got them 


out again as scientific conclusions when he had 
reached its end." 

For my own part, I think this imaginary 
critic would, at tliat date, have had something 
to say for himself — supposing always we are 
prepared to accept his presuppositions about 
scientific method. If sound reason and intel- 
lectual integrity require us to follow the lead 
of observation and experiment with no ante- 
cedent preference for one class of conclusions 
rather than another, then no doubt Joule and 
a long line of distinguished predecessors were 
the spoilt children of fortune. They made 
their discoveries in advance of their evidence, 
and in spite of their methods. If they turned 
out to be right, or, at least, on the right road, 
what can we do but criticise their credulity 
and wonder at their luck ? unless, indeed, 
their luck be a form of inspiration. 

Before leaving beliefs of con"-^"— ^ion, I must 
say one more word about the Uiost famous of 
tiiem all— the belief in the conservation of 
matter. This was an important article in the 
scientific creed of the early atomists, who had 
no better evidence for it than they had for the 
Atomic Theory itself. The material "sub- 
stance " of the medieval Aristotelians was, I 
imagine, also conserved; though as all that 



could be known about it were its qualities, 
as these were not necessarily conserved, 
doctrine in practice did not, perhaps, anu 
to much. Then came the theory which, ch 
in the hands of Boyle ' at the end of 
seventeenth century, initiated modern ci 
istry. What was conserved, according to 
view, was not a metaphysical substance ' 
detachable qualities, but elementary kind 
matter with inseparable qualities ; and oi 
these qualified entities was compounded 
whole material imiverse. I may incident 
observe that a company promoter who sh( 
issue a prospectus based on no better evicl 
than Boyle could advance for this trenuiu 
theory would certainly be in peril of the 
Yet Boyle was right : and, iiotwithstaiK 
subsequent developments, his conjeetun- 
mains the corner-stone of modern chcn 

Now, what is it that we int' d to assert u 
we say that matter is conserved, or is ii 
tructible ? We certainly do not mean thai 
qualities never suffer change : for most 
those which are obvious and striking are aiw 
liable to change. If you sufficiently v 

I got this view of Boyle's relation to modem cIriu 
from Ostwald's work. 

Jitics, and 
jrvc'd, flic 
s, amount 
ch, cliiclly 
id of tli( 
'rn cluiii- 
ig to tins 
ancc with 
^ kinds (tl' 
ind out ot 
indt'd the 
ho should 
r evidence 

the law. 
;cturt' n- 


jscrt when 
r is indc- 
n that its 
most ')f 
ire always 
itly vary 

rn cli(-'ini.-ti'v 


temperature or pressure ; if yoi, effeet eheini- 
cal eomposition or deeomposition, the old v\\x\X' 
aeteristics will vanish and new charaeterist ies 
will take their plaee. What, then, is conserved ? 
In the first place, the lost qualities can (in 
theory) always be restored, though not always 
without the expenditure of energy. Water 
never ceases to be convertible into steam, nor 
steam into water. The characteristics nuiy 
vanish, but in appropriate conditions they will 
always reappear. 

Now science, as wc have just seen, is tolerant 
of this notion of latency or potentiality, and 
is ready enough to use it in aid of beliefs in 
conservation. It was so used in connection 
with heat when heat was regarded as a material 
substance. It is still so used in connection 
with energy, which is sometimes described as 
an immaterial ../.stance. But (as I have 
already noted) it has never been so used in 
eonnection with matter. The reason, I sup- 
pose, IS that the conservation of matter is 
much more a belief of common sense than 
the conservation cf energy. Energy is a con- 
ception which has but recently been disengaged 
from other conceptions, like force and momen- 
tum, and has but recently been associated with 
heat, with chemical reactions, with changes of 



pliysiciU pliuse, uiui with elect ro-nm^iK 
phenomena. It is, therefore, a remote i 
somewhat abstraet product of scientific rcl 
tion ; and science may do wlmt it will v 
its own. 

The notion of matter, on the other haiu 

the common possession of mankind. VVI 

ever difTieulties it may present to rcflcc 

analysis, it presents none to our work-a- 

beliefs. \\\ are quite ready to regard i 

in<lestructible ; but we arc not ready to e 

bine this conviction with the view tha 

possesses no single characteristic which i 

not be temporarily etherealised into a " pti 

tiality." On such terms the eternal and 

changing identity of this or that parct 

matter would seem a difiicult and eli 

doctrine, inappropriate to the familiar 

substantial world in which we suppose 

selves to live. A belief in the eonservati( 

matter has therefore ahvays, or almost alv 

carried with it a belief in the unchanging 

tinuity of at least some material quali 

thougli as to what these qualities are then 

been much dispute. 

Descartes, though not consistent, fouiK 
changing continuity in the attribute of 
so also did Hobbes. I presume that the 

}'^. 1^* 



note uiul 
fie rfHcc- 
will with 

r hand, is 
. VVhat- 
rc fleet ivo 
;ard it as 
y to eoiii- 
V that it 
hieh niav 
a " potcfi- 
,1 and un- 

parccl <il 
id elusive 
niliar and 
jpose <mv- 
irvation of 
3St ahv;iys, 
ngiiig coii- 

e there lias 

found uii- 
tc ol' size: 
it the older 




atoniists, who explained the appcaianet s of 
matter by the shape of its eonstitu* i»t atoms, 
would have reganJed l)oth atoinie forn. and 
atornie magnitude as persistent. liut it was 
the assumption that the same piece of pondr r- 
ahle nuitter always possessed the same gravi- 
tating power, and that tiie same gravitating 
power was always associated with the same 
mass, which, in the hands of Lavoisier, made 
so great a revolution in eighteenth-eentury 
ehemistry. Matter might change its size, its 
shape, its colour, its phase, its power of 
acting and reacting; but i*s mass and the 
quality which caused its weight it could not 
change; these characteristics were always 
associated with each other, and were nev( r 
in abeyance. 

To Lavoisier this double principle seemril 
self-evident. It was not a hypothesis that re- 
quired testing, but a touchstone by whi -h other 
hypotheses might safely be tested. If, in the 
course of soine chemical openition, weio|.( in- 
creased, then no further proof was reqilr* i to 
show that mass had increased also, and Isat 
matter had been added. If, on the other hand, 
^v('ight diminished, then no further proof was 
required to show that mass had dinnnished 
also, and that matter had been subtracted. 



Whatever other qualities matter might gain 
lose, mass and gravity were indestructible ai 

Men of science seemed, on the whole, conte 
silently to assume these principles of conserv 
tion without inconveniently raising the qu( 
tion of evidence. Philosophers have not alwa 
been so cautious. Kant supposed himself 
have demonstrated them a priori. Schopc 
hauer followed suit. Spencer declared th( 
contraries to be inconceivable. Mill said tli 
were proved by experience. In short, 
these eminent thinkers vied with each other 
conferring upon this doctrine the highest he 
ours permitted by their respective philosophii 
But apparently they were hasty. Recent d 
coveries have changed our point of vie 
Mass (it seems) is no longer to be regarded 
unchanging. When bodies move at spec 
approaching the velocity of light their mi 
rapidly increases ; so that this quality, wlii 
is peculiarly characteristic of matter, must 
removed from the category of those whi 
persist unchanged, and placed in the catego 
of those which change but can always 
restored. Are we so to class gravitatioi 
Would the weight of a body moving nearly 
the speed of light increase as, in like circui 

) - 

gain or 
ible and 

3nser va- 
le ques- 
t always 
mself to 
sd their 
lid tlicy 
lort, all 
other in 
est hoii- 
[jent dis- 
)f vicAv. 
arded as 
b speeds 
eir mass 
y, which 
must he 
e which 
ways he 
itatioii ? 
learly at 



stances, its inertia increases ? If the answer 
is " no," then the link is broken which has for 
long been thought to connect gravity and mass. 
If the answer is *' yes," then what Kant re- 
garded as certain a priori is false; what 
Spencer regarded as " inconceivable " is true ; 
another carrier of " persistence " is lost, and 
some fresh characteristic must be found which 
will remain unchanged through all time, and 
under all conditions. 

If this characteristic should turn out to be 
electric charge, what a curious light it will throw 
upon our tendency to "beliefs of conservation " ! 
After long seeking for some indestructible 
attribi ^e of matter; after taking up and re- 
jecting size, shape, weight, mass, and (perhaps) 
impenetrability, we shall at last find the object 
of our quest in a conception which has (I 
suppose) been clearly realised only within the 
last hundred years, about which our senses 
tell us nothing, and of which the general run 
of educated mankind are still completely 
ignorant ! 

; In thi8 clmpter, especially in that part of it wluch deals 
with beliefs of conservation, I am grea'iy indebted to M.-ver- 
sons " Identity et R^alit6." This acute and learned work 
is not written from the same point of view as that which I 
have adopted ; but this in no way diminishes the amount of 
my obligation to its author. 




It is possible, but not, I hope, probal 
that some hasty reader may suppose that 
this and the preceding lectures I am rocc 
mending a new method or instrument of ( 
covery. " If you want to reach truth, foil 
your unreasoned inclination," may be 
summary of my doctrine : brief — but n 

Of the manner in which discoveries are go 
to be made I say nothing, for I know nothi 
I am dealing with the past : and in the histr 
movements of scientific thought I see, or tli: 
I see, drifts and currents such as astrononi 
detect among the stars of heaven. And, 
the law of gravitation will hardly (I suppo 
explain the last, so observation, experinic 
and reasoning will hardly explain the (ii 
They belong to the causal, not to the cogniti 
series ; and the beliefs in which they issue 
effects rather than conclusions. 

Those who feci little sympathy for sue! 
view may be inclined to regard the relativ 
faint inclinations dealt with in this lecture 
ordinary scientific hypotheses confirmed 
ordinary scientific methods. This view, a; 

J that in 
1 rpcojn- 
it of (lis- 
h, follow 
' be his 
but also 

are going 


B historic 

or think 


And, as 



:he first. 


issue are 

r such a 
ccture as 
I'med by 
lew, as I 


have already observed, is not applicablo to 
the inevitable beliefs dealt with in earlier 
lectures. Whatever philosophers may say 
atter the event the conviction that we live 
m an external world of things and persons, 
where events are more or less regularly re- 
peated, has never been treated as a specula- 
tive conjecture about which doubt was a duty 
till truth was proved. Beliefs like these are 
not scientific hypotheses, but scientific pre- 
suppositions, and all criticism of their validity 
IS a speculative after-thought. The same may 
be said, though with less emphasis and some 
qualification, about beliefs fostered by the in- 
tellectual tendencies considered in this chapter 
These, as we have seen, are many. They are 
often inconsistent ; they are never inevitable • 
and they perpetually change their form under 
the pressure of scientific discovery. Atomisn, in 
one shape follows atomism in another ; doe- 
trines of conservation rise, fall, and rise again • 
mcreduhty about "action at a distance"' 
breeds explanations whose failure (in the case 
of gravity) leaves the hope of final success 

Now it would be an error to say that science 
does not, when it can, apply to these various 
theories .ts ordinary methods of verincation. 



They are in a different position from inevita 

beliefs, which can hardly be verified beca 

the process of verification assumes them. 

they must not be confounded with ordin 

scientific hypotheses, for they are sometl 

more and something different. Like these, t 

are guesses, but they are guesses directed, 

by the immediate suggestion of particular 

periences (which indeed they sometimes ( 

tradict), but by general tendencies which 

enduring though sometimes feeble. Those 

make them do not attempt the intcrrogn 

of Nature wholly free from certain form 

bias. In cross-examining that most stub! 

and recalcitrant of witnesses they never 1 

tate to ply her with leading questions; 

whether this procedure be logically defen 

or not, no lover of truth need regret 


Readers of M. Bergson's " Creative F/ 
tion " may remember the picture he (lra^ 
the elan vital— the principle of life— forciii 
way along different paths of organic evolu 
some without issue or promise of progress; o 
leading on through regions hitherto untrav 
to ends remote and unforeseen. These 
movements of science, as I conceive t 
somewhat resemble this process, even tli 


I because 
em. Yet 

nesc, tluy 
jcted, not 
ieular cx- 
imes con- 
which arc 
rhose who 

forms of 
; stubborn 
lever lusi- 
lons ; and, 

regret its 

ivc Kvolu- 
e (lra%vs of 
-forcing its 
ress; others 
Ihe secular 
eive them, 
ven though 


it be faintly and at a distance. There is in 
botii a striving towards some imperfectly 
foreshadowed end ; and in both the advance 
is irregular, tentative, precarious, with many 
changes of direction, and some reversals. 
Yet I would not press the parallel over- 
far or plunge too deeply into metaphor. 
It is enough to say that as, according to 
31. Bergson, the course followed by organic 
evolution cannot be wholly due to Selection, 
so the course followed by scientific discovery, 
as I read its history, cannot be wholly due to 
reasoning and experience. In both eases we 
seem forced to assume something in the nature 
of a directing influence, and (as I should add, 
though perhaps M. Bergson would not) of 
supramundane design. And if " a Fawcr that 
makes for truth " be required to justify our 
scientific faith, we must surely count ourselves 
as theists. 


Extracts from a letter from Sir CUver Lodge on certain 
passages in this lecture relating to Energy and 
its transformations. 

■ • , 

You say, on page 226, "Energy, we are taught, is 
ot two kinds : kinetic and potential energy— energy 
m act and energy in possibility." 



So long as emphasis is laid ujion the words " 
are taught," I have no objection. People h< 
taught that, though I strongly object to such tea. 
ing, because I object to the idea " Energy m po, 
bility " or " possible Energy " of any kind. I te; 
the identity of Energy in much the same terms 
the identity of Matter ; not merely the conservati 
with the idea that one quantity can disappear : 
another quantity reappear. It is not another qu 
tity, but the same ; though it may have been loc 
up for any length of time. But then it has 
been usually taught so, and I think you are den! 
with what is usual. 

Again, you say on page 227, " Energy sugg 
' doings' and 'happenings.' " No, say I, activity sugg 
doings and happenings, and activity is Energx 
transformation. Energy alone is something sto 
like Capital. The earth's rotational energy, 
instance, is stored just as really as, and for a loi 
time than, the vegetation of the carbonile 

epoch. ^ ^ 

Lower down you observe that Force mav 
exerted though nothing moves." Certainly it i 
when resisted by an equal opposite force. B- 
fully admit that a lot of nonsense has been ta 
about the acceleration measure of force, as if it 
the only measure, and that some criticism on 
procedure is useful. But I should not spea 
" latent " force ; it is real force you have m n 
or at least real stress— i.e. two equal and opp 
forces. It is latent Activity which becomes a 
when the other factor, viz. Motion, is supplic 



jrds '' \\c 
>j)le tunc 
ch teach- 
in possi- 
I teach 
terms as 
jpear and 
her (luaii- 
ien h)ckc(l 
t has not 
re deaHiip 

y suggests 
</y suggests 
Energy in 
ing stored, 
nergy. i'or 
:)r a longer 

?e may be 
dy it may, 
ee. But I 
)een talked 
IS if it were 
sm on this 
t speak of 
/e in mind, 
lid op})Osite 
)mes active 
supphed or 

allowed— f.<,'. by the release ol' a hent how. or n 
wound-up spring, or a raised weight. 

So it is also with the Knergy of a lly- wheel. That, 
too, is hitent Activity until the other factor, viz. 
Force, is supplied, i.e. when it is employed to over- 
come resistance, and therefore do work. Otherwise 
its Motion will he stored to all eternity. 

In short, activity, or doing of work, has two 
factors. Force and Motion. When both are present, 
work is done ; when either is present alone, Knergy 
is stored. Static Energy is the Force factor, witli 
the possibility of a certain range of effectiveness 
understood ; like a head of water, for instance, a 
certain height above the sea. Kinetic Energy is the 
Motion factor, with a certain inertia or possibility 
of Force understood ; not Motion alone, but a mass 
in motion, so that it may be able to overcome re- 

There is no real reason why one form of Energy 
should be considered more "actual" or real than 
another; our eyes ai)preciate the one form, our 
muscles could apjjrcciate the other. 

In considering cases of Potential Energy, it is 
wise to realise that our knowledge about Gravitation 
is altogether too vague to make the case of a raised 
weight useful. And our knowledge of solid elasticity, 
though not so insignificant, is small enough to make 
the ease of a bent bow or wound spring not very 
easy for fundamental contemplation. A case of 
chemical Energy, like gun-cotton, is in much the 
same predicament. 

But a typical and satisfactory exami)le of Potential 




Kncrjfy is tlic case of a vessel of compressed 
Here is Kncr^y stiiynaiit cnoiifjli, Jiiul violent cuoi 
when released, and one that can be h)cked uji ap) 
ently to all eternity, and yet released by the pull 
of a trigger. It represents, however, a case oi' wl 
we know something concerning the internal mecli 
ism ; and we have learnt tliat in this case the f« 
statically exerted on the walls of a vessel is re 
H kinetic bombardment of the molecules. In ol 
words, we recognise in this case that Poten 
Energy is ultimately resolvable into KinetiV. 
may be so in the other cases. And on Kelv 
Kinetic Theory of Elasticity, which he showt 
tendency in later life to abandon, all strain or si 
in Ether niay be ultnnately due to its ultramicrose( 
vortex circulation. 

But none of this is yet proven. 

The general argument of your lecture deiils i 
the ease with which certain general propositions 
accepted as it were intuitively, without real 
elusive evidence. I am entirely with you. And 
way we feel secure about gen^-al laws, when adctj 
evidence for them is really impossible, has o 
struck me as remarkable. Even when facts ap 
to go against them, we question the facts, and 
after all that in so doing we have been right. 

esscd iiir. 
nt cn«)ii;;li 
u\) ii|)|i;(r- 
he pulliii*,' 
? <»r wliifli 
1 iuec'li:!n- 
■ tlu' force 
I is really 
In ollur 
nctic. It 
1 Kelvin's 
showed :i 
ti or si less 



deals with 
isitions iiro 

real eon- 

And the 

II ade(iUiite 

has oft (11 
,ets a|ijH;ir 
s, ami liiiil 


Now that we have reached our closing lecture, 
those who have followed the course from the 
beginning may, on looking back, find them- 
selves somewhat bewildered by the variety of 
subjects which I have asked them to consider. 
Art, History, Morals, the Theory of Proba- 
bility, the Logic of Perception, the presuppo- 
sitions of Science, have all been touched on. 
Themes that might fill volumes— nay, that 
have filled volumes — are made the text for an 
hour's discourse. Introduced one after the 
other with breathless rapidity, each for a 
moment has been shown under the limelight, 
and then hurried off the stage to make room 
for its successor. It seems hard to believe 
that with sucli diversity of materials there can 
bo continuity of argument. But the critic 
who would judge the matter fairly must bear 
in mind the title of the course, and the pur- 


9 u ~fy ' 


pose for which it has hccn dcliviTcd. 

desire has been to show that all we think 

in human culture, whf^ther associated 

beauty, goodness, or knowledge, requires 

for its support, that Humanism without Tl 

loses more than half its value. Though, t 

fore, the subjects discussed arc cmbarra 

in their variety, no diminution of their nu 

seems possible. The argument would 

broken down had I confined myself to a 

rower scope — had I, for example, been cot 

to show the importance of Theism for mon 

leaving untouched its importance for sci 

and aesthetic. Such a limitation would 

shattered the whole design. No doubt I 

arc precedents for such a procedure. Is 

for instance, kept God out of the critique w 

dealt with ordinary knowledge, while gi 

Him a place of honour in the critique w 

dealt with the moral law. But the proce 

has always seemed to me singularly artiCi 

even in a philosophy which is artificial thrc 

and through. In any case, such a limita 

is quite inconsistent with the scheme of t 

lectures. This could not be accomplished 

setting up a departmental Deity — even \ 

his department the whole province of ctl 

Right conduct is much, but it is not all. 

I : 

: i 



iTcd. y\y 
think Ix st 
iatod with 
:juircs ll(»(l 
3ut Theism 
ugh, tlurc- 

L'ir number 
ould liavc 
' to a nar- 
en content 
r morality, 
for science 
ould hav( 
3Ubt there 
re. Kant, 
ique wliich 
lile piviiijj 
quo which 
al throuffh 
c of these 
)lished by 
iven were 
of ethics. 
;all. We 


not only act, hut wc know, and we admire ; 
nor could I be quite content with any form 
of Theism which did not sustain in every 
esse ntial part the full circle of human interests. 


Hut when all explanations luivc been i»iven, 
and all excuses made, I am well aware" that 
Ml th<> actual presentation f»f my case I have 
introduced so much illutrative material, and 
of this material so mu( b is dispiitf'S;i, that 
some of my hearers may fed Mu tnscJvc's dis- 
tracted rather than enlightened hv the nundxr 
of seemingly subsidiary points of wliich they 
arc asked to take account. I trust such per- 
sons are in a minority ; and that, on the whole, 
my main contention will seem enriched and 
strengthened, not embarrassed or confused, by 
the manner of its exposition. Nevertheless, it 
may not be amiss, before I bring the course 
to an end, to restate the most important points 
in the general case I have endeavoured to 

The root principle which, by its constant 
recurrence in slightly different forms, binds 
together, like an operatic leit-motif, the most 
diverse material, is that if we would maintain 


the value of our highest beliefs and emot 
we must find for them a congruous oi 
Beauty must be more than an accident, 
source of morality must be moral. The sc 
of knowledge must be rational. If thi 
granted, you rule out Mechanism, you 
out Naturalism, you rule out Agnosticism 
a lofty form of Theism becomes, as I t 

It is, I imagine, the application of 

method to knowledge which will be 

generally resented by those who refu! 

acknowledge its validity. In the case of be 

for example, the point will seem of $ 

importance to those for whom art n 

little. It may not greatly impress mai 

those lor whom art , u ans much. V 

proclaims no new canons of taste. It be 

no aesthetic school. It asks no critic to i 

his judgments. It touches the interests m 

of artist nor author. It may well be igr 

With ethics the case is somewhat diff^ 

There are, no doubt, sceptics in rcligior 

treat scepticism as a luxury which can be 

enjoyed only by the few. Religion tlu y 

good for morals ; morals they think go( 

society; society they think good for 

selves. Such persons may well treal 



)us origin, 
lent. The 
The source 
If this be 
, you rule 
icism ; and 
IS I think, 

3n of this 
1 be most 
refuse to 
; of beauty, 
I of small 

art means 
;s many of 
ih. For it 

It belittles 
,ic to revise 
•ests neither 
be ignored. 
it different, 
cligion who 
an be safely 
I they think 
nk good for 
I for them- 
treat the 

opinions expressed in the lecture on ethics 
with benevolent disagreement. But there arc 
more robust thinkers who will not be so lenient. 
They will reject as intolerable the idea that 
the morality they desire lo preserve depends 
on a religion they desire to destroy ; and any 
doctrine which, like the present, binds the two 
more closely together will encounter their un- 
compromising hostility. 

Nevertheless, it is the lectures dealing with 
intellectual values that will rouse, as I suppose, 
the most serious opposition. The endeavour to 
treat our beliefs about the world and our beliefs 
about God as interdependent will seem to many 
extravagant, even unnatural. It will be urged 
that, for all reasonable beings, reason must be 
the supreme judge in matters of behef. It 
can neither resign its office nor delegate its 
authority. Let it then endorse Science, as it 
must; and establish ''heism, if it can; but do 
not require it to commit the folly of treating 
truths about which opinions are agreed as de- 
pendert on conjectures about which opinions 
are divided. 

This may be excellent advice ; but it is 
hardly to the point. I ask for nothing better 
than the supremacy of reason : not one of its 
prerogatives do I desire to curtail. Indeed 

■n r-"^i^*nr ^ 


(as I have already complained) it is the 
tic empiricists who most obstinately 
from following it to conclusions they 
who mutiny, like some old-timr m? 
whenever they are required to naviga 
familiar seas. 

I have no sympathy with the si 

combination of intellectual arrogance 2 

tellectual timidity so often presented b 

particular school of thought. I like 

better than I like the attitude of 

who declare that, since reason is bar 

authority should take over its liabilities 

ever small be the prospect of disch 

them in full. My point of view is i 

different. And if I urge that the cri 

of common knowledge brings us ultima! 

Theism, this involves no intolerable pa; 

nor ind'^ed anything very new or stran 

Descartes, for example, thought tli 

knowledge was based on clear and di 

ideas, and that clear and distinct ideas 

be trusted because, being due to God, 

were guaranteed by His truthfulness. 

there is a God possessing every pcrf( 

was independently established by an a 

argument into which I need not enter. 

the point of interest is that, though Dcsi 

\ \ 


is the agnos- 
lately shrink 
they dislik<, 
le mariiKis. 
lavigate uii- 

ihe singular 
mce and in- 
ited by this 
Hke it no 
le of tiiosc 
s bankrupt. 
)ilitics, how- 

iv is utterly 
he criticism 
Itimately to 
)lc paradox. 

lit tliat all 
nd distinct 

ideas could 
i God, they 
ness. That 
an a priori 
enter. But 
h Descartes 


conceived himself to have found a refuge from 
scepticism in the famous " I think, therefore 
I am," he could only get from this narrow 
assurance to general knowledge; by the use of 
" clear and distinct ideas " certified by divine 
veracity. If, therefore, belief in one's self was 
the first of truths, belief in God was the .second ; 
and on this second truth all subordinate be- 
liefs, mathematical, physical, and metaphysical, 
were, in his opinion, ultimately founded. In 
one sense, and from one point of view, this is 
no doubt an exact inversion of the argument 
developed in these lectures. Descartes rests the 
belief in science on a behef in God. I rest the 
belief in God on a belief in science. Neverthe- 
less, beneath this contrast there is deep-lying 
agreement. Both views reject the notion that 
we possess in the general body of common- 
sense assumptions and scientific tniths a creed 
self- sufficing and independent, to which we 
may add at our pleasure Theism in such doses 
as suit our intellectual palate. Both views, 
therefore, are profoundly divided, not merely 
from all that calls itself agnostic, but from 
much that calls itself religious. 

I must not, however, press the parallel too 
far. Descartes did not, and could not, regard 
our beliefs as a developing system, which is 


not njcrely increasing by external acci 
like a crystal in its mother-liquid, but is 
ing and changing through and through 
living organism. Such conceptions we] 
of his age or country, nor, if they had 
could they have been easily accommoda 
his peculiar genius. His was the mathen 
temperament, always striving for precis 
nitions and rigorous proof ; always toler 
any simplification of the concrete compl 
of reality, which would make them am 
to deductive treatment. Of this, as a m 
we need make no complaint. Withii 
limits it is invaluable. But Descartes, 
speak, " objectified " it. He assumed th 
judgment which could properly be des 
as " clear and distinct " was not only conv 
in form, but true in substance. The 
alas! is not so made. The things whi 
clear and distinct are usually things of oi 
creation. Definitions, abstractions, diuj 
syllogisms, machines — such and such 111 
or may be, " clear and distinct."' But th( 
facts which we have not made — these, 
present level of knowledge, are never clei 
never distinct. Life, the organism, th 
the state, the world, freedom, causalit 
flow of time, the relation between min 



1 accrrtion. 
but is ^low- 
ough lik«- a 
IS were luit 
|r had bmi. 
imodatod to 
precise <|(li- 
i tolerant oi 
2omplexrtit s 
m anK'iuiblf 
IS a nietliod, 
Within diir 
artes, so to ! 
led that any 
)e described 
Y convenient [ 
The world, f 
;s which are i 
s of our own | 
s, diagrams, I 
ich hke are, \ 
Jut the great . 
hese, at our f 
'cr clear and | 
m, the self, | 
lusality, the I 
n mind and 

Ijody, between perccivor and perceived, be- 
tween consciousness and sub-eortj-ieiousness, be- 
tween person and person (I say nothing of 
beauty, of virtue, or of God) — who is tiiere 
will dare to say that he either hnds in these 
notions, or can put into them without injury, 
the qualities which Descartes deemed the; in- 
evitable marks of real and certaki knowledge ? 
Truth, for us, is a plant of a different and of 
a slower growth. How much indeed of that 
growth consists in discovering that what we 
thought was clear is in fact obscure : what we 
thought was simple is in fact complex ; what 
we thought was distinct is in fact confused ; 
and how helpful are such discoveries to the 
augmentation of learning ! 

However this may be, there is nothing in 
the doctrine of " congruity " which should 
shock thcMje who are jealous for th'> supremacy 
of reason and the dignity of science. It is 
science itself which assures us that all premises, 
all conclusions, and all the logical links by 
which they are connected must be regarded 
as natural products. It is science itself which 
assures us that they belong, like all natural 
products, to the tissue of causes and effects 
whose lengthening web is continuously tlirown 
off by the loom of time. It is science itself 


which requires us to ^ ^rmonisc those 
aspects of the knowing pfoccss — the one k 
and timeless ; the other causal and succci 

But how are they to be harmonisc^d i 
causal series is fundamentally non-ratic 
Suppose yourself able to observe the de\ 
ment of beliefs in some alien being (sa 
inhabitant of Mars) as a bacteriologist obs 
a growing colony of microbes : suppose, fu] 
that your observation showed how these b 
arose from causes which had in them no 
ture of reason, and that, so far as you 
see, they were quite unsupported by 
independent evidence which — for you 
weight or even meaning. Would you 
their value high ? Surely not. 

Now it is quite true that when we exf 
our own system of beliefs we cannot in 
liiis attitude of complete detachment, 
in the very act of examination some of 
beliefs are assumed. But we can examii 
beliefs of other people, and we do, as a n 
of common-sense practice, rate low the 
of the beliefs whose sources we perceive 
non-rational. How, then, can we refn 
apply to ourselves a principle of jud<] 
which we thus apply without scruple t( 
neighbours ? 




these two 
one logical 
ised if the 
i-rational i 
le dcvc'lop- 
ig (say an 
st observi s 
>sc, furtlic r, 
hese beliefs 
im no tinc- 
you could 
d by any 
you — had 
1 you rate 

ve examine 
not imitate 
Tient, since 
ne of these 
xaminc the 
as a matter 
V the value 
ceive to he 
; refuse to 
[ judgment 
iple to our 


Whenever we do o apply it, we shall, 1 
think, be forced to aumit that all creeds which 
refuse to see an intelligent purpose bc^hind the 
unthinking powers of material nature are in- 
trinsically incoherent. In the order of causa- 
tion they base reason upon unreason. In the 
order of logic they involve conclusions which 
discredit their own premises. Nor is there, as 
far as I can see, any mitigation of this con- 
demnation to be looked for except by appealing 
to the principle of Selection. And how far 
will this help us out of the difheulty ? 

Just so far as an imitation of intelligent pur- 
pose can be a substitute for its reality, but no 
further. And how far is this ? At first sight 
we might suppose that, at the worst, the cog- 
nitive series and the causal series might be 
harmonised on the basis of natural selection 
if knowledge never aspired to rise above the 
level which promoted race survival, if no 
faculties of knowing were trusted beyond the 
point where they ceased effectively to foster 
the multiplication of the species. Up to this 
pomt it would seem that, if selection be tru(«, 
there IS congruity between beliefs and their 
origm. The sequence of events which brought 
them mto being suggests no doubt about their 
value. This scheme of thought, therefore, 


though narrowly restricted, is apparent! 

Yet even this modest elaim must be d( 
excessive : for the speculation on which it 
does violence to its own principles. Mani 
we cannot indulge ourselves in reflections 
the limits of the " knowable " without 
our intellect for a purpose never contcm] 
by selection. I do not allege that our inl 
is therefore unequal to the task. I onl 
that, if it be indeed equal to it, we are i 
presence of a very surprising coineii 
Why should faculties, " designed " or 
help primitive man, or his animal progei 
successfully to breed and feed, be fitted tc 
philosophic problems so useless and so rcr 
Why, indeed, do such problems occur t 
Why do we long for their solution ? 

To such questions Naturalism can n 
find an answer nor be content withoul 
Wearied with unavailing efforts to pen 
the unknown, many not ignoble spirits 
preached the wisdom of dulling unh( 
curiosity by the aid of healthy labour, 
us cultivate our gardens " (they say), Sv 
no solution of the insoluble. 

But the advice is ambiguous. Will th 
posed remedy, in their opinion, cure tlu- 

■.^tf*:4t ■''fr.i'-^'^'^iKiM-.i- 





arcntly co- 
be deemed 
iiich it rests 
ctions upon 
thout usiiiu 
•ntemplut( (I 
3ur intellcet 
I only say 
3 arc in the 
" only to 
;ted to solve 
so remote t 
2cur to us ? 

can neithd 
ithout oiit. 
o penetruit 
spirits iuivi 
►our. '• L( t 
ay), seeking 

^'ill the piu- 
:c the ill, or 





only help us to forget it ? If the lattc r. then 
.n some circumstances and with some patients.' 
It w.ll doubtless fulfil its promise. Oblivion 
may be attained by growing vegetables, as by 
other less reputable expedients. But if ab- 
sorption in daily labour be recommended as 
the hna stage- of a rational cure, it cannot be 
effectual. No rational cure is, on naturalistic 
prmc.ples, within our reach. Could we empty 
ourselves of all that makes us men, could we 
ower our intellectual level to the point where 
the scope of our mental activities harmonised then- naturalistic source, we should doubt- 
less free ourselves from the malady of vain 
speculation. But though the remedy, if ap- 
plied, would be effectual, it would not be 
rational. Reflective Agnosticism cannot be 
combined with scientific Naturalism, because 
refiective Agnosticism is the product of a pro- 

Ind TK^ '^^^*"'^'^'^"«'" ^"-vitably discredits. 
And ,t Naturalism be incompatible even with 
reasoned ignorance, how can we hope to har- 
monise it with the claims of reasoned know- 

The best imitation of creative purpose 
therefore, which Naturalism can provide break^ 

(as 'tlC.!T'^ Paronthotioally renu.u, you that again 
'•-'^-1 .M a„ lecture) tl... o" 


down where it is most required— namel 
the highest levels of value. I have just s 
this in connection with our powers of tho 
and the beliefs to which they lead. Bu 
failure is not confined to them. It is as 
as Humanism itself. Wherever wc find 
intrinsic worth, there wc are in a region ' 
the direct effect of selection is negli 
The noblest things in speculation, in a 
morals, possess small survival value; 
though the geniuses to whom we owe 
have added greatly to the glory of their 
they have added but little to its anima 
cesses. In the language of these lectures 
are " accidental " — due neither to purpo: 
to any arrangement of causes by whiel 
pose is successfully copied. 

which I siMjak \h Naturalism in what, from our 
point of view, must be regarded as its most plausil)! 
Those wlio have followed, even at a distance, tlie i 
biological thought are aware that many naturalists 
highest authoritj- are shaken in their allegiance to 
selection. They do not, indeed, exclude it fron* the ('\ 
ary drama, but they reduce its role to insignifitumi 
then, you may ask, do these lectures so constantly 
selection, but suy never a word about other theories ol 
evolution ? 

The answer is that selection, and only selection, re 
tates contrivance. Other theories may deal, and 
with variation and heredity. IJut selection alone can 
adjustment ; whence it follows that selection alone em 


namtly, at 
just shown 
>f thought, 
1. But th«- 
; is as \\k\v 
: find gnat 
gion where 
, in art, in 
aluc; and, 
; owe them 
■ their raei-, 
animal suc- 
ctures, they 
purpose nor 
which pur- 

m our prist it 
jilausibli' sliii| . 
•c, tlic trt'iiil 111 
iiralists of tin' 
nice to luititral 
n till" cvolul imp- 
riifk'Uiiir. \Vii\ 
Lstiuitly iflVr ' ' 
coric's of oigaiiit 

!tion, really iim- 
I, ami do iit«l. 
loiio cun (>X|'itiii 

lloiU! fall illlltHlf 





You arc now in a position to judge how far 
the iiopes lield out to you at the beginning 
of this course have been fuhillod, and to 
measure the merits and the demerits, the 
churns and the hmitations, of tlie sehenie I 
have endeavoured to expound. 

I (hsowned, as you remember, any intention 
of providing you with a philosophical system 
—not because I despise philosophical systems 
or those who labour to construct them, but 
in part because I have none to reconm'iend, 
and in part because it seems to me doubtful 
whetiier at our present stage of development 
a satisfactory system is possible. 

But how (you may ask) does my point of view 
differ from a philosophical svstcni ? It may 
be a bad system, as it certainly is a most im- 
perfect one. Yet, seeing that it touches on 
everything in heaven and earth, seeing that 
Its very title embraces God and man, why 
should it repudiate a description whicli 
seemingly is not a whit in excess of its 
pretensions ? 

The question thus raised is more than a 
merely verbal one. and a few observations 




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upon it may fittingly conclude the c 
Note, then, in the first place, that my s< 
of beliefs does not show itself unwort 
be considered systematic merely becat 
is incomplete. All systems are incon 
All systems, however ambitious, admit 
inability to exhaust reality. Nor is i1 
worthiness due to any mere aceide 
execution, such as inferior workmansl 
defective learning. Its failures are esi 
and irremediable. They are inseparabh 
*' the point of view." 

Let me explain. Every system that de 
to be described as a constructive philc 
— be it dogmatic, critical, empirical, ic 
what you will — conceives itself not mei 
be rooted in reason, but to be ratioi 
throughout. The conceptions with wl 
works should be sifted, clarified, define 
should assume nothing which requires 
It should rest nothing (in the last resc 
faith or probability. It should adn 
inexplicable residues. 

Philosophers seem to me entirely r 
they think that this is what a system 
to be ; but not entirely right if they 
that this is what any system is, < 
ever been. In any case, no desc 


the course. 

my scheme 

nworthy to 

because it 


admit their 

is its un- 

accidcnt of 

manship or 

ire essential 

(arable from 

hat deserves 
J philosophy 
cal, idealist, 
)t merely to 
th whieh it 
defined. It 
quires proof. 
»t resort) on 
I admit no 

rely right if 

ystem ought 

' they think 

is, or has 



could be less applicable to the point of 
view which I am provisionally recommend- 
ing. The philosopher refuses— in theory— 
to assume anything which requires proof. I 
assume (among other things) the common-sense 
outlook upon life, and the whole body of the 
sciences. The philosopher admits — in theory 
—no ground of knowledge but reason. I 
recognise that, in fact, the whole human race, 
including the philosopher himself, lives '.)y 
faith alone. The philosopher asks what creed 
reason requires him to accept. I ask on what 
terms the creed which is in fact accepted can 
most reasonably be held. The philosopher 
conceives that within the unchanging limits 
of his system an appropriate niche can be 
found for every new discovery as it arises. 
My view is that the contents of a system are 
always reacting on its fundamental principles, 
so that no philosophy can flatter itself that 
it will not be altered out of all recognition as 
knowledge grows. 

This last statement may look like a truism ; 
but it is a truism which few philosophers are, 
in practice, disposed to accept ; and the gener- 
ality of mankind are perhaps even less disposed 
to accept it even than philosophers. That 
there are beliefs which can and should be held, 


with the same shade of meaning, by all n 
in all ages, and at all stages of culture, 
view to which by nature we easily incl 
But it is, to say the least, most doubt 
Language is here no true or certain gu 
Even when behefs have not outgrown the 
mulas by which they have been tradition 
cx^>resscd, we must beware of treating this li: 
of form as indicating complete identity of ! 
stance. Men do not necessarily believe exa 
the same thing because they express their ( 
victions in exactly the same phrases. . 
most fortunate it is, in the interests of i 
vidual liberty, social co-operation, and ii 
tutional continuity that this latitude sh 
be secured to us, not by the policy of phil 
phers, statesmen, or divines, but by the inc 
able limitations of language. 

This, however, by the way. The poii 
wish to press is that, speaking generally, 
must not conceive the development of ki 
ledge as a process of adding new truths to 
truths, in the course of which old truths 
supplemented but are not changed. It ra 
resembles the increase of some plastic I 
which, wherever it takes place, involves i 
adjustment of every part. Add brick to b: 
and you may finish your house, yet never j 



all men, 
turc, is a 
f incline, 
in guide. 
II the for- 
this iixity 
by of sub- 
re exactly 
their coii- 
ses. And 
s of indi- 
and insti- 
de should 
•f philoso- 
;hc inevit- 

e point I 
erally, wc 

of know- 
ths to old 
truths arc 

It rather 
istic body 
)lves a ro- 
le to brick, 
lever alter 

its foundation. Add belief to belief, and you 
will set up strains and stresses within your 
system of knowledge which will compel it to 
move towards some new position of equi- 

Sometimes, no doubt, the process is more 
violent and catastrophic than this metaphor 
naturally suggests. Then occurs in the moral 
world the analogue of the earthquake, the 
lava flood, and the tidal wave, whicli shatter 
mountains and sweep cities to destruction. 
Men's outlook on the universe suffers sudden 
revolution : the obvious b ^omes incredible, 
and the incredible obviou ; whole societies 
lose their balance, and stately systems arc 
tumbled in the dust. 

More often, however, the movements of 
belief are gradual. They resemble the slow 
rise or fall of ancient coast-lines, where, by 
imperceptible degrees, sea turns into land, or 
land into sea. So, without shock or clamour, 
man smoothly modifies his point of view, till, 
gazinr ver the spaces he has traversed, he 
greatly marvels at the change. 

But we must look forward as well as back- 
ward. The spaces atill to be traversed far 
exceed those that have been traversed already. 
We can set no limits to the intellectual voyage 


which lies bcfo the race. Evcnifwearbitra 

Hmit the Hfc of men to that which is poss 

under terrestrial conditions, we must ani 

pate transformations of belief comparable 

magnitude with those which already divid« 

from primitive mankind. How, in circ 

stances like these, can we hope to sketch, c 

in outline, an enduring system of philosop 

Why should we succeed where under sin 

conditions the greatest of our forefathers I 

already failed ? 

If, then, we cannot attain to a schcm 

belief which, whatever be its shortcoming 

good (so far as it goes) for all time, we i 

be content with something less. We musi 

up with what I have called in these lee 

" a point of view." We must recognise 

our beliefs must be provisional, because 

we approach complete knowledge, all b 

are provisional. We cannot claim that 

are good " so far as they go " ; but only 

they are as good as we are at present 

to make them. And we must recognise 

th(; two statements are profoundly diffcr( 

Kow, if I were asked what categories o 

ceptions such a " point of view " requir* 

its expression, I should answer Providenc 

Inspiration- categories for which systc 



> possible 
st antici- 
arablc in 
divide us 
L cireum- 
)teh, even 
ilosophy 'i 
cr similar 
hers have 

scheme of 
jomings, is 
I, we must 
3 must put 
se lectures 
>gnise that 
ecause, till 
all beliefs 
that they 
t only that 
'esent able 
jgnise that 
►ries or eon- 
L'equired for 
kridence and 



philosophy has so far found no great use. 
These terms, it must be owned, are now a little 
the worse for wear. Defaced and battered by 
centuries of hard usage, they have suffered the 
fate which the current coin of popular discus- 
sion cannot easily avoid. But they have merits 
negative and positive, which make them pecu- 
liarly apt for my present purpose. 

In the first place, they do not suggest a 
philosophy of the universe. They openly evaile 
the great problems of theological metaphysics. 
No one, for example, would employ them in 
discussing the essential nature of an Absolute; 
God, or His relation to time, to the act of 
creation, to the worlds created. They belong 
to a different level of speculation. 

In the second place, they concentrate atten- 
tion on the humanistic side of Theism, on the 
relation of God to man, and to man's higher 
spiritual needs. Divine " guidance " — the pur- 
poseful working of informing Spirit — is the 
notion on which emphasis is specially laid. 
The term " Providence " suggests this in a 
broad and general way. The term " Inspira- 
tion " suggests it in the narrower sphere of 
beliefs and emotions. And do not complain 
that no endeavour is made to explain the mode 
in which divine guidance works either on 


matter or on spirit. These arc mysteries 
hard of solution as those which surround 
action of mii.d on matter, and of mind 
mind. But the difficulties arc difficulties 
theory, not of practice. They never disi 
the ordinary man— nor the extraordinary i 
in his ordinary moments. Human interco 
is not embarrassed by the second, ror sir 
piety by the first. And perhaps the enli 
cned lounger, requesting a club-waiter to i 
the window, brushes aside, or ignores, as n 
philosophic puzzles as a mother passiona 
praying for the safety of her child. 


To some this conclusion of a long anc 
tricatc discussion will seem curiously trivi 
its unambitious simplicity. Especially 
this be true of those who accept empi 
Naturalism in any of its forms. "The: 
(they may admit) something grandiose abou 
great metaphysical systems which appeals 
to those who are least able to accept t 
It was no ignoble ambition which inspired 
architects. It was no light labour, or ti 
ingenuity, which brought thenr into h 
On the other hand (they will say), if natura 



stories as 
ound the 
mind on 
lultics of 
r disturb 
nary man 
or simple 
e enlight- 
cr to shut 
1, as many 

ig and in- 
y trivial in 
cially will 
"There is 
[; about the 
•peals even 
jept thcni. 
pired tliiir 
, or trivial 
nto being, 

methods arc more modest, naturalistic results 
are more secure. They aim lower, but they 
reach the mark. If the long-drawn " conllict 
between religion and science " has robbed us 
of some illusions which we abandon with regret, 
the knowledge it has spared us we may hold 
with assurance. But when wc turn to the 
narrow Theism of these lectures, fittingly 
couched in the outworn languages of the pulpit 
and the Sunday-school, can wc find in it either 
the glory of metaphysical speculation or the 
security of positive knowledge ? It has not 
the courage to explore the unknowable, nor 
the power to add to the known. It dare not 
fiy ; it will not walk. It is neither philosophy 
nor science ; nor does it seek the modest 
security of some middle way. How, then, arc 
we to class this strange amalgam of criticism 
and credulity ? What purpose can it serve ? 
To whom will it appeal ? Whose beliefs will 
it alter even by a hair's breadth ? " 

These are pertinent questions. Let me try 
to answer them. 

The customary claims of Naturalism, which 
I have here put into the mouth of my im- 
aginary critic, seem to me (as you know) to 
be quite unreasonable. Otherwise I have no 
great objection to the statements contained in 


his indictnurnt— however little I may 
with its spirit. In partieuhir I admit 
charge that the argument of these led 
elaborate as it may appear, does not aft 
carry us far beyond the position occupit 
uncritical piety and simple faith. Could 
otherwise ? If wc build, as I build, upo 
common-sense beliefs about the natural \ 
our theories of the supernatural worlc 
siu"cly share the defects inhe: ont in 
foundation. It may— or may not— be po 
to know all about the evolution of God i 
Absolute Idea, while lamentably ignore 
much that pertains to the ParT'cular. 1 
wc begin with the Particular — and that 
imperfectly appreiiended— we cannot he 
grasp the full reality of the Absolute. 
line of advance the philosopher will \v 
outstrip the peasant. 

When, therefore, my supposed critic 
cally asks who it is that I hope to infli 
I grant at one: that it is not the plaii 
who already accepts without doubt or 
mentary a theistic view of the Universe 
is beyond my arguments; — perhaps 


Neither do I greatly hope to influen( 
trained man of speculation, who has a 


J found H theory of things which satisfies his 
I reason, or is sure that no sueii theory is within 
liis reach. Kven he mc.y, I trust, lind in these 
h-cturcs discussions of some phiK)sophic in- 
terest. I ask him to consider wlietiier his 
system provides an honourable place for the 
actual beliefs by which his wakinj» life is 
ruled ; whether all the gradations of intuitive 
probability, from inevitable compulsion to 
faint inclination, find house oom not merely 
in his psychology of belief, but in his theory 
of knowledge; whether he is satisfied with 
his logic of science, or can bring into one 
harmonious scheme his creed regarded as a 
body of rational conclusions and his creed 
regarded as a bundle of natural effects. If he 
replies in ti.e affirmative his state is the more 
gracious. But he is not likely to be interested 
in my arguments ; and assuredly they will not 
convert him to my views. 

I need say nothing about his pretentious imi- 
tator, who, under many names, has long been 
a familiar figure in certain societies. With no 
deep desire for truth, and poorly equipped for 
pursuing it, his main ambition is to indicate 
discreetly that he hoids what the fashion of 
the moment regards as " a- vanccd " views in 
their most advanced form. AVherein the 


quality of " advanccnunt " consists, it 

be hard to dettrminc ; nor is it (in thii 

noction) a subject worthy of investigatio 

is enough to say that "advanced " views 

have an air of novelty, must be making 

stir in the world, must be sullicientl; 

orthodox to shock the old-fashioned 

either sufTiciently plausible to deceiv 

simple or sufTiciently imposing to o\ 

them. I do not think that 1 shal 

many converts among members of this 

nor is it to them that I desire to speak. 

But there are many persons, both c 

and sincere, to whom the conclusions 

modern Naturalism extracts from n 

science arc a source of deep perplcxit 

intellectual unrest. Their mood, if I : 

read it, is something of this kind. They 

agree that a world where God cither 

or ignored is a world whci.; some higher 

arc greatly impoverished. They woul( 

the lectures I have devoted to Beaul 

Morals with sympathy, if not with agre 

Life, they would admit, is but a pooi 

if it does no more than fdl with vain 

the brief interval between two material 

tlents "—the " accident " which bro^ 

into being, and the "accident" whi( 

{ I 


extinguish it for ever. But this (they will sny) 
is no argument. A wise man laees facts, a 
got)d man prefers the haivicst truth to the 
most alluring illusion. If there be no ground for 
assuming a living purpose behind the .luiiffe.. 
ent musk of nature, let us not fill the vacancy 
with a piiantasm of our own crci' ion. Let us 
at least sink back into the nothingness from 
which we rose with our intellectual integrity 
undamaged. Let all o< ' er values perish, so 
long as rational values remain undimmed. 
Here, accordh:g to my view, lies the great 
I illusion. Those who in all sincerity, and often 
with deep emotion, plead after a fashion like 
this, profoundly misunderstand the situation. 
They are indeed worthy of respect. They 
n^ust not be confounded with those un- 
stable souls who ignore God when they are 
Iiappy, deny Him when they are wretched, 
tolerate Him on Sundays, but truly call on 
Him only when life, or fortune, hangs 
doubtfully in the balance. They are of a 
different and more virile temper. But are 
they less mistaken ? They search for proofs 
of God, as men search for evidence about 
ghosts or witches. Show us, they say, the 
marks of His presence. Tell us what problems 
His existence would solve. And when these 


tasks have been happily accomplished 
will we willingly place Him among the h 
thetical causes by which science endear 
to explain the only world we directly k 
the famihar world of daily experience. 

But God must not thus be treated as an cr 

which we may add to, or subtract from 

sum of things scientifically known as 

canons of induction may suggest. He is 

self the condition of scientific knowledge 

He be excluded from the causal series ^ 

produces beliefs, the cognitive series ^ 

iustifies them is corrupted at the root 

as it is only in a theistic setting that b 

can retain its deepest meaning, and lo^ 

brightest lustre, so these great truths of £ 

tics and ethics are but half-truths, is< 

and imperfect, unless we add to them 

third. We must hold that reason an 

works of reason have their source in God 

from Him they draw their inspiration 

that if they repudiate their origin, b 

very act they proclaim their own insuffic 

Printed in Great Britain by Uazelt, ^yal»on. <t Viney, Ld. 
London and Aylesbury. 



hed, then 
the hypti- 
3tly know, 

s an entity, 
, from, the 
vn as the 
He is Him- 
wledge. If 
eries which 
'lies which 
root. And 
;hat beauty 
nd love \U 
tis of a?sthc- 
is, isolated 
them yet a 
)n and the 
1 God ; that 
ation ; and 
rin, by this 

Viney, Ld.,